The Internet of Conspiracies: Why Our Society of Gossipmongers is Creepier than Clint Bondad’s Cryptic Messages

In a storied past few days, in the midst of disconcerting political and pandemic-related concerns, the Internet erupted into one roaring question, What’s happening to Clint Bondad?!

Like many, if not, most of us know, in a series of cryptic messages published via a barrage of Instagram stories following an apparent hiatus, the 26-year-old model-turned-actor incited intrigue for his seemingly indecipherable posts that spawned many “interpretations” to what many assumed to be a ticking countdown to a major online expose.

Creepy, mysterious, daunting—everyone was caught off guard by this stark departure from Bondad’s previously-known “celebrity” online persona, especially following a long silence. Ultimately, just as is expected, this turned into a social media feast. Many were concerned that it was another case of celebrity hacking, but the plot many chose to eat up was on how the messages spelled an impending telenovela waiting to happen.

But whether it’s a marketing ploy (Bondad was also seen posting and talking about a new business venture), a vengeful boyfriend making very public threats, or a grating, unfunny prank, the most disturbing thing that rose from all this is how the citizens of the online world treated what looks like a very public breakdown as a show.

Even as the very delicate nature of mental health came to light, many still took the curious influx of messages as an opportunity to make someone’s very obvious personal battles into a circus that we are all entitled to consume and enjoy–popcorn and all. As a social media onlooker wrote, echoing sentiments and similar egging of the majority of those “impacted” by the posts, “Spill the tea, Clint!

It goes without saying, that it is clear that while Bondad has shown red flags and signs that he is in dire need of help, our gossip-mongering society has a bigger problem.

Bondad rose to fame as a model who had graced top-billing local magazines such as Esquire, Cosmopolitan, and Men’s Health. Then he had a brief exposure on TV with a few acting stints in ABS-CBN and as part of ASAP’s hunk group, Coverboys before going on to sign as a GMA Artist Center artist. But most notably, perhaps, it was his past relationship with Ms. Universe 2018, Catriona Gray, that he was shot to public consciousness–when people admired their lengthy years together dating back in 2012 until shortly after she won the title. The eventual breakup was news that people lamented. Seeing as how the two were long-time sweethearts and the public display of support he has given her despite the pressures and distances of winning her crown, Bondad was a man that many people envied and respected.

On July 10, Bondad first posted a fitness positivity photo of him inside his bathroom in an undisclosed location. Strangely, the “unnatural” writings on the wall, literally, ticked the curiosity of many. Days after, he began his blast of cryptic posts to which people began to worry. Looking into his Instagram, his bio reads several curious facts such as “#princeofDarknesshasArrived”, “Ich mach was Ich will”, “Buddah is Impatient”, and “SoladosisfacitVenenum”. If that isn’t weird yet, his stories include mentions of “P.S. I create Queens”, “Because I push Yiu Beyon£d [sic] all Your Limits” and “Letter to my Ex, Thanks”—separately in each story.

It’s a stretch to call it “Filipinos’ love for rumors” when everyone enjoys their own cup of tea, but it’s exactly how social media reacted. Producing baseless assumptions and stories out of undocumented and circumstantial evidences, people began a whirlwind of noise and controversies. It was a riot and everyone’s constantly on alert mode.

Seeing as how Bondad’s behavior is amiss, the idea of his mental health in peril should have floated above all possible reactions–but that didn’t seem to matter. Instead, the rumors pitting Bondad against his ex-girlfriend and present boyfriend, Sam Milby came to the fore and gained more traction. After all, it’s the more “satisfying” end of the spectrum of discussions. Mental health on either party is out. Revenge, infidelity, and scandal are sexier.

The writings are on the walls, the devil’s in the details. People’s obsessions and pressures in coming up with stories only adds fuel to the fire. If his mental health is in the background, then the responsible approach is to tread lightly and look into the facts. After all, this might be more than just a break-up, not that we are belittling heartaches, but there might be more story that adds to his vulnerability.

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Just to put this topic finally to rest!🧟 WHY did I leave ASAP Coverboys?🙇 The left picture is from when I was part of the group a year ago and the picture on the right is only 3 weeks later AFTER leaving them! I looked like a shipwreck survivor 😂 During that time I had 2 business startups, interviewed 50+ potential employees, hired a hand full, fired a hand full, killed a ton of paperwork, worked on getting my fleet of vehicles into tip top condition, had people "misplace" money and car parts and then disappear, got involved in a car crash, some wouldn't show up for work or I woke them up on location after snoozing, raised funds when time was running out, monitored ALL my jobs in real time, had my cell phone on 24/7, answered calls every few min regardless of time or being asleep, would work 20+ hours a day, traveled up to 10 hours a day, napped in the car or on my desk, endured banks not working and me then having to sprint to the next money transfer to pay people on time, calculated all financial aspects of the businesses or deals or double checked them constantly, trained new employees, did the own company bookings as well because NOBODY will work as hard as yourself, tested my new products, negotiated with clients, looked for and found new clients, learned my businesses in general regardless of silly advice, encountered corrupt government officials, payed people for services that weren't fulfilled, had no time left to cook or eat much and had to correct accountants for wrongfully filing taxes. The usual hustle of business ventures 😁 BUT on TOP of that of course I was managing a modelling and great acting career that required me to give 3-4 days a week to ASAP Coverboys and working out daily since you are also expected to be fit on TV even if you feel close to dying haha. However I loved it! We grow from struggle and we can get more AGGRESSIVE when faced by it! Gets me excited! You can only truly know from experience! But drive can be unchecked sometimed and my body was falling apart eventually even though my mind was just getting warm! Still human 😎 So I simply chose my business over ASAP. That's the whole story! 🧘 ABS-CBN was phenomenal to me! 😘

A post shared by Clint Bondad (@clintbondad) on

In January 2019, Bondad posted a photo that shows the contrast of when he was appearing in ASAP and another photo of 3 to 4 days after leaving the show. He bared his life’s circumstances in a lengthy caption that trailed his hardships dealing in-between businesses, modelling, and acting, the pressures of 24/7 phone surveillance, taking breaks in his car and on desks, dealing with employees, and a car crash. It was a series of stressful situations that he ended on a positive note with a grateful message to his former industry that says, “ABS-CBN was phenomenal to me!”. 

On top of all these, he had a major hit when his relationship with Gray ended. He expressed that lack of communication was the main reason for this falling out and it was something he expected seeing the pressures and immense popularity bestowed on the crowned beauty queen upon winning the biggest title in the world. Bondad then remained on the side as they let go of their precious time together to move on with their own lives.

But the macrofocus of the trend patrol was focused on Gray. Some went the lengths of showing receipts of her infidelity with her recently announced boyfriend. This then got more bizarre and ripe with intrigue as notions of Bondad as a “hacker” himself added fuel to the flame of speculations.

Taking hints from his “Sam” mentions even goes as far as messaging Sam Milby as seen on his story screencap, “Cat’s friend” that links to Gray’s peers, encouraging people to crack his codes, Tinder shots, and cryptic phrases—disturbing as it is, people celebrated it while only a few showed concern.

This is what the Internet did to us as a society. It blurred the lines between truth and fiction from ear-to-ear to an easy click-to-post in public. The accessibility that has been opened for us has led information parallel with the amount of disinformation which then creates for more tell tales. 

Recently, the #FreeBritney dialogue resurfaced online because of the controversial pop star’s recent posts that suggested yet another glitch in her personality. Being the A-list celebrity that she is, we’ve seen her life’s stories unfold right before our very eyes, from her 2007 psychiatric breakdowns down to her battle for custody and rights. But witnessing her dancing in her personal social media posts with moves that many regarded to be pregnant with “meanings” and “signs” served much cause for concern, if not, alert, for her fans, especially that it is known that she takes mental health medications all while battling for conservatorship.

People began to make stories of Illuminati involvement, her dad, Jamie Spears, controlling her, and more. It’s these kinds of speculations that show just how much the masses care or how much they just want in on the tea in all of it.

Alternative truths only create more distraction than solutions. Social psychologist Arie Kruglanski coined the term “cognitive closure” to explain our desire for answers in the face of ambiguity. As we come up with more questions and blurring details, we develop a thirst for answers and as quickly as possible.

Seeking them from the vast library of the Internet, trust and credibility comes to play, therefore creating even more confusion on which holds the truth. Putting in the element of education, as well, in the equation, it’s fair to say that even the accessibility for lesser-educated people contributes to the dissemination and consumption of fake news and stories. That’s basically how conspiracies and rumors spread like wildfire.

Clearly, Bondad is manifesting something and whether it’s a cry for help or for clout, the right way around it is to consider a more sensitive approach. Be responsible with what you share. Stick to the facts. Express your concern but don’t make up fantasies.

Consume facts, not rumors, not gossips, not conspiracies. 

Story and art by Cholo Katipunan

With additional text by Leo Balante