Batang Quiapo star and long-time Ang Probinsyano lead Coco Martin confirmed what many fans suspected all along: he and perennial leading lady Julia Montes have been dating for a while — 12 years to be exact.
Coco and Julia rose to fame as one of the biggest love teams in the Philippines in the 2010s, after co-starring in the hit series Walang Hanggan (My Eternal) in 2012. They soon starred in other films and TV shows, including the blockbuster A Moment in Time in 2013 and Ikaw Lamang in 2014.
While this information should come as good news to their long-time fans, there’s just a bit of a snag: Coco, who has since risen to fame as an actor-director, is now 41. Meanwhile, Julia is 28 years old.
This means the pair started dating when Coco was 29 and Julia was 16. In a separate interview, the actor also admitted to putting the moves on Julia when she was 13 or 14, but was shut down.
First, let us clarify that this isn’t an issue of their age difference, per se. Certainly, relationships — whether romantic or otherwise — can thrive between those born decades apart. Many couples with large age differences have enduring and fulfilled relationships.
But that doesn’t mean we should be completely age-blind, either. Power imbalances exist, especially when it comes to age.
And that’s especially true when the other person in question is a minor. Although many may argue that Julia was well above the age of sexual consent when she became involved with Coco (the minimum age in the Philippines being raised from 12 to 16 in 2022), what is legal may not always be what’s ethical or moral, especially when the law continues to serve the interests of a patriarchal society.
As a teenager, Julia would have been in a critical stage of her personal development where she was still trying to figure out her identity. With less life experience and perhaps a different level of emotional maturity than an older person, she may not have had the best understanding of what it meant to be in a relationship with someone 13 years her senior. This is true of the vast majority of teenagers – there’s a good reason why the age of consent is 18 in most other countries.
While Coco, a man in a position of power and authority, should carry the blame here, we can’t help but wonder how ABS-CBN, then their home network, played a role here. After all, they were the ones who decided to pair the two actors in a show together. And while that’s not to say that Julia or any other actress could not take on more mature roles or hold her own against a more mature actor, certain safeguards should have been in place to ensure that both actors could move freely in a professional environment without violating each other’s personal boundaries.
Either way, the circumstances that surround it all, including the fact that it took them so long to admit their relationship, hold a different kind of ick.
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