10 Filipino celebrities who inspire us to stay ‘woke’

The term “woke” may sound like any other millennial slang word, but when used to describe the right people, it can mean something much deeper. 

Tracing its roots to the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States, the term means more than just being “awake,” it means being aware of what’s “going on in the community,” particularly in terms of racism and social injustice.

Here in the Philippines, we have plenty celebrities who are “woke.” While it may not necessarily be a part of their job description, celebrities, with their large followings — from television to social media — play a major role in shaping the way Filipinos view their world.

In no particular order, here are 10 celebrities who have shown themselves to be “woke” over the past year, taking advantage of their influence, and speaking out on issues relating to social justice and equality.

Jessica Sanchez

Screengrab from YouTube

The Filipino American Idol star shocked fans during her performance of the US national anthem at a Raiders game in Oakland, California, on Oct. 15. She stood for most of the song, but took a knee at the last “brave” of the Star Spangled Banner.




She explained why she did it in this tweet below.


With this simple act, Sanchez joined the fray of American football players and singers who haven taken a knee during the the singing of the US national anthem as a symbol of protest against racism. It’s a move that has drawn serious backlash from certain segments of US society and one very high profile critic: President Donald Trump.

Check out our story on Coconuts Manila for more.

Lea Salonga

Lea Salonga
File photo

Lea Salonga isn’t only an international musical theater superstar, she’s also very vocal and involved in issues that matter to her right here in the Philippines, like the Reproductive Health Law that was passed into law in 2012.

“I’m Catholic and I respect the anti-contraceptive stance of the Catholic religion,” Salonga told GMA News in a 2011 interview, prior to the bill’s passage.

“But the bill is not meant to serve just Catholics. It’s supposed to serve every single Filipino.”

She showed that she not only supports the bill but deeply understands the issues when she responded to boxer Manny Pacquiao’s criticism that people don’t need the bill because contraception is already available.

“You have access to it because heck, you can have access to a gold-plated condom if it so behooves you to buy one, but you’re not the target of the RH bill,” she said. “It’s those who still go to manghihilots (a form of Filipino alternative medicine), who die at the hands of untrained people.”

Because of the influence of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, it took 14 years to pass the bill into law ,and even after it had been passed, conservative senators and congressmen practically de-funded the law in 2015 for the 2016 budget.

But Salonga stayed with the issue during the budget debates and tweeted these messages to her more than 5 million followers.

Whether you believe in the Reproductive Health Law or not, we have to give it to Salonga for standing up for what she believes in.

Bianca Gonzalez

Screengrab from Instagram

Before being “woke” even became a thing, TV host Bianca Gonzalez had told local newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2012 that she “eats news for breakfast.”

Why? Gonzalez explained,  “I don’t find it [politics and social issues] boring. I want to be socially aware as much as possible,” she said during the same interview.

The 34-year-old communications graduate of Ateneo de Manila also writes a column for the Philippine Star where, aside from talking about celebrities and showbiz, she talks about issues that matter to her like culture, beauty perceptions, and mental health.

But you only have to be one of her 6.75 million followers on Twitter to know how she feels about what’s going on in the country.

Last month, she joined the online conversation surrounding the controversial death of teenager Kian Lloyd Delos Santos who was killed in a drug operation in Caloocan City.

Gonzalez called for due process for drug suspects.

And despite the trolls coming for her for tweeting her opinion, Gonzalez didn’t back down.

 “My heart bleeds for the parents of Kian,” she said in Filipino. “Is this how we’re always going to be? Those who get killed will just become a statistic?”

One netizen, @lieghn78, seeming to defend the drug war, replied, “Does your heart bleed when that 6-year-old is raped and killed because they’re stabbed and hit over the head with a rock?”

Gonzalez replied, “Whose heart wouldn’t bleed over any child murdered? They’re all shameless crimes, right?”

You tell her, Bianca!

Cherry Pie Picache

Veteran actress Cherry Pie Picache’s mother, Zenaida Sison, was killed in 2014 by her own house help, who confessed to the murder after taking shabu, a local form of methamphetamine.

So if anyone should be in favor of the current drug war, it would be Picache. But if you follow her Twitter account, her posts seem to advocate for due process and an end to extrajudicial killings.

“We can always try to forgive, but we shouldn’t forget the importance of justice and accountability,” she told the Inquirer yesterday, after reading the children’s book version of the story of Delos Santos.

The man who killed Picache’s mother was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2015.

Picache was also seen at a rally on Sept. 21, protesting extrajudicial killings and the threat of martial law, where she sang a Filipino version of the song Do You Hear The People Sing? from Les Miserables with other artists.

Human rights have become a contentious issue under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, which constantly criticizes human rights advocates for only protecting the rights of criminals.

But Picache said she believes promoting human rights becomes more of a responsibility when you’re a public figure.

“We in media are in a position to influence, encourage, enlighten and inspire others, so we should act now and make people aware of what’s happening in our country,” she told the Inquirer.

“There’s too much anger out there, so this time, I’m coming from a different perspective — not just out of anger. We need balanced views to change people’s perception about issues,” she said.

Tony Labrusca

New to the showbiz world but already unafraid to post an unpopular opinion, Tony Labrusca posted a series of tweets with his thoughts on the killing of delos Santos last August.


The 22-year-old Filipino-American, who grew up in the United States, pointed out “the police are supposed to keep us safe, but many are out there doing the killing.”

Labrusca’s first brush with stardom came when he joined the talent search TV series Pinoy Boyband Superstar last year and starred in a viral McDonald’s commercial. He’s currently part of the main cast of drama-fantasy series La Luna Sangre on ABS-CBN.

Enchong Dee

Enchong Dee
File photo

Actor and professional swimmer Enchong Dee is probably one of the only few young celebrities who have called out President Rodrigo Duterte directly.

With more than 586,000 Twitter followers, that’s an invitation to call on the supporters of the president who are highly engaged online.

Since August, Dee has tweeted at least six times criticizing Duterte, cabinet officials, and allies.

After the killing of delos Santos, Dee tweeted an ABS-CBN News article of a story about the victim’s parents saying the killing has nothing to do with drugs with the caption “yet his trust ratings… nevermind… this has to end.”

In a tweet on Sept. 20, Dee seemed to be making a sarcastic comment about the tendency of Palace spokespersons to provide watered-down interpretations of outrageous and curse-laden statements Duterte frequently makes.

READ: Abella’s tip: Use ‘creative imagination’ to interpret Duterte’s statements

“Unorthodox? I wonder what’s the next word the palace would try to use from the dictionary to cover up his mess?” he said.


On Sept. 13, Dee showed us what happens when a celebrity stays “woke” on social media when a follower told him to “leave the country.”

He responded by saying “then there are those who are small minded… nevermind… not worth my time.”

But when allies of Duterte in the House of Representatives voted to reduce the budget of the Commission on Human Rights to PHP1,000 (US$20), Dee tweeted that he felt his voice was falling on deaf ears.

But maybe people were listening after all when, a week later, the House voted to restore the human rights commission’s original budget.

Don’t get tired of staying woke, Enchong.

Maine Mendoza
Maine Mendoza is cooking up yet another surprise for her fans.
For having the courage to speak up immediately when Eat Bulaga co-host Joey De Leon belittled the depression of the elderly mother of a contestant, we say Maine Mendoza is definitely woke.

She told De Leon: “Depression is not a laughing matter. It’s not a joke. Because many people go through it, especially today’s youth. That if you’re going through it, give them the support,” she said in Filipino. Her on-screen partner and co-host Alden Richards also said in agreement, “Yes, moral support.”

The Oct. 5 incident sparked a national conversation on mental health and prompted De Leon to issue an apology for his comments the next day.

To show that the apology was sincere, the show even produced a special TV movie touching on the subject of mental health that aired on Saturday.

READ: OPINION: It’s time to have an honest conversation about mental health

This shows how a “woke” moment, like the one Maine had on national television, can spark a national conversation over an important and under-addressed issue.

Chai Fonacier

Photo from Facebook

Even just looking at the films she was in this year, Chai Fonacier is undoubtedly woke.

New to the Manila film scene, the Cebuana actress starred in three socially conscious films that were out in theaters at the same time during the Cinemalaya Film Festival and the Pistang Pelikulang Pilipino (Filipino Film Festival). These were Pauwi Na (Pedicab), Respeto (Respect) and Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is dead).

She earned praise for her supporting role as Betchai, in Cinemalaya 2017’s best film Respeto and snagged a best supporting actress award from the Film Academy of the Philippines, for playing transgendered man Judith “Jude” Marie in the sleeper hit Patay Na Si Hesus.

Although the story of Respeto revolved around hip-hop and poetry, it also touched on urban poverty, the drug trade, and extrajudicial killings. She was also lauded for her humane portrayal of Jude and was recognized with the Gender Sensitive Award from the QCinema Film Festival last year.

If you follow her Twitter account, Fonacier regularly talks about issues close to her heart like mental health, ethnic representation in media, and human rights.

Here’s one thread on fighting stereotypes in film:

Fonacier, a mass communications graduate from the University of the Philippines, Cebu, even takes netizens back to school on this thread about media literacy.


You get the picture. And we hope to see her in more pictures soon.

Follow her on Twitter for more.

Ethel Booba


Ethyl Gabison, better known by her screen name “Ethel Booba,” is a singer, dancer, and comedian. She is known for playing ditzy characters but based on her hilarious one or two-line statements tinged with a bit of sarcasm and brilliance, we think she’s much smarter than she’d like us to believe.

Booba proves you can be fun and woke at the same time.

She often ends her tweets with “charot,” slang for “just kidding.” But that doesn’t take the sting away from whoever she’s hitting.

Like this one fierce tweet to those who called the Reproductive Health bill “anti-life”:

“Sex education is pro-life. How many lives can we save from HIV and how many youth can prevent unwanted pregnancy,” she asked.

Or this one, where she cracked us up with a tweet calling out congressmen for not pushing harder for judicial reform.

“If we had a functioning judicial system in this country, perhaps our senators and congressman would have long been in jail,” she pointed out.

Check out this list of Coconuts Manila’s favorite political tweets from Ethel Booba for more.

Saab Magalona

Photo from @saabmagalona Instagram.

Singer and actress Saab Magalona has made it clear that she will not be intimidated by those who do not like her criticism of the president, which she does often through Twitter.

On Sept. 5, Magalona tweeted this photo of Philippine National Police Chief Ronald De La Rosa saying that Duterte “never told anyone to commit mass murder” in Filipino, with photos of other articles quoting Duterte saying just that.

Magalona also doesn’t just speak her mind, but does not tolerate administration apologists who come to her timeline. Take a look at how she responded to this supporter who tried to tell her she was taking things too literally.

In an effort to get other famous personalities to get “woke,” she tweeted this message for those who are afraid of losing that crucial endorsement deals or TV projects.

“Don’t be afraid to lose work opportunities because you’re outspoken. Why even work with spineless brands who think speaking out is uncool?” she said.

And to that, we say, YAS!

What do you guys think? Do you have any other celebrities to add to this list? Think the entire concept of “woke” is stupid? Tell us in the comments below or Tweet us @coconutsmanila.

Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!



Reader Interactions

Leave A Reply


BECOME A COCO+ MEMBER

Support local news and join a community of like-minded
“Coconauts” across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Join Now
Coconuts TV
Our latest and greatest original videos
Subscribe on

MOST POPULAR