There’s no denying that Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla – both as individuals and as a reel-and-real couple – have achieved career milestones that many stars can only dream of.
In such a fast-paced entertainment industry, it’s rare for an onscreen tandem to maintain their massive popularity for years. But given KathNiel’s history of television hits, record-breaking movies, international endorsements, and numerous recognitions – their first decade together is just the beginning.
As we celebrate this milestone, let’s relive how one of the most well-loved pairings in the Philippine entertainment history started:
2011: The beginning of KathNiel
It’s now hard to imagine KathNiel without each other but there was a time in their careers when Kathryn and Daniel were paired with different celebrities.
Kathryn, who started her career as a child actress in Goin’ Bulilit, had her first lead role in the 2010 remake of Mara Clara, where she was paired with Albie Casiño. She was also paired with Enrique Gil in the 2011 film Way Back Home.
At that time, Daniel was just starting in showbiz. His first project was the 2010 Gimik: The Reunion series with Julia Montes. In a 2107 Magandang Buhay interview, Daniel said he often jokingly claims Julia, who happens to be Kathryn’ Mara Clara co-star and close friend, as his first loveteam.
In their first outing as a pair, viewers were instantly drawn to their chemistry. Kathryn played Ella Dimalanta, a teenage volleyball player who is constantly teased by her friend Patrick Rivero (Daniel), who apparently had feelings for her.
Having been paired with other celebrities before, it wasn’t clear then if Kathryn and Daniel be a pair again for future projects. But the kilig factor was already there.
2012 was a year of many firsts for KathNiel.
Kathryn and Daniel led in their first primetime series Princess and I. Kathryn played Mikay, a long-lost princess from a fictional country Yangdon, who was learning about her real family while having to pick between three suitors: her best friend Kiko (played by Khalil Ramos), Prince Jao of Yangdon (played by Enrique), and bully Gino (played by Daniel).
Mikay, of course, would end up choosing Gino. Over its successful 10-month run, the show topped the evening ratings and grew a huge fan base, establishing KathNiel as a solid love team.
The two also first attended the Star Magic Ball together in 2012, where they got the Breakout Style Award.
They also starred in their fist movie together, Star Magic’s 20th anniversary film 24/7 In Love. The movie featured an ensemble cast of Star Magic artists and love teams. Kathryn played Jane, a die-hard fan of Daniel’s character Billy.
Kathryn and Daniel were also part of the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival entry Sisterakas starring Vice Ganda, Kris Aquino, and Ai-Ai delas Alas. The two played star-crossed lovers Kathy and Angelo, who struggle to find their own love story, because of the feud between Ai-Ai and Vice Ganda’s characters.
Kathryn and Daniel were given their first lead move roles in the rom-com Must Be… Love. The story follows best friends Patchot and Ivan as they realize they’re in love with each other.
They were also part of the MMFF 2013 horror film Pagpag: Siyam na Buhay, co-starring alongside Shaina Magdayao and Paulo Avelino.
KathNiel reunited with director Cathy Garcia-Molina for the movie adaptation of the best-selling book She’s Dating The Gangster. The story follows “gangster” Kenji (Daniel) entering a pretend relationship with Athena (Kathryn) to make her ex-girlfriend Athena (Sofia Andres) jealous.
She’s Dating The Gangster, which breached the P100-million mark in just five days, proved both Kathryn and Daniel’s acting prowess and box office magic. Critics praised the tandem for pulling off what at that point was their most mature roles to date.
“Aside sa pagiging masaya, nakaka-proud ‘yung movie na ‘to dahil first time ni DJ, na magka-movie na ganitong kalaki. Gusto ko rin kasi ‘yung mga feedbacks din ng mga tao na marami kaming napasaya… ‘yun talaga ang goal namin at nagawa naman namin,” Kathryn told Pep on the success of She’s Dating the Gangster.
(Aside from being happy, I just feel proud because this is the first time that DJ and I worked in a movie as huge as this. I’m appreciate all the feedback. They kept on saying that they enjoyed the film and that was really our goal. We’re happy that we did it.)
Kathryn and Daniel continued to shine as they ventured into more dramatic roles in 2015.
Following the success of She’s Dating The Gangster, they starred in another movie, Crazy Beautiful You. In it, Kathryn played the rebellious daughter Jackie while Daniel portrayed the nice and helpful Kiko.
The two once again broke box office records as Crazy Beautiful You reached a total gross of P225 million after four weeks in theaters and an additional $2 million from international screenings.
Despite the records set by She’s Dating The Gangster, Daniel told Star Cinema that they didn’t expect Crazy Beautiful You to be as successful.
“Hindi namin inisip kung ano ang kikitain ng palabas, basta ginawa namin ang the best namin sa movie namin. At alam namin na maganda ‘tong palabas na ‘to,” he said.
(We did not think about how much the movie would make, as long as we did our best for this movie. And we’re just proud at how beautiful it is.)
KathNiel also made their primetime comeback with the remake of Pangako Sa’yo. Kathryn and Daniel played Yna Macaspac and Angelo Buenavista, respectively, and co-starred along veteran actors Ian Veneracion, Jodi Sta. Maria, and Angelica Panganiban.
Compared to their previous, more youth-oriented teenybopper roles, Kathryn and Daniel played more mature characters in Pangako Sa’yo. “Mas kailangan na namin mag-let go. Medyo madami na nagawa nun, so ito na yung perfect time and perfect project to do this and mature.” said Kathryn.
(We need to let that go, we’ve done a lot of projects like that. So this is the perfect time and perfect project to be more mature.)
The television series also gained international success, airing in Peru, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Kathryn and Daniel were also awarded Best Foreign Actors by Vietnam’s Face of the Year Awards for their roles in Pangako Sa’yo.
Even in 2021, six years after the Kathryn-Daniel starrer first premiered in the Philippines, Pangako Sa’yo is still well-loved by international audiences. According to Star Cinema, the Spanish-dubbed version of the series, titled La Promesa, had a successful second run in Ecuador.
Kathryn and Daniel worked with director Olivia “Inang” Lamasan for the movie Barcelona: A Love Untold. Aside from their first on-screen kiss, Kathryn said that the movie was also memorable because they played their most dramatic and challenging characters yet.
“Dito talaga all out talaga. Pag si Inang talaga, parang hindi namin alam kung paano niya napapalabas yung emotion na kailangan kahit gaano ka simple or gaano kabigat nung scene,” Kathryn said during the press conference.
(It was really all out. If it’s Inang, we don’t know how she does it, how she manages to squeeze out the emotion that is needed, no matter how simple or heavy the scene is.”
“Sabi namin ni DJ na parang nag-back to zero kami. Parang nag-take uli kami ng panibagong course sa mundo ni Inang pag sa set. Kasi, parang ‘yung pinag-aralan namin dati hindi pa iyon enough. Na parang ang dami pa namin kailangan na i-improve and ganyan,” she said.
(DJ and I really felt like we went back to zero. It’s like we took another course in Inang’s world when we’re on set. Because, everything we studied before, it was not enough. We knew we needed to improve ourselves.)
According to Star Cinema, Barcelona: A Love Untold earned a total of P321 million worldwide. Following the success of the movie, Kathryn and Daniel were named Box Office King and Queen at the 48th Box Office Entertainment Awards.
Kathryn and Daniel returned to the big screen with a romantic comedy film I Can’t Help Falling In Love. The tandem reunited with director Mae Cruz-Alviar who worked with them in Crazy Beautiful You, Pangako Sa’yo, and 24/7 In Love.
In the movie, Daniel plays happy-go-lucky Dos and Kathryn played high-strung career woman Gab. They find out that they’re a married couple – on paper – even if Gab is engaged to her longtime boyfriend, played by Matteo Guidicelli.
Kathryn said they wanted to bring something new to the table for their fifth movie together. “Kasi for this movie talaga, ‘pag sinabi na pang-mature, matanda na lahat. Ibig sabihin nun ay mga problems, ‘yung mga tina-tackle namin, kung paano namin iha-handle ‘yung mga bagay,” she said.
(For this movie, when you say mature, that means it grown-ups. The problems tackled in the movie and how our characters handled various situations are mature. It was more like that.)
Kathryn added, “And I guess ‘yung challenge is every time kami ay gumagawa ng movie is kung paano siya maiiba, na iyon ‘yung mahirap talaga.” (And I guess the challenge every time we do a film is how to make it different, because that’s very hard.)
Aside from a movie, KathNiel were also busy with their the primetime series La Luna Sangre. The project was the tandem’s first fantasy series, where they portrayed werewolf Malia and vampire Tristan.
2018 is definitely one of the most memorable years for Kathryn and Daniel.
They reunited with director Cathy Garcia-Molina in the film The Hows Of Us. Cathy said the movie was a far cry from KathNiel’s previous romantic-comedy films.
“There is clamor to see more and where will you go other than up? Where will you go other than older or more mature? Kumbaga, na-exhaust na somehow ang romcom kasi nga both in soap operas and film ginagawa na nila. Even themselves also, meron na silang want to do something different,” the director said during the movie’s press conference.
(In other words, we’ve somehow exhausted the rom-com genre for both of them, in the soap operas and films they’ve starred in. They themselves want to do something different.)
Daniel also said that at this point in their careers, they wanted to showcase their versatility as actors. “Naghahanap din siguro kami ng may laman na, may laman ‘yung content. Pagdating sa pelikula, gusto namin ng worth watching. Matanda, bata, may laman ‘yung pinapanood,” Daniel said.
(I guess we’re also looking for deeper content. When it comes to movies, we want to do something that’s worth watching. Young, old, we want them to watch a movie that has something to give them.)
The Hows Of Us follows ex-couple Primo (Daniel) and George (Kathryn) who, despite a bad breakup, meet again at the house they both invested in when they were together.
The film made history as the first Filipino movie to cross the P600-million mark at the domestic box office.
During the movie’s press conference, Kathryn and Daniel also officially confirmed that they had been in a relationship for “more than five years.”
“Si Kathryn kasi totoo ‘yung she makes me a better person. Totoo ‘yun. I think ‘yun ‘yung complement. ‘Yung kesa sa kilig ‘yun ‘yung kailangan mong hanapin. It doesn’t mean na kapag nawala na ‘yung kilig, hindi mo na mahal kailangan mo lang hanapin ‘yung mas malalim na rason kung bakit mo ba mahal ‘yung tao,” Daniel said.
(Kathryn makes me a better person. It’s true. I think that’s what complements [our relationship]. More than the kilig, that’s what you need to look for. It doesn’t mean that if there’s no kilig, you don’t love the person. You just need to look for the reason why you love that person.)
He added, “Mas looking forward akong makasama pa si Kathryn sa mas marami pang biyahe sa personal naming buhay dahil marami pa kaming mga gagawin. I think ‘yun ‘yung the next level of love.”
(I look forward to being with Kathryn in more journeys in our personal lives because we’re going to do more. I think that’s the next level of love.)
After back-to-back blockbuster hits and being paired together for eight years, the tandem decided to focus on solo projects for 2019.
“We made a mutual decision to not accept projects together this 2019. We both know it’s going to be tough for both of us and maybe even tougher for our fans, but we really gave it some thought, and while there’s nothing we want more than to make you happy, we’d appreciate it if you can give us this year to pursue our individual growth this time around,” Kathryn said.
She continued: “It’s a risk, and I’d be lying if I told you that the idea doesn’t scare me, but at the same time, I’m excited to discover what kind of opportunities await us both in this journey.”
Daniel also said in Magandang Buhay, “Part siya ng individuality naming dalawa as actors. May parte rin na kailangan namin matuto sa mga paa namin. Nag-grow naman kaming magkasama. Ito lang ay ibang level of growth.”
(It’s part of our individuality as actors. There comes a time when we really have to learn how to stand up on our own. We did grow with each other, it’s just that this is a different level of growth.)
In 2019, Kathryn headlined the movie Hello, Love, Goodbye with Alden Richard. Meanwhile, Dreamscape Entertainment announced that Daniel would star in the movie Whether the Weather Is Fine with Charo Santos-Concio.
Even as they worked on separate projects, the couple never disappeared from the public eye. They attended the ABS-CBN Ball 2019 together, and Kathryn always thanked Daniel for all his support as she worked on her own projects.
In February 2020, it was announced that Kathryn and Daniel were set to reunite with director Cathy Garcia-Molina for the film After Forever. It was supposed to be the tandem’s movie reunion following 2018’s The Hows Of Us. No additional details about the project has been released since.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and loss of ABS-CBN franchise in May, the previously announced projects for KathNiel were understandably put on hold.
Kathryn and Daniel were among the ABS-CBN stars who actively fought for ABS-CBN’s franchise. “Sa daming nangyayari ngayon, bago kami, siguro kumpanya maging okay muna ang estado. Kapag nangyari iyon, tara, trabaho na tayo.. Ang daming artista na miss na miss na magtrabaho. Ang daming fans at supporters naming lahat na gusto makita ang ABS-CBN back on TV. Let’s hope for that,” Kathryn said.
(With everything that’s happening now, before our own projects, I think we’ll focus first on the state of the company. If everything turns out okay, then let’s go back to work. A lot of fellow celebrities already miss working. Fans and supporters are all wishing for ABS-CBN’s return on TV. Let’s hope for that.”
In October 2020, KathNiel returned to the small screen with the digital movie series The House Arrest of Us, their first project together since the movie The Hows Of Us. It ran from October 2020 to January 2021.
They also starred in the music video for Ben&Ben’s “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay,” which was released in December 2020.
2020 might not have been as jam-packed as their previous years, but Kathryn and Daniel still shared parts of their personal lives through Kathryn’s vlogs.
In celebration of their 10 years in the industry, Daniel said in an interview with Boy Abunda that KathNiel is set to reunite for a teleserye and a movie.
ABS-CBN’s Entertainment Production head Laurenti Dyogi told Rappler that the series will start filming in September. Director Mae Cruz-Alviar also teased fans with photos from a “KathNiel look test” but additional details about the project have yet to be announced.
From back-to-back blockbuster movies, television series that garnered international recognition, and numerous awards, the KathNiel – as individuals and as a team – has achieved so much in the course of their career.
From starring in comedies and heart-wrenching dramas, to fighting for their home network’s franchise, the couple has proven that they’re always in it together, especially when the going gets tough.
Given the anticipation for their upcoming comeback projects, it’s safe to say that the KathNiel magic is still in the air – and that it’s here to stay. – Rappler.com