Real talk: That billboard date proposal is creepy AF

Don Kevin Hapal
Real talk: That billboard date proposal is creepy AF
This kind of emotional blackmail removes women's agency

It’s a scene taken straight out of noontime TV: some rich guy crushing on a celebrity decides to burn cash to proclaim his “heart’s true desire” – a coffee date with Erich Gonzales. 

Naturally, social media went crazy.

Many were quick to support the unusual proclamation of love, calling Xian Gaza a “brave guy” and wished him luck. Media outlets were just as quick to weigh in on the issue. ABS-CBN claimed “it’s a story that will give you major kilig vibes” while Cosmopolitan gave Gaza “major props” for what he did.  

Erich’s response was no surprise. (Seriously, how did you expect her to react to that?) A safe “sure-but-not-really” answer, if you ask me.

“She [Erich] took it well, so should we,” Gaza’s defenders said when some netizens called him out for being “creepy” and “manipulative.”

The feminist in me just could not take it well. A point has to be made clear: regardless of Erich’s response, what he did was creepy as fuck. 


Let’s not forget a very important fact: his only interaction with Erich was when she obliged to take a selfie with him during what he dubbed was a “magical moment” that left a “massive imprint” on his heart.

Here is a complete stranger who thinks it’s okay for him to express his feelings publicly to a woman and expects her to appreciate it and take it without feeling uneasy. To add insult to injury, in a Facebook post, Gaza claimed that he’s making history by making Erich “the very first Filipina to received (sic) a coffee date proposal via a fuckin badass billboard.”

It’s classic catcalling, only done with a billboard.

Sure, some people have done this kind of proposal before but it’s a whole different picture when it comes from a stranger. 

He didn’t make sexual advances on the streets like how catcalling is usually done, but the essence of it is there: a woman put on the spot and a man (and again, a complete stranger) who thinks it’s okay.

Catcalling is never a compliment, something that women around the world have been trying to make men understand since time immemorial. It makes women feel vulnerable and scared. My colleague, Stacy de Jesus, explained this quite well in a Facebook post:

Sure, Gaza was just expressing his admiration and some girls (as I’ve seen in the comments section, so far) actually find it cute. But the point is not every girl thinks this way. 

Erich might have taken it lightly but there’s no denying that she was put in a difficult situation. You may argue that some girls might like this kind of attention, but the point is you can’t just put all women in a box and assume they all crave for such a public gesture of love. The fact that many other women netizens also called out the proposal  is proof of that.

You will never know for sure if the woman you’ll be “complimenting” or proposing to would love what you’d do or find it creepy. So, why do it anyway? Why take the risk of making her feel vulnerable or putting her on the spot?

Never mind that Erich is a celebrity. Put yourself in her shoes and imagine a stranger suddenly putting up a billboard for you, proclaim you publicly as “his heart’s true desire,” and buy you expensive gifts you never asked for (also publicly announced for the whole world to know).

It’s borderline creepy. 


Much has been said about love, but we all seem to agree on one point: love is selfless, not selfish.

This guy’s actions so far reeks of arrogance, not selflessness. Everything he’s done, from buying her “every woman’s dream gift” to his billboard stunt, satisfies his wants. But what about Erich’s? 

This kind of emotional blackmail removes women’s agency. As soon as posts about his proposal went viral, several netizens rallied behind him, telling Erich to please “say yes” because otherwise his “honest” efforts might go to waste.

How exactly do we expect women, who are put on the spot like this, to respond? 

The pressure is even greater for an actress like Erich, whose reputation is literally her livelihood. Were her feelings considered when the decision to do the stunt was made? I think not. 

Erich might have let it go. But this still doesn’t erase the fact that Gaza’s actions romanticize a behavior where men feel entitled to put women’s reputations and feelings at stake for the sake of expression. 

Women have been subjected to this kind of pressure for centuries – forced to take on roles and make decisions not based on what they want but what the majority from patriarchal societies expect. It’s time we put a stop to this.

Remember: Love is respect and respect is a two-way street. If you’re not sure whether your actions would make a woman feel uncomfortable, just don’t do it. – 

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Don Kevin Hapal

Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.