Rise Through the Ranks: For These Talents, Human Connection is Enough To Go Into a Streaming Overdrive

kumu, as a national social entertainment platform used by millions of Filipinos to pass time and be entertained, shifted the condition of the entertainment business in the Philippines. As a social media network that is proudly Filipino, this application generously exceeds its potential to assist and open doors for Filipinos, ultimately as a channel for those looking for an escape and those in search of opportunities.

While a number of registered kumu users are simply looking for a recreational activity and successfully finding comfort in the content that thrive in the virtual space, others discover themselves at the center and source of creativity. Three of these rising names are Kayla Marin Escano, Kathleen Agir-Zarandin, and Andrei King

Denim dress (worn as a top), Nina Amoncio. Mesh dress (underneath), Proudrace.

Kayla Marin Escano is a 21-year old kumu streamer who’s living independently. After a year of going by the handle @BubblesKayla, she has attracted a steady army of fans who tune in to her livestreams with her diverse talent and flair in connecting with people.

“Natutuwa naman po ‘yung mga tao kasi napapakita ko po ang talent ko, by dancing, singing and madalas comedy po talaga ‘yung laman ng [livestream] ko.” 

Immensely, because of streaming, her confidence was boosted and, although she didn’t expect this to happen, the overflow of support flared an even greater sense of motivation. 

“Nag-start lang po ako dati, yung tinatawag na bulsahan, ‘yung laro-laro lang. Wala po akong idea about sa pagsi-stream, then nu’ng nag-start na po ako mag solo stream, slowly, doon ko na po na-boost ‘yung confidence ko.”

At her young age, Escano shows her clear perspective and optimism especially in a time that is less than ideal. She acknowledges the fact that even in kumu, where she finds great support and love, she cannot elude the realities and “inevitability” of bashing. Nevertheless, she, finding her strength to perform and create for her supporters, developed the grit to conquer the negativity that the platform may occasionally be afflicted with.

Sometimes may mga negative po talaga na mga comments and mga tao, pero [I stay focused on the] positive side na marami pong magsu-support sa’yo. Kumabaga, sila na lang po pinaglalaanan ko ng oras, and sila po ang nagmo-motivate sa akin para magpatuloy lang sa pagsi-stream.” 

Ensemble, Nina Amoncio.

Kathleen Agir-Zarandin’s intention at first was to just use kumu as a platform to get into Pinoy Big Brother, but she found herself on a deep dive into the streaming world.

Under her virtual name, @PBBKATHLEEN, Zarandin has found her own hive of supporters and, since August of last year, saw lots and lots of members of the kumunity magnetized by her streams with the display of her easy likability and effortless charm on the platform.

“Before, I do giveaways and I enjoy singing a little even though I’m not good at it (laughs), and more on chika.”

Harnessing enough confidence, the young streamer seeks to spread a ray of hope and optimism to a large number of people through her virtual interactions. Of note, she often shares advice to her viewers, making her content more interactive and welcoming to others. More than this, she also uses her resources not just to give actual gifts to her supporters, but also to make sure they are well and in a state of contentment in a time as uncertain as the pandemic.

Just like other online personalities, she emphasizes her appreciation and the importance of the kumunity to her career as well as to her personal life. It is the engagement with other people, meeting and listening to their stories while having a space to also share her narratives, that made her more thankful for what she has achieved and what she will soon accomplish.

“kumu is really a nice platform to introduce myself to others, but, to be honest, actually, it is a good way for people to introduce themselves and their stories to me.” 

Overcoat, pants, Nina Amoncio. (left) Top, Proudrace.

Meeting new people and connecting with them despite the distance and the fourth wall of the virtual world, is what Andrei King or @PBBANDREI is passionate about. Considering his other interests, such as traveling to different places, his ever-positive aura has powered him to connect to his growing number of supporters. On his live streams, he seeks to convey this energetic and bright way of life to his supporters.

“There is so much brokenness in the world and if I can make someone smile, hope, love, think of the good others, makes all my striving to be the best version of myself really worth it.”

After streaming for a year and two months, King has already amassed a huge following on the virtual space. This then trickled to his other social media platforms, gaining him millions of followers, allowing him to expand his reach to greater heights, even becoming a fixture on television, all because of his stint on kumu.

“It looks really exciting, but it is also a great responsibility.”

With all the support and assistance he received from the public, he has since gained so much more than what he anticipated for, from the financial support that this new opportunity afforded him, to the love and acceptance he is relishing from the religious followers of his streams.

kumu, along with the “kumunity”, indeed elevated and positively turned his livelihood, especially when things turned bleak because of the pandemic. 

“Iyong kumu, ang laking tulong niya sa akin para makapagtrabaho rin kasi, doon ko kinuha ‘yung salary ko to help my family.”

Driven to make other people happy, he has seen himself evolve into an online personality who is genuine in his efforts. He notes, “Noong mga panahon na na-sad ako, ginamit ko ‘yung kumu para magpasaya naman ng ibang tao. Kasi ‘yun naman talaga ‘yung goal ko as a content creator. ‘Yung ginagawa ko na magbigay advice at bigay saya sa mga taong nakapaligid sa akin at naniniwala sa akin.”

King painted a sincere opinion about the effects of isolation and the pandemic, not just on him but also on our collective psyche. “Noong pandemic, ang dami nating na-experience, maraming nagka-anxiety, ang daming down. Alam ko sa sarili ko na ako rin naapektuhan din ng pandemic, just like everyone else.” 

With this, he continued on using kumu to spread inspiration and let his listeners and viewers validate and put their emotions into perspective, by providing a platform to be heard and even escape. 

While King has his eyes on the prize in his life outside the “kumunity” that molded him into the personality and human being that he is now, with Zarandin, and Escano, he continues to rise through the ranks and emerge triumphant in leaving a mark on and off the virtual world.

Presented by kumu

Produced, creative direction, styling, and interview by Leo Balante

Photography by Jerick Sanchez

Beauty direction by Nadynne Esguerra

Shoot assistant and cover layout by Bhernn Saenz

Fashion by Nina Amoncio & Proudrace

Shot on location at The Penthouse Studio