Actress and host Toni Gonzaga is the newest ambassador of Singapore-based e-commerce platform Shopee. Shopee Philippines made the official announcement during its 10.10 Brands Festival program held at the Grand Hyatt Manila in Taguig on Sept. 29.
The endorsement, however, has been met with much criticism online—even ahead of the Sept. 29 announcement—because of Gonzaga's political preference, coupled with earlier news about Shopee laying off employees in its Philippine headquarters. Gonzaga has stirred controversy for being a strong supporter of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Onstage during the brand's announcement event, Gonzaga said she feels "very grateful" and "blessed" to be part of the Shopee family. The actress said that her younger sister Alex, who was a former Shopee Philippines ambassador, was overjoyed that she was joining the Shopee family since she's been a loyal user for years.
She also thanked social media users who have been talking about her endorsement even before it was officially announced.
"Since yesterday we are trending, today we are grateful for our netizens for the mentions and engagements, they are the reasons why we are here today," Gonzaga said.
On Sept. 28, Shopee shared a teaser featuring glimpses of an unknown woman in an orange dress. "FINALLY, makikilala niyo na siya," the company wrote in the caption, saying the big reveal will happen at 3:00PM on Sept. 29.
Many users quickly took the woman to be Gonzaga based on her physical features. Not long thereafter, many users aired their frustrations and disapproval toward Gonzaga, vowing to boycott and uninstall the app.
On Twitter, Shopee's post got "ratioed," an internet slang pertaining to critical quote tweets and comments outnumbering a certain post's would-be appreciation via likes and retweets. "Bye Shopee" and "Boycott Shopee" also became trending topics following the video upload.
It got over 18,000 quote tweets and 5,500 comments mostly questioning Shopee and Gonzaga, vis-à-vis the 350 retweets and 2,500 likes.
"KADIRI. Was planning for a 10.10 spree pa naman. But nope. Back to good old offline shopping muna," one user said.
"Uninstall the app, hahahaha at least i have a reason now. Thanks, Shopee!" another user said.
Actor Jaime Fabregas, who was once Gonzaga's colleague in ABS-CBN before she left the network, wrote a cryptic tweet that seemingly alludes to the endorsement.
I have deleted my Shopee account. Matagal ko nang gustong gawin dahil sa gastos pero ngayon nagkaroon ng más malalim na dahilan.— Jaime Fábregas (@fabre_jaime) September 28, 2022
"I have deleted my Shopee account," Fabregas said. "Matagal ko nang gustong gawin dahil sa gastos pero ngayon nagkaroon ng más malalim na dahilan."
Creative director Gerry Cacanandin, who has over 67,000 Twitter followers, shared a screenshot of Inquirer.net's report about Shopee's downsizing and a still of the video showing the woman purported to be Gonzaga.
"Shopee Philippines firing a bunch of its employees then hiring a major apologist who charges a talent fee in the millions is some next-level yikes." Cacanandin wrote.
According to Inquirer.net's report dated Sept. 27, a source familiar with the matter talked about Shopee's plans in a bid to "optimize" its business, deeming it a "prudent" and "sensible" measure amid "current macroeconomic uncertainties of today." This source though noted that Shopee's core operation in the country "will likely be unaffected by this development."
A Shopee Philippines representative also confirmed to the outlet the company's planned corporate downsizing, but didn't give details.
On Facebook, Shopee's teaser video got over 4,600 "Angry" and 2,900 "Haha" reactions, compared to its 700 "Love" and 590 "Likes."
Other users, meanwhile, threw their support for rival Singaporean platform Lazada, which quickly trended on Twitter amid the Shopee brouhaha.
Data from Twitter trends tracker trends24 showed there are already over 33,000 tweets about Lazada to date. The hashtag #LazadaPH also has over 10,200 tweets.
Later in the day, Lazada thanked patrons for the support and raffled off 10 vouchers worth P500.
Gonzaga served as a host of ABS-CBN's reality television show Pinoy Big Brother for 16 years. She announced her departure on Feb. 9, a day after her controversial appearance at the proclamation rally of Marcos Jr. and his running-mate Sara Duterte-Carpio at the Philippine Arena.
Last Sept. 2, she transferred to AllTV, the new media company owned by business tycoon Manny Villar. AllTV is using the former frequencies of ABS-CBN since lawmakers denied granting it a new franchise in 2020.
During AllTV's launch on Sept. 13, Gonzaga held a sit-down interview with Marcos, the first one since he was sworn into the presidency.