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Child grooming isn’t something we should be ‘getting used to’

Screenshots of TikTok comments from former child star Bugoy Cariño have been circling around the internet which drew some criticism. Cariño was defending his partner, volleyball player EJ Laure, but the words he used didn’t come off as romantic. 

Bugoy Carino TikTok

People online responded saying that his intentions may have been pure, but the execution was more like a backhanded compliment. 

In response to some of Cariño’s comments, other people also pointed out that body type doesn’t determine someone’s personality traits. There are people with all shapes and bodies who are nice, and some who aren’t. 

With this tweet, it was inevitable that the topic of Laure and Cariño’s relationship was brought up as well—more specifically their age gap, with Laure being 5 years older than Cariño. As of now, Cariño is 19 years old while Laure is 24. 

Last year, on Bugoy Cariño’s 18th birthday, the couple introduced the world to baby Scarlet—2 years after denying pregnancy rumors surrounding them.  

The pregnancy and existence of baby Scarlett was denied by the two prior to their announcement on Bugoy’s 18th birthday, last year. Speculation about Laure’s pregnancy began in 2018 when Cariño was suddenly removed from It’s Showtime

For Laure, her absence in the 80th season of UAAP, as a promising former UST Golden Tigress, raised some questions. When asked about her absence, Laure attributed this to a shoulder injury. 

Upon the introduction of their child, the couple was showered with well wishes but also with a general feeling of discomfort. With baby Scarlet being introduced to the world 2 years after the rumors started, this would have meant that Cariño was around 15 or 16 when she was conceived and born. 

Local influencer Angel Dei tweeted to call out those defending the relationship between the two. Their posts also shared past photos of Cariño and Laure where their age gap creates a stark physical contrast between them. 

Cariño responded to Dei, telling her that she doesn’t know their whole story and acknowledging that “opo alam namin na may mali sa ginawa namen,” he continues to say that “ako kahit bata pa pinanindigan ko lahat ng responsibilidad ko at hindi ko po tinakbuhan.”  

Some people pointed out that this was exactly the point, that he was still a kid, and this shouldn’t even have been an issue for him in the first place.

Other people wanted to see Laure held accountable. Even though the couple was “happy”, and no family members spoke out against their relationship, some believe that this is not a situation that should go unnoticed. 

Other users even urged people to think about what kind of reaction would have been produced if the roles were reversed and Laure was the minor that gave birth to a 21-year-old man’s child.

They say that age is just a number, and sometimes we may romanticize the notion of a bigger age gap due to the idea that dating someone older is more desirable since they are more mature. But one of the ways this becomes problematic is when the relationship is between one person who is still a minor and one who is not. 

Perpetrators and victims of child grooming can be anyone, both men and women can either be a target or a culprit. It may initially be difficult to spot as younger people may be unaware or unfamiliar with the situation, if what is going on is actually okay, while the perpetrator continuously tries winning their trust with impure intentions. 

Child grooming may be hard to spot and just as hard to convict. It may also get tricky where ephebophiles—or those who target teenagers ranging from 15-19 years old—may say that they were able to get consent. 

In a YouTube interview of the couple, with Toni Gonzaga, the couple explains how they just didn’t let any words from the “bashers” get to them. 

Laure described Cariño as someone who “ever since talaga, wala siyang pake sa sasabihin ng ibang tao,” she continues to say that she was able to shut out criticism as well, as time passed. Cariño also expressed how he feels that “unti unti na po kaming parang natatanggap ng mga tao” after their baby reveal on his 18th

In the Twitter thread of td, it did come up that what’s done is done, the baby is already here, and they are one happy family.

But those reasons do not justify what happened. Just because they waited 2 years to introduce the world to baby Scarlet, on the day Cariño turned 18 and legal, doesn’t change the fact that he was a minor when she was conceived and born– while his partner was no longer a minor.  

Isn’t it actually interesting to think that they did wait until Cariño turned 18 years old before letting people know that they had a child together? Even denying the existence of the child before this. Hmm, that’s suspicious … that’s weird, almost like maybe they did have an inkling that something was wrong… 

Even though no one from either of their families spoke up against the relationship, this doesn’t change the fact that Cariño was still a kid. Maybe one could argue that Laure was still “young” only being 19-20 years old at the time, but she was still definitely not a minor then.

With the elusive nature of child grooming, it’s important to listen to those people who do come forward and tell their stories after experiencing this, and learn from them. We must continue to push for concrete change to be made in light of these cases, so that those affected may get the justice that they deserve. It is also just as important to speak up against people and scenarios that condone this type of relationship. 

As tammy put it, the more we perpetuate the “wag tayong mangialam” mindset, “the more na hindi naririnig yung mga batang dumaranas ng abuso.”

This entire debacle isn’t about condemning adults who are in relationships that have big age gaps, nor is it saying that Cariño and Laure’s family is any less of a family because they have a “big” age gap. 

It is about the fact that Cariño and Laure got together while he was still a minor and she was not. Despite what is being said about their relationship, whether in support of it or otherwise, this detail will always be there. 

In a relationship where one person is a minor and one is not, there will always be major differences in their mindsets and possibly even in the couple’s power dynamics. 

Having a big age gap is perfectly fine between two consenting adults, unfortunately, this just wasn’t the case for Cariño at the beginning of his relationship with Laure.



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