After spending five years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit, Karen Bordador picks herself up from what seems to be the lowest point in her life. A chance to continue her dreams is now on the horizon for her, as she ventures into the world of entertainment.
Before everything was put to a halt, Karen’s life was admittedly going smoothly and according to plan. She was a radio disc jockey for Monster RX93.1. Aside from this, she had modeling and acting stints here and there.
According to her, opportunities were constantly pouring into her professional life, which was a factor in her transition towards television acting.
“My career was my priority and I was focused on growing myself as an artist. I was also travelling a lot to different countries for work and leisure.”
Putting her dreams on pause
Her career was thriving at that moment in time. Karen was facing the world head-on and was ready to reach for the stars, but all came to a stop when she was arrested for drug trafficking charges in 2016.
The offense was non-bailable so she had to be detained during the whole trial. She had to spend those years behind bars while carrying her dreams and aspirations with her.
But despite the turmoil she experienced with the whole ordeal, she shared all the things she did while being detained.
“I was extremely creative and very spiritual inside jail. I wrote on my diary daily and read 3 books in a week. [I’ve gained] so much skills inside jail because I was focused and didn’t have any distractions.”
Because of the strict schedule she imposed on herself, she accomplished many creative outputs. Her sketchbook was filled with art that she never knew she could do until that point in her life.
Finding her true purpose
Of course, there were times when she found herself questioning herself and the purpose of her being.
“I felt like I was useless and I didn’t know if I even have a purpose in this world. If I did have a purpose then why am I being locked up? I was thinking that maybe I’m a waste of space and I’m doomed already.”
But she never gave up. She may have wondered why she was experiencing so much hardship at that time but she found her answers through her faith.
“I would always sleep determined that tomorrow something new and amazing will happen to me and it’ll somehow lead to my freedom and the promise land that God has been preparing for me. I just knew in my heart that I wasn’t meant to be stuck inside. [God used me to] to influence people inside [the jail] and, eventually, outside when I get home.”
Karen, with the help of her mother, helped fellow inmates to reconnect with their estranged families. They also gave donations to the female inmates. She urged them to read books and watch educational films. She also conversed with them about their dispositions in life.
Furthermore, Karen did a lot of negotiations with the prison administration, asking them to allow the detainees to live in more humane conditions and have access to other forms of entertainment.
“I became the voice of those inside that couldn’t really speak for themselves. I guess God used my ability to speak….to speak for others.”
Fortune favors the brave
When she was acquitted and finally returned to the outside world, the first thing she did was to take a selfie. Her mother, who served as her anchor the whole time of her detainment, bought her cellphone.
“When I was picked up, my mom left a white envelope on the chair and it said to take my first selfie. She gave me my first phone and that’s what I did! I took my first selfie and was thrilled to see myself! Being able to finally hold a phone was cool.”
She also shared she was thrilled to go back to pursuing her dreams in the entertainment world.
“I vlogged about my release and roaming around my house the first day at home. I released that video in August, two months after I got out…”
A chance to reintroduce herself to the world
That passion project went viral and that’s when the opportunity to join Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) knocked on her door.
“It was perfect timing to be part of the Celebrity Edition Season 10 of PBB. I joined it [because] I wanted the world to see who the real Karen Bordador is. I wanted to let people know what happened to me and [make them] realize that they judged me poorly. It was a declaration that I’m back stronger than ever and ready to start my life again, specifically my entertainment career.”
Karen was released on June 15, 2021, and went inside the PBB house by October.
“I was locked up again in less than 3 months but it was worth it. I invested my time inside to reintroduce myself to the world. Once I got out of the PBB house, things were very promising for me.”
Karen shared that she had no difficulty in adjusting to PBB’s setup.
“Once you’ve experienced jail, everything else seems easy, to be honest with you.”
The mere fact that she was walking and dancing freely inside of Kuya’s house was a joyous moment for her.
“No amount of cameras, bright lights, limited food and people would ever make me feel bad. I was just so happy to finally have no bars locking me in. So even when some housemates were feeling [anxious], I was chilling and smiling on my own.”
Her PPB experience taught her that all of them, in reference to the housemates, had backstories of hardships and struggles. And PBB is a stepping stone of giving themselves a chance to begin again.
“We share that mentality together. Many of us were rising together inside the house and it didn’t matter what kind of situation we just overcame. We were in it together [to inspire] many Filipinos.”
Focusing on her passion and aspirations
After her PBB stint, she recalibrated herself and focused on the things she loves doing.
Karen continued to create “Kulongbia Stories” which are vlogs about her life in jail. Since she posted her first video, her channel garnered 84,000 subscribers in less than five months. She also shared that she has been actively hosting again and is currently working on ABS-CBN‘s projects.
In order to connect with her fans, she writes on her blogsite. She is also actively streaming on the KUMU app a lot.
It seems like there is no stopping Karen now because she is also venturing into the business world by creating fashion wallets and bags, which she learned how to do in jail, and selling them on Instagram.
Her motivation? Other people.
She vows to use her abilities and influence to help others, all while achieving her personal dreams.
“If I’m able to influence people to improve themselves and to find their purpose on earth then I do believe I’m at the right direction. I want to let everyone know that we are never too slow, too old, too has been, too burnt out, too tainted to get to the top… then I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose in this world and my dreams are being reached at the same time.”
What didn’t kill her made her stronger
What does a person like Karen, who experienced the extreme lows in life, fear now? Nothing much at all. However, she says that she is a little worried for herself because the success might get into her head.
“I can’t really say that I’m doing extremely well already but there have been glorifying moments already. But I want to remain as down to earth as possible. I keep on [reminiscing my time in] jail and can keep telling myself I’m only human and not above anything else. It’s a good way of keeping me in check.”
With all the hardships she faced before, she found a new sense of determination in the challenges she is facing now in the outside world. She shared an anecdote about how she had a hard time opening an account because all the banks she inquired at rejected her. After several more tries, a bank employee, who happened to be a fan of hers, processed her documents. She considered this as the world’s way of giving her a second chance.
If given the chance to turn back time, Karen maintained that she wouldn’t do it because she believes that everything happened for a reason.
“I’m where I’m suppose to be. Everything that happened to us is part of the masterplan that’s yet to unfold. I’ve been helping many fellow detainees that are still inside but I feel like there’s more to achieve and do. God knows what He’s doing so I’ll just work my way [through] it.”
She also expressed her thoughts on people who are experiencing the same hardships she had before.
“Suffering is temporary. It only lingers when you allow it. You suffer because you allow yourself to keep the hurt and the pains. We need to heal even when we’re struggling at the same time.”
To her loved ones, to fellow dreamers, and to herself — from the bottom of Karen’s heart
She thanks her loved ones — family, friends, peers, and colleagues — for their never-ending support.
“Thank you for being there for me. I aim to make you more proud each and every day. I’d like to make you guys extremely happy by living a very eventful life full of pursued dreams… To my besties that were able to entertain me while I was inside, thank you for being a call away. [That limited] time we spoke gave me so much hope to live another day. I hope to be able to return all the love by making you guys feel special always.”
She also mentioned her mom who always stood firm by her side.
“I thank Mom for her endless support. She never left me! She was outside doing all the hard work of getting me out while ensuring I have some form of comfort inside. She’s [also] a hero to many detainees in jail. It’s amazing. I love mom and I’m so grateful [for her].”
Karen also imparted her nuggets of wisdom to dreamers like her.
“You’re meant to pursue [your dreams]! I know the pandemic has seemingly [stopped] us from moving forward but there are many ways become successful. You have to play with the situation and know that opportunities are endless. So keep dreaming and pursuing. You will achieve them, it may take time but you will get there. I know I’m getting there…. And it took me 5 years to get back on track but it’s happening. It’s going to happen to you, too.”
Lastly, she made sure to look back at her younger self and tell that Karen everything she needed to hear.
“Don’t be afraid [of] the future. Just move forward and strengthen yourself. You’re being honed by God to become stronger more than ever before. You will have to endure [the pain] and it will be the reason why you will not break in the future. So have faith great things are coming. Just wait, everything will be worth it.”
Power of prayer and faith
The greatest lesson she will never forget is how God is truly the light and path to salvation. She overcame her struggles through her faith and belief. Without God, she may never have endured the hardships. Truly, the Almighty was her catalyst in achieving her ultimate dreams once she regained her freedom.
“A life lesson I can think of right now is that it’s important to pray about everything. When we have desires in us or questions unanswered, the best thing we can do aside from hard work is to pray. I’ve experienced miracles in my life and I believe it’s because I prayed about them. God never abandons us. We just forget He exists when life’s on a high or when we’re so lost in everything we’re doing. It’s important to know that we’re not here for ourselves but for God and others. So praise His name and let people know that He’s the reason things are getting better everyday. I believe we should, as much as possible, include others in our prayers, too.”
Karen is truly an inspiring woman. She never let that grueling experience define her as a person. Despite everything that may have made her give up on her dreams, she is pursuing, she is achieving, and she is facing life without hesitations.
A fearless woman with a fearless mindset. Karen was once put in the dark, faced with uncertainty and hopelessness, and now she is free — free to do whatever her heart desires, all while venturing into the spotlight.
Publisher | Richie de Quina & Gwynn Crisostomo
Editor-in-Chief | John Luke Chica
Senior Editor | Rapha Garcia
PR & Advertising Manager | Josh Austria
Digital Manager | Allen Esteban
Words by Alexandra Olaño
Special Thanks to Culture Salon MNL
Gabriela Alexandra, or better known as Alex, graduated from Bicol University with a degree in journalism. She is now navigating the world of adulthood and taking much bigger leaps in life.