The world has been in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year now. While this has been a terrible time for everyone, we also cannot discount the fact that it has also brought a silver lining for some.
Just like to celebrity couple Toni Gonzaga and direk Paul Soriano, who enthusiastically imparted how the current crisis has pushed them to become better—as parents to their unico hijo Severiano Elliott or Seve, as spouses to each other, and as artists in their respective fields—in the recent virtual chat with PUSH as part of a media roundtable organized by a leading home internet service provider.
As a multi-hyphenate actress, television host, singer, entrepreneur and mother, Toni has a lot to keep up with: from hosting online shows to being on top of her other pursuits, hobbies, and most importantly, taking care of her son Seve and husband Paul. It’s a lot, yet she manages well with the help of their strong connection as a family at home.
They’ve become better parents to Seve
As the situation we’re in at present has limited our movements due to the endless community quarantines and health protocols that need to be observed, it has made it impossible for us to do the things we used to normally do before. But instead of completely taking it negatively, Toni and Paul opt to also see being able to stay at home 24/7 as a “gift”.
“We really treasure this time na we’re able to stay home, be present with Seve, and just reconnect with each other, get to know each other again. Talagang naging stronger ‘yong bond namin as a family. ‘Yon siguro ang gift this whole pandemic. Of course, there’s so much fear outside, there’s so much uncertainty, but I think it’s very important na when you’re at home, you get the security and the love from your family – and that really keeps us together and stronger as a family,” she stated.
Just like other parents, they have also encountered challenges when it comes to parenting Seve during this unusual time. And one of the most challenging parts of it is how to keep their son entertained and not bored.
“I guess, at least for me personally, it’s living in your imagination when it comes to being with my son. Yes, there’s a reality that we’re living in and it’s unfortunate what’s going on outside. But what we can control is this little world we created inside our home. And with Seve, it’s watching movies, it’s making tents, we even made our stairs a slide one time. And just continue finding ways to exercise the imagination,” Paul said.
Aside from pitching tents or building makeshift forts out of their furniture and old bed sheets and clothes, as well as setting up a mini cinema for him to stream his favorite cartoon shows and classic movies, they also get to join Seve in his online school and help him out in their arts and crafts, writing, and spelling activities since both of them are at home most of the time.
“So I think, ‘yong benefit talaga of staying at home, especially for a mom, a working mom, talagang ‘yong family mo you’re able to take good care of them, not just emotionally, but physically and mentally being present at all times. So I felt like, I think after this whole pandemic, parang siguro ‘yong mga moms din ito ‘yong nafe-feel nila – they’re better mothers, they’re better wives, they have better husbands dahil talagang na-push tayo to our limits,” Toni conveyed.
They’ve become better partners for one another
Being married for six years now, it probably has not always been rainbows and sunshine for Toni and Paul. But they’re able to get through everything that life throws at them in the past years and have remained strong and in love with each other.
When asked what they have discovered about one another, both of them described how much they have incessantly and amazingly evolved through the years that they’ve been married.
“What I discovered is we’re ever-changing, evolving, and growing as a couple. Parang the Paul I married five years ago last year is not the same anymore today. He’s always changing, he’s growing, he’s evolving in becoming a better husband and a better father. So, nakikita mo ‘yong progress niya in every stage of our lives,” Toni imparted.
She added how important it is as well to “find a partner who can ride the waves with you and who can ride the changes in you”.
As for Paul, he shared that they’re in the stage of their marriage wherein they just want to own the moment. Thus, he’s been encouraging her to take a step or a leap of faith, as well as boosting her confidence by launching Toni Talks and supporting her all the way in this new endeavor.
“Our love for each other has grown also to places I’ve never thought of. It’s just one of those things that you need to live it,” he said. “I think marriage is you just need to live it, learn from it and be better at it. Everyday, you just need to find ways to make things better with each other and the pandemic has done that.”
They’ve become better at their respective jobs
Toni and Paul have remained productive amid the pandemic. While their jobs usually require them to be physically present on the set, modern technology and a fast and reliable Internet connection has made it possible for them to do it at the comforts of their home.
She was able to score two hosting gigs— the Star Cinema online talk show I Feel U and the ninth season of Pinoy Big Brother (a.k.a. PBB Connect) that successfully pushed through last year— which she was both able to do without leaving their house.
With the help of her husband, she was able to convert her makeup and dressing room into a workspace that is conducive for remote filming, online hosting, meetings, and work commitments. Paul also has his own dedicated workspace wherein he could edit videos and attend virtual meetings.
Since this is new to her, the Ultimate Multimedia Superstar confessed that she had a difficult time adjusting to the “new normal” setup.
“Of course with work, it has been really difficult with the situation. ‘Yong physical contact with work, going to the studio and everything talaga adjusted. I remember I did PBB last season, we were able to finish the whole season and I was at home. That was the first for me, and then you try to be innovative – you have to learn to light yourself, your lapel, the scripts. So, talagang it pushed you to your boundaries na ang work ng 50 people sa production, can be done pala by one person,” she related.
Then she added, “It can be done pala and there are ways and we just have to find the solution. ‘Yon siguro ang challenging. At the same time, we find it a bit rewarding kapag nakatapos kami ng isang project or a task kasi, wow, it can be done pala. There are ways.”
Because of Direk Paul’s fascination with talk shows this pandemic, it inspired him to encourage his wife to start “Toni Talks” on her YouTube Channel, which they consider as another blessing not just for them, but for everyone who gets to see its every episode.
“I think, this whole platform gave me an opportunity to tell stories and share stories the way I want to share it to my audience and it has pushed me in so many ways on how to be creative. Kasi before when I used to, of course, when I do mainstream media, I just go there, I’m the talent, or artist, or host. Every material is handed to me and all I have to do is review it,” Toni told PUSH.
She further conveyed, “With the online show that we are doing, the job of 10 people can be done pala by one person. I’m the writer and the host, we conceptualize, we edit, we find the guest. Talagang you hustle harder. Ito ang literal na you hustle harder and you’ve never hustled before. So now, I understand the production side. I have so much respect for people in the production side because it’s really a hard job. What we’re doing is an accumulation of the hard work of the people behind the show.”
Now that she’s both an on-and-off-cam person, the esteemed host-actress said it has given her a sense of fulfillment. More than the views and being able to do the job she loves, what makes doing “Toni Talks” more rewarding for her is being able to stir the soul of and inspire people through every episode.
According to her, she has seen comments from viewers that a certain episode motivates or helps them while going through a tough time. They expressed how they felt that God allowed them to watch this episode and give them the boost and the courage to go on and pursue their dreams.
Direk Paul, on the other hand, was able to shoot and produce five movies through his film production company TEN17P and Toni’s production unit TINCAN. This includes the adaptation of the iconic South Korean flick My Sassy Girl that Toni headlines opposite Pepe Herrera.
He divulged to PUSH that everything’s in post-production now and they’re also just waiting and hopeful that they can release it “at least maybe by end of the year or early next year” in cinemas.
“But in the meantime, we are also writing, we’re developing, we’re going to shoot another film in September. At least on the film side, we’re creating. But right now, what’s keeping us busy every week is Toni Talks,” he relayed.