Metro At 30: Toni Gonzaga Reveals Something She Has Realized About Herself
Her realization comes with an incredibly powerful statement: “Now that I’ve stayed this long in the industry,” she says, “I think it’s about time that I get to admire myself"
When Toni Gonzaga-Soriano arrived to shoot for Metro’s 30th anniversary special, she had an adorable toddler following her. “Mama!” Seve would shout. He’d giggle, and so would his mom, and the smile on her face was so bright and full it’s impossible not to smile with her. She picked him up and glided through the ballroom with him in her arms, settling in her makeup chair for a long day of layouts and retouches. She was absolutely focused on work—but definitely on Seve too—and this delicate balance she has struck is amazing to bear witness to.
Last August, Toni had wrapped up the longest season of Pinoy Big Brother. She’s been hosting the long-running reality show for over a decade now, and since her first Star Cinema film in 2005 as well as a myriad of magazine covers in between—including Metro, of course—Toni admits that she has evolved a lot. “Since my first Metro cover shoot, I’ve become more confident and secure with myself. In terms of projecting to the camera, I can express myself more,” she says. “Mas grounded na ‘yung roots ko on how I want to present or project myself. In my 20s, I was still experimenting on how I will project on camera, I was still still finding the right angle, the right looks, the right clothes. Ngayon mas kilala ko na 'yung sarili ko.” Toni extols motherhood, crediting it for bringing out and emphasizing her feminine side. “I’m more attached to it, and everything comes out naturally.”
Now that she’s a mother herself, she’s had a different appreciation for her own mom, Crisanta (popularly known as Mommy Pinty). “I admire the way she was able to raise the two of us, me and my sister,” Toni says, mentioning her sister Cathy, known more commonly as Alex Gonzaga. “The way she was able to handle our careers, our family, my dad’s business, how she was able to instill the values that we have right now growing up. How she juggles everything,” Toni adds. “I think she’s a superman and I want to applaud her for that. Ever since I became a mother, I have a different appreciation now for my mother and I have so much respect for what she’s been through and what she’s going through right now because being a mother is not an easy job.”
Since my first Metro cover shoot, I’ve become more confident and secure with myself. In terms of projecting to the camera, I can express myself more
Throughout her twenty years in showbiz (which she celebrated this year by way of a YouTube channel!), she has also experienced quite a few difficulties along the way. She spoke candidly about this, about the times she almost gave up, about the time she almost didn’t make it to where she is now. “It was so easy for me to just throw in the towel and give up when I was just starting,” she starts. “It was hard to get into the business especially if you don’t know anyone. When you’re starting from scratch with no connections, no relatives, just lining up to thousands of auditions and not knowing which one you’re gonna get into, the biggest challenge for me at the time was during those struggling years, the thought of giving up.”
“Then I didn’t,” she smiles. “It was worth it.”
Ever since I became a mother, I have a different appreciation now for my mother and I have so much respect for what she’s been through and what she’s going through right now because being a mother is not an easy job
It was worth it, indeed. Seventeen movies, eight albums, eight sold-out concerts, fifty-two television credits, and 1.25 million subscribers later, she’s still here, and she’s brighter than ever. Of course, it’s impossible for her to not have learned a couple of things in her journey to get here, and she uses this to help inspire other people.
“The best thing that I’ve learned about being in the industry for quite sometime now is being a public figure is a responsibility,” she states. “It’s a responsibility not just for yourself, but it’s a responsibility for others who are looking up to you. I think the power of influence is to use it for good and to speak up for those who do not have influence. We are given this platform to inspire and encourage them and not to make other people feel any less of themselves. Our main purpose in this business is to entertain people, to give hope, happiness, and hopefully in the projects that we do, in the movies that we show them, it could spark something that can inspire them to reach for their dreams.”
She’s been on the receiving end of this inspiration once, too. As a matter of fact, until now, she still looks up to veterans of the industry for light and support. “Every time I see the likes of Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, those I grew up watching on TV and I grew up recognizing, sina Sharon Cuneta, I admire all of them,” she tells Metro.Style. But she reveals something she has realized about herself, and it is an incredibly powerful statement: “Now that I’ve stayed this long in the industry,” she says, “I think it’s about time that I get to admire myself.”
The best thing that I’ve learned about being in the industry for quite sometime now is being a public figure is a responsibility
“For so long I kept latching onto other people’s successes, other people’s journeys, other people’s paths,” she adds, her voice growing more empowered with each word. “I always say na ‘yan ang gusto kong sundan, ‘yan ang gusto kong gawin. And then I realized that each and everyone of us is destined for a different path, a different journey. You just have to make your own mark in the industry. You can’t be the next somebody. So if there’s somebody that I admire, to this day, I’d like to say, myself.”
Of course, Toni wouldn’t come to realization without self-love. For those who may be feeling the same way, she has this to say: “I think we should learn to appreciate ourselves more. Embrace our uniqueness, our capabilities, our weaknesses. We should embrace all of it because that makes us who we are.” And how does she get there, exactly? She teaches herself to ignore what doesn’t matter in her life—a powerful weapon against unsolicited attacks, which are so ubiquitous in this time and age of social media. “I’ve learned to block the unnecessary noise, the voices that don’t matter in my life,” she says. “Just listen to my inner intuition, listen to my family.”
I think we should learn to appreciate ourselves more. Embrace our uniqueness, our capabilities, our weaknesses
When she returns to her makeup chair after a layout, Seve runs back to her, the look on his face—and hers, most importantly—priceless.
“I look at my son,” she adds, the three-year-old topping her list of priorities, and her reasons for staying strong. “How much I can give, how much I have. I realize how blessed I am whenever I hug him.” At this point in her life, Toni feels nothing else but contentment and gratitude. “When it comes to personal growth, personal happiness,” she says, “I’m on a different level now in my life.”
For Toni, it all goes back to passion: the passion that led her to this business, and the passion that will make her stay for as long as she needs to. “I’m passionate about life itself,” she ends. “I embrace it more. I accept every challenge, every chapter, every aspect in my life. As a mother, as a wife, as an artist.”
When it comes to personal growth, personal happiness, I’m on a different level now in my life
Produced by Kat Cruz-Villanueva, Ceia Ylagan, and Judy Arias
Photography by Gee
Video by Chapters by Mayad
Sittings editors: Geolette Esguerra, Grace Libero-Cruz, and Kate Paras-Santiago
Styling by Eldzs Mejia
Makeup by Denise Ochoa
Hairstyling by Nante Alingasan
Production design by Kathy Sy King of Event Styles
Styling assistants: Carl Alberto, Gabby Gamboa, Nix Bueno, and Aubrey Cazzandra
Shot on location at City of Dreams Manila
Special thanks to Charisse Chuidian and Romina Gervacio of City of Dreams Manila; C&L Decor, Shop Rent Gala, 4th Wall, and 18th Floristry