Paul & Toni on parenting in pandemic

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Paul & Toni on parenting in pandemic
Paul Soriano and Toni Gonzaga with their son Seve during a recent family vacation.
STAR / File

Paul Soriano and Toni Gonzaga said they’ve learned not only to become a better spouse to each other, but also better parents to their son Seve over the pandemic.

The “blessing” for the Soriano family amid lockdowns and work-from-home challenges is spending more time together.

“Actually, me and Paul, we are really homebodies. So, this is such a gift for us now that we are able to stay home 24/7. Whereas before, he really had his busy life as a director and in production, and me being on cam, so our schedules were really nonstop. So, we treasure this time that we’re able to stay home, be present with Seve and just, you know, reconnect with each other, get to know each other again,” said Toni during an intimate roundtable interview that introduced her, husband Paul and their four-year-old child Seve as endorsers of the home broadband PLDT Home.

“I think that’s the gift of this whole pandemic. Of course, there’s so much fear outside, there’s so much uncertainty. But I think it’s very important that 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,” the TV host-actress added.

As for direk Paul, he certainly sees it as a “silver lining” that he’s been able to bond with his family more than ever before. “Being able to spend this much time with my wife and with our son Seve has been a blessing as well. But yeah, we continue to embrace things that are constantly changing. It’s constantly evolving. And to be better, we just have to find ways and adapt.”

PLDT Home, which recently introduced new products and services, including Fibr plans up to 1000 Mbps, particularly tapped the Soriano family for its Do It Better campaign to highlight what families can achieve at home if they have fast, powerful and reliable connectivity. The couple, after all, had to adapt to a home-based workspace and shift much of their work online. Paul managed to finish five films under his production outfit Ten17P, while Toni hosted several ABS-CBN shows (before launching her YouTube series Toni Talks) while at home.

In the parenting department, they also had to be productive, innovative and imaginative. Toni admitted that this was especially difficult at the onset of the pandemic.

“It was getting a bit challenging during the first two months. (Seve was) already kind of noticing why aren’t we going out with this whole lockdown?” she recalled.

Adapting to the situation meant that Toni and Paul had to come up with ways to entertain and educate their child.

The film director/producer shared, “Seve likes to make tents or forts out of our furniture, old bedsheets, even clothes, and we do all these (things) in his room. And then, we also set up some sort of a cinema for him. So, you know, we get to stream a lot of his favorite cartoons. We’re trying to watch a lot of the classic films also.”

He added, “At least for me, it’s living in your imagination when it comes to being with my son also. Yes, there is a reality 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. So, just continuously finding ways to exercise the imagination.”

Another thing they had to adapt to real quick was Seve’s online schooling. Toni said, “We cannot believe that the first school experience of Seve is online. He did online school for the whole year. Natuto naman.”

Paul said, “I’m able to also join the online schooling of Seve and participate with him, whether it’s an arts and crafts (class), or when he’s learning how to spell, write his name and color. I’m also very present because technically, I’m also just at home, right, and there’s more time for that.”

For him, the advantage was Seve never experienced face-to-face classes so “online school for him is pretty much normal.”

Toni noted, “We were surprised that it was fun for him. It was engaging for him. And it was a fun learning experience for him. Paul always tells me that everything that Seve is doing online, what the teachers are doing, they’re planting seeds to Seve. And then one day, they will just grow. Although in reality, you’re thinking, is he learning?”

Paul added, “Yeah, I think the best way to gauge it was… I remember one evening, he was on YouTube and he was actually typing cars, (and I was like) how do you know how to spell? So, I guess he’s learning. And he’s reading, he’s able to read the titles now. He injects himself in our conversations, he understands.”

Toni further said: “I think kids nowadays are smarter, they can easily adapt, they easily pick up things. They’re like sponges. They absorb everything.”

For Paul, nevertheless, nothing compares to having shared experiences out in the world. “The first thing after the pandemic, I’m gonna bring him to the cinema definitely. I haven’t really been able to experience that kind of father and son and family (bonding). Whatever the latest animation film or kid-friendly film is out, I want to bring him to the cinema, buy popcorn, sit in that dark room and just enjoy a film.”

Asked for any tips to parents to cope better with the online shifts, setups and all, he said, “If you have the opportunity to do online school, I think you have to look at it as a blessing and embrace it. If you’re able to work from home, seize it, make it great, be better at it. I choose that rather than complain about it, you know, why school is like this now or why is it work from home now. The fact that my son can go to an online school and the fact that we work from home, for us, are a blessing. And we just have to evolve. And find ways to own it and make it better.”

As for Toni, the pandemic gave her “the gift” of knowing her son on a deeper level because “I’m all always present. I get to witness his milestones.”

And years from now, when the pandemic is hopefully over, Toni knows what to tell Seve. “I would tell him, you know what Seve, during the year 2020 and the year 2021, your mom and dad were always present. We were never absent in your life. We were there from the moment you woke up, when you were playing, when you were eating until you slept. We were all together as a family.

“Actually, he will never remember the scare of the pandemic, what’s going on outside, but I’m sure he will remember this moment and that his mom and dad are always home (with him).”

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