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Entertainment

Toni Gonzaga is ‘at her best’ as talk show host

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Toni Gonzaga is âat her bestâ as talk show host
Toni Gonzaga is making the most out of traditional and digital platforms via her talk shows, Toni and Toni Talks, available on ALLTV and YouTube, respectively.

MANILA, Philippines — Toni Gonzaga is no stranger to being on top trending lists.

Recently, the TV host-actress trended anew because of her interview with actress-entrepreneur Maricar Reyes on her eponymous ALLTV show about “the controversy that changed her life,” which was the latter’s first time to address that video scandal that rocked her showbiz career years back.

“I appreciate Toni Gonzaga so much here. Niche niya talaga ito. She listened so well and when she spoke, it was only to give further clarity and value to my story,” Maricar later wrote on Facebook.

“Napansin ko sa mga tao, when you really listen to them, when you listen to them without any judgment, without any agenda, you just listen… they will warm and open up to you because they will feel it. Mararamdaman mo yung energy ng mga tao,” Toni said about her interviewing style in a recent exclusive chat with The STAR.

For a year now, Toni hosts a popular sitdown series, Toni Talks, on YouTube. Last month, she officially returned to free TV for her first solo talk show, the “more interactive” Toni, on the network backed by business tycoon and former Senate President Manny Villar. Both are produced by Toni’s husband, direk Paul Soriano.

“One of the favorite books that I’ve read is The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, (it says there) when your personality comes to serve the energy of your soul, that is your authentic power… that’s when you become powerful. That’s why I’m at my best when I do Toni Talks kasi wala siyang effort sa akin. Even yung Toni wala siyang effort, uupo ka lang, makikinig ka lang, ‘yun lang gagawin mo. Wala kang intention na sapawan yung guest mo or bumida ka sa episode na yun, basta ang intention lang lagi is to talk to your guest,” she further reflected.

According to Toni, how she is as a host now has been shaped by her past experiences. “Siguro what I learned from the shows I did before, especially talk shows and live shows, if I were to be completely honest, I learned what not to do. (I used to tell myself) that if I’ll have my own show, I will not do this, I will not do that. If I will be blessed with a show that’s mine, these are the things I’ll do differently. Yun ang prinaktis ko sa Toni.”

One of the things she learned was how to conduct celebrity interviews. She recalled, “I remember I would host The Buzz, the energy would be so tense, yun kasi you’re dealing with gossip, and you would feel the hesitation of celebrities nakausap mo, na ayaw nilang mag-share or ayaw nila pag-usapan yung mga intriga. Whereas you will talk to what happened to them, why they were in that intriga, mas open sila. Instead of talking about the dirt, talk about the journey that led to that, mas nagbubukas sila.

“So sabi ko, ganun pala yung energy nabibigay kasi gossip is not a good energy, ‘di ba? It’s negative energy, it’s demeaning others, it’s just talking about dirt, it’s not healthy for anybody. So, I told myself, siguro kung magkaka-talk show ako, hindi gossip ang pag-uusapan but life stories, and that’s what we did with Toni Talks.”

For Toni Talks as well as Toni, she has since featured a mixed bag of artistas, vloggers, politicos and ordinary folks with some truly extraordinary stories to tell. On choosing guests, Toni admitted, “I see to it that the people I really wanna talk to, I really wanna talk to. If I know that this person will just be giving out negative energy, medyo iniiwasan ko yun. I don’t want to talk to people who demean others or destroys others. Gusto kung kausapin talaga yung mga taong may stories talaga, yung may pinagdaanan talaga pero wala silang intention na makasakit sa iba. Because I don’t want to be a part of that.

“You want to be part of something that can uplift… because true power is when you uplift others, nabasa ko yan sa A Promised Land by (former US president Barack) Obama… You don’t try to be the tallest building by tearing other buildings down. And I live with that. That’s one conscious effort I try to do with our program.”

How has she changed as a host, from pre-COVID times to since doing Toni Talks and Toni, both born over the pandemic?

“I’ve become more in tune with myself,” she noted.

“Mas nakilala ko yung sarili ko kasi sa kakausap mo sa mga tao, kakarinig mo sa mga storya, ma-re-realize mo ay, ito pala ako. Mas nakilala mo yung sarili mo habang nakikilala mo yung ibang tao. That’s what I discovered. Mas naging solid yung identity ko (I have a more solid identity) because of what I do.”

Asked if she observes any personal ritual before an interview, Toni said that besides research, “I always say (to myself), before every interview, (a Biblical passage), create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me, so that every time I talk to someone, I know my heart is right and my spirit is renewed. So, that the conversation becomes brand-new, it’s not something that you’ve heard before.”

Toni also talks to herself first before she talks to anyone. “I believe in the power of talking to yourself before you talk to someone. I talk to myself and I look myself in the mirror. It helps when I talk to myself because I encourage and pump myself up. I don’t wait anymore for someone else to pump me up. When you talk to yourself, you’re listening and whatever it is you’re listening to, you become it, you imbibe it, you become what you think about, you become what you meditate on… It really helps a lot. It builds your confidence, self-esteem, you don’t get intimidated.”

Toni remembered how this served her well in her interviews with people in high places, including Ferdinand “Bongbong or BBM” Marcos Jr. before and after he got elected as 17th President of the Philippines.

She said, “I remember sinasabi ni Ka Tunying (Taberna) sa akin, ‘di ka ba kinabahan? Siempre iba na yung dati, si BBM nung ano lang siya, private citizen, tapos biglang na-interview mo siya, nasa Malacanang na kayo, ang daming (Presidential Security Guard) nanonood at nanduon yung buong Press Secretary (office) niya, nakabantay sa lahat ng tanungin mo,‘di ka na-intimidate? Tapos naisip ko, oo nga no, bakit nga ba ‘di ako na-intimidate?

“What I remember is that before I went to the set, I talked to myself in the mirror, I encouraged myself and kinalmahan ko lang na parang wala kang dapat patunayan, wala kang dapat i-impress, dito ka lang mag-interview.”

Before, she’d do interviews to make an impression or prove her worth. “Naalala ko dati, napapagalitan ako ‘pag The Buzz. I remember na-text ako ni Ma’am Charo (Santos) kasi nagpapasikat lang ako, kasi gusto kong magpatunay na I’m a host, parang yun ang dumating na nagpasikat lang,” she shared.

“‘Pag tinanggal mo yan na wala kang gagawin or wala kang papatunayan dito, makikipag-usap ka lang, wala kang gustong gawin sa buhay mo, makikinig ka lang, mas OK.”

Meanwhile, Toni is utilizing both traditional and digital platforms with Toni and ToniTalks. Not that she’s not used to doing multiple things in one day, as she said she was busier at her former network ABS-CBN. But having to focus solely on the talk format, her shows have her “undivided attention.” And when Toni premiered on ALLTV, she couldn’t help but cry on air.

“Na-realize ko lahat ng effort and pagod ng whole team, ginagawa ang Toni Talks tapos naging programa siya na Toni, nagkaroon kami ng sarili naming studio and home. I became emotional because I didn’t expect something like this would happen (that) as long as you do your passion, yung provision, yung next step, magiging malinaw nalang sayo.

“So I cried because, Lord, ‘di ko akalain na dadalhin mo ako sa ganito kasi OK na ako sa Toni Talks, masayang-masaya na ako nun. OK na ako sa Google Adsense ko na ganito pala ‘pag YouTube. I was content with that. You know, you can always dream for yourself. But I realized that God has a bigger dream for you than you have for yourself.”

A new episode of Toni Talks is uploaded on the Toni Gonzaga Studio YouTube Channel every Sunday, while Toni airs weekdays at 5 p.m. on AMBS 2’s ALLTV.

TONI GONZAGA

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