Tito and Gian Sotto: Father & Son Christ in The Center
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Being Christ-centered, standing up for the family and taking public service to heart are the traits that drive Senate President Vicente “Tito Sen” Sotto III and Quezon City Councilor and vice mayor-elect Gian Carlo Sotto.

Tito Sen and his wife, former movie star Helen Gamboa, make sure to keep Christ at the center of their relationship. This has enabled them to keep their marriage intact despite their share of problems and challenges. The couple will mark their golden wedding anniversary on Sept. 22 this year.

“First of all, hindi kami (we’re not) perfect,” Tito Sen tells STARweek. “But perhaps one of the reasons that we keep our family intact and quite happy is we put Christ in the center of our relationship, making us able to give and take.” He believes their faith has taken root in their children – Romina, Diorella Maria, Gian Carlo and Ciara. 

Gian, who has served three terms as Quezon City councilor and will step up as vice mayor next month, emulates his father in raising his own family. Gian and his wife Joy Woolbright-Sotto have five children –Sancho, Rosanno, Amari, Edrigo and Hugo.

Gian also emulates how his father gives his full attention to any endeavor he undertakes. “Whether it’s music, sports, public service, he will put his heart into it. That’s what I learned and hope to follow,” he says.

Tito Sen has been serving as Senate President since May 21, 2018 and is expected to still head the Senate when the 18th Congress convenes next month.

In his younger days, Tito Sen teamed up with his youngest brother Vic and friend Joey de Leon in many hit comedy movies and hosting the long-running variety show Eat Bulaga. He was also into music and sports, like bowling and golf. In fact, he was one of the composers of “Magkaisa,” one of the many theme songs of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

GEREMY PINTOLO/STAR

He was asked to run for councillor of Quezon City, but at the last minute, “I was asked to run for vice mayor. You could say that I was a reluctant candidate,” he recalls.

He continued his showbiz career when he was QC vice mayor, and even when he joined the Senate. “That was my insulation from graft and corruption, I was earning more than what I was earning from government service,” he says. But that’s no longer possible “now that I am the Senate President, which has more obligations.”

Gian grew up with both parents working. “I was very blessed to grow up with my mom and dad who are both hard-working persons,” he recalls. “I remember when I was 6 to 7 years old, I’d go to Eat Bulaga, Iskul Bukol, shooting. I also saw my mom busy with shooting, she’d be so tired coming from taping and shooting.”

This prepared and trained him to be responsible and respect the value of every task and each individual. “It came as natural for us that if you want something, you really need to work hard for it,” Gian says.

Gian also tried music. “At first, I was really into the music industry. That’s where daddy started. And later on, I also tried showbiz, I tried acting. But it was short-lived.”

“Even if we are in public service, we don’t close our doors to showbiz. It’s because showbiz is our family business. We grew up there. From time to time, we do indie films, inspirational movies, because it’s part of our lives. It is something that my mom and dad invested in,” he explains.

Reluctant candidates

Like his dad, Gian was asked to run for public office.

“Some people told me, ‘We need new leaders in the 3rd district of QC, why don’t you try? Your dad was vice mayor of QC’,” he recalls.

Senate President Sotto addresses senators after the 2019 national budget is passed.

“I was very hesitant and reluctant. I thought politics is something really magulo. I’ve seen how hard it is, how the family is dragged into the intrigue and negativity.” But his apprehensions were overtaken by the urge to help and serve God through the people.

“Eventually it came to me as a vocation and an obligation. I am not doing this because of the position, which is something I learned from dad. For him, it was something he had to do. It was a door that God led us to and I saw that,” he says. “I took a leap of faith. I said, Lord, if it is something you want me to do for you, serve God, serve our country, so be it.”

Tito Sen did not oppose Gian’s decision to throw his hat into the political ring: “In fact, I was quite happy.” A daughter Lala had earlier served as councilor of Quezon City’s second district. 

Tito Sen has been giving Gian advice on how local politics works. ”As a matter of fact, hindi pa complete ang mga advice ko sa kanya. One of these days we will sit down to discuss things that he needs to be in touch with. In politics, you have to master the art of compromise,” he says.

“But I’m not worried. I always tell him – Always tell the truth and you can’t go wrong. Always follow what’s in your heart and what you think God wants you to do.”

Tito Sen tells Gian that being vice mayor of the city means he is the second utusan (servant). “One piece of advice I can give to my son is that you are the no. 2 public servant in QC. You are the no. 2 utusan, don’t think you’re the boss.”

Plans

Tito Sen says he is looking forward to pushing more legislation that could help improve the lives of Filipinos.

All for QC: Gian and his father Sen. Tito Sotto, Joy and her father Rep. Sonny Belmonte and their supporters at the Comelec office for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the May election.

“I want to make sure that the laws we passed are good for the people, especially the laws on education, health and peace and order. I want to make sure that those measures are implemented well, executed well, carried out well,” he says.

“And as far as legislative measures are concerned, we are critical but also cooperative of the administration. If I continue to be the leader of the 18th Congress in the Senate, then we will remain as we are now, which is independent but balanced, transparent and sincere in our work in addressing concerns of our people,” Tito Sen adds.

Since Quezon City is one of the biggest cities in the country with three million population, Gian wants to promote good governance through participation, accountability, transparency.

“My focus right now is really to enhance good governance in delivering basic services that the people need. People still complain that it takes long to get business permits, building permits. Even if QC is rich but delivery of service is slow, our constituents will not be happy, the people don’t benefit,” he says.

“Mayor Joy Belmonte and I have been talking a lot on how to effectively implement our existing laws. We already have the PAT ordinance or Participation, Accountability and Transparency that would strengthen our good governance advocacy in terms of delivering basic services to all constituents in QC. We will work to further enhance that and to keep on promoting that.”

Even before he assumes office, Gian has a lot of plans for the city. “I already told Mayor Joy that I want to transform the culture in QC and focus this time on strengthening families. It may sound general, but it means addressing the needs of every family. In QC there are different types of families – OFW, solo parents, senior citizens, youth, LGBT, Muslims. At present they don’t get to have opportunities for livelihood, basic services, health, education.”

“We will have laws that will further develop different kinds of business opportunities, job opportunities. Especially for the jobless, drug surrenderees, 16,000 of them, that means 16,000 families that need to be provided with honest income. We prepared livelihood projects and job opportunities for them. Family values, family traditions, which seems to be lacking now, we’ll bring them back.”

Legacy

The Sotto family in their first family photo of 2019. politics.com

Tito Sen says he is guided by the principles of his mother Herminia Castelo-Sotto, a philanthropist, one of the founders of women’s rights movement Kababaihan Rizalista and the first Philippine Medical Commissioner of the Workers Compensation of the Department of Labor.

“I am guided always by what my mother told me when she was still alive and I was about to enter politics. She said just remember the word HIS. It means that sa Kanya, sa Panginoon ka (for him, you are God’s), and it also stands for Honesty, Integrity and Sincerity. I hope the family name Sotto, not only in politics but more so in showbiz, maintain that message from my mom,” he notes.

Gian wants the people to remember the Sottos as servants of God and servants of the people. 

“It’s not far from daddy’s HIS,” Gian says. “Public service is a duty, it’s a vocation and obligation that we have to do. It’s our duty to God and to our countrymen. We need to serve the people as leaders, we are servants of our people, that’s what I hope will stick in the minds of the Filipino people.”

Gian (above,back row center) wants to transform the culture in QC, focusing on strengthening the family through projects that directly impact constituents. metromanila.politics.com.ph

GIAN CARLO SOTTO. VICENTE “TITO SEN” SOTTO III
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