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Stronger Together: Toni and Alex Gonzaga's Success Lies in Each Other

There’s more to this dynamic duo than meets the eye.

by Nicole Cruz | Dec 22, 2018

Navigating a career in show biz can be tricky. Fortunately for sisters Toni and Alex Gonzaga, they have each other.

When one thinks of comediennes in the local showbiz industry, one is bound to name sisters Toni Gonzaga-Soriano and Alex Gonzaga. The two are known for their hosting gigs on TV shows where they showcase their playful and witty banter. They’ve each acted in a slew of successful films over the years. Whether comedy or drama, each new movie release is testament to their staying power in the industry. True enough, this year was quite an eventful one for the sisters who completed numerous projects, jointly and individually. 

The two are currently promoting their new film, Mary, Marry Me, slated for release on December 25th as an entry in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MFF). They released a book together entitled Sissums: a tell-all that reveals details about their relationship. They are currently hosting Pinoy Big Brother Otso together with Melai Cantiveros and Robi Domingo. Their beverage business, Happy Cup, has over 56 branches to date, and they plan to open 18 branches in the near future.

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PHOTO BY PHOTO: Charisma Lico

ON TONI: Dress, price unavailable, JINGGAY SERAG, cel. no. 0917 888 0554. ON ALEX: Sheer top and gradient trousers, price unavailable, JINGGAY SERAG, cel. no. 0917 888 0554. Pencil skirt and tube top, prices unavailable, YVES CAMINGUE, cel. no.0917 677 4633

In the digital world, their social media presence is just as strong, what with Alex’s YouTube channel growing to over 2 million subscribers and Toni’s 4.7 million Instagram followers who eagerly wait for updates on the actress’ life, especially her two-year-old baby boy Seve. Analog-wise, one can’t miss their endorsements featured on billboards along EDSA as well as TV commercials. 

Across these media channels, the sisters’ big personalities entertain fans everywhere. This isn’t just fan service though. While there may be differences between them—Toni is a little more reserved than her always-theatrical younger sister—their candor is a trait that many find endearing. This realness is evident beyond the TV screen and the silver screen, as viewers also get a taste of Toni and Alex’s everyday lives through social media and the latter’s vlogs on YouTube. 

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People may get to see both sides of the Gonzaga sisters, as glamorous actresses on-cam or as down-to-earth girls off-cam, but Toni and Alex admit that in the challenging industry of show biz, the lines between the real and the make-believe are oftentimes blurred. However, the sisters maintain a strong sense of themselves by keeping each other grounded in more ways than one. 

The challenges of working in a make-believe world

Working in entertainment is all about crafting a make-believe world. When the cameras are rolling, actors are expected to play roles and to put on a show. When the cameras are off, though, these actors transform back into their real selves. The shapeshifting may sound easy, but the difficulty lies in how the continuous demands of the make-believe world can take a toll on reality. This is something that Toni and Alex experienced during the making of Mary, Marry Me, which is also their first-ever movie together. The film was produced by Ten17P, the production company of Toni’s husband, film director Paul Soriano. Toni herself co-produced the film, which turned out to be a challenge not only for her but for their relationship as husband and wife.

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“It was hard because at one point, it was getting in [the way of Paul’s and my relationship], because he owns Ten17P. And you know, he has his own vision, and I have my own vision for the film, and we would clash at times,” shares Toni on how the demands of movie-making can affect an actor’s real-life relationships. 

As for Alex, the hardest part was managing her schedule because she was filming the movie while wrapping up her recently released film, Nakalimutan Ko Nang Kalimutan Ka.

When asked what their biggest challenge was in 2018, both agreed that it would have to be this movie, which took the entire year to come into fruition. It came with its birthing pains, but it ultimately led them to nab an MFF entry. But rather than chalking it up to their fighting spirit, the sisters say that what allowed them to move forward was the spirit of learning to let go.

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PHOTO BY PHOTO: Charisma Lico

“It’s a dream project so we’re very happy na it finally happened because ang daming naging hindrance din while doing this, so may mga times na may mag gi-give up na. Pero we prayed na kapag natuloy, it’s God’s will, so approve ni Lord kasi ilang beses na talaga ‘tong [muntik nang] hindi matuloy,” Alex shares. 

While there were many times when it seemed that the movie would never be completed but the sisters realized that sometimes, there are things that are simply out of one’s own control. And so, given the overwhelming hustle of the movie-making world, the sisters prove that it pays to go with the flow. 

Other than that, they also shared about how difficult it is to forge real relationships in the industry. As Alex’s older sister, Toni acts every bit as the ate in their relationship, always cautioning her about the reality of it all:

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“Everything is make-believe, everything is playing a role. So, you don't know when to draw the line, when it’s real or when it’s just work. So I always tell her, ‘The only real person you will get to know genuinely and trust in this industry is me because we have the same blood running through our veins and we are really family.’”

The fact that not everyone is genuine in the industry was something that Alex had to learn on her own through experience, along with the guidance of her ate who’s four years older than her. Toni shares how Alex used to think that everyone was her friend, and so she would constantly caution her: “I always tell her: Don’t tell other people your problems because 99% don’t care and 1% aren’t even happy.”

"The only real person you will get to know genuinely and trust in this industry is me because we have the same blood running through our veins and we are really family."—Toni to Alex

With that awareness well-established in the sisters’ consciousness, they have other ways of maintaining a sense of the real and pretend. When asked if there is a difference between their on-screen and off-screen selves, Toni replies with a resounding yes, and she also replied with a resounding no when it came to Alex who “has no switch,” she laughs.

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“I have a switch,” says Toni. “I turn it off when the cameras are off. I stay quiet, I stay in my corner, I don’t bother anyone, I stay in my small world. Si Alex is always larger than life.”

For Alex, she says that her off-screen self adjusts to become more conscious of the things she shares with others: “May mga times na may mga shina-share ako kasi I want them to know. Pero yung mga sinasabi ko, yung mga opinions ko in life, I sometimes forget na may mga taong pwedeng mahurt sa sinasabi ko o gagawin ko, na normally naman, when I was studying with my friends, talagang no holds barred when I’m with [them],” she reveals.

And so, Toni and Alex have various ways of navigating the world of show biz, whether it’s by momentarily staying in their quiet corner as with Toni, or by keeping a certain distance for good measure as in Alex’s case. Don’t get them wrong, though. The two don’t put up their guards just for kicks. They maintain that difference because relating to others in the real world calls for its own down-to-earth behavior, and of course, a sense of respect. “Not pretending, but having good manners. May proper manners,” Toni adds to Alex’s input on how she had to be more aware of how she relates to people.

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This sense of caution isn’t just applied to forging relationships with people within the industry, but it also extends to how they portray their real selves on camera. The two discuss how there are certain topics that are just too delicate to tackle publicly: “Religion and politics,” Toni shares. Her sister also says, “Nakakalimutan ko na may mga tao na di ko ka-close, na di ko kilala, na pwede akong mapanood, na pwedeng magkaroon ng opinion sa [akin].” Moreover, they agree that the world they live in is much larger compared to their pre-showbiz world in Taytay, Rizal. Consequently, there are more people they communicate with, especially people they may never meet or know personally. “Mas malaki na audience mo,” Toni adds while they were discussing why Alex’s sensitivity is important. With that, Alex concludes, “So it’s not really pretending, its just being sensitive.” 

Stronger Together 

As sisters, their bond goes deeper than the smiles and fun they share on TV. The two are like a team that supports each other through the highs and lows that come with being in the showbiz industry. 

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During the making of Mary, Marry Me, Alex shares how Toni would always run to her to vent her frustrations regarding the film. “Masyado siyang mabait sa ibang tao. Sa akin, hindi,” Alex jokes. Toni readily quipped, “Sa kanya lang ako harsh kasi sa kanya lang naman pwede kong i-release yung totoo kong nararamdaman. Because, if I release it to other people, they wouldn’t understand me, ‘di nila maiintindihan yung gusto kong i-relay. So, I would always rant to her and she would be like, ‘What? Why are you ranting to me? Why won't you tell them?’ Tapos siya yung magsasabi sa kanila.”

The two strongly affirm that they both have each other”s backs. In their day-to-day lives, they send each other motivational texts, posts, quotes, and videos to boost each other up, especially when either one of them is feeling a little down. They emphasized how they’re “never down together.” Alex shared that when one of them feels a little low, the other steps up and acts as the motivator.

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PHOTO BY PHOTO: Charisma Lico

What’s interesting about their synergy as a sister team would be their opposite personalities. Toni shares, “Oh we’re completely different. We’re a contradiction of each other but that works for us because I always feel like opposites attract. And when there’s negative energy, theres always positive energy, even in batteries, diba?” Toni admits that she’s the more meticulous one while Alex is the adventurous one, the risk-taker. 

In what cases did their yin and yang have its advantages? Alex shares that while they were hosting Pinoy Big Brother there were times when she would receive text messages out of nowhere from her sister. “Now lang ko siya na-e-enjoy,” Alex says about hosting PBB with her sister. “Kasi before, parang sobrang perfectionist niya parang konting kibo, may sasabihin lang ako, magte-text na siya agad. Parang ang hirap kumilos with her. But now, sinabi ko sa kanya, okay ka na ngayon, di ka na epal,” she jokes. 

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"We’re a contradiction of each other but that works for us because I always feel like opposites attract."—Toni

Nag let go na ako,” Toni smiles. But she also emphasizes the importance of her being critical towards her sister: “I know how cruel people are in this industry so I don’t want her to go through what I’ve been through na they judge her every angle and every aspect of her life as if they’ve known you your whole life. So, I just want her to be proper, to be right in front of their eyes. But then I’ve come to the realization that I can only control what I can.”

And so, it turns out that Toni’s conscientiousness and Alex’s carefree spirit can reflexively mold each other in a way that makes them better prepared to face the challenges of the industry. “In terms of throwing us out into the industry and asking us how we’re different from the others, we really don’t know and I think it’s for the other people to distinguish that about us,” says Toni. “But for the two of us, we don't really talk about ‘Yeah this is our edge’. We just focus on building each other up, helping each other up, and being best friends in the industry—that’s just how I see it.”

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Towards Something Greater

With every push forward that they give to each other, what drives them to continue working in a make-believe world? Part and parcel of their motivational support would be reminding each other of their why: “Kasi in this industry, you will feel low at times you will really feel like, ‘What’s the meaning of all this? Why am I doing all this? What’s the purpose of this?’ And I would talk to her and she would remind me. Then I would remind her and then we’d be back at the game again,” Toni reveals. 

They agreed that there are two groups of people to whom they offer their efforts: their parents and their viewers. First, Toni says that their parents are their primary reason for everything they continue to pursue, whether it’s in their personal lives or in their careers: “To make our parents proud of us, that they’ve created good individuals on this earth. That’s just number one for me. Kung ano yung ginagawa namin hindi kami ikahihiya ng parents namin,” she shares. 

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PHOTO BY PHOTO: Charisma Lico

Second, they find that through their journey as media personalities they can inspire others who wish to reach their dreams as well. “It’s not all about us. It’s about showing the people that normal, average-looking sisters can make their dreams come true if you have faith in God, because I always feel like there’s nothing extraordinary about our looks, our talent. It’s because God was the one who fulfilled all of our dreams,” Toni continues.

Alex emphasizes how their faith moved them towards their dreams: “Noong bata ako, iniisip ko noon [na] hindi lang dito sa Taytay ang buhay ko...siguro merong na-instill na vision. Parang may dream ka lang...parang iniisip mo, Paano mangyayari yun?’ It could be possible talaga with the Lord—yun talaga yung main. Taga-Taytay lang kami. Nanonood lang kami ng sine sa Santa Lucia kapag MMFF.”

Toni and Alex always have their eyes set on something beyond themselves. However, the sisters share that people in this world may set boundaries that can hinder one from aiming for something more. Toni shares. “That’s what I don’t like in the industry. They put you in a box and they think that you’re just fit for that box, and no matter what you do, they will always be like ‘You’re inside that box.’ and [Alex] was able to get out of that. She was always in the box of “kapatid ni Toni,” and she was getting tired of that vicious cycle.” 

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"It’s about showing the people that normal, average-looking sisters can make their dreams come true if you have faith in God"—Toni

“They were telling me na parang this is not my personality,” Alex continues. She felt as though she was being shaped into something was not until she broke free and just owned her personality. 

“And for me, that’s why her blog worked, because she’s not pretending to be someone she’s not. She’s just exposing her kalokohan and I don’t know why you’re all buying it,” Toni jokes. 

“YouTube naman is not television. So, reality talaga siya,” remarks Alex. “So, ang viewers ng YouTube, they want real people. They want reality. They don’t want plastic. They don’t want fake. Yung kung ano yung nakikita nila sa TV, it’s mounted, it’s created, it’s for a show.”

Her YouTube vlog turned out to be a venue for her to embrace her personality. But more than this, Alex reveals that her vlog is also a platform for reaching out to others. “Gusto ko maging teacher. Gusto ko yung magsalita nang magsalita, mag-usap nang mag-usap. Kaya nga sabi ko [sa sarili ko], binigyan ka ng platform sa vlog so maybe sometimes, you can teach them. Kasi may mga bata talaga na nanonood.”

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Reeling back into reality

Ultimately, despite the blurred lines between the role-playing world and reality, the Gonzaga sisters are able to map out their own paths with each other’s help. They not only face challenges hand in hand, but they do so by looking beyond themselves—whether it’s their family, their fans, or their faith. 

PHOTO BY PHOTO: Charisma Lico

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When asked about their plans for 2019, the two responded quite in character:

For Toni, she plans to dive into untested waters: “My plan this 2019 is to do something that I’ve never done before, to take a risk because I did that in 2018. I took a risk in producing this film with my husband and I like that feeling of the unknown. You’re thrown into a situation where you don’t know what’s gonna come out of it, but you’re excited at the same time because it’s a new world. That’s my plan: take more risks.”

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As for Alex, she is really bent on pursuing her big plan for her YouTube channel. But in general, she prefers to just roll with the times: “Basta ako, I just go with the flow whatever comes my way because that’s my advice for my old self: You just have to trust the process, and whatever you’re going through, it’s a process. It’s preparation for whatever is about to come. So may mga times na akala mo, senseless na pinagdadaanan mo or walang kwenta. Pero it’s actually changing you, it’s actually molding you. It’s actually preparing you para sa paparating.”

The future may be uncertain but it’s clear that this sister team is prepared to face whatever comes their way, as long as they’ve got each other.

Produced by Marj Ramos

Photographed by Charisma Lico

Styled by Danae Dippon

Art direction by Mark Buenaobra

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Co-produced by Jam Nitura

Makeup by Mickey See (Toni) and Effie Iñigo (Alex)

Hair by Anton Papa (Toni) and Jocelyn So (Alex)

Sittings Editor: Janey Rivera

Nails by Extraordinails

Shoot Assistant: Teresita Gabat

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