For the first time ever, sisters Toni Gonzaga and Alex Gonzaga are starring in a film together. The film, Mary, Marry Me, slated for release on Christmas day, is a story about two sisters fighting over one man, played by Sam Milby. The film itself is a true family affair: Alex and Toni are headlining, while Toni, along with husband Paul Soriano, are producing.
We caught up with the Gonzaga sisters and talked about sisterhood, family, their past, and their future:
Toni: We discovered a lot of things about each other. [We also learned that] we need each other to remind ourselves of who we are and who we are not. Mas na-prove ko na I really need my sister to always be there for me. Kasi siya yung sounding board ko, siya yung nagsasabi sa'kin ng totoo. Of course on the set, hindi mo naman alam kung lahat ng opinions about you na maririnig mo are true. So when she says something, I value it very much—kasi alam kong she’s coming from a place of truth. She’s not sugarcoating it and she’s not just saying it because she’s being nice to me. If I need a genuine opinion about something, I really go to my sister.
Alex: I think mas na-respect ko siya bilang isang artista. [Before this project] I just saw her as my sister and never as an actress. So now, I respect her more with the way she works and kung paano siya makitungo sa mga director. She’d always remind me na makinig sa director. Nakikinig naman ako—para nga akong may teacher! Pero, nakita ko na may right naman siya because she’s also a producer and marami na rin siyang experience sa movies. Still, she’s very respectful and very humble sa set.
Toni: Gusto ko pag summer. Kasi pag summer, automatic na yan, may role playing na kami. Teacher-teacheran, office-office-an, and resto-restaurant. Kasi laging nagtatrabaho ang mommy at daddy, so pag summer, after lunch, okay na. Alam mo na yan. Teacher-teacheran na. Ako ang teacher, siya ang student. Sa restaurant, ako ang manager, siya ang waitress.
Ang ate ko all-out. Konti lang yung ginaganyan niya, pero kung ikaw naman yung nabigyan niya ng attention, all-out siya. - Alex on Toni
Alex: Ako, favorite ko naman samin tuwing matutulog kami. Kasi parang doon nawawala yung pambu-bully niya. [laughs] Kasi noong bata kami, we would share stories and dreams together before we sleep. And I think nadala namin hanggang tumanda kami. Even now, magkalayo kami ng bahay, magkatext kami bago matulog. Every night, yun yung parang reflection namin. Doon kami talaga nagkukwentuhan.
Toni: The best is, I don’t need any other friends. Honestly, now, I realized, my sister is my best friend, and I’m good with that. Katumbas na ng tatlo o apat na friends itong si Alex. She can be anyone I want her to be. She can be my cheerleader, my comedienne, my encourager, my teacher. So all-in-one siya, lahat ng personality na gusto ko, meron siya.
Alex: The best thing about having a sister is that you have a second mom. You have a forever kakampi in life. You don’t have to test them, kasi it’s proven since bata kayo, kayo na ang magkasama. She’s your God-given kakampi, team member, and friend. At the end of the day, if you need someone to talk to, you have your sister.
Toni: I think the worst thing about having a sister is that you get too critical about her because she’s family. Lagi niyang sinasabi yan, bakit sa iba ang bait mo, sa'kin hindi? You’re too hard on me. It’s because I know who she really is and I know when she’s going to a direction that’s not right. I know her core, so when she’s doing something that’s not her, I always tell her, “Hindi na ikaw yan, go back to who you are.”
Alex: For me, it’s also that with a sister, you have a second mom, who is sometimes worse than your mom. Laging may makikialam sa'yo. Sometimes, dahil lagi siyang nangingialam sa'yo, unconsciously feeling ko, parang you’ll do things for her na, not for yourself. So you just have to be careful na 'wag ka palagi magpaapekto.
She was just that little girl on the sidelines, waiting for her sister to achieve her dreams, while her own dreams were on hold. - Toni on Alex
Alex: She’s very generous and she’s very protective. Ang Ate ko all-out. Konti lang yung ginaganyan niya, pero kung ikaw naman yung nabigyan niya ng attention, all-out siya. I know na any time of the day and any time anywhere, wherever, if I need her help, may it be financially, emotionally, or spiritually, she will always be there. She’s very generous not just with money but also with her time, her love.
Toni: She’s very positive. She always looks at the bright side. She’s very uplifting, she knows how to encourage me, she knows how to pump me up. Every time I lose my confidence, she always reminds me: “Ano ka ba, this is who you are, ganito ka.” She’s my confidence booster.
Toni: Ang dream ko [for Alex], is that she can achieve more than I’ve experienced in life. If she can exceed all that, I’ll be the happiest. Because she deserves it—more than anyone in this world that I know. Because I’ve seen how she’s struggled. Nobody really knows what she went through when we were growing up. I told this to Tito Boy [Abunda] when I had my interview: People would always think that my sister had it easy, when they really don’t know that during the times that I was struggling, she was the one who struggled the most. When I was slowly getting into the business and getting all these small breaks and opportunities, there was still nothing going on for her. She was just that little girl in the sidelines, waiting for her sister to achieve her dreams, while her own dreams were on hold. She was the one doing her assignments sa gilid ng sets and sa parking lots, because her sister was taping. She was the one na PA ko minsan. Basta, hindi nila alam yung struggles niya when I was starting in the business. Everyone thought that I was the only one struggling. When it was actually the two of us.
When she finally finished college, she told me and our family that she wanted to be in the business as well, I was the happiest kasi sabi ko, “Hay salamat, finally may friend na ako.” Because I really didn’t think I was gonna click with anyone because I’m an introvert. It takes a while for me to warm up, para akong diesel. Eh eto, unleaded. Go agad!
I’m just really happy that now, she’s finally found her platform where she can excel and be herself; where she will no longer be compared to me because she’s doing her own thing. Whereas when we were appearing in the same form of media—TV, recordings, talk shows—people were always saying that she’s copying her sister, when in fact she has her own different personality, which is louder and bigger than mine. I’m the tamer version. (To Alex) 'Di ba sabi sayo ng isang co-star mo dati, “Noong pumasok ka sa showbiz, naging boring yung ate mo. Parang dati, yung ate mo na yung perky and bubbly. Noong pumasok ka, naging boring si Toni. Ikaw pala yung maingay.”
Alex: My hope is that she’ll find joy. My sister is used to working and doing things for the family, so I just want her to be truly happy, to have this inner joy that she does have naman. I just want na no one will take away that from her. Yung joy of being a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and actress. I hope everything continues to have a purpose and meaning. I want her to enjoy every bit of success that she has, may it be personal or in her professional life. She’s a perfectionist and a go-getter, that sometimes, hindi niya na-eenjoy yung mga little things.
Toni: To chill, to relax. I’m so tense, I’m so uptight. She once told me, “It’s so hard to keep up with you, ang dami mong iniisip.” I overthink. She always tells me, “Relax.” Yung winoworry mo, wala 'yan.
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PRODUCED BY: Jacinda A. Lopez
CO-PRODUCED BY: Lily Tabanera
ART DIRECTOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: Mixi Ignacio
SHOOT COORDINATOR: Lou Ferrer
STYLING: Stylized Studio (Toni and Alex)
SITTINGS EDITOR: Jillian Gatcheco