For the longest time, Toni Gonzaga was in denial.
More than being in denial, she was scared—drowning in a reality she couldn’t control, gasping for the last lungful of air. This is really it, she thought. “Parang game over.”
Toni knew what was coming, but she had a hard time accepting her fate. She had plans. Wasn’t she supposed to date guys, meet as many of them as possible? Wasn’t she the girl that the boys overlooked when she was in high school?
Indeed, at that time, Toni had a single goal in mind: to make it in show business.
She was a working student, pursuing a career as a singer while trying to finish high school.
“Parang sino naman ang may gusto sa isang teenager na parang masyadong matanda nang mag-isip? Parang siyempre, mga teenager, kilig-kilig na ’yon sa mga pa-sweet-sweet na mga date-date nila sa kanto diyan sa Taytay… Hindi ako gano’n, e. Iba na ang iniisip ko no’ng time na ’yon, e.”
Toni didn’t have the typical mestiza good looks, the artista ancestry, nor the slightest star-making connection that would have made it easier to make a breakthrough in the cutthroat business.
But against all odds, this unknown girl from the municipality of Taytay, Rizal, made it with nothing but sheer will power.
The year was 2006, when she was 22 years old. She was on the cusp of stardom. It was the time for boylets! There were reportedly five suitors hanging around, pining for her. (She refuses to name them.)
“Nagustuhan ko naman ’yong iba,” Toni admits about her suitors.
But none of her frequent “bisita” got promoted to boyfriend status. One by one, they disappeared—perhaps thinking that they didn’t have a chance with Toni or realizing that they were not willing to go through a laborious panliligaw.
“Ang term ko nga sa kanila, parang mga multo, e,” she jests. “Paramdam lang. Aparisyon lang ’yong iba. Hindi nag-materialize. Hindi nagkatawang-tao. Nag-fade agad.”
She adds: “Hindi nga dumating sa love, e. Kasi namamatay, e. 'Di ba, pag love na love mo ’yong isang tao, hindi mo makakalimutan? Wala, may expiration date ’yong iba.”
The TV host-actress remembers complaining to her father Carlito “Bonoy” Gonzaga: “Ang arte mo kasi, Daddy! May pagpapahirap ka pa, e.”
Daddy Bonoy then comforted his eldest, “Hindi, maniwala ka sa akin. Pag gusto ka talaga ng lalaki, magtiya-tiyaga ’yan, kahit gaano kahirap.”
He had a good reading of his daughter’s destiny. He often told her: “You’re not meant to date. You’re meant to be married.”
Toni wanted to rebel against this idea. “Gusto ko nga, mag-date ng madami. Gusto ko talagang maka-date ’yong mga magiging love team ko pa.”
But then she met young and handsome director Paul Soriano, who courted her for almost a year. Unlike the others, he didn’t fade away. He wasn’t an apparition. He didn’t have an expiration date. He was her one great love, her only love.
Toni realized: “Wala na. Hindi ka na maglalaro. Hindi ka magte-testing ng kahit sino. Hindi ka dadaan kung kanino…
"Kasi nakita ko na, e, kung pa’no siya [Paul]. Ito ’yon. Ito ’yong tatagal sa akin. Hindi ko pa siya sinasagot, naisip ko na, mapapangasawa ko ’to.”
She harks back to what her father told her, saying with a smile, “You’re not meant to date. You’re meant to be married.”
And then came acceptance. Game over.
For the first time, Toni and Paul gave a lengthy interview about their journey to the altar—revealing their love story, their ups and downs, and their plans for the future.
The couple also had a prenuptial pictorial, shot by ace lensman Jun de Leon, exclusively for YES! magazine’s July 2015 issue.
This month, YES! also features the weddings of Patrick Garcia & Nikka Martinez, Gab Valenciano & Tricia Centenera, and Jewel Misch & Alister Kurzer; the Star Magic Games; contouring tips with Beauty Gonzalez; back-to-school outfits with Barbie Forteza; and many more.
#YESjuly2015 is now available in newsstands.