With son’s birth, Paul Soriano feels reborn
Filmmaker Paul Soriano could not wait to share with his newborn son Severiano Elliot, nicknamed Seve, the pure joy of cinema.
The night before this exclusive interview with the Inquirer, Paul watched Steven Spielberg’s “E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial” with the baby. Seve’s barely a week old, but Paul was certain that the infant was able to absorb the magic of Spielberg’s masterpiece.
“It was Seve’s first movie.
He slept through half of it, but I know his heart was in it,” Paul said.
Paul plans to make “E.T.” viewing an annual “bonding” tradition with his son Seve and wife, actress Toni Gonzaga. “It’s one of my favorites and it’s very meaningful to me. I watched it numerous times as a kid. It’s the movie that made me believe in the power of imagination.”
Severiano comes from Paul’s favorite Spanish golfer, Severiano Ballesteros, the director explained, but the kid’s middle name, Elliot, is in honor of the lead character of “ET.” Toni gave Paul carte blanche in naming their son.
“We will watch ‘E.T.’ many times in the future,” he said. “I will introduce him to cinema. And, of course, he will familiarize me with the things he will discover as he grows up.”
Paul, who is celebrating his 35th birthday today, admitted that he considered the birth of his son a turning point in his life. (The name of his production company, Ten17P, is taken from his birth date.)
“I was reborn on Sept. 30, the day my son was born,” he said. “It’s as if everything is brand new again. I feel like I am back to my childhood again.”
A perfect example is “E.T.” “It was as if I was watching the movie for the first time, because I was seeing it through Seve’s eyes,” he said.
When it comes to taking care of Seve, Toni and Paul equally share parental duties. Democracy reigns in the Soriano household. “Toni breastfeeds and that’s every two hours,” Paul said. “I do the burping after.”
Sleep deprivation was part of the deal, he conceded. “This time, my sleepless nights are legit.” Not for work or partying, but for family.
Paul handles diaper duties, as well. “The nurses in the hospital gave us a crash course: how to hold the baby, how to burp him, how to change his diapers. Raising a child takes team effort. I am blessed to have Toni as my partner.”
The birth of their son intensified his love for his wife. “I see Toni in a different light now. She has always been a determined and passionate woman. But I saw how physically, emotionally and mentally strong she was.”
Paul, who joined his wife in the delivery room, witnessed the entire birthing process. “I wanted to experience the moment with her. She went through 37 hours of labor…three hours of pushing. But it was a successful, normal delivery, which we prayed for.”
He regards today “the best birthday ever,” because it is his first as a father.
“I told Toni she doesn’t have to buy me anything this year,” he quipped. “Actually, I am good for the next 10 birthdays.”
This year, Paul will celebrate simply, with family and friends.
Quite understandably, the grandparents are fussing over baby Seve. “He is the first grandchild for both families. The grandparents are very hands-on. They visit us often. The lolas help Toni and the lolos take lots of photos. They say that their job is to spoil Seve, while our duty is to discipline him.”
Though it was too early to tell, Paul said he thought Seve was “a 50-50 combination of Soriano and Gonzaga.”
Fatherhood would certainly enrich his filmmaking, he said. “I’ve become more inspired.
I feel the urgency to be an even better storyteller because of my son. The emotions are also different. I feel very protective… and vulnerable, too. For the first time, my heart is living outside my body. I want to make sure that my son is safe all the time.”
Paul wants his son to grow up in a country where peace and love rule.
He has always been partial to socially relevant films, but being a dad makes his desire to tell significant stories more fervent. One particular advocacy that is close to his heart is the struggle of the lumad in Mindanao.
It is no coincidence that his next four projects carry potent social messages: “Open Doors,” about Jewish refugees rescued by President Manuel L. Quezon during World War II; “FPJ,” which stands for “Freedom, Peace and Justice” and is written by Lav Diaz; an island romance set in beautiful Siargao; and an as yet untitled relationship drama set in the time of social media.
With all these filmic babies, will he have time for a second child, a sibling for Seve?
“Not yet,” he said. “We want to absorb this moment and enjoy Seve first. We’ve always been vocal about wanting to have two kids, though.”
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