It was a Wednesday—a whole four days before Father’s Day—when The Manila Times sat down for an interview with ever-handsome actor Richard Gutierrez. Yet, the once restrained celebrity wore his heart on his sleeve that rainy afternoon and openly relished being greeted an advanced “Happy Father’s Day” by the paper.
“Only my siblings got to greet me last year,” he laughed, recalling his secret life in 2013, following the birth of his son Zion on April 29 by girlfriend Sarah Lahbati.
This year, after confirming on E!’s reality show, It Takes Gutz to be a Gutierrez (June 1 episode), that what everyone suspected was true—that Sarah indeed gave birth to their child after fleeing to Geneva, Switzerland—he is free and very proud to celebrate this special day for dads.
“By coincidence, we’re actually having a triple celebration [today]. We’ll be having Baby Zion’s baptism and [belated]first birthday celebration. We didn’t know it was also Father’s Day when we were planning the whole thing,” he smiled.
“But we really wanted a big celebration after everything we’ve been through.”
Politely declining to reveal the venue of the festivities, except for saying, “Basta, it’s just nearby; not out of town, the big day of showbiz’ latest celebrity baby will have the likes of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, and Kris Aquino as part of the 25 pairs of godparents.
“Si Marian [Rivera] ninang din, pero wala siya but sabi niya dapat ninang daw siya,” said Richard of his former love teammate in GMA Network. “The ninongs and ninangs [apart from the three mentioned earlier]are movers and shakers in the industry, as well as mga kasabayan ko sa showbiz.”
Before the big celebration, The Manila Times asked Richard to look back at his and Sarah’s decision to hide Baby Zion’s birth and first year from the public, and reflect whether they did the right thing. After all, everyone just seems to be genuinely happy for them becoming a family of three.
“It was the right decision for us,” he maintained. “When Sarah got pregnant, magulo ang situation namin [Sarah was in a highly publicized feud with a top GMA executive], and we didn’t want na maging media circus ang lahat. I also wanted to spare her from any stress to make sure her pregnancy would go smoothly.”
With Sarah returning to showbiz—and with misunderstandings ironed out with her network—Richard describes the present as the “perfect time” to reveal the adorable baby Zion to the world.
A changed man
Richard, who was never very open with the press in the past, excitedly talked about the changes fatherhood had sparked in him.
Apparently, he goes home early every night nowadays, and has his friends looking for him.
“Nawawala na daw ako,” he laughed.
He is also thrilled that this early, already seems to have taken an interest in his love for cars, motorcycles and animals.
“Basta sumakay yan ng kotse, sobrang happy siya. He also enjoys my motorcycles, and he loves playing with my [French bull] dog!” Richard enthused.
Realizing he sounded every bit a doting dad, the actor further opened up, “Ang sarap to talk about Zion freely! You can imagine what I went through last year from the time Sarah left for Geneva.
“Near the time of Zion’s birth, pinayagan ako umalis sa trabaho for five days, and in those five days, two days ko lang nakasama baby ko. It wasn’t until one month later that I saw him again. It was tough.”
During those days, he constantly reminded Sarah, “When things are falling apart, they’re only going to fall into place.”
Describing Zion as a “force of joy” for the whole Gutierrez and Lahbati clans as everyone simply lights up when they see the curly-haired angel, Richard kept mum whether the boy already has offers to be on television.
Asked whether he would allow Annabel Rama and Eddie Gutierrez’ famous grandson to follow in the showbiz clan’s footsteps and become an actor, he quickly replied, “Only after he becomes an Olympic athlete!”
Turning more serious, Richard spoke like a true father when he added, “I’ll support him in whatever he wants do or become when he’s older.”
For now, he and Sarah are simply happy enjoying Zion’s first steps, first words, and even his protests at being bombarded with kisses.
“Dati, hindi siya makareklamo!” Richard laughed.
Marriage is apparently not so much a priority in the couple’s immediate plans, as they want to take life “step by step” after such a trying year of being away from each other.
What Richard is sure of is that he is very inspired by the presence of a beautiful son in his
life, which reflects even in his work.
“Yung mga emotions na pinagdaanan ko last year, nagagamit ko ngayon sa trabaho ko,” he explained.
His latest project is a suspense-action film for GMA Films, titled Overtime. The perpetual protagonist plays a totally different role in the movie, which takes place in 48 hours, following the story of an Internet hacker and his victim.
In Overtime, Richard is Dom Garcia, a nationalistic computer whiz who fights corruption and injustice through video blogging. When he discovers a secret at the pharmaceutical company he works for, he seeks revenge by taking a journalist hostage.
“It’s my first time to play an antagonist only because his ways and ideas are not according to the norm,” the actor shares. “I like this character, and playing an antagonist gives you the opportunity to be more creative.”
Co-staring Lauren Young, Overtime is directed by Earl Ignacio and Wincy Ong, and opens in theaters nationwide on July 2.