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Dingdong Dantes: ‘Fatherhood is a serious business’

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Jun 14, 2024 10:50 am

Of all his roles, award-winning actor Dingdong Dantes places a premium on being a father. Sans the halogens at home, he remains a bright star, a guiding light in the lives of his children Zia, eight, and Sixto, five.

Sure, show business is his bread and butter. But fatherhood is also sustenance for the heart and mind of his two kids. That makes “fatherhood a serious business” for him. 

“Between my wife, Marian, and me, I’m more of a liberal parent. Marian is more the disciplinarian. Because most of the time, I’m out of the house working, the part of disciplining the kids falls on my wife’s shoulders. With me, it’s more playtime with very clear boundaries. Hindi naman porke’t mas liberal ako, eh kahit ano pwede na. They can be themselves but with boundaries,” Dingdong says.

Fatherhood is not merely a role for Dingdong Dantes. It’s a responsibility.

What are the boundaries that the Family Feud and Amazing Earth host sets for his children?

“For example, if Zia, because she now chooses her own clothes, wants to wear something that is not appropriate for her age or for the occasion, we make it a point to explain to her that her choice is not pangit but it is not appropriate. I am particularly careful for my children not to misinterpret it as being canceled. Building values is important and we need to communicate to them the right values,” he says.

Even if one day his children will have an imminent knowledge of life and death, Dingdong makes sure the boundaries are set. This became very clear when, after a careful thought processing, he and Marian decided to bring their children to watch Rewind, a time-travel film starring the couple that deals with life and death and became the highest-grossing film in Philippine cinema with almost P1 billion in earnings last year.

In raising Zia and Sixto, Dingdong is the liberal parent, Marian Rivera, the disciplinarian.

“It was a struggle for us to decide if they should see Rewind. There’s a boundary there because, number one, the film talks about death. Number two, though it’s a PG (parental guidance) movie, we were concerned that it might have an effect on their young minds.”

“We still brought them to the cinema to watch Rewind—but only up to the first part, where there was no discussion of death yet.”

Dingdong knows “how cruel the world can be sometimes” because of social media so he is up in arms when it comes to his children’s use of technology.

Playing ghost buster with his son Sixto

Does he allow Zia and Sixto to use personal cellphones?

“No,” his quick reply. “We don’t know yet at what point they should have their own gadget. We will adjust as to how and when we feel it. But we lend them our phones for a very limited time, when they want to watch something on YouTube or Netflix. Always with the guidance of an adult. Before, kinukulit kami ni Zia every day to have a cellphone because some of her classmates use cellphones. And every time she asked for it we said no. A hard no. Marian and I still feel that there are no strong safeguards that will protect our children when they start using technology on their own.”

He adds: “In school, they have a device that they use for online classes but that one is really monitored by their teachers. So, safe.”

The couple during the first communion of Zia

Even telling their children in full about their profession as actors and TV hosts was a calculated move they did only shortly after the pandemic. Dingdong brought Zia and Sixto to the set of Family Feud. Zia, because she is older, adjusted well to the set-up in the studio. “Si Sixto, natakot kasi may mga usok from the smoke machine,” says Dingdong, a military reservist, who recently graduated as a Naval Combat Engineer Officer of the Philippine Navy.

During the pandemic, their children were somehow privy to their work because Dingdong and Marian shot commercials at home—where Dingdong, because no other people were allowed at the shoot, was the director, lights man, and cameraman. “Now, they even join us sometimes when we promote products so they are aware of the cameras.”

In my interview with Dingdong for PeopleAsia, where he is one of this year’s Men Who Matter awardees, he said of three lessons he teaches Zia and Sixto: 1) To believe in God and be God-fearing; 2) To always be kind to people; and 3) To love their parents.

What’s the best lesson he has learned from his kids?

“Innocence. I have learned from Zia and Sixto that man is naturally good. It’s really the factors around the world that shape the mind of everyone and anyone. Being with them made me realize all the more that we are really the architects of the future of our kids. Because we are in charge of showing them the right ways, of teaching them the right values, because we are the ones who shape their consciousness even before they get out into this crazy world. The goal is really to prepare them for this jungle out there. It’s a constant battle that we’re fighting. But because I am with Marian in this, and with God at the center of everything, I think it’s doable,” Dingdong concludes.