Right from the start of the interview, one thing is crystal clear: Audrey Zubiri takes motherhood very seriously. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it last Saturday,” she says as she takes her seat inside the quiet café in Makati on a Monday morning. “It was my son’s birthday party. He just turned one.” We had initially asked her to have the interview at an earlier date but she politely asked if we could re-schedule it.
If you followed her modeling and hosting career, it would have taken a while for the fact that she is now a mom to sink in. Her radiant beauty is no different from when she was in the limelight, with her slim figure, glowing skin, and a youthful, sunny smile that instantly brightens up the room. You would also have found it quite difficult to believe that she didn’t always look like this. “Growing up, I was a happy teenager, but I was super dorky. I really fit the stereotype—I had the thick glasses, the braces, the acne,” she shares. “I was super thin and lanky, with awkward arms and a flat chest. I had a bad haircut because of the girl band TLC. I was trying to imitate T-Boz; I thought she was cool. It was a disaster!”
She laughs at herself as she says this, and it is this candor and lack of vanity and pretension that allow her to talk about her modeling and hosting days without sounding conceited at all. “I started modeling in late high school,” she says. “I got rid of the glasses, braces, and acne. When I got to college, Robbie Carmona was having an event where I was modeling. One of the hosts didn’t show up so he asked me if I wanted to co-host. And I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’ So I gave it a shot and in the audience, there was someone from Studio 23. He came up to me after the show and asked me to audition for a spot as one of their VJs. I did, and I got in.” She goes on to explain how modeling and hosting would eventually fit into the grander scheme of things. “You’re always in front of people when you’re modeling or hosting, and when you’re campaigning for your husband, it’s the same thing” she bemused with a sense of humor. “Maybe it’s like that; in a way, you go from one audience to another. It helped in a sense that I’m very comfortable with crowds. I think it trained me to deal with so many people that it’s now easy for me to get along with anyone I meet.”
On a day-to-day basis, Audrey interacts with a lot of people and juggles a variety of activities. On top of running errands like doing the groceries and going to the bank, she writes for a broadsheet’s Parenting section every Wednesday, visits construction sites for her build-and-sell business, and owns two franchises of a popular local restaurant chain. She is also active in a number of foundations, with Bantay Bata being one of the closest to her heart (her most recent project was a fashion show-slash-brunch for Mother’s Day this year). But all these things take a backseat when it comes to her children, three-year-old Adriana and one-year-old Juanmi. “My parenting style is very hands-on. I’m involved with everything—from the small everyday things like giving them a bath and feeding them to the more social aspects like taking them to play dates and children’s parties. On Tuesday afternoons, I host a play date at our house so I can see the kids Adriana plays with and so she can learn to share her things. I want her to be comfortable having her friends come over to the house so that when she gets older, she won’t go out partying so often!”
“The time I spend with my kids has to be both quality and quantity. Some parents allot quality time but it’s only 30 minutes—what about the rest of the day? Or sometimes it’s just quantity, where they could be at home with the kids the whole day, but they don’t make the most of their time together,” Audrey says. “So I really make it a point to spend quality time with them, and the quantity of the time has to be a majority of my day. That’s non-negotiable. Everything else is just on the side—if an activity’s going to get in the way of me spending time with my family, that’s when I weigh it in: Is it essential or not? If it’s not, then it gets discarded. If it’s really important, then I’ll figure out a way to incorporate it. But my first priority is always my family.”
At some point during the interview, Audrey whips out her camera to show off photos of her kids. She speaks of them with genuine pride and an almost tangible excitement in her voice—her world revolves around them, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Adriana is a lot like Migz,” she says. “She looks like him, and her personality is very strong. She knows what she wants and what she doesn’t. But I also see myself in her in the sense that she’s very cautious—she’s always saying ‘Baka mahulog ako.’ And that’s how I am—I don’t ride roller coasters because I’m scared of them, and I was never good at sports. Juanmi, on the other hand, is brave and adventurous like Migz. He started walking at an early age because he didn’t care if he’d fall; he’d just stand up and try again. He’s very chill and very steady—he just watches everybody and he’s always cool and always laughing. If he’s playing with something and his sister grabs it, he doesn’t get mad. He’ll just move on to another toy.”
When asked about her biggest accomplishment, Audrey neither runs through a list of her successful business ventures nor recites a litany of her various socially-oriented projects. “I’m very proud of our home life,” she says simply. “I’m proud of the way Miguel and I have handled our family despite his really hectic and erratic schedule. Our marriage is very grounded, very loving, and still very romantic. We are companions in everything we do. It’s good to have someone who always makes sure you’ll be okay. I always call him my partner in crime. We have the same sense of humor—we’re really babaw and we’re both so baduy. We enjoy traveling, and I love our little dates together. Sometimes, we have nice dates where I can dress up, but sometimes we’re so busy that we just go to a coffee shop and sit in a corner talking until midnight.” The couple is based in Manila but visits Bukidnon as often as they can. Migz’ family is from Bukidnon and before becoming a senator, Miguel was a congressman of the third district. Their family connection extends as far as Cebu, Mig’s uncle and his father’s first cousin Ben Zubiri, more popularly known as Iyo Karpo is the Cebuano composer and actor famous for the love song, Matud Nila.
She pauses to reconsider the question and admits, “If you had asked me several years ago, I would have said my biggest accomplishment was studying communications technology management in Ateneo while doing modeling on the side. It was fun, but things like that suddenly lose their weight when you have kids. They really put things into perspective; suddenly, nothing is as important. My kids have brought so much joy into my life, more joy than I ever thought possible. Having children makes you see how beautiful life is—you become so content with everything. At the same time, they really help you prioritize things in your life; you realize what’s essential and what’s not. Having kids also changes you in the sense that you want to be a better person for them. You know they’re going to be watching you and following in your footsteps, so of course you make an effort for them to see only the best example from you.” When all is said and done, Audrey Zubiri has nothing but gratitude for the life she is living. “Every morning, I open my eyes and I am so thankful just because my daughter is there beside me, waking me up. The littlest things make me so happy.”
Of course, the interview doesn’t end without a question she probably gets all too often: Will she be running for public office in the future? “Right now, I feel like one politician in the family is enough,” she says. “Being in politics is such a demanding job—it’s like the most demanding boss ever, and I often have to learn how to share Miguel with his work. While it’s rewarding and fulfilling knowing that my husband is helping so many people and doing so many good things, I don’t want to be in politics because I don’t want to delegate the job of being a mom to someone else. A lot of good people have the potential to take care of a district and serve a certain town. But raising my two kids—taking care of them, keeping them safe and healthy, making sure that their values are shaped properly and their principles are set on a solid foundation—that’s a job only I can do.” She smiles and stops to correct herself: “That’s a job only I should be doing.”