ZION & RICHARD GUTIERREZ
ZION GUTIERREZ WAS INTRODUCED to the world a year after he was born. The baby was granted a year of privacy and unpublished photographs, of first smiles and steps and endless hugs that were not publicly broadcast, just like those of a normal kid—scratch that, even non-celebrity spawn have their young lives entirely documented online nowadays. “We just wanted to enjoy Zion and have him to ourselves,” says Sarah Lahbati, who gave birth in Switzerland and quietly brought him home a few months later. “Then we celebrated his first birthday and announced we had a baby.”
The hashtag #ziontheyounglion sounds like a Bob Marley song but is a fitting and unique moniker for baby Zion, who had “insane curly hair” and was obsessed with lions at that age. His original Instagram account, @babyziontheyounglion, was primarily managed by fans and had reached 600k followers before it was hacked earlier this year. Sarah had to create an entirely new account, which she handles herself and is called @officialziongutz, which is just as well now that Zion is no longer a baby.
“For me, Instagram is the modern photo album—we don’t have any photo albums at home,” says Sarah. “It’s part of my [endorsement] contract to post weekly, but for Zion, it’s all for fun, for keeping memories.” In terms of how she curates the content, Sarah says she posts photos of when her boy is the happiest. Commenters have said that these good-vibe posts of Zion are like stress-relievers after a hard day.
“We don’t overshare Zion’s daily life,” says Richard Gutierrez. “He’s only four years old and he should be able to enjoy his privacy and grow up properly.” Zion himself does get into the spirit of things, too. Whenever they travel and there’s a scenic spot, he would say, ‘Mama, Dada, take a photo of me here.’”
“I think that’s something he got from me,” Sarah laughs. If there’s a central motif to the photographs of the Lahbati-Gutierrezes, it’s the spirit of adventure. They always travel as a tight family unit, and followers of their feeds get to experience new destinations through the thrilled eyes of a young kid. Zion’s core memories would include spending time in Malapascua, where he lived like an islander and got to see his parents and grandfather scuba dive, awakening his curiosity about the ocean. Recently, they visited his birthplace Switzerland, where Sarah taught him another first: how to ski. And who was not charmed by the video of Zion dancing to hip-hop on a dive boat off the coast of Fiji?
“We don’t look at it like it’s a work thing. We see it more as a collective timeline where years from now we can look back and tell Zion all about it,” says Richard about their intermittent postings on Zion’s page. “It’s also nice to inspire people, especially young parents like us, to find time to travel with their kids and make great memories.”
Richard, on his part, likes to think of himself as the fun and adventurous dad. “I wanna be able to hang out with Zion and talk to him about everything. But at the same time when he gets out of line, I let him know.” Sarah understands that parenthood usually glorifies the mother, but the modern day tools of social media have been able to show how dads get involved. “Chard’s been nothing but protective and loving, and I want people to know that side of him.” Richard’s own father was very hands-on with his kids, but back then, everything was captured on VHS.
As for Zion’s imminent career in the industry, his parents are in no hurry. He’ll appear on season five of It Takes Gutz
to be a Gutierrez, but Sarah more often than not says no to a lot of guestings, not wanting to overexpose him at such a tender age. She is insistent that even if he does choose to become an actor, he has to finish college, something she and Richard haven’t been able to do yet. “Showbiz can wait. Tita Anabelle is right there.”— AUDREY CARPIO