ZION & RICHARD GU­TIER­REZ

Esquire (Philippines) - - NOTES & ESSAYS -

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

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