Jon Jon Rufino lives by a modern outlook as he brings up his brood
We catch Jon Jon Rufino on a cloudy afternoon just as his kids, Lilith and Lucian, awake from a nap. Lilith is shy at first, almost demure, but after the photo shoot ends and the sun has set, she is handed a microphone and transforms into a little songstress, taking center stage in the piano room. She banters with her brother Lucian over the accompanying dance to the Tagalog lilt she sings. The twins, equally exuberant and sweet, were born via donor and surrogate on Father’s Day five years ago. And the rest, as they say, is history.
If there’s one thing universally agreeable around this time of year, it’s that the holidays are a time to spend with good company. Family: It’s a word that rings true for anyone, though its definition may vary depending on whom you ask. For Rufino, a progressive thinker, an environmentalist, and a proud member of the LGBT community, his treasures are his twins and his partner, musical director Rony Fortich.
How do you explain your advocacies to your kids?
I have taken them to Pride Parades since they were six months old. I take them hiking and swimming. I encourage them to think on their own. I haven’t gone into the deeper concepts of what each of those things mean, though—maybe soon. Maybe when they’re seven.
How would you define your family dynamic as a solo parent of two kids, and now with a partner?
I didn’t have kids until I was 37. This means that I was able do a lot of other things first, which has put me in a great frame of mind with the kids. They are the priority in my life. I chose this. So I have to plan everything for them, especially at this age. But living in this country, I have amazing help. First of all, both my parents love the twins like their own children, and they spend time with them practically every day. And then I’m so lucky that we have good nannies, thanks to my sister Kris, who asked her daughter’s nanny Dia to work for me. She’s so trustworthy. I love taking care of the kids on my own, but what a load off of my shoulders that I’m able to plan adult activities, knowing that my kids are in safe hands with their nanny or their grandparents.
And then I met Rony [Fortich], who’s fantastic with the kids. It was a challenge balancing a relationship with being a parent before, but Rony and I are generally on the same page. We are still in the process of finding what “normal everyday” means, but isn’t everybody? I love that he sees and prioritizes educating the kids in certain ways that I might have not focused on, like teaching them about kindness. Without him, I might have just focused on politeness.
What are the twins like?
Lucian is a bundle of joy. He smiled to me on the first day. Our nanny saw him when I brought him home from the hospital a week later, and she confirmed that he [also] smiled to her then. He’s also very attached to me; I’m his favorite bed. He
makes friends easily in school, and since the age of three, he has been turning anything into a sword or a gun to “fight the bad guys.”
Lilith is mastering her powers as a woman. She does not give her affection away easily, even to me, but when she does, she can make you feel as if you’re on top of the world. She also loves singing and watching musicals. And she enjoys tennis and is developing pretty well for a five-yearold—already on the road to fulfilling my fantasy. She loves babies. She loves pretending to be a baby sometimes, then other times, she loves playing at being the older sister or the mother, except she’s bothered by the idea of childbirth. At this point, she prefers to adopt, ha ha!
What are you getting the twins for Christmas?
Lucian is obsessed with Ninjago right now while Lilith is obsessed with Matilda the Musical.
How do you empower your kids?
I made a promise to my children during their naming ceremony, when I invited their guide parents to share words or a quote from a book or a line from a song with them, that I would never lie to them. My main motivation for having kids initially was to share my curiosity of the world with them. So that’s my priority: to implement that desire to learn.
I also promised that I would allow them to solve problems in their own way. If I tell them that they need to do something, I will explain to them why. And if they come up with a better way of doing it, we can do that instead. Now that they’re five, we are finally able to start implementing this, little by little.
I’m also on board with the idea that they don’t have to kiss all of my friends or my parents’ friends if they are not feeling it. They need to know that their bodies are their own.
How are you celebrating the holidays with your family?
Rony’s a musical director, and he has a concert in Dakak just before Christmas, and a New Year's Eve concert in Dubai, so we are watching him on both shows. Actually, I’m taking one kid to one and the other to the other, because I value individual time with the twins. It allows them to further develop their unique relationships with me; otherwise they demand the same thing from me at the same time. Also, my parents so appreciate having one child with them without me around, ha ha!
Rony and I have even started having individual dates with the kids, which I highly recommend to other parents. Go to a different restaurant with one kid while your partner goes somewhere else with another kid.
Any special holiday traditions?
None yet, but we’ll invent some along the way. I’d like the kids to invent them.