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  • Mom We Love: Rhea Santos-de Guzman

    The very private Rhea Santos opens up about her joys and challenges as a mother and an award-winning broadcast journalist.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • Rhea SantosBeauty and brains seems cliché, but we couldn’t find a more fitting description for Rhea Santos-de Guzman, broadcast journalist, a co-host of GMA-7’s morning show Unang Hirit (UH) and host of the weekly documentary Tunay na Buhay, which just celebrated its first anniversary, on GMA News TV.

    Case in point: Rhea is an AB Masscom magna cum laude graduate from St. Paul's College in Quezon City. Fresh from school, she applied for a job at a PR firm and got accepted, but after much thought, “Sabi ko, this is not what I really want to do, so instead I sent my resume to the networks.” This, of course, was the beginning of a fulfilling career as a Kapuso.

    From the looks department, she has also had her share of victories in beauty pageants, she being one of the finalists in the 1996 Bodyshots competition where she was also handed the ‘Best in Swimsuit’ special award.

    Now that she’s a mother to two boisterous kids, we discover that Rhea is not only beauty and brains – she also has a big, nurturing heart. She tells us her story in this exclusive conversation with Smart Parenting Online.

    Rhea, who spent a few months as an intern at ABS-CBN while she was still in school, started out her career in GMA-7 in 2000 as a segment producer for Unang Hirit, covering its health, beauty, and fashion segments. As fate would have it, then-UH host Miriam Quiambao, who had just been crowned Miss Universe first runner-up, had to be absent one day, so the show’s producers needed someone to pitch in for her. Rhea was pulled in, and that instance paved the way for a career in front of the cameras. “Kulang sa tao, so hinila lang ako, kung pwede daw ba akong mag-host? Ayun, dun na nag-start.”

    It was also by way of Unang Hirit that her would-be husband Carlo first made his intentions of courting her clear. While they already knew each other from events and family gatherings their relatives (who were playing Cupid) invited them to, it was not until after Carlo’s food company, Hotshots, catered Unang Hirit’s food bar one morning that he finally asked her out on a breakfast date. “It was my birthday,” Rhea smiles.

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    Uno and Yuan

    Rhea Santos














    Rhea is now mother to Juan Nicolas or “Uno”, 4 years old, and Juan Alejandro or “Yuan”, 6 months old. She considers herself lucky for having a job that she not only loves, but one which also allows her to be with her kids for the most part of the day. “I shoot for Tunay na Buhay on Mondays and Wednesdays, but by 3 PM I’m home. There are days that I only have to do the morning show, and then I’m free the rest of the day, so I’m able to fetch my eldest from school at about 10:45 AM,” she muses.  

    The nature of her job also makes it easy for Rhea to pursue something she strongly advocates: breastfeeding. “I exclusively breastfed Uno for two years, and now with Yuan, it’s been 6 months already.”

    She is grateful that she is surrounded by people who are also passionate about breastfeeding, especially during times that she needs encouragement. “Recently nag-low supply ang breastmilk ko. I felt really frustrated because (with Uno), I used to produce 2 bottles’ worth of milk na puno in one session, then ngayon biglang half a bottle lang. First time nangyari sa akin na nawawalan ako ng gatas, at di ko talaga matanggap, kasi we even had to buy a personal ref to store my breastmilk in.” In fact, when she had to go abroad for work when Uno was still a baby, “I was away for 4 days na hindi nagugutom yung anak ko, at feeling ko dun sa supply na nasa ref namin, kaya kong mawala nang 1 week. So that’s why I became frustrated dito sa nangyari.”

    Other moms with a weaker resolve would have probably resorted to milk formula if presented with a similar crisis, but Rhea says she never thought of it. Her husband tried to console her by suggesting that they buy powdered milk and have it on standby, just in case, “But I said ‘No. I will just bring Yuan to work.’”

    So she did. “I brought Yuan with me to work last week – to Bulacan, or wherever I needed to shoot. It was a good decision, kasi this morning I was able to express 1 bottle and 1 ounce of milk, so I think (my milk supply) is improving. I’m going to keep bringing him to work until mag-normalize na yung supply.”


    Rhea Santos

    She’s quick to add though, that she’s got nothing against formula milk. "I think (breastmilk) is the best kasi that a mom can offer. It’s free, it’s clean, and anyone can produce milk. Nakakatuwa kasi yung baby lalabas sya ng payat, tapos ibe-breastfeed mo and makikita mo, nagbubukol-bukol na sya (sa taba) dahil sa gatas mo” Rhea says proudly. “Some moms think wala silang gatas, but really, the problem is hindi nagla-latch yung baby. You have to latch him, kasi they would be the ones to stimulate the milk.”

    “I’m sure yung ibang hindi makapag-breastfeed, nanghihinayang din sila. Yung iba kasi may 9 to 5 jobs, at hindi naman nila pwedeng dalhin yung baby nila. Ako swerte lang ako, I can manage my time. If I want to go home first before I go to a shoot, pwede. So dun ako grateful.”

    Her parenting style
    Rhea says she does not easily give in to stress, and that she’s one who chooses her battles, especially when it comes to disciplining their children. “Ako I believe in talking to your child – talagang tyaga and explaining to them. At matyaga akong makipag-usap. That’s my style. I think tumatatatak din kay Uno.”

    “My husband and I, we’ve learned to compromise on how to discipline our children - I don’t believe kasi in spanking, pero my husband naman, sa kanya, minsan dapat. So when it comes to disciplining our kids, I talk to them first. Pag di nakuha sa salita, that’s when he comes in.”

    “Yung age kasi ni Uno yan yung kakulitan nila. Now that he has a brother he sometimes hits him. Pero we give him warnings. First warning muna, then 2nd, 3rd, then (pag hindi pa din sya nakinig), matutulog sya sa couch, instead of sleeping in the same room with us. Binabantayan naman sya ng husband ko sa couch, then pag nakatulog na, ita-transfer nya din sa bed. Gusto lang naming ma-experience nya na “outside the kulambo” sya.


    Rhea Santos“I feel na yung hitting is his way of getting our attention, kasi for a long time sya lang (ang anak), tapos ngayon nandyan na si Yuan. So kawawa naman sya talaga and I felt Uno’s pain also. He’s very protective of his baby brother, and he loves him.”

    Rhea also stresses the importance of achieving balance. “Hindi pwedeng you’re both mad at your child, kailangan meron syang malalapitan. Mas malapit si Uno sa akin kasi sa Daddy nya takot sya. I don’t want him to feel na kinakampihan namin si Yuan, so I tell my husband that when I’m with Yuan, he should be with Uno, and vice versa.”

    What stresses her out? “Kalaban ko lang everyday is antok. I start my day really early, so usually babawi akong tulog after lunch, tapos yun naman yung time na hyper si Uno. So I have days na I have to lock myself inside the room for a time out, just to breathe. Pero mariring mo, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I love you.” Then after a while bubuksan ko na ang pinto, and he would ask, “Did I break your heart?” “Yes.” He would reply, “You broke mine, too.”

    And when everybody is doting on Yuan, Rhea comforts Uno by reminding him, “You are Mommy’s first baby.”


    Rhea and Carlo waited 2 years after marriage before they made the decision to have a baby. “We wanted to travel, explore, and do death-defying stuff, like skydiving. We’re both adventurous people so we both wanted to be free to do anything that we want and go wherever we want. Hindi kami nagmadali. Sobrang relaxed at steady lang. Thankfully, I didn’t have a difficult time getting pregnant when we wanted to have the baby.”

    Rhea’s first pregnancy by itself was uneventful, with small bouts of nausea and dizziness here and there. She craved for duhat and santol, but developed an aversion to meat, and would throw up just at the sight or smell of it. Nonetheless, she enjoyed the rest of her pregnancy journey after the fourth month.

    However, giving birth was difficult because Uno weighed a whopping 9.5 pounds, and came out by normal delivery. “Kailangan sya i-fundal push at i-forceps. Tatlong lalaki yung dumagan sa akin para i-push sya!” that’s why after being in labor for 12 hours, “para akong may malaking pasa sa tyan.” But Rhea looks back at the experience with fondness, noting how happy she is that her OB-Gyne is an advocate of normal delivery.


    Mommy's me-time

    Rhea SantosOne of Rhea’s dreams is to one day be able to prepare a meal – from scratch - for her family. “No matter how I try, I don’t have that passion for cooking, while my husband is sobrang galing magluto. Mahilig sya sa complicated recipes, mga curry, laksa, kaya nya yan. He likes serving me also, and he likes it when I critique the food he cooks; it makes him happy. Aminado naman ako na wala sya talaga sa dugo ko and I was honest with my husband,” she laughs, in her defense. “Yun lang I feel guilty pag breakfast ng anak ko mga hotdog at sausage na puro preservatives.”

    What she is great at is dancing. “I love dancing. I recently purchased a gaming console and I just follow the dance step animation. I got unlimited dancing classes also, that’s my way of relaxing.” She also loves singing, although she offers a disclaimer that “I don’t have a singing voice.”

    This summer, like most families, Rhea plans to hit the beaches in either Cebu or Boracay. “We’re beach persons, we love the ocean.” A couple getaway for her and Carlo is also in the works, because “it’s been so long, and it’s about time we did it again.”
    Hopefully, that getaway would produce a daughter, which Rhea is praying for. “In the same way that my boys are close to me, I want my husband to experience the joy of his heart melting because of his daughter.”



    Hair & make-up by Ara Fernando

    Photos by Dakila Angeles

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