The Women in Our Lives

They say that behind every strong household and every great man is a woman. While I don’t necessarily believe that to be the case for every single person on this planet, I do see the truth in it. Mother Earth (or Gaia), after all, is a woman. 

And so, for International Women’s Day, we thought it apt to celebrate those who have inspired us to become the people we are today: the women in our lives – our mothers, our high school friends, our titas, our colleagues, and each other – those who have made all the difference.

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I grew up with a loving household that encouraged me to be whatever I aspired to be. My Mama is there every step of the way. She, along with Papa, taught me to always be kind, always do good, and prioritize things that make me happy. My mom raised me to see the good in things, to see love, light, and all the positives the world can offer.

She also taught me that a woman is boundless. She can cook, sew, paint, repair electronics, repair household wares, woodwork, etc. If she can do all that, then I know I can too.

I am who I am and I can be whoever I choose to be, because my mom was everything. She’s the coolest woman I know.

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There are many women in my life that I admire, some of them have been friends since grade school, others I can’t believe I met less than 10 years ago. I once read in an article that one advantage of having gone to an all-girls school is that you’re more likely to live your life with the idea that women CAN. And while I would love to name every single one of them and put photos of every single one, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank two in particular – my mom and my aunt.

There’s a funny story from my childhood that I never tire of hearing or telling – that people used to think that I was my aunt’s daughter, because we were more similar, at least physically. I don’t much look like my mom, especially when she was younger, so a lot of the hand-me-down clothes and shoes would always come from my aunt. She also has a penchant for retail therapy, something I can relate with perfectly. My mom, on the other hand, is a rock – steady, straightforward, unwavering – and I would like to think that I inherited even one percent of all of that from her. I would like to think that – after all they’ve taught me, after all the advice that they have given me – I am a mix of their best (and maybe even their worst) parts. 

Three years ago, I was living away from home for the first time in my life. I think it’s these moments in life that you realize who it is you can actually turn to. When you’re suddenly uprooted, your circles back home become much smaller. I think I developed a closer relationship with my mom and my aunt while I was away. Suddenly, the mundane everyday did matter, and I just had to tell them about a new dish I learned to cook or a new clothing store that I couldn’t wait for them to see on their visit. I tell them everything, even until now, and I’ve come to see that I’ve been given an incredible gift that others may not have – two female relatives who I respect and are willing to hear me out and call me out when needed, without putting unrealistic and unnecessary expectations on me. To the Filipinos reading this, I’m sure you understand how difficult it can get to be completely open with our Asian families. I’m lucky I’ve found that little niche in mine that accepts me, kalat and all.

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My mom grew up with seven sisters and no brothers. I think about that a lot – what that must’ve been like growing up, what that must’ve been like for my Lolo, and most importantly what it must’ve been like for my Lola. Raising eight girls in what was then – and still is – a man’s world. I wish I could write about the answer to that – but unfortunately it was a question I never had the opportunity (or the foresight) to ask: but whatever it is that my grandparents did, they must’ve done something right. 

Today, the eight women of the Lucero clan are highly intelligent, opinionated, sometimes aggressive, sometimes high-strung, definitely type A, efficient, and successful women. There are days when their explosive personalities overwhelm me: debates over breakfast at my Lolo’s house; loud, boisterous laughter at every family vacation; and chaotic brunches (where I always fear getting kicked out by the establishment) in a rustic restaurant (from a long-list of my tita’s prized travel-finds) in the south. Growing up, it was easy to get lost in a sea of strong women, but there was always something reassuring about their strength in both the loud and quiet moments (and yes, despite the picture that I paint, there were quiet moments).

Mamu’s independence. Tita Manette’s generosity. Tita Peejay’s kindness. Tita Julie’s nurturing spirit. Tita Bebot’s tenacity and intellect. Tita Doc’s strength. Mama Tchie’s endearing ferocity. My mom’s unwavering love. This is all I knew a woman to be, and I’ve always held myself to that standard – sometimes, to my detriment.

In their own ways, they have influenced the way that I view family; the way that I view work; my values, my priorities, success (not to mention my toxic relationship with failure); and most importantly the way that I view life and love. 

A mother’s love is boundless, and I am lucky to say that whatever happens, I will always have that: eight times over.

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Kim and Margaux

I’ll never forget that morning in Canyon Woods with Kim and Margaux. It was my first time coming out to anyone and it was terrifying. Hiding under my blanket, I handed over my phone with “I’m bi” splashed across the screen (I’m gay but just thought coming out as bi would soften the blow. I was young and stupid.) 

At the back of my mind, I already knew they were going to accept me – they were my best friends after all, two-thirds of The Triplets – but this was the 90s and we were studying in a Catholic highschool. Nobody talked about SOGIE. I was scared to death.

“Ok lang yan. “We love you,” said Kim and Margaux.

And that’s that.

I know I won’t be who I am today without them. They’ve empowered me to start my lifelong journey of self-love. I wouldn’t have been able to survive without them.

We don’t talk as much anymore but we’ll forever be the Triplets. Margaux is pursuing her passions and thriving in fitness and movement and Kim is out there saving lives as a doctor.

They’ll alway be my inspiration not only in living one’s truth, but also in supporting others to live their own. These women are true allies and I’m so lucky to have them in my life!

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I find myself in a pickle whenever I think of the countless women that have shaped me to become the person I am today. So I decided that I would talk about not just one, but two phenomenal women in my life that very much deserve the spotlight, but are way too busy shining it on others. I am so sure they’ll find it so weird that I’m writing about them, because they have to proofread this (heh). 

Lara and Kitkat are my rocks, in both my personal and professional life. Our relationships didn’t start off like this, as they were my bosses first, and over the five years of knowing each other, they quickly became my closest friends. Now, I treat them like my Ates. It’s quite funny that I consider them to be my older sisters, because ironically, they call me “Tita B”. 

Lara, an actual Ate with a younger brother and a sister, is very lively, creative, passionate, and is definitely a weirdo. How much of a weirdo? We have eaten dog treats together (don’t worry, they were organic). It’s quite surprising that we haven’t known each other for much longer, because we went to the same high school, and she’s only a couple of years older than me. 

Beneath her craziness, Lara is definitely one of the kindest people I know, with such a huge heart. I can’t describe how much she loves her dogs, but I am so lucky to experience the same kind of love that she radiates for them. A good example would be when MVNDO closed. I was absolutely devastated and was crying my eyes out when it was announced. Lara then came up to me, put her hand on my shoulder and asked “Tita, do you want to go to the house? You can play with the dogs!” This is probably why I find so much comfort in her and in her home, and why I have such an extra soft spot for Huskies. 

Kitkat, on the other hand, iis the total opposite of me. She’s very quiet, extremely considerate of others and carefully thinks about the things that she does, but when push comes to shove, she is quite headstrong. She is my emotional support system in everything I do, always asking if we could go out for hotpot and shopping dates when one of us feels like absolute crap. 

In the early onset of the pandemic last year, I discovered how sick I was. I’ve been dealing with a chronic illness for eight years, and I’ve never really talked to anyone about how hard it is to process, let alone cope with during a pandemic. After a difficult e-consultation with my doctor, I gave Kitkat a call. Even before quarantine, we would constantly call each other, almost every single day. I called her up at midnight, sobbing, saying how much I had wanted to give up, and how exhausted I was. She stayed silent for a while and in the saddest tone, said “I’m not sure what to say, Biancs”, and proceeded to cry with me. That’s the thing with Kitkat, she always has the right answers, even if it’s just crying with me.

I never knew how much I valued and needed an older sister figure in my life, and how lucky I am that I have not just one, but two, that is just a phone call (or a weird Telegram sticker) away. 

Thank you Lara and Kitkat for being so loving. I am so excited to continually work with you, and hopefully, we can drink and dance on the streets again soon.

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“Do it with purpose,” my mother would say, encouraging me when I’d shakily pour water from the pitcher, waving her arms about for emphasis—her signature move. My mom was an incredibly spirited person, and always with a cool, confidence about her—something I realized she earned from experience. She was the kind of woman who always knew what to say: to make you feel better, to teach you, to make you smile. Growing up, she’d always tell me little things to remember, little anecdotes about life that I realized were lessons for me to unpack as I grew older: what it means to be a strong woman, to stand up for myself, and to value people.

Six years ago, she passed away, after an incredibly brave fight against cancer, and I found myself with those little lessons all ready to be unpacked. Like mother’s intuition, they pop up whenever I’m faced with something difficult, my constant reminders that my mother raised me to do better.

One can only imagine the void that is left when a parent is gone, but my mother seems to have thought of that too. Throughout the almost six years since her passing, I’ve never really been without a “mother.” My in-laws, ninangs, titas, cousins, friends, and even bosses, have always miraculously been there at the right moment, helping to mold and strengthen me. 

From London to Sydney, Pampanga, Pasig, and right next door, so many of them have gone out of their way to look out for me and my family, and I know I have my mother to thank for this. People always tell me that she was the person they ran to for advice, the one who would check up on them, and surprise them with a home-cooked meal—and they’d like nothing more than to pay it forward. It’s in this way that I know my Mama still looks out for me, sending me super women, her angels.