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    Raising Strong Women feat. VP Leni Robredo Between Us Queens podcast

    Raising Strong Women feat. VP Leni Robredo Between Us Queens podcast

    Hosts: Pia Wurtzbach, Carla Lizado, Bianca Guidotti

    PIA WURTZBACH: Our special guest for today is a true queen, a strong woman, and mother who has done an amazing job raising three smart, independent, and compassionate daughters. Joining us today is VP Leni Robredo.

    HOSTS: Hello!

    VP LENI: Hi, Pia! Hi, Bianca! Hi, Carla! Thank you for having me.

    PIA WURTZBACH: Thank you for, you know, giving us the honor of having you on Between Us Queens and saying yes to this invitation. We’re so excited to speak to you. Wala, kilig kami. [chuckles]

    BIANCA GUIDOTTI: Kilig na kinakabahan! [laughs]

    CARLA LIZARDO: Ma’am Leni, we wanted to ask the same question because, you know, you are an inspiration to a lot of young women and ikaw, growing up, what was your definition of a strong woman and was there any specific person that you looked up to?

    VP LENI: Ako, I have a lot. And iyong definition kasi natin ng strong women changes over time, ‘di ba. It always depends on the circumstances around us. Pero sa akin, siguro iyong summation lang, iyong summation actually: iyong strong woman is somebody who has gone through life’s struggles and hurdles already, but iyong measure ng strength is how she responded to all those difficulties and has maximized whatever little is given to here to do good to others, to the community she is in, to humanity as a whole.

    PIA WURTZBACH: Grabe po, koronahan na po ng Miss Universe si Ma’am Leni! [laughter] Grabe, I completely agree with that and I love that we’re highlighting the fact that women—strong women—really are those who have gone through difficult circumstances and sometimes we negate that.

    I just wanted to ask naman, Ma’am Leni, what do you think is the best part of being a mom?


    VP LENI: Oh my god. Ano, alam mo, come to think of it, now that the children are grown, it is difficult to decide which are the best parts. Kasi again, at every stage of our lives together, iba-iba siguro iyong sagot. Halimbawa, ‘di ba, baby pa iyong mga anak ko, siguro the best part was when they stopped waking up every hour at night when they are feeding, or ‘di ba, parang there are a lot of very good parts that it’s difficult to identify just one. When they first turned over, when they start walking or saying their first word, tapos the hugs and the kisses that you get from them. Kapag nagsu-school na iyong mga anak, siyempre when they do good in school, it’s actually the best for mothers. When they’re growing up, when you see them achieving their own dreams. Pero alam mo, when I look back, it’s not really the big achievements, eh. It’s the series of small steps. It’s the series of small steps and alam mo, iyon iyong masarap, eh. Parang all the big achievements really pale in comparison to the very simple and everyday activities that you do with your children. So para sa akin, iyon iyong best part.


    PIA WURTZBACH: Yeah, there’s really so much more about iyong growth nila as a whole, ano, and… I wanna ask you din also, Ma’am Leni, that seeing your daughters and how they’ve grown, what are you most proud of as their mother?


    VP LENI: Ako, I’m most proud of the fact that they became the kind of people we prayed they would become. They are the children that, parang they have grown into people that we wished for. Pero alam mo iyong pinakamasarap na marinig sa isang nanay, when other people say na, “Napakabait naman ng anak mo,” o “Napakamaayos naman ng anak mo.” It’s an acknowledgment that you did good as a mom. You know, when other people acknowledge na “napakamaayos naman na anak,” parang it’s really the best part of being a mom.


    CARLA LIZARDO: That’s true. It’s really more about the character and how amazing they turned out. I’m sure those are really good moments for you whenever people say that. Ma’am Leni, given that it’s such a long journey being a mom and we’ve talked about, you know, the different stages that you guys have been through as mother and your daughters, what are some of the most challenging parts naman looking back?


    VP LENI: Hay nako, marami—when they get sick. Alam mo kapag nagkakasakit iyong mga anak, ang pinagdadasal mo lagi na, “sana ako na lang” kasi it’s the worst part. Especially when they were still little, when they get sick, parang we feel so helpless, iyon iyong isa.


    Tapos iyon, when you have to balance between working, studying. Kasi ako, when I took up Law, when I went to law school, I was already a mother. So iyong pagbabalanse, I was working full-time during the day, I was going to law school at night. How to spend time with my children despite the fact that I was very busy at the time, napakahirap noon.


    When the plane crash happened, walang papalit kasi I have three daughters. I don’t know with you guys pero sa amin, iyong mga anak ko, siguro dahil mga babae, sobrang close talaga sa tatay. And when the plane crash happened, it was so difficult for me to [take on] the role of both the father and the mother. Hindi iyong trabaho pero the fact that I know that whatever effort is exerted into being a good father and a mother, I would never be able to take the part of their dad in their lives. So iyon, iyon iyong mahirap.


    PIA WURTZBACH: I’m sure there are also difficulties in raising three daughters and being a single mom. Would you say, Ma’am Leni, that you were a protective mother?


    VP LENI: Not at all. Not at all, Pia. Ano ako, I think I trusted my kids too much. When my eldest daughter went to Manila, the four of us—her Dad, ako, tapos two daughters—were still in the province. So siya lang iyong nandito. She went to Ateneo and then stayed in a dorm. Naalala ko the first few months she was a dormer, she was asking me, “Mama, ano iyong curfew ko?” So I was telling her, “Curfew? Wala ka namang curfew. Basta ko alam ko lang nasaan ka, huwag kang magta-taxi na mag-isa.” Wala pa noong Grab, alam mo iyon, wala pang Uber. Tapos later on, long after she graduated from college, she was telling me, “Alam mo, Mama, when I was still in the dorm when I asked you, ako lang sa group of friends ko iyong walang curfew.” Pero alam mo, I never had any problems with her. Alam mo iyon, walang—not just with her but with the two other daughters. So I think, iyong pinaka-lesson as a mother, parang, it’s not what you teach but when your children assimilate the person that you are, eh.


    PIA WURTZBACH: Definitely. And another question that I have, you were saying that you did spend a lot of time, you know, away with your children while studying and everything. Did you feel any pressure? Did you feel guilty? And how did your husband support you in doing that?


    VP LENI: Ako, I am lucky that my husband was very, very supportive. Ako, I married young, eh. I married 22 [years old]. And when my husband was asking for my hand in marriage, iyong Daddy ko sabi sa kaniya, “Hindi pa puwedeng mag-asawa iyong anak ko kasi she will be going to law school and she will become a lawyer.” So my husband promised my Dad na, “promise po, Dad, kahit mag-asawa na kami, I will make sure that she will be a lawyer.” And you know, when you’re married already, I was working full-time during the day, tapos when the children started coming, there were a lot of times that I wanted to quit law school. Kasi ang feeling ko, masyado akong makasarili. I was pursuing my personal ambitions and ang nasasakripisyo iyong mga anak ko, pero iyong asawa ko iyong hindi pumapayag. Siya iyong hindi pumapayag na mag-quit ako ng law school. So sinasabi niya, “para hindi ka masyadong ma-guilty, kapag wala ka, ako iyong magse-step in.” He was mayor of the city at that time. He was busy—most of the time, I was the one doing the supporting role. But when I needed to be out, some days during the week we go to the communities, hindi rin aalis iyong asawa ko. Kapag kailangan niyang mag-opisina, nandoon iyong mga bata sa opisina tapos may inner room siya doon na doon naglalaro. When they were babies, dala nila iyong kanilang milk bottles, mga toys, habang nag-oopisina siya. So I think, it only became possible because my husband was very supportive. Kasi siguro kung hindi very supportive iyong asawa ko, iyong guilt would have—parang I would have decided not to pursue law school anymore, eh.


    CARLA LIZARDO: I love that! You know, we talk about relationship a lot in our podcast and iyon iyong lagi naming sinasabi na there are the things that you look for in a life partner, na someone who will step up. Kasi normally, ‘di ba, traditionally, dapat iyong babae iyong maggi-give up ng kaniyang career, ng mga gusto niyang gawin, especially when the children are there na kasi iyon iyong expected focus. I think that’s such a beautiful point to make, na it’s really a partnership and ang daming ma-a-achieve ng husband and wife individually as long as you have the good partnership.


    VP LENI: You will spend many years together. And it’s not always na ikaw iyong supporting role. Darating iyong time na iyong partner mo naman iyong kailangang sumoporta sa iyo. So I think iyong mindset ganoon lang: “Ngayon, ako iyong umaalalay pero kapag ikaw naman iyong nangailangan na may umaalalay sa iyo, I’d be willing to step up.”


    PIA WURTZBACH: I think that iyong support system na ganoon played a role in how you raised your daughters. Kasi if you’re supported in a relationship and you feel like, “Kaya ko naman i-balance things. I don’t have to give up my schooling or my career.” And then siyempre, that gets passed on with the way you raise your children also. We’ll know more about balancing, work, and motherhood after this break.


    [commercial break]


    PIA WURTZBACH: So there’s a notion that it becomes really difficult to balance work and duties and you have been able to do an amazing job at both. What advice would you give women who are listening right now maybe worrying about giving up their career?


    VP LENI: Ako kasi, guilt is real. Guilt is real and you just have to acknowledge it. But at the same time, you also look at the big picture. Kasi I think when their mom is successful, there’s a greater possibility also that your children would strive to be the kind of woman that you are, ‘di ba. Kasi halimbawa, ako, I’m a woman and I raised three girls and I think one of the reasons iyong mga anak ko are also driven is the fact that they saw me—they saw me when they were growing up. They saw me balance—wear many hats and balance all the things that I have been doing without giving up one or the other. Life is like that. You can’t have it all. You always have, you know, it’s always a push and pull. Talagang every day is a balancing act and parating big picture iyong tinitingnan.


    Ako, I always tell my staff here at the Office of the Vice President na iyong Power of the Long Game, parati mong iisipin why are you doing these things and para kanino? Kasi paminsan kapag iyong tinitingnan mo lang iyong now, parang walang value iyong sacrifice, ‘di ba. But when you look farther away down the road, you will realize that the sacrifices now would be worth it. Para sa akin, you only have 24 hours in a day. So ito iyong mga mahahalaga. Halimbawa, when my eldest was growing up, iyong sinasabi ko—I was teaching Econ, eh. I was teaching Econ during the day as a full-time professor. Alam mo noong toddler na iyong anak ko, dinadala ko siya sa classroom ko. Dinadala ko siya sa classroom ko. Naka-uniform din siya. She was two, three years old, nakaupo siya sa pinakalikod. And then kapag nagsastart na akong magsulat sa board, minsan pupunta rin siya magsusulat. Parang you try to find ways, eh, pero you adjust. So kami, matter of priorities. May mga yaya naman iyong mga bata but we felt that quality time is not enough. Iyong quantity time is also required. So kami, every opportunity that we can bring them with us, we bring them. And I think it paid off.


    BIANCA GUIDOTTI: It’s very obvious and, you know, how successful your daughters and I love what you said that quality time is not enough. Na quantity time also is a factor. And you said that there were sacrifices that had to be made. Are there sacrifices that you’ve had to make that you still have to think about now? Like, what was the most difficult thing you’ve had to sacrifice because of being a mom and someone with a powerful career?


    VP LENI: You know, I took up Law, I think, seven years. And the reason why it took me that long was, halimbawa—my husband was a politician, and every time it would be election year, you know, I would file for a leave of absence from school kasi gustong sabihin, my husband won’t have time to, you know, make tutok with the kids kasi nagkakampanya siya. So ako, every time may eleksyon, I would take a year off. I think during the entire time I was in law school, twice akong nag-take ng year off because of the elections. So ayon, instead of taking up Law for four years, I took it seven because you know, I have to prioritize being a wife also and being a mother. When things got very busy, hindi na ako nag-full-time, part-time na lang. There were trips that I would decide not to take because it would be in conflict with the schedule of my husband. And we always, parang we promised ourselves that at least one of us will always be with the children. Kasi naalala ko when we weren’t yet married, my husband was thinking of running for public office. Sobrang ayaw ko. Sobrang ayaw ko because my greatest fear then that because of the environment that we will be in, we will not be able to mold our children into the kind of people we hoped that we would be. So I think, it helped that because I was able to express my fears, my husband and I were able to talk about it.


    Ako, tingin ko kasi, I was lucky that when my children were growing, we lived in a province. I think it’s more difficult here in Manila. My husband had a rule that all meals—all the three meals in a day—would be taken together. So however busy we were, kapag nasa Naga kami lahat, lahat kami magkakasabay. So in Manila, it’s difficult because of traffic, so I think you adjust. You adapt to whatever situation you are in.


    Pero siguro iyong assurance lang sa mga mothers na okay lang iyan, motherhood should not hinder you from pursuing your dreams and improving yourself. Kasi para sa akin, you would be a better wife and a better mother if you are happy with yourself. Kasi kung aburido ka, madadala mo iyon sa pamilya, eh.


    BIANCA GUIDOTTI: I’m sure po—I think the key po talaga is you and your husband talk about it beforehand. He didn’t assume that you were going to take all the sacrifice. You also didn’t assume. You talked about it. You hashed it out. You made sure it was equal. And I think that’s such a great advice for me. I just got married. I’m just about to start a family or at least you know, thinking about it. And minsan, hindi mo naiisip na these are things that you have to communicate with your partner explicitly. As in sit down and talk about it. How we’re going to be and the kids like. How are we gonna divide responsibilities. And super inspiring.


    VP LENI: Alam mo, Bianca, it was not that ideal, eh. Kasi I’ll be very honest with you, ang sinabi ko sa asawa ko, “kapag kumandidato ka, iiwanan kita.” [laughter] Iyong asawa ko iyong nagsabi na, “Sige, pag-usapan natin. Ano ba sa pulitika iyong ayaw mo?” So ako, nagsabi na ako na halimbawa, nagsabi ako na iyong nakikita kong mga pulitiko are not very good husbands. [laughs] Sinabi ko iyon sa kaniya. Sinabi ko ano iyong mga nakikita ko na children of politicians who are so entitled. I didn’t want that to happen to my children. I remember, my husband was seven years older than I was, eh. So mas mature na siya, ako batang-bata pa. What do we know at 22, ‘di ba? [laughs]


    PIA WURTZBACH: Yeah, I didn’t know anything until I was—[laughs]


    CARLA LIZARDO: We’re really trying to pick up all these lessons kasi wala pa kaming mga anak but you know, we’re at that age where malapit na rin.


    VP LENI: Pero alam mo, alam mo, I think, Carla, iyong pinaka-lesson ko, i-a-assert mo iyong gusto mo, eh. You have to assert, especially the things that are important to you. Huwag ka lang amend nang amend. It’s not that I’m saying that, you know, you have to compete with your husband. It’s not that. Pero I think it is very important for us, for our husbands to, you know, to understand our non-negotiables. Kasi minsan contributory din tayo na mga babae kasi kung ano iyong gusto ng partner—I think it’s cultural, eh. I think it’s cultural. Na parang kung anong gusto ng partner, oo lang nang oo and we don’t realize that we’re already becoming unhappy, ‘di ba. Kasi pangit na maging unhappy iyong wife, eh. ‘Di ba may kasabihan na happy wife is a happy life?


    HOSTS: Yes. [laughter]


    VP LENI: It’s very true! It’s very true. So I think when wives are happy with themselves, they really become better wives and better mothers.


    CARLA LIZARDO: Now that we’re on that topic of culture, Ma’am Leni, I wanna throw this out because it’s our chance to ask for advice: I feel like the Philippines still has a long way to go when it comes to women equality. So, very ano pa, eh, very patriarchal pa iyong society and of course there are a lot of male dominated fields. I work in sportscasting, of course, politics as well. Ano ba iyong advice na mabibigay mo to young women out there who are trying to break through that glass ceiling?


    VP LENI: Ako, number one kasi we begin by acknowledging, eh. By acknowledging that there is really a glass ceiling that we must shatter. Kasi kapag walang acknowledgment doon, parang tine-take in na lang natin, eh, na talagang mas superior ang lalaki sa babae, so ako iyong babae, ako iyong susunod. And I think it’s what’s really wrong, eh. Kasi ako, just to give you an example, when I was a practicing lawyer, I specialized in family laws, so I had a lot of cases na violence against women and most of the cases are domestic violence. And you know, sometimes we would rescue battered women, dadalhin namin minsan—paminsan sa bahay pa namin—and then kapag ni-rescue mo galit na galit iyong wives sa mga asawa, “Hindi na talaga ako babalik sa kaniya”, etc. etc. “Magfa-file na talaga ako ng mga kaso so that I would have custody of the children.” Ako naman puyat na puyat, ginawa ko iyong kaso, tapos kapag nagkaroon ng hearing hindi sisipot. Tapos hindi siya sisipot na hindi man lang nagsabi kung ano tapos makikita mo—our city is very small—makikita mo sa mall, very sweet na naman with the abuser. Alam mo iyon, you can’t blame her. You can’t blame her. Una, it’s cultural. Number [two], wala nang self-esteem, eh. Most battered wives feel that, alam mo iyon, dependent sila on the husband. Sasabihin nila na “sinuyo naman ako” or “nag-promise naman na”—


    CARLA LIZARDO: Nag-sorry naman.


    VP LENI: Oo, “nag-sorry naman”. It’s a cycle, eh. And then it happens again. So sa akin, that experience helped me a lot when I was a politician already after my husband died. I was in Congress and now as VP. Most of our programs on women empowerment are really centered on economic empowerment. Kasi para sa akin, walang saysay iyong tuturuan mo sila about gender equality—alam mo iyon, iyong mga workshop workshop—kung hindi sila economically independent. If they are not earning, napakababa ng self-esteem. Kasi iyong kultura natin does not give any value to house work, does not give any value to taking care of children at home. Iyong mga stay-at-home moms are looked down upon by society.


    So iyong sa akin, iyong recognition that there is a glass ceiling we must shatter. Kasi I think, iyon iyong magche-change ng mindset na—basta sa akin, parating iyong kampanya: how do we empower women? How do we strengthen the self-esteem of the women we’re helping? Kasi if they don’t have that confidence, mahirap, eh. Mahirap to talk about women empowerment. Mahirap to talk about gender equality. Parang para sa akin, you have to teach them that through their gut, eh. Ano ba iyong gut issue? Iyong gut issue for them is will they be able to fend for themselves? Will they be able to fend for their children? Kapag may violence na kinommit sa kaniya, she would have the capacity to break free. And sa akin, hindi natin ine-encourage na hiwalayan nila iyong asawa nila. Pero I think, when they have that self-confidence early on, they would be able to assert themselves already. Para sa akin, when our partners see that we respect ourselves, we earn their respect as well. Pero when you allow yourself to be in an abusive situation, it only becomes worse, eh, kasi nawawala iyong respeto.


    PIA WURTZBACH: Grabe, so, so much good advice. We’ll hear more from Ma’am Leni when we return.


    [commercial break]


    PIA WURTZBACH: Okay, wow, I’m trying to absorb everything. I love the advice that you’re giving us, and grabe, ladies, kayo ba, may mga gusto pa ba kayong tanungin pa before we ask some final messages from Ma’am Leni?


    CARLA LIZARDO: Ako, I just want to ask, just to wrap things up, for all the moms that are listening or iyong mga moms to be, para sa iyo, Ma’am Leni: what are some of the most important, you know, bits of advice na kailangan ma-impart ng mom to a daughter?


    VP LENI: Ako, iyon, parang let us bear in mind that if we wanted our daughters to be somebody else—hindi somebody else, but to be the persons we want them to become—we have to show them the way. We can’t just preach [to] them kasi walang saysay iyong preaching, eh. Kasi ang experience ko talaga, children assimilate what they see more than what they hear. So even as you preach [to] them every day, if they don’t see you practicing what you preach, wala rin.


    And iyong strength, you know our children will only get their strength from us. Kasi halimbawa, ang pinaka-example doon, when my husband died, it was a very, very sudden death kasi plane crash nga. Ako, siyempre sa akin, iyong feeling ko gumuho iyong mundo ko, ‘di ba. Gumuho iyong mundo ko. My husband was the center of our lives. Pero I think the one thing that gave my children strength is they didn’t see me crumble. Iyong para sa akin, nakita naman nila akong umiyak pero para sa akin, iyong mindset, “ano na iyong dapat nating gawin? Ngayon na nawala iyong Dad niyo, ano na iyong susunod?” Iyong instead of magkukulong sa kuwarto, wallowing in grief, parang they never saw that in me. So I think iyon din iyong naging source of strength nila and for mothers, lahat naman tayo walang perfect life, eh.


    Wala ring perfect marriage. Kahit iyong tingin ng iba napakaganda ng marriage ko, iba lang iyong problema ko siguro sa iba. Iyong problema ko siguro noon siyempre iyong asawa ko pulitiko and maraming [technical lag] na beyond our control. Pero iyong pinaka-lesson doon, the things we had control over, inayos namin. So I think for everyone ganoon din, gaano man kasimple iyong buhay—iyong sa akin, I think sa inyo, halimbawa nakikita ko kasi you’re celebrities. You’re celebrities so para sa akin, dapat ano iyon, eh, dapat iyong mga husbands should be confident with themselves. Kasi ano iyon, eh, iyong cultural dictates mahirap. And we can’t close our eyes on what’s real. And I think, ganoon din ako. Ako tingin ko looking back, my husband was a politician, siyempre sa local very popular, ako siguro, ako, kung nag-stay home lang ako, ang dami kong insecurities. Alam mo iyon, siguro nina-nag ko iyong asawa ko kasi ang dami kong insecurities. Pero busy rin ako. Wala naman akong time mag-nag sa kaniya. And I was happy with what I was doing. So I think ganoon lang naman iyon. Ganoon lang naman iyon.


    Sa akin, very important iyong self-care. Very important iyong self-care. Very important that if we’re mothers already, we still get to do what we want to do. And when I say this, I don’t mean it in a bad way. Hindi naman siya sinasabi na kung gusto kong tumambay nang tumambay at makipag-inuman sa barkada ko, hindi iyon, kasi hindi siya compensatory sa time that I’m away from my children. Pero if I use the time away from my children to develop myself, I think it’s worth the time that I’m away from them. So parang, alam mo iyon, it’s always a give-and-take. Iyong stages ng life iba-iba. Kapag nag-aasawa kayo, parang pareho kayo nagsisimula pa lang ng bagong chapter. So ang pinaka… ang pinaka-sikreto lang siguro that you are able to adapt kasi iyong buhay hindi siya straight line. Iyong buhay hindi siya straight line. So nakakapag-adapt tayo sa mga push and pull around us.


    BIANCA GUIDOTTI: Okay. I just have to make sure I got this down because I really think I need to apply this to my life. So one, we have to be assertive. Two, we have to be able to adapt. And then, the third one is being an example is the best teacher. Ayon, so, grabe.


    PIA WURTZBACH: Thank you, thank you, Ma’am Leni, for this, for all that you shared with us. Sobrang ganda ng mga advice and it’s really an honor to talk to you, for you to be able to lend your time with us and saying yes to this invitation. Sobrang thank you talaga.


    VP LENI: Ako magpapasalamat. Thank you for having me. Medyo nagulat nga na kayong tatlo pala iyong kausap ko. Sabi ko, hindi man lang ako nakapag-ayos ng maa—[laughs]—kasi I’m at the office now pero thank you for having me and thank you also for bringing honor to our country. Hindi ko alam, Pia, if you still recall, I was the one who asked you when you were—[laughs]


    PIA WURTZBACH: I wanted to mention it. Like hahanapan ko ng moment to mention it ngayon but I do remember you asked my final question at Binibing Pilipinas the year I won. Yes! [laughter]


    CARLA LIZARDO: Full circle!


    PIA WURTZBACH: I’m now asking you questions! [laughter]


    VP LENI: Kaya sobrang nag-cheer ako sa iyo sa Miss Universe.


    PIA WURTZBACH: Thank you so much.


    VP LENI: Pero thank you to all of you for making us proud. Thank you for being an honor to the country.


    HOSTS: Thank you!


    CARLA LIZARDO: We all needed that right now. [laughs]


    BIANCA GUIDOTTI: Ma’am Leni said we’ll be okay. I feel it. [laughs]


    PIA WURTZBACH: It’s really comforting especially when it’s coming from you. Maraming, maraming salamat!




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    Posted in Transcripts on May 21, 2021