Four amazing mothers—Socorro Ramos, Xandra Ramos-Padilla, Amber Smith Folkman, Chary Mercado—tell My Pope about their hopes, challenges, struggles, and what they hold dearest to their hearts, proving that there’s no one formula for motherhood.
NANAY TO ALL
Socorro Ramos, 95, or Nanay Coring as she is fondly called, is known as the matriarch of National Book Store. She has three children, nine grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren!
My Pope: What is the difference between being a mother, grandmother, and great- grandmother?
Socorro Ramos: It was a dream of mine to have 26 kids so I could complete the alphabet and name them from A to Z, but I am blessed with three wonderful children in Alfred, Ben, and Cecile. They are my fulfillment. My husband Jose and I strove hard and did our very best to provide for their needs.
When I had my first grandchild, I was overjoyed. At that time, our business was already quite stable, and we were not struggling from political and social pressures. I was given more time to be a grandmother and oversee the kids, although I was also on top of the business.
It is a blessing for me to reach the age of 95 and it’s really my happiness to be a great- grandmother to 14 kids. I’d like to believe this is a rare privilege as not everyone is given the opportunity.
“My advice to mothers is that
they raise their kids to live as simply
and humbly as possible.”
MP: What life lessons did motherhood teach you?
SR: I have lived my life trying to raise my family and earn a living. My dream was very simple and that was to give the best education to my children. But fate led me somewhere else and we had National Book Store to take care of. Motherhood is a challenge when you are also expected to take care of a business with hundreds of people relying on you. But being a mother is always and should always be a priority.
MP: What is your advice to the mothers of the next generation?
SR: I’d like to believe I live a simple life. I always tell people that I am a tindera. I am not fond of being called Ma’am and would rather be called Nanay, and I want my children, grandchildren and my great-grandchildren to remain as simple as possible. So my advice to mothers is that they raise their kids to live as simply and humbly as possible. I’ve always made sure our younger generations—the grandchildren and great-grandchildren—don’t act spoiled. I want them to work hard. I don’t want them to expect that they will inherit money. Walang señorito. Walang señorita.
• • •
Xandra Ramos-Padilla, 45, is proudly following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Nanay Coring. She is the managing director of National Book Store and president of Anvil Publishing. She is also mom to two kids, ages 10 and eight.
My Pope: How do you balance the demands of motherhood with the demands of your career?
Xandra Ramos-Padilla: It’s all about scheduling your day to have adequate time for the different activities and priorities you have at home and at work. As a mother and a leader, I make my schedule flexible enough so I can attend school activities like parent-teacher conferences as well as official business and events for work that require my presence. It is very important for me to be there during the different milestones of my family and of National Book Store. Leading an organization is an everyday challenge but with a team of excellent directors and managers, we are able to manage and overcome these. I try to be fully present when coaching the management team and meeting with business partners. I end each day with exchanging stories with my kids and my husband Mark about our days, whether over dinner or before bedtime. Connecting with them after a busy day brings me back to the wonderful feeling of being a mother and a wife.
MP: How do you build a strong relationship with your children, given your busy schedule?
XRP: On a daily basis, I have breakfast with them before I send them off to school. I also talk to them at different times of the day—after school or before their next activities. Moreover, I make arrangements for playdates and tutors, and buy the stuff they need for school. On a weekly basis, we try to do a date with each one, which could either be eating at their favorite restaurant or hangout, shopping at their favorite stores, or watching a new movie. On weekends, we have a sleepover but my older one is starting to prefer to stay in her room. It’s also good to pray together and read together when we can. Every Sunday, we hear mass together. We try to create memorable experiences together as much as possible.
MP: What words of wisdom has your lola shared with you about motherhood?
XRP: Her mantra has always been Sipag at Tiyaga and that not only reflects her views on business but also on family and raising kids. She never really tried to have it all but in the process of building National Book Store and raising her three kids, she not only became a successful entrepreneur but a beloved Nanay to everyone, not only to her immediate family, but also to many employees, authors, and people whose lives she has touched. Motherhood is indeed both hard work and perseverance. Raising a family and being a mother is no easy feat for any woman but the unconditional love that you feel for your children eases away all the difficulty in it. I try to become a loving mother to my kids as well as a loving mother and mentor to my National Book Store family.
• • •
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Amber Smith Folkman, 33, chronicles her family’s life and adventures at amommabroad.com. Her family relocated to the Philippines from Seattle in 2009. She is a mom to three boys: Aaker, 7, Oz, 5, and Wells, 3.
My Pope: As a California native, can you tell us how it’s been like raising three boys in Manila?
Amber Smith Folkman: It is like raising boys anywhere—loud, dirty, and a little stinky. Joke lang! Having three boys in Manila is an adventure. The lesson my husband Jacob and I hope our sons take with them through life is that the world is so vast, and we are fortunate to experience a life here in Manila. Our culture at home is predominantly American, but everything else outside of it is Filipino in nature and I adore it. My heart soars when I hear my sons refer to any adult as kuya or ate; it is so endearing! And we all get excited whenever we hop on a jeepney.
MP: How has the Pinoy way of parenting influenced the way you are with your sons?
ASF: One of the aspects I love about Filipino culture is how children are so well-loved. Filipinos are generally kind to families, especially to those with young children. I love that playdates often include the younger siblings, too. I have also fallen in love with how prepared Filipino parents are with regards to food. Children always have awesome packed lunches, snacks, water bottles—plus that sweat towel and an extra change of shirt. In America, we don’t bring an extra change of clothes! I have also become accustomed to having a yaya, and I am so grateful for ours—Ate Chanda. I really feel that Chanda is my ate and guardian angel. It is so nice to be a full-time mom and have an extra set of hands.
“My heart soars when I hear my sons
refer to any adult as Kuya or Ate;
it is so endearing!”
MP: What are three things a mom should teach her sons?
ASF: The three values I would love to instill in my sons are:
1. Women and men are equals.
2. You can be funny but always be kind.
3. Don’t look at trials with sadness but with hope and opportunity to gain wisdom.
• • •
TUNAY NA INA
Chary Mercado, 48, is a consultant and mom to kids Lucas, 17, and Maya, 14.
My Pope: You are a strong advocate of adoption. Why did you chose this path to parenthood?
Chary Mercado: It really springs from the awareness that there are a lot of children who need families. My husband Lito and I did not have a biological need to reproduce mini-mes, so it seemed more logical to adopt when we felt ready to have children.
MP: When did you first feel like a mom?
CM: Even before I received my first child, I explained to my parents why my husband and I were adopting. In a letter, we acknowledged that there would be a lot of unknowns about our future child’s health and origins, but we were ready to do whatever it takes to help him grow into a happy, secure, and kind child. That decision to accept uncertainty is really at the heart of the parenthood commitment because there is no such thing as a perfect child.
MP: How do you help your kids and others understand adoption?
CM: I made my kids get used to hearing the word “adopted” even before they could fully understand what it meant. I wanted to rid it of the stigma or drama that older generations imbued into it. My children understand that we chose to be their parents, and there is something in the deliberateness of that choice that makes it even more special.
“My children understand that
we chose to be their parents.”
My husband and I declare whenever appropriate that our kids are adopted. This way, people know it is not something we are hiding. It also requires us to be advocates by correcting wrong terminology, such as when people ask if we know who “their real parents” are or if we have “tunay na anak” of our own. They are just referring to the child’s biological parents with this term, but by correcting them, we are showing that the adoptive parenting relationship is by no means fake. Our children are definitely our real kids and we are really their parents.
In the end, the best form of advocacy is in how we live our lives. If people see the benefit my children have given to me and my husband, and if they see that they thrive in our company, then I guess they will realize the beauty of adoption for themselves. It’s not about creating perfect children, or even producing kids who look like us. Rather, it is about the sum total of the four of us being more than the parts.