Becoming Mother V

September 24, 2020 | Share this article

“How did you become you?”

A question often asked by the youngest and newest talents during our regular Coffee with the CEO conversations, I listened and mused on this. How did I become me? Not “How did you build a category-leading, multi-awarded, and globally-recognized company in just five years after retiring twice?” Not, “How did you re-build companies?” Not, “How did you become a success?” How did you become you?

The Gen Zs and Millennials, who compose 80% of our talent team at IPG Mediabrands Philippines, which I head, often tell me that our talks are inspiring and that I should in fact be, an influencer–for me to share my stories to a bigger audience, to have a bigger platform to share my stories.

The general image of an influencer is that of a digital native, one that is a generation or two younger than most people my age. But it seems the universe heard the question and was eavesdropping on our sometimes silly, sometimes serious exchanges and presented me with this opportunity. So, here I am, up for the challenge, a new experience, a new journey.

How I became me or Mother V goes back to my roots, the foundation of my values, to the family that nurtured me, to the unique community that shaped me and the public education that strengthened me.

I was born in Baguio, a middle child among nine siblings with very young parents. Sandwiched by two older brothers and two sisters ahead of me with two younger girls and two boys after me, it was an interesting position.

You can say that I was born with four bosses leading me and later had four subordinates that I was trying to teach and care for. It was an ideal training ground for diplomacy, camaraderie, and responsibility. I was sometimes part of the more experienced, wiser older team and sometimes I would champion and coach the kids who also challenged me and reported me to my “bosses.” We had a built-in 360-degree feedback mechanism. The older ones often get the brunt of the blame from our parents for our misguided adventurisms, but we younger ones were sure to get our fair share of retribution, implemented behind our parents’ back. Empowerment and empathy were naturally developed. This is how I learned to be a follower first, then modelling and practicing my new lessons on the younger set.

Growing up, limited resources and chores were necessarily shared. Values, like responsibility were taught more by actions, not just words. The usual source of Filipino family pride of coming home with good grades and honors were no longer a novelty, not when all your older siblings have already done it before you and several times over. The metrics and value of trying harder, were unintentionally set. To be independent and not be a burden to anyone. Minimum requirements of responsibility, my first KPIs.

When we were young, our parents would always say “Don’t be like us, be better.” We learned, inherited, and practiced traits like grit, resiliency, and hard work. They showed us the value of never giving up so that nine growing children who seemed to be always hungry could be fed, clothed and sent to school all for a better future, a better us.

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