‘Heaven must have made her just for me’: Chito and Anna Sobrepeña share their blessing

How to have a strong family—a son’s tribute

Chito and Anna Sobrepena during their 40th wedding anniversary celebration June 1, 2024

Chito and Anna Sobrepena: ‘They continue to influence our lives just by the way they live and love’

Ain’t No Woman Like the One I’ve Got….

Heaven must have made her just for me

(That iconic hit from the ‘70s played as the video of photos Chito and Anna Sobrepeña culled from over four decades was watched by family and longtime friends at the Grand Hyatt ballroom last June 1. Anna introduced the video as some sort of tribute not only to their 40-year-old marriage whose anniversary they were celebrating that night, but most especially an R&B paean to Chito. Yet the lyrics alone could have come right out of the lips of Chito as a tribute to Anna—‘Heaven must have made her just for me.’

For that was how Chito and Anna have regarded each other this whole lifetime—made by God just for each other. It’s a blessing any man or woman could hope for.

That was reflected in the sharing of Fr. Herbert Schneider, SJ, and Fr. Tito Caluag at Mass before the reception, and in the honorings of the children of Chito and Anna later at the dinner reception—Gab and wife Gen, Raf and wife Kay, only daughter Mica and husband Joash Llaneza.

The gathering saw the attendance of leading businessmen and political leaders. Yet in the midst of this A-List attendance, it was apparent how the heaven made the evening just for Chito and Anna.—Editor)

Chito and Anna Sobrepena (center) with their children, now with families of their own: from left Mica and Joash, Gab and Gen with daughter Galilee, Raf and Kay

Growing up, I always thought that all parents were like mine. Dad was the hardworking, goal-oriented family man. He started his day early, did his daily prayers, took a small breakfast, and blessed each of us before we left for school. As a child, I believed he went to the office so he could earn to ably provide for us, his family. Later I found out that he actually liked to work. His work in government was meaningful to him. He felt he could contribute to improving the lives of our countrymen.

I heard stories about my dad being a student activist in the early seventies who joined demonstrations advocating for farmers to be given the land they were tilling. He was a student volunteer of the Federation of Free Farmers, and went to different schools and universities to explain the plight of the agricultural workers. Dad grew up in the province and was exposed to the difficulties faced by the farmers there. Their family had considerable land which they would lose if the land reform law was passed. My lolo and lola were not happy about this involvement, and warned he would lose his inheritance if continued to fight for the farmers’ cause. He said that the land had been good to them, and so it was time to share.

He joined government after graduating cum laude from the Ateneo with a degree in Political Science and joined the National Economic and Development Authority. Dad started at the bottom as a researcher and volunteered for the poorest region then, which was Leyte—Samar. He was living out the Ateneo credo of being a man for others.

When he joined Metrobank after 23 years in government, he continued to do the kind of development work that was close to his heart. I saw the same energy he had given in his previous work as he steered the Metrobank Foundation. He would go to the office on Saturdays so he could work uninterrupted by meetings or phone calls.

Yet dad never sacrificed quality time with our family. He would come home and still have the energy to play “kumot,” a modified hide-and-seek game using a blanket. Every week he would take each of us on a one-to-one. It was our bonding time. We would talk about what was happening to us in school, or would bring us to eat our favorite foods.

When he became the Cabinet Secretary in the Office of the President during Mrs. Cory Aquino’s administration, we couldn’t go on long vacations so he found ways to spend fun times with us. I remember swimming with him many times. He would race with me and let me win. Even if he had a lot of responsibilities, I never felt he was ever away from us.

Mom, on the other hand, was our nurturer. In my books, she took the word caring to a whole new level. She thought of different ways to shower us three kids with her love. She would be three steps ahead to have everything we needed for school and our extracurricular activities. Even if she didn’t cook, she made sure Manang prepared the food we liked. She bought our clothes so that we were properly dressed, and tutored us when we needed help with schoolwork.

Mom was a football mom when I was on the team, and our number one fan whenever my brother Gab and I joined basketball tournaments. After awhile, I actually banned her from watching our games as she would get mad when the players of the other team got extra physical with me. I knew she didn’t want us to get hurt. Mom was also my protector. I felt very secure whenever I was with my mom. Sometimes classmates teased me about being a mama’s boy. I didn’t care. I was proud and I am still proud to be my mom’s son.

 My parents were a perfect team. Dad was a role model, a good provider who taught us to live simply and care for our fellowmen. Mom was the nurturer

My parents were a perfect team. Dad was a role model, a good provider who taught us to live simply and care for our fellowmen. Mom was the nurturer who brought comfort, encouragement and helped us develop our talents and skills.

The dynamics of their marriage and our family changed when my mom started working just when most people were thinking of retiring. Her joining the publishing industry showed me that it was never too late to do what you love. She was an award-winning writer who not only told amazing stories but also could bring the most unlikely people together and make things happen.

It was during the time that she was doing magazine work as editor in chief that I witnessed how my dad fully supported mom. What she did for us, he did for her. He allowed her to spread her wings. Dad knew what mom was capable of, and he didn’t hold her back. Instead, he became her biggest fan. I recall him sharing with amusement that it used to be he was introduced as “Chito Sobrepena, president of the Metrobank Foundation and his wife, Anna Sobrepena.” When mom started working, he became Chito, husband of Anna Sobrepeña. He was so proud of her.

After Mass celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, Anna and Chito (4th, 5th from left), with their children and Mass celebrate: from left, Joash Llaneza with Mica, Fr. Herbert Schneider, SJ, Fr. Tito Caluag, Raf and Kay Sobrepena, granddaughter Galilee with her parents Gab and Gen Sobrepena

Now 40 years and counting, I realized more and more that not all parents are like mine. I have a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a team. I am beyond blessed to have them as my mentors, coaches, and protectors. They are the role models for the person I want to be, a husband and father who can raise a family the way they did.

My wife Kay and I got married on June 3, the same date my parents did 40 years ago. If the date is any indicator of a successful marriage, we’re off to a good start. They celebrate 40, and my wife and I celebrate our very first!

I need to add that not all parents are like mine because of a very important foundation in their lives. They always had Christ at the center of their lives. Throughout our growing years and into adulthood, they made it very clear that God’s way was the only way to go and that He would help us follow His lead towards our best lives. My parents are praying people and I believe that our household was always blessed and surrounded by angels.

The author and wife Kay

I thank my dad and mom for showing me by their lives how to lead a family, love my wife, and fulfill the roles needed for a successful marriage. Their relationship and commitment to each other have deeply affected who I am and who I strive to be. They continue to influence our lives just by the way they live and love.

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