No filter with Aika, Tricia, Jillian Robredo

‘Important sa kanilang maging magaling kami, but ultimately, maging mabuti kaming tao’ —They talk about their parents and beyond politics

Tricia, Jillian, Aika Robredo: 'Wag mag hesitate na mag reach out to your friends or your family...Healthy to let it out' (Photo from OVP)

Vice President Robredo with daughters at the Office of the Vice President: ‘I don’t think Papa would’ve turned out to be the public servant that he was kung hindi si Mama yung partner niya’ (Photo from OVP)

A young Robredo family (Photo from OVP)

“True grit and values—with academics.”

That was how a guest once described the daughters of Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo at one dinner.

At that time, Robredo had been serving as the anti-drugs head of the administration, a task which many said was more of a frame-up, and she was asked what her young daughters thought of the perilous challenge. She said they were behind her because the fight against drugs was crucial— what had to be done had to be done. That was when the dinner table got wind of the courageous attitude of these girls so young yet were thrust into the limelight in 2012 when their father, Jesse Robredo, died in a plane crash as he was flying home to Naga from his work as Local Government and Interior secretary. Before his stint in DILG, he was known as the mayor (Naga City) who espoused servant leadership, and progressive and think-out-of-the-box governance.

Jessica Marie known as “Aika,” 33, is a graduate of Ateneo de Manila University (bachelor’s degree in Management Engineering) and finished her master’s degree in Public Administration at Harvard Kennedy School in 2018. She now works for an NGO. Janine Patricia or “Tricia,” 27, passed the Physician Licensure Examination in 2020. She is a graduate of Medicine at Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health with Master’s degree in Business Administration. She is a frontliner in the hospital. The youngest, Jillian Therese, 21, is in her senior year as scholar at New York University with a double major in Economics and Math.

If you get past this armor of academics, you’ll see three young women who are simple, down to earth, but cognizant of and quite firm about their values. They also have fun with friends—different sets of friends, given their age gaps. Obviously, they have been raised well by Jesse and Leni, and later on, Leni as a single mom who, you will read in this interview, no matter how busy she is, finds the time to help out with their school work.

This is because their mom is—in their words—very diligent in whatever she does, be it running the Office of the Vice President’s COVID response, learning Twitter, FB or IG, or guiding Jillian in her “Econ” study.

And—she’s “big on empowering people in whatever role she takes,” Aika says.

Despite the killer load of the vice presidency and now the campaign, Leni remains a hands-on mother: “Napaka grateful pa rin ako na hindi nawala ang presence niya  sa buhay namin,’’Jillian says.

Last week they gave an online interview to and its contributors, Law student Javier Vilchez and editor Luis Carlo San Juan. also got questions from chat groups.

From politics to looking for jobs to mental health, the Robredo daughters talk no filter. Can you each tell us what you do? Aika, What made you choose an NGO?

Aika: I’m the executive director of the Restart Micro-Enterprise Inc., a micro-finance nonprofit that focuses on most disasters’ livelihood recovery. Before graduate school, I worked in the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), on disaster management. When I got back after my Masters, I ended up in RestartME, initially to set up the NGO but now, it’s timely that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so the focus is disaster livelihood recovery.

Pre-pandemic, we usually came in after a typhoon or earthquake; we still have existing projects in Marawi, in the aftermath of the Marawi siege. Essentially, anything that causes economic disturbance for micro-entrepreneurs. Now COVID feels like an ongoing disaster, and our goal is to just help people get back on their feet, to help them normalize their business as start of recovery.

Tricia with the family pug Rocco (Photo from OVP)

Doctor Tricia?

Tricia: I still do regular duties, I just came from a duty last night—I still do ER work. Unfortunately, the hospital where I am working was kind of short-staffed. I really can’t leave to work for the campaign—I have responsibilities in the hospital.

Your specialization?

Tricia: I was supposed to start my training in internal medicine, but life happens so I have to delay that for a while…. Aside from hospital work, I’ve been doing research.

Jillian, what made you choose your course?

Jillian: Senior na ako at New York University (NYU), graduating in May. I’m doing a double major in Math and Econ (economics) so hectic pa rin. I’m not so set on my career path and I think mas general lang Econ and Math. Ever since, gusto ko yong Math. Si Mama Econ major so I think nakuha ko rin yung interest from her.

How often do you see your mom now?

Aika: Every night, we still try to wait for her so we can have dinner….Usually, early morning before she leaves and late at night when she gets home.

Have you come to terms with her decision? Jillian, your mom posted on FB that you were hardest hit by it. You all saw it coming because the demand for her to run was building up?

Jillian: I think simula nung nag-announce na siya, andyan na, wala rin kaming choice but to support. I think nakatulong din na sobrang daming positive feedback and reactions on social media. Yung isa sa kinakatakutan ko, the last five years in my head at least, the majority ayaw talaga kay Mama. Pag sumabak siya sa laban, medyo mauubos ang energy naming lahat. I guess, seeing everyone that day wearing pink na talagang nag-aabang nung speech niya made it easier to accept, easier to plunge into the campaign.

Tricia: Kami po kasi ni Ate Aiks, yung kwento niyang sabay-sabay kami kumain. As the events were happening, we’d text each other. In essence, we were updated kung anong nangyayari in the unification talks.

‘This was not the way we envisioned the end of 2021 and the start of 2022 to be’—Tricia

Not necessarily that we saw it coming, but we saw the possibility of it happening. So when it was time for my mom to finally decide, she didn’t have to tell us explicitly that she wants to run. We basically understood na yun yung mangyayari. But of course, up until the last minute, we were hoping na hindi siya mangyari. This was not the way we envisioned the end of 2021 and the start of 2022 to be. Natanggap na lang po namin, at katulad po ng sinabi ni Jillian, nakakatulong talaga to see the outpouring of support. Alam naming na hindi kami alone sa laban na ‘to. Malaking tulong po talaga iyon. I guess, now that we’re here, feeling ko all in na rin naman kami.

We’re not going to leave our respective classes or work, but then when my mom needs us, we will try to be available.

Aika: I think, that’s also the compromise, Mama’s deal with all of us—minimal disruptions in what we are doing. It really helped us a lot to see a lot of people feel that they have a big stake in this campaign. At least from our point of view, I hope we don’t see it as a personality (issue), or just Leni Leni. But it’s what she represents, and it just so happened that she’s the face of this campaign. What we are hoping (to see), this is really ours. It is not just hers. It’s all of us, it’s seeing people participate in this early part of the campaign…. It’s seeing our social media turn pink and seeing how invested our friends are. Malaking bagay sa amin, it really gives (us) a lot of energy to keep moving forward.

At what point did you feel she made up her mind?  When did she tell you?

Aika: She didn’t really tell us, it wasn’t like a family meeting that she had to sit us down. It came, maybe, a couple of weeks before she announced. We knew what kind of meetings were going on. We knew that this meeting resulted in this and it’s probably a go for her. It’s more of a process… It’s more of what were the different factors that came to play at that time…. Knowing Mama the way we knew her, we know how it would end up at some point.

‘I think the best way to help our mom is, we won’t stoop down to the dirt of politics’—Tricia

We have questions from our chat groups that could very well represent those of many. From Chelsea Yasay, politics in the Philippines is very dirty, how can you help your mom deal with the garbage thrown her way? Is this the place you want her to be in?

Tricia: I think the best way to help our mom is, we won’t stoop down to the dirt of politics. The past couple of years, it wasn’t thrown just against her, nadamay din kaming magkakapatid. Naalala namin ni Ate Aika when ginawan ng fake news yung bunso namin, which we thought was unfair. She was still in high school.

But I guess, yung pinaka-contribution namin, aside from looking out for one another, is, hindi na kami papatol. Ayaw na rin naming makigulo, and to drown out the noise and to focus on what’s important. Pakiramdam ko nakakatulog din ng maayos yung nanay namin pag gabi knowing that hindi kami nakikisama sa kadumihan. Kasi naii-stress si Mama kapag kami naii-stress. And she can really handle it also, the way we can handle it. Alam naming mabigat ang dinadala niya araw-araw, pero sana yung mga ginagawa namin nakakatulong din sa kanya.

Aika: First, both our parents had been in politics since we were young. In terms of the dirt, it was just scaled up when my mom became VP. That’s something we had to live with the past five or six years. It trained us already not to be affected by all the noise. I guess we found the technique to switch off or to put on the blinders…. What’s important is that, alam namin kung ano yung totoo. Second, kung ano kami before all this, hopefully, we are better versions of ourselves today than in the beginning.

In your family podcast, you talked a lot about your childhood in Naga City. What do you miss most about Naga City now that you’re all in different places?

Jillian: Place-wise, siguro yung mas malaking bahay na tirahan, kasi sa Manila naka condo kaming lahat…. Yung bahay namin sa Naga super cozy, and duon ako lumaki. Ang dami lang memories with the lolos and lolas, with Papa. The year after namatay si Papa, we moved to Manila. Ang pinaka-nami-miss ko sa Naga is the space and yung hindi ganun ka-traffic.

Aika: Being close to anywhere; kung ang travel mo is 20 minutes, that’s already far. From our house to lolo’s house, from our house to the mall, to the church—parang 10-15 minutes lang travel time. It’s easy to go around the city. Before also, kaya namin to eat as a family.

Tricia: For me, when I moved to Manila for college, si Ate nag dorm siya, but I moved with my dad so sa iisa kaming place para tipid, para we don’t have to pay the dorm and for rent. Because of that, I had to commute to Ateneo. Hirap, sobrang traffic. Honestly, isa po yun sa major factors na kung taga probinsya ka at lumipat ka ng Manila, the travel time was really insane. Yung 30 minutes pa lang sa amin malayo na, pero if I can get to school in 30 minutes parang ang saya ko na. The proximity is something I miss.

Also I felt safe in Naga, parang walang mangyayaring masama sa akin kapag nasa Naga ako. I don’t know if it is because of familiarity, or if it’s because of the general atmosphere. Magkakakilala lahat ng tao because it’s a small place. Feeling ko sa Manila, lagi dapat nakikipag-balyahan ka, kasi kung hindi you’ll be late. The general atmosphere in Naga is really what I miss a lot. Because of how convenient everything is in the province, I get to see everyone more. Hindi naman kami naging less close nung nag move kami to Manila, because of technology. Seeing each other face to face, I think that’s something I miss a lot, which I wouldn’t say if not for this interview, pagtatawanan ako ng mga kapatid ko kasi sasabihin na ang sentimental ko. But I really miss having all five of us together in one place.

 ‘In a way, it’s hard to fault the young for thinking the way they do’—Aika

A question from Minda Ruiz, a mom and alumna of St. Theresa’s. Why do you think the young are rooting for BBM? Don’t they know what happened during Martial Law?

Aika: I don’t think we can blame the young. In a way, that’s also our responsibility. I was born after Edsa (Revolution), I was born 1988. A big part of it is education also. I think I was lucky enough at least. My generation, at that time, Edsa was still fresh (in the people’s minds) and often talked about. It was easy at that time to maybe correct misconception about history.

In a way, it’s hard to fault the young for thinking the way they do. It’s a challenge for us to educate them better. There has to be a better way to help them realize and understand history better. Kami kasi ng mga sisters ko, we are six years apart, so siguro iba-iba yung sagot namin.

Tricia: I was born in 1994. Hindi sa akin masyadong problema yung maka-encounter ng tao na hindi nakaka-filter ng news kasi my generation, mahilig mag-focus on different news items. We’re not the TikTok generation, so as far as TikTok being a source of information, I think my generation was spared.

Pero agree ako dun sa sinabi ni Ate Aiks, hindi ko maintindihan bakit yung mga tao parang ang bilis maniwala sa nakalagay online, especially the unverified articles or news. Pero napagtanto ko rin po as time went by, when I started interacting with people in hospitals and clinics, na iba-iba talaga yung background. Wala silang luxury to sift through information, so we can’t blame them. Whatever they are exposed to on a regular basis, yun talaga yung paniniwalaan nila, kung ano yung sinabi ng tita nila, ng nanay nila, kung anong nababasa nila sa Viber. Hindi siguro sila mas cautious when it comes to looking at whatever is thrown at them, but again, we cannot blame them. It requires a lot of patience to change misconceptions.

Nakakainis at times; naaalala ko ngayon, paulit-ulit na sinasabi ng nanay namin yung “mas radikal yung magmahal.” Malaki yung effort required on our part to be a little more patient with people na ganito ang paniniwala. Pero yun yung kailangan nating gawin kasi maraming napaniwala na sa fake news.

Jillian: In 2000 baby na ako, medyo malayo na talaga ako sa post-Edsa generation. But I think, maswerte ako na kinekwentuhan ako minsan ng mga lola or even nila Mama at Papa, nag-meet sila right after Edsa. Parang may knowledge talaga kung ano ang nangyari that time but I think my circle or my echo chamber, mas woke pa sa akin pagdating sa mga ganun. So maswerte rin talaga ako na wala akong nae-encounter na mabilis maniwala sa fake news.

But I think my generation is strong on social media. I think ngayon, yung ibang volunteers, kahit mas nakakatanda, they download TikTok para gumawa ng pang-counter ng fake news na matagal na palang andun na hindi natin alam. We just have to be patient when it comes to combatting the fake news. Hopefully, this is added to the education system. It’s there in Araling Panlipunan or Social Science, but it should be emphasized in the school curriculum….remembering from grade school, we went over it but we did not focus on it…. Hopefully ma-add in the future para lang hindi makalimot habang tumatanda.

Do you think the young, especially those born in the ‘90s, are indifferent now? Is their attitude—we just want to look for a job or migrate?

Aika: I see it in phases…. I can’t speak for my siblings, but I remember right after I graduated from college, I was less forgiving and less compromising than where I’m at now. At that time, I thought it was cool that I thought differently.

Over time, si Tricia yata ang nakwentuhan ko nito, the 2022 elections, for example, a lot of people my age are lining up to register to vote because they feel what is at stake is the future of their kids, kasi may mga friends ako ngayon na may asawa, may anak na. Tingin ko, if this happened maybe three or four years ago, they’d be less invested. The level of involvement, of apathy ng tao ay nagbabago rin, there are phases and cycles. Nag-iiba siya where you’re at and the stage of your life.

‘I won’t lie, I have a lot of friends who say, gusto na nilang mag migrate’—Tricia

Tricia: I agree with my sister, it comes in phases. Wala pa namang mga anak yung mga kaibigan ko. Kami yung nagsisimula pa lang sa career. They’re fresh out of med school or the board (licensure) and we’re trying to figure out how we want our professional lives to be. I won’t lie, I have a lot of friends who say, if the elections don’t turn out the way they hope it would, gusto na nilang mag migrate. Ganon yung mga iniisip ng mga kaedad ko ngayon. A lot of people my age are more involved now because they can feel the direct effects of governance, and I think that’s also the answer to the question, bakit yung ibang tao indifferent. Part of the indifference is, hindi naman nila nararamdaman what’s in it for them.

What do you think is the most concrete and solid way for the youth to contribute to your mom’s campaign?

Ipaintindi sa mga tao kung paano ito nakakaapekto sa mga buhay nila, kung ano talaga ang at stake sa election. The energy of the youth is very raw, very bibo pa talaga sila. We can really capitalize on that energy for the demographic na hindi natin maabot. Masipag pa sila, may energy pa, very idealistic. We can use that energy to help our cause. For example, mahirap na for me na kausapin yung mga kaedad ni Jillian, kasi they speak a different language. They know how to be more creative and resourceful when it comes to speaking to people. Pwede talaga natin magamit yung idealism and vigor nila.

Jillian: One thing I appreciate sa mga ka-age ko, sobrang idealistic. Sila pa yung mas may energy or confidence to criticize kung ano man yung mali. While minsan parang nakakainis na yung criticism is, for Mama, most of it is constructive criticism. Yung youth, ang daming fresh perspective na minsan hindi natin naiisip. Even yung sisters ko or ako, hindi ko naiisip. Na minsan they voice out their opinions on social media, sobrang valid naman. Pag nakikita ko that my friends have constructive criticism online, I make sure it reaches Ate or even Mama.

‘My peers are very motivated to vote next year, because they know the direct impact of governance’— Aika

What do you tell your friends who lost their jobs or who can’t find work?

Aika: I think at our age, they know that they just have to keep going. Many of us have been very frustrated, even with the whole COVID response management. Parallel to the complaints, we also have responsibilities and obligations, we have bills to pay.  Even if you complain, you really have no choice but keep going. That may be one of the reasons why a lot of my peers are very motivated to vote next year, because they know the direct impact of governance on their daily lives. That’s added motivation for them to be more involved.

When your mom wins, what do you think would be her first priority?

Aika: I think she said this many times: “How do we deal with COVID?” That will be the pressing problem we really need to handle. Maraming ibang problema pero ito yung urgent that we should’ve started to deal with last year. I think for sure, kasama yun sa mga urgent na programs niya. Everything else, we’ll probably let her answer, but we’re quite sure kasama yung COVID response.

‘May econ final ako, naalala ko si Mama, siguro 2 pm sa Manila, nagsusulat siya ng graph para ipakita yung supply and demand’—Jillian

She’s already done much as a public servant. What of your mom’s accomplishments are you guys most proud of since she started serving on a national level?

Jillian: Alam ko naman usually ang mga ginagawa niya na programs, but on a more personal level, siguro kahit naging VP siya since 2016, parang kaya niya pa ring i-balance ang pagiging nanay sa aming tatlo. At hindi nabawasan ang pagiging involved niya as a mom. While proud ako sa lahat ng nagawa niya as VP, I think napaka grateful pa rin ako na hindi nawala ang presence niya  sa buhay namin. Even nung nag move ako to New York for college, si Mama kasi, super “tiger mom” siya. But even nung college na ako, naalala ko freshman year ko may Econ final ako, naalala ko si Mama, siguro 2 p.m. nun sa Manila, nagsusulat siya ng graph para ipakita yung supply and demand. Hanggang doon, super involved pa rin. Nagpapakita din yun how dedicated she is no matter what role you give her. Whether it’s her job or being our mother, that’s her proudest achievement—na hindi kami napabayaan.

Pag may homework kami ng morning na binigay, ibibigay ko na sa kanya ng lunch, tapos pag hapon at nasa school ako, ginagawa na niya (to guide me).

Saan niya nakukuha lahat ng energy na yon? Recently, may bagyo, siya talaga yung nasa Twitter na 1 o’clock in the morning, tapos naba-balance pa niya yon attending to the three of you?

Aika: I think, number one, mahilig siya mag-aral kasi. Nung bago pa lang siya sa Twitter, Facebook, IG, matiyaga siyang mag-aral ng platform. Siya yung pinakamasipag sa aming mag-aral. Sanay siya to always give 100 percent, whether it’s organizing our house, or leading a response from her office. In the office, if you expect your team to perform really well, kailangan ikaw din ang mag set ng goal for them. If you work with a boss na parang sobrang sipag, sobrang hands-on, mahihiya ka not to step up. Malaking factor din yon.

How many hours of sleep does she normally get?

Tricia: Nakikita namin yung adrenaline ng mom ko pag busy, ang taas eh, sometimes kung saan yung action, energetic siya. Minsan binibiro namin siya, we see Dad in her, kasi yung dad namin ganun din talaga. Pag may bagyo, instead na bumalik sa shell niya, siya pa yung lumalabas kasi grabe ang adrenaline niya. I think we can say the same thing about our mom.

Si Mama mahilig mag-aral, mahilig sa mga activities. Expectation niya talaga sa amin is to be our best in whatever we do, whether in swimming, in piano, in debate. Tinutulungan niya talaga kami to achieve that kasi yun din yung expectation niya sa amin. Ayaw niyang mag-expect sa amin na wala siyang contribution. Hours of sleep, I really don’t know—it depends. Hindi ko alam kung privilege or nightmare to work with my mom again sa COVID response. Medyo intense yun, ang daming beses nung time na yun na halos nag-aaway na kami, nagkakaroon na kami ng disagreements dahil ang dami talagang nangyayari. I was one of the volunteer doctors for one of the OVP efforts for COVID. Tapos nakikita ko nun, feeling ko late na ako natutulog pero paggising ko the following day, I see the tags sa thread namin, siya yung last na natutulog.

There was a time, my mom would sleep at around 3 or 4 a.m., and then 7 a.m. sa bagong shift, gising na ulit siya at saying “good morning” sa lahat ng tao. I think, kapag may sakuna po talaga, halos hindi natutulog si Mama. Alam naming pagod siya, pero gusto niya kasi ang ginagawa niya eh. Gusto niya hands-on. Ayaw naman niyang mag expect sa ibang tao nang hindi niya kayang gawin herself—leading by example. And making sure she’s one with the team, whatever work there is.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your parents?

Aika: Si Mama kasi, big on empowering other people, in whatever role she takes on. She wants to be an enabler for other people to become the best versions of themselves. Kung titingnan natin, even the COVID response of the OVP—even with limited resources, they were able to maximize and bring different groups, different organizations together. And then raising us, kaming mga anak. When she was younger, first lady siya ng Naga City, and then she was a law student, she became a lawyer, she’s a mother.

I don’t think Papa would’ve turned out to be the public servant that he eventually was at his peak kung hindi si Mama yung partner niya. Kaming magkakapatid, I think we turned out okay and a huge credit goes to our mom. Yung tingin niya sa vocation or mission or role niya, whatever it is, it has to empower and it enable other people to live up to whoever they are meant to become.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my parents is to make a conscious effort to become enabling of other people, too. Like si Tricia doctor, si Jillian, marami pa siyang pwedeng gawin. Regardless of where we end up, sana we are able to transform different roles such that we also become enablers for other people.

All photos from OVP

Tricia: My sisters and I have said a lot about Mama’s expectations of us. We have to be excellent, we have to be the very best in whatever we do. More importantly, yung hina-highlight nila ni Papa sa amin, for example we come home with 8/10 in a test, papagalitan nila kami, bakit hindi tayo perfect kahit nag-aral tayo? But at the end of day, they would always say, mas okay na sa aking mag 4/10 ka basta mabuti ka pa rin na tao. No joke, they really did say that.

Important sa kanilang maging magaling kami, but ultimately, gusto nilang maging mabuti kaming tao. The achievements and everything comes secondary to your character. That’s what they were trying to emphasize as we grew up. Whatever we have, as much as possible, ibigay din namin sa mga nangangailangan. Ang important sa kanila is yung pagkatao mo. Walang point yung mga achievements and awards kung yung core mo madumi or masama. I think of all the expectations of our parents, yun talaga yung pinakamahalaga sa amin, na kahit anong mangyari sa amin, sana maging mabuti pa rin kami.

Jillian: Pareho si Papa at si Mama consistent in what they do. Si Papa sobrang tagal niyang naging mayor, kung ano yung ginawa niya nung day one, ginawa niya hanggang kaya niyang gawin, until the last day consistent yung effort. Binibigay mo lang lahat.

With Mama, ganon din, pareho talaga nilang napakita sa akin na parang dapat mahaba-haba ang endurance mo when it comes to life. To be consistent, whether that’s in school or work, every day you show up with your best.

Jesse bonding with the kids (Photo from OVP)

From marketing practitioner Pen Roque: Should she win, who among you will act as first lady? Will you allow your mom to have a love life?

Tricia: Second daughter ako, so definitely not the first lady.

Aika: It’s something that we haven’t really talked about. I don’t think she will let us put our lives on hold just so we can help her. Alam niya naman na any time na kailangan naming mag step up, we will be there. Papagalitan pa nga kami if we end up pausing or taking a leave from what we normally do just to be able to take on a role.

Yung number 2, baka yung mga kapatid ko na lang ang sumagot.

Papa is the only one for me…. I really can’t imagine my mom with anyone else’—Tricia

Tricia: Honestly, dito lalabas yung pagka-selfish ko. Ayoko na eh, Papa is the only one for me. This was my answer when I was 18 and this is still my answer at 27. I really can’t imagine my mom with anyone else. She made it clear that she doesn’t see herself going out romantically with anyone.

Sana enough yung love na nabibigay naming tatlo sa kanya, yun lang yung hope ko ngayon. As for first lady, wala po talaga kaming napag-uusapan in the future. We take it one day at a time. Si Mama talaga, ayaw ma-disrupt yung buhay namin. Jillian wanted to come home to help out pero siya na yung nagsabi na mas maii-stress siya knowing na hininto ni Jillian yung senior year niya because of her.

Nung tumakbo siya for VP, hindi ako pinayagan mag leave of absence sa medical school. Si Jillian, hindi pinayagan to put her life on hold. Kung kailangan, willing naman po kaming tatlo kung anong kailangan niya. Yung hindi ko pagtuloy sa training was a personal decision, hindi naman siya humingi nun sa amin.

Jillian: Leading up to the announcement, gustung-gusto ko talagang umuwi but one, hindi pwede because of quarantine, hindi rin ako aabot. Nung nag-iisip ako na baka pwede akong mag leave of absence, parang never siya naging option for Mama. Pwede akong umuwi pag may long breaks. I will graduate a few days after election, hindi siya option to stop what we’re doing. May sarili rin kaming buhay, di niya ine-expect na full-time kami tutulong kahit na gusto namin.

Robredo siblings dressed up for the SONA (Photo from OVP)

Two questions from fashion director Jackie Aquino: What is your hope for the Filipinos? What is your mom’s biggest challenge now in her campaign?

Aika: They’re hard to rank because ang dami talagang challenges. Among them is misinformation, ang dami pa ring fake news. How do we combat fake news? And siguro yung second, yung parati kong naaalala when Papa was still a mayor of Naga, parang pag tinatanong mo siya, how do you envision Naga City? He wanted the Nageños to be proud of themselves, to be proud na product sila ng Naga, to be proud of the city where they came from.

Marami tayong problema ngayon, ang pinaka-dream din is hopefully working together so slowly makatayo ulit, hindi na tayo as polarized as before. Hopefully, we focus more on our similarities rather than the differences that divide us now, the willingness and openness to listen to and work with people we don’t normally spend our time with. Lalo na next year, important talaga na we’re more focused on the bigger goal, bigger picture. I hope despite differences here and there, we find a way for all of us to come together.

Tricia: The challenge is the dream, at least for the country. Marami na akong kaibigan na gusto umalis. I don’t see anything wrong with going abroad, I believe it exposes us to other things that can help in your development as a person or in your professional career. My dream for the Philippines is, sana hindi na kailangan ng mga tao na iwan yung mga pamilya nila dito to get work or find opportunities with better pay. Wala naman akong karanasan sa mga OFW families, ang pinaka OFW ko ay yung umalis si Ate Aiks for Harvard for a year and yung pag-alis ni Jillian for college. Yun lang yung experience ko of having someone away. Nakaka-miss po, ilang taon nawala si ate or si Jillian, naramdaman ko talaga. What more sa mga families na kailangan talagang maghiwalay for a time because walang maayos na trabaho rito—sana hindi na ganun.

‘My dream for the Philippines is, sana hindi na kailangan ng mga tao na iwan yung pamilya nila to get work with better pay’—Tricia

Aside from being proud of where you are, I hope Filipinos don’t need to seek opportunities elsewhere kasi nagkukulang dito sa atin. Ramdam na ramdam ko po yun sa mga kaedad ko ngayon, gusto na talaga nilang umalis kasi pakiramdam nila doctors aren’t treated the way they are supposed to be treated, or aren’t compensated the way they should be compensated. Yung mga katrabaho kong nurses ngayon din sa hospital, I don’t blame them for wanting to go abroad, kasi kailangan talaga nilang kumita para sa pamilya nila. Sana dumating tayo sa point na hindi na talaga kailangang maghiwalay ang magkakapamilya because of that reason.

Jillian: Sa akin lang, medyo similar kay Ate Aiks. Around 15 ako nung 2016 elections, I think dun talaga nagsimula na medyo polarized karamihan ng tao sa bansa. Kung may sarili kang political affiliations, medyo categorized na dito ka or dun ka sa kabila. Hopefully, in the next few years, it becomes more inclusive, hindi lang mga Kakampinks or something. Like lahat talaga ng tao, okay lang na may disagreements, lahat naman tayo gusto ng better life for everyone.

Sana mas kaunti na yung mga debates on different issues. Ngayon, mas conversational na lang and hopefully kaunti na lang yung makikipag-away. Parang ang hirap specially for our generation and even yung mga mas bata pa sa akin na hindi kayang lumaki sa Pilipinas na ganito ka divided.

How do you take care of your mental health, and what tips can you give the young who are struggling at this time?

Aika: Dyan din kami nahihirapan mag balance, especially kaming tatlo. Even with our mom running, it’s so easy to say na ayaw namin siyang tumakbo kasi bad for our mental health, kasi it really is. Kailangan namin siya i-balance with other responsibilities, hindi ka pwedeng umatras from different things maybe because of that. During the pandemic, we exercised regularly.

I think it’s really more self-care and focusing on things within your control but at the same time, being very mindful that we don’t use it as an excuse to back out of our responsibilities. Ultimately, we have to look after ourselves, and at the same time, you balance this with obligations you have to fulfill at the end of the day.

Jillian: Agree ako dun, little doses of self-care na lang, parang kung ano ang nagpapasaya sayo. May exercise ako, pero kung gusto ko kumain, kakain din ako. Para medyo happy, like skin care, manunuod ako ng one episode ng Friends or yung favorite movie ko, yung Parent Trap. Leading up to the announcement, yung mental health ko medyo bumaba talaga at that time.

 ‘….balance na lang. Take some time, and after, laban ulit’—Jillian

Yung tinakbuhan ko siyempre yung mga sisters ko; kung may company na good vibes, okay talaga na lapitan sila. ‘Wag mag hesitate na mag reach out to your friends or your family. Very important talaga to have a strong support system. Healthy to let it out, may outlet ka. Yung joke sa akin ng mga sisters ko, kunwari may test ako, maga-alarm ako sabihin natin from 10 to 10:15, iiyak lang ako, and after 10:15, mag-aaral ulit ako. Kasi hindi naman tumitigil ang ikot ng mundo kung iyak ka lang nang iyak, balance na lang. Take some time, and after, laban ulit.

Tricia: Mix of both answers. Nung pa-announce yung mom ko na running, may mga duties ako nun sa hospital, alangan namang hindi ako mag duty kasi umiiyak ako. We have to balance between letting ourselves grieve for a while or letting ourselves express what we want to express, at the same time hindi namin pinapabayaan yung mga responsibilidad namin.

In terms of mental health, the past couple of years have been really tough for me and my sisters, and of course, my mom also. It’s something I would admit, it’s something I’m not embarrassed to talk about. I had to seek help, because I had to let it all out. It’s not wrong to seek professional help especially if you feel like you need it.

Hindi masamang mag open-up, hindi masamang makipag-usap kung yun talagang kailangan mo. Pero siyempre, hindi naman po lahat may luxury na maghanap ng professional help, so katulad ng sinabi ng mga kapatid ko, it’s important also to look for things na kaya mong gawin on your own.

For me, it helps maging productive at a time na very stressful. Whether it be exercise, magluto ka, skin care mo, manuod ka ng episode, it can be as simple as that. Something to get your mind off stressful emotions—tingin ko nakakatulong yun. At the end of the day, it’s important to strike the balance between responsibilities—epecially sa edad siguro namin ni Ate Aiks, may trabahong naghihintay at hindi yung gagalaw kung hindi mo siya galawin.

Give yourself time, but at the same time don’t ignore the responsibilities you have. Pero siyempre, mas magiging productive ka with your work if you’re okay. Aside from powering through, you have to give yourself time to breathe, you have to give yourself time to relax a bit.

Watch the full interview here.

Read more:

Where are the millennials and the GenZ? Helping, working tirelessly, quietly

What have we become?

Ang nagmamahal, kailangan ipaglaban ang minamahal

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