As Expo Mom celebrates its 10th year, the longest running event of its kind pays tribute to #TeamMom that has served as a lifeline for mothers all over the Philippines. Here, mothers share their journey with each other, making the adventure less challenging and a lot more fun.
Janice Villanueva Jaymie Pizarro #Sisters
There is nothing quite as intimate as growing up with another person. Because you knew each other from when you were still little, you are naturally privy to one another’s likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests, quirks and temperaments, goals and ambitions. Janice Villanueva, founder of Mommy Mundo, and Jaymie Pizarro, publisher of The Bull Runner, are sisters.
“I’m four years older than Jaymie,” says Janice.
Jaymie corrects Janice: “Five years older.”
Janice asks, “Five years?”
Jaymie insists, “Yes, five years. What year were you born?”
Finally, it dawns on Janice that she is five years older than Jaymie, and she ends up laughing.
“I do that all the time ‘no?”
It is moments like this that make Janice and Jaymie’s friendship so precious. As Janice says, “We grew up together. We grew up as playmates. We also grew up as frenemies, fighting over toys.”
Jaymie says, “Janice has always been my ate, my Ate Nice. Growing up, she’s always been motherly.”
Jaymie recalls how Janice would always watch out for her when they were at school and when they started working. But as the sisters grew older, their relationship began to change. From one sibling watching over another, it became two women having each others’ back. When they eventually became mothers, they naturally became each other’s #TeamMom.
Michelle Ressa Aventajado Neva Santos Betty Sy #BraveMoms
Michelle Ressa Aventajado, Neva Arboleda Santos, and Betty Ching Sy crossed paths because of something extra special. Each of these three different women leading three entirely different lives have been blessed with a child with an extra chromosome. In particular, Betty says, “The extra chromosome refers to the extra chromosome in the 21st set that causes Down syndrome. It’s extra special, extra everything.”
Rather than sulking about this extra something, these moms have taken what many perceive as a challenge into something truly inspiring. The three women are not only hands-on mommas, they are also actively involved in organizations working to improve the lives of children with Down Syndrome like Best Buddies and Night to Shine. As they worked to make things better for their children, they were happily surprised to find friends in each other as well.
Neva, mom of Noah, says, “We’re bonded because of our kids and we’re also in and out of each other’s lives. I look to Betty because her daughter Kayla is such an achiever. She read to little kids in a video she did for World Down Syndrome day. I look to Gelli, Michelle’s daughter, because she is a year older than Noah. Gelli’s doing so much already. She’s doing a lot of things that I want Noah to do so I look to them.”
Michelle says, “Because Kayla is older than our kids, I look to Betty not just to ground me but also inspire me in my parenting. Kayla rides horses. Betty homeschools all of her girls. She’s the mom who can do it all and Neva, when there are things that I see are controversial out there, in terms of testing or new advances for kids with Down syndrome, I usually talk to Neva because I know she does the same kind of research, too.”
“Neva and Michelle are both bloggers. They really help a lot in creating awareness of people with special needs. There’s a voice that goes out there for families with special needs. At the same time, I enjoy being with both of them. They’re both really kind. They’re both down to earth, heartwarming,” says Betty.
Though the three may not see each other all the time, they are instantly connected through their private group in social media. They would exchange information on schools and therapists. They also talk about hair treatments and recipes. Oftentimes, they just say hello to each other and support each other.
One particularly memorable incident had Betty bringing home a man with Down syndrome. She recalls, “I was on the street and I saw a young man with Down syndrome. I couldn’t leave him. I took him home. I brought him to Jollibee first to eat, and then I didn’t know what to do.”
Betty was messaging the group, and that’s when Neva called her and told her to bring the man to the police station. It would then be police’s task to bring the young man to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Betty recalls, “Neva called me. You know, you need to bring him to the police station. I wouldn’t have done that. You can be charged with kidnapping pala!”
The good news is that the young man was eventually reunited with his family. He is now safely at home.
It is at times like this that it’s great to have a Team Mom behind you.
Betty says, “You have to have a support group. No man is an island. You can never do it alone. You really need other moms to come alongside you and encourage you and, at the same time, to correct you when needed.”
“It really helps to have people who understand what you’re going through,” Neva adds. “They know what to say. Even though there are no answers, it’s a comfort to me that I know I can go to them as a sounding board or to brainstorm ideas.”
Michelle explains, “Through the good and the bad in our lives, as mothers, as sisters, as daughters, we need people around us to support us, to cheer us on, to catch us when we fall, to bolster us… This is what’s important, you have moms who get it because our concerns are quite similar even if our children are different in age. There’s a lot of freedom in having someone who can see you like that because you can say whatever you want. You won’t be judged. You don’t want to feel that if you put yourself out there, they might not understand you. It’s comforting, empowering. It’s good stuff all around.”
More than anything, Team Mom is about being there for each other, says Betty. She says, “Sometimes there aren’t big moments but you just want to be there in the little moments that come your way. It can be a lunch together, it can be a short taxi ride. Knowing that there is mutual love, mutual understanding, and a fondness for each other is what makes our friendship special.”
Joy Astilla Kim Dy Meryll Dy Minnie Jumaquio Paola Loot-Bronfman Heraldyn Perez-Chia Tiffany Tuazon #MomPreneurs
It was inevitable. Entrepreneurs all, Joy Astilla, Kim Dy, Meryll Dy, Minnie Jumaquio, Paola Loot-Bronfman, Geraldyn Perez-Chua, and Tiffany Tuazon found themselves bumping into each other, at one time or another, at Expo Mom. In the beginning, they merely exchanged smiles and glances. They were all in the same boat after all, manning their booths, engaging potential customers, and hoping to break more than even at the end of the day.
Joy recalls, “We didn’t meet each other at the same time. But we all met each other at Expo Mom.”
Geraldyn says, “Because we were always together, we became friends.”
Who first approached whom may not be all that clear anymore. What’s important is that slowly, eventually the seven women started the beginning of a joyful and empowering friendship.
It was only a matter of time before this Team Mom opted for adjacent booth locations so they could spend even more time together. Business-wise, this move worked out well, too. Because their products were all somewhat related, Meryll observed that customers appreciated how they were bunched together in a comfy hub. Joy adds, “We all know each other’s products well, so we would recommend each other’s products.”
Minnie says, “Because we’re small entrepreneurs, we’re stronger together.”
They looked out for each another. They had each other’s back. The mompreneurs who’ve been in the business for some time would give advice to the newbies on anything and everything, from merchandising to marketing. The newbies would throw in their ideas, too. Plus, it’s not uncommon to see either one of the seven pitching a product that’s not hers, and closing a sale. That’s how much they love each other!
Tiffany says, “It’s really important to have a Team Mom, especially for mompreneurs. We help each other out in our businesses. The beauty of this group is that we’re in different seasons of our lives.”
Some moms have small kids, others have teenagers. Some have businesses that are booming, some that are just starting out. Some business offer food, others offer accessories. The variety not just of their businesses but also of the very fabric of their lives gave each a peek into different stories and experiences, widening their perspectives further.
Paola says that mompowerment is what comes to her mind when she thinks of her #TeamMom. She explains, “Our team, we’re composed of women who are empowering each other. It’s really hard as mompreneurs to do things on a daily basis because you’re not only an entrepreneur, you’re also a mom. Your plate is super full. But when I’m with them, I feel like I can conquer the world.”
When either one of them feels down and out, she only needs to message the group, and she’ll soon be showered with words of comfort and encouragement.
Starting a business is tough. At times, Joy recalls, she would question why she started a business in the first place. She wanted to give up. But her Team Mom cheered her on and encouraged her not to give up.
She says, “If you don’t have friends behind you, if you don’t have friends encouraging you, if you’re alone, you might want to give up. But they were there for me. They were there for us. They encouraged us until things became all right.”
“One of my dreams was to have our own house. But it just seemed impossible. It was just a dream. This April, we’re moving into our own house. Without them, without my #TeamMom, I don’t know if I would have been able to achieve the success I am now enjoying in my business,” Joy says.
Indeed, this is one Team Mom that’s always encouraging each other to grow.
When Minnie moved to a bigger house, she recalls encouraging Joy to think of investing in her own house, too. Minnie says, “Since her business was doing okay, I told her that it might be a good time to invest while her kids were still young.”
Tiffany, who used to live with her parents, found her independence when she moved into her own place. Because she didn’t know how to cook, she turned to Minnie for guidance and instruction.
But these same women would also tell a friend if she’s not exactly going toward the right direction. They tell each other when things don’t feel right, says Minnie. Paola adds, “We trust that we’re real with each other.”
Which is what real friends are to each other, right?
But of course, it’s not always all about business. They talk about love and life and clothes and traffic.
Geraldyn, who recently got married, says, “I have learned a lot from them so I feel that I have such a big advantage when I eventually become a mom.”
As their lives continue to grow and intertwine, Paola is proud to say: “We feel big when we’re together.”
Kim heartily agrees: “It’s a win-win for everyone!”
Chessy Alejandro Jackie Go Michelle Lim Cai Sio #FitMoms
It all started in Twitter. For one reason or another, mommy bloggers Chessy Alejandro, Jackie Go, Michelle Lim, and Cai Sio started “bumping” into each other in Twitterverse. One would reply to another’s question, or another would agree with one’s tweet.
“It was all so random,” Jackie recalls. “I can’t remember the exact topics but I’m pretty sure that they were about motherhood.”
When they started meeting each other at blogger events, they found so much more to talk about. More important, they found out that they really liked each other.
It would take an Instagram post, however, to cement the friendship of the four moms.
When Michelle posted a photo of her and Jackie doing Pilates on social media, Chessy and Cai privately replied. Chessy recalls, “We said, ‘Next time, we’ll join you.’ The next time turned out to be the next day!”
By then, Jackie and Michelle had been doing Pilates for some time. Jackie wanted to get herself healthy as she noticed that she was getting sick all the time. She says, “After I started doing Pilates, I became more motivated to live an active lifestyle.”
Michelle hoped that Pilates would not only help get her healthier, but also relieve her chronic back pain.
Chessy says the first time she did Pilates was particularly memorable. During the session, the girls cheered her on, boosting her confidence to follow through.
Cai did Pilates once before. She says, “I tried because I had lower back pains but then I stopped. I found it boring.” When she tried it again, this time with Chessy, Jackie, and Michelle, it felt different. Cai enjoyed it.
From then on, the women would go to their Pilates sessions together. And it didn’t take long before their online friendship evolved into something so much more. It wasn’t long before they became a #TeamMom.
Jackie says, “Since we’re all moms, we found a common ground. We became our own support group. We’re also our shopping group. We’re each other’s enablers.”
“Since I stay home most of the time, they’re the ones I talk to through Messenger,” says Chessy.
“The messages, they’re random at times. But sometimes, you just need to have someone to talk to. I’m with my kids every second of the day so at least with them, there’s adult conversation,” she adds.
Their relationship evolved naturally, says Michelle. “It wasn’t forced.”
Because they couldn’t talk to each other during their Pilates sessions, they ended up having a breakfast group afterward. They would exchange mommy hacks and online shopping finds. They would share food adventures and recipe ideas. They would also talk about all other issues in between, from weight problems to personal concerns, from the serious to the mundane.
“We talk about anything under the sun. It’s something that every mom should have,” says Michelle.
Having a Team Mom, says Jackie, “helps her grow as a person. If you have the support that you need, it’s like everything is easier. You can get through the day even if you don’t see each other often, even if you don’t see each other regularly, because you know you’re connected.”
“It’s important to let it all out, to have an outlet,” says Chessy. Sometimes, there are things that you cannot share with your spouse or your family or your other friends and that’s what your Team Mom is for, she adds.
Different groups meet different needs, says Michelle. What’s great about their Team Mom is that they compliment and complement each other. There is also no judgment, which can certainly be such a refuge for moms who are judged almost every day.
Cai adds, “I wouldn’t have had the motivation to work out without them. It’s true what they say about fitness buddies. I am really motivated when I’m with them.”
Michelle says, “I look forward to our mom dates, especially when we’re complete. It just brings us so much joy, this feeling of being together.”