By AA PATAWARAN
Rocio Olbes-Ressano is one to wear many hats. Although she stopped working as a designer seven years ago, she is still very much in fashion. Recently, at Rajo Laurel’s virtual fashion show, a direct response to the pandemic that has put everything on hold, she was a muse. “Because it is no longer work for me, I am now the biggest fan of Philippine fashion,” she beams. But Rocio has so many other things on her plate. Aside from working with the family business, a property and logistics firm, full-time, she is also into philanthropic ventures, like the SCB Foundation, of which she is president, and producing concerts with her best friend Jonjon Rufino to raise funds for a variety of causes, including mental health and women’s education. She also has a women’s advocacy project, The ‘Teh Talks,’ with Kimi Lu, Stephanie Zubiri, and Cristina Cu. Lately, she has put on a new hat, that of a mother to twin boys Afonso Vasco and Federico Viggo. She entered motherhood just as everything else was shut down around her as a result of the pandemic and so, far from Rocio’s ideas of play groups, the boys’ initial experience of the world is the safe space nourished and nurtured by their mom and their dad, businessman, diplomat, and development banker Antonio Ressano. Here are a few snippets of our conversation about Rocio’s lockdown adventure.
Even before the twins, you’ve always been the “family first” type, but you still have many hats on, including that of an animal rights advocate. Any advice for multi-tasking women like you?
I feel that where I am now is because of everything that’s happened. Juggling different roles as long as you’re true to yourself shouldn’t be difficult. It becomes difficult when you feel you are doing something you really do not want to do or being somebody you are not. I think these hats, as you call them, have come easily to me.
So no matter what the role, I feel very confident in it because I know, at this point in my life, it really is who I am and where I want to be. I want to be a mother, I want to be a wife, I want to be a good friend to the people I love, I want to be just amazed by our local designers and the arts, I want to help and motivate as many people as I can, and, more than anything, I want to be the best person I can be for my family. I think these are lessons I learned in my 20s about priorities. There’s an old saying, “what you water will grow.” In your 20s, you have so many ideas you tend to water many things. But eventually you need to realize what is worth watering and what will bear fruit. You have to tend to the things you love, the things that give you inspiration, and that are true to you.
It’s been over two months and, while all over the world we’re all on the same boat, what’s it been like for you?
I think the experience has been surreal, to sum it up. The ideas I had in my head about motherhood, about being able to go outside, see people, even just my own family, haven’t really come to fruition because of the situation. Although everybody is supportive, I believed in my head entering motherhood that it was going to be more of a social experience. I had these ideas, you know, of play groups. Nobody could’ve predicted any of this and I’m dealing with becoming a new mother under circumstances that are so different, having to keep the boys at home for their own safety.
As a new mother, do you feel alone tending to your babies in isolation?
Having lockdown babies is a challenge because, yes, it does take a village. But I am so fortunate to have so much support. Before we went into lockdown and before I became a mother, I spent a lot of time finding the perfect help. I have to say that for my family and me, when we have people with us, they are our family as well. I’ve been so blessed to have these angels in my life, who take care of not only the twins but of me as well and, by doing so, help me to take care of my husband, my father, my mother, my brother because, if you have help, then you can help others.
How are you coping with this crisis? Any self-realizations?
I’ve been coping a lot by increasing my spirituality and my faith. I am trying to take this time to connect closer to that side of me and I need to work more, it does take constant work, but we all need to find what works best for us. I also spend some time every day to do some physical activity to help me just stop thinking and for physical strength, which I need to cope well. This virus has challenged us in so many ways—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. It is the ultimate test and it has brought so much tragedy and difficulties to people but, at the same time, there’s hope. I am in complete awe of the compassion I see around despite all the adversity.
If you were to explain the pandemic to your twins, how would you do it?
My twins are only three months old so I imagine there are parents out there who have had to have this conversation and I guess the best way to approach it would be to be reassuring, calm, and collected with how you discuss the situation to your child because you don’t want to them to have any fear. I would probably keep reinstating how safe they are. I don’t want my children to grow up in fear and I pray every day for a world safe again for all our children. I would say to my kids over and over again, “Mama and Papa, your family, are here to keep you safe always.” I think what matters for a child is that they grow up in an environment which is filled with joy, security, and happiness so that they can thrive and become confident. If they were at an age in which I have to explain it, I would probably lean toward explaining how safe they are rather than what they need to fear.
What are the lessons of the pandemic to us?
The humility that Covid-19 has brought upon us, I believe, as people is so intense because it’s so shocking how much we took for granted. As we move forward into this post-Covid world, I pray we will be able to bring with us some of these lessons in humility, compassion, and camaraderie.
Photos courtesy of Rocio Olbes-Ressano