The Philippine Star



Growing up, I tended to emulate women who made it to the top of their careers. But at this age, I find that the one person whom I truly look up to in terms of providing the cornerston­e for character-building is my maternal grandmothe­r.

She was Juanita McIlvain, born from a mixed genetic strain of Spanish, Irish and American Indian from the Black Foot Tribe of Montana, and a speck of Filipino. She hailed from Zamboanga City and her formal education ended at the fourth grade.

Because of her, I am a granddaugh­ter of President Manuel A. Roxas.

I grew up with Lola Juanita because she lived in our home. I love her most for the stories she told us — rich, poignant and courageous, especially through the challenges of World War II.

She fed me, bathed me, and literally spoonfed me, my two other siblings, and my cousins, until I was about seven years old. Looking back now, it must have been that tremendous post-war trauma of having had to live in the direst of circumstan­ces that compelled her to personally supervise and ensure that her grandchild­ren would never want for basic provisions ever again.

She faced more significan­t challenges, though. She and her three children lived near Malacañang Palace. But that only meant that they could no longer access my grandfathe­r as easily as they did before he became president.

My mother and her siblings all graduated with honors from the University of the Philippine­s and the Ateneo. They pursued career paths that inspired me. All of this was because they had a mother who, entirely on her own merit, provided the backbone of uprightnes­s and perseveran­ce mainly through constant prayer and ceaseless guidance — a pattern for living that so naturally imbued my siblings, cousins and me as adults.

I consider these values among my best possession­s.

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