Among all her accolades, Caroline Ballesteros considers being a mother her greatest feat.
Her expertise in public speaking and hosting, branding, events planning and corporate and government relations doesn’t come close to how selfless and brave she has become as a mother of six.
It was on a hump day Wednesday, when the Play! pool visited her at her office at the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), taking a bit off her time from work for a little chit-chat.
Her voice was running on the recording for an hour and 20 minutes, and it was surprisingly enough to reveal more about Caroline, or dearly called as “Carol” by her friends and colleagues —of how she was like as a teenager, how she transitioned from a young woman to the selfless and brave mother that she is now.
Growing up to three different mothers and 16 siblings, Carol acquired a heart big enough to nurture six children, without playing favorites.
Raising her kids on her own, she was broken at times, but never gave up.
As Carol puts it, your happiness or even your pain comes secondary to that of your children’s. So if life gives you lemons, you either make lemonades, or sell them for your kids.
Taking on several jobs, leaving the country for a year in the Land of Milk and Honey, Carol found her strength when she was at her weakest—it was in solitude that she found she was never alone because of God.
Today, we mark Mother’s Day by celebrating the experiences of a woman, whose story is proof enough of a mother’s unconditional love.
How hard was it raising six kids on your own?
I have six kids but I’m a biological mother of four. The two older kids, are my stepkids.
My marriage was annulled. My ex-husband… when we got married, he brought a son into our marriage.
We married in May. In June ang mama niabot sa amo dala ang bata who was then one year and six months old
She said iyang ibilin ang bata for a week pero wala na niya balika.
And then I got pregnant in August, the next year, I gave birth and also I had MA.
The reason why all of my kids, have Angela and Angelo as their second names, it is because the name of my husband’s son is Michael Angelo (MA).
I didn’t want bitaw that he would feel nga di siya anak, so that he would feel that he is part of the family.
Can you take us back to that moment when MA was delivered at your house?
Wa naman jud kay mahimo, naa naman. I never saw any fault with the child.
My officemates thought that I was crazy, martir kuno.
Para nako ba ang martir man gud, it is when you do things na sakit sa imong buot but para nako dili man siya sakit.
I did not see anything bati sa bata. Biktima lang pod siya’s sitwasyon, so we took him in.
As a matter of fact, nagka diarrhea gani to siya and I was the one nga nagbantay sahospital nga mabdos nako ato. My bosses didn’t even know about it until I was absent at work and asked where I was.
A workmate told them that I was in the hospital taking care of my child, and they said “Nasakit diay ang anak, nga wa pa gani to nanganak?”
Pero again, it wasn’t hard for me.
I thank God for giving me an open heart and that I grew up loving the child.
You also raised another kid who is not biologically of your own. Tell us more.
It was the following year after giving birth to our first born, the mother came back bringing her elder daughter Maribeth, from another man, to us.
When learned that she left Maribeth to her mother, when she went abroad and found out that her eldest wasn’t taken care of properly. She promised to send money for the child but that did not happen.
My ex-husband then said that whatever happens to the child, she’s still the sister of her son, so we took her in, kay wala man jud sala ang bata. For me if there’s anybody to blame it is the parents who gave birth and dili diay kabuhi.
However, the kids grew up knowing that I wasn’t the real mom because I wasn’t sure if anytime kuhaon niya. They call me Mama, they call their real mother, Mommy.
How was it being a new mom back then?
I don’t know if other mothers know this but all the while, I thought the nipple was like the baby bottle, nga usa ra
Natingala man ko nga mo-spurt man ang daghang gatas, like a sprinkler.
Your nipple is like a shower, kung mag-totoy ang bata sa right, mo-shower pod sa pikas
I have this unforgettable story about MA, when I was breastfeeding, thank God daghan kog gatas.
Nakabantay siya everytime magpatotoy ko, akong isawod sa baso ang pikas.
My plan was to make it as a mud pack kay good man daw siya sa skin.
But then MA got curious and asked what was on the glass, and I said it was milk.
He asked again if it was lami ba daw, so he tried.
Naganahan na siya so mag-atang na siya pirmi.
So na-breastfeed pod nako si MA, sort of.
So I didn’t know these things, because my mother died when I was still two.
I had stepmoms, one after the other.
Unlike other ladies nga manganak nga naa ilang mama, in the labor room, there were other women giving birth
calling their mothers, while there was me, I had nobody. So nobody taught me nga ingon ani diay ni siya.
It was really an experience on your own.
How was it dealing with motherhood, without a mother on your side to guide you?
I sort of felt that God prepared me for the life that I will be living in the future because then I saw myself in those kids and I didn’t want them to go through what I went through.
Who do you run to when everything seemed so stressful?
I have some really close friends in high school.
I also have an elder sister, a tomboy, who never got married and stayed with me all throughout.
My kids would call her “Daddy Alright.” Her name is Ling Ling. When my kids were still young, she would always say “all right, men,” that’s how she got that name.
I’m a born again Christian and we got to meet every week and they are my source of strength. They were with me in tough times, when three of my kids were at the hospital. Muadto sila to pray, sila muhatag og support. Until now, that my kids have grown, they are still with me.
You have been a TV host, worked as a PR practioner. How were you able to manage everything, alongside motherhood?
When I got married at 24, I had a full-time job, Mondays to Fridays. I have had several jobs, I worked in a bank, taught part-time at the University of San Jose Recoletos (USJ-R).
The classes were usually after office hours, on Saturdays, when I was still working.
Dili pa ko ato full-time sa ABS-CBN.
My show was during Saturdays.
And Sundays, I do the PR. I would go to White Gold and bring the kids with me so it was just like going out malling.
It was a job for me, but it was fun for the kids. It was all scheduled.
So, you didn’t actually get to enjoy a day off?
When you get married, you don’t consider that anymore.
It’s a new role that you assume and motherhood is 24/7, even now that my kids are all grown up, it is still stressful, the issues are just different now.
You never stop being a mom.
You graduated as summa cum laude in college where you took up Commerce. How did you end up in TV hosting?
It all happened by accident.
During my time when I was in high school going into college, I thought of a course nga dali rako makasulod and daghan kag
options for a job.
So it was commerce, at the same time, I was already very active in extra curricular activities, whenever there are school events, ako
permi emcee, almost member kos tanang organizations, science, acting and math class.
In college, I was kunohay a campus figure.
I was in most organizations and I was in school publications and I also joined competitions like oratorical speech fest unya makadaog sad ko. And then that time, second year college ko there was already a show but it wasn’t yet ABS-CBN. It was still with Channel 9, it’s “Close-Up Campus.”
At that week, to promote the contest nangita sila’g someone to endorse the program.
I wasn’t part of the contest. I did not join the competition. But the daughter of the producer was a schoolmate, who
recommended me to her father to guest in the show to endorse the competition.
It was on a Saturday, so I agreed, that was where I was discovered as a host for Premyo Jamboree, at the age of 17. It’s a weekend man so I said yes.
The program would come before “Sali Kami,” the one where I guested.
To make the long story short, that was really how I started and got a name
When Dante Luzon moved to ABS-CBN after Martial Law, he was assigned in Cebu and he remembered me, it was in 1989, he called me up, asking if I would be wiling to co-host “Campus Beat” with him with ABS-CBN.
That was how I transferred to the network.
With all your achievements in school, how
are you as a mother, in terms of grades or school matters?
I’m thankful that I have very good kids.
They are self-motivated, there was no need for tutoring but
unlike me, they were not tabi-an.
Their activities are more into writing, ang ako ra maingon nga ma-PR nga liwat nako, kay si Jennifer.
They call her Miss PR in school kay smiling kaayo, the rest are kind of hilomon but they know me and the world I move around
because when they were young they were able to participate in commercials that I did, like Century Tuna.
And I don’t pressure them that much because I don’t push them when I know that they can’t pero thankfully mga honor students man pod sila.
So if I know that they can do it, I push them but if I know nga naninguha na pag ayo pero di gihapon dili na.
Ang amo lang jud nga goal is no failing grade, they have curfew, mananghid jud and the usual rules nga I hope nga naa gihapon karon, like they are not allowed to go on sleepovers.
I would rather that they bring their friends sa house than sila’y muadto sa balay sa ilang friends.
So you are strict as a parent?
Strict ko in things that concern their safety, like sa mga laag.
The time that they were growing up, wala pa biyay cellphone.
Even now, naa nay cellphone that I had daughters nga nagkuha’g Nursing and na’ay duty, I need to know where they are gyud.
The boyfriend thing also they are not allowed until they reach 18.
If there are guys nga mangulitawo need to ask my permission.
How was it like having 16 other siblings?
We are close, sa amoa walay igsoon sa gawas.
Except for the wives, of course.
We had no choice because what father wanted, he got.
In fact on his 74th birthday, the three living wives were there.
Mama Sisang was the one giving orders, Mama Leni was just in the corner, then Mommy was the reigning, she was the one greeting the visitors. It was what my father wanted.
As a mother, how do you avoid playing favorites among your children?
I tried my best when they were growing up.
Like celebrating their birthdays, dapat walay lamang, as long as there is cake and spaghetti and balloons, party naman na for them.
Christmas, they all have gifts. I didn’t want them to feel nga lain sila.
How was it raising your kids on your own?
God has been so good to me. I got annulled back in 2001, and my ex-husband, though he promised to give financial support, never sent any.
But God has been so good and thankfully I got a lot of jobs to make both ends meet and I also thank God for my ABS-CBN stint because it kept me sane. It’s where I can totally forget and be in an entirely different world.
There was a time that I went to the States to try to make it there, but I missed my kids so
I came back.
It was only one year but it was enough to make me realize… what good is money if you are not happy pod?
While I was away, I prayed to God, and remembered that time gyud nga “You can bless me with this kind of
income if you will will it because you are God.”
People always looked at America as the Land of Milk and Honey… that’s not the point… I know that if God wanted it He will do it because he is God.
I just have to take the leap of faith and go home.
How did you manage being away from the children?
I lost a lot of weight, I looked like I had anorexia.
Because I’m a fretful mom, gamay lang problema mura nakog ma-paranoid, like even if it’s just fever, ipa-blood test dayon.
At that time, there was no Viber and Skype.
Text lang and mahal kaayo.
So I came back home, and I decided not to go back to showbiz kay I was only a talent, I was already 40 and I didn’t have benefits.
Back in the States, I worked as a caregiver.
And I could still remember when I was cleaning up the carpet, I told the Lord, that the job was okay
because it was dignified but I told him that He will never give me talent and allow me to graduate as summa cum laude to be a caregiver.
For me it was really important to pray, Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you not to harm you.” I knew that the Lord has plans for me I only have to take that leap of faith and go back.
To make the long story short, somebody found me and I joined Aboitiz, in time when my kids are about to go to college.
They got into Cebu Normal University, they were all smart. I felt like God brought me here.
There was a time when my brother’s boss told me something which really shook me but then the Lord consoled me right after.
I worked with him in the States as his executive assistant, he was there for a medical check-up.
I did everything for them, including cleaning their apartment. I did several jobs for them. He told me one time, as I was preparing his breakfast, that I was such a waste.
His words were, “You’re very intelligent but you made a lot of wrong decisions in life, married early and you got into the wrong industry. You should have gotten better with age but look at you now.”
But if these things were said, the Lord shelters you, He bounces you back and tells
you that… yes, you have gotten better with age.
Before you were alone and now you have your own children that you love so much.
Because of what I went through, I have developed a deeper relationship with God and that’s all that matters.
In the States, it was just me and Him.
And the joy of all the things He planned for you that you never planned for yourself, like getting a job in Aboitiz, that’s when everything rings back.
I remember my prayer, and all I could say is thank you.
How would you define motherhood?
It’s the greatest gift God can ever give you. Being a mother —it completes me as a person
I tried different kinds of giving birth, the pain and the joy, when I’m in labor I keep on telling myself that I should not dwell on the pain, it’s what’s going to happen after, it’s the joy of seeing my child after.
I was always motivated to just fight. It’s also seeing them grow with the values you taught them.
Sa una nagtuo ko nga the greatest gift you can give your children is education but dili man diay.
It’s having them founded in the word of God.
Because you will not be alive forever, in the future, I’m not going to be here all the time but if they know God they will not be led astray because they have an anchor.
What is your advice to mothers reading your story now?
When you become a mother, whether by accident or intentionally, it is a commitment.
Life is precious, when you have a child. It’s your moral obligation to
Mothers are made naturally caring, that’s how God made them.
It’s God’s way of showing that He loves you.
If you are a mother who prays, He is always there.
You will always make the right decisions, He gives you strength and hope, because you have Him.
There’s this story that says our prayers on Earth looklike flickering lights.
The ones that shine the brightest are the prayers from a mother, because it’s unconditional, it’s selfless.
You are really blessed if you are a mom.