Iris Castillo-Cular: Finding meaning in motherhood

By: Orly J. Cajegas, Rob Gonzales May 10,2015 - 10:24 AM

The essence of a woman, paraphrasing Miss Universe 1993 Sushmita Sen, is being a mother.  1992 Miss Teen Cebu City and 1993 Miss Cebu Tourism Iris Jasmin Castillo-Cular knows this too well.

Gifted with a loving husband, a flourishing career as a premier events planner this side of town, and sought-after emcee, she almost had everything— except  having her own child.

This is the fervent prayer of the couple Iris and  Mark.

After years of battling a hormonal imbalance, a miracle happened to Iris, like a gift straight from heaven: She became an instant mom. It was 15 years ago, and this life-changing experience continues to give her joy and unexpected lessons until today.

Here, Iris opens up about being in the right place at the right time, and embracing motherhood by way of adoption on the spot with no looking back since. She also talks about parenting  styles that she shares with her own mother, the challenges she had to overcome as a first-time mom, and the wonders this full-time job called motherhood brings. (OJC)


Edd Buenaviaje

Makeup: Jay Failanga

Locale: Crimson Resort
and Spa Mactan

Special thanks: Mia Mae Sy

Iris Castillo-Cular

What’s the most important advice you got from your mother?
Patience. Everything in life entails patience, especially in motherhood… like things can get out of hand and you’d be  so overwhelmed, you end up missing the things that you should be doing.

Is there a mothering style from your mom that you follow now?
My being OC (obsessive-compulsive) when doing things. Not all the time, but only when it comes to the family. You know, like uniforms have to be pressed well, especially the collar. I’m kinda OC with the collar like my mom. Little things, little details. One thing that I got from my mama also… she has instilled in us that what works for some families doesn’t necessarily work for yours… that every family is different.

Do you believe in the saying “Spare the rod and spoil the child”?
Yes. I was spanked as a kid, and I think I turned out fine. I guess it’s when you take the punishment  too far that it becomes an abuse. But when you are conscious that you are just trying to deliver a message na when you do wrong things, it’s going to hurt you. But do not hurt the child like kinahanglan manglabhag gyud na dira.

How were you disciplined as a child, and what’s your style as parent?
I remember being hit by a belt or a hanger or a walis tingting. And pinched, because it was common during that time. With my daughter, I spanked her with tsinelas… definitely not with my hands. Only twice siguro, and she was much younger then.

Do you think there’s a difference between motherhood then and now?
Children today are more exposed to many things, so much information accessible to them—so they mature at a very young age, and tend to think or act like an adult. Comparing myself as a kid then to a six-year-old today… I didn’t act the same way. Now, even on their own, kids pick things up from the internet. There are advantages and disadvantages. As parents we have to keep up with the times. All these information can be too much for their immature minds. With no parental guidance, kids could get the wrong ideas. Parents have to exercise control, explain to them what these things are.

In your case, has there already been a discussion  about sex education with your 15-year-old daughter?
It’s funny because when she had her first period, it was her tatay who was there and they didn’t know what to do. I had to talk to her about personal hygiene, how she’s supposed to take care of herself and the implications of having that already. But we haven’t talked about the more intimate stuff yet because she hasn’t asked.


Iris Castillo-Cular
Are you ready for this?
I hope so. I will be when it happens. I am a firm believer in God. In anything—even in my efforts to lose weight—I always ask His help. If that time would come, when serious talk arises, I hope my husband and I can deal with it in a way na understandable sa iyang level, at the same time deliver a strong message of how it should be and what should be.

Has she asked you about boys?
Yes, she’s quite open. I am very blessed to have a daughter like Alex… even if I think she has own little secrets, too. I was a 15-year-old once so I’m aware that not everything is revealed to the parents. But I know of her crushes. She is a homebody and hasn’t gone out on a date yet. She’d rather stay home, write poems and research about her crush, former One Direction member Zayn Malik.

Was your mom a stage mother back when you were competing in beauty pageants?
She was never a stage mother. She just let me be, unlike my co-candidates who had their mothers with them during practices and pageant engagements. I can’t remember my mom accompanying me, although she would always ask what happened afterwards. I appreciated this from her. Not that I didn’t want her to be part of the experience. It’s the thought that she trusted me, that I wasn’t doing any hanky-panky. And she trusted the people I was with.

What if Alexa has the same inclination?
I will also let her be. I don’t want to pressure her. Some mothers I know are strict with their children’s schoolwork, like they have to be on top of the class otherwise there would be consequences, or take ballet lessons and stuff. I am not like that. I guess it’s because I was not brought up that way. Growing up, we were never pressured into doing things as long as we passed the subjects in school. We didn’t  have to be in the honor roll as long as we were behaved, honest and good kids.  Alex also is a very responsible kid. Even when she was in  kindergarten, I don’t remember having to wake her up for school. She was always excited to go to class—in fact, she’d wake up earlier than me. She prepared her things, her uniform.

Is it okay to talk about your daughter?
Yes. She came into our family at an unexpected time. We never thought about adopting a child. It just happened. Maybe we just didn’t know that it was really God’s plan, our destiny, and it has been a blessing ever since.

Iris Castillo-Cular
Take us to that day when she became yours.
First three days when she arrived, I had to wake up during ungodly hours to feed her. I remember getting sick after a week because I was not physically prepared for the role. What I feared most was that people might not understand and so my husband and I decided that it shouldn’t be kept a secret.

What are your reasons?
We wanted to be the first ones to tell our daughter about the situation. It was actually quite a challenge because building a family… what they say about lukso ng dugo or being biologically related… Sa amoa nga side doble ang effort to make her feel that she belongs to us. We wanted it to be na when she would look back she’ll say na I never felt like I wasn’t blood-related.

How old was Alex when you talked to her?
She was in Grade Two. Of course, I’ve been praying for God’s guidance all along. That time, we were just eating and she said, “Mama, did I really come from your tummy?” Oh my God! I did not have a ready answer for her at that point but, thankfully, prayers really helped because somehow I just knew what to say. So I told her, “You  grew up in the tummy of another woman. But at that time, the lady who had you inside her could not take care of you, and at that time also, we needed an angel in our life. So Jesus decided na why not you become our angel because we can take care of you.” At first, Alex was silent, and then she said, “Cool! So I have two moms.” There are times when the topic comes up, in a casual manner nalang and not something that we really have to sit down and get serious about. I was thankful that I was able to explain it to her na dili kaayo serious na drama na kaayo. I don’t want her to find out sa laing person because everyone baya knew about it. I don’t want for her to find out about it nga bati pagka-deliver.

By empowering her,  I protect her from mean people, those who want to shame or bully her.

How long did you wait to have a child of your own?
When Mark and I got married he knew that I had some hormonal imbalance. Having a child was not impossible, but it would entail more effort. Before we got married, he said na you marry the person not because you want to have children with them, that you marry the person because you want to spend the rest of your life with that person. And even if it’s just the two of you, that’s already a family.

How has motherhood changed you?
I am now more selfless. I tend to be more concerned of other people, to put others before me. At the same time motherhood has taught me to take care of myself… like I  have to be a good example to my child. It also taught me to become more open-minded kay especially lahi na ang generation karon compared sa una. So tinuod gyud ang giingon ni Mama, that patience is the key.

Now that Alex is entering young adulthood, while you and Mark are both busy, how do you find time for each other?
Sundays when we’re free from work, we spend it together.

What are the things that you enjoy doing as mother and daughter?
We both enjoy music—we both share the same taste in music, which is mostly pop. We also love to read books. When we both finish reading a book, we discuss it, and sometimes we have different views about it, but it’s nice that we are able to talk about something that’s common for both of us.

If you’re going to write a book about motherhood, what would the title be?
“Just Wing It.” I would like to present the other side of motherhood na it’s okay to have fun and just relax, that  the kids will be all right as long as you care for  them well. You don’t really have to know everything. It’s okay to tell your kids, “‘Let’s learn this together because I need to learn this, too.” Paren’t don’t have to be perfect.

Are there things that you miss about life before all this? What do you miss most about modelling or being a beauty queen?
I have always been a homebody, never a party girl, so I guess I don’t miss my life before as much. In fact, I get to go out now more than when I was younger. The best part is that my daughter and I get to hang out like best friends do.

Iris Castillo-Cular
What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror?
I see a woman who has been through a lot, scarred, someone who survived challenges, someone who is imperfect yet very happy with who she is.

What’s your favorite part of being a mom?
It’s the fact that I have reared a loving child. I’m happy and proud with how my child is turning out to be.

What important advice will you give someone who is about to adopt a child?
First, I have to congratulate them for making such an important decision. My advice is to bear in mind that being a parent comes from the heart. There’s more to parenting than  bloodlines.

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