Project Lilo | Lucien Lao-Villarruz
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Lucien Lao-Villarruz

Its not very often you come across people who instantly leave you feeling lighter and happier than you were  prior to spending even the briefest time with them. But that’s exactly what Lucien does. She greets you with  the biggest smile that immediately puts you at ease and invites you into conversation that makes you feel like you’ve known each other forever. And while she is beautiful, sweet and just plain lovely, she is also very strong, tough, driven and FUNNY. Boy is she funny. She’s as hands on as any mama can get preparing her kids’ meals daily and driving them to and from school. Oh and did we mention that she does all that while teaching children with special needs and running her amazing clothing line Little Luli?  We spent the morning in her beautiful abode and talked about appreciating the smallest gestures, embracing every stage of childhood and the importance of listening to your own voice.

What was your reaction when you found out you were pregnant?

Our original plan after getting married was to spend a year, just us, traveling. While we were dating we never really got to do that so we thought this was our chance. Travel as much while we didn’t have kids, that was the plan… eh wala, 6 months later, to-toink! I was pregnant, hi Rye!

While things didn’t go exactly as planned, I was very happy to find out that we were expecting. Virgil and I knew of couples who got married before us having problems conceiving so we were also a bit worried about possibly facing the same situation. As will all things, feelings of happiness would occassionally give way to sudden bouts of nervousness and self doubt as the days and months went by. Syempre, first time mom. I kept on asking myself, kaya ko ba ‘to? I also kept on thinking about how labor would go–Masakit ba? What do I do? What should I expect? I armed myself with pregnancy and parenting books and asked my mom. Of course each experience is different so I still didn’t know what to expect.

What’s the best thing about being a mom?

The best thing about being a mom is genuinely giving and receiving unconditional love. Children are so innocent and forgiving, that even if you get mad at them, their love for you remains the same. Let’s be honest, it can be hard to love adults unconditionally. Sometimes, when arguments are made or something bad happens, our love for them (or their love for us) changes–either it lessens or becomes greater. But when you’re a mom, there are no judgements when it comes to your children, you love them no matter what. Its something you don’t fully understand or experience until you have kids. It’s a kind of love that makes you keep on giving to your children (and vise versa) without expecting anything in return.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mom?

I think the hardest thing about being a mom is not the giving birth part. It’s the responsibility of raising human beings, doing your best to mold them into decent adults. Setting the balance between guiding them and giving them independence to make their own decisions. Its so difficult to watch them fail and get hurt yet you need to let them go through all that in the hopes that they will come out of it stronger, better. As a mom, you constantly want to keep your children safe around you but at the same time, you know that you need to let them go.

How did your marriage change after having children?

When we were newlyweds, Virgil and I would spontaneously decide to go on a road trip with no plans, and no accommodations whatsoever. We’d just pack our bags and head on to Baguio for 2-3 days. When we had children, leaving just got harder. Going on date would require so much prep and logistics, who would stay with the kids, could my parents stay with them? my in-laws? that we hardly went without them.  And while our sudden just-you-and-me adventures have been put on hold for awhile, we learned to appreciate the very little things we do for each other. Virgil still opens the door for me and even apologizes when he doesn’t get to because his hand are full, or he surprises me with my favorite drink.  I in turn get excited when I find a new sauce or a new recipe because I know its something that he would like. And while its nice and easy to remember the grand things such as vacations, super special dates and big gifts, I am grateful for the everyday, seemingly mundane things that we do for each other. I always try not to take those little things for granted.

What is your philosophy on motherhood?

I know this might sound cliché but enjoy each and every moment. Whether it be a milestone for your kids or you as a mom. Savor it all, both the challenging ones (because there will be a LOT) or the joyful ones. Its difficult to feel positive during those hard days but always remember that this time of your life and theirs–breastfeeding, raising a toddler, working while they are with you, cleaning up their mess, dealing with teenage issues– all of that will never happen again. You will never be pregnant again, they will never be 2 year olds again and one day, you will never see lego bricks scattered on the floor again. The bugging and begging to bring them with you will stop and you will miss it. So when motherhood sometimes becomes difficult, try to be grateful and embrace those moments with your kids.

What lessons have you learned from your children?

Raising kids takes A LOT of waiting–  waiting for them to finish eating, waiting for them to finish packing up their toys, waiting for them to learn things on their own. Its so hard to sit still and wait for things to happen especially when you’re a control freak like me. I also used to feel so frustrated when I was placed in a situation that I couldn’t fix, or disappointed and even rattled when I could only accomplish a few things on my never ending to-do list. But having children changes you, you learn to adjust and you learn to be patient. You also learn to let things go and trust that God has got your back. My boys have taught me the value of  taking a breath and telling myself that I’ve done as much as I can, the rest can wait or that I’ve done enough, its time to let God take over.

What legacy would you like to leave your children?

I want them to be kind-hearted people, to see the goodness in everything. I want them to know that we are not in control of a lot of the things here on Earth and that there is a Higher Being that we should all be grateful to.


What’s “me” time like for you?

It doesn’t take a lot for me to enjoy “me” time. Just being able to spend time alone doing things like working quietly, having a quick nail spa trip, getting an afternoon nap, watching TV are enough to recharge and reset me.  One thing I learned when I became a mom was that you will almost never be alone. So those moments when I am by myself, I treasure those. It gives me time to think about myself, my life, my family.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self listen to your own voice. Don’t mind so much what other people will think. They have no say on how you should be, think and feel. YOUR voice is the only one that matters.


Photographed by Sheila Catilo

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