By Gina Abuyuan
I recently did a story on Emerson Yao, managing director of the Lucerne Group. Of the third generation of a family of watch retailers, the transformation of the family business is credited to him and his brother Ivan. Now, Lucerne is more than just a retailer. It deals directly with over 50 watch houses, is known for its high profile tie-ups featuring the Philippines as a brand, and strong recall events.
Emerson and Ivan didn’t have a mentor. Their father passed away early. “I was just out of college. There was only one store at that time—my grandfather started it all. My dad was a very simple man. He just had one or two watches. I remember him only wearing one. When he passed away, he left us the store, and that’s it.
“But he taught us a lot of other stuff. Being thrifty, being nice to people, humility, and all that—those are the cornerstone of our success. My father worked seven days a week, 365 days a year. Every day he was in the shop. So when he passed away, that was the only way we knew how to run our business. So we followed him. Looking back, if not because of that kind of a mindset, we couldn’t get to where we are today.”
I was thinking the same thing just a few days ago: If it weren’t for my mom, I would probably be a half-assed, irresponsible good-for-nothing. Don’t get me wrong—there was indeed a stage of my life when I indeed did nothing but party, but being my mom’s daughter made sure I rose beyond and above that.
As early as I can remember, my mom, Lirio T. Abuyuan, was a worker. She was continuously striving to improve her career and her options. When we were young, she packed us all up and moved us all (including my dad) to Wisconsin, where she pursued a PhD. When my dad had to come back to the Philippines, she became a de facto single mom—and having been one as well, I can say she did a pretty good job.
When we came back to the Philippines, I remember her leaving every morning, looking smart in her tailored suits, pumps, and briefcase. I used to love running my hands up and down her stockinged legs, and told myself that someday, I’d have my chance to wear nice nylon stockings too.
She worked long hours but made sure she had time to tutor me and my sister, and eventually, my brother. She threw mean parties at home for her colleagues (she still does, occasionally, for family, and the spreads are always unique and memorable). While holding a relatively high position in government (Assistant Secretary of DENR), she outspokenly turned downed and showed her disgust at people who tried to bribe her. Boy, did she earn a lot of enemies for that—to retaliate, they spread nasty rumors about her, but she stood her ground. When I grew old enough to wear makeup and attend parties and balls, I didn’t have to bother to go to the salon—she would do my hair and makeup herself, and she did it so well that all my friends said she should have opened a salon.
Sure, my mom and I have been at loggerheads too many times than I care to count or recall. But that’s what happens when two strong women clash—and where did I get that strength? From her. That’s also what happens when a mother allows her daughter to think critically and argue her point. (As a mom, I’m learning this freedom is a double-edged sword when it comes to raising kids, but hey, I’d rather have them know how to make a case than just roll over and take it.)
Like Emerson Yao, I don’t know how else I would have gone about doing what I do, working the way I do, if I hadn’t seen my mom build her career and juggle being a mother, wife, and homemaker. People have asked me how I can have the energy to do so many things at the same time. I usually answer with a shrug. A few days ago, and as I write this, I have a concrete answer: because I saw my mom do it.
She’s still the champion, of course. I don’t even come close, considering my age. Aside from still working on projects for the private sector, she goes to the gym, goes ballroom dancing, has time for her derma, travel, takes her grandkids out, and is now developing her own brand of longganisa. Mental, I tell you. Absolutely mental.
mother’s day article