Driving Lessons: Jeanette Ipapo-Tuason Shares Her Journey Empowering Women on Road and Life - LA Lives

“At the end of the day, you cannot give love if you don’t have passion.”


It all started in college. My mom bought one of the fastest cars in the 90s. I didn’t know what the fuss was all about, but Upsilon boys hanging out in the UP Diliman AS parking lot would flock to it and ask if they could drive it.

Initially, I thought they were interested in me, but it was the car’s V6 engine they were drooling over.

This car introduced me to the world of speed. I enjoyed driving to school and thought I might be a race car driver in the making. I felt fast snaking my way through a spacious EDSA and thought I had talent until I met my husband.

In front on the Grid of The Toyota Vios Cup, One of the biggest races in asia with more than 70 cars competing

I met him through a friend at El Circulo, one of the hottest nightspots at the time (there goes my age). The prelude to the introduction was that I wanted to try racing. My husband, JP Tuason, was a popular race car driver and comes from a family of race tuners. We exchanged numbers, dated, and the rest was history.

Growing passion

Our business partnership started even before being married. While dating, we combined my experience in events management and his passion for growing motorsports. We started doing racing clinics and ventured to other car-related businesses. I was clueless about cars, racing, and car painting, but my husband, a teacher by heart, explained to me patiently and answered all my questions.

Today, we are celebrating 21 years in the motoring industry; we have rolled out activities such as the Formula V1 challenge, where we manufacture, assemble and race single-seater race cars in partnership with West RaceCars, Japan. It is the first homegrown formula car program in the country.

Jeanette Ipapo-Tuason With Husband JP Tuason, during one of the Toyota Vios Cup Races the couple organizes

Another feather in our motorsports organizers cap is putting together one of Asia’s biggest races: the Toyota Vios One Make Race program, which has been running for six years and counting.

We also organized several regional and global events, including one where we had 300 participants from different parts of the world attending events simultaneously in Clark, Cebu, and Manila. We also hold the world-famous California Superbike School, which goes around Asia, bringing instructors from the US, Australia, and Europe.

Besides teaching people how to go fast, we also teach them how to be safe. We hold free seminars for the next generation road users in different universities. We offer defensive driving and auto maintenance classes to corporate drivers to make them better drivers.

Roughing it out in a 4×4 test Drive

Being in the automotive world taught me how to break barriers. There were times that people would not take me seriously because I was a female and non-racer. There are skills that a successful race car driver uses, such as determination, looking ahead, meticulous testing, and preparation that I learned and applied to daily life.

Writing chic

I started writing about cars as a contributor to magazines and broadsheets because I was in the industry. I had access to unique vehicles and frequently traveled all over the world to compete in races. But as we have gotten involved in teaching road safety, I realized that there was a lot more I can contribute, not just explaining cars in women-speak.

Car talk was like Greek to me, but I had people to teach me because it was our business. We would hear many horror stories on how bad women drivers are or taken advantage of because they don’t have experts to help them out. How do you translate all that engine mumbo-jumbo to women who have better things to do than checking out engine displacement and horsepower?

One of the Chicdriven Women Empowerment expos which gives free seminars to help women become better versions of themselves

Around 2011, I was invited by the new Motoring editor at Inquirer to write my column, which I chose to name Chicdriven. This has become my channel to helping women become empowered road users. We talked about auto maintenance, defensive driving, and a women’s perspective review on cars.

I try to make my articles light and practical, with no hard to understand concepts. I tested cars the way women will use it. To gauge how good the car ride is, we have the mascara/ liquid eyeliner challenge; to measure space, we tested it on which one will best fit a particular sale (Big car= S&R sale).

What came next was numerous questions on makeup, children’s car equipment, etc. I never claimed to know everything, so I tapped experts to give insights. In my experience, many women get hindered by simple unanswered questions because sometimes the answer provided is too complicated. Hence our mantra, #YourBestLifeInBulletPoints, was created.

Women empowerment

From there, the column became a springboard for our advocacy to empower women. With my partner Issa Litton, we staged the first Chicdriven Women Empowerment Expo while I was 6 months pregnant with twins (my fourth and fifth child).

We gave free seminars on different topics from financial freedom, fitness, beauty, road safety, parenting, home, etc. We asked passionate individuals to share their learnings to help the audience in the different roles they play. This became an annual activity and has now evolved into a micro-learning video podcast on our Chicdriven Facebook page called Chicchats.

Through meeting all of this incredible woman, I was able to see the different perspectives, mindset, and life hacks. This made my journey more diverse, and my priorities shifted.

Jeanette and JP with their children Arthur, Alysha, Andre, and twins Arya and Andi

In my life, I balance a husband, five kids (ages 20, 15, 9, two 6-year-olds), a couple of businesses, and my advocacies. What have I learned so far? Yes, you can have it all, but there is a time for everything.

It is not going to be easy. Learn to delegate, to forgive yourself, to simplify, and, most important, learn when to stop.

Another key learning that I practice is to manage my energy. There is no point in allotting one hour if your batteries are drained. Which also makes “me time” or “self-love” very important. At the end of the day, you cannot give love if you don’t have passion.

We see many women who seem to have it all and managed to look good while doing it. We don’t see the tears, pain, and struggles they have to face on the backstage, away from social media pages. No one is perfect. Everyone’s life has its ups and downs.

The first thing business experts advise would-be entrepreneurs is to find your “Why.” Mine, as I discovered, is to share what I learned to people so that they can be better versions of themselves. Life should not be about checking out how green the grass is on the other side, but to enrich one’s experience so that we don’t feel the need to compare.

This story originally came out in the October 2020 issue of Lifestyle Asia.

Photos courtesy of Jeantte Ipapo-Tuason

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