Hard Work, Faith, And Love Are Pillars Of Nita Yupangco's Family

This May, we focus on three generations of women, each with different experiences and unique insights. Yet, their steadfast values and unwavering love for one another remain certain.

Engaging in conversation with the daughter of a former Philippine President in her home, surrounded by precious memorabilia such as the painting of her wedding by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo on their living room wall, was a profoundly remarkable experience. During Mother’s Month, we often feature mothers with extraordinary stories. What an honor to showcase three generations of extraordinary women from the same family.

Grandmother, mother, and two daughters—these three generations have lived through different timelines, had separate experiences, and have unique stories to tell. Yet, they share the same love for each other and a deep understanding of what it means to be a family. 

When we entered their home, Potenciana “Nita” Laurel-Yupangco, the daughter of former president Jose P. Laurel, and her daughter Regina Yupangco-De Ocampo, were sitting in the living room.

Nita Laurel-Yupangco with daughter Regina Yupangco-De Ocampo

They warmly welcomed us into their lovely house. At 97, Nita, who recently celebrated her birthday on May 19, still has the energy to give me a long, warm smile.

In the living room, there was a piano, and a painting of Nita by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo hung on the wall.

I was captivated by the painting, and I remember the matriarch saying, “Tisha (her granddaughter) used that very same wedding gown.” 

In that moment, I felt that the bond this family shares is truly worth telling. 

READ ALSO: Celebrating Love, Family, And Heritage: Marco Vargas And Tisha De Ocampo Honor Family During Their Most Special Day

Echoes of Her

Nita shared that there are nine children in the Laurel family. “So actually, the boys are supervised by my father, and the girls are under my mother. So we always look for Mama,” she said.

“Every time we reach home, each one of us, even my brothers, our first word would always be ‘mama,’” she added.

She said her “mama” is always there to supervise. “It’s nice to have parents that are attentive,” she said.

The matriarch revealed that her mother’s love of her garden has made all of them attached to plants. When she got married at 24 and transferred to another home, she still enjoyed planting. She mentioned that she’s been in their home for 70 years, and all the plants around it are fruit-bearing and all from scratch.

Nita holding the mangoes from the trees she planted in her backyard decades ago

“I planted everything from seeds. I’m grateful now because we can enjoy the fruits already,” she said. Even until now, she spends about eight hours a day in her garden.

The way Nita talks about her plants, you can’t hide her joy and pride she gets from that. But that’s not all. When you think that a woman can only have one source of joy, you are pleasantly surprised. Aside from plants, she also adores music.

The Pearl of the Family

She mentioned how her father, the late then-president, played the violin, piano, guitar, and ukulele. And he introduced the nine children to music.

“My brothers and sisters, we all love music. Every time we get to reunite, we play together.”

Nita loves to play the piano. That explains the big Bösendorfer piano in the living room. When asked to play, she repeatedly said, “I’m not practiced. I don’t know how to use it anymore.”

The Bösendorfer is a limited edition model with gold leaf detail, one of only 12 in the world. Other notable locations with this model include the Buckingham Palace, the Imperial Palace in Japan, and the White House.

Interestingly, the Yupangco family used to distribute Bösendorfer pianos because Yamaha, which is their main line of business in musical instrument distribution, owns the brand.

While they opened the piano, she still continued saying the same line. We almost thought she didn’t want to do it.

But the moment she sat down and placed her fingers on the keyboard of the piano, we were so awestruck, we froze. The way she followed her fingers’ soft flowing movements, the way her smile lit up her face, and the way the music filled the entire room created an exhilarating moment. We were completely mesmerized. It was like being in a concerto, with Nita transporting us back in time as a 24-year-old.

Nita playing her rare Bösendorfer piano, one of only 12 in the world

Keys to Life’s Harmony

The talented pianist knows love, that’s evident. Love for plants, love for music, and most especially, love for family. When Lifestyle Asia asked her, at this point, what for her is true wealth and luxury, she took a pause, smiled, and said, “My children.”

“Every time they come here, I feel so happy because at least I can see them. I can enjoy their company,” she continued.

If there’s one piece of advice she would give to Regina and her granddaughters Tisha and Sara, it would be to work hard.

At this point, I gathered the courage to ask her secret to a long and happy life. With a playful smile, she replied, “Just mind your own business!”

A mother’s role, yet always a daughter at heart

Growing up, what were some of the most important things you learned from your mother? For some, it’s always a hard question to answer, trying to think of the most significant lessons from their mother.

But Regina answered firmly. She said, “Mom has always been an inspiration since I lost my dad at 14. My siblings and I are very close to mom, and we learned the importance of family life because everything was about family for my mom.”

From that moment, Regina learned to prioritize family and has always maintained a work-life balance. Now that she’s married, she’s happy that “We have been blessed to have our own family traditions interwoven with the traditions each of our own family brings.”

Regina has two daughters, Tisha and Sara. When asked how she ensures that her children understand and appreciate their family history and heritage, she answered, “We indulge ourselves with storytelling from Mama Nita, books, and stories from our relatives, and we strive to instill the teachings and values of Mama Nita.”

Nita proudly watching her daughter, Regina, play the piano

Heart’s Delight

Usually, families pass down values through generations. If there are values that Regina learned from her parents that she strives to pass on to her children, she said it’s “Values of integrity, hard work, and compassion.”

With everything happening at the fast pace of life, Regina said, “Life is full of challenges, but it becomes meaningful when you are able to overcome them.”

For Regina, her family stands for fairness, sustainability, and social corporate responsibility. How can she uphold these principles? “Giving back and seeing myself as a precursor to lead these values,” she said.

Regina said she’s part of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) ministry at their parish. For her, “true wealth is the good deeds you do, the people you have helped, and luxury is the peace you get from them.”

Talking about her mom, Regina explained enthusiastically, “My mom is simple, humble, and easy to please, which makes everything so beautiful, and my children are my greatest treasure!”

For a Mother’s Month message to her daughters, Regina said, “Keep faith, as nothing is impossible with GOD.”

The Blooming Flowers of a Generation

Sara, Regina’s youngest daughter, exudes a light aura and is easy to talk to. Just as Regina learned the value of family from Nita, Sara learned from her grandmother and mother that “Love is the foundation of everything, that family is the greatest support system one can have, and quality is more important than quantity in all aspects of life,” she said.

Regina with her lovely daughters, Tisha (left) and Sara (right)

“My grandmother and mother have always led by example, and I hope to do the same for my future family,” she added.

Sara hopes that her children get to experience living in a three-generation household growing up alongside their grandmother, as she has.

“Growing up, it was challenging to keep up with the sermons and tough love, but now I’m really thankful it’s given me the assurance to go through life in my own skin,” she added.

Loved Little One

Sara fondly shares how traveling abroad or locally during the holidays or long breaks as a whole clan has always been the highlight of the year for their family.

“As a clan of 30 and counting, it’s a great opportunity for all generations to take some time off from our busy schedules and just make good memories and spend quality time together as a family,” she said.

“Personally, sharing a room with my grandma during some of these trips has deepened our connection. I realized that family reunions are taken seriously by the Laurel clan as well. Every year, until today, we’ve managed to gather over six generations of our Laurel family (except during the pandemic) in one night. It’s nice to see how such a bond lives on through different generations.”

She’s enthusiastic about family time. Especially when talking about her sister Tisha, it’s a more serious tone in which you can feel the sense of love, “She is my better half! She was the best influence to me growing up and my mom made growing up with her so much fun in our matching outfits, travels, and other childhood adventures. But I must highlight that despite our little quirks and our somewhat polar personalities, we’ve always respected the fact that we are family, and that makes such a big difference in our relationship. Our relationship has always been very low maintenance so even if I don’t see her every day anymore, the distance isn’t much of an issue.”

Sisters Sara and Tisha De Ocampo

Beloved Treasure

She continued talking about her family. She mentioned her grandmother, “According to Mama Nita, Lolo Jose always highlighted imparting only two things to his family that will help them succeed in life, and these are: a good education and a good name, and this has remained with me over the years.”

Gratitude, integrity, and resilience—these are some of the recurring values and traits that Sara has witnessed with her grandmother and mother embody over the years.

Because of this, she’s learned to turn to God in both good and bad times, and in a world of pretense and social pressures, “I’m constantly reminded to stay true to myself and to stick to my values. Resilience has also enabled me to accomplish things I never thought possible,” she said.

We asked Sara: What are you most proud of about your grandmother and mom?

“That they are women of action and of few words. I also admire that they are working mothers and wives, managing multiple responsibilities at the same time but with a goal to always be the backbone of the family at the end of the day,” she answered.

“This was a huge inspiration growing up. It is interesting to note that both my mom and my grandmother are the youngest girls in their family. In my mom’s case, the only girl, maybe that’s why they’ve become the empowered matriarchs I know them to be!”

Sara, pertaining to her grandmother, is excited and grateful. “For someone like her, I would say age is really just a number!”

New Beginnings

Tisha, the elder sister of Sara and Regina’s first daughter, just got married last year wearing the same gown that her grandmother wore almost seven decades ago.

When Lifestyle Asia asked her about family values or traditions she wants to continue with her husband, Marco. She said, “Definitely prioritizing family and ensuring we have our weekly family gatherings. Every Sunday, my grandmother and all her six children with their families come together for dinner. This is something I look forward to because I get to catch up with my cousins and bond with them.”

Tisha mentioned that her family has supported her in all her endeavors no matter the size. “Since getting married last year, I’ve moved out of my home. Luckily, I still live close by so I get to visit them often and vice versa,” she said.

“My parents still very much support me. My mom sends us food regularly. She also helped me set up my new apartment. We’re really grateful for all the support we are getting as we grow our young family,” she added.

The most valuable lessons that Tisha has learned from her grandmother and mother are heartwarming. She said, “My grandmother always told me that the foundation of love is respect; without it, no relationship can thrive. Family has always been so important for both my grandmother and mother, I have seen this firsthand throughout my life. They have taught me that no family member is perfect. We have to respect and accept them for who they are.”

Like Sara, Tisha mentioned that their way of bonding as a family is traveling.

Piece Of Her Heart

“Prior to COVID, my whole family (all 30 of us) would travel together to different parts of the world. This is to celebrate Christmas and my grandmother’s birthday. It’s such a special time because we all get to explore a new place together as one. Some of my best memories growing up are from these family trips,” she said.

Describing her relationship with her younger sister Sara, she said, “My sister and I are quite opposite. We like different things, yet despite our differences, we remain close. We are only two years apart in age, so we get to experience a lot of things together. The best part of growing up together was having someone I could confide in. Someone who could help me decide. Even though I’m older, she is definitely wiser and has her own mind.”

Tisha mentioned the values she has learned from both her grandmother and mother. “From my grandmother, I learned the importance of hard work and prudence. She worked every day up until COVID happened, and at that time, she was already 92 years old. From my mom, I learned what it means to love unconditionally. This is a value I hope to impart to my future children as well.”

For Tisha, what defines true wealth is living a life with purpose. It’s knowing that everything she does is part of something greater than herself.

Regarding her grandmother, she feels truly blessed that they get to celebrate her Mama Nita. “Every day we are grateful for her presence and nourishing care. She is the glue that keeps us all together,” she said.

She also added how proud she is of both her Mama Nita and her mom Regina. “I’m proud that both my grandmother and mom are able to live a life filled with lasting love. Dreams fulfilled, and passions pursued.”

To Put Together With Light

Three generations photographed in their living room, with the backdrop of Nita Laurel-Yupangco’s wedding painting by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo

Nita’s love for gardening mirrors the reciprocal relationship she shares with her plants. Just as she nurtures them, they, in turn, nourish her, exemplifying the harmonious coexistence of living beings.

Tisha describes her grandmother as the glue, the foundation upon which their family stands. Sara sees their mother, Regina, as the embodiment of strength. Despite their differing experiences and lessons learned, these three generations share a profound understanding of family and love. 

In an era where physical distance is easily bridged by online communication, this family remains committed to gathering every Sunday. This is a tradition they upheld for years.

I firmly believe that a person’s essence is shaped by their family, their upbringing, and the values instilled in them.

For the Yupangco-De Ocampo family, the future holds no concern about the continuation of their legacy. Their bond is strong, a testament to their upbringing and unity.

Just as the word “photosynthesis” translates to “to put together with the help of light.” The women in this family have been the guiding light. Binding them together through generations.

CREDITS

Photos by Kieran Punay of KLIQ, Inc.,

Creative Direction by Paolo Torio

Sittings Editor Mawi Fojas De Ocampo

Shoot Coordination by Mae Talaid

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