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What Loren Legarda would advise her younger self

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
What Loren Legarda would advise her younger self
Antique Rep. Loren Legarda.

My life is like a bullet train, but I’m grateful with all the blessings and failures I have experienced in life,” shares Antique Rep. Loren Legarda. Being the first Filipino woman to top the senatorial elections twice in 1998 and 2007 this public servant, environmentalist, cultural worker, multi-awarded journalist and mother of two is no stranger to us.

Loren has dedicated her life these past two decades to public service. During the May 2019 elections, she won by a landslide to represent the province and lone district of Antique.

This cum laude graduate from the University of the Philippines has authored numerous laws aimed at improving the lives of Filipinos and promoting inclusive, sustainable and resilient development.

Loren’s inspiring advocacy on environmental protection has earned global recognition. She has been recognized as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum and a UNEP Laureate. She was chosen as one of the Summit Champions for the High-Level CVF Virtual Summit held in November 2018 and one of the Climate Defenders chosen for the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow.

We asked Loren recently for 10 pieces of advice she would give to her younger self.

Loren with her late mom Bessie Legarda during the awarding ceremonies of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service in 1995. Loren was an awardee.

1. Follow your mother. Our mothers know best. Mama (the late Bessie Bautista Legarda) was strict but for good reasons. If I followed her, it could have spared me some heartaches. This is good advice for many children who think their parents are strict. Their parents only wish the best for them. My mama would always advise me, being the eldest and only girl, not to be too trusting. Whenever I would go to parties, my parents would take me to the party and wait for me in the car. I tended to be quite naïve then and if only I listened to her, I would have avoided some of the pain I experienced in life.

2. Stop and smell the roses more. I have always worked hard, was laser-focused on my studies and on achieving my dreams. I am a taskmaster, even with myself. While growing up in a nature-filled environment, I wish I had more time to relish the beauty of nature.

3. Don’t be scared to fail and fall and make mistakes because we are human, after all, and there is wisdom in learning from those mistakes. Yes, I have fallen, many times over, endured scars but gained wisdom. When I was in third year at the UP Institute of Mass Communications, I literally fell on the floor when I was about to go up but I still continued my presentation.  My professor then, Orly Mercado, gave me a flat 1. He told me “It’s not so much how you perform but how fast you get up when you stumble.” So I fell but I did not fail. I did not attain many of my dreams then but I am grateful for what have now.

4. Sing more, play the piano, continue painting and writing poems, and read more books. These forms of self-expression nourish our soul and our being. I wish I could paint again; I have in fact bought a watercolor set, ready to be used! I love painting the sunrise and sunset. I studied voice several times, never succeeded in being a singer! I studied voice as an elective at UP College of Music and then I again took up voice lessons at a music school along Pasay Road in Makati. My favorite songs include I Won’t Last a Day Without You by Karen Carpenter. I love the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s songs. As long as there is a mic or karaoke I love to sing. My late mama would sing opera music. She sang at the golden wedding anniversary of my Lolo Pepe and Lola Mameng. I grew up listening to Mama vocalizing in the bathroom, maybe that’s why I fell in love with singing. Singing was my ultimate dream and frustration.

I also love playing the piano. My teacher in Malabon was our neighbor, Menen Santiago, the wife of film producer Larry Santiago. I used to play Where Do I Begin, which is the theme song of the movie Love Story. I also loved the songs in the opera Rigoletto and Loss of Love, theme song of the movie Sunflower.

I would have wanted to learn more songs to play on the piano, but I was 18 years old when I started working as newscaster on TV and had no time. But I still kept the piano pieces with me until now and hopefully I can get back to playing the piano.

5. Stay in love with nature. In the future, its protection and preservation will be my greatest mission in life. I would even command my younger self: Do not use single-use plastics, segregate waste at source, recycle and do composting! This is a law that I eventually authored.

6. Spend more time with Mama. I did not realize that she could go so soon. Mama passed on at 61. I was in my thirties as a young mother. I have so many regrets, even if I had so many travels and bonding moments with her.  Her lifetime was never enough.

7. Be a full-time mom when your sons are born until their age of maturity. I was a working mother. How I wish I spent more time with my sons Lanz and Lean while growing up.  As working mothers, we all have guilt pangs, sometimes. In hindsight, my sons appreciate me for the work I have done.

8. “Take care of yourself, take care of your voice, drink lots of water and exercise more!” I wish I had become more athletic. Believe me, your 60-year-old body will thank you for it.

9. Never be a waste of space, meaning live a purpose-driven life, as I do now and love every minute of it. Being productive, fulfilled and inspired and to be passionate about what I do is an immense blessing.

10. Study science because many of the problems we have now are solved by nature-based solutions and based on science, whether it is in health in the pandemic recovery or in the climate crisis.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at monsrt@gmail.com. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

LOREN LEGARDA
Philstar
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