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Mother’s Day

May 12, 2019

“Dati-rati ako ang namamahagi ng bulaklak tuwing Mother’s Day,” happily boomed a woman’s voice, familiar to every household across the country.

“Puwes ngayon…” it mockingly warned, just as quickly breaking into a round of blissful laughter.

The famous voice is veteran broadcast journalist’s Korina Sanche

z-Roxas who looked exactly like she does on TV’s “Rated K” when she welcomed The Sunday Times Magazine to her home at the Aranetas’ residential compound in Cubao, Quezon City, except for a brighter twinkle in her eyes and a wider smile that never seemed to leave her lips throughout this conversation.

Hosting a small luncheon to celebrate her politician-husband Mar Roxas’ birthday a few days ahead his natal day on May 13, the ABS-CBN News and Public Affairs stalwart couldn’t help but talk about two other people more that the man of the hour. The celebrant didn’t mind by the way for he also talked about nothing else.

cover and inside

photos by j.gerard seguia

In other words, the gathering turned out to be all about Pepe and Pilar, the couple’s now famous — and extremely adorable — twin babies whom the Roxases had via surrogate exactly three months ago on February 12 in Pittsburg, USA.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sinong mag-aakala na magiging nanay pa ako?” Sanchez, the epitome of the modern career-driven woman achiever, laughed again.

Had the wonders of science been unable to help her have children at this stage in her life, it’s not as if she has nothing to show for choosing to reach the pinnacle of her profession rather starting a family earlier in life. Reputed as one of the Philippines’ foremost broadcast journalists, Sanchez is a proud pioneer of the iconic evening news program “TV Patrol” on ABS-CBN, and had trailblazed numerous public affairs formats like the early morning talk show “Magandang Umaga” with Noli de Castro; “Morning Girls” with Kris Aquino; “Tambalang Failon at Korina” with Ted Failon on AM Radio DZBB; and of course the magazine show “Balitang K,” the precursor of today’s long-running “Rated K” production, among many others.

Pepe (right) and Pilar were delivered on February 12, at 1 p.m. in Pittsburgh, USA. Pepe was born first at 5.4 lbs. while Pilar was born after an hour at 4.10 lbs.

Gaining awards for most if not all of her past endeavors, including the coveted Ka Doroy Broadcaster of the Year Award in 2008, Sanchez could have easily chosen to spend the rest of her life in comfortable companionship with her husband and no one would have dared to judge her. Nevertheless, to the nation’s surprise, the career woman embarked on what she had secretly called their “baby project” for years, and is now a mother of twin babies at 60.

“I really didn’t think I would ever have children anymore but if there’s one thing I can’t live with, it’s the feeling of regret,” Sanchez asserted. “And I came to a point in my life when I told myself, before I regret not even trying, I have to try, and what happened is nothing short of a miracle.”

Celebrating the twins’ first month still in Pittsburg until ‘Mommy Korina’ got the green light to fly them home to Manila.

In the following Q&A, discover a different Korina Sanchez, who rather than chasing deadlines, moves heaven and earth to secure precious breastmilk for her twins. A Korina Sanchez, who rather than asking tough questions about the state of the nation gets a consensus on the best diaper brand to use at night. And most remarkably, discover Korina Sanchez, a woman whose name had long been synonymous with strength and confidence, share feelings of fear and uncertainty in caring for two little human beings who instantly redefined the meaning of love and happiness in her life.

Mother’s Day has definitely been a long time coming for Korina Sanchez-Roxas, but as she opens her eyes on her very first one this morning and wraps her arms around two little bundles who depend on her completely, she will definitely say it’s been worth the wait.

Since Pepe and Pilar were born, when did it really sink in that you’re now a mother?

You know, that’s really the right words to use. When did it really sink in. Kasi hindi immediate yung pag-sink in nung motherhood lalo na since hindi ako yung nagdala nung dalawa.

Parang medyo strange especially at the start when we were waiting for them to be born. When people would ask me, “Are you excited?,” hindi ako makasagot kasi ang busy, busy ko sa trabaho.

Until the last minute when I boarded the plane to Pittsburgh, I was so busy so parang hindi mo maramdaman…

So nung dumating na yung mga bata… ‘Ay, okay, parang tao, humihinga na siya.’ [Laughs]. Tapos hindi rin ako masyado maka-bond kasi I have caregivers kaya hindi naman ikaw yung super kasama nila. Pero unti-unti, day by day, nadadagdagan yung bond, and most especially, nadadagdagan yung joy.

‘Motherhood is not defined by whether you carry the baby or not. It probably doesn’t even matter whether ampon yan, dugo mo o hindi. Motherhood is about the bond and the care that you give the child. The child knows who his or her mother is, depending on who gave him or her the love and inspiration while growing up.’

It’s not immediate but builds it up day by day, and now that they can already see, they’re interactive, and bumubuhos na talaga ang connection ninyo.

Can you describe your emotions now, three months into motherhood?

Tinatanong ko nga sa iba kung weird ba ako, pero apparently even with mothers who carry their own children, they feel the same way. They’re beset by worry. Sabi ko, ‘Negative ba ‘kong tao?’ Kasi parang sobra akong takot and worried if I’m caring for them properly. Ano ba ‘to, postpartum, eh hindi naman ako nanganak?

‘I really didn’t think I would ever have children anymore but if there’s one thing I can’t live with it’s the feeling of regret. And I came to a point in my life when I told myself, before I regret not even trying, I have to try, and what happened was sort of a miracle.’

Nahuli ko nga yung asawa ko sa ospital when they were born na nakatingin rin sa mga bata na parang, “What did I do?” [Laughs]. May picture pa ‘yun eh.

So I think it’s normal to get worried but you can only take it one day at a time as with any parent.

Does your fear go as far as sending them to school one day and having to let them go on their own?

Well, gusto ko nga sana one day at a time pero naisip ko na yan na lahat ng nanay sa school mas bata sa akin! [Laughs]. Baka pagpasok ko sa classroom, magtayuan akala ako yung teacher. Magpapadala na lang kaya ako ng representative? [Laughs].

As a highly accomplished woman, did you ever tell yourself that you don’t need to have children to complete the cycle of life? If you did, how did all that change?

I’ve always loved children but I never thought I’d have any of my own talaga. But like I said earlier, I can’t live with regret, and after we got married and we decided to try, what I couldn’t accept next was the word “impossible.”

I was turned down in New York, I was turned down in Singapore. They didn’t want to work with me [to have babies] kasi mahihirapan lang daw. Sabi ko naman, eh kung mahihirapan lang, p’wede pa yan. Kasi kahit sinabi pa nilang imposible, I didn’t even believe that. Doctors can also be wrong and those who said so were wrong kasi tinrabaho ko talaga.

In saying that, what did the whole “baby project” entail?

It was a whole year of really resting; dapat walang stress. Galit na galit na ko, nakangiti pa rin ako. Acupuncture dito, acupressure sa paa… Tyinaga ko talaga.

The doctor I worked with was very aggressive — every week nandiyan ako para magpa-ultrasound, nag-hahanap ng phonic route. There are many who are willing [to treat you] but you have to be unrelenting. The doctor will only be unrelenting as you are. So ako rin talaga ang kumakatok, ‘Mag-ultrasound tayo ngayon,’ so nakahuli kami.

How many attempts did you make in total [to be able to harvest eggs]?

Basta tuloy tuloy — wala ngayon, bukas meron. Magre-retrieve ka pero hindi lahat buo. It was a continuous process hanggang makaipon ako ng enough, hanggang sa hindi na ko makakilos. Talagang tail-end na. Maaga kasi ako nag-menopause because I only have one ovary. I had endometriosis very early in my life, around my 20s. Unti-unti na ini-slice yung ovary ko, and I had four operations in total for that. So ang natira nalang sa akin is half an ovary — half of one — that’s why Pepe and Pilar are really a miracle.

How did you learn about the surrogacy process?

I did my research and we finally went to what is called a surrogacy concierge. I used the same concierge as [Dr.] Vicki Belo because I started in India and it wasn’t working out — four years na hanggang nagbago na sila ng batas. Dati yung mga same-sex na mag-asawa, diyan nakaka-buo ng anak sa India because ang mga babae 24/7 parang Big Brother House, nasa loob lang ng facility. Talagang guwardiyado sila so gusto ko sana ‘dun. Eh sa tagal nagbago na nga batas so sabi ko, ikakatanda ko na ito!

So I went to Vicki and [her husband] Hayden [Kho], and sabi ko I’ll use your team. Tapos this concierge puts everybody together — the doctor, the lawyer, the carrier. Pagdating mo ‘dun, meron ka nang crib, basinet, lampin. Siya na lahat ang nag-asikaso.

Going through this, I’m happy that in the Philippines, hindi na sila nagtataka ngayon and hindi na nila kinwe-question yung proseso ngayon, and I think it’s because pag dumating na yung bata, maligaya na ang lahat.

Did you really want twins from the start?

Alam mo nung una, ang balak ko lang isa. Yung asawa ko naman gusto kambal —gusto pa ata triplets! Sabi ko, ‘Malakas ang loob ni lolo ha!’ I think it’s because he feels strong and he is strong. He’s physically stronger than me. Aakyat kami sa bundok meron siyang 15 kilos sa likod niya, ako four kilos lang sumusuko pa ko.

Tsaka s’yempre nag-iisip siya na matagal na namin pinaplano ito, and nandun na ‘din tintutubuan na ng ngipin at balbas sa freezer yung mga embryo! So tutal naman kaya, tatlo na kaagad, di’ba? Pero dalawa lang talaga yung kaya nung surrogate. Kung pumayag yung surrogate, tatlo siguro yan.

But all the same, it’s really a miracle kasi usually dalawa lang ang magsu-survive or minsan pa wala. Uulit ka nang uulit and that was our worry kasi baka maubusan ng embryo eh hindi naman karamihan. Tapos babae at lalaki pa sila kaya miracle talaga siya. Tapos ang cute pa nila pareho! [Laughs]

Who do you think the babies look like?

Alam mo, pinauubaya ko na yan sa tumitingin kasi syempre yung asawa ko sinasabi, ‘Ako ang kamukha.’ So tahimik nalang ako kasi alam ko ako talaga ang kamukha! [Laughs again].

Speaking of your husband, it was caught on camera how he teared up when he saw the babies at the hospital. Did you cry too?

Mababaw ang luha nun kasi nung kasal namin, siya yung umiiyak! Alam mo naman ako, amazona!

I don’t know but there’s something about motherhood that just kinda makes you an amazona. Agad pumasok sa akin that moment was, “OK, kaya ko ‘to,” but then again, like I said, the fear came along soon enough. The worry that you’re doing everything right, and apparently, whether or not you were the one who carried the babies, the feelings are the same.

I think motherhood is like that and motherhood is not defined by whether you carry the baby or not. It probably doesn’t even matter whether ampon yan, dugo mo o hindi. I think motherhood is about the bond and the care that you give the child. The child knows who his or her mother is, depending on who gave him or her the love and inspiration while growing up.

Are you spoiling them with lots of clothes and other baby things?

Sa Pittsburgh, nalumpo ako dun kasi ang pang-shopping, pinambili ko na lang ng gatas. Ang mahal ng breastmilk sa America! Sobrang mahal but I insist that they really are on breastmilk kasi everybody says it’s the best and praning ako sa sakit. Breastmilk really increases their resistance and nagiging mas matalino according to studies.

What do you do for breastmilk now in Manila?

Biro mo, tatlong buwan na, araw- araw ako naglilimos. Pine-pressure ako ng mga nurses kung may gatas pa daw, so araw-araw iniisip ko kung saan ako kukuha ng gatas ngayon.

And hospitals in this country, they can only give you little because so many are in need of breastmilk. And you can’t buy breastmilk here, they allot it to you, like in Quezon City General Hospital, ganito lang kakonti. Tapos ayoko naman kumuha nang kumuha sa ospital kasi dinu-donate yan para sa premature. Ayoko na makiagaw dun.

I have friends [feigns a cough], I mean the daughters of my barkada na meron nang mga baby, sa kanila ako nakikihingi tapos yung mga barkada nila. May Viber group yan and may matrix pa ako so I know who I can ask from kasi iniiba-iba ko siyempre. Tapos pinapadalan ko yan ng malunggay capsules, breastmilk bag, lactation cookies! You’ll do everything for your babies di’ba and thankfully I’m getting a lot of help.

What are their names besides Pepe and Pilar?

Tig-apat na pangalan sila, pinag-sama-sama naming lahat! Pepe is Pepe Ramon Gerardo Denzel (the second and third names after Sanchez and Roxas’ fathers, respectively); and Pilar is Pilar Judy Celia Korina (again the second and third names after the couples’ mothers).

Do you have a date for the baptism yet?

It will have to be after the elections and we’ve decided to have our nephews and nieces from both sides as godparents because they really need younger ninongs and ninangs di’ba?

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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