A Mother's Day 2019 Special: Cecilia Revilla-Schulze & Lexi Schulze-Berenguer Testa On Their Mother-Daughter Relationship
‘‘They laugh all the time with her, she’s one of their favorite people,” Lexi Schulze-Berenguer Testa says of her two daughters’ relationship with her mom, Cecilia Revilla-Schulze.
They bake, play cards, swim together. She is also a constant presence at their activities, from their performances to special occasions in school. “I see them very often. We have a balikbahay room in our house for our married children who come and want to spend the weekend here, or for my grandchildren who sometimes are left here when their parents want to be on their own,” shares Cecilia.
The girls’ fondness for their grandmother was apparent during the shoot for this story. Eight-year-old Bruna trailed her around the house and 13-year-old Alba constantly asked, “Where’s Bela?” each time the family matriarch would be out of her sight. All eight of Cecilia’s grandchildren call her “Bela,” a term of endearment inspired by the beauty of her strength as she battled cancer in 2004.
Today, at 62, she is in the best of health. “Honestly, I don’t really feel like I’m this older person here, I just don’t feel it,” she declares while among a group half her age. She keeps a full schedule. Every day, she is off to the courts after taking her morning coffee. “I can play badminton for three hours, I love it!,” she enthuses. At noon, she hears mass. “I’m a daily mass-goer. I’m very dedicated to my church, St. Jerome Emiliani and Sta. Susana Parish. I’m a lector there and I have my duty days,” she volunteers. Then there are errands.
“Sometimes you have to wake up really, really early because you have to bake,” Alba reminds her and the kids go on to regale us with what they like best from Bela’s kitchen. They rave about her strawberry shortcake and key lime pie, just some of the goodies she learned to whip up through research and experimentation while being a stay-at-home mom to five children.
Lexi is the eldest in the brood, born 10 days shy of Cecilia’s 20th birthday. Then came Nicole, Georgia, Marc, and George. “Lexi was very responsible for the younger ones, she had this sense of caring for them. I had no problem with her, even in school she was never a problem,” recalls Cecilia.
Admittedly, the mother fretted a bit when Lexi flew to Australia to take media and cultural studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. “Then she came back very independent and right away, she was whisked off to a job. Immediately after school, she was already working.” she says. “Lexi was only my daughter until she graduated college. The minute she did, I was already only her mother. You know how people would tell you that your daughter’s like this, your daughter’s like that. I’m happy that people will look at me and they will say, hey, I saw your daughter. I could never do what she has done, maybe because we’re different. Like she would never cook and bake like I do. She will never be that person.”
“I knew I wanted to have a career. I wasn’t even sure if I’d be a mother,” discloses Lexi. She witnessed her mother’s dedication to her father, and how every move made was dependent on the family, and she felt it was not the kind of life she wanted to live. “It was more of the freedom, just knowing that I can make my own decisions without having to wait on anybody,” she clarifies.
But here she is now, parenting two girls. What changed her mind? “Ending up with somebody who wanted it,” she says with a smile. “But he never forced it upon me,” she quickly adds.
“When I was pregnant, I was always looking for my mom, I always wanted to be around her,” reminisces Lexi. And she received the full support she needed during her birth to Alba who arrived at 27 weeks old, weighing a mere one and a half pounds. However, she did not get any maternal advice.
According to Lexi, she was never given any tips on running the household or being a mom. “In a way, I’m sort of glad because I was never told that you have to be this sort of person. Her teaching is just by example and I appreciate that because we all come into the world different, right? No one is ever going to be the exact replica of their mother.”
Both women describe each other as being grounded and kind. “She thinks of others, she’s not the type who talks down to her maids, she calls the driver manong. She is very sweet when it comes to dealing with other people. If you get to her core, she’s pretty grounded—I think, so am I. And she’s kind-hearted,” says Cecilia of her daughter.
“We’re both good people, we both believe in treating people with respect. I always saw her very kind to people, she’s very good to the help. I think I picked up on that. I always tell my daughters, ‘Before pretty, smart; but before smart is kind. Always.’ I think that’s how we’re similar,” muses Lexi.
In most things, they are different. Her mother’s interest in home-making activities did not rub off on Lexi. Their child-rearing ways are also contrasting. “I think I push the kids more in terms of being a tiger mom. I’m not gonna tell them to stop ballet just because they had a bad day. As kids, you want them to have fun but then they also still don’t know the concept of working hard and putting in the time so I try to teach them that, I don’t let them give up very easily. With the baby boomers, they didn’t force the kids. My mom would make us try things but she never pushed,” says Lexi.
“As a generation, we’re more conscious of health and the environment. It was a non-issue before. We’d have tocino and all of these things, I don’t blame her at all, it was what was available and there weren’t any campaigns against it. And to her she was feeding a family,” rationalizes Lexi.
Parenting style is hardly a point of dispute though. “Of course I cannot anymore demand what I would do for my kids, for my grandkids. I leave it to the parents. Some of them have their ways of thinking that doesn’t jive with how I raised them so I take a step back, I don’t impose,” Cecilia clarifies. She does not get in the way of how Lexi prefers to raise her children and even when the kids sleep over, Cecilia abides by Lexi’s rules. Most of the time, at least.
“As a grandmother, she has let go. She was really strict with us but now all of a sudden it’s, ‘Here, have gummy bears.’ It’s not in her consciousness because when I go, ‘Mom, stop it already,’ then maybe that’s when she’ll remember, ‘Hey, I used to be like that too.’ I think there’s a mutual respect ’cause we’re very, very different from each other,” Lexi injects.
“We will always disagree about a lot of things, but I think we’ve already reached a point wherein she knows I’m one way and I know she’s one way, so even if we disagree, that disagreement will not carry through, so to speak. I kinda know where to draw a line when it comes to our relationship because then I don’t like it to get volatile,” claims Cecilia.
Communication between mother and daughter is always open, they can be very forthright with each other. “Maybe we won’t talk for a few days then she’ll message me with a ‘Sorry, but this is my point,’ and then I’ll message her: ‘Sorry, this is my point,’" relates Lexi.
“Lexi is sensitive in a lot of ways, she keeps things so it takes her longer to get back to talking to you, but we never really had a falling out like how some parents have fallen out with their kids. I don’t believe in that. What are you if you’re gonna fall out with your kids? What are you teaching them? What are they gonna learn when they’re gone and they have their own kids and their own grandchildren? That it’s okay just because you’re angry or because they did something you find shameful? Accept them for who they are and what they’re going through. Help them but don’t let pride get in the way because that’s the biggest devil,” emphasizes Cecilia.
“She’s very Catholic, I’m a non-practicing Catholic. So she’s dictated by her religion whereas I’m just dictated by the law of life. When you come from a place of religion, a lot of times you can’t bend because that is what you believe, and I respect her for that. But with me, I just come from a different place. I may not think she’s right but she’s not hurting me so I’ll respect her, I still come from the old school of I will respect her, so let’s just agree to disagree,” Lexi shrugs.
With respect that transcends their incompatibility, they are able to maintain a harmonious mother-daughter relationship and enjoy get-togethers, trips to the theater, and occasional travels abroad. “They shop a lot,” squeals Bruna who proceeds to talking about her Bela’s collection of magnet souvenirs from various trips.
“They love her, it’s such a genuine connection, and I’m super grateful for that. Because that’s all you want right? For your kids to be surrounded by love and positivity and people who will lift them up,” Lexi concludes.
*This article was originally published in Metro Society March 2019 issue.
Photographs by Daniel Soriano
Makeup by Martin Alonzo
Hairstyling by Rick Diokno