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A Mother, First And Last

A success in the man’s world of construction and one of the metro’s most stylish women, Charmaine Lagman shines best in her role as a mother

“She’s their rock,” says Metro Home host and editor-in-chief Anton Barretto when asked about his friend and this Mother’s Day cover star, Charmaine Lagman. When asked to do stories on people, I like to call people who know them to give me an inside track. So when I got the call to do this story, I immediately asked Anton to tell me more about her, and his first answer was to tell me what a devoted mom she is. “It’s not like she’s a stage mother or anything like that. But she really encourages them and supports them. As I said, she’s their rock,” he said.


Well, if there’s anyone who can master the balancing act that is modern motherhood and still party like a rock star, then that’s Charmaine. In an interview for a Metro Society group feature on glamorous women posing with the LV Capucines, she summed up her life in our first lockdown as thus: “Of course, at the start, there was fear. But I’m a mom, and you have to find the strength inside you.” She also told us a funny realization she had. “I was in the grocery and saw Spam. I hadn’t eaten it in like twenty years. So I thought, why? So I had some Spam! But now, back to healthy eating."


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When we get to meet via Zoom for an interview, and I ask her more about how she found her inner mojo, she smiles, “Well, our son, he’s in graduate school in the States, in Georgetown, and he was telling us that we might have to live with Covid for four years. At first, we were really contesting that, saying, ‘NO WAY!’ But it looks like he might be right. So my husband and I, we really decided that we just can’t wait for it to be over. We had to find ways to work with it. Not just to work at home with Zoom calls and all, but to make our construction sites safe, and have all the protocols for our people. Our people, they’re also our family. We found places for them to be quarantined so they would also be safe.” And in that moment, it hits me. She doesn’t have just a big personality, she’s got a big heart, too.


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“The concepts of wife and mom go beyond mere definitions... My unique role as the woman in the marriage, as the wife and mother, means that in receiving love, and then you nurture it, to make sacrifices for it, and then to give that love back in a way that only a mom and wife could.”

But before things get too cheesy, Charmaine’s humor keeps it fun and light. “I have to say that this cleaning [the house] with my family, it’s a different kind of bonding. It’s a different kind of closeness. We don’t really have staff now, our helpers had to quarantine, too. And this pandemic really made me see that my kids really have their own strengths. For example, my son, since he's pre-med, he doesn’t gross out easily. I would ask him, does it freak you out to see brains or any inner organs? When he said, ‘no, mom’; that’s when I said, ‘OK, you’re in charge of the dogs!’ I can clean the whole house, but I can’t deal with the dogs!” she laughs. “And my older daughter, she really utilizes our kitchen. She not only cooks, she’s also a food stylist! She will even decorate the dish! And then my younger daughter, she likes to bake, so she’s the pastry chef. All complete! Then my husband can be the bartender, except in our house we only really pour wine and whisky."


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Charmaine’s effortless wit and funny way with words made me ask, how does having a sense of humor help with raising kids? “What, I have a sense of humor? I think I need time to answer that question,” she says. She then adds, “Well, my kids tell me all the time that I’m crazy. They’re crazy, too, so we really blend well together! Like when I see them overthinking things, or I know they’ve been studying hard, I tell them, hey, stop that! Let’s drink!”


Asked to reminisce a bit about Mother’s Days past, Charmaine reveals, “Every year they make me a surprise video. Every year, in the morning, I’ll tell them: you don’t have a gift! You didn’t give me flowers. Then, when it’s around 6pm, they’ll show me the video they made, and just hearing, ‘thank you, Mom,’ or ‘You’re the best mom in the world,’ makes me cry! But every year, they get me!"


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‘I GIVE THEM A LITTLE SPACE’

Charmaine was a young mom, and she says that means that she grew with her children. “I’ll never forget that my own mom told me that there was no turning back, and not to run back to her. So I really learned the hard way. I cried buckets and buckets of tears. No, tanks even! I was a working mother all throughout, but my mom told me that whatever happened, they have to sleep with me. That we have to breathe that same air for seven to eight hours. So I became an insomniac because of my kids. I even heard what was happening with the neighbors because I was up all night when they were babies. But, I am happy that I did it. When I see my kids, and how they turned out, I am so happy. So, of course, I trained them. Before they had to leave, I really taught them the right system to clean. And they know that they can call me anytime. I also helped them to fix up their dorm rooms, I'm telling you that they have the cutest dorm rooms in their school. But, I always tell them, you have to solve your own problems. You’re the only one who can figure it out and fix it. So, I give them a little space.”


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“Twenty five years of committed love through all the hardships and sacrifices have borne much fruit in our children, whose we treasure above all accomplishments “ reminisces the happy silver bride.

That means both emotional and physical space. When all her three kids were already living in the States for their studies, some friends told them that they could downsize and manage a smaller house. “Even if we’re part-time empty nesters, we still want them to know that they have a home that they can always return to. You know, all my kids are into music. So before, I could be feeding as many as 20 kids, three times a week, because they would have jamming sessions here. It got so quiet when they moved! But my husband and I want them to still have this home.” Last year, for the early part of the pandemic, their kids were all away. This year, they came home. “Since they’re still living and doing online stuff in another time zone, sometimes, I’ll hear my daughter Mica doing her LSAT reviews around 2 am, or my youngest Anya baking at midnight!"


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She loves seeing reflections and refractions of herself in her kids. “It’s quite well distributed. My eldest, Elijah, like me, he’s very experimental. He likes going out, doing different things. And people may think that I love partying and dressing up, and there’s this hidden side of me. I’m religious, I like to serve in my church and I’m a lector, too. He got that from me too. My daughter Mica, we share clothes, we love getting all dressed up. My youngest, Anya, wants to get into composing music for films. They do get that musical part from me. And all my kids are organized, goal-oriented, and ambitious in a good way. I see them, writing post-its and all, and that’s from me, I’m a planner. And a worrier!”


For Charmaine, there has been no better gift, or way to grow, than becoming a mother. “Being a mother, it’s a privilege and a blessing, a real blessing… I feel that if I had remained single, or didn’t have kids, there would have been no growth for me,” she said.


ON A SILVER STREAK

For their silver anniversary, Mike and Charmaine kept it a strictly family affair. “Our kids were very much involved in the process of planning our 25th anniversary. My son Elijah got heavily involved, composing the opening song, ‘Until they rest in you,” inspired by St Augustine’s Confessions. Mica was secretly in charge of collecting anniversary greeting videos from our friends and family. And my bunso Anya spearheaded the reception planning, logistics and music. To top it all, they collaborated to write and perform a song based on our company motto: ‘Together we build.’ The silver lining of our celebration culminated in a shared anniversary tailored not just for our marriage but the family that was built from it.”


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“There is always something new to learn and appreciate about each other, “Charmaine says of their married life in lockdown. “Fostering patience is a given, but we also learned to channel our extra energies at actively preparing for when we get out; first by accepting our situation, next by adapting to it, and then finally through anticipating the challenges it can bring to our marriage. From this process, we were able to ground ourselves more firmly in our faith in God and in each other.”
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“When we first started out, we were very young—still students working, struggling and postponing a true honeymoon and celebrations for later.” And that day came, and even with a global pandemic, it was joyful, beautiful, and above all, meaningful.

Aman helped them find a priest, and by divine providence, this priest was the protege and caregiver of Fr. Sonny Ramirez, who was the first person in whom Mike Lagman confided in when he first fell in love with Charmaine. He now acts as a spiritual counselor to the Lagman couple.


Charmaine sees their anniversary as not just a romantic or human achievement: “For something as important as 25 years of marriage—it is a visible sign of God’s grace. Nevertheless. Considering the unique situation, we felt it best that we keep the celebration to just my immediate family, my husband and I, our children, and our Lord. Silver has an abundance of meaning to reflect on; 25 years of polished blemishes, sharpened commitment and lustrous love shining radiantly in a world that needs more light. It means sturdiness and flexibility —a stability through the chaos and challenges of life, against which we’ve lived a life truly lived.” Charmaine reveals that since they got married as working students, they didn’t even go on a honeymoon. “For me, 25 years of committed love through hardships and sacrifices has borne much fruit in our children. All of it amounts to love in the end.”


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“It was redesigned by Nicole Whisenhunt. The first stone is the original one that represents our first 25 years, and the second stone is for our next, to gold. It’s called Toi et Moi, and Nicole used the same gold and included some small diamonds from the first jewelry purchase I made while I was pregnant with Elijah, our eldest.”

As for the vibe of the celebration, she admits, “We were just going for what reflected the family life we’ve lived. With the beautiful sun beaming hope, the white sand as our soft support, and the reflective waves whispering grace, we really didn’t have to add much.”


And as a final surprise, in the tradition of the annual Mothers Day video surprise, Charmaine’s family have sent us quotes to honor her as a mother.

Credits

Video by Jason Magbanua, assisted by Sherard

Photography by Francis Perez

Planning by Anya, Mica and Elijah Lagman

Aman for all the arrangements from flowers, to decors, to table setting, to finding the priest who is now our counselor

Special thanks to Vincent del Rosario who handles all the planning and preparations and the whole Aman team.

Charmaine’s gown: Monique Lhuillier

Mica and Anya’s dresses: Self Portrait

Mikes and Elijah’s suits: Rajo Laurel

Charmaine’s engagement ring: re-designed by Nicole Wisenhunt

Wedding bands: Cartier (Charmaine and Mike’s original and old ones)

Mike wore his Rolex watch that Charmaine gave as a gift during their church wedding

Charmaine wore her original stud earrings from their church wedding