A Mother's Day 2019 Special: Angelette, Pauline, And Francine Calero On Their Mom, Gigi
A big family can be a blessing. For the parents, there is joy in a home that’s always alive with activity. The kids enjoy a large support system that, if they’re lucky, last their whole lives.
Such is the case for the Calero family, headed by Javier Calero, a.k.a. “JJ,” and his wife, Angela, whom everyone calls “Gigi.” The Caleros have five daughters—Janine, Annalaurie, Angelette, Pauline, and Francine.
Gigi, who by the time you read this, would have turned 80, is a retired magazine publisher who now devotes her time to civic organization Inner Wheel Club. “We have a scholarship project which we give to 20 students throughout high school,” she says. “We also take care of a pavilion in the National Center for Mental Health.”
She is immensely proud of her five children. The eldest, Janine Pedro, is based in Canada. She has one daughter. Second is Anna Laura Calero, fondly called Annalaurie by friends and family, who is an Opus Dei numerary. Next is Angelette Calero, an avid traveler and one-half of the duo who runs Jelly Bellies Party Experts. Fourth is Pauline Eizmendi, who has three children. The youngest is Francine Racho, the vice dean of the School of Communication of the University of the Asia Pacific. She has six children. “It’s a lot of fun. They’re full of life. They enjoy each other. They’re very close,” Gigi says of her daughters. “As a rule, they get along very well, so I’m very happy about (how) we were able to make them realize family unity, that is one of the things that my husband and I are very happy with.”
Angelette, Pauline, and Francine are present at the shoot. “The best thing about growing up with four sisters is you don’t realize that you’re growing up with your best friends,” Pauline says.
“We love to tease each other: cariño brutal. We’re mushy but we’re not,” Angelette adds.
“It’s a riot,” Francine says. “Growing up, it was always all of us together. We fight a lot, we shout a lot. There are a lot of emotions, but there’s also a lot of laughter and a lot of teasing and a lot of sharing of both material things and non-material things. I know that at any point, if I need anything, I can go running to them and they will help me.”
Part of this closeness stems from doing almost everything together, and from the care and concern showered on them by their parents. “When they’re growing up, you give the time to each when needed. A lot of things are happening and sometimes altogether because they’re all more or less the same age except the younger one. Giving in to each other,” Gigi says. “One thing I’ll never forget: no secrets because they say, whatever it is, mom eventually finds out. Because Manila is small. They all know one another, friends of friends (tell me) ‘Hey, I saw your daughter? Where? With so and so. Aha!’ So when they come home, (I ask,) ‘Who were you with? How did you find out?’ That there is that love, that interest, that care.”
Mothers’ girls, modern women
Watching the family interact, you can tell that they are all fond of each other, seeming more like close friends than the usual family. “My mom is also our best friend,” Pauline says.
“My mom seems so cool but she’s also very protective and will do anything to protect us,” Angelette says of her unflappable mom.
“Each of us has a very special relationship with (our mom),” Francine confirms. “Everything I know about a family and about raising a family has come from being her daughter, and how I raise my children also has a lot to do with that. She has taught us that family really comes first, regardless of anything in your life and everything that’s happening there, your family will come first. Your husband comes first, then your children, and if you provide a stable home, your children will always be okay.”
Of course, there are also numerous memories, especially with extended family, that form part of the foundation of the Caleros’ solid family relationship. “We go on trips, of course,” Gigi says. “When they were small, summer, they’d go to the beach…We’d rent a beach house (with my parents) and bring all of them. My husband comes from a family of nine, so you can imagine. So when the cousins...all get together, pandemonium, but they love it. And now, these cousins are all over the world. So any place they go, there’s a relation.”
She adds, “It’s basically the love for each other, the love of God, the love of our Lady—we try to say the rosary together, basically that’s it. And of course we always have dinners together at the end of the day.”
A foundation of prayer
Gigi says that part of her and JJ’s success as parents come from their religious foundation. “My husband and I are Opus Dei members. That’s all part of growing together. When we both joined 50 years ago, we already had lots of kids but St. Josemaria has taught us what to do,” she says. “I have a daughter who is a numerary. She has instilled in us the importance of prayer also. We say the rosary every day, we are a very Marian family. My daughter Angelette loves to do pilgrimages, so we call her the pilgrimage queen, and it’s very useful, very successful. You have a problem, you make a pilgrimage. Two days after, it’s fixed.”
This rock-steady faith and devotion is something the sisters share as well. “My mom and Annalaurie (taught us) us to pray and to treat everybody equally, no matter what they are,” Angelette says. “(My mom has) also given each of us a strong spiritual outlook which we all count on very much, which is why we’re all very stable also in how we see and go through whatever life brings us,” Francine adds.
“I am very happy the way they have all turned out,” Gigi says. "They have made my husband, their dad, and me very happy. We are proud of each and every one of them.”
Continuing to make memories
Her kids may have their own lives now, but that doesn’t mean that the Calero home is empty. “Sometimes, they’re all gone so it’s only me and my husband; we say it’s so lonely without the noise,” Gigi says. “(Though) now it (can get) even more (busy) because sometimes they leave the kids here with us.”
The family has continued their tradition of travel as well. Last year, Gigi, Angelette, Pauline, and Francine went on a driving tour of Europe. “We knew exactly where to go. Pauline did the flights. Angelette took care of where we were going to stay. It was really hilarious,” Gigi says. “We learned a lot, (such as) giving in to each other.” There are plans to replicate the trip, this time with the grandchildren and Gigi’s sister joining the fun.
This, it seems, is what it’s like to be a Calero: to always be assured that the people around you love you, care for you, and have got your back. “The best part is to have one another, to know that whenever you need them, although they are not anymore living in your house, they’re there for you,” Gigi says.
“We’re all best friends so whatever happens, I know I can count on them for anything,” Angelette concludes.
*This article was originally published in Metro Society March 2019 issue.
Photographs by Jinggo Montenejo
Makeup by Kristel Yap
Hair by Francis Guintu