Mother's Day stories: Like mother, like daughter?

It’s genetic. Or is it? While physical attributes can be passed from a generation to the next, can mothers mold their daughters into their own image? Perhaps. Innately, moms have eagle eyes on their kids growing up but raising kids is far different from what it used to be. Then, children grow up with their eyes on their elders, today, it’s on the tablet, admit it. It may be a different era, but nothing changes where moms are concerned, it only has to be the best for the brood. 

Like mother, like daughter. More than handing down looks and heirloom recipes, these empowered and successful Davao moms have their daughters following in their footsteps, and speaking their language. Can DNA take credit? 

A passion for education: Joji Ilagan Bian & Nicole Hao Bian Ledesma 

Joji Ilagan Bian always dreamt of having her own small school to sate an inner passion of empowering others through knowledge and learning. In 1982, she opened a career center and today, it has grown to a chain of specialized schools under the Joji Ilagan International Schools (JIIS). Under the corporate umbrella are tourism, culinary and hospitality institutions offering Baccalaureate degrees; a K12 American International school, the Stockbridge American International School; and educational affiliations across the globe. Recently, the company expanded its portfolio to embrace the hotel business. 

“I gain inner fulfillment from making a positive impact on people's lives, helping them grow intellectually, and contributing to society by shaping future generations” she said. 

Her daughter Nicole grew up in the environment of business and education and saw how much her mom loved her work centered on service and transforming lives. Thus, getting into the picture naturally happened for her. After earning a diploma in hospitality, Nicole decided to pursue a Masters degree in Hospitality and Business in Switzerland, and the rest is history. 

From running in the corridors of the old JIB school to running the JIIS as the Chief Operating Officer. Nicole applies her learnings from her mom: the value of discipline and hard work. Owning a business requires more effort to achieve goals; humility. Spend time to talk to everyone in the team, from maintenance crew to the directors; build relationships, value it and never burn bridges; and most importantly, be courageous. Be open to new opportunities and ever say no to any, one can never be ready for what life serves. 

Joji reminds Nicole that success goes beyond financial rewards, but about making lives better through education. With pride, she says, “I am so blessed that Nicole loves all our schools and she is continuing my legacy of service and passion.I always encourage her to find her own unique way to carry on our legacy of service and passion. She will continue on writing her own story; going through her own journey. I had prepared her well. She will be a success!” 

Heartwarmingly, Nicole discloses, “Through all my moms work engagements, she made sure she was present during important school events and life milestones. She makes it look so easy to be successful in one’s career but also be a mother, and still have time for her other passions and advocacies. She would always say, there is always a time for everything. Know your priorities. Pray for guidance and everything will just fall into place.” 

She saw her mom pour her heart and soul into the business starting with one classroom in 1974 to eight schools today, and the countless lives the schools have blessed. 

Nicole would love to pass the same passion to her daughter. It is a privilege more than a responsibility to be able to continue her mom’s life work. 

The meaty details: Aging Facundo, Leticia Facundo-Salvador and Ela Facundo-Isidro 

In Davao, Aging’s is synonymous to quality meat products catering to a vast clientele for generations now. Hers is the go to stall in the Bankerohan Public Market since the 1960’s, when she was awarded her own space. Very few know that the small enterprise, birthed from the idea that “good is a basic need,” was started by Aging’s mom when she decided to relocate to Davao, where, as it turned out, she became the best producer of meat in the city.

“The golden rule? Ensure the high quality of the product, be reliable and honest,” shared Aging Facundo, who single-handedly grew the brand to success. 

Manning a stall in a public market entails discipline. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning to open it by 4:00AM seven days a week. At an early age, her two daughters, Leticia Facundo-Salvador and Ela Facundo-Isidro, experienced lighting up the stall’s bulb, slicing and packing. Soon enough they naturally melded into the business, not that they didn’t give the corporate world a shot, which wasn’t for them, they confessed, plus, mom’s offer was better. 

In 1982, Aging’s became a brand selling frozen “timplado” products and choice cut meats in a boxy store space. Today, the meat shop has grown into mini grocery stores in the key areas of the city managed by Ela today. Among the products are the frozen products of Leandro’s, a byproduct of Leticia’s successful catering and food order venture. 

Dedication, commitment, quality over quantity, prudent, credibility, excellent customer service, compassionate to all team members, Leticia and Ela saw all these traits from their mom, and they are emulating her ways. And just as Aging was trusted by her clients, the daughters are earning theirs from established and new clients through the business ethics they learned from their mom. 

“We must have inherited our mom’s courage and diligence. We work until everything is done well, starting early in the morning, seven days a week. We only have seven to eight days of no work in a year,” said the sisters. “We learned that running businesses will require a lot of sacrifice but it has its rewards. Mama Aging and her business provided for us then and it still provides for us now.” 

Aging’s Meat Shop, Leandro’s Catering and Happy Home Cafe & Diner may be trusted and successful brands but the sisters are not sitting on their laurels. Ela said “We plan to expand as much as we can, and evolve by catching up with today’s advertising trends.” 

Blessed with a daughter each, Leticia’s girl is now part of Leandro’s, while Ela’s girl, though aware of the business, is given the choice of what career path to take. 

Fashion connection : Mary Ann “Baby” Montemayor and Marga Montemayor-Nograles 

Business is in Mary Ann “Baby” Montemayor’s DNA. She’s the force behind a number of businesses in Davao, including the Habi at Kape restaurants and Villa Margarita Catering Services. Her daughter, Marga Montemayor-Nograles, grew up well exposed to her entrepreneurial involvement. It’s no surprise Marga is treading the same avenue and partnered with a cousin to distribute Havaianas products in this part of the country. 

Baby’s also consults for a LGU in the arts and crafts product development for various Mindanao tribes, an interaction that soon enough proved beneficial for both parties. “This became Marga’s source of inspiration in her love and fascination with things Mindanaon. She proposed the idea to level up my work with tribes, which gave birth to KAAYO Modern Mindanao in 2017,” said Baby, and describes the mother-daughter tandem clothing business as a curated collection of different Mindanao stories, rooted in honoring the extraordinary skills of our Mindanaon artisans, and transforming their traditional creations into modern, bespoke Mindanao fashion. 

“Our brand stemmed from witnessing the profound impact my mom's work had on our community. Seeing how she uplifted artisans and celebrated their craftsmanship inspired me to join her in creating positive change through our business,” shared Marga. 

Marga believes she inherited her mom's unwavering work ethic, determination, and passion for service. She learned invaluable lessons in embracing Mindanao culture and working with compassion, resilience, and integrity. She admires her mom’s dedication to empowering indigenous communities and promoting Mindanao's rich cultural heritage. 

“The plans to expand and evolve Kaayo involve more strong collaborations, a re-visit to merchandising introducing more innovative designs inspired by indigenous traditions, and leveraging technology to enhance our reach and impact,” shared the founders of Kaayo. 

“At this point I have solo hand in managing Kaayo as my daughter Marga is part of another sector close to my heart—tourism,” confessed Baby, who is an active tourism advocate in Davao for decades now. Marga heads the Tourism Promotions Board as COO today. Fated or coincidence?

Wok talk. Lea Benedicto and Pauline Benedicto-Malilin 

Lena Benedicto saw an opportunity in the 1980s, when there wasn’t much of a restaurant scene in Davao. Patok sa Manok was the first Lechon Manok concept in the city, a small roadside food counter with 14 stools. It was a hit. This then flourished into full dining restaurants, which includes Golden Brown, Rekado and Mr. and Mrs. B. 

This restaurateur is perennially present in the food outlets, fleeting across the back and front of the house, and hopping from one restaurant to another. One moment she’s inside her office for paperworks, then dealing professionally with suppliers the next, then chatting with employees (which she considers her treasure) at prep time and working her amazing PR skills on clients at dining hours. This is her formula for success, along with good business ethics and hard work. 

Like any successful entrepreneur, she wished someone in the family would take over the business. It was granted. Her daughter Pauline decided to take a second course in culinary arts. 

“I worked in corporate for a few years after graduating college. I left and joined the family business. It came so naturally for me. It feels like I’ve been preparing for it all my life,” Pauline said. 

After graduating from culinary school, Pauline was tasked to spearhead her first restaurant, the Rekado Filipino Comfort Cuisine. The brand was the channel to introduce to the gourmands the family heritage recipes and the food that Lena’s children enjoyed while they were young. 

It was challenging for Pauline, “ Mom always told me na lakasan ko ang loob ko and it really stuck with me. I learned early on in life that women are strong leaders —decisive, firm yet kind and nurturing. I remind myself to do the same..” 

In her years as a restaurateur, Lena lives by her golden rule: don’t serve food that you will not eat. This she passes on to her successor. 

What traits did Pauline inherit? “I believe it’s mom’s attention to detail. Mom doesn’t miss anything. I catch myself being the same. I truly appreciate her mentorship and guidance, too. She is tough when she needs to be but she’s always encouraged work-life balance.” 

Today, the business has branched out to Manila. “We’ve recently migrated a part of our operations to Manila. We cater to NAIA Terminal 1 premium lounges and we continue to expand as a food solutions provider,” divulged Pauline. 

Also published in the Manila Bulletin newspaper.