Heritage
How To Be Beautiful at Any Age: Generations of Lovely Familes
Marilen Espiritu, Chona Lopez, and Lucille Villanueva and their stunning families share precious tales that have strengthened their bond.
IMAGE Lilen Uy
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The Espiritus
Laughter isn’t only the best medicine; for the Espiritus, it is also what makes every family gathering distinctly their own.


Michelline Espiritu Suarez, Tisha Espiritu Suarez, and Marilen Espiritu

Theirs is a home full of cheer, which is immediately apparent the moment Marilen Nolasco Espiritu, the family matriarch, and Michelline Suarez and Tisha Garcia, her two daughters, welcome us into their family abode—airy, bright, and comfortably lived in, as if bearing witness to the countless spontaneous get-togethers that have taken place here and the endless banter that has ruled family dinners. Present in full force are Alex and Sam, Michelline’s daughters; Yanna, Tisha’s only girl; and Rocio, Marilen’s youngest granddaughter from her son Johann Espiritu and daughter-in-law Marga. The cousins obviously share the bond of both best friends and sisters, unspooling lengthy stories, from the most trivial to the substantial, about school, love, and life, while occasionally throwing sarcastic or funny punches at each other. They are all nerds in some way, she relates, having funny side bets and ridiculous arguments over who starred in which movie, who said what, and which actor is still alive, which all the more puts emphasis on how some of the most memorable, if not revelatory, conversations take place between people with forks in hand.


The Espiritus grew up in a simple household in the 1970s. They traveled to Baguio in the summer and spent their leisure time in familyoriented ways—from finishing jigsaw puzzles and digging holes in the backyard to making up silly contests and race games—and Michelline and Tisha hope to raise equally grounded children who can find joy in both small and elaborate things and in being in the company of each other. Today, their tradition of traveling as an entire family has led them to Europe, around Asia, and Australia, but they all still revel in the same thing: earmarking the simple and often funny memories spent with each other, almost “sitcom material,” says Michelline. 


Marilen usually takes the lead in planning vacations and activities, enjoying the moments the whole family is complete even when it’s just at her place. Her resort-like home is a family favorite for parties, book clubs, and art classes which she organizes as a means to bond. From Marilen, her children have learned that love is best expressed in a consistent manner, usually in the little things that matter on a daily basis, more than grand gestures or elaborate affection. She puts her own interests second to her children’s needs, says Tisha. And shows her love through little acts of service, adds Michelline. 

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As much as children learn from their parents, the Espiritus assert that parents also learn from their children. Being a mom forces you think about your beliefs, muses Michelline. What is right, what is good and worthy, and what is valuable.

The Lopezes
What makes the lives of the Lopez ladies interesting lies not in their political family name, but in their multi-faceted lifestyles built on passion and excellence.


Bettina Lopez Osmeña, Chona Mejia Lopez, and Dani Osmeña

This family is at ease in the company of public servants, having members of their own family among them since they can remember. Chona Mejia Lopez’s father-in-law, Fernando Lopez, once served as senator and the country’s vice president. Her daughter Bettina Lopez Osmeña, whose father is a retired politician, is married to Serge Osmeña, who currently serves in the Senate. So yes, there’s pressure to have to live up to something, says Dani, Bettina and Serge’s second daughter, but then that doesn’t mean having to enter politics as well. In fact, no one in in the second or third generations has followed into the political arena just yet. They are grateful, however, that this background has taught them a lot about what it means to serve others and live humbly, as seen by the ladies endeavors, from charity work and supporting various foundations to doing everything excellently and with passion, whether at home, in school, or in their own businesses. “If you’re going to do something, do it well, with all your heart,” says Chona. “Otherwise don’t do it at all.”


Through the years, Chona has become very close to her grandchildren as much as she is to her own children. In retrospect, however, Bettina recalls how difficult it was to be raised in a strict household. “She was raised in an era when your parents’ word was God's word and she tried to impose that on us,” Bettina recounts. As if her mother wasn’t enough, she married Serge, quite a disciplinarian as well, she adds, laughing. Serge and her mom belong to the same generation which has the same very strict rules. “I am the bridge between the generational gap,” professes Bettina.


Bettina radiates kindness, but she is also direct and no-nonsense. She raised her children to be loving and close to each other. And despite having their own share of fights, Bettina says deep down inside she is certain of how much they love and have each other’s backs.

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Dani says Bettina taught her and her siblings Joey, Bea, and Andi that it’s always important to make sure they know that she loves them and supports their goals. With that in mind, she says, one can do anything. Bettina shares the most similarities with Dani— from their love for the musical theater, TV shows, and books, to their manner of dressing and their obsession with being tidy and organized—that some people refer to Dani as her mom’s mini-me. With the amount of school work and activities Dani is involved with, it is obvious that she does take a lot after her mom who enjoys working and keeping herself productive—from household management and cooking to running her own business. Dani hopes to one day be able to handle the same amount of responsibility as her mom and grandmother, and with as much poise.


Being multi-faceted shines through in everyone in the family. Bettina believes that to remain attractive it is important to be interested in your own life to keep improving it. As for Dani, she believes that the most beautiful person is one who has a kind heart, who one can look at and say “the world is lucky to have someone like that in it.” Much like everyone in her family, we think.

The Villanuevas
In the Villanueva residence, no one is ever too old for bedtime stories, hot chocolate nights, and lots of cuddling.


Trish Villanueva, Natalia Villanueva, and Lucille Villanueva

Being a single mother gives you twice of everything— double the stress but double the pride, double the tears yet double the kisses. There is the burden of raising a child all by yourself, but not without the beauty of having all the love all to yourself. It is both challenging and fulfilling, muses Trish Villanueva, mom to teenager Natalia and daughter to Lucille Villanueva. Getting pregnant at a young age and becoming a single mother was humbling for the most part, says Trish, teaching her patience, selflessness, and empathy, which weren’t really her core traits beforehand. Her late father took the role of being Natalia's dad, too, making her his fifth child and first grandchild rolled into one. It is Trish’s parents’ full support that she credits being able to raise a loving, kind, and sweet young girl, who cuddles, sleeps, and holds hands with her unabashedly to this day. “Natalia is my best friend, my sister, my sidekick. We argue a lot and we laugh a lot. Of course there are many times when we have to be who we are, mother and daughter,” says Trish.

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Trish says she got along with her mom very well when she was younger too. “I was an obedient daughter. I never got grounded or spanked,” she recalls. Her mom Lucille was not the generous parent or the spoiler though. “It was dad. So whenever my mom does something generous, it is always received as a shock! We like to tease her about it,” she says. Lucille is accommodating and warm, easily loved by those who meet her even for the first time. There’s a certain manner by which she makes her presence deeply felt because of a certain deportment and sense of awareness unique to her.

“My mom can adjust to situations and people so easily. She has an optimistic outlook all the time,” Trish reveals. “She can easily stand on her own and take care of herself. Its admirable for a woman. I am the total opposite. I was always taken care of.”

Growing up with parents who stayed in love with each other for over five decades gave Trish many happy memories as well as great expectations. “You grow up having that same kind of concept of love and togetherness. You grow up appreciating that very much and you don't settle for anything less,” she says.


Now that Natalia is all grown up, Trish finds it very reassuring to see her daughter being empathic and compassionate, prayerful and spiritual—traits that are important for her as well. As much as she can, she tries to remind Natalia to surround herself with positive and genuine friends who will lift and inspire her, just as her mom and friends did for her during trying times. She also warns Natalia that in life there will be people who will let her down but when there are those who don't, she always has to be thankful. “Either way, it becomes a gift,” she quips. “I pray that she will use what is given to her, whether good or bad, as her fuel. Happiness is a choice, and I hope she chooses it always.”

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