Our Mothers, Our Heroines

When we think of heroes and heroines, we often think of beings with superpowers saving the world from villains and catastrophes. We imagine them as rare, unique, and of a higher order, floating above us all.

In truth, we are surrounded by everyday heroes — the millions whose everyday acts and deeds hold together the fabric of our society and our world. This Mother’s Day and beyond, let’s shine the light on mothers as the great heroines of our societies and our world.

When we reflect on what makes heroes and heroines great and heroic — it’s not really their special superpowers: the greatest heroes and heroines have a genuine desire and tremendous capacity to act for the benefit of others, beyond themselves. And it is their genuine care and their bravery to look out for the welfare of others, that bring out their strengths and powers.

This is why I have always looked up to my mother Mely as my great super-heroine. My mother was 14 when she quit high school to work as a nanny then as a household maid. She took on these jobs so that she could help send her older sister Julia to college, and so that she could help my grandmother, who was a widow and a single mother in rural Philippines. She did her job with pride, joy, and even with a sense of adventure.

While my mother stopped her formal education in her teens, she was the best teacher I ever had. With her reading to me every day since I was born, I had memorized (and could recite word for word) my childhood storybooks by the age of 2. She instilled in me the importance of faith, kindness, and love. I was three when she taught me to pray and converse with God. She inspired in me a strong work ethic, creativity, and passion for learning and building that ultimately led me to achieve many gold and silver medals from elementary through high school, full scholarships to my top choice colleges like my alma mater Mount Holyoke, an Ivy League education at Harvard Business School.

When I ask my mother about her dreams, she shares that her dreams are not for herself, but for the happiness and well-being of everyone she loves. I believe it is this abundant love for others so generously given, at the core of her being, that endows her with superpowers. She doles out her love with every lunch and dinner she thoughtfully and meticulously prepares for our big, extended family; with every careful tending of flowers and bushes in her beautiful garden; with every kind word, good cheer, prayers, and assistance that she generously offers neighbors in our community. She has the strong heart of a true heroine, full of love and generosity of spirit.

I’m grateful to my mother for embodying what it means to be true heroine. I feel blessed to have her spiritual DNA and to have her strength as a part of my own. I see the work I do today at Womensphere - of empowering women and girls to achieve our full potential, and of inspiring all people to come together and collaborate to create a more inclusive, more sustainable world — I see all this as a more global extension of the work my mother had set out to do for the people and community she loves.

The heroes and heroines who touch our lives create impact that ripple across time and generations. Our mothers are often that — our heroines.

My friends and fellow young leaders share this view.

I invite you to read their stories.


Some three decades ago, I was a 6-year-old kid watching a family crying over a case of police brutality over the mistaken identity of their son. The son was in a hospital ICU and the family had virtually nothing. My mom became the ‘attorney’ to this family, and banged the door of the Mayor who was feared by the entire town. My mom bravely fought for the rights of the oppressed family and the scary mayor had no recourse other than to dismiss his abusive policemen and pay for the hospitalization of the kid.

This scene in my young life taught me the virtues of bravery and dedication to help the oppressed, such that I grew up always taking the side of the underprivileged.

I am forever thankful for my mom, for showing me how to be unfazed, and for showing that for as long as you are on the side of justice and truth, you will never lose.

Alex is a social entrepreneur and a senior marketing executive who has helmed Asia-wide marketing for leading multinational companies such as Unilever. He is a former National Executive leader and presently Board of Directors Member of the Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs.


My mom is a Superwoman and Wonder Woman combined. I know it sounds hyperbolic but trust me, she deserves it. She succeeded in taking care of her six children through the toughest of times. I remember the kind words she used to say to encourage all of us, and her unwavering support — you know she’s always behind you every step of your way. I can still remember her voice sing our favorite lullaby, Que sera sera, which always reassures me.

Like the song goes, whatever will be, will be. My mother taught me how to be an optimist, and not worry about things you can’t control, but instead focus on what’s more important and on things you can do to make this world a better place.

All this brought me to recognize the world’s needs more than my needs. And my mother’s love transcends to every aspect of my life. I learned to love, and I share this love with all those who need it. Truly, she’s my superhero.

Throughout Mark’s college years at the University of the Philippines, he served as a National Executive leader and President of the Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs. He is an International Program Manager for Womensphere.


On Expectacion “Shionee” Lim Damarillo

I grew up with a CEO Mom where business strategy is common dinner table conversation. She and my Dad had built a business empire from the ground up. She set the bar for me for what is possible with hard work and innovation.

Then, we lost our business, and we moved to a one bedroom apartment for all of us. My mom led our family to have the strength to never give up. She invested her last pesos to make sure all her kids could go to college — no matter what it took.

Now as a cancer survivor at 73, we continue to learn and draw strength from my mom. To live life to the fullest, being resilient during adversity and being grateful for all the blessings in life, are among the lessons she has imparted.

Winston Damarillo is a serial entrepreneur, technologist, and CEO of Amihan Global Strategies. He has founded several technology companies — Gluecode (sold to IBM), LogicBlaze (acquired by Iona Technologies), Webtide (acquired by Intalio) — and is formerly a Chief Strategy Officer of PLDT. He was honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010.


At age 16, my mom entered the Maryknoll convent but left after a few years as she wasn’t physically fit enough to stay in the nunnery. It turned out that her calling was to be an educator, like her mother, and she even married a fellow educator.

While building her profession, she raised three kids without any external help, except for occasional baby-sitting assistance from my grandma and elder cousins. Given her background, she placed a great deal of emphasis on Catholic values and academic excellence. She and my dad collected a lot of books and that’s how I developed the love for reading — and writing — at an early age. She also taught me how to play the piano. She trained us to become independent individuals and we were encouraged to heed our passion. We had no nannies, no tutors and no house helpers. I’d like to think that her children, now all adults, all professionals and all building our own families, have made her proud in our own little ways.

Heroism, for me, is devoting life not just for one’s self or one’s family, but serving the community, making a positive impact on society notwithstanding challenges along the way. My mom may have ditched the convent but she has spent an equally meaningful life as a teacher to generations of students, instilling in them the skills and values she taught her own children. She has had opportunities to explore greener pastures but she had chosen to work for the betterment of the local public school system.

In my book, teachers are the noblest everyday heroes and I’m a proud offspring of teachers.

Doris Dumlao-Abadilla is an award-winning journalist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and a TOYM Awardee. She was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2014.

The picture is of my grandmother who passed away at 100 years old and of my mother Marivel Carandang.


My mom lost both her parents in 1994, and I started to notice she kept on visiting old aunts and uncles and kept tending to their welfare even if she wasn’t close to them. She kept visiting my grandmother (the mother of my dad) and looked after her until my grandmother died at the age of 100 years old. I realized time is precious and we need to spend more time with our family while they are still alive.

What is heroic about my mother is her generosity of spirit, which she showed in reaching out to old relatives rarely being visited even by their own family or not having their own.

My mom’s heroism inspired me to do charitable works with the elderly and other segments of society, and the work that I do for the Global Dignity organization in the Philippines.

Benedict Carandang is Vice President for External Relations at First Circle, a leading fintech startup in the Philippines, and Chair of Global Dignity Philippines. He was honored by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2012.


My mom was born and grew up in a town in Nueva Ecija called Guimba. Because of her Ilocano roots, she was stern, strict and frugal, but she knew growing up that she had big dreams to be a corporate mogul someday.

After graduating from UST, and working, she decided to pursue her MBA in New Jersey and get married. Even if she had several offers to work in New York — she didn’t take any of them; she instead decided to become a homemaker in the true sense of the word. I remember asking my mom why she didn’t take the job offers, and she said, “I chose you and the family, so that every time you are sick, I know I can be there for you.”

It was a different time back in the day but instilling the spirit of sacrifice and family makes my mom one of my true heroes. Growing up around my mom had a huge impact to me on my thoughts on what makes a true leader. She pushed me every time to aspire to be bigger than myself — she told me that I could one day be an astronaut, executive, or cabinet minister. She showed me that spiritually true leaders are ambitious yet selfless. True leaders make sacrifices for their people and their causes.

True leaders are able to give one’s life for what one thinks are the most important things. For my mom, it was her children and giving us the best education. For me, it’s spending time with my wife and boys, while helping build the innovation ecosystem of my country.

Earl is a technology strategy leader for Dell, and the Founder and Founding President of IdeaSpace Foundation. He is a TOYM Awardee and was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2014.


Three years ago, while on my ARK field trips to Capiz, I had a miscarriage. I woke up in the middle of the night in debilitating pain. My back seized and every breath felt like a stab. I was hot, and every muscle hurt. All I wanted was my mom.

I was lucky that I was in the farm at that time. A friend helped me walk to my mom’s room. I joined her in bed and despite the pain, I felt safe. Two hours later, at daybreak, when painkillers did not help, my mom prepared to take me to the hospital. She and my nanny did cold and warm “punas” to bring down my fever. She and a farmer sacrificed a chicken to make me arroz caldo, full of ginger, so that I can have some energy and feel less pain to walk towards the car and take the 2-hour bumpy ride to the hospital.

At the hospital, my mom was very worried as the pain was not abating and the doctors were very cautious on giving me pain killers given my early pregnancy. But she put me first. She quelled her nervousness. She held my hand when I needed it. And the morning after the miscarriage was confirmed, she surprised me with beautiful yellow flowers she tenderly picked herself and put in her coffee cup.

I am so lucky to have Peregrina Castro Vera as my mom. Her unconditional love centers me and inspires me to love others. Her belief in me gives me courage to go after my dreams. Her hands nourish and heal me down to my soul. Her spirit eggs me to fight for what is right and just. She is my inspiration and my heroine. She is my mother.

Ayesha Vera-Yu is CEO & Co-Founder of Advancement for Rural Kids, a non-profit based in New York with operations in the Philippines and expanding internationally. She is also an organic farmer (as Managing Partner at Vera Farms) and formerly an investment banker leading the North American financing arm of French bank BNP Paribas. She was honored by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2012.


Gloria Perez, my mother, is my first mentor and my heroine. For someone who grew up not having much, she gave much. She nurtured our family hand in hand with my father, with full dedication and passion, juggling multiple entrepreneurial activities while looking after us full time. Her gentle, positive but firm ways, were the glue that kept us together. I remember splitting an apple with my four siblings from a bag of apples — this was my first lesson on sharing and “saving for the rainy day.”

As we grew up, we graduated to different roles in the household, learning firsthand the value of hard work and responsibility. Her love and charity extend to all relatives and friends in need. She taught us to keep our eye on the prize but to uphold integrity and respect in the core of our actions.

I always aspire to follow her footsteps now that I am a mom myself to two wonderful boys.

Jennifer is a Learning and Organizational Development Consultant for the Toronto Community Housing in Canada. She was an Ayala Foundation Scholar to the Lester Pearson United World College in British Columbia.


I wanted to share with you a story about my mother, as well as those of my friends and fellow leaders from some of my favorite communities (Harvard, Mount Holyoke, United World College, Young Global Leaders, and Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs). We all feel and believe that our mothers are our heroines who inspired us to be who we are, and to achieve what we have.

The heroes and heroines who touch our lives create impact that ripple across time, space, and generations. They often come from humble beginnings. This gives hope for our planet: most of the people in our world come from humble beginnings, and most are unsung heroes and heroines.

Our mothers are often that — our heroines whose strength and superpowers hold our families, our societies, and our world together.

#MothersDay #MaHeroine #MomHeroine #OurHeroines


Analisa Leonor Balares is CEO & Chief Innovation Officer of Womensphere, where she leads the Womensphere Foundation, Summits, Innovation Leadership Lab, and Incubator Network. She has been honored as a UBS Global Visionary and selected as a NASA Datanaut. She has also been recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipinas in the World by the US Filipina Women’s Network, as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and Outstanding Leader by the Society of Foreign Consuls and the New York State Assembly. Analisa is an alumna of Harvard Business School, Mount Holyoke College, Lester Pearson United World College, and the Manila Science High School. She has previously worked at Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Milestone Capital Management, 85 Broads (now Ellevate), and Morgan Stanley Investment Banking.