New York, NY – I was really just expecting to reach her voice mail. My plan was to leave a voice message. But I hadn’t even had a chance to gather my thoughts when she picked after just two rings. And instead of a generic “hello,” she greeted with me with a definite “Jannelle! Nice to hear from you!”
Of course I was delighted! The voice on the other line was Loida Nicolas-Lewis – social civic leader, author, motivational speaker, lawyer, industrialist and philanthropist, and arguably the most esteemed and most successful Filipina in the United States. I was honored that she picked up my call and humbled that she had my number stored on her cell phone.
“Congratulations and best wishes. I heard it was beautiful,” she continued to just amaze me. She knew about my wedding, too? Although I had an inkling it had everything to do with Tita Rocio Nuyda, a very good friend who helped me as my wedding coordinator. She was also the one who suggested that I gave her best friend, Tita Loida, a ring, while in the city. “I’m very happy for you,” Tita Loida said. We chatted for a bit and I asked her if she had time because I wanted to consult something with her. Ten minutes was what I had in mind, when I asked. But five hours later, I found myself being ushered to the back corner table at a recognizable restaurant in New York.
So not only did she pick up my call and spoke to me for a few minutes on the phone; she also had time to meet me for dinner! Was thanking Tita Rocio. I knew it was going to be great. In my 20-year print and broadcast journalism career, I always say that one of my best interviews if not the best, was with Tita Loida. Not only is she candid and sincere; she’s also very humble, inspiring and full of wisdom.
Sharing with you some of the things I’ve learned from her:
“Everything will be alright in the end; if it’s not alright , it’s not the end.” – This quote is being attributed to Brazilian writer Fernando Sabino, author Paolo Coelho, singer/songwriter John Lennon, and many others. But I first heard this from Tita Loida when I interviewed her for the first time. We were talking about how she overcame challenges when she first came on board as Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice International when her husband who started and grew the company, passed away. In many ways, this quote is something we could keep in our pockets, offering hope and encouragement for challenging times.
“Never allow yourself to be used. You may take some in, in the beginning; but know when to say enough.” - She said to me over dinner, as I consulted her about a recent decision I made. I must be honest, it felt good to be validated by a woman of her caliber. And this quote is something to keep in mind, when entering and maintaining any relationship – personal or business.
“You can be married, have kids and have a career… just make sure you can afford a good nanny or sitter.” – We talked about how women feel that they have to take a step back from what they have built professionally, in order to build something personally. But this practical advice actually makes sense.
“Never believe in your own press release.” – She told me once, after explaining that she’s had her share of failures and bad business decisions. It could be the fastest route to failure… when you rest on your laurels, thinking you’re great because of what your own press release states.
“Be a teflon.” – Tita Loida shared this piece of advice with me when we started talking about difficult people. “There will always be people who are mean. But mostly, it’s because they are ignorant,” she said; and as a devout Catholic, she added: “Pray for the mantel of protection over you and your family. And then be a teflon… whatever they hurl at you bounces back at them.” Word.
“The only way to deal with evil is kindness. Guard your heart that it doesn’t build resentment; but cultivate compassion.” – It is not always easy to do. But this great and accomplished woman talking to me is the epitome of humility and compassion. And she’s basing this nugget of wisdom from the Bible; who are we to question?
“If at first you don’t succeed, find another priest.” – This after laughs about our experiences with the Catholic church. Teachings are in place; but sometimes, different priests have different interpretations of the doctrines.
“As your children get older, you have to change the way you speak to them.” - She said about parenting. She proceeded to talk to me about her pride and joy, daughters Leslie and Christina and their respective families.
As we were being served our desserts, at the end of a great dinner with delicious food and even more sumptuous conversation, I reminded her of one other thing that I will never forget from our first interview… “Remember what you told me about one love?”
“Nag-iisang gloria” – She corrected me, with a hearty laugh and a sparkle in her eyes. Immediately I knew I was able to reel her back. As we started the evening talking about my wedding and my husband; we ended it with her graciously sharing stories about her marriage to Reginald Lewis, her one love.
Jannelle So is taking a break from 20-years of print and broadcast journalism career that began in the Philippines and continued here in the US. Connect to her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/JannelleSoOFFICIAL); Twiiter (www.twitter.com/JannelleSo); and Instagram (www.instagram.com/JannelleSo) or email her at email@example.com.