Nanay Said: Life Advice From Our Filipino Moms

Nanay Said: Life Advice From Our Filipino Moms

I believe mother figures are the first reference we women have for our identity. Depending on what your Filipino household looked like—multigenerational, separated, or partly overseas—Nanay may have taken the form of Ate, Tita, or Lola. We learn about Filipina beauty, femininity, and womanhood by their example before we even have the ability to form our own self-concept.

It’s only as a twenty-something FIlipina that I’ve become aware how so many parts of myself have been formed by my mother’s guidance. Only recently have I come to appreciate it.

In my rowdy childhood years, I'd scrape my knees on the pavement, shatter glass objects, and once, was rushed to the emergency room for a sprained arm we thought was broken.

Whenever I would apologize, she'd gently sing-song, "Not sorry, careful."

It was her way of reassuring me she wasn’t angry, there was nothing to forgive. Nobody had been harmed but myself. Instead, it only mattered because I had gotten hurt.

As we've both gotten older, I've started to echo the phrase back to her as a joke. But dwelling in hypotheticals, how many other reckless decisions have been averted by my mother’s words? How many heartaches have I been saved from because I learned this lesson?

This reminds me of a Filipino phrase we were taught in elementary school: “ilaw ng tahanan” (light of a home). Filipinos have cast Mother as a figurative light that shines and leads us down our life path. What Nanay says comforts, uplifts, and corrects.

I reached out to our community to share the best piece of advice they received from their mother figures! These were their answers:

Anak, if you need to cry, then cry. But after you cry move on and never cry again.

 My mom can tackle anything that's thrown at her. Something I aspire to!

Don't gossip

Doesn't matter if you marry rich or poor, but make sure they are not cheap!

Education is something no one can take away from you

Shut my mouth when there's nothing nice to say!

Never give up

Use your finger to measure the water and you can properly make enough rice to feed everyone at the table no matter how many are there - and speaking of the table, there is always room for one more

I was 22 when I became a mom myself and began poring over parenting books because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. My mom always told me to get rid of the books because instinct and building an honest relationship with my child will be my best guide. 13 years later I realize she was absolutely right.

An education can never be taken away from you. Don't gossip about others if you don't want others gossiping about you. Don't play with fire if you don't want to get burned

In high school, my mom always told me to focus on building friendships that last. She is still in a group text with her batchmates from high school & college and they still have reunions even thought they are scattered around the globe!

How about you? What’s the best advice you’ve received from your Filipino mother figures (Nanay, Tita, Lola, Ates)? Share with us in the comments!

Nicolette Bautista

Nicolette Bautista

Nicolette is a Manila-based creative freelancer and Cambio & Co's Community Storyteller. She's written on the digital space about mom-and-pop's, small businesses, and social enterprises. In the pursuit of her eclectic interests, Nicolette has a broad portfolio including short videos, album art, and storybook illustrations! Find her on Instagram @of_nicolette and

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