After 3 off-site meetings throughout her day, Julia Estrella-Javellana, SM City Bacolod mall manager, cheerily waved at me as I stepped into the restaurant where she was already eating. Our interview was her last appointment for the day and she had already started early dinner with her kids. “This is my late lunch,” she says, which is already early dinner after skipping her mid-day meal due to her hectic schedule. My gut feeling for picking her story as the pilot for my #WorkingMomLife series is totally on point.
@mommysigrid Julia’s Choice now on the blog www.lovinglymama.com @Julia's Choice #Julia #momlife #workingmom #womenemporwerment #bosslady #workingmomlife #plantita #executive #fyp #foryoupage #momsoftiktok #tiktokmoms ♬ original sound – MommySigrid
Julia’s Choice: Being a Super Career Mom
I met Julia almost 30 years ago at a local cable service provider where we worked here in Bacolod City. We were fresh out of college then and just starting to find our way in the real world. Her aunt Sonia was my colleague and we worked in the same department so I would see Julia often.
Fast forward to today, we had a 5:30 PM appointment at a restaurant, but around 5 PM, rain poured in buckets. I informed Julia that I will wait for the downpour to subside before going out, as I live only about 10 minutes from the mall. She told me that she will just be at the restaurant she picked, one of the mall’s tenants, and had to eat ahead with her kids.
In these few minutes of messenger exchange, you get a glimpse of Julia: workaholic executive, indefatigable mall manager who supports her tenants, and micro-managing mom who wants to spend the most time with her growing children.
Julia’s Choice is actually her Instagram account and side hustle: an online business of buying and selling happiness…I mean stuff that brings happiness.
It’s her choice and I am just glad that she trusted me to share her curated mom story in this blog, dissected according to her multi-faceted life.
Julia the Workaholic
When she was still a student, Julia already had the privilege of traveling internationally — the perks of having a dad as an airline manager. She was exposed to different places, food, and cultures. Despite her well-provided upbringing, Julia was no stranger to work. She was a pioneer crew member of Jollibee and another pioneering DJ at a local radio station.
After her college graduation, she went back to her dad’s hometown in Aklan and had a stint as a teller at Landbank. She also helped manage their family-owned restaurant, Sugar & Spice.
Julia the Wife
Then came the opportunity to work for a Germany-based company, but love came a-knocking and she made her choice—she stayed and got married.
At 24, she tied the knot with her only boyfriend, Jethro, here in Bacolod.
Julia the Super Mom vis a vis Career Woman
Julia and Jethro have three daughters: Cloie, 25; Zia, 15; and the youngest is Chelsea, 12.
“After I got married, I worked at 99.1 Crossover as a DJ and got to organize concerts,” Julia enthuses. Among the perks of the job were her interviews with famous Filipino artists like Martin Nievera, Gary V, Jaya, and Lani Misalucha, among many others. “It was a fun working environment and I even got to bring Cloie while working,” she recalls.
When SM was hiring before opening in Bacolod in 2007, Julia applied and was hired as Marketing Manager. But she found out that she was already pregnant with her second child so she declined the offer, choosing instead to focus on her health during pregnancy and setting up everything for the coming of the second child. At this point, her eldest Cloie is around 10 years old already and it had been a while since their home had a baby. They pretty much started from the beginning.
After giving birth, she went on to work as Communications Specialist at Teleperformance.
But in 2009, the SM VP for HR called her and offered her the Assistant Mall Manager position. Without hesitation, she accepted the job and thus started her journey with Bacolod’s largest mall.
It Takes a Village
Julia can bravely take on new challenges because she has the full support of her husband, Jethro, a businessman who has flexible working hours. While they also had helpers and yaya, she and Jethro were pretty much hands-on parents. She recalls that her daughter Zia was a clingy baby. When she had to go to work on a night shift at Teleperformance, Jethro would place Julia’s used shirt on his shoulder so that Zia can sleep soundly while he carried her.
Her late parents-in-law were also such a blessing to her. Too bad the family lost both the patriarch and matriarch during the early months of COVID-19 when vaccines were not yet developed.
Julia reveals that since her in-laws passed, they haven’t hired a house helper. Her eldest daughter, Cloie, now an independent young woman, helps her mom take care of her two younger siblings.
Growing up, Julia remembers her parents nurturing ways. She is the eldest of a brood of 4 girls and their parents Dave Estrella of Aklan and Mila Gamboa Javier of Silay applied gentle parenting techniques on them.
“My parenting style is based on what I have seen growing up. My Mom is so maasikaso and she has NEVER ever spanked any of us. Our kids are also maasikaso now because of what they have seen.”
Julia’s family visits her parents in Silay every other week to eat and hang out with them. They also go on vacations together.
The Big Promotion
Julia was recently promoted to the position of SM City Bacolod mall manager, which also came with more responsibilities for the company’s expansion plans. And all she can say about being a career woman and mom at the same time is, “It’s FUN!”
“We have a lot of surprises in store for Negrenses,” Julia excitedly shares. “The mall will undergo major redevelopment and the cinemas will also be upgraded. The North Block (the new development at the north wing parking lot) will have new-in-the-city tenants.” Moreover, the new development will feature the National University, a BPO tower, and a multi-events venue for concerts and sporting events.
Aside from these expansions, SM has already acquired two other nearby properties, with development plans already in play. “These will bring more jobs for Negrenses,” Julia happily announces.
One thing that Julia makes sure of despite her work is being present for her children. She “makes time” for them, even breastfeeding them for the first 6 months of their lives!
At most, she gets 5 hours of sleep every night, as she wakes up at 5:30 am to help prepare her kids for school. Then together, they have breakfast at home as a family. This makes sure that they see each other and connect before the busy day ahead.
Most days, she is loaded during working hours so she meets up with her girls at the mall to have dinner or just go shopping.
She also makes it a point to be present at her children’s school events, rotating her rest days in order to prepare for their needs and attend programs. When all her kids were younger, she even had the time to actively take part in the Parents-Teachers Council!
Julia is not all about work and family. She also gets involved in the community. At the Zonta International Club where she has been a member for 7 years now, they help abused women and children at risk. They just don’t post their activities to protect the identity of the kids.
Furthermore, “I handle the CSR Committees of SM for Women, Children, PWD, Seniors, and Environment.” They hold regular activities inside and outside the mall, too.
Her Mom Style
Perhaps how Julia finds the time to do all these things because she keeps a simple routine. She hardly goes to the salon for a mani-pedi or hair treatments. Nor does she wear make-up, which shortens her preparation time. When she goes to get a haircut, she tells the stylist to give her a wash-and-wear style. With a simple routine, she can go out fast and spend her time on other things that give her the most joy.
Sometimes, she does get a foot spa but it is part of her bonding time with her girls.
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Prioritizing Her Mental Health
Foremost, like most of the working lot, Julia is powered by coffee. She has her own coffee nook, coffee-making machines, accessories, and collections of different brands at home. I wasn’t able to ask how many cups of coffee she drinks in a day, but after our heavy eat-all-you-can dinner, she did down a cup of brewed coffee. And it was already around 7 pm.
Furthermore, Julia and Jethro always ensure that they get breaks from their usual routine. Their most-favored activity is to travel as a family. “We make it a point to go out of the country with the kids at least twice a year. The kids love traveling and exploring. And eating of course!” Plus, they go on a once-a-year couple adventure, too.
Among all the countries they have visited, their favorite is Japan, specifically Osaka and Kyoto. They all love the food and culture, plus the feeling of security when going out and about. “We already have a suki at Kurumon Market and the kids feel comfortable and safe going out on their own in Japan. Our favorite season to visit is Autumn.”
She also travels with the ladies she grew up with. The usual tripping of her Assumption High School friends is “to pick a random country or place then we meet up there. So far, we did London, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Manila, and Bacolod.”
Shopping for Experience
Julia is a full-fledged “experiential” shopaholic. Shopping is an experience to savor, buying things for herself and for others. During her travels, she buys nice things not to hoard but also to share through selling, as she feels that there is someone else out there that would be happy to make the purchase. It’s a kind of retail therapy that brings fulfillment to her.
A patron of the arts, she supports and buys paintings, sculptures, and other handicrafts from local artists that she can put in their family nest or her condo unit design projects.
She maintains a Facebook group called Miners Club Bacolod where she gives locals an opportunity to check out what she has for sale. Other members are also allowed to post items they no longer need that can still be enjoyed by others.
The quote above was posted in Julia’s IG account and it pretty much sums up her philosophy in life. That is why she pursues things that make her happy: in marriage, in her family, in her career, and in her personal growth.
Interior Design and Party Favors
Julia’s interests are very diverse and she is actually very creative. She spends time, money, and effort on things that make people happy. Her children’s birthday parties require a lot of production work, as she likes to bring a theme to life—from the invitations down to the party favors. She prepares and curates them as early as six months before the party.
One of her favorite pastimes is to browse through home decorating magazines and bring ideas to life. She buys condo units to spruce up and sells them to interested buyers. She also has units that she rents out on Airbnb. That’s making her passions pay for themselves.
As if all these are not enough, Julia’s interests also extend outside of home design. It also includes gardening, and this was greatly emphasized during the pandemic. Early in the morning and after work, she goes out to her garden to do some watering, arranging, and whatever needs to be done. She also has another Facebook group called Bacolod Gardens where everyone can share about plants, concerns, suppliers, and even about landscape artists and gardeners.
On Loving, Learning, Living
Julia thinks that God-willing, she might stay until her retirement age in SM City Bacolod. The job provides her with enough executive challenges to keep her stimulated at work. She also loves to see “our direct reports excel and I get excited promoting people knowing that I am instrumental in their growth. I love proactive people. If pwede lang (if I can), I want to promote everyone,” she laughs.
She continues to live every day, surrounded by the love of her family whom she considers as her strength. “My family is my rock,” she says and her greatest fulfillment as a mom is “seeing the kids happy and being able to stand on their own.” That is the reason why after the death of her in-laws, they no longer hired housekeepers. They can all take care of themselves.
For fellow career moms, she says, “Learn to love your job and do more than what is expected of you,” as things do have a way of coming back to you. Julia’s choices have made her who she is right now. The important thing is, she is happy and making others happy in the process.
This story is an entry to COMCO Mundo’s “UNMASKED: The COMCO Mundo Write to Ignite Season 3”. The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities. “UNMASKED” aims to explore how each mask is a person brimming with hope and wonders to share with others, as well as why it is important to tell their inspiring journeys in life. The “Write to Ignite” Season 3 is made possible by COMCO Mundo League of Enterprises, with airasia, Babyflo, PHILUSA Corporation, Century Tuna, Licealiz, Lamoiyan Corporation, Rémy Martin, and Uratex Monoblock as brand partners.