Mom Spotlight: Rica Dakudao Buenaflor
Rica Dakudao Buenaflor’s story is one of empowerment and an affirmation of how a true partnership with her spouse allows her to pursue her passions and still be the best Mom she can be.
By Risa Regala-Garcia
The myth of the supermom is just that--a myth. For every mom knows the many silent sacrifices mothers make for the family: for their spouse and their children, for their extended family and for all their other dependents. Mommy Mundo celebrates mothers for all that they do while recognizing their dreams, ambitions, and aspirations, which may well have been born before their children were.
When I asked Mompreneur Rica Dakudao Buenaflor what she was currently busy with, she rattled off quite a long list of things. But Rica is careful to assert that she is simply an ordinary woman who just happens to have a lot on her plate at any given moment; and more importantly, that she likes having it that way. Rica shares,
“I would never want to make another woman feel like she wasn’t doing enough, or that she should be engaged in doing anything more than what she already is. And I’m not able to do all these things on my own. I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband and partner.”
This hands-on mother of five kids, whose ages range from eighteen down to nine, is wife to Carlo, who runs Bicol’s biggest food chain, (35-year old Bigg’s Diner) and serves as Honorary Consul of Spain for the region. Together they are the exclusive sub-distributor of Havaianas in South Luzon as well as founders, product developers and promoters of the Que Rica brand of Bicolano specialties. Their product line includes bottled Sinantolan or Cotton Fruit, Bicol Express & Taba ng Talangka or Crab Fat. They also carry Laing Longganiza, Vegetarian Laing, Libas Smoked Bacon and frozen Laing.
“I develop products that people usually request from me. I come up with products that are easy to prepare. They are special because I only choose ingredients with the best quality that are sourced in Bicol. I also make sure that we use fair practices and that the farmers and producers in Bicol benefit directly from our products. We work with small producers and farmers.”
Aside from their retail fashion business, they’ve taken up the cause of boosting all things Bicolano through the “Best of Bicol” initiative. ”I met my husband while we were both studying in the US. We were so much alike in our interests and values that I knew right away that he was the one I wanted to spend my life with. His family business was based in Bicol, and after his studies he was put in charge of handling it; so we moved there after a short stay in Manila and lived on the family farm for ten years. We had four of five children there before moving back to Manila.”
Promoting the Pili Nut
“After living in Bicol for ten years, I came to love its people and cuisine. My husband and I founded the Best of Bicol because we believe in the beauty and uniqueness of everything the province has to offer.”
In particular, the pili nut is a product of Bicol that Rica has endeavored to champion through its promotion as a superfood and something unique to the province. Rica tells of how the pili nut grows in abundance in Bicol because of the land’s rich volcanic soil and ironically because of the many typhoons that ravage the area each year. “These two unique conditions are what made Bicolanos so resilient.” She thought about finding a way of processing the pili nut so that it stays fresh for a long time without masking its true flavor with the usual heavy sugary coating that it has come to be associated with.
Igniting A Passion
On top of all that, Rica is also in the process of earning a Grand Diplôme from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu School of culinary arts. Her interest in cooking was piqued on a trip to Paris when she was just fifteen.
“My mother sent me alone to visit an aunt who was living in Paris, and I remember not even wanting to go because it was my summer vacation; but looking back, I’m so glad I went. That trip opened my eyes to so many possibilities and it expanded my world so much.” Rica always looked up to her late mother, former Regional Director of the Department of Tourism Catalina Santos Dakudao, and the latter’s influence on her was very strong. “My mother didn’t really need to work, but she did. She encouraged me to see the world and would talk to me often about studying abroad. I took up hotel and restaurant management in the States but Le Cordon Bleu was always at the back of my mind.” It was during a stint at the Pebble Beach Hotel when 21-year old Rica realized she felt most at home in the kitchen. One day while she was working the front desk, the Executive Chef asked her to help manage the hotel’s coming big event, which was the hundredth anniversary of the US Open. “Before that, I was handling customer complaints and was not very happy being around so much negativity. Then when I was tasked with coordinating Food & Beverage and spent a lot of time in the kitchen, I found myself enjoying it very much.“
Life for the Buenaflors in Bicol was idyllic. There were few distractions and they were focused on work and family. Rica began to get restless after having achieved her goal of running the household like clockwork. They took on the Havainas business and she worked hard on making it grow; but she longed for something more.
“The reason I really moved forward and pushed myself in Bicol is, cheesy as it may sound, my love for my husband. I knew it was the life that I’d chosen, even though things did not happen as I’d planned them to. I knew I had to make things work. Carlo was the person that opened the possibility of my going to Le Cordon Bleu.”
Shared Parenting to Pursue A Dream
It was in 2015 that Rica had the opportunity to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Because she and Carlo had worked to professionalize their businesses while they were living in Bicol, they were comfortable leaving them to those they’d entrusted to run things.
“Before leaving, I’d make sure that Carlo could be with the kids all throughout the course period. During the time that I’m away, he always assumes my role. I’m lucky to have a husband who is so supportive. I also have a very reliable assistant whom I hired when I first planned to leave for Paris. Because we operate our household like our office, there are schedules; we have weekly household meetings, petty cash and cash audits. This way, when I leave, I’m confident that things would still run smoothly.”
A Mom, First
Rica is a mom first and foremost. She shares, “My day begins early at around 5:30 a.m. with a bit of meditation and then I wake up my kids and have breakfast with them before they go off to school. I work from home on most days so that I’m here when they arrive. We relish family time in the hours after homework and after-school activities are done, leading up to dinnertime.” It’s important for Rica that she’s around to watch her kids’ soccer games; and she encourages them to entertain their friends at home.
“The biggest benefit I’ve seen in our kids that came from our hands-on parenting is their confidence. I think kids who grow up with parents who are present, grow up to be very secure.”
Shared Goals & The Gift of Mentoring
Both Rica and Carlo are fierce advocates of planning ahead; and it has become a tradition for them to have, as part of celebrating their anniversary every December 31st, to hold a kind of strategic planning session within the first week of the New Year. They included their kids in this practice when they were still very young, asking them questions like, “How do you want this school year to unfold?” and “By the end of the year, what would you have liked to achieve?”
A natural evolution took place and they began to do a midyear review as well. They would ask their kids, “How are you doing so far in terms of the goals you set at the start of the year?” Rica shares, “They felt validated and they really saw that we took their goals seriously. As the years went on, the kids began to see that there was something more to it than just a fun exercise. They realized little by little that life doesn’t happen without plans. I tell them that they have to visualize their goals and that they materialize faster and more accurately if you verbalize them.”
Watch her video interview below:
About The Contributor
Risa Regala Garcia writes about food, family - the travails of parenting and the challenges of supporting ageing parents- and the bittersweet moments of midlife when the joys and fears of our childhood resurface.
To read her work is to step back into a simpler time, when a pink blanket could ward off night time ghouls and a grandmother’s kitschy decor could entertain an imaginative child for hours.