Cyberspace is not an entirely positive or safe place especially for children, but mother, social media personality, and lifestyle blogger, Cat Arambulo Antonio, shows us how she uses this phenomenon to create a venue for honesty, positivity, integrity, and good intention.
IT WAS UPON RECOMMENDATION OF CAT ARAMBULO ANTONIO to meet at the Aivee Café midday on a Wednesday for an interview. “I need to get my fillers done then we can sit down to talk,” she explained. The week had been packed for the mother, wife, blogger, and entrepreneur. There were several photo shoots, a series of meetings, and events squeezed in between scheduled pickups at school, early morning workouts, and meditation with the husband.
Days are long and begin as early as 6AM. For someone with the kind of energy and zest for life as Cat, this can only mean more time for realizing ideas and pursuing plans. “My mind works nonstop. We can be having a leisurely lunch and I’ll most likely be talking about the next exciting venture.” She brings the same amount of enthusiasm and energy, not only to the projects that she does, but most especially to moments shared with family and close friends.
LIFE AS A SINGLE PARENT
Growing into her role as a mother began at an early age. When she had her first born, Danielle, Cat had just graduated. It was a time for self-discovery and finding her place in the world. “Danielle was my wakeup call,” recalls Cat. While everyone else was enjoying the independence and freedom of being in their early 20s, the young and then-single parent had larger responsibilities to face. “I had to do something with my life if I was to raise my daughter in this world. I had to make something of myself and had to be able to support her. It was the only way that I would be capable of empowering her later in life.”
Although her parents were extremely supportive when it came to raising her child, Cat shares that she felt it necessary to take on the role as sole provider for her daughter. “From supplies to the help to her school, I made sure that I was paying for everything,” she explains. She took on a job as brand manager for the luxury labels at Rustan’s. “I took it seriously and really committed to the work. I learned to build and manage brands. This is something that I’ve taken with me throughout my whole journey.” She applies this today in her work as an entrepreneur.
GUILT OF THE GRIND
Work has since become an integral part of Cat’s life. She took the post as fashion director at Channel V, got into styling for the country’s top celebrities, and even worked with one of Manila’s iconic nighttime establishments, Embassy. “In everything I got into, I was dedicated and passionate,” says Cat, but immediately reveals, “I kind of put the mom thing on the side. I was a kid raising a kid. I was trying to figure it all out myself and grow as a person.”
She admits to having guilty feelings about raising her first born. “I feel I did not give her as much time as I could have. I missed out on just being around,” reflects the mother.
BEING MRS. ANTONIO
Independence and a strong sense of self have been things that Cat identifies with even in marriage. They are values she is keen on sharing especially to her children. “I would never want my kids to be dependent on anyone. I always teach and show my kids the value of being self-reliant.” She does reflect that when she wed Carlo, certain dynamics of her life began to change. “I got more focused with Danielle. By the time Asher came along, I had changed my parenting style to become extremely hands-on,” says Cat.
She also recalls a time, as newlyweds, when she tried devoting all her time to the family. It was, in the words of her husband, Carlo, “a time for trial and error.” Both reminisce on early days of their marriage with good humor. Cat elaborates between bouts of laughter: “I drove him crazy. I was so bored at home, talking to the walls, finding every speck of dust. I’m not the type to hang out in the mall and go shopping every day. That’s just not me.”
NOT QUITE THE DREAM JOB
One who always valued work and being productive, Cat had to find the ideal job that would allow her to split her time between family and career. She shares, “I’m used to working and doing something. The deal with Carlo was that I would be home when he got home. I would be involved in the lives of our kids.”
She took up interior design. “I was thinking, ‘if I ran my own firm, I would be able to do that.’” Cat was wrong. By the time projects began to pour in, she found that she was spending long hours in the evening checking on project sites and weekend activities were being scheduled around meetings with clients. “It backfired. It took up so much time and we were forever at the mercy of our client’s schedules,” reveals Cat. While the interior design stint didn’t quite pan out as she had planned, it paved the way for a career that would later take her to places and peaks in her career.
BIRTH OF A BLOGGING CAREER
“Because of this, I wanted to create a space or have an outlet where I could document my design journey,” explains Cat. Initially, the plan was to document experiences, discoveries, and even points of inspiration. It hadn’t occurred to Cat that her blog would later become a lucrative business. “Since I had Asher, I thought, ‘Oh perfect, I can dress him up!’” Posts documenting the many looks of her son were categorized under Asher Style. “Then brands like Children’s Salon from the UK and even Gucci started to come in,” says Cat. And thus began a new chapter that many followers online would be have full access to.
BACKLASH, BASHERS, AND BURNOUTS
Leading a public life and making a business of it came with a hefty price. Receiving feedback, both good and bad, took some getting used to. “Everyone had something to say about everything—my hair, my children being dressed in designer clothes, everything,” remembers Cat.
A strong support system at home and encouragement from followers helped Cat stay the course. “At first I was really stressed out. It was painful. I would always talk to Carlo who would tell me to either go on a different journey or take everything with a grain of salt.”
At one point, Cat’s claws even came out when whispers began to make mention of her children’s names. “I wrote an entire article retaliating because as a parent, when you feel your children are being attacked, you naturally defend them. It’s mother’s instinct,” reasoned Cat. The voice of a more mature and awakened headspace was quick to add that, “I didn’t know any other way to handle my impulses back then. I could have handled some situations better. If someone attacks you for whatever reason and you retaliate, that karma goes back to you. That does not make you any better. I apologize for my behavior. I learned and grew from that.”
AS REAL AS IT GETS
Cat is in a more positive place these days, and the projects and collaborations are more fruitful than ever. Among marketing teams, it is even said that everything Cat touches turns to gold. The widely successful blogger and social media personality reflects, “I never felt the need to transform for my audience. What you see on my social media is all reality. I get one take only and whatever the camera captures, that’s it.” She’s built a brand anchored on authenticity and a candidness that endears her to thousands.
Attempts to curate and polish her posts were admittedly made in the past but Cat shares, “It turned out bad for me. It’s just not my style. That’s why I figured that videos would be better for me—no scripts, just raw material. Whatever content I have at the end of each day, that’s what my audience gets.”
RAW AND REAL
Honest, unfiltered, and unedited. These became the hallmarks of Cat’s brand. Unbiased opinion on products and services added to the weight that her endorsements bore. “I was always a paying customer first before a brand gets me to endorse them—Ulthera, Aivee Clinic, Mosaic, Dr Kong. I actually patronized their products and services before becoming an endorser.”
She adds insight on why mommy bloggers hold strong influence over consumers and their choices. “Mom bloggers are also generally more empathetic. We know that every parent and child is unique. There are no rule books or one formula,” explains Cat. As a blogger and mother sharing every step of her journey, she hopes to impart positivity, valuable information, and a few best practices that intended to support fellow parents. “It saddens me when parents judge the way other parents raise their children. For me, it’s more fruitful when we show support for each other and uplift.”
CONTENT WITH INTENTION AND INTEGRITY
Despite working in an industry where likes and followers are commodities, Cat is far removed from seeking validation. “I don’t need to put on a face for anyone. People appreciate it when they see the real thing. That’s when you can truly connect and hopefully make a difference.” While she realizes that some of her content are not necessarily profound, Cat finds a sense of fulfillment in being able to create a space filled with integrity and inspiration. “I value the brands I work with, products I endorse, and people I surround myself with. I put integrity in everything I do because in the end, that is all that you really get to keep. No one can ever take that away from you.”
There are new collaborations in the pipeline. Among them is a new line of jewelry made of crystals as well as the launch of her new studio. “I don’t begin a project by measuring how much I can earn from it or what it can bring to my business. I now have mindfulness for setting good intentions first, planting seeds of positivity. The rest will naturally follow.”
WORDS Bianca Salonga
ART DIRECTION Alex Manlangit
PHOTOS Yukie Sarto of Studio 100
MAKEUP Razel “Pong” Niu, Assisted by Mark Thanie Legaspi and Lian Galang
HAIR Mark Daniel Familara
SHOT ON LOCATION AT Azure Urban Resort Residences