Three days before the HealthToday interview, Senator Pia Cayetano celebrated her 45th birthday in La Union by visiting a hospital and a factory and joining the mayor in activities related to breast cancer. She also spent out-of-town time with her children before proceeding to Baguio for a private celebration. Two weeks earlier, she had competed in her first off-road triathlon in Cebu, the first XTerra Philippines off-road triathlon. As an age-group athlete with a finish time of 4:05:16.99, according to the XTerra’s Web site, she qualified for the Xterra World Championships that will be held in Hawaii this October.
Working mothers would like to know: how ever does she do it?
“I spend a lot of time working on my schedule,” Cayetano says with a short laugh. “I have to spend time to plan my day, my week, and my month.” All tasks connected with her official duties go into her appointment secretary’s calendar. All non-official, but equally important tasks—workouts, for example—go into her cellphone. And that’s just for the day.
To plan for the week and get an overview of the following month, she meets with her staff two to three times during the week. “And then, I block off things that are important to me. … My exercise time is as important, my family time, and a lot of other health things that I have to do, like I have therapy for my legs because of my sport so I have to block off time for that. For my personal enrichment, I study Spanish so I block off time for that.”
Do what’s important
Multitasking works for her. “For me, it’s natural. Like, I’ll play with my kids while I’m working on something that doesn’t require too much attention.” She also takes every opportunity to bond with her children. For an out-of-town speaking engagement that falls on a weekend, for instance, she brings the kids along.
Cayetano has two children by sportsman and corporate lawyer, Ari Ben Sebastian, who she separated from in 2004—Maxine (16) and Nadine (12). A son, Gabriel, died at age 9 months from multiple congenital anomalies. She established the Gabriel Symphony Foundation in his honor.
Since there are only 24 hours in a day, Cayetano just has to forego certain “luxuries” people normally afford themselves in their downtime. She doesn’t watch movies or TV and dropped out of her Facebook habit after last year’s elections.
Instead, she has chosen to focus on work, family, and sports. It helps that her friends also are her training buddies and that her brothers—Senator Alan Peter, Rene Carl, and filmmaker Direk Lino—also are her best friends, which in effect, combines social time, family time, and workout time.
Keeping fit on a taxing schedule
As a sportswoman, Cayetano sticks to healthy food. Her staples include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, and the occasional chicken, all of which are steamed, grilled, or in soups. She says that choosing nutritious food is more important than avoiding meat which some people do by substituting fried eggs or instant noodles instead.
Cayetano also prefers buko juice than a sports drink during training. She likes the electrolytes in energy drinks but recoils at the calories they pack. Neither is she a fan of energy bars. “I prefer that you have an apple or a banana.” She also makes her own granola and sometimes bakes her own bread.
All that, in spite of sometimes leaving the office after 9:00 p.m., plunging back into work-related reading at home, and ignoring an 11:00 p.m. alarm she sets to remind herself it’s time to unwind. She aims for eight hours of sleep but gets by on three, a fact she isn’t proud of.
She works out first thing in the morning “because my afternoons and evenings are unpredictable.” When her schedule is hairier, she keeps a set of workout clothes in her car in case she finds the time to slip into a nearby gym. “But sometimes, even if I can, it’s just too tiring,” she admits. She just makes up for it the next day.
To read more about Sen. Pia Cayetano, her healthy lifestyle, and her advocacy for women and children, check out our Health Today May issue on the newsstands.