Deeply honoured to be on the cover of WorkingMom last month. I still can’t believe it when i see my face inside the pages all the more on the cover with Olivia :) Thank you to everyone who grabbed a copy and to those who haven’t… Here’s a little snippet of the cover story ;)

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Big doe eyes, milk complexion, and a full head of dark brown hair are just some of the cover girl’s gorgeous features the shoot staff couldn’t help but coo at. Of the cover baby, to be exact. The actual cover girl, new mom Andi Manzano-Reyes, proudly bounces and sways 4-month-old Olivia to the delight of the production team. She wears a loose printed sleeveless top, cuffed jeans, and flats. Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail and there is no trace of makeup on her skin. Yet her apparent beauty, which she seems to have passed on wholly to Olivia, is unaffected by the sleepless nights brought about by a new baby.

“How is mommy life?” I ask. “It’s fun because I’m a hands-on mom and I never expected to be one. I thought I could be detached, but it’s the total opposite. I cannot not be with her. If I’m gone for like an hour, I really miss her. It’s so weird,” says 28-year-old Andi, while getting her makeup done. The host and Magic 89.9 radio DJ gave birth to her firstborn with husband GP Reyes, Pilar Olivia, last March 20.

When Andi says she is a hands-on mom, she means it. She joyfully does all the baby care with minimal help, mostly from Olivia’s lolas and Andi’s sisters who are more than willing to babysit if Andi needs to run errands.

Before starting her hair and makeup styling, Andi made sure that Olivia was happily settled on the bed. Each time Olivia’s noises would become louder than her usual gurgling, mommy Andi would pause from her interview and primping to listen whether Olivia needed her or not.

“You think you’re all grown up when you’re married because you have different challenges, different problems. You grow mentally and emotionally. But when you have a baby, it’s like a whole different world. You feel like you’re not living for yourself anymore,” she muses. “How serious!” Andi adds quickly, laughing.

She may revel in her new blissful role as a mother, but she is still just as candid and unpretentious as she talks on radio pre- baby.

Andi initially planned for family to help out with Olivia after she gave birth in order to have some rest time, but as “it turns out, I did everything on my own. It’s nice because I don’t really miss a moment with her—it’s really fulfilling,” she says. Even with her help present at the shoot, Andi herself lulls Olivia for a nap before the first layout is shot and changes baby’s clothes in and out of the pullouts for the shoot.

Unlike most first-time moms, Andi wasn’t the type who bought all the pregnancy and parenting books and researched on the Internet to be fully armed before giving birth. She banked on growing up as the eldest of five kids and took a class on breastfeeding to inform her and gain a support group. The conscientious and organized Andi prepared an Excel sheet for what was necessary like wet wipes, cotton, a few tie-sides and onesies. She was, however, more afraid of giving birth.

The night before she delivered, Andi still watched a movie with her siblings despite experiencing back pains, which continued on, thus signaling to her that she was already in labor. At the hospital, she received an epidural (“it’s the best drug ever!”) and waited to fully dilate until the next morning, when she only pushed a mere three times to deliver her beautiful baby Olivia into the world. “It was so easy. After that, I said, ‘I can have more kids.’ I was so scared [of giving birth], I was praying. It was an answered prayer,”she recalls.

Andi hasn’t been back at work since giving birth, so can she still see herself working? “Radio is just three hours—but I know leaving Olivia for three hours is already hard!” she admits and, addressing her baby, jokes, “You have to be asleep for three hours!’ Turning serious, she adds, “The first six months is important for me also. Maybe I’ll go back when she’s crawling or more independent.”

Family affair

Growing up in a tightly-knit family, Andi says there’s only one lesson she learned from her parents that she wants to pass on to Olivia. “It’s the fear of God. My mom, when we were young, forced us to go to church. Even if we were sakit sa ulo [headaches], she still instilled that and always prayed for us. And I’m thankful for that.” Every morning, Andi reads Bible verses to Olivia, holds her hand and prays with her. “Slowly, GP is kind of doing the same so it’s becoming like a family thing. I think, with that, everything will follow.”

It seems as if many good things will be following Olivia, arguably the Philippines’ most famous baby on social media. As of press time, @oliviamreyes on Instagram has 35,300 followers and #convoswitholivia, a hashtag that dad GP started for posts of imagined conversations where he often pokes fun at himself, is a popular search. How did it start exactly, and which came first, the hashtag or the account? “I don’t know…” Andi says. “It was just me and GP posting because we wereso happy.”

Andi’s sister Isabella started and manages the account but Andi herself is glad to know that their little bundle of joy can bring happiness to others, too. Olivia is recognized when she is at the mall, even without Andi, while others come up to Andi to say that looking at Olivia’s pictures is a stress reliever. A mother even told her that her misbehaving children would stop when she would show them Olivia’s pictures. “It’s nice to know that somehow, that’s her effect on people. It’s not because we want her to have endorsements. We’re just so happy and we want to share it with people.”

Growing in love

Andi says GP originally only wanted one child, but after seeing Olivia, he said, “One more, a boy. I said, one more girl! Para one more boy. I want three kids or more, if it’s possible.”

Though she isn’t one to dispense advice easily, Andi humbly answers when prodded, “Make your husband involved in everything, even with your pregnancy. They say that in the first few months it’s your connection with the baby, but it’s you who should make the husband involved.” She reveals that dad GP takes night shifts  with Olivia after work and religiously sings to her “These Foolish Things” every night. The night before, GP wanted—needed—to sing to Olivia but Andi instructed him not to wake her because of her shoot the next day. “‘No, no, I have to sing to her!’” Andi recounts. “Sing to her when she’s asleep!”.

The Reyeses manage to sometimes go out at night, as long as Andi is back after a few hours to nurse little Olivia. She feeds baby at 8 p.m., then steps out for dinner, returns to feed baby at 10 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. While Andi is more careful to talk about how motherhood has changed her—she soberly remembers she’s only been at it for four months—she is quick to enthuse and admire her husband’s transformation. “He’s changed in so many ways. Of course, he still goes out, he still has barkada, he still has boys’ night out. It’s just so nice to see him grow even more. He’s more gentle, more patient, and his perspective in life also changed so much. You just see a different side of your husband that you haven’t seen before.”

She reveals that GP often declares Olivia’s good fortune. “He would always say, ‘You’re going to be patient, you’re going to be kind, you’re going to be successful… You’re going to win at Wimbledon, you’re going to be the first Filipino astronaut…’ He has high hopes for Olivia,” she says with a laugh.

While new moms are characteristically cautious, Andi is quite the opposite. She is relaxed and collected. When she poses with Olivia, she is
a natural pro in front of the camera, and even as the noon- day sun hits its peak, Andi doesn’t overly worry about Olivia feeling warm in a frou- frou dress. Olivia, too, is calm and doesn’t fuss. Andi patiently and professionally waits until the photographer and magazine staff deliberate whether they’ve gotten good shots and if they can move on to the next layout before she finds Olivia respite from the heat.

“Don’t be so stiff, you don’t have to follow all the rules,” Andi says when asked for her tip for new moms. “You have your way of raising your kid and sometimes people will say things and correct you. I think you just have to follow your instinct.”

Andi is refreshingly grounded and realistic about early motherhood and family life, and is comfortable that as new parents, she and GP don’t know everything. It is perhaps this attitude that is the most enviably practical of all.

creative direction by chookie cruz | production styling by angelique abesamis-castro | fashion styling by kat cruz-villanueva assisted by anna ignacio and nicole alejandro | makeup by yciar castillo | hairstyling and grooming by jerry javier | toys by chibi momo | shot on location at novotel suites manila showroom and early bird breakfat club, century city mall, makati city