IT'S never been easy to be a mom, especially for first timers. As they say, motherhood is the most wonderful, albeit exhausting experience in a woman's life.
Holding a baby with careful yet loving hands; nights with little or no sleep as you attend to your baby; breastfeeding--all these and a lot more a mom gladly bears.
First time moms have it harder though with the added pressure of having to raise a well-adjusted, healthy child.
She may have her husband, her brother or even her father with her through her journey of motherhood but only a fellow mom can empathize with all of the pain and joys of being a mother.
And that's when Nadine Angelica Gadia Casiño, a stay-at-home mom of two children, started her mission on supporting the "nanays" of Mindanao, especially the new moms, through establishing a mother support group: Modern Nanays of Mindanao.
How it all started
Like any other moms, Nadine Casiño had her fair share of first motherhood experience, giving birth at the age of 22 to eldest daughter Raelene Cerise after graduating with a Nursing degree from Xavier University.
"It really started with that feeling that I was not alone kay (because in) 2012, I gave birth to my eldest, and then perfect kaayo nga timing kay (the timing was perfect because) I gave birth together with my barkada," Casiño said.
According to Casiño, her college friends, Meg and Maple, got pregnant and gave birth at the same year as her and the three of them practically experienced all the challenges of being first time moms together.
"At that time my mom was not with me kay (because) she was out of the country. So I gave birth without a mother figure to actually guide me," Casiño said.
"So kato nga feeling na (that feeling that) you had friends that you can share the tears, you can share the joys of motherhood, that was where we started the advocacy," she added.
And even after she had Raelene, this did not deter her from pursuing her master's in Nursing Major in Medical Surgical Nursing in Liceo de Cagayan University. She even had her baby Raelene with her in school through baby wearing - that is keeping your baby close with you by using a baby carrier or a baby wrap.
"The baby wearing experience was very exciting kay (because) it was like sleepdust para sa iya (for her). You just tuck her in and then she fell asleep labaw na kanang lisod kaayo magpahilom og baby sa (especially when it was hard to keep her from crying during the) first few nights," Casiño said.
"Dinha gyud nag start ang murag (That's when the) addiction to motherhood (started). Murag (Its like) 'wow this is something every mom should know,' that every mom should get a feel of this convenience," she added.
However, not everyone reacted well on Nadine's way of getting through motherhood. According to her, there were some who reacted negatively to her use of babywearing and cloth diapering as they thought that the traditional way of child-rearing is better.
"My first pediatrician was not very supportive of me. When I went to the clinic, I was wearing my baby in a wrap, she said maanad ang bata sa pagkugos (that the baby will get used to being carried)," Casiño shared, adding that hearing her pediatrician's comments gave her worries at that time.
Instead of being discouraged, Casiño, as a "millennial mom" who was not that fond of traditional parenting practices, looked for someone who can give her the "sense of security," that she was doing the right thing.
"My mother-in-law wouldn't know, my own mother wouldn't know. It’s all new. So I had to search online for a pediatrician who was supportive," Casiño said.
And that was when she met Dr. Jessamine Sareno, a pediatrician in Maria Reyna Xavier University Hospital in Cagayan De Oro City who is also an advocate of breastfeeding.
And the good doctor was the last push Casino needed to finally start the mother support group "Mommy Bright Side," and by 2015 it became known as Modern Nanays of Mindanao.
"I want that, na mag-gather og (to gather) moms and teach then about these parenting skills: breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and babywearing, to make their lives easier," Casiño said.
MNM: Mom for moms
At present, Modern Nanays of Mindanao (MNM) has almost 12,000 members, comprised of single, working and stay-at-home moms; is recognized as a non-government organization and named as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations in 2017.
The organization, founded in Cagayan de Oro City, also has active chapters in Iligan City and Bukidnon.
"It’s like popping out all by itself, I didn't have to do it kay sila ang nag-initiate (Because they already initiated it). Before, ako-ako ra man to, mura man kog, (it was only me, it’s like) I was everywhere. But then now, we are everywhere," Casiño said.
The mother-support group was also acknowledged by the Department of Social Welfare and Development last year when they helped the displaced mother and babies during the Marawi siege.
The group was able to help provide safe haven to mothers and babies affected by the siege, gifting them with care packs wrapped in malongs.
"Na acknowledge mi sa Manila, sa DOH, sa mga (We were acknowledged in Manila, by the Department of Health, by) advocates all over the Philippines. Murag, pwede diay ni (It’s like, this can happen), when you do something out of the bottom of your heart, ma acknowledge gyud sya (it will be acknowledged)," the 27-year-old mom said.
"We were able to make a group that is unique, relevant, nga really doing something. Who are we? Mama ra man mi. Unsa man mi nga mga mama? Wala mi trabaho, stay-at-home moms ang kasagara sa amo. Wala mi yaya, wala mi kwarta (We're just mothers. What kind of mother? We don't have jobs, most of us are stay-at-home moms. We don't have maids, we don't have money). But then we have the capacity to create this kind of change in CDO. Dili lang sa (Not only in) CDO but in Mindanao, and even pwede pa man gani (also) in the whole Philippines," she tearfully added.
A woman of significance
For her magnificent leadership, moving the hearts and an inspiration to the mothers in the Philippines, Nadine was recognized as one of Department of Tourism's Women of Significance in December 2017.
"Kung emotional roller coaster ang 2016 (If 2016 is an emotional roller coaster), 2017 was proving something that we can really do it," Casiño said.
She cheerfully shared her disbelief upon receiving the award, saying "out of how many women, outstanding women, in the Philippines, how can I be chosen? As in, ako (Seriously, me)?"
But then, Casiño said she realized, upon getting the award that the happiness gained from receiving trophy, standing with the shining lights, the applause, did not measure up with the happiness she felt when she was with her fellow moms.
"Dili siya equal sa feeling sa after nga naay mama nga mag thank you sa imo. Yeah, nakuha nako ang akong award (It’s not equal to the feeling after a mom thanks you. Yeah, I got the award). Yes, you applaud me, but then you do not know my story. Murag lahi gyud sya nga feeling nga naa ka with the people, makadungog ka sa ilang thank you, makita nimo ang positive nga impact. Lahi gyud sya nga feeling (It’s like a whole different feeling when you are will those people, hearing them thank you, you will see the positive impact of what you are doing. It’s a feeling not like any other)," Casiño said.
She added that those awards she received served as reminder for her that there are people who will trust her and the MNM, that "as long as you do what is right, giving your everything with all your heart, it will not go unnoticed."
"I realized nga (that) my service is not to get all those kinds of awards... I work because I want to help," Casiño said.
Now going six years and counting, Nadine has her sights on how to get the youth involved in their advocacy as most of the youngsters, especially the female youth, are not into motherhood yet.
"Kay (Because) the youth has the talent, has the energy to actually forward advocacy. Problem lang nako (My problem) is how can you make them?" Casiño said, adding that it would be good to collaborate with youth groups.
"I do have that dream na mahimo gyud syang (that it will become an) institution that will help mothers from all over Mindanao, from all over the Philippines," Casiño said.