Juana and Rick having fun talking about how they met more than 10 years ago
“I can’t draw and I can’t paint…” begins Juana Manahan-Yupangco as she sits beside her husband Rick. “But I realized that my art is with words—putting them together is art.”
At first glance, the Yupangcos look like a match made in heaven—successful careers, a good gene pool and two beautiful children. However, their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Juana—who hails from a family of artists and the daughter of the Mr. M—is an outgoing, bubbly writer who channels her artistic vision through words. Rick is much more traditional, developing highly successful properties for one of the largest companies in the Philippines. Despite their contrasting personalities, the two just seem to make it work.
The secret, according to both of them, is to prioritize family above anything else. “I would stop working if it meant caring for my family,” Juana asserts confidently. For Rick, it’s all about using his family as motivation. “When my kids grow up and they take a drive down the main avenue, I can tell them, ‘Yes, your father was a part of that.'” Nowadays, the couple has a good work-life balance which allows them to enjoy their accomplishments and each other. But things weren’t always so easy, especially for Juana.
“I started from the bottom—ironing clothes, dragging suitcases, sleeping at the airport. It was bad. It was the life of a writer,” says Juana as she recalls her days of being an editorial assistant. “But it really pays to start from the bottom…You need to go through it,” she adds. She pauses mid-interview and points to a yellow chair at the corner of their art-covered living room.
“First time I saw this chair, I was still at the bottom. I was so sad that I couldn’t afford it… When I was finally able to afford it, it was a big deal for me. It’s a symbol that I already came full circle.” After years of being an editorial assistant, Juana rose through the ranks: She became an associate editor, section editor, editor-in-chief and now head of a digital publication.
Now far from the struggling writer she was 10 years ago, Juana admits her limitations when it comes to handling finances. For her, Security Bank has helped cover this weakness. “Security Bank is really great for me because I’m so bad at managing my money. They call you and they really check whenever you spend something big. I’ve been with another bank for a very long time and they never do that. They also gave me a Gold Circle Card so now I never have to wait!”
Juana and Rick complement each other perfectly: One is passionate and adventurous while the other is calm and pragmatic. They’re both artists—one with words and the other with numbers—and even though both of them may not notice, putting together this perfect picture of a family might just be Juana and Rick’s masterpiece.
J: First, I’m a mother and a wife. So those are two really important things, like I would stop working if it meant caring for my family. But thankfully, I have a job that allows me to prioritize my family. I was hired by a company to put up a parenting website. It’s called Juana.com.ph. The name is purely coincidental…
R: No, she’s got something to do with it. [laughs]
J: My friends think it’s my blog because I used to write a lot about parenting. But with Juana.com.ph, we showcase every mother. You know, I’m fortunate enough to have a job, where I can do what I like. Before that I was an editor in publications—I was in Town and Country and Lifestyle Asia. I always wrote for Inquirer. Now I’ve transitioned into online, which is very different. It’s for young people.
R: First and foremost, I’m a papa to the two most beautiful children. But even before that, it’s really a husband. My day job is with a real estate developer. We’ve got projects as far North as Baguio and as far South as Davao. And I’m specifically in the office building sector, so everything that you see in the commercial business district, all that has gone up in the last 10 years—I’ve been a part of.
The thing that I love about it is that I get to play a part in nation-building. These buildings that are going up are gonna be there for a lifetime. And I’ve had something to do with that. I was a part of it. I get to be part of something really big.
J: Yeah, I’m actually a History of Art major. That’s what I took up–I studied in London. So my dad—he’s an artist. So my sister is a product designer. My mom—she did all the walls here. So I think it runs in our family.
When Rick and I got married, I found out that his taste was even more gory than mine, so like all the weird ones are his [laughs].
J: You know, they have made a cover of Town and Country two months ago, and the title was “Creative Bluebloods” and it was my mom, my sister, and me. And I was like, “What am I doing here?” I mean, I can’t draw, I can’t do any of this.
But I realized that my art is more words. Words are art. Conceptualizing photo shoots—that’s art. Putting these things together—just having a vision, so in that sense, yes.
When I saw her, I was enamored. And so since I was working out that day, since she was doing a photoshoot, as everybody else was someplace else and she was setting up, I showed a little bit of skin.
J: So I was an editorial assistant, as you know is the lowliest of positions in publishing. So they gave me this story, they were like “Oh there’s a bunch of triathlon sosyal guys who are raising money for charity. Go interview them!” Okay, fine I’ll go, but the call time was like 5:00 am. I show up a little bit half-asleep—I was like 22.
So I show up and I see these guys in spandex—three were married, one was gay, and then there was Rick. The first thing I noticed about him was like the way he looked—I just thought like, “Oh my gosh, his gaze is so intense.” Like when he looks at you, it looks like he’s sizing you up. So a few weeks after that, we had a magazine party, and I texted him because I had his contact, and I said, “Hi Mr. Yupangco, would you come to this party?” He was like, “Call me Rick.” And I was like, whoa. He was like, “Will you be there?” And I was like, “Yeah, I have to work!”
R: That’s the only reason why I went—she was gonna be there. I don’t usually go to parties.
This is my side of it: I knew this interview was going to happen. So that morning, with my team, we just pushed it to the max. We were biking our brains out to the point where we wanted to puke. And we were probably at the best shapes of our lives. We were race-ready. We peaked. So there she comes one day—half asleep.
And so she was looking at me and I was looking at her. And I look at my competition—married, married, married, single but gay. When I saw her, I was enamored. And so since I was working out that day, since she was doing a photoshoot, as everybody else was someplace else and she was setting up, I showed a little bit of skin.
J: He took off his shirt!
R: I even flexed a little bit. [laughs] And after the party, I wanted to see her all the time. And I made it a point to see her all the time.
J: When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be an artist, like a painter. But I realized I suck at painting. My sister was really better than me. So I found my talent was writing. And then later on through my History of Art phase—we really didn’t learn that much doing that, right? I’m realizing it’s really a marriage of those two–like putting visuals and talking about it, creating stories about it.
J: Lowest point—writing PR stuff. You’re just writing to fill pages—because you have to Highest point is writing about what you love. So for me, that’s writing about art and parenting. Or being able to steer a publication online or print. So when I was made editor-in-chief of the parenting magazine, I thought for people like me, for writers—”this is it.”
R: Yes, she complements me in many ways. As a wife, we share a lot of the same interests, the same likes. Like eating out, travelling—she’s a little more adventurous than I am. She likes to take me out of my comfort zone and she like to open up new things for me. For me I’m a little more conservative and that’s one of the best things that I like about Juana—that she takes me out there. She likes to take me to the edge, in more ways than one.
J: Before I married him, I didn’t know anything about money, saving. I didn’t know any of that—I didn’t understand it. And he was able to explain it to me, like a kid. And now I understand it. I’m more confident.
R: With UITFs, if you don’t have the time to monitor the markets, it gives you an opportunity to participate in that and have professionals manage the money for you. For busy people and for those that who are not financially-savvy, it’s a wonderful instrument to get into because you get to participate in those things. If you don’t want to go straight and dive into the stock market and take that risk, UITFs are the best ways to go. You just have to be with a good manager, a good company and a good bank.
When I left my job and told my parents “I want to open [shop] in the Philippines”, my Mom cried in the car.
J: I became a client of Security Bank because of Inquirer—it was their payroll. It just started like that—like a payroll card. And then I discovered there was more pala that you could do with it. I could travel with it and I think my favorite thing about is the security.
I know it sounds funny [laughs] but it’s super secure! When we travel, they really call you and they really check. I’ve been with another bank for a very long time also and they never do that. All my household stuff are there so that’s what I use for my everyday. Sometimes I don’t really remember when and what I spent so it’s really useful to get that reminder—that text.
It’s really great for me cause I’m so bad at managing money. I don’t overspend. So they tell me “okay this is how much you’re getting for this month” and I’ll never exceed that. I also love the sales! We bought business class tickets with our Security Bank credit card and it was almost buy one take one prices. You know offers like that help me a lot.
Let me tell you a story. My kids are really aware of banking. I’m always in the bank so they’re always with me and they see what I do. One day Jaime goes “I wanna see my bank account!” to the teller. So they pull it up for him and then Security Bank very nicely obliged. He saves. He has 3 piggy banks so we literally went there with the coins and I was like “I’m sorry, he’s a client… you’re gonna have to count this. [laughs]” And they did. That just speaks volumes about their commitment to service.
R: Well, you gotta pursue your passion. If there’s something that interests you, whether it be real estate, writing, art or something creative, you just got to learn as much as you can about it. And get to know it so intimately that you’re living and breathing it. Aside from that it’s the timing, it’s the luck, it’s providence. But if you see it, you just go for it.
J: Oh… Save more. Definitely save more.
When I tried out your UITF calculator, I went “What?! I’m supposed to save that much every month?!” I don’t even save half of that per month, so my advice would be—definitely–save more.
J: In terms of our family, I feel like we’re kinda done with the babies phase. Like they’re turning into real people now. I feel like we’re really starting to enjoy each other again. You know, we go out more now. For me, it’s a different step in our relationship.
R: Well you know it’s being a husband and being a parent first, right? And yeah as Juana said the husband and wife thing is evolving. Right now we’re fortunate that we’re getting to spend a lot more time with each other. But you know with being a parent, these kids—it’s different all throughout their growing up stage. Now, our oldest son is aware of stuff. He asks about Trump and Hillary and Duterte. It’s just making sure that you’re guiding them the right way.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Photography by Paolo Pineda