Wellness Advocate And Founder Of The Wholesome Table Bianca Araneta Elizalde Shares Her Recipe For Success
How success is measured varies from person to person, and from moment to moment. There are times when we aim for large scale achievements such as accumulating accolades or breaking world records. There are also times when we applaud our day-to-day accomplishments such as getting errands done or cooking a satisfying meal. For restaurateur and wellness advocate Bianca Araneta Elizalde, it is not so much about measuring it, but about being the best you can be in any situation. “It is about waking up each day, deciding to put your best foot forward and doing what you can,” she says. “I don’t like to compare myself to others and use them as my benchmarks. Instead, I compare who I am today to who I was years ago. I like to work on creating a better version of myself. For me, that is success.”
As an ‘It Girl’ back in the Nineties, her pretty face was a staple on numerous print ads, magazine covers and television commercials. Good looks run in the Revilla family: her grandfather Jose “Pinggoy” Goyena Revilla, Jnr was an actor and a matinee idol; her grandmother Paquita Roces was the first-ever model for soap brand Camay; her mum Maritess, also a sought-after movie star, followed as the next Revilla Camay Girl; her aunt, Cita, followed a third time as Camay Girl. This record of the Revilla women remains an oft-mentioned feat in the local commercial-modelling world.
Bianca was 15 years old when she was invited by a talent scout to do a VTR (video tape recorder) audition. This would turn out to be for a soap brand too, not Camay but for an Ivory ad which would launch her commercial modelling career. After working for the shampoo and soap brand for five years, she went on to do endorsements for companies such as Smart and FILA. She later expanded her repertoire to include hosting and VJ work for channels such as Studio 23 and MTV. Married to Juan Elizalde, Manila Broadcasting Company executive director and VP for operations, since 2007, she is a devoted mum to four beautiful girls: Isabeli, Alessi, Siena and Semira.
“I enjoyed myself so much,” she says of her former career track, which now, according to her, feels like it took place in another lifetime. “But I also learnt a lot, like how to really value myself. I recognised my limitations—what I would and would not do for a job. I learnt how to deal with rejection and how to not take criticisms personally. Ironically, being in an industry that judged me so much on my looks made me value everything else about myself besides that.” And even though times have changed since her modelling heydays, she believes that being professional, showing up on time and knowing one’s worth remain part of the basic formula for success in any industry.
Known today for her commitment to total wellness, her personal “green revolution” began long before it was a lifestyle trend. A nature lover since childhood, Bianca jokes about being the type of kid that preaches to adults about environmental concerns such as the thinning of the ozone layer. “But the actual start of my wellness journey was a big aha moment,” she shares. “I picked up a book on nutrition that opened my mind to the connection between the food we eat and how it impacts our health. I found it so inspiring and powerful enough to look into my own diet. As I began to see the impacts of our actions on the planet, I started changing little aspects of my life.” Aiming for a total overhaul, she swapped out her personal care and cleaning products for non-toxic formulas. Compared to the present day, it was difficult due to a lack lot of options in the market. But Bianca was staunchly committed to her cause and was determined to stick to it.
Making the switch to eating organic is no walk in the park. Says Bianca, “A lot of people find it daunting and overwhelming. There is this misconception that ‘organic’ equals just vegetables—and this isn’t the case at all. If you are serious, there are different ways to go about it. One is to go all-in and make a complete switch, but that doesn’t usually work. What does work is to pinpoint two kinds of food that you eat all the time and substitute those. If you’re a big rice eater, just eat organic rice. If you eat a lot of chicken, look for the free-range variant next time you do your groceries. The ultimate goal is to reduce the burden of toxins found in conventional food on the body. Also, If there is one thing you can’t give up, then keep it. It’s perfectly okay.”
In hopes of introducing eating well and bringing the way they live at home to Filipino foodies, Bianca and Juan opened The Wholesome Table. “I wanted to help educate by starting a conversation,” Bianca relates. “So many are not truly aware of where their food comes from, how it is grown, how it is cooked and what is in it. I also wanted to help support the farmers who were growing their produce properly by giving them a venue to sell. I wasn’t even sure if it was going to work because I had no clue if the market was ready for it. But I was blown away by the reception. The first day we opened, the place was full right away, and people were waiting in line outside.” Her business venture caused a ripple effect. Establishments with similar concepts began popping up, welcoming enthusiastic diners onboard the healthy food train. And five years in, Bianca’s dream of building a more conscious community has come true.
A practitioner of attached parenting—a term coined by American paediatrician William Sears and his wife Martha referring to the nurturing connection that parents can develop with their children—Bianca is a staunch advocate of breastfeeding. “It’s a piece of advice I always share with new mums because it truly is one of the best things you can do for your child,” she says. Eager to use her platform to share her knowledge and passion with other women, she has participated in several projects by LATCH, a non-government organisation that offers quality lactation education and peer counselling services to breastfeeding mums. In the 14-plus years that she has been a mother, Bianca has seen marked improvements in how breastfeeding is being received and practiced in the Philippines. She notes that though it has not been evolving as fast as it should be, she is still glad to see the changes. Right before the lockdown, she was invited to be an ambassador for the mothering programme by Save the Children, sharing, “Everything has been put on pause due to the pandemic, but I am so excited to start working with them when we are able to move forward with what has been discussed.”
Juggling the role of parent and entrepreneur has taught her much about work-life balance, but Bianca admits it’s something she still needs to get better at. When she first opened The Wholesome Table, she already had her first three daughters. “The first few years of their lives, they had me with them 100 per cent. With my youngest, it was a lot tougher because I was in the thick of building the brand.” As much as possible, she tries to get all her work done while they are at school, but the lockdown has seen her pulling double duty as both mum and tutor. She says. “Business-wise, we had to step up. Parenting-wise, we also had to step up because they needed our help with their studies at home. It’s a constant challenge. Every day we’re faced with something new.”
Being a mum has inspired her to “put a lot of values in value.” She adds, “The way Juan and I live is influenced by being parents. The way we eat and the way we travel is influenced by our daughters. The decisions we make are always based on what would be best for them. What kind of experiences will they cherish? What kinds of experiences will have big impacts on their lives? I’ve always been the eternal optimist, so I like to talk about positive things with the girls while still trying to remain realistic about life.” For the most part, her kids have taken things well enough. “This type of news [anything pandemic-related] is big for children to have to deal with. We don’t want them to worry too much. It helps to be truthful—just enough for them to understand what the world is going through.”
A firm believer in adapting self-care practices, Bianca feels we need to pay more attention to our general well-being now more than ever. “How your body responds to these external toxins depends on how you’ve been taking care of yourself, which, again, is connected to the food that you’ve been eating. Many conventionally grown foods have additives that impose a large burden on your immune system, which cannot do its job if we are constantly eating things that wreak havoc on it. We also have to sit out in the sun to get our dose of Vitamin D.” She points out the mental and emotional burden, too, as uncertainties bring about plenty of anxiety. Human connection is also important at this time. “No man is an island,” she says. “I believe in kindness, compassion and empathy. We need to reach out to others. Now, more than ever, looking for inspiration and dreaming big does wonders for our psyches. So many are disheartened by what is happening right now, but we can prop each other up by continuing to strive and not give up. Humanity can’t just lock itself down and give up.”
Tatler Philippines July 2020 issue is available now on Zinio, Pressreader, and Magzter
- Photography Juan Elizalde