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Motherhood Like It Really Is: Mariel Padilla Is A Fabulous, Unpretentious Mom

by Elaine Carag-Calderon Nov 7, 2023

Whether artista or live seller, wife or mother, Mariel Padilla continues to be her authentic self and tells it like it is on- and off-camera

Mariel Padilla for Smart Parenting November 2023

We’ve seen so many versions of Mariel Padilla (née Rodriguez) over the years—from her promising stints as a commercial model and VJ, her succeeding career as a long-time TV host and actress, and her ongoing turn as a live seller, businesswoman, and content creator, not to mention her “leading roles” as wife to actor turned Senator Robin Padilla and mother to Isabella and Gabriela, just to name a few. 

Yes, that’s all Mariel—just different times, different phases—and if there’s one thing that has remained unchanged through it all, it’s her natural gift of gab.

Having been in front of an adoring yet unforgiving audience for almost two decades now, the 39-year-old has spent most of her life charming (sometimes, inevitably, offending) her captured following with her unmistakable humor and unapologetic personality. 

Mariel Padilla with Isabella and Gabriela for Smart Parenting November 2023 cover

You can always rely on Mariel’s candor, and it’s this thing that just draws you in for more. 

So when Smart Parenting asks her to talk about conceiving, breastfeeding, parenting, maintaining relationships, having sex, and even managing money, she obviously doesn’t shy away from anything.

“Let’s do it. Go,” she answers without even missing a beat—and we sit down and listen for the live.

On Mariel: Off-white denim dress, Banana Republic; nude heels, Dior. On Isabella and Gabriela: Lavender lace eyelet dress, Self-Portrait Kids; nude ballet flats, Fendi.

‘Legit live seller na talaga ako’

“I love to talk,” she declares. “I can talk for hours. Five hours, six hours? I can do it!” It’s what Mariel capitalizes on as she continues to grow what was an unassuming hobby into a fledgling business, a little over a year now.

Mariel now dedicates the better part of her working hours to going live on Instagram and Facebook where she gets to do two things she loves most: shopping (in this case, selling) and talking. 


“Legit live seller na talaga ako,” she enthuses. “Try-try lang nu’ng una, ngayon talagang it’s my thing.” 

'I think the reason why I’m a hands-on mom is because [even if] I didn’t grow up with my parents, I never felt unloved. Alam ko how it is to be loved. I can give back love because I was loved'

She fondly looks back on her late nights as the sole host for Pinoy Big Brother Uplate, a spinoff of the largely popular local reality TV series, and Mariel muses how those 2:00 AM shows she mostly spent talking to herself really did prepare her for her latest venture. 

It just took one time during the pandemic, when she was watching Japanese live sellers and ‘mining,’ for the proverbial light bulb to go off.

“Grabe talaga,” she muses. “Syempre, pandemic ’yun. Talagang agawan kayo [sa live selling]. May high [’yun], ’yung hindi ka na makatulog after kasi sobra mong happy na nakapag-mine ka.” 

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It was then Mariel knew she’d found what she wanted to do: to give people that same feeling, that same inexplicable thrill, by going in front of the camera and doing the live selling herself. 

While it all sounds like a mere coincidence for most, it’s really quite the revelation for Mariel when you hear her recount the beginnings of this new thing

“One New Year, I made a list of the things that I wanted to happen,” she shares. “I said, ‘One day, I’m going to find my thing and I’m going to be good at it. Then, I started live selling. Now, I’m a live seller.”

And as much as finding her thing is what Mariel wants to do, she emphasizes it’s also what she needs to do.


‘Kailangan masipag pa rin ako’

With her frankness also comes Mariel’s self-awareness; thus, two of her favorite hashtags at the moment perfectly describe her to a tee: “Forda #PinakaMAGASTOS kailangan #PinakaMASIPAG,” she declares. 

I need to be good in business because magastos ako mag-shopping,” she admits. Aside from live selling, Mariel also runs Cooking Ina Food Market where she supplies steak cuts and other ready-to-cook meals along with supplements she personally endorses.

“’Yung alam mo may paparating na money, sa utak mo alam mo na sa’n [mapupunta] ’yun? Ganu’n ako mag-isip. Ganu’n ako ka-grabe du’n sa mga binibili ko. That’s why I really have to work hard.”

'I just want to have good pictures with my kids. Gusto ko, ’pag nag-play [’yung] pictures of them growing up in their wedding videos, maganda ’yung nanay nila. Really, sobrang shallow ko! ’Yun ang totoo,' —on self-care 

Of course, the shopping isn’t just for herself. It’s for her daughters as well. Even if she’s the first to say, “I’m the worst with money,” Mariel is also the first one to make sure her little ones understand its value.


Walang araw na walang pinapabili sa’kin ’yung mga anak ko,” she shares. “What I do is when my kids make me buy something, I always tell them, ‘Oh, this is expensive,’ lalo na ’pag mga P3,000 na. So when they play with their [toys], they say, ‘We can’t break this because this is super expensive.’ They know it’s not easy.” 

Mariel chooses to explain by leveling with Isabella and Gabriela, too. “Para they understand, I tell them: ‘You want that Harry Potter party, right? I’ve got to do my live selling because if I don’t do that, there won’t be a Harry Potter party.’ Naiintindihan nila ’yon.”


Granted, the privilege of being able to shower her girls with beautiful things and experiences isn’t lost on Mariel. While Robin—as husband, father, head of the household, and also public servant—keeps to the basics, Mariel chooses to “spoil [her] kids with the things they want to have.”


“Robin is a good provider for the necessities; but more than that, he’s not for it,” she shares. “That's why kailangan masipag pa rin ako. Because everything else, like all the fancy clothes that my kids wear, all the excessive toys…Robin doesn’t like things like that. Pero everything kuryente, pagkain, ganyan, [that’s him].”

‘We have a good partnership’

As Nanay and Tatay to Isabella and Gabriela, Mariel and Robin have already settled into their roles in their family of four. She’s the nurturer, he’s the provider.

“To be honest, I’m doing most of the raising. Ganu’n naman talaga, ’di ba? Mom naman talaga. Hindi lang naman ako ’yun,” she says. “’Yung dad nand’yan sa mga masasayang moments—dadalihin tayo sa beach, dadalihin tayo sa pasyal. So [si Isabella and Gabriela], lahat ng alam nila, ’yung fun kasama si Tatay.”


“It’s just that mas ako ’yung nakakasama nila every day [so the] raising is me, guided by Robin,” she clarifies. “When he sees something, he’ll tell me, ‘O, ganito dapat,’ so ako ’yung taga-implement ngayon. And I will not allow anyone else to do it. It can only be me. Even Robin doesn’t do it.” 


On the flip side, in other aspects like their kids’ diet, Mariel is the one who encourages her kids to enjoy what they like while Robin tends to be the more protective one. “I guess, ganu’n talaga. May good cop, bad cop,” she concludes. “We have it covered, we have a good partnership.” 

Despite all the celebrity, Mariel confesses they’re still a pretty traditional Filipino family where the father takes care of the essentials and the mother raises the children. However, the mom of two also recognizes Isabella and Gabriela aren’t growing up in a typical family.


“Syempre, mga bata, ’di ba? Hindi naman kasi nila alam, akala nila normal—normal na may nagpapa-picture…” Mariel shares. She even recounts an innocent moment with Isabella, after Robin topped the senatorial race during the 2022 election:

“Why are they all talking to Tatay?” Isabella wondered.

“Tatay is now a senator, Tatay won,” Mariel explained.

“Tatay, you’re a winner!” Isabella exclaimed.

“Nakakatawa, but I don’t think they really understand yet,” she admits.

At the end of the day, the two are just trying to raise their kids the best way they know how—and this doesn’t come without help from the solid support system they’ve built that includes immediate and chosen family.


‘I can give back love because I was loved’

While Mariel is far from a conventional stay-at-home wife and mom, she’s very much hands-on—especially with her two girls.

She primarily credits her sister, Kaye Termulo-Garcia, for influencing her to really be there for Isabella and Gabriela. “My sister has four kids,” she says. “She got pregnant when she was 16 [at] nairaos niya. She’s the most hands-on mom, and she’s the one who taught me so many things about motherhood.”

Besides her sister’s advice, Mariel’s upbringing undoubtedly shaped her own parenting style. With her earlier years spent in the care of her grandparents, she’s realized what she does and doesn’t want for her children—and one of the bigger things is being there for them physically, emotionally, mentally, and wholly.


“I’m sure love din [ako] ng mommy at daddy ko pero wala sila du’n every day,” she recalls of her childhood. Instead, she attributes learning unconditional love to her lola and lolo who gave her everything she wanted. Whether it’s renting her favorite movie on VHS or getting her fries and sundae after school, these not-so-little things have made an indelible mark on Mariel’s young self that she wants these memories for her kids, too. “I don’t know what that was, I don’t know the word for that, but I think the reason why I’m a hands-on mom is because [even if] I didn’t grow up with my parents, I never felt unloved. Alam ko how it is to be loved. I can give back love because I was loved,” she says.


‘I’m a big fan of self-care’

It’s no wonder Mariel is also big on self-care. As a wife supporting her husband, a mother raising her children, a woman managing the household, and a businesswoman running her own ventures, (again, among many others), she asserts her need to look, feel, and just be her best because this is what everyone around her needs.

'After the honeymoon stage, marriage is work. You work on it. Kasi nandu’n na ’yung nakilala niyo na ’yung isa’t isa. May mga moments na nakakainis siya, and same for him... so we adjust.'

“I believe that self-care isn’t selfish at all,” she says. “Because for us mothers to be able to give love, we have to feel the love—and the first person who’s going to give us love is ourselves. Kailangan happy tayo.”

Mariel relishes leveling up to being “madam na madam” when she goes to her thrice-a-week appointments at a weight loss clinic, and once-a-week facial. “Dati, habang hinihintay ko ’yung kids sa school, nasa parking lot lang ako. Ngayon, ito na talaga ’yung pinaka-madam moments ko. Habang nag-aaral at nagiging matalino ’yung mga anak ko, nagtutunaw ako ng mga fats! Every Saturday, may IV drip din ako,” she jests.


She also doesn’t compromise her nightly skincare routine for anything, even her kids know it. “Sinasabi ko sa kids ko [kaya] sanay sila,” she says. “That’s one thing my mom taught me. She told me na kahit anumang reality [mo], you have to moisturize! So, ako talaga, kahit nagkakagulo lahat, tinatapos ko muna [’yung skincare ko]. ’Pag plakado na [ako], gyera tayo ulit. Talagang lahat ng ways para mag-self-care, ginagawa ko.


Mariel recognizes she needs to care for herself, so she can care for her kids; but she isn’t ashamed to admit the other mababaw reasons, too.

“I just want to have good pictures with my kids,” she confesses. “Gusto ko, ’pag nag-play [’yung] pictures of them growing up in their wedding videos, maganda ’yung nanay nila. Really, sobrang shallow ko! ’Yun ang totoo,” she admits.

She even recalls a time during the pandemic, “This is a real story,” she confesses. “Nag-compile ako ng book of all my beautiful pictures para sabi ko ’pag namatay ako, sasabihin ng mga anak ko, maganda ’yung nanay nila. Oo, gusto ko ’yun.”


‘I’m happy to adjust’

Mariel is also proud to say her husband supports her in her efforts to ensure she’s at 100%. “Robin tells me, ‘Okay, good. Sige, relax ka muna,” she shares.

While she often gives us a preview of their day-to-day life online, these are off-camera moments in their 13-year-old marriage that not everyone is privy to. 


“We have our moments,” Mariel says. “We have our date nights, it’s necessary.” She even opens up that they still have sex once a week, no fail. “Twice if the kids are asleep early because we can only do it when the kids are fully asleep. Beyond that, may mga times [na] kakatok talaga [sila] kasi hinahanap nila ako.”

'[Motherhood is] love that knows no boundaries, it gets me so emotional because there’s no love like it. Even when they tell you, "I hate you, you’re a bad mommy!" I tell them, "That’s okay, it’s okay if you don’t like me right now. I still love you.”'

We discover that Mariel sleeps with the kids, while Robin has his own room—more for comfort than anything else, so there’s nothing for those looking for controversy. “Malakas ang TV, pa’no [matutulog] ang mga bata? Humihilik pa!” she quips.

Mariel goes on to muse, “After the honeymoon stage, marriage is work. You work on it. Kasi nandu’n na ’yung nakilala niyo na ’yung isa’t isa. May mga moments na nakakainis siya, and same for him. I’m sure maraming mga things na naiirita siya sa’kin about me, so we adjust.”


Whether marriage or motherhood, Mariel has just learned to adjust. It’s one of the biggest lessons she’s learned in raising their beautiful family. 

“Within the minute [your children] come out, the minute they’re conceived, you’re already adjusting,” she declares. “Everything becomes about them, but I’m happy to adjust for my kids.” That is why patience is No. 1 for Mariel—and, at the end of the day, there is no greater love a mother has than she does for her children. 


“[It’s] love that knows no boundaries, it gets me so emotional because there’s no love like it. Even when they tell you, ‘I hate you, you’re a bad mommy!’ I tell them, ‘That’s okay, it’s okay if you don’t like me right now. I still love you.’”

“Until they grow up, alam ko mangyayari ’yun hanggang malaki na sila. I know the time will come when they’ll really hate me and not like me at some point; but, even though that happens, I will always, always love them,” she ends. 

Always true to her words, Mariel describes herself on Instagram as a 'preacher of love' and invites her followers to 'see the world through her eyes'. While many of us may feel the need to curate our lives and show off only the best parts of ourselves, Mariel Padilla—who has survived “postpartum depression, body shaming, and everything”—is a reminder that being alive is just much better.



Produced by Ronna Capili Bonifacio 

Assisted by Judy Santiago-Aladin and Em Cruz

Photographs by Bella Morcen

Styling by Ega Rivera

Makeup by Mark Kingson Qua

Hairstyle by Charlie Manapat

Video producer: Cherrie Julian

Video shoot: Jino del Mundo

Interview by Judy Santiago-Aladin

Social media: Zen Arganda

Video editing: Rolando Pingco Jr.

Art by Stephanie Ocampo

Publisher: Iza Santos-Cuyos

Flowers by Glorist Flowers

Special thanks to Lulu Evangelista and VCM The Celebrity Source

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