Except perhaps for the occasional silence, it was a day just like any other at the Sandejases’ that breezy Thursday afternoon. As is always the case in that part of Muntinlupa, the lady of the house multi-tasked like a pro between tending to her domestic duties and holding a phone conversation without getting distracted, when the Family Time team showed up at their suburban residence.
Donning a flowing, sleeveless white top matched by an exquisite green necklace, Christine Jacob-Sandejas seemed more of a stunner now compared to the younger swimming sweetheart many a boy in the 90s once had a crush on. She has a million and one things on her mind, but her grace and relaxed manner leaves us asking: “What’s her secret?”
Since exchanging vows with Engineer Paco Sandejas, legions of adoring fans have seen less and less of her until fairly recently, and even then only irregularly. But we have to give it to her that it was all for a cause she will never regret pursuing: motherhood.
Olympian, one-time actress, model, TV host, pro-life advocate. These are just some of the hats Christine has opted wearing through the years. But despite the many roles she aptly juggles, it’s ultimately her being a wife and mother that she’s most proud about. If Americans have what they figuratively call a soccer mom, she may well deserve the moniker as the Philippines’ “swimmer-mom,” only she is literally so. More than killer glutes, she guards a winning formula that keeps her grounded and inspired, one that has powered her motherhood and marriage through the ebb and flow of celebrity status.
Truth to tell, motherhood was her ultimate dream, more than the pomp and circumstance that came with the stardom she never craved. Long before the fame, she confessed it was what she had consistently desired.
“I always wanted to get married. That was always my biggest dream. The limelight was not really part of my plan. I just wanted a family, a husband, a home. That was my dream. That was really my dream. And everything came except that dream. And so I kept praying and praying and praying: ‘God, OK lang mas que single na ako for the rest of my life kaya ko na. Basta magkasama tayo, I’m OK with that,’” she explained.
Her marriage to no other than her swimming buddy and childhood friend is fast nearing its 17th year, and she is now a mother not just once but many times over to kids Paolo Antonio, Maria Gabrielle, Nina Marie, Luis Miguel, and Jaime Rafael. She cannot thank the Lord enough for this gift of family, a family she’s happy to say has Him at its center.
“My joys are simple. My kids and my family are my biggest joy,” she exclaimed, wishing she had as many as five more.
“If I could have ten kids, I’d have ten kids,” she added, noting that she herself only had two siblings.
Few mothers are as passionate about passing on the faith to their children as Christine and we know the reason why. While she has always been a believer, she admitted it was only after marriage that she started living out her faith in earnest, thanks in large part to a husband who is a committed Christian and a member of a Catholic lay organization.
“It was a very, very tough time in my life,” she said, recalling her life shortly before becoming Mrs. Sandejas.
“For a while I didn’t know where, how I was going. And that was when I got into Born Again. That, at least, at that point helped keep me grounded. And from there, I was just praying for somebody to just come into my life, you know? … And then I met my husband who’s Opus Dei,” she continued.
It was with his help also that she rediscovered and decided to reembrace the faith of her youth, but not without initial reservations.
“We would always debate, trying to see who’s the best, trying to convert each other or something like that,” she explained, giggling.
Through her husband, Christine began her involvement in the pro-life movement, placing her alongside some of the country’s more prominent advocates and defenders of family and life.
“We were childhood friends. We swam together from way, way back. It helped because he’s the one who knew me also before the showbiz. That also helped keep me grounded I had somebody with whom I could just be myself,” she shared, smiling.
“He taught me how to relearn the Catholic faith over again. So with my kids I always make sure it’s really an important part of their life. More than anything. It’s more of a relationship they need to have,” she added.
According to her, the job of any parent, and of mothers in particular, becomes easier if they know their sons and daughters are grounded in belief in a Higher Power.
“I think that’s already half the battle for any parent if they know that their child is close to God,” she explained.
Christine shared she and Mr. Sandejas go out of their way to instill in their children the fundamentals of the faith like things pertaining to the Mass, Confession, and the other sacraments, and by telling them stories from the Bible to complement and reinforce what they learn at school.
“How I rear them, how I lecture has always been on the faith. I say, ‘Whatever you do, make sure you can always do of it front of lolo and lola,’” she added, explaining how she instilled integrity in her children.
The Sandejases also see to it that their little ones will grow up respectful, honest, and disciplined individuals.
“Values are very important for me,” stressed Christine, who considers herself a hands-on mom, something she is beyond elated to tell the world about.
Her eldest, 15-year old Paolo Antonio, could not agree more, giving her mother a nearly perfect score for her “hands-on-ness.” As a parent, Christine is “very particular” and refuses to be dependent on other people in terms of caring for her kids.
“If they’re feeling sick, I wanted to know why they’re feeling sick. It’s not because somebody would tell me,” she said.
She noted that an ordinary day at the Sandejas home revolves around her scheduling, organizing, running various errands, working out, bringing kids to school, waiting for them to come home, and helping with their homework.
Moreover, Christine believes that a mother above all should lead by example. “Not so much about going to Mass everyday. It’s not that. It’s just understanding the kids, empathizing with them, being there for them. I think for me that would be a mom.