Manila’s Sweetheart Jerika Ejercito Talks Mental Health, Marriage & More

For Jerika Ejercito, a lot of her commitment to women’s and mental health advocacy, ties back to feeling empowered a woman and as a mother. It’s about a supportive family and working everyday to help others with the same struggles she has faced in her own life. Jerika is the daughter of Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, and recently, the wife of Miguel Aguilar Garcia, who she married late last year during an incredibly memorable ceremony. She is the founder of the Be Healed Foundation, one that works to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, and works with Ilaw NG Maynila to combat violence against children and women in Manila.

Read our interview with Jerika and learn about how her marriage has allowed her the space to grow while working to make a difference in the world. (Also, catch a glimpse of her magical wedding ceremony!)

Can you tell us a little bit about your work with Be Healed?

Be Healed is the culmination of my 12 year battle with depression, and my testament to God’s power to turn every sorrow in one’s life into victory. I am a survivor of a debilitating disorder called depression. I truly believe that the Filipino people are capable of finally moving on from a very simplistic view of mental health disorders and give way to a future that gives equal opportunity to those who have been gravely marginalized for years. We must shift our focus away from what seems to be the problem — alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse. We continuously fail to realize that these are only manifestations of a deeper epidemic that require extensive understanding and serious attention not only from psychiatrists and psychologists all over the country [and world], and not only by those victims of the actual disorders, but by the national government itself.

What makes you feel empowered, and when do you feel most empowered?

Being a mother in itself for me is empowering. But taking a stand as a mother takes this idea of empowerment to a whole new level. Nowadays, it’s a privilege for a woman to be able to pursue her passion and raise an exemplary human being at the same time. I am incredibly grateful to be able to do so. By having the right support system (my husband) I am able to fulfill my motherly duties while being able to attend to my responsibility as an advocate and a public servant. My husband and I make a great team in raising our children together while both sustaining our chosen careers. This definitely gives me a sense of empowerment.

via Red Mango
via Red Mango

What does being a mother mean to you?

Becoming a mother has taught me a lot about becoming selfless. Suddenly, the world is not exclusively about your wants and needs, but about the wants and needs of your child or children. My son gave the word sacrifice a new meaning for me — he turned it into something beautiful, rather than something that takes away. My daily “sacrifices” are all worth it knowing that I am creating a loving and secure environment for him. This is incredibly empowering as a mother.

What does fashion mean to you?

An expression of oneself. My styles have been ever evolving. I prefer classic pieces now as a mother, since I have a little less time for myself. I am much more conscious now of quality over aesthetics. I see fashion as an extension of oneself and it defines where you are in your journey.

via Red Mango
via Red Mango

Can you tell us a little bit about your wedding and your dress?

It was absolutely dreamy. I was never the girl who “dreamed” about her wedding since childhood. I never even expected to meet my husband. So for me, this dress really represents how life can lead to unexpected and beautiful endings. My dress was lovingly designed by the the one and only Inno Sotto. I trusted his creative instinct, all I did was enjoy the process and the finished product.

via Red Mango
via Red Mango

To see more photos from Jerika’s wedding, check out the Philippine Tattler’s coverage of the memorable event. Follow Jerika on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with the latest on Be Healed and Ilaw NG Maynila

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