Claudine Fernandez: Daddy’s girl

The only daughter of Willie Fernandez has turned into a fiercely independent woman — not at all spoiled and clingy as one would expect and imagine

Three’s company: Willie, daughter Claudine and wife Chingbee Fernandez.

Claudine Fernandez is a daddy’s girl.

While the only child of Willie Fernandez is also close to her mom Chingbee, it is the affection that a father has for his daughter, and vice versa, that takes precedence on the occasion of Father’s Day.

Claudine has turned into a fiercely independent woman, not at all spoiled and clingy as one would expect and imagine. Or so we have gathered.

We decided to spring a surprise on Willie, Daily Tribune’s president, with this Q&A story that aims to show how his accomplished daughter regards him.

Claudine, we found out, is very much her own woman, but she has kept the values her parents have imparted to her. Despite having seen the world, she remains a true Filipino woman, a loving daughter who considers her parents her life’s most wonderful blessings.

A BSE major in Financial Engineering at Princeton University, Claudine earned an MBA from Columbia Business School. She’s currently vice president in the Strategy for the Energy, Natural Resources and Renewables Investment banking division of BNP Paribas in New York.

My greatest support, my rock, my love My parents are a source of strength and inspiration. This is one of the many storied shots taken amid a New York City skybridge after graduation in 2018, Claudine Fernandez says.

Daily Tribune (DT): How would you describe your dad? What are his ideal character traits as a father?

Claudine Fernandez (CF): Hardworking and always enterprising. Loves to throw a party. Generous. High expectations.

DT: What are your childhood memories of him? Any memorable moment, one that would define your relationship?

CF: It’s hard to pick out a single memory, but one of the key themes as I’m scanning through my memories is that my dad often deferred to what I wanted and put me and my mom first. I can recall so many times where my mom and I would be shopping or in a salon and he would have been waiting for us (or even falling asleep) sitting on a chair…

He has never been a fan of heights, and yet I can think of a few times when he still insisted on going to an amusement park ride (or more recently a hot air balloon ride) because I wanted to go.

There was another time I requested that he bring me back a box of my favorite food, Cinnabon from the US, when it was not yet available in the Philippines. I remember he had back pain for some time afterwards because of having to sit on a long flight carrying the boxes of Cinnabon on his lap.

Another time. I recall him getting lost on the public transit system in London for a couple of hours, jumping from bus to bus while carrying this extremely heavy box of cutlery he bought for my mom — just because he knew she wanted them. Crazy.

He is afraid of heights and here maybe you can tell, but he went up in this hot air balloon with us anyway so he wouldn’t miss out. | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF CLAUDINE FERNANDEZ

DT: How did you bond when you were a child? Or was he too busy making a living?

CF: We, as a family, all kept ourselves pretty busy day to day — I with school, and my parents with work. To be honest, that has not changed much over the years… but they have always made sure they were present for the moments that mattered. Whether that was a basketball game, a parent-teacher conference or even just a simple Thursday night dinner that I had planned — he was always very flexible and made sure he worked around my schedule.

Growing up, Sunday brunch as a family was a sacred, non-negotiable part of the week. Before Covid, we had started to make annual family vacations another tradition. There was a time when my dad tried to get me into golfing, he said, because it would be useful in “business.” To his chagrin, that was a bonding activity that did not last too long.

‘High maintenance’

DT: Of the many words of wisdom that he has shared with you through the years, which do you value most? How have you applied them in your young life?

CF: When I was a kid, he would always reinforce the importance of working hard and persevering. As I’ve gotten older, it’s advice on the latter that he has imparted more wisdom on — on navigating the ups and downs that everyone inevitably encounters. His stories of getting too sick to the point of having to drop out of school twice, failed businesses and business relationships gone awry have helped to give me perspective when I sometimes needed it.

DT: What did he tell you about boys? What was his advice as to how you should choose your lifetime partner?

CF: That I am high maintenance and strong-willed in more ways than one, and that I need to look for someone who can rise to that challenge like he can, haha.

Disney World playground He gave me everything a kid would have dreamt of with twice-a-year Floridian holidays to fool around with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto and marvel at the nightly Lights and Sound show at Universal Studios.

DT: When does he become makulit (fussy)? What does he fuss over when it comes to any aspect of your life?

CF: Whenever he comes to visit, he will always have something to say about the way my apartment is organized or decorated. Among his other interests and talents, he has a surprising eye for interior design and is very particular about such things. You could say I did not inherit this trait and tend to prioritize convenience.

DT: You have friends and cousins. You have seen their fathers, of course. In what way does your dad stand out? Which traits of his would make you say you would not exchange him for any other father?

CF: He has always been very generous — not just with our nuclear family, but also our extended family and friends. He has played host and tour guide to countless members of our very large family, his friends, and even my own friends. He has this uncanny ability to turn a conversation with a stranger into a plan among friends. Similarly, and yet somehow in a different vein, he is also very generous with his unsolicited advice — I won’t say anything more about that!

Cheesy and sentimental

DT: How has your dad been like during your life’s milestones, like your graduation from high school and college, your turning 18, your acceptance at Princeton, your engagement, etc.? Was he ever emotional, or fussy or nervous? When was he proudest of your many achievements?

CF: At every milestone, he has always been cheesy, sentimental and prepared with a very long toast to give and many embarrassing childhood stories to share with whoever happens to be there.

DT: What has been the best gift you have received from your dad? What makes it special?

CF: This is going to sound super cliche — I was such a big nerd growing up and was so one-track-minded with school, so when I look back, I would definitely say that my education and their sending me to an international school (since elementary) was the best gift. I consider myself very lucky to have been exposed to peers of many different backgrounds and experiences at such a young age. I really think that shaped the way I thought about opportunity and I vividly remember that feeling of boundless possibility as a kid. It was very inspiring and motivating. I think he and my mom had the foresight to see what sort of long-term impact that could have on me and I am so grateful. I think it is one of the biggest decisions they made for me that has fundamentally shaped who I am today.

My dad is always on the hunt for mementos and new ways to redesign things at home.

No extra homework from dad

DT: Any travel story with your dad that you’d like to share?

CF: My dad has always loved road-tripping and the spontaneity that can come with it. Growing up, we took a number of very unstructured road trips throughout the US (this was before GPS and Google Maps were even in the picture) — finding our evening’s destination based on the signs we happened to encounter on the road or a wrong turn we had taken, discovering small/off-the-radar towns, stopping into a shop/cafe that looked intriguing and that we just happened to pass by. I am much more of a planner today and have taken much more charge over our family trips…but I sometimes find myself nostalgic for the chaos and simultaneous simplicity of those road trips and our discoveries.

DT: Who are you closer to, your dad or mom? What areas of your life would you consult with your dad more than your mom?

CF: This question is a trap. I will skip.

DT: Was there ever a time when he put his foot down over a choice you made?

CF: On my college major. My first year I struggled while adjusting to the pace of academics in the engineering track I was on, and I wanted to switch into something else where I had a more “natural affinity”. As much as I complained and lamented at the time, he insisted that I keep persevering and that it would be the more practical decision.

DT: Who spoils you more, dad or mom?

CF: Definitely dad, or at least he was never the one in charge of giving me extra homework.

DT: To what extent has he had a say in your significant life’s choices such as your college course, the man in your life, friends you go out with?

CF: He is someone who always has a strong opinion, but for some time he has given me the space to make my own decisions. At this point he knows I will always consider his opinion regardless of what decision(s) I make.

It’s just a job

DT: Any irreconcilable differences that you both just have to live with? What habits of his do you not like but you just have to accept? What about your habits or traits that he has to accept because that’s the way you are?

CF: When we butt heads on a topic (whether it be something as trivial as the vacation schedule or something more substantive like a debate on a social issue) he can find me very “hardheaded”, as he likes to say — and there is only so much he knows he can do or say about that, because I mostly got that trait from him.

Growing up, it was sometimes challenging navigating some of the cultural differences between our household and the international school I attended. For example, he was of the belief that it was improper to attend “sleepovers” and I at the time was, of course, fixated on how it would affect my ability to keep friends or have some fun. I have to hand it to them though as they did come up with some very creative solutions — I was allowed to attend the party, and they personally came to pick me up from my friend’s home very, very late (sometimes 2 or 3 a.m.) so that I did not technically sleep over.

DT: He occupies a position in the Philippine government. What is your advice to him?

CF: I’m going to keep this high level because such things are always easily said, but always keep within the boundaries of your convictions. At the end of the day, yes, it’s an important job, but it is just a job. You have worked so hard for so much of your life already — try to make sure you have time to relax, stop and smell the roses.

DT: What do you want to tell your dad?

CF: Covid has been a challenging time generally, but especially for families separated by distance and international borders. It’s been the longest time in my whole life that I had gone without seeing my parents — usually I see them a couple of times each year and if Covid has given me anything, it is the perspective that I can definitely take that for granted. Wishing him a happy Father’s Day today and every day because he deserves it. I am looking forward to spending more quality time moving forward with and from these strange times.

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