“The final stage of healing is using what happens to you to help other people.”
When the extensive impact of the COVID outbreak took everyone by surprise and overwhelmed many with uncertainty, Cat Arambulo-Antonio focused on what she can control: “my home and myself,” she says. “I’ve taken this time to really tune in, appreciate and rehabilitate my life and myself.”
During the early stages of the community quarantine in the country, Arambulo-Antonio encountered a social media incident.
After her remarks about quarantine ‘violators’ went viral and drew flak from netizens, she apologized to the public through a series of Instagram videos. “I’m always going to take full accountability [for] my actions and I know that I have no one to blame but myself [as] I was wrong,” she elaborates.
Following the episode, she took a social media break. “It forced me to re-evaluate the person I’ve become and edit the people around me.”
Time to heal
More than a year has passed since then, and Arambulo-Antonio says she has learned her lesson. “Looking back, I laugh because I realize and I’m sure people see how transparent I really am… Think about it, who does a public apology [four times]?” she says, amused by her actions.
Although she made amends, it didn’t take away her mental and emotional strain from the issue. To manage stress, she signed up for a 200-hr. teacher training course with Kaya Yoga in Dubai.
While earning her certification, she temporarily disabled her social media accounts. “I was in a state of shock about what had happened. I couldn’t understand what I said and did wrong—at that time,” she admits. “It all happened so fast.”
As a personality active on social media, suddenly going offline was a major change. She revealed having a “two-day pity party,” but broke off of it upon realizing she can expend her energy into helping others. Rather than wallowing in the hurt from the hateful criticisms, she assisted those heavily affected by the pandemic by coordinating, ordering, and packing goods.
“The final stage of healing is using what happens to you to help other people,” she claims. “That’s how I healed and found my true purpose. My mistake turned out to be a beautiful blessing in disguise.”
In the early stages of the pandemic, Arambulo-Antonio recounts asking her Instagram followers who would volunteer in distributing the relief goods as her area was on strict lockdown. “I didn’t expect so many people volunteering to do the work for me and so many followers wanted to send donations in cash [and] in-kind,” she shares.
While her commitment to continuously help out began at the onset of the pandemic, she reveals, “I’ve been doing outreaches since I was a child.” Her passion project Cat Arambulo Studio (CAS) began as a brand to embrace wellness and find happiness but eventually, it transformed into her non-profit organization now called CAS Cares.
“My CAS Cares girls Mikaela Mendoza, Sai Rosario, and Mika’s husband JM move mountains for me since they’re the ones completing my less fortunate community missions.” Since March 2020, the NGO distributes care packages to those in need such as frontliners, OFWs, construction workers, jeepney drivers, and victims of Typhoon Ulysses and the fire that hit the Philippine General Hospital.
Paying it forward
To make all these possible, the CAS Cares team partners with companies like the SV More Group and non-profits like Landas where Arambulo-Antonio’s daughter Danielle is part of. Among her notable collaborations is with Quad Roman, a young social media personality who designed a care bag and decided to start his non-profit as well.
In the future, she plans to establish a scholarship program and encourage the youth themselves to be involved.
While CAS Cares has accomplished one mission after another, Arambulo-Antonio knows what she gains from here doesn’t define success. Rather, “It’s what you do for others and how you make them feel. That’s how I want to live my life and always be remembered.”
She has come a long way since her viral social media incident. “My experience definitely humbled me,” she describes and quotes Baptist Evangelical Christian pastor and author Rick Warren: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
She is happy and grateful she learned a lot not only about herself but about what she can contribute to the world. Through CAS Cares, she keeps herself productive while spending time with “a whole household of beautiful souls” including their pets—four dogs and four birds.
“Trust me, I’m still pretty much the same Cat—I’m just more sensitive to the needs of others, and definitely a lot stronger and much wiser,” she firmly says.
This story first appeared in Volume 2 of Lifestyle Asia 2021.
Banner Photo by MJ Suayan