Sweet Inspirations: Xandra Rocha-Araneta on What Makes a Marriage Last, Kindness, and the Return of Pinkerton Ice Cream - Lifestyle Asia

“Getting married is what made me realize that I wanted to be the best version of myself.”

It’s quite easy to dismiss Xandra Roch-Araneta as just a pretty face from a sheltered upbringing. To miss out on everything else about the multi-hyphenate, however, is at one’s own loss.

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“People often think I’m quite prim and proper but that’s not always true,” she says with a smile. “I can be quite goofy.”

It seems quite hard to believe, at first. However, as Rocha-Araneta talks about the things that make her happy, you’ll see clues of that: a heartier, quirkier laugh and a wider smile. This writer sat with her for two hours in a café and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

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A wife, a mom, a host, a foodie, an entrepreneur, and a few more things in between, there’s a long list of what defines her. How she divides her time for all these, is a testament to her expertise in striking a balance when it comes to living a life of fulfillment.

She has a lot on her plate but If there’s anything she’s proven up to this point, it’s that she knows how to handle them all, with the class to boot.

Gastronomic adventures

Most of us first encountered Rocha-Araneta as the host of Solar News’ Something to Chew On which brought her to different parts of the Philippines. She’s eaten things many locals wouldn’t dare touch. Like the uok (coconut beetle larvae), a delicacy in Rizal.

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“They can tell I was nervous,” Xandra shares about her team and the restaurant owners but I did try it. “The skin was leathery, the inside was juicy. It tasted medicinal—rather earthy.”

One of Rocha-Araneta’s gifts as the show’s host was her ability to let you have a taste of what she’s eating, even if you’re only joining her meal through a screen. “It wasn’t my favorite,” she admits. “But it was an experience and it’s something to talk about.” She could have said no to the uok and they could’ve featured something else. However, she knew it was something she had to try, at least once.

Growing up, her parents often encouraged her and her siblings to try different types of food. “We were taught to never call unfamiliar food ‘gross’ or ‘weird’ because there’s always someone who likes it,” she says. “If we didn’t like it, it’s fine but we had to give it a try.”

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She recalls having classmates in school from different parts of the world and how it helped open her palate. While attending the birthday party of a classmate from Fiji, she was introduced not only to new flavors but to a delicious side of their culture as well.

Her parents’ way of upbringing is how Rocha-Araneta also raises her kids: to be adventurous and polite. Sadly, Something to Chew On ended after six seasons. While she admits to missing it, it remains to be a chapter of her life that she can fondly look back to.

From eating her way around the Philippines, she decided to go back to yet another one of her passions: feeding Filipinos with really good ice cream.

Perfect timing

After a seven-year hiatus, Rocha-Araneta decided to bring back Pinkerton Ice Cream. A business she started as a college student back in 2009, its first customers were friends and family. Her ice cream quickly gained popularity, growing to a point where she was supplying restaurants and a high-end grocery chain.

“I even had to borrow money from my parents—seven or eight thousand pesos—so I can buy ingredients and a second freezer,” she recalls.

She had to stop in 2015 as she felt she was already spreading herself too thin. With her TV show and her hosting gigs taking much of her time.

Though it has been tough for everyone including for her, the pandemic also brought clarity and a chance to restart her business. “I found someone who wanted to partner with me and invest,” she says. “Then, I found, the perfect space. Things were lining up in my favor and I really took that as a sign that it was the right time to go ahead and try it. “

Reviving her business and getting to create ice cream are things that give Rocha-Araneta fulfillment. “I’m back to my entrepreneurial and culinary roots, creating fun flavors and wanting to bring smiles to peoples faces,” she says. “This time around, the flavors are more childlike, simple, and comforting – inspired by children.”

Currently, she has flavors like chocolate with m&ms, vanilla sprinkles, Oreo & milk, and cookie dough in her roster, personally approved by her kids. Some of her best sellers from before like banana Nutella, red velvet, apple pie, and guava basil sorbet are also back.

“I’ll be creating more interesting, gourmet adult flavors along the way too. That’s what I enjoy about what I do, creating things and just having fun.”

Aside from getting to experiment with flavors, Xandra is also passionate about being financially independent and providing jobs.

“You can’t change the whole world but if I can change the lives of people who are working for me, at least however many they are, if I can pay them well and give them a steady job, that makes me sleep better at night. That’s my goal. I just want whoever’s with my company to be part of its growth,” she says.

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Having Pinkerton back was also a bonding experience with her kids. “Sometimes, my son would tell me he wants to help. He will also suggest flavors,” Rocha-Araneta shares as her face lit up. “There are moms who bake so well. I want to be the mom who makes the really good ice cream!” Her kids, after all, are her toughest customers.

Best version ever

Rocha-Araneta married her long-time boyfriend Luis back in 2014, their wonderful relationship starting in college. “We went to the same high school but we never got to talk much until we went to college,” she says. For the couple, it has always been about the strong connection that they had.

“We have this weird sense of humor that only the two of us understand,” adding that sometimes, she’ll be dying of laughter over something he said while the rest of the group will never know what was so funny. “When we were dating, we would normally drive over to a lookout point with beers, have a drink and just talk—it was always about our conversations,” she recalls.

Eight years later and now with three kids, the couple continues to bring out the best in each other. While Rocha-Araneta’s always been active, her focus on fitness is something she credits to her marriage.

“Getting married is what made me realize that I wanted to be the best version of myself,” she says. “Because I love my husband so much, I’m like—’You deserve Xandra 2.0! You get the best of me!’ and that comes with fitness.”

While Xandra and her husband workout and inspire each other, it’s not just the outside that matters. It’s about staying healthy and having the mental clarity to be able to live long and set such examples for their kids.

“I appreciate that he does the same for me. He hasn’t let himself go and still has those abs—I’m grateful for that,” Rocha-Araneta says with a laugh, allowing some of that goofiness to show. She does admit that it can be hard to be consistent as fitness is also training one’s mind. “It’s probably 70 percent mental. It’s hard to call yourself out on your BS and your excuses and the things that are good for you aren’t always easy but they’re important.”

But if there’s one piece of advice she wishes to share with people thinking of tying the knot, it’s to spend time with oneself first and travel.

“Travel by yourself! It’s a fresh start, a clean slate where you can be yourself without limitations and expectations,” Rocha-Araneta says. “Do it, especially while you’re young.”

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Be kind

As a public figure, Rocha-Araneta also maintains quite a successful online platform where she inspires people to live gently in the pursuit of happiness. She, however, maintains a private family life mainly because of her kids.

“Social media can be a wonderful thing, but it’s also full of viciousness and bullying,” she laments. “This is why I try to keep things kind and light online.”

This is a philosophy she also practices in her day-to-day, offline life, crediting her luck of having seen and experienced a lot of kindness through the years. “I’ve seen it early on, from my parents, and how they treat others. Even the little, helpful things that they’ve done without having to be loud about it,” she says.

Sure, there were times when she has also had negative experiences but Rocha-Araneta chooses to move forward and focus on how she can give others a more positive experience around her instead.

“Maybe someone was rude to you at the grocery store but you don’t know what they’re going through—maybe a breakup or something really hard. Just move on from it and choose to be kind as small things create a ripple effect,” she says, adding that it can be as simple as saying thank you to someone who opened a door for you or wishing a stranger a good morning.

During the pandemic, it was this way of life and time with her family that kept things meaningful for her. “I’m so lucky that I can be with my kids, had my savings from my previous work. That was enough to help us through part of it,” she says. “It also brings me great joy to know that I’m surrounded by really good people, That I get to make my ice cream.”

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Does she count herself lucky?

“Extremely,” Rocha-Araneta says. “Especially with the people I have in my life. My family, my close friends—I’m very lucky with my guardian angels.”

Photos by JERICK SANCHEZ, assisted by DHENRICK RODRIGO
Art Direction MARC YELLOW
Creative Direction PAOLO TORIO
Sittings Editor DONG RONQUILLO
Makeup MAYESA DELOS SANTOS
Hair PATTY INOJALES
Styling MARKO JEFFERSON of Gee Jocson Studio, assisted by LEI ANYA CHUN
Shoot coordination MAE TALAID and MJ ALMERO

Shot on location at OKADA MANILA

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