Camille Prats and VJ Yambao: The Building Blocks of a Blended Family
Camille Prats Yambao and VJ Yambao reveal the events that built their blended family the happy one that many see today.
Because a blended family is not ideal by traditional Filipino standards, it took a lot of convincing, both Camille Prats Yambao and VJ Yambao admit. Most especially when the whole barangay offered their two cents worth, it truly felt like it was an “us against the world” situation for the two back then. But now, they can both look back at those challenging moments with awe and amusement, realizing what kind of obstacles they climbed together to protect and love their family with the benefit of hindsight.
“It was more like us against the village though,” Camille laughs fondly while recalling how their relationship started out. “We became the talk of the town because we lived in the same village. Even our neighbors knew about the relationship!”
Growing up in the same village created some opportunities to learn about each other, including that they were both parents. “We knew that both of us had children from previous relationships,” VJ reveals. “Ice was going to Camille’s family-owned school, Divine Angels Montessori. I’ve known Camille all my life.”
Who knew that their fateful meeting as classmates would serve as the very first building block of their blended family’s foundation? And this made their blended family thrive amidst all the challenges.
How does the journey to a blended family even start?
Dating will always and forever be a complicated affair, most especially as a single parent, Camille confirms. “We knew that there were existing people who were always going to be part of the relationship if we did choose to get serious,” she admits. “Doon ako nahirapan. I knew that having a child and choosing someone to be with who was also in the same situation would make things more complicated. Yun yung feeling noong umpisa.”
But how did she and VJ make those complications easier to deal with? “As a single parent back then, we really made sure we knew what we were getting into when we started dating. I made it clear [to VJ] that if there was any red flag towards Nathan, I was going to call it off. It wouldn’t be healthy for Nathan, for me, to be with someone who doesn’t fully accept him as his son,” Camille explains.
VJ agrees and nods, even praising Camille’s answer. “You really have to know what you’re getting into. If your intentions are pure and genuine, you will go far. Lahat ng challenges, lahat ng mga harapin niyo na trials in your relationship, if you’re really genuine, malalampasan lahat iyan. Because it’s true. Kasi kung ano yung na-fefeel mo doon sa partner mo or sa naliligawan mo at sa anak niya, talaga, you know. You can never go wrong.”
But that’s not to say the hardship in accepting another child as their own doesn’t exist. “Naiintidihan ko na rin na hindi kasi kadali mag-ganoon,” Camille assures. “It’s not easy to instantly embrace having another child, na hindi niya dugo at laman. And if these red flags were initially minor early on, they will come out eventually in the relationship. And it’s not fair if your child suffers for your selfish choice to be with that person.”
The children don’t always pose as concerns
Sometimes, kids are even one of the main factors that buoy the relationship! 5-year-old Nathan saw Camille’s seeing VJ as an “opportunity to gain a new playmate because that meant he got to see the then 8-year-old Ice everyday. “Nathan didn’t have many issues thankfully,” Camille recalls. “But because he lost his dad at 3 years old to cancer, he was still too young to understand. For him, VJ was the dad who was there and grew up with him.”
And while the late Anthony Linsangan may be content that someone is committed to being Nathan’s dad after ultimately losing the battle to cancer, Ice — both Camille and VJ — recall may have had struggles of his own. The “chaotic” and confusing moments for Ice, VJ surmises, also stemmed from that both his parents were alive.
“Ice, being young at that time, was most likely still confused about his mom and I separating,” VJ explains. “While he did enjoy the idea of having another playmate, Camille and I still made sure we did our best to protect both of them from all the complications that came with our relationship.”
“For Ice, perhaps he felt like he was floating?” Camille describes. “There was probably a time wherein he felt like that he didn’t fit in anywhere. When I came into the picture, he was probably trying to figure out where I fit in. What was happening broke the traditional mold. It looked like I was breaking his family to him back then.”
Both sides had complications to deal with. While VJ and Ice’s mom were still settling on co-parenting arrangements, Camille dealt with her parents’ — who are now VJ’s in-laws — initial reluctance about VJ which she believed came from a lot of the rumors floating around from their village and the cultural discrimination of marrying “someone with strings attached.” Or as Filipinos say, “may nakasabit.“
“There were a lot of rumors floating around the village about VJ. So my parents didn’t have a good image of him back then.” Camille reveals. “But I also realized my mistake of trying to make them like him. In the end, I decided to let them come to terms and like him for their own reasons and at their own pace.”
But things do take a turn for the better so long as both are “willing to invest in one another,” as Camille and VJ agree. There was VJ’s mom, who was privy to the whole story, offering her support to both VJ and Camille. Then, there was that turning point when Camille suddenly told VJ one morning, “I want to talk to Ice’s mom.” The statement shocked him, causing him to blank out for a moment.
“I just woke up and when she told me that I was like, “Huh? Teka, where did that come from?” VJ admitted with a sheepish laugh. “What did I miss?”
But perhaps, that was the closure they all needed
The need to iron things out wasn’t just for their sake but for both Ice and Nathan as well. Sure, it’s a talk many wish they could avoid. Especially when there are lingering feelings of “resentment and confusion” from both sides, it’s hard to find the energy to try. But it’s also a test of how committed one is willing to become a partner in a relationship especially when every parent has their own way of being the best for their child. And thankfully, it’s a test that Camille passed with flying colors. VJ, still in amazement from that time, recalls the four hours both Camille and Ice’s mom spent together while he observed their conversation from afar with a lot of amazement, watching them “laugh and chat as if they’ve been long-time friends.”
“I thought back then what I was seeing was impossible,” VJ realizes. “But it was amazing how Camille humbled herself and opened the door for both of them [she and Ice’s mom] to have that much-needed conversation. It was the start of a journey that was filled with healing, humility, and forgiveness.”
But to muster up that willingness to go on that journey is no easy one. Yet, Camille and VJ share that their willingness came from their shared choice to “find God together,” leading them to discover the answers to build the family they dreamed of. Although the relationship struggles may make one think about calling it quits, VJ advises other single parents that it helps to find out why things are playing out like they are.
“There’s a reason why God blended our [Camille and my] family together,” explains VJ. “And we wanted to figure things out together.“
And now, comes the parenting portion of being a blended family!
Once the adults were settled, the kids now needed them. But it’s not usually because they pose a problem. Rather, it’s the approach — how does one discipline a kid that’s not our flesh and blood? “With kids, it’s a little easier since there’s play involved. But when they’re teens, it gets a little more complicated,” VJ admits.
There are also days that one will doubt their partners, suspecting some favoritism. “There are days it will feel that way,” Camille confirms. “We managed to clarify things when we talked it over. It’s an inner thought that we had to talk about. It’s a common occurrence as parents in a blended family when first starting out.”
But teamwork is what makes the dream work. Because on Mother’s Day almost a year or two ago, Camille received a letter from Ice that moved her to tears.
“When the kids asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I said a letter would do since they were cringing every time I made them lambing,” Camille laughs. “So they all gave me one. I remember Ice’s. It was two pages long and I was actually scared to read it!”
But once she found the courage to read its contents, she discovers a “feeling like no other” towards the end of the letter.
“He wrote that he didn’t know why he didn’t call me mom all this time,” Camille recalls. “But he wrote at the end” — her voice breaks a little — “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.”
It had been almost seven years since she and VJ got married. And throughout the years, Camille didn’t mind him calling her, “Tita Camille.” Even when she and VJ first got married, she let Ice call her what he was comfortable with. But every step-parent will admit, “When a child chooses you to be their parent, it’s a feeling like no other.”
And for them, there is no use of “step” or “half” at home
Today, we define a family as having two components: there’s the parent/s and the kid/s — blended or not. While more traditional folk differentiate the kids, Camille and VJ opted not to as Ice, Nathan, Nolan, and Nala grew up together. “We don’t use those terms at home,” Camille explains. “We wanted them to grow up as a family because that’s what we are.”
And although the blended family arrangement may not be for everyone, it’s still one that gives a chance to others. For parents like Camille Prats and VJ Yambao, it gave them a chance to find love again. For Nathan and Ice, it allowed them to find a companion for one another in what was once an uncertain time. And even Ice’s mom can rest a little easier knowing that there’s another mom out there who has Ice’s best interests in mind.
Words KEVYN GOHU-CATINGUB
Photography JHARWIN CASTANEDA
Hair and Makeup CATS DEL ROSARIO
Styling ROSHNI MIRPURI and SIYA DARYANI for THE CLOSET CULTURE
Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA
Art Director MARC YELLOW
Special thanks to FIT FOOD MANILA