Marga Nograles Spreads the Meaning of Kaayo in Tourism

As founder of the brand Kaayo, Marga Nograles continues to spread its meaning upon swearing her oath as the new Chief Operating Officer of the Tourism Promotion Board (TPB).

Kaayo's Marga Nograles on the cover of Modern Parenting
Marga Nograles and Michelle Fontelera
Both Marga’s dress and Michelle’s top are from Kaayo

We know Marga Nograles as a mother who waves the banners of the many weavers to help support local talent. As the founder of Kaayo, which means to give more, it has always been her passion to bring appreciation and love for the Philippines’ heritage in the arts. However, her battlefield has now gotten bigger as she accepts a more pivotal role in the #supportlocal movement. She steps down as Creative Director of Kaayo and now rises as the new Chief Operating Officer of the marketing and promotions arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), Tourism Promotions Board (TPB). And this is her story on how the meaning of Kaayo empowers her to do more as both the new COO and as a mom of three.

Kaayo's Marga Nograles
Marga wears a Kaayo dress

Marga Nograles: “Work was Life and Life was Work.”

It is easy to say that there should be a work-life balance. But new COO Marga Nograles points out how quickly the lines can blur between the two. “My husband [Karlo] and I realized that our life was our work and vice-versa.”

While it is a new chapter for both her and Karlo as he receives a new designation as well—as the chairperson of the Civil Service Commission—she adds it will be part of a story they gladly live by.

“I think it’s because we realized that we are here for our country. We are here to work towards really doing all that we can for our country. It’s a story we live by and it’s what we also teach our children. And I am grateful to have this purpose that I can so passionately live by. Together, forever, and always, we will work to bring our country to the world.”

However, Marga and Karlo Nograles are part of a cast where they too play a big role: as parents to their three children: Kristian Massimo, Karlos Mateo, and Katarina Mikaelle.

How do they make their roles work?

Before accepting her appointment, it was a long talk with Karlo. But it was an even longer talk with her kids. “It was just wonderful to hear from my kids that I should take the appointment,” Marga admits. “They were telling me, ‘When else would I be given this opportunity?’ They also told me that they’re proud of me and that they’ll support me. One even said, ‘If you need to go out of the country, don’t worry. We’ll just go with you!”

Almost a month into the job, Marga has found some funny but welcome changes that come with the job. “I see more of my children and my husband now because I wake up as early as them,” she giggles. “We have breakfast together, talk in the morning, and then send them to school. I go to work and then we see each other in the evening. I’m actually seeing more of them. But I’ve only just begun. So, I’m crossing my fingers that it continues on like this.”

Kaayo's Marga Nograles
Marga wears a top and pants from Kaayo

With no yaya in sight, both Karlo and Marga alternate between work and family. “When Karlo goes to work, I spend time with the kids. It works vice-versa, too. It’s been working great, so far,” she shares.

However, it’s no contest on who she prioritizes regarding her time. “I will always work and fight to make sure that I have time for my children. So at the end of the day, they’re still my priority. Whatever extra time is given to me or whatever extra time they have, I’ll make it work for all of us.”

Most of all, Marga believes that it’s best to lead by example. “It’s good to get the kids involved with what we do at work. Their dreams get bigger, too. And I think it works for all of us.”

Unfortunately, the challenge is when they’re at their most volatile.

The biggest challenge is when the kids are at the most emotionally volatile stages of their lives: being teens and tweens. “One of the biggest challenges is dealing with consistency. Like when one of my eldest’s grades prevented him from qualifying for the Xavier award, it was funny because I was like, ‘Should I get mad or should I not get mad?’ But I realized as they get older, they have a more hectic social life. They also kind of shift priorities.”

It was developing that level of trust that her teenage son would do his best. As for the tweens, she reveals that their relationship is like those of twins. “It’s like one moment they love each other and the next moment they want to kill each other,” she jokes. “But we’re so used to that and it feels healthier than it is not.”

But there are times she does need a break from the siblings. “What I do to de-stress is that I don’t allow myself to get pressured because my commitment is to give everything I can and can do. And I think that’s enough. We are all human and so long as you give your heart and soul to what it is you’re doing, it should be good. I always say that quality of life is important for the sake of your sanity so, work-life balance. I work but with that also comes a time with family, time with friends, and you get inspired. Your work gets better.”

Balance is key, especially in spreading the meaning of Kaayo to her new position as the COO.

What’s this leading mama’s plan for tourism?

The meaning of Kaayo is “to give more” in the context of kindness and care. It is with this spirit she creates her strategies to support the secretary of the Department of Tourism, Christina Garcia Frasco, and to send a message that there is much to be gained from the many hidden gems that will make the Philippines’ voice louder in the world.

“Of course, as part of the board, I will be offering my full support and efforts to the secretary. I believe in her vision and her leadership,” says Marga. “I believe with her taking the lead, we will go far. Philippine Tourism will go far.”

In a time when things are still transitioning, there is now a chance to do more and to elevate the many beauties found in Philippine culture and heritage.

“We will continue with our international and domestic trade fairs. But we’re going to make it bigger, better, and louder,” Marga explains. “We want to show that the Philippines is here. The Philippines is open. We will look for more experiential activations. We’re looking into sustainable tourism and we’re inviting foreigners to come and help care for our country. We’ll be promoting hidden gems. There’s so much we can all do together.”

Photography KIERAN PUNAY
Art Direction MARC YELLOW
Shoot Coordination MJ ALMERO

Shot on location at THE PENINSULA MANILA

Follow Marga Nograles as she lives her life in the spirit and meaning of Kaayo:

“We’re in this together,” say Karlo and Marga Nograles
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