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Edel Cayetano on cultivating empathy and embracing life’s changing seasons

Updated: Apr 18




Did you know that the ‘ube’ is such a sacred crop for the Boholanos that when you drop an ube on the ground, you’d have to kiss it as an apology? Precious beliefs like these are kept alive in pieces that were researched and written with love, such as the essay “Reclaiming Philippine Ube” that earned Edel Cayetano first prize for the 20th Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Awards. She Talks Asia puts the spotlight on a woman who has worked behind the camera her entire career, to share valuable lessons from a life revolving around storytelling. 


What do you do for a living, and what are the things that make you feel more alive?

I’m a writer/story producer. My work revolves around telling stories about Filipino food, culture, and the people behind them. Prior to producing cultural documentaries, I used to write for TV for 14 years. When I’m not writing, I am busy being a hands-on mom to 2 kids and being a wife.


How old are you?

I’m 36 years old


I am most known for… 

my work on reality shows and over the last couple of years, for the food and cultural documentaries that I write/produce with our team at FEATR.


I am most proud of… 

having a thriving career and still being able to prioritize my family at the same time. I also take pride in making an impact through the stories that I help tell. Another thing I’m happy about is having taken running as a hobby.


What do you think is the biggest challenge, and the best thing, about being your age? 

Gaining a deeper understanding of who I am and what I’m good at yet still knowing that the best is yet to come; learning how to say ‘no’ to situations that don’t align with the season I’m in anymore—these are the best things. The biggest challenge? Finding the time and bandwidth for all my priorities: family, marriage, career, self-care, and making core memories with the kids. 




How have you grown wiser in the past few years? 

By powering through with the help of mentors and people who genuinely root for me. A lot of mistakes, humbling experiences, showing up, and taking a shot at things that scare and intimidate me, but empower me as well. It’s a continuous process.


What role has storytelling played in your life's different phases and stages?

Besides having literally built a life on stories through my profession, being a storyteller has allowed me to become more empathetic towards others and what they’re going through. My work involves a lot of listening to people from all walks of life tell their journey, their pains, challenges, and triumphs. To translate that into video and tell those stories in the most respectful way possible, I need to constantly imagine myself in their shoes. It’s a treasure trove of realizations each time and I’m very grateful.


What are the best pieces of life advice you have ever received?
  1. Don’t be afraid of experiencing hardship. It shows you what you’re made of.

  2. Always go back to your core.

  3. You need to take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you. You can’t pour from an empty cup.



Who are the women you look up to and how have they helped shape your life?
  1. My mom and my aunt — My mom showed me that a woman can nurture an enriching career (she was a teacher for almost 3 decades) and a close relationship with her children, while my aunt, along with my mom, raised me to be responsible and independent.

  2. Aya Cabardo — a former co-writer who I consider as an older sister and mentor who I got to work with while I was starting out as a writer. Her free spirit, wisdom, and feist was awe-inspiring and empowering when I was in my early 20s.

  3. The late Doreen Gamboa Fernandez — one of the Philippines’ most important food writers. Her body of work continues to inspire me and our whole team to train the spotlight on our food, culture, traditions, and ultimately spark conversations about what it means to be a Filipino. 


What are you looking forward to in the next decade of your life?

To unapologetically be myself, heal from imposter syndrome, help our team at FEATR grow, take on challenges (both in my career and family life) that make me feel more alive and joyful, and most importantly, be a constant force in my kids’ lives.



#STAGenerations celebrates wisdom-sharing among women; and highlights the different perspectives and unique strenghts that we bring to the table at every life stage.

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