A peek into businessman and avowed sportsman Ernie Lopez’s social media accounts shows him engaging in all kinds of fun stuff, from the regular to the extreme, with his three children—son Nathan, 18, and twin daughters Sabrina and Ice, 14.
It can be wakeboarding, snow-skiing, scuba-diving, biking or swimming. Their latest obsession: Pretty Huge Obstacles (PHO) at SM Aura, touted as Asia’s first and largest multi-level obstacle racing venue, where sports enthusiasts, from weekend warriors to national athletes, can challenge themselves.
“I really enjoy spending time with my kids doing different activities,” says Lopez, a former triathlete who’s impossibly fit at age 55. “I’ve been exposing them to different sports since they were little, and when I had a triathlon, they had to come along and watch, even wearing the same outfits—no choice!” he says with a chuckle.
Now that the kids are older, Lopez reports, their choices have become clearer. Nathan, who’s studying abroad, and his sister, Sabrina, enjoy rock-climbing.
Sabrina likes to bike, as well. Ice is into muay thai, with her friends.
Sports is a fathering “language” that Lopez uses all the time, because he was raised that way, with his six siblings, by his parents, the late industrialist Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, Jr. and the former Conchita La’O.
“My family would play tennis, go to the beach, go diving,” says Lopez, head of Creative Programs Inc. at ABS-CBN. “Sports teaches my kids discipline and how to put in effort. Rock climbing, for example, presents problems to solve, so you have to budget your strength and time, and find a way.
“I hope it also teaches them good values. I know sports have always been a part of my life, and have helped me to get through a lot of things with a good attitude. I’m glad we can enjoy sports together.”
Time spent together has become precious since Lopez’s marriage ended a few years back, although the custody arrangement is “100 percent up to the kids.” Thus, one child may decide to spend a couple of weeks with Dad or Mom, or just weekends.
“It’s a different challenge, being separated,” says Lopez. “I simply told them that for their mom and me to be better friends, it would be better if we lived apart, and they have accepted that situation. Last May, they were with me for a month because their mom was abroad, so that was fine. That’s the way they should feel—at home in both homes.”
For Lopez, a devout Christian who’s serious about his faith, such harmony is essential. “I tell them, ‘You know, your mom and I, we’re not perfect. Whatever you see that is good, just absorb it, and just reject the bad things!’”
With all the adventures come opportunities to eat together and talk a lot. Lopez has even found himself listening to K-pop music so he can understand where his girls are coming from.
“We like to watch TV shows and Netflix together, and sometimes we pause the show and talk about it,” Lopez says. “We talk about decisions, situations, even sex. My kids don’t like Bible study, they don’t want to be preached at. I used to take them to kids’ church, but they’ve chosen not to now.
“So I share the values I want to impart through how I live my life, and not my preaching. It’s one thing to say ‘Love your enemies,’ but they look at how I treat mine. It’s about the things I say, our interaction. Parenting is a 360-degree, full-time thing—even if I’m not saying anything, they’re picking things up.”
Lopez credits this tack to his father, who always walked the talk. “Even without his preaching, we got that message from my dad. He said, ‘You can’t give kindness away, because it always comes back to you.’ To this day, 20 years after his death, the good things he did have come back as blessings to us, his children. People are kind to me because of what my dad did for them. I would love for that to happen to my kids, because of any good I did.”
Lopez likes to remind his brood that, despite all the resources available to them, such blessings were meant to be shared: “Being rich and famous is the goal of many young people. Money and popularity don’t fill that void. I tell them, money and popularity are not goals, but tools to help other people.
“We should use our money, education and blessings in service of others. We could have been born to a poor family, but we have a lot of provisions, we’ve been given a lot, and that’s our responsibility now—to make sure we help out those who don’t have anything.”
More than anything, Lopez wants his children to have their own “personal relationship with their Creator,” but he’s not too worried.
“The Lord is doing things with my kids that I don’t know about. I feel I’ve planted enough seeds in them, though, and they do surprise me. As much as they learn from me, I also learn from them.”
His daughters seem pretty cool with Dad’s approach. “He’s always patient with us, and he always observes us,” says Ice. “He knows what we need.”
“He always thinks he’s pogi,” Sabrina says with a laugh. “But he’s always trying to be a good dad.” When you think about it, it is certainly more than enough.