Nuggets of wisdom from Jennylyn Mercado on training despite being a celebrity, not using the words “single” and “mother” together as an excuse to be complacent, and a whole lot more

By Romeo Moran|Photos by Pat Mateo | Makeup by Ting Duque |Hair by Ricky Diokno | Shot at Timberland Heights, San Mateo, Rizal | Special thanks to Patricia Cordero

Jennylyn Mercado might very well be one of Philippine triathlon’s best-kept secrets. Well, until now, that is.

Local triathletes know she is one of them, spotting her with team TriMac Coaching. Mercado’s been active for some time now, but she won’t tell you that she’s some seasoned age-grouper. Because she really isn’t. Like many of her peers, she does triathlon on the side of a day job that’s more grueling than most, and only gets to relish the thrill of the race when her life gives her a bit of permission.

And like everyone who toes the line of a triathlon, she’s got her own story—which she tells us quite candidly and excitedly, considering we surprised her straight out of bed with this shoot a couple of hours prior. Ladies and gentlemen: the Jennylyn Mercado.

Iba ‘yung feeling kapag pababa ka sa bike. Parang, ‘Ahh, sarap, para akong lumilipad!Ganoon ‘yung feeling. Lumilipad, pero mababa lang. Ang sarap lang niya, ‘pag nag-glide ka at nararamdaman mo ‘yung air. Tapos ‘yung smooth lang ‘yung pababa. Iba ‘yung joy na nabibigay niya sa akin.”

Hindi ko pa na-re-reach ‘yung goal ko of improving myself. Pero tuluy-tuloy pa rin naman. Kung meron akong free time, I make sure na nakakapag-training. Like yesterday, biglaan na lang nag-swimming ako, nag-bike ako bigla. ‘Yung mga ganoon—pag nakagising ako ng maaga, bigla akong susulpot sa mga training.”

Hindi naman dahil single mom kami, ibig sabihin papabayaan na namin ‘yung sarili namin, di ‘ba? Kailangan din namin maging physically fit for ourselves and for our family. For my son and para rin sa future nila. Mas mahabang buhay, mas healthy na lifestyle para sa sarili din nila na hindi nila mapabayaan. Kasi usually, ‘yung iba, pag nagiging mommies, parang, ‘Ah. Eto na ako.’ Iniisip na lang nila na aalagaan nila ‘yung family nila. Pero hindi nila naiisip ‘yung sarili nila.”

Ginagawa ko ‘yung triathlon for myself. And siguro, kung may pressure man, sarili ko lang. Kaya mong i-beat ‘yung time na ginawa mo dati, parang ganoon lang. Sa akin kasi, ‘pag may race, I need to have fun. ‘Di ako pwedeng seryoso. Kaya kung makikita ng mga tao kung paano ako talagang naglalaro, maloloka sila. Parang, ‘Ano ba ‘yan? Sumali ba talaga siya?’ ‘Yung parang gun start na, nag-si-swimming na lang sila, ako nagtatampisaw, nagpapahuli talaga ako, ginugulo ko ‘yung mga tao, ‘yung ganoon! Parang, ‘Ano bang ginagawa niya?’ ‘Yung transition, saan sila makakakita ng transition kung saan kumakain ako ng full meal? Gusto ko lang maaliw. Gusto ko lang makatapos. Wala pa naman akong race na hindi natatapos. (laughs)”

“‘Pag binigyan mo ng pressure, parang… ang hirap kasi ng hindi ka nag-e-enjoy eh. Hindi fulfilling ‘yung race. ‘Pag masyado mo siyang dinidibdib, tapos ‘di ka nag-e-enjoy. Pagod ka na, malungkot ka pa. Parang ang sama-sama naman ‘nun. Para sa akin, ‘yun ‘yung aim ko. Every time sasali ako sa race, kailangan masaya ako. Nag-enjoy ako. Natapos ko siya nang naka-smile ako.”

Noong una akong nag-compete, natatakot ang anak ko! Umiiyak pa nga siya! Hindi ko alam! For some reason, umiiyak siya every time sasakay ako ng bike, pag mag-si-swimming ako, umiiyak siya! Siguro natatakot siya kasi ang dami-dami, tapos sabay-sabay. Siguro ‘yung fear niya, baka matamaan ako, baka malaglag ako, ganyan. Noong mga first few races, pero noong madami-dami na, okay na siya. Nako, makikita mo sa finish line, umiiyak! Umiiyak talaga siya. (laughs) Nakakatawa. Ang dami kong pictures na ‘yung iyak niya talaga, breakdown talaga.”

“My advice to moms who are also afraid for their kids doing sports: siguro kung hindi pa sila ready, ‘wag. Don’t. Kung may hesitation, mahirap ‘yun eh. ‘Yung 50-50. Kung sure ka na na gusto mo talaga siyang isabak sa ganyang klaseng sports, go, go ahead. Tsaka dapat gusto rin ng bata.”

“Biggest goal ko, siyempre, Ironman. ‘Di ko pa alam. Pero ‘yun talaga. Siguro naman bago ko ma-reach ‘yung 40, gusto ‘kong makatapos ng full distance.”

Pag ginagawa ko ‘yung triathlon, thrilled ako. Iba ‘yung level ng excitement. May kaba, may excitement, may happiness. ‘Di ko ma-explain. Basta iba siya, iba ‘yung feeling.”