Century Pacific Food, Inc. chief operating officer Greg Banzon sings his way throughout the bike course for energy

By Eric Nicole Salta | Lead photo by Javier Lobregat

You wouldn’t know it just by looking at him or by simply spending a few minutes with Greg Banzon, but the 54-year-old head honcho of Century Pacific Food, Inc. stands head and shoulders above most men older and younger than him. But not for the reasons you might initially think.

At his age, Banzon has quietly established himself as a key figure in shaping the health, fitness, and sports scene in the Philippines not only through his brand but also with the way he has stepped up on a personal level that resonates with many Filipinos.

Tomorrow at the first Century Tuna Ironman Philippines, Banzon will once again go face to face with a fatally familiar territory. On his sixth Ironman starting line, he will try to reach the finish line only for the third time in his career.

“The first time [I raced an Ironman] I was very new to the sport and people said ‘Let’s go to Malaysia’ and I said ‘Okay’ and I didn’t really prepare,” he says. “I actually finished that race but I was four minutes behind cut-off. They allowed me to finish because I was the last man on the course and even though there were people behind me, I was the closest one to the finish line.”

“The succeeding races, that’s where I put in a lot work. But things happened. I crashed in the bike in Perth, Australia and I had extreme hyponatremia in Malaysia the third time but by Korea [in Jeju in 2011], I was very confident and by the fifth [in Gurye in 2017], it was a bit tense but I was confident as well.”

“People have different techniques [when managing pain]. Ako I sing songs in my head or aloud or I whistle so when they take pictures of me in the course I’m actually whistling!” he confesses. “You get the lamest songs so it takes away the mental fatigue of a 180-kilometer bike ride. Ako, “Ngayon at Kailanman” at tsaka “How Deep Is Your Love.” It keeps me from getting bored. I find it funny.”

In sharp contrast with how he performed at his previous races, Banzon seems to have found his range this time. “Today I’m relaxed,” he says.

Yet those runs of beleaguered disappointments and struggles to accomplish what he had intended to do are crucial steps, a resolving rite of passage for someone set to do something greater and grander than the race itself.

After a successful preparation in Ironman Gurye last year, Banzon is ready to reclaim another Ironman glory under his belt, leading the way for the rest of the 1,277 triathletes, including the 18-strong Century Tri Hard team, with a shy demeanor that is emblematic of the way he defeats his demons.

“People have different techniques [when managing pain]. Ako I sing songs in my head or aloud or I whistle so when they take pictures of me in the course I’m actually whistling!” he confesses. “You get the lamest songs so it takes away the mental fatigue of a 180-kilometer bike ride. Ako, “Ngayon at Kailanman” at tsaka “How Deep Is Your Love.” It keeps me from getting bored. I find it funny.”

Banzon however is wary of the conditions. There is no homecourt advantage in Subic’s severe weather. Heat lashes out on you from all corners. On the bike leg, smooth and flat as it may be, the shadeless roads expose your shortcomings from all points of the course. This alone would bring even professionals on the brink of a meltdown. Even with training under extreme heat conditions, mostly north of 150 kilometers, since March, Banzon admits that all the preparation in the world can never actually prepare you for the real thing.

Asked on whether he was pressured to race because Century Tuna is the title sponsor: “It’s really the importance and relevance of the race. I want to be part of the Philippine triathlon narrative.”

“You miss out on an aspect of your nutrition for example and things can go crazy. It’s very measured and structured but you have to have the presence of mind to execute your plan. But I can finish!,” he says with a laugh. “I’m targeting 15 hours and 30 minutes maybe.”

It’s complicated but nevertheless pivotal to overcome such mental hurdles. And it’s evidence that Banzon is working his way around the delicate balance of preparing for the landmark race and the actual race itself—no matter how difficult it may appear.

Asked on whether he was pressured to race because Century Tuna is the title sponsor: “It’s really the importance and relevance of the race. I want to be part of the Philippine triathlon narrative.”

With huge stakes on the line, the louder Banzon sings, the better his chances are to bring out the best in himself and the rest of the Filipino triathletes.