Bending time is a concept that Jennylyn Mercado appears to have mastered.
Her steady stream of work as an actress alone keeps her going round the clock, especially now that she's back on prime-time television as Cha Salvador in the GMA-7 suspense-thriller drama, The Cure.
"And when she's not there, Jennylyn is fulfilling some other kind of commitment.
Being a celebrity, she also commits herself to endorsement deals, fan shows, TV guesting, and magazine shoots, any of which can consume so many hours of her day.
Her free days are a whirlwind of activities as well.
Jennylyn hits the gym, does martial arts training, checks on her business, hangs out in the mall, heads out to the beach, and dines out with her loved ones.
And there is her son Jazz, the wind to her sails, her starting point and finish line.
"Time management lang talaga," comes her no-frill answer when asked how can she, a single working mom, do it all?
WHEN IT RAINS. Jennylyn at age 21 gave birth to a baby boy at St. Luke's Hospital in Quezon City on August 16, 2008.
Her pregnancy couldn't have come at a worse time for a young actress whose career was just taking off.
At that time, she was just starting to gain her momentum as a female lead. She top-billed La Vendetta and Super Twins in 2007.
Yet she braved her pregnancy, embraced it; but she couldn't work, and she needed the pay.
What she didn't need was the added stress of being rattled by media: Who is the father? Will there be a wedding? Is it true she's broke? What then?
Even the one bright spot during that period in her life was marred by a death in her family.
Her adoptive father, Rogelio Mercado, died from complications of diabetes three days after she gave birth to Jazz.
"Nung time na 'yon, patung-patong talaga lahat ng pinagdaanan ko," Jennylyn recalls to PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) at our Headliner shoot in Cocoon Boutique Hotel.
"Namatay dad ko nung nanganak ako. Mag-isa lang ako.
"So parang hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko!"
As bad as it all seemed, Jennylyn says she still felt lucky at the time as she was surrounded by good people forming her circle of support.
"Malaking bagay na yung mga naka-surround sa iyo, maayos, e.
"Yung hindi ka nila ida-down, hindi ka nila iiwan, kahit sobrang sama na ng mga pinagdaanan mo.
"Malaking factor 'yon sa buhay, e--ang good company.
"Nandiyan pa rin sila para sa iyo."
FIRST-TIME MOM. Looking back, the 30-year-old celebrity mom acknowledges her first few years as a mom had not been easy.
"Kailangan ko ng time," she reveals.
There was much to learn, "First son ko, first child ko, walang tumutulong sa akin. Wala akong kasama."
Her late adoptive mother, Lydia Mercado, was still around then to help, but Jennylyn did not want to burden her.
"Yung mom ko, medyo may edad na, so ayoko rin na paalaga ko lang, di ba?
"Ayoko naman na ipaasa si Jazz sa mom ko.
"Ang hirap talagang dagdagan pa yung mga trabaho nila. Nahihiya rin ako."
What kept Jennylyn going was her determination to be a good parent from the beginning, which led her to rethink her priorities in life.
She realized, too, her manager, Becky Aguila, had to be in on it.
"Kinausap ko talaga si Tita Becky. Sabi ko, 'Tita, hindi ako puwedeng full-time na every day magtatrabaho.
"Kailangan ko at least three times na pahinga para makapag-focus ako sa anak ko, makapag-focus ako sa family ko."
"Yung first few years ng bata,'yon yung critical stage na dapat nando'n yung parent, nando'n yung mommy.
"Kailangan ko ng time."
Jennylyn knew the risk when she decided to put her showbiz career on the back burner. Acting was her bread and butter, but her baby needed her.
She did not regret her decision even when fears about her career had set in.
"May doubts ako na, 'Kaya ko pa ba ulit bumalik [sa showbiz]?'Kaya ko pa ba ulit magawa yung mga nagagawa ko noon?"Ila-love team pa ba ako or puro mga mother roles na lang ako dahil nagkaroon ako ng baby?"
BEST ACTRESS. It did take a while for Jennylyn to regain her stride in the industry.
She was earning again, but her comeback was not a soaring success.
Her golden opportunity came knocking in 2014, the year she did the prime-time series Rhodora X and the film English Only, Please opposite Derek Ramsay.
The movie, a romantic-comedy helmed by director Dan Villegas, was a Metro Manila Film Festival entry that year.
Derek and Jennylyn were apparently the second choice for the main characters of Julian, a heartbroken Fil-American, and Tere, an English tutor tasked by Julian to translate from English to Filipino his angry letter to his half-Filipina ex-girlfriend.
Jennylyn recalls, "Tinanggap ko agad kasi ang ganda ng script!
"Nakakatawa talaga! Sobrang nakakatawa, baklang-bakla yung script.
"Sabi ko, 'Ay, sige, gusto ko subukan!'
"Bukod kasi kailangan ko ng trabaho nung mga panahon na 'yon, gusto kong mag-try ng hindi ko nasusubukan."
The script was penned by director Antoinette Jadaone and writer Anj Pessumal.
English Only, Please was a huge hit, earning a total of PHP135 million at the till, one of top four highest-grossing films in the festival.
It nearly swept all the major awards at the festival, including Best Actress trophy for Jennylyn.
FINDING STABILITY. Jennylyn is riding the crest of stardom, vanishing her fear of getting mother roles to far, far future.
Assured of her leading lady status, the award-winning actress has been paired with the industry's top leading men--Derek Ramsay, Jericho Rosales, and John Lloyd Cruz, to name a few.
Her name alone in top billing guarantees packed movie houses and, needless to say, box-office success.
Again, Jennylyn counts herself lucky for having the right people around her.
She says, "I'm very lucky kasi yung mga tao sa paligid ko, talagang hindi nila ako pinapabayaan.
"May kailangan akong gawin, aakuin nila yung trabaho na 'yon para medyo gumaan naman yung trabaho ko.
"Suwerte ako do'n sa mga taong nakapaligid sa akin.
"Suwerte ako kina Tita Becky, manager ko, kasi she's like a second mom.
"Hindi niya talaga ako pinapabayaan.
"Name it! Sa kahit ano, kahit saan, talagang nandiyan siya para sa akin."
HEAD OF FAMILY. Health is important to Jennylyn. Being a solo parent to Jazz, she can’t afford to get sick.
"Yung health, para sa akin, very important, kasi ako lang mag-isa. Ngayon, ang daming nagkakasakit, ang daming nawawala dahil sa stress; hindi ako puwedeng mawala. Hindi ako puwede magkasakit dahil kapag nagkasakit ako, hindi ko maaalagaan si Jazz. Hindi ako makakapagtrabaho.
"Ayoko ng nakakaramdam ng panic; kapag nag-panic ako, lahat magpa-panic.
"Kaya kailangan kalma, kailangan alam ko kung ano yung dapat gawin.
"Ako kasi, may presence of mind kahit sobrang lala na ng situation.
"Siguro, kasama na 'yon sa upbringing ng mga magulang ko, kasi trinain ako ng nanay ko sa worst scenario.
"Napagdaanan ko lahat, napagdaanan namin nang sabay lahat.
"Yung mula sa sobrang hirap, sobrang gulo, hanggang sa sobrang okay.
"Dahil napagdaanan ko na siya, alam ko na kung anong dapat gawin."
POSITIVITY. The thing about Jennylyn is her fighting spirit, she can't be put down.
She has endured, gone beyond her limits as a woman, an artist, a mom.
Her words, "Kahit gaano kahirap na itong situation natin ngayon, gusto ko pa rin maging masaya.
"Gusto ko pa rin maging positive.
"Ayoko na habang nagtatrabaho, may bitbit akong negativity.
"Gusto ko lang optimistic lang, positive lang, as much as possible.
"Lahat pinagdaanan ko, lahat nung hirap.
"So, ngayon, kung bibigyan ako ng challenge, hindi ko siya masyadong dinidibdib.
"Lahat gusto ko lang daanan.
"Kapag nadaanan ko na, 'Okay, next,' ganun.
"Hindi kasi ako yung tao masyadong nag-iisip.
"Yung itutulog ko, iisip ko. Ayoko ng gano'n, e.
"Kasi pagkagising mo, parang hindi masarap ang tulog mo.
"Ako yung tipong tao na dadaanan ko 'yan ngayon, tatapusin 'yan ngayon, gano'n. Pagkatapos nito, move on na. Iba naman!
"Gusto ko lang siya idaanan, ‘tapos i-enjoy yung life.
"Go with the flow.
"Kung mangyari, mangyayari. Gano'n ako."
HER LIFE, HER LOVE. Her son Jazz is her soft spot.
As she puts it, "Iba naman kasi talaga kapag love sa family or sa son, di ba?
"Kumbaga, kapag sobrang tapang mo na sa labas, sobrang nagagawa mo na lahat.
"Kaya mong pagdaanan ang lahat.
"Kapag sa family ko, iba. Bumibigay ako, nagiging mahina ako.
"Kapag umiyak anak ko, 'Shucks, kailangan kong pigilan, pero hindi ko kaya.'
"Very emotional ako pagdating sa family."
But as a disciplinarian, "Grabe ako magdisiplina."
"Alam niya, e, kapag tinawag ko pangalan niya, kapag galit yung 'Jazz.'
"Kapag medyo matigas na yung pagdya-Jazz ko, alam na niya.
"Alam niya kapag play, alam niya kapag mag-aaral, alam niya kapag relax lang.
"I think alam niya kung ano yung dapat at hindi dapat.
"Kasi feeling ko, sa akin magre-reflect 'yon, e.
"Kapag lumalaki ang anak mo nang maayos, sa parents 'yon makikita, e.
"So, happy ako na lumalaki anak ko na respectful, smart, saka mabait."
Jazz is turning 10 this August, and every day, Jennylyn finds joy in being a mom.
"Ngayon, mas na-e-enjoy ko kasi mas nakakausap ko na siya.
"Naiintindihan niya kung anong nangyayari.
"Para na kaming magkapatid."
After all that she has gone through, Jennylyn says, "Wala akong pinagsisihan.
"Talagang pinagdaanan ko siya for a reason, and 'yon yung binigay sa akin ni God, i-embrace ko 'yon.
"Masarap yung pakiramdam na may inaalagaan ka na part siya ng sarili mo, e.
"Part siya ng pagkatao mo, so masarap ang pakiramdam na umuuwi ka sa bahay na nandiyan siya, masaya siya, healthy siya."
Having been there, done that, Jennylyn has advice to young, single mothers:
"Huwag pabayaan ang sarili.
"Kailangan alagaan niyo yung sarili niyo, yung health niyo, yung figure niyo, di ba?
"Kailangan lang palaging optimistic.
"Huwag kayo papasok ng negativity kasi naa-absorb din 'yan ng mga bata, ng mga tao sa paligid mo.
"Lagi kang magdasal and stay happy!"
SHOOT COORDINATOR: Irene Mislang
ART DIRECTOR: Jeremiah Idanan
STYLIST: AJ Alberto
MAKEUP ARTIST: Ting Duque
HAIRSTYLIST: RJ Dela Cruz
PHOTOGRAPHER: Cyrus Panganiban