As actress Jackielou Blanco begins to do a one-legged backbend with her trainer, she pauses midway. She hams up her dip and says it is an homage to her mother's signature pose. Baby boomers will recall singer Pilita Corrales' famous back lean in her performances.
"It helped my mom hit the high notes," explains Blanco.
Her mother is Blanco's beauty icon. Although Corrales' age is a mystery even to her children, she is still alluring, and walks around in short skirts and animal skin leggings.
Like her mother, looking effortlessly young and fit is a way of life for Blanco. Etched in the minds of fitness professionals and exercise buffs is a bikini-clad Blanco, showing off her muscular striations. Winning the Slimmer's World Great Bodies competition in 2001 made her a fitness icon.
Unlike her compact, muscular body bulked up by weights in the past, Blanco, now cruising through midlife, is gearing for a functional body.
"Our goal (for her) is foxy at 50," says Florencio "Ole" Eugenio, Options programme director. "Her great body was imprinted in my mind and it made an impact on others. If she can do it, why can't they? She is an ambassador for systems of smart movement. This means functional movement. In every moment, you think not only of the muscle working, but also the alignment and breath. Practical application of fitness principles in life is our goal."
In the past few months, the 49-year-old actress has been undergoing a comprehensive strengthening, lengthening and toning programme under Options movement specialist Alain Buenaventura.
Over a decade ago, they met when she was still working out at Slimmer's World. Her then trainer, Christine Yu, encouraged her to join the Great Bodies contest. Although she was strong in weights, Blanco was weak in the aerobics portion. Buenaventura taught her the aerobics moves with the right projection.
While most women find push-ups difficult, Blanco could touch the floor with her chest. Ultimately, she could do one-arm push-ups with a naughty head nod, a signature of her trainer.
They lost contact for 11 years, until Blanco walked into the Options studio at Podium to enroll for classes. She then invited Buenaventura to watch "A Secret Affair," where Blanco played Andi Eigenmann's mother. She certainly looked the part, because the camera made her look 10 lbs heavier. Buenaventura then vowed to make his client look like the Other Woman, and not the mother of the Other Woman.
Blanco admits that she enrolled to correct a lordotic condition, an abnormal curvature in the lower back, which causes chronic pain. "I was looking for an exercise where I would not suffer from low back pain. I'm not in my 20s anymore. I want to be functional until I'm in my 70s.
"What's a nice body for if it is not structurally balanced and can't move properly?" she muses.
The combination of Stott Pilates, suspension workout, cardiovascular conditioning and Bosu (acronym for "both sides up") balanced trainer ball done at an intense pace revitalized her.
"The muscles that I had not been using in a long time were activated again. I felt alive. I never had low back pain anymore. After six sessions, my waist and thighs got smaller. Something was happening. I was working out twice a week but my body found a new friend. I'm not looking to have a 22-inch waist. I want my body to get smaller than what it is now and to strengthen my muscles."
With Buenaventura, the workout would last two hours. The movement specialist says Blanco's fitness level was high since she has been consistently working out. However, he had to be careful and consider her back problem and the hyper-extended knees resulting from the posture.
He recalls that she once came to a session complaining of back pain. During the taping, the younger stars asked her to join the limbo rock. Despite her delicate condition, she obliged. She ended up straining her back.
Buenaventura then guided her through the workout. His client was mindful of correct muscle alignment and coordinated breathing. "She finished the workout with the same intensity without feeling the low back pain. It's all about awareness."
Unlike the thrusting movements in weight training, the studio exercises taught Blanco to move with greater control. She also became more aware of alignment and she could easily feel if a muscle was out of place.
"We give clients what they need. We try to train them from the inside and out and outside in," says Eugenio.
He is introducing the Six Pack Abs in Six Weeks workout, a 50-minute interval training, which is similar to Blanco's programme.
Eugenio explains the tagline is just an expression. "It's not like you will get cuts immediately, but you certainly will feel the difference. The 50-minute workout consists of cardiovascular training, strength training and toning using body weight and Pilates apparatus.
"The fitness industry has come up with many trends, but there's no magic exercise. The amount of calories and fats burned depends on the amount of effort you put into the work."
Will it guarantee results in less than two months?
"Being fit does not come for free. You have to pay the price of commitment, hard work and discipline." It comes in several phases. Initially, one has to invest six weeks of working out four times a week. Then come three weeks of thrice-a-week maintenance and then continuing the upkeep.
Part of removing the boredom of the same routine is the Partner Pilates. The client contracts the muscles against an external resistance-the partner/trainer-with the goal of building strength and stamina.
"The client and the trainer use each other's energy," says Eugenio. "You trust your partner. We are with you every step of the way. We provide the inspiration, but the rest is up to you. With Partner Pilates, you gain more control, precision and lengthening of the muscle." Blanco is appearing in the teleserye "Indio" and does a lot of hosting jobs. She is proud to be a mother of three kids, ages 15 to 24, and a grandmother to an eight-month-old.
On her natural beauty, Blanco says, "I don't overeat. I'm not a big eater. I don't abuse my body-no smoking nor drinking. Simple living. I don't wear makeup off camera. The best lesson from my mom is to be content. She would say problems will come. But do you sulk or do you hope for a better day? She takes each day as it comes. Like her, I'm in a place where I'm more at peace."