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Five Inspiring Celebs Tell Us How To Overcome Challenges In The New Normal

They show us how they stay empowered and driven as we enter the final quarter of 2020.

With no one spared from the adversities brought about by the new normal, we spoke to five celebrities who inspire us to keep our heads up. For Avon x Cosmo's Watch Me Now series, the spotlight is on Jennylyn Mercado, Angel Locsin, Bea Alonzo, Daniel Matsunaga, and Paulo Avelino, who show us how they stay empowered and driven as we enter the final quarter of 2020.

Jennylyn Mercado

What better way to celebrate her 17th year in the entertainment industry than with an award-winning series? The actress-singer portrays the role of Dr. Maxine Dela Cruz opposite Dingdong Dantes as Lucas Manalo in the Philippine adaptation of the Korean drama, Descendants Of The Sun (DOTS). GMA's adaptation won "Most Popular Foreign Drama of the Year" at the recent 15th Seoul International Drama Awards. After a long quarantine break, taping resumed on September 1 under strict health protocols. The entire staff and cast of DOTS are now cooped up in a resort for the taping. Jennylyn, a mother to 12-year-old Alex and partner to actor Dennis Trillo, talked to Cosmo about what the new normal has taught her about family and life.

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Cosmo.ph Spotlight: Jennylyn Mercado
Jennyln Mercado: "You don't need to engage people who don't know a thing about respecting the difference in everyone."
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On training to portray a doctor on DOTS. "I got a firsthand look sa hirap na pinagdaanan ng ating medical frontliners to be where they are now and their passion for helping people. Kaya it's heartbreaking to read the stories of our fallen modern heroes. They deserve better."

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On being quarantined with more pets than humans. "I have 14 cats and three dogs. Si Dennis has three cats and two dogs. Self-confessed crazy cat lady ako. Nung bata ako wala [akong pets] pero nung nag-artista ako may mga nagregalo sa akin ng dogs. Then two years ago I decided to get a cat. It's a life-changer!

[In quarantine], I still wake up [early] in the morning kasi before I do anything else, I work out. Nagpi-pilates ako tapos after, saka pa lang gigising mga kasama ko sa bahay. Ayun, nagbe-breakfast kami then I work. I have a few businesses na sobrang naapektuhan sa pandemic, so I meet with my employees on how to adapt sa mga nangyayari."

On handling the unpredictability of the pandemic. "Every day we are alive is truly a blessing. Bilang mom, mas naging hands on pa ako ngayon. Since 'pag walang work nasa bahay kami, mas natutukan ko si Alex. I truly appreciate that I get to spend more time with him. With all the uncertainty ngayon, minsan ang hirap to reach out to other people. Lalo na hindi na kayo nagkikita nang personal. Siguro nagtataka [si Alex] why we don't go out, ang hirap na i-explain yung mga nangyayari sa mundo. There is a part of me that wants to protect him from the world, pero nag-uumpisa na ako na i-explain sa kanya na may new normal. That we have to be extra careful to not get sick."

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"Those people who belittle you have their own issues na gusto nila i-project sa'yo. Be the better person. Ignore them." —Jennylyn Mercado

On how Bessie, her Twitter persona who's vocal about political issues, deals with bashers. "Madami ngayon who target you personally kasi iba kayo ng opinion, rather than discussing it with you. Sayang. Kasi rather than learning from each other, nahihinto yung process kasi hindi kaya i-engage yung thoughts mo, sinsira nila pagkatao mo. Kaya I just ignore them. Siguro, I think I've mastered the art of deadma. Those people who belittle you have their own issues na gusto nila i-project sa yo. Be the better person. Ignore them. You don't need to engage people who don't know a thing about respecting the difference in everyone. Hayaan mo sila to be in their little bubble of negativity. Continue what you're doing. Taas noo lang. Laban."

On the future of Co-Love, her home music room and venue of her YouTube collabs. "Our most memorable collaboration was yung kay Angeline Quinto. Ang saya namin tapos ang ganda ng kinalabasan, pero nagkaroon kami ng technical difficulties kaya sayang. Hopefully, maayos namin yung video and ma-release namin."

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On advocating body positivity. "Just this July, I was so proud to be part of a campaign by Avon Fashions called Nude Normal, where Filipinas of different body shapes and skin tones modeled their nude intimate apparel line. I think it is very fitting—Nude Normal, making it the new normal to embrace every Filipino no matter what she looks like."

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Angel Locsin

She has evolved from playing superhero Darna in reel life to becoming a real-life heroine. These days, whenever Angel Locsin's name appears in the headlines, it's not because of the usual entertainment fodder, but her philanthropic acts and courageous political statements that many are trying to stifle. Unfazed by criticisms thrown her way, Angel takes it all with stride and strength, just like the iconic Darna role she portrayed 15 years ago. She opened up to Cosmo about dealing with negativity and what she hopes for the future of the Philippines.

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Cosmo.ph Spotlight: Angel Locsin
Angel Losin: "I feel like may obligasyon tayo to stand up, speak up if meron tayong mga injustice na nakikita o kung mayroong mga nangangailangan ng tulong natin. "

On being seen as a superheroine. "Sa akin naman, I don't see myself as a hero, hindi ako comfortable 'pag sinasabing hero ako kasi madami rin talaga ang tumutulong during this time. Siguro mas nabibigyan ng pansin yung work that I do dahil artista ako. Pero maraming mga individuals, organizations, and people who are doing their part and nakakatuwa 'yon."

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On dealing with online bashers. "I  feel like may obligasyon tayo to stand up, speak up if meron tayong mga injustice na nakikita o kung mayroong mga nangangailangan ng tulong natin. Of course sometimes, nata-take out of context yung mga bagay or sinasabi natin but as long as we know na ang ipinaglalaban natin ay nasa tama, I try to explain this to those who send negative comments. Minsan, 'di ko narin pinapansin ito kasi hindi healthy ang ganung environment. Mahalaga na you know your worth and you believe in yourself. Know that in life meron talagang times and merong mga people who will try to pull you down, but trust na you are greater than these bullies or these bashers and may maio-offer kang special to the world—may it be your skills, capabilities, you can overcome kung ano mang challenges ang ibato ng bashers or haters. Seek support din sa family and friends mo who know you best and know na they will always be there for you."

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"When you find the one, you won't worry as much because you are ready. You learned from the past and things are just more smooth sailing." —Angel Locsin

On the biggest lessons she learned about love. "Marami akong napagdaanan na experiences and I had to learn the hard way about love but there comes a point in your life na mafe-feel mo na everything will just fall into place. Hindi siya mahirap, right timing and maturity din are important na yung mga bagay na you worried about before, or iniyakan mo before. When you find the one, you won't worry as much because you are ready. You learned from the past and things are just more smooth sailing. With the right partner, tulungan siya as you face every day, and you get to teach each other, learn, inspire, and grow with the support of each other."

On how her fiancé, Neil Arce, helps her grow as a person. "Neil has helped me grow because he knows and understands me. Sinasabihan niya ako kung minsan feel niya may hindi ako dapat gawin or sabihin—he gives a different perspective on things and ganun din ako sa kanya. We support each other and push each other to learn new things and grow in the process. We always share ideas, listen to each other, and that helps our relationship."

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On using her endorsements as a platform to empower other people. "I've been part of the Avon family since 2005. So that's a good 15 years! Watch Me Now is Avon's global movement that inspires anyone, not just women, to rise above and prove their doubters wrong. I could relate so much to it because I've gone through lots of reinventions throughout my own career—from modeling to acting, and advocating for women's rights. Each step of the way I had people doubt me, but every time because of the assurance I got from those who love and support me I was able to bounce back and hopefully exceed expectations. I hope that with Watch Me Now, every person is reminded of what they can become and realize that success is a matter of how far they are willing to go and how much they are willing to grow."

On her hopes for the Philippines as we continue to face the pandemic. "I hope na malampsan natin ito and we come out stronger as a country. I hope na we are also able to learn from this and that makabangon tayo from the challenges that we face and we will grow in the process."

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Bea Alonzo

Leaving the ghosts of her past far behind, Bea is channeling her energy towards "I Am Hope," a passion project that she started with her friend Rina Navarro before the lockdown. By May, the organization raised over P6 million to provide PPEs (personal protective equipment) and food to Filipino frontliners, and has now extended their reach to the underprivileged and the kids of Project Pearls and SOS Children's Village. Bea opened up to Cosmo about the lessons she learned not just in quarantine, but in the last few years of her career.

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Bea Alonzo: "Choices, big and small, really brought me to where I am right now and taught me all that I know today."
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On what it feels like to be an auntie after the birth of her nephew, Santiago. "It feels great! He's a bundle of joy and he brought so much happiness in our family. Definitely our biggest blessing this year."

On being a doting pet mom to Walter, who was given to her by a friend in 2018. "Walter became like a therapy dog for me. He helped me get over my fear of dogs. Right now, he's the most precious thing in my life. I like having him around me all the time. I guess you could say that I am a clingy fur mommy! I do everything with him. He even sleeps beside me."

On what the pandemic has taught her about life. "To value what's most important, and that is your family. In this time of crisis, nothing is more important than the people you love and value. This is not anymore about how much money you have or how successful you are. When you are facing something as deadly as this virus, you tend to reflect and appreciate the things and people that you have."

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"When you focus on yourself first, when you focus on taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you release that kind of energy to the world." —Bea Alonzo

On partnering with Avon for the first time this year. "I'm a big advocate for the power of dreams. Dreams are what fuel our ambition for success in life, but our dreams and our pursuit of them also inspire hope in other people who may be going through tough times. Apart from that, I also admire Avon's passion for the causes of women—whether it's in renewing the confidence women have for themselves with the products Avon makes or in strengthening their capacity to become independent entrepreneurs."

On the biggest hurdles she had to overcome in her career. "There were so many challenges in every chapter. Choices, big and small, really brought me to where I am right now and taught me all that I know today. Taking risks has always been a game-changer for me. In every project, I have to make sure that I am taking a risk, big or small, I have to make sure that that specific character would challenge me, in any way."

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On dealing with online bashers. "I don't glorify bashers. I don't want to dwell on the negative. I only listen to constructive criticisms given to me by the people I know who love me and care about me. I have been in the public eye since I was 13 years old and I think I have developed a talent to shield myself from being too invested in what other people would say about me, may it be positive or negative. I think one should always be in touch with reality. It is also not healthy for a person to be too aware of her fame, especially in our line of work where we should be portraying real people with real problems. So probably, it's almost so natural for me to just focus on the things that regular people care about."

On giving Cosmo girls advice about getting through heartaches. "Not everyone sticks around throughout our journey in life, and it may be tempting to focus on the people who have gone but my biggest advice is to remind yourself of the people who love you that are still around—not just from a romantic perspective. Having a support system of people who help you live life in full bloom and celebrate with you in both the big and small wins is what can push us forward. You can never change a person but you can change your perspective. When you focus on yourself first, when you focus on taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you release that kind of energy to the world. You attract people who will love and respect you just like you do yourself."

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On her plans for I Am Hope. "Right now we intend to promote livelihood programs and help with children's education. We are invested in helping our community and we will not stop looking for resources to be able to achieve this."

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Daniel Matsunaga

It's been about a decade since he transitioned from modeling to acting and years since this Brazilian model-actor decided to call the Philippines home. Being in quarantine with his sister Vanessa's family has helped unleash the paternal side of Daniel Matsunaga. The doting uncle to Isabella and David admitted he has learned how to better take care of children. Single since December, Daniel chatted with Cosmo about his thoughts on dating in the time of the pandemic and how he keeps his spirits up.

Cosmo.ph Spotlight: Daniel Matsunaga
Daniel Matsunaga: "I've felt like I was the underdog in more instances in my career than I'd like to think."
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On what keeps him busy in quarantine. "My quarantine days have been just spending some quality time with family, helping my sister take care of her kids, watching movies and swimming with them, working through my phone like doing Zoom meetings and lots of social media and above all, setting time to worship Jesus for His faithfulness. I have a gym at home. I have been working out almost every day since I was 15 years old. So basically, I do my own workout every day and I try to make always different workouts so I don't get tired of it. I have also been doing workouts with friends in Kumu and Zoom so I can also share a little bit that I know."

On his family's COVID-19 scare. "The biggest challenge for us was when my sister had to be rushed to the hospital due to appendicitis. When she was released and got back home, two days after the doctor called saying she was COVID-19 positive. It was very difficult for all of us to deal with it because, at the same time, we needed to do isolation. We got kids as well with us who we needed to attend to. But God is great and He was and is always there for us and kept us safe and healthy."

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On what the pandemic has taught him about life. "The pandemic has taught me what is truly valuable in life and things that are not so important. It gave me an opportunity to slow down in this fast-changing world and to appreciate what truly matters: friends, family, and how God's plan is just perfect in everything we do."

"The pandemic has taught me what is truly valuable in life and things that are not so important." —Daniel Matsunaga

On how he and his family keep their spirits up. "We just spend enough quality time together and [are] always be open to each other with what is in our minds so we can share not just positive but also negative, and we can fix everything. Also, we have been sharing great moments with the kids. They are like medicine for sadness. Always exercising and swimming also makes us happy. I have also been really blessed to be in the position to be able to support small businesses and lately we have been also blessed by their food."

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On what he thinks about dating in the time of the pandemic. "I [have] actually [been] single since December. I haven't seen many people aside from my family since then, so I don't know how it feels like dating in the pandemic [laughs]."

On toxic masculinity. "[The biggest thing about Avon's Watch Me Now campaign that resonated with me is] their confidence in the underdog. I've felt like I was the underdog in more instances in my career than I'd like to think. I also support how Avon understands the need of men to be validated, not much on how we look but more of how we feel. Avon helped dispel toxic masculinity. Men haven't always had the luxury to show emotion, but with their Men's Club campaign, Avon helped normalize the notion that being a gentleman also means being able to open up and embrace your emotions."

On where he wants to travel when this is all over. "Before the pandemic, my last travel was to Bacolod when I had my small show there. I really miss traveling so after the pandemic I am planning to go everywhere [laughs]! Especially to Brazil to see my family and then go to the beaches here and travel some more around the globe."

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On reviving his YouTube channel. "Yes, I have many plans for 2020. This quarantine has made me think of many good ideas and vlogging some more. I just need to find the time to do it. But yes, soon."

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Paulo Avelino

Star Cinema's Darna, where Paulo was supposed to play the leading man opposite Jane De Leon, was sadly dropped this year amidst the pandemic and the controversial shutdown of ABS-CBN. While Paulo's new series, Burado, was also reported to be canceled, we have good news for fans. Paulo revealed to Cosmo that the project is pushing through, but with changes. Read more for snippets of our interview with the elusive actor.

Cosmo.ph Spotlight: Paolo Avelino
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On the biggest challenge he had to face in the time of COVID-19. "The fear of going out. Sometimes you get so paranoid if you have to do the grocery or do important errands. I just have to be extra careful and follow the recommended safety precautions."

On what a typical day is like for him in quarantine. "A typical day for me during the quarantine is me being in front of my computer playing games…after my business and production meetings, of course."

On how his pets are doing. "I had to send [my two Bulldogs] over to Baguio, not just for the weather, but also so that they could run around and have more space to move. [As for the British Shorthaired cat I was planning to get], I ended up getting a Scottish Fold."

"The small wins I experienced throughout my own journey led me to my big win—being recognized as an artist passionate about the craft of acting." —Paulo Avelino

On the production status of Burado, ABS-CBN's star-studded action-drama series that was supposed to span multiple countries. "Burado is still pushing through with a different title and a new cast. We're currently taping the project under strict safety protocols."

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On what he thinks the new normal will be like for the entertainment industry in the months to come. "It's really hard to say. I'm still hoping for the best."

On how he handles negative comments on social media. "When you're new to social media, yes, somehow it affects you, but nowadays you just learn to scroll through them and just laugh about them. Do not seek validation on social media."

On overcoming hurdles since he started acting in 2006. "[I was able to overcome the lowest points in my life] by striving to learn and get better in my craft. Taking it seriously and focusing my mindset on my goals help me. Starting out young in showbusiness means you have to go through a lot of challenges and self-doubt especially if your big break hasn't come yet. I guess I realized it in hindsight pero the small wins I experienced throughout my own journey led me to my big win—being recognized as an artist passionate about the craft of acting."

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On being more than just an endorser for Avon. "I'm a very big supporter of Avon's advocacy to help its representatives become financially independent, especially in this time where the pandemic is making it hard for anyone to earn a living. I was fortunate to be tapped for a learning initiative Avon hosted for its representatives called Digital Divas. It's a three-week learning series where the representatives have been given access to the insight of industry experts and Avon executives to build their skills and help them adapt their businesses successfully online. I was there for the third module to encourage the reps on their journey of learning and improving their Avon business."

On what he tells people reaching out to him about mental health after he revealed his struggles with depression last year. "To be honest, I'm not an expert. As much as I want to help everyone, I don't know how. The best I could do is to guide them to proper channels and professionals who can assess and help."

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PRODUCED BY: Jacinda A. LopezIra Nopuente

ART DIRECTION: Mixi Ignacio

COORDINATION: Lou Ferrer

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