A doctor who meets the love of her life during an elite special forces mission. A prisoner trapped in a system rife with corruption and poverty. Every day, Jennylyn Mercado and Dennis Trillo immerse themselves in their respective roles (Descendants of the Sun's Philippine adaptation, Erik Matti's On the Job 2), taking on the inner lives of characters so far from their own...and then they find home in one another, the doctor's coat hung up, the caked-on dirt from gritty scenes washed away. Today, though, they get to be themselves: Jennylyn at ease as she rests her arms around Dennis, her head resting perfectly against the crook of his neck. Dennis shifts his focus from the camera and tilts his head towards hers. They look at each other with such warmth that everyone in the studio feels like they've intruded on a rendezvous between two young lovers. "Gusto namin mas tahimik. Mas masaya, peaceful," Dennis shares, when asked about how they'd describe their relationship. "At lagi kaming nagtutulungan."
Jennylyn Mercado and Dennis Trillo are living proof that second chances can be worth it. And now, they're celebrating their love with a concert for the ages. CoLove Live, happening on February 15, 2020 at the New Frontier Theater, is an homage to the great love songs of the '80s and '90s—the couple's favorite decades for music. The concept is inspired by their ongoing YouTube series of the same name, where the two croon hits like Barbra Streisand's "Finally Found Someone" (which, by the way, has garnered the couple two million hits). Expectedly, they will be collaborating with fellow artists: The likes of Alden Richards, Carlo Aquino, Alex Gonzaga, and Janno Gibbs will be onstage with them.
On having modern families: "Hindi namin ili-limit yung love na puwedeng ibigay sa pamilya dahil komplikado siya." —Dennis
But this isn't just any Valentine's concert—Jennylyn and Dennis vow to take their audience through the not-so-great parts of love, too. "Naramdaman namin na mas magiging maganda yung show kung hindi lang siya basta kantahan. Para siyang play na may iba-ibang acts," explains Dennis. "Dito kasi, naka-pattern siya sa love story ng lahat ng tao. 'Di ba ang love story, hindi naman siya laging masaya? Gusto naming ipakita yung journey," continues Jennylyn. The concert resembles a three-act play mirroring the three stages of love: the initial infatuation, the inevitable conflict, and the much-awaited resolution.
More than a fun Valentine's date idea, the concert is a learning experience. "Hindi lang sila basta manonood. At some point doon sa show, siguradong meron isang act doon na makaka-relate sila. May mapupulot silang aral na mauuwi nila sa kanilang mga relasyon," says Jennylyn.
The couple is no doubt inspired by their own relationship journey, which has come with more than its fair share of ups and downs. They successfully co-parent their two sons (Calix Andreas and Alex Jazz) from previous relationships. The secret, no surprise here, is love: "Hindi namin ili-limit yung love na puwedeng ibigay sa pamilya dahil komplikado siya," Dennis explains. "Ngayon, marami nang iba't-ibang klase na modern families. Hindi mo puwedeng i-edit yung love na puwede mong ibigay."
Their unconditional love extends to their family of pets as well. Jen and Den are known animal lovers, and together they share over 10 cats and dogs. "Para sa amin, hindi sila laruan lang. Babies sila e. Through them, mas na-develop namin yung love for animals in general, not just those that can be pets." They're opening a cat cafe in Maginhawa called LitterBucks—"litter" as in a group of cats, "bucks" like the famous café—by the end of this month, so you can meet their furry friends in person.
On how they handle fights: "Kapag may galit na, kailangan may magpapalamig muna. Mahirap kasi yung maguusap kayo na mataas pa ang emotions niyo pareho." —Jennylyn
Circling back to second chances: Jen and Den broke up for the first time in 2011, then reunited in 2015 and have been inseparable ever since. The question on most people's minds is, what makes them a stronger couple the second time around? According to a world-famous study by the University of Washington, the secret to love is kindness—and the two can't help but be kind. "Kapag may galit na, kailangan may magpapalamig muna. Mahirap kasi yung maguusap kayo na mataas pa ang emotions niyo pareho. 'Pag kalmado na, doon kayo magusap," advises Jennylyn. "Kailangan may isang magpapakumbaba. Hindi puwede magsabay," adds Dennis. Both speak from five years of hard-earned relationship experience.
"Noon, para kaming mga bata, e. Kung magaway kami, talagang maya't maya, kahit ano lang maisip namin, pagaawayan na," Jen recalls. "Ngayon—"
"Nagiba na yung priorities namin ngayon," Dennis interjects. "Naging mahalaga sa amin yung ginagawa ng bawa't isa. Pareho naming sinusuportahan 'yon. Kaya siguro ganito pa rin kami hanggang ngayon."
As Dennis finishes her sentence (the hallmark of any fairytale couple), Jen shoots him a loving glance from her makeup chair. Den glances back and takes her hand in his, then turns back to continue speaking, stroking the back of her hand assuringly with his thumb. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, a secret language only two lovers understand. And we're hoping Jen and Den's collaboration is one that lasts forever.
PRODUCED BY: Lily Tabanera
CO-PRODUCED BY: Jacinda A. Lopez
PHOTOGRAPHY AND ART DIRECTION: Jico Joson
ART DIRECTION ASSISTED BY: Mixi Ignacio
SHOOT COORDINATOR: Lou Ferrer
SOCIAL MEDIA: Lou Ferrer
SITTINGS EDITOR: Jacinda A. Lopez
HAIR: Jhoan Soria
MAKEUP: Denise Ochoa
HAIR: Jhoan Soria
MAKEUP: Rick Calderon