Smart Parenting July 2023 Cover: Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio
"It’s all in the mind," Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio, mother of two, content creator, Smart Parenting Editor-at-Large, motivational speaker, and actress, reflects on how to push one's fitness journey and keep at it with such dogged determination.
Last year, the sweet-faced girl who charmed the public in the late 90s to the early 2000s, virtually leaped into our lives with videos of her on social media doing jump rope workouts. Jumping rope became among the inescapable fitness trends of the lockdown.
Her workout sessions coupled with real talk on motherhood, fitness, and life in general had gone viral. For a minute, the public would pause and ask, "That's her now?!"
The answer, of course, is yes! That's Rica, a genuine fitspo at age 41—looking so amazingly fit and naturally glowing. The last time the public saw her on screen was when she was only 25 years old. She walked away from the glitzy world of showbiz for a more stable and quiet private life. Despite her fame and thriving career, Rica quit because she was searching for something more profound.
At 31, when her shelved showbiz career would have been at its peak, Rica finished her AB English Literature at the Ateneo de Manila University.
'I love that my followers do not always agree with all that I say but can receive me anyway. I love open minded people like that. And I love learning from them, too!' —Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio on her online following
Presently, she has been in the US with her husband, Joseph "Joe" Bonifacio, and their sons Philip and Manu since June this year. During the first phase of the pandemic in 2020, Rica and her family were stranded in the US for six months. So, now, the Bonifacios are really treating this visit with adventures for the boys.
It's a lovely summer in California and the family has checked out Hollywood Boulevard, museums, bookstores, and food truck eats. Her morning routine, however, hasn't changed. It always starts with jumping and core workouts. Rica has also downloaded Downdog and Nike Training apps to support her regular exercise sessions. She has also added strength training and mobility exercises.
Journey to healing
Rica says motherhood changed her in many ways, including being moved to exercise daily and to eat clean.
"I miscarried twice before my second born came along and because I am suspected to have developed an autoimmune condition, which appears during pregnancy, I was advised to eat clean and avoid inflammatory food."
Rica reconnected with nutrition coach and food educator Harvie de Baron and his wife Eizza. Harvie is the proponent of the Baron Method, which advocates the "transformational power of food as healer." The Baron Method is based on the principle of what one eats and how one consumes it are the keys to good health. Those who are into the program are encouraged to read food labels, the best way to prepare foods as well as provide clients with a personalized plan that suits their body's needs.
'Confidence in yourself because of God’s confidence in you is the key. To know you are loved is always life-changing.' —Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio
Harvie himself had an autoimmune disease and eating healthy was a great part of his recovery. She says, "I followed their protocol and it then led me to reconfigure my taste buds. From there on, I enjoyed eating more and eating healthy at that."
The gift of eating healthy she joyfully shares is that, "My second born (Manu) got to live! He made it! So this is why I am so encouraged about how a good diet really is crucial to our health and healing."
Since her pregnancy scare, Rica says she eats "simple food," which consists of whole food. "Rice instead of bread. I go gluten-free for the most part. But I cheat when it’s worth cheating for! Like tacos or birria here in the US. And burgers, too!
"At home, our meals are usually just a whole lot of clean meat and rice, and fruits for dessert. I need to add more veggies in there, though. Right now, my kids only eat broccoli, carrots, and a whole lot of herbs."
Rica and Joseph celebrated 13 years of their marital union this year. On her Instagram posts, it's easy to see the deep, uncomplicated love that the couple share. Joseph, a pastor, supports Rica in all aspects of her fitness pursuits. On their podcast Anything Goes with The Bonis, the ease of their relationship that is palpable in their banter is well enjoyed by their listeners.
She says, "He is very athletic and strong so it—the energy—definitely came from him. He was the one who started jumping in our garage during the pandemic and I only decided to try it out of boredom. I was merely watching him when I said maybe I can try it. From that point on, I was hooked and to this day, it is my most favorite form of exercise."
'I learned athleticism at 40, can you believe that? I am so encouraged that fitness knows no age and that helps us in the aging process!' —Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio
On her socials, her chill and no-fuss way of engagement has earned her 600,000 plus followers on TikTok and a million on Instagram. Her followers are diverse—from her showbiz fan base, mothers with small kids, parents with young families, to jumping rope aficionados—and it's a community that Rica enjoys interacting with. "Who on earth is worthy of that adulation, right? Certainly, also not me. So when this age came and community became a thing and people looked at you not for how you look but your values, it’s totally amazing.
"I even love that my followers do not always agree with all that I say but can receive me anyway. I love open minded people like that. And I love learning from them, too!"
Keeping the faith
But Rica's fitness journey became her healing. Her deep spirituality also became an important factor in achieving wellness.
"Confidence in yourself because of God’s confidence in you is the key," Rica surmises, "To know you are loved is always life-changing."
Up next in her fitness bucket list are wall climbing "and to join obstacle course races."
Clearly, there's no stopping this healthy mama: "I learned athleticism at 40, can you believe that? I am so encouraged that fitness knows no age and that helps us in the aging process!
"But also, aging is real. I already encountered a progesterone problem recently and is perhaps part of entering my 40s. I just know I am not in my 20s or 30s anymore and that I am specifically a woman who didn’t really invest in fitness during her younger years so it could be harder for me than those who have been doing this all their life. But it also doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
"To this day I continue to surprise myself with what my body can do. That it can still get stronger, and it can actually heal, is a wonder to me every day."
Sittings Editor: Cherrie Julian
Art Direction by Stephanie Ocampo
Photographer: Mari Paola Aseron Dacanay
HMUA: Muriel Vega Perez and Team MVP
Stylist: Debra Bernales
Videographers: Jino Del Mundo and Jez Villapando
Editor: Rolando Pingco, Jr.
Rica's clothes by Athleisure from Millennx and lunch boxes from Saja Bento Lunchbox