Favorite Things | Of men and motorcycles

It’s all about freedom, power, and looking like a superhero.


INTERVIEW  BRIAN M. AFUANG  |  PHOTOGRAPHY  KAI HUANG

It’s a loosely guarded secret in the motorcycle community — embarrassing but also too funny to keep — that many among its members own a bike (or bikes) unknown to close women kin. “You would not believe the number of grown men who hide motorcycles from their wife,” the head of the Philippine distributor of an Italian motorbike brand likes to say.

Jan Vincent P. Mercado

Such is the case of Jan Vincent P. Mercado, senior vice-president for operations of waste management in the family-controlled IPM Group of Companies and president of Foilacar Industries. Mr. Mercado managed to stash a bike away from the prying eyes of both his wife and his mother — but only for a few days. The two were out of the country at the time, and so Mr. Mercado deemed it as the perfect opportunity to purchase a motorcycle. After all, bikers are all too aware that rare is the wife (or mother) who approves, much less encourages, her spouse (or son) to take up motorcycling. Suffice it to say both Madam Mercados were “surprised” when they learned of the acquisition upon their return.

This happened around six years ago. Since then, what followed for Mr. Mercado was a whirlwind stint on two wheels over which time he progressed through a series of motorcycle types — from a 650cc standard to a full-on track bike. He managed to land in the roster of the most active premium sport bike club in the country, the members of which he helped persuade to compete in a national series under the banner of their own superbike racing team.

These days, Mr. Mercado has quit riding, having had to juggle corporate duties in IPM (which, among other businesses, handles the collection and disposal of waste in several cities in Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao; it also owns and operates Heritage Park in Taguig). His work in Foilacar adds to the load too as the company is responsible for “foiling” — essentially the use of vinyl stickers in lieu of doing traditional paint jobs — the majority of the country’s supercars, superbikes, executive jets and luxury-hotel fleet vehicles. Foilacar is expanding its services, introducing an innovative vinyl sticker that sprays on surfaces like regular paint. Mr. Mercado’s love for speedy stuff remains as strong, however, and so he still keeps a couple of bikes at home. Just in case…

Are you a bike guy who happens to love cars, or a car guy who happens to love bikes?

Definitely a bike guy who also loves cars. All right, it’s mostly cars these days, as I’ve found that the 911 Turbo S [a Porsche 991] is as exciting. And, of course, it’s a lot safer. But there is just something quite different about bikes. So even if I don’t ride anymore, I keep this [points to an Aprilia Tuono race bike that, along with a collection of helmets, serves as the centerpiece of his well-appointed man cave]. Oh, and I have a small Italjet scooter that I use once in a while to go around the village.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 and Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.

What is it about motorcycles that appeals to you?

It’s what every biker tells you; it’s the [sense of] freedom and power you get when you’re riding. You have to be totally focused and concentrated on what you’re doing, and so you don’t get to think about everything else, like work and problems. It’s also about the adrenaline rush. A sport bike is so powerful that you easily pass every car on the road. And when you’re all geared up, you really look good on a bike — like you’re a superhero.

Is there a connection between your passion for riding and your work ethic?

Yes. It’s the ability to completely focus on what should be done now, what should be done next. It’s about pushing yourself. Of course, it goes beyond just riding. Indulging in my love for bikes and cars also lets me meet people who share the same passion. And that’s good for Foilacar because these enthusiasts become our customers.

Of all the bikes you’ve owned, which one is the most special to you?

No contest, it’s the [Ducati] Panigale R. You can ride it fast without thinking about it — it does what you want it to do. It becomes an extension of you.