This 51-year old businesswoman and youthful mother of four athletes has totally embraced a sporty life as a swimming instructor but still finds her way delving into other energetic activities.

“In short, I am a jack of all sports,” quips Bernardita “Bern” Wuthrich.

She shares her zeal on testing the waters but as you read along you will get to know how she manages more than just the splashes and waves in sports. Further, you will learn more from her the lessons that sports teach us about life.

Growing Up with Swimming

“Since I was a small kid, I already loved to go to beaches, and go swimming. In high school, I had my classmate as my first swim student. I’d teach her how to swim and she would bring me food stuffs or merienda. It was fun and it kept on going till we graduated. In college, I still go out for swim even during breaks from class,” she recalls.

After school, Bern just can’t give up her love for the water sport.

“Married life didn’t stop my passion for swimming. It became a bit serious when I had kids of my own and I wanted them to be free of any fear of water or drowning. I taught them to swim at a very young age,” she continues.

Her Mom and a Grandma also wanted Bern to teach nieces and nephews to swim and that was the start of her long teaching stint at Amigo Swim Club.

Her fascination with waters has also gone all the way to the treasures underneath because “I love to go fishing and I have been hooked with it since I was a kid.”

And aside from the splash, Bern would go riding the longboard and she’s really trying hard to get better with it. She misses playing basketball, too.

So how does swimming fare among Ilonggos?

“Swimming is getting popular since it is now being offered in most schools. For them, it is a must that kids learn the sport before graduating from their course.

As a matter of fact, we have many good swimmers here and it is just a matter of support and encouragement from us for them to let them shine,” Bern enthuses.

Not just Learning but Surviving

Learning to swim is fun and you must be relaxed in order to float and maneuver the four basic strokes – the freestyle or crawl, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly, she advises.

“Swimming is easy and relaxing when you do it correctly. It becomes an enjoyable pastime when you get to do lappings already and give yourself goals to reach like how many meters or laps,” Bern notes.

“With swimming, you learn survival techniques too, like the freestyle, breaststroke, and backstrokes. The butterfly is more on the exhibition stroke,” she adds.

Staying Fit without Sweating it Out

“The thrill with swimming is you stay fit from head to foot – you exercise the whole body without sweating it out!” she exclaims.

“I feel fit and good about myself. I use Psychology as an approach in my class. Since I am also handling special kids, I get to interact with babies, kids and adults of different ages, personalities and characters – I am the one learning so much from them,” Bern says.

A Rewarding Feeling

“Seeing them all learning from scratch and letting go of their fear and blossoming into good swimmers is more than anything in this world. The feeling is exhilarating, overwhelming, and rewarding,” she stresses.

It is thrilling for Bern “not knowing how they would turn out being under my tutelage since you handle each individually, not counting the challenge you face each day you meet with them… It feels great!”

“Whenever my students overcome their fears and for some win medals, those are moments wherein my hard work has paid off. There were many times that we were looked down upon since we have the smallest pool here in Iloilo,” she says.

Bern considered 2001 as most memorable year for Amigo Swim Club because her 14 students (ages 5–14) won 27 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze medals in an event organized at Sports Complex by Ms. Maila Gumila.

They competed against many swim clubs including those from Bacolod. “We proved then that the size of the pool is not a basis for making great swimmers. For when you have the heart to win, you can do it,” Bern asserts.

Sports All in the Family

So how does Bern manage time with her family while enjoying swimming?

“When I love and enjoy what I am doing, I always take into consideration my family. I arrange my time and I share with them my passion for swim. My kids also assist me in teaching and they handle their own students, too.

When I go fishing or whatever sports, I bring them with me. That way, we share the moments together and I don’t have to worry about time management. After our swim, we attend to our shop till the next schedule,” Bern says.

“I am also into their sports. My kids grew up with full support from us during their Taekwondo competing days. They know that whatever sports they will venture into, we will always be there.

When they were hooked into climbing, I had to find out what’s in climbing, and yes, I got hooked too. For now, we support them in their longboarding and find time to be with them,” she adds.

Through her love for swim, Bern’s family got to meet new friends who also love to go extreme water sports skimboarding, sailing and kayaking or just lazing around.

“I used to go waterskiing during my high school days and I wish we have that sport here so many kids and others too can experience the adrenaline rush, and of course, the fun.”  

Not a Guy Thing

Gone maybe are the days when sports are commonly associated with man’s avenue.

“I think Ilonggas should forget about the mentality that sports is a ‘man’s thing’ – that we cannot shine like them, but we should prove that wrong,” Bern affirms.

“In my 20’s, I was into car racing also. I won six times and got the pot money. I had so much fun and I was treated by the guys like a princess, while at the same time, I was just like one of the guys. I enjoyed and if given the chance, I’d still do it again,” she says. 

Like Mother, Like Daughters

“My two girls are into the same things with the guys and it’s cool, you know. It is actually fun doing what guys can do. Just because we are women does not mean we should not try doing what men can,” Bern enthuses.

“And for the record, we have many Ilonggas who are shining doing ‘men’s things.’ Give yourself a chance to try new stuffs that men can do and you will have so much fun. Who knows, you might be better than them,” she says.

Words of Wisdom

Bern also wants to think like Mark Twain: “Keep away from people who belittle our ambitions. Small people usually do that. But the really great make you feel you too, can become great.”

“When people put you down and you feel hurt, relax and just better yourself. Show them what you’ve got. For when you excel, you feel happy. That’s the best revenge. Show them what they don’t have. And I am not talking of material things – but achievements, skills, talents, and feeling good,” states Bern.

This word of wisdom has made Bern “face up to many challenges in my life, and this has been applicable to us in the family.”

Sports Keep Emotions at Bay

“Sports are a good outlet for all emotions. When I hear some criticisms, whether it is my kids or students involved or me personally, I always tell them to better themselves and hone their skills,” Bern says.

“We’d rather garner more medals and achievements than gather headaches not worth our time. Positivity – not negativity, and to top everything – prayers and faith. I believe that everything is possible with Him,” she says.

Sports are Cool

“Being into sports is cool. It helps you unwind from all the stress we encounter every day. Above all, being into sports is good for our health. Have fun and stay healthy!” Bern exclaims.

And it gives us the opportunity to meet new friends, go to places and even learn many things about other people, she adds. 

(This story first appeared in Mezzo Magazine March-April 2011)