They belong to two different worlds. She's from a prominent showbiz family. He's in sports. And yet, something between Danica Anna Sotto and Jean Marc Pingris Jr. clicked.
Love came when they least expected it. Danica was getting over a difficult breakup. Marc was still nursing a broken heart after the end of a two-year relationship.
In the beginning. It all started in a gym. The two happened to have the same fitness trainor, who apparently decided to play Cupid. One day he told Marc, pointing to a pretty lady across the room: "Nakita mo 'yon? Ako'ng nagte-train diyan." The trainor identified her as Vic Sotto's daughter.
Marc had never heard of Danica Sotto, but he conceded: "Oo, maganda siya."
"Sabi no'ng trainor namin, hinihingi ni Marc 'yong number ko," Danica recalls. "'Yon pala, ibinigay na niya."
From the day the hardcourt heartthrob got her number, he began to text her regularly. "No'ng may sakit ako, nagte-text siya: ‘Balita ko may sakit ka daw. Pagaling ka.' Feeling close!" Danica says with a laugh.
Somehow, Marc found the way to Danica's heart. After months of exchanging text messages, she agreed to go out with him—but there was a catch.
"Pumayag na akong mag-coffee-coffee," she says, "pero lagi akong may kasamang friends. Lalabas kami, pero laging may kasamang iba, never na kaming dalawa lang!"
Marc says he had no problem with the chaperoned dates: "Sinabi ko din naman sa kanya na isama niya 'yong friends niya, kasi baka madiyaryo pa siya. Ayoko din naman ng gano'n."
"May time nga na nag-invite siya mag-lunch," Danica recounts. "Sabi ko, ‘Okey, pero magla-lunch na kami ni Mommy ko.'"
Mommy, of course, is the formidable Ms. D—actress Dina Bonnevie. But Marc was not intimidated. "Sige, sunod ako," he said.
"So doon ko naisip na sincere itong taong ito," Danica now says. "Kasi, di siya takot ma-meet si Mommy."
Bonding. What touched Danica the most was when Marc, a non-practicing Catholic, decided to attend church services with the Victory Christian Fellowship, of which she's an active member. Danica saw this as a positive sign.
DANICA: "Tinanong niya 'ko, what time daw 'yong church on Sunday. Pero hindi niya 'ko tinanong anong oras ako nagchu-church. Hindi siya sasabay. Siya lang ang a-attend. Hindi ko din alam na secretly, e, mini-meet niya na pala 'yong pastor namin. Pinupuntahan niya sa bahay."
MARC: “Pinapag-pray ko na kasi siya no’ng time na ’yon. Siyempre, ayoko na din na masaktan, kaya sabi ko, kung hindi siya makakatuluyan ko, sana maging friends na lang kami.”
DANICA: “Pareho na pala kami ng pinapag-pray no’n. Sabi ko pa nga, kung di ito seryoso, okey lang. Maging friends na lang sana kami.”
Not long after these individual prayer sessions, Marc and Danica realized they were each other’s missing piece. Not wasting time, he took his girlfriend to meet his mother. To his surprise and delight, the two instantly bonded—so different from the way his mom reacted to his previous girlfriends.
MARC: “No’ng dinala ko siya sa bahay namin sa Las Piñas, ’pinagluto siya ng Mommy ko. No’ng nasa kusina si Mommy, sabi niya, ‘Mommy, ano’ng ginagawa n’yo diyan?’ Mommy na agad ang tawag niya. Chikahan sila nang chikahan. Sabi ko, ‘Ano ba ’to, ang tagal matapos ng chikahan!’”
For his part, Marc knew he needed to be on his best behavior with the Sottos, a close-knit clan that zealously protects its members.
MARC: “Kaya nga hindi ka gagawa ng masama, kasi Sotto ’yan, e. Pero hindi ko naman talaga lolokohin si Danica. Mahal ko ’yan, e. Bakit ko sasaktan, di ba?”
Reconciliation. What made Marc love Danica even more was when she went out of her way to look for his biological father. Marc’s father, a Frenchman, had left him and his mother when he was just an infant, and throughout his life Marc had feelings of resentment and anger that he could not overcome.
DANICA: “Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Kailangang mawala ’yang galit sa puso mo, kasi madadala mo ’yan sa sarili mong pamilya. Kailangan matuto kang mag-forgive.’”
MARC: “Sa lahat ng naging girlfriends ko, siya lang talaga ang nakaisip na hanapin ang daddy ko. Ang galing talaga.”
With the help of the Internet, Danica managed to track down Marc Pingris Sr., then living in Normandy, France, and she succeeded in effecting a tearful reconciliation between father and son.
It was then that Marc and Danica finally decided to tie the knot.
“Hindi lang ako ang mahal niya,” Danica says. “Mahal niya din ang pamilya ko, pati mga friends ko, ’yong mga taong nakapaligid sa akin.”
“Nakita ko kung gaano siya kabait na tao, at alam ko na magiging mabuti siyang asawa at ina,” Marc says. “Alam kong siya na talaga.”