Sexy star Maricar de Mesa and Talk 'N Text forward center Don Allado were not even aware they were both public figures before they met. "I'd never heard of him," Maricar recalls, "and he didn't know I'm an artista."
Their first meeting in September 2002—at a dinner in a fancy restaurant, arranged by Don's uncle and Maricar's close friend—was uneventful. Don wasn't her type, and he was not attracted to Maricar.
But that meeting opened communication lines. Starting with text messages and phone conversations, the two were soon going out on dates and talking for hours about anything and everything under the sun.
"We both love to eat, so we went out for dinner three or four times a week," Maricar says, laughing. "Grabe, I gained six pounds the first month we were dating."
It was the basketball star's sweet and sensitive qualities that endeared him to the Nympha star and former That's Entertainment co-host.
"Si Don kasi, akala mo tough guy," she explains. "Siyempre, basketball player, ang laki ng katawan. Yong dating niya, lalaking-lalaki, pati kung gumalaw. Pero soft siya inside, and 'yong heart niya talaga, kind. One time nga, nagpadala siya ng flowers sa bahay namin. Yong living room namin, nagmukhang flower shop. He is sweet and very vocal about his feelings."
For three-and-a-half months, the 29-year-old, 6-foot-6 basketball player courted the 27-year-old, 5-foot-3 movie star. They became sweethearts on December 11, 2002.
One year into their relationship, Don told Maricar that he had bought a lot in Quezon City. "Then after a few months lang, pinapatayuan niya na ng house. Every step of the way, tinatanong niya ako how I wanted things done. Interior designer ko ang 'nilagay, architect ko ang pinagawa ng plano. After three years of being with him, I was telling myself, 'A, ito na. Siya na.'"
On March 28, 2006, Don formally proposed marriage to Maricar. Originally, he was planning to do it on national TV for all the world to see and hear. "But I decided," he would later explain, "that something like that, for me to ask somebody to be part of my life for the rest of her life, is something that should be between us and only us."
So he took her out to dinner at the Manila Peninsula hotel in Makati. Actually, Maricar reveals, she knew three weeks before that Manila Pen dinner that he was planning to pop the question. "Nabuking ko siya kasi nabasa ko 'yong message from a jeweler friend of mine on his cellphone. The message was: 'The ring is ready.' Galit na galit siya. Pakialamera daw ako sa hindi ko naman cellphone. Ha-ha!"
Maricar recalls that night when Don proposed: "I didn't know na noong gabi na 'yon niya na pala gagawin. So, pag-open ko ng eyes ko, nakaluhod na siya sa harapan ko holding the ring. Medyo dramatic, kasi talagang nakatitig siya sa akin, seryoso 'yong mukha niya.
'"Tapos, sabi niya, 'Will you marry me?' Serious talaga 'yong mukha niya. Ako naman, mixed emotions ang nararamdaman ko. Hindi ko alam kung nakatingin ba ako sa singsing o sa box na hawak niya. Or kung natatawa ba ako. Pero siya, tandang-tanda ko, seryosong-seryoso siya."
Her reply was emphatic: "Yes! Of course!"
So, four years after their first unexciting meeting, Don and Maricar were exchanging "I do's" in a church full of bouquets of white roses and almost 300 friends and relatives.
During the ceremony, the officiating priest, Father Armand Tangi, told the couple: "When you celebrate your silver or golden anniversary, then I'll say congratulations, because that means you've survived your trials and problems. But for now, I will say good luck."
Just the same, if anyone asks Don and Maricar who the lucky one is in this pairing, the two will have the same answer: "I am."