News of sexy actress Joyce Jimenez's marriage to Fil-Am boyfriend Paul Ely Egbalic in California came as a surprise to many, but Joyce says it was neither hurried nor something she wanted to hide from the world.
"It's not that I really don't want to talk about my personal life," she tells YES! "Alam ko naman I'm in show business. Pero minsan, it's nice to have something for yourself, di ba? And I guess you know, I just didn't think it was newsworthy enough to talk about."
But the wedding actually was newsworthy, and so is their funny love story.
The two first met in 2005, during the Christmas season. Joyce—born to migrant Filipino parents Joyce Herrín Reintegrado in Los Angeles, California —had gone to San Diego on vacation, to visit her brother. While there, she went over to the house of her friend, Leah Caguimbaga, for a sleepover. Ely happened to be there, too. He was visiting his sister Melissa, who lives in the same house.
As far as first impressions go, Ely didn't make a good one on Joyce.
"We were together for the next two or three days," she recalls. "Kasi our families are, like, very close. And we're very competitive, so we played board games, and he was just making me asar the whole time.
"Then 'yong pinaka for me was the last time we were hanging out. He was gonna go meet up with his cousins or something, and so, like, I wouldn't see him anymore. All the friends were there, even my brother. So, ito na, beso-beso, and then hug sa lahat. 'Tapos, wala! He just turns away from me.
"Ang bastos! Sobrang bastos! And ako, hindi ko kayang pigilan 'yong sarili ko. Sabi ko, 'Okay, don't even say bye!' And he turns around, and he gives me a peace sign. I was, like, 'Oh my God! This guy is the most bastos person in the world!'"
In his defense, Ely tells his version of the story.
"When I met her for the first time, she was beautiful, even in her purple pajamas, and I guess I had a little crush on her. But I didn't want to show it, so I was constantly being mean to her. She really didn't like me. I was a jerk to her the last time we were hanging out. That was like the nail in the coffin for her to hate me. But for the record"—he adds with a laugh—"she's the one who called me first."
"I drunk-dialed him, and that's how it started," Joyce admits.
That was in April 2006, when Joyce was already in Australia, working for her marketing degree from Griffith University in Gold Coast City, Queensland. Ely was then stationed in Osan, Korea, as a maintenance officer in the United States Air Force. The two had a "long-distance phone relationship," which eventually developed into something more serious and real.
"Obviously, we had chemistry on the phone," says Joyce. "But we were afraid that, what if the chemistry's not there when we're together, just like the first time we saw each other? But when I visited him in Korea around June , it just felt right. We didn't feel, like, weird."
It was also Christmas when Ely proposed. His original plan was to give her a customized Christmas ornament bought online, which said, "Joyce, will you marry me?" But Joyce accidentally saw his email transactions, spoiling the surprise for the both of them.
"So I had to switch to Plan B," Ely says. "Christmas day, I had a family gathering, and we had carolers come to the house, and then they were singing 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.' They switched up the lines to say, 'On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... one diamond ring,' and when they sang that part, that's when I proposed to her."
Ely presented the ring to the genuinely surprised Joyce, who started giggling. Then she gave him a sweet hug and a kiss—her way of saying yes.