Carla Dunareanu stepped out of the entrance of the hip 7th High bar at the Bonifacio High Street, where she will be hosting a hip hop dance competition that evening. In red and black, the fair-skinned, almond-eyed beauty looked ravishing, intimidating even. The moment she broke into a sweet smile, however, extended her arm for a handshake and said hello, Carla radiated warmth. Suddenly the stunner felt like somebody one could easily talk to.
It was late last year when she was first introduced in Philippine showbiz. The Romanian-Chinese dancer-turned actress was among the multi-racial cast members of the hit Singaporean television-musical series, The Kitchen Musical, which also starred Filipino artists Christian Bautista and Karylle.
Later, Carla would be revealed as the girl that heartthrob balladeer Christian had been dating for the past months. As shattering as it might have been for the singer’s fans from all over South East Asia, Christian has finally found the lucky one for whom to sing his romantic songs.
The cosmopolitan Carla who grew up in Germany, lived in Australia, and eventually settled in Singapore, had no clue, of course, that she would be the envy of girls who fell in love with Christian and his music.
Half-embarrassed, half-amused, the 23-year-old admitted how oblivious she was about Christian and his strong following in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
“To be honest? I didn’t know who he was!”
She was only told by their Kitchen Musical director Chee Kong Cheah or CheeK, back when they were about to start working on the drama series, that “stars from the Philippines, mainly Karylle, Christian, and Art Acuña, who’s a theater actor” were joining them.
“So, I had to go home and Google them!” chuckled Carla.
She recalled the first time she met the balladeer— “I felt so bad because…. I … had no idea.”
Although the 30-year-old singer took no offense, Carla apologized profusely.
Now she laughs off the memory of how she and her boyfriend began.
“It was so funny when I Googled him and I realized that he was very popular here in the Philippines... I really didn’t know and maybe I lived under a rock or something!”
Carla would like to think that being unaware of Christian’s superstar status prior to their courtship is a good thing.
“I think a lot of the time when people meet someone that they idolize or they’ve known about, they get nervous and they can’t really be themselves around them.
“So, it was really nice getting to know him as a cast mate first.”
It was great as well that while underdoing the Kitchen Musical’s dance and rehearsals and boot camp, the cast members treated each other as equals.
“No one was on a higher status at all,” said Carla.
ADJUSTMENT. Christian courted Carla for about four months.
Smiling, she was reminded about how “strange” it felt whenever they would go out on a date and people would recognize the singer.
“It’s very new to me because I come from a very simple background, you know?”
Seeing people run up to the person she was dating and say that they want his autograph and have his picture taken with them sans her in the frame, was definitely something Carla had to adjust to.
She understood and accepted that the moment she started seeing Christian.
“He can be so dedicated to his fans because it is all about the fans.
“How much love he has for them has really made me respect him even more as a person,” said Carla endearingly.
CHRISTIAN BAUTISTA AS A BOYFRIEND. Christian and Carla have been a couple for more than half a year now.
Asked how they are as lovers, she said, “It’s like any relationship. I think people may have this grand idea of our relationship but it’s really… it’s like everyone else’s.”
Theirs is defined by the time and effort they put in their relationship.
“You have to go out of your way to see the person, to surprise the person, or to send them a nice ‘Good Morning’ message or a ‘Good night’ message.
“Just like any two people who are in love would do for each other. It’s the same. It’s just that cameras follow him,” observed Carla.
Describing her boyfriend, she said, “He’s so loving. Not just for me, but for his family, for my family. When he sees my family, he’s all about them, it’s never about him.
“He’s very considerate. He would always check with me if things are okay.”
According to Carla, she and Christian have never gone into an argument.
She added, “We’ve known each other for one year. I think he [has] all the qualities that I have. He balances me so well and I think that’s why we’ve never fought.”
Does the balladeer sing to her during their private moments together?
Beaming, Carla told, “The first time I asked him to, he was really shy! He couldn’t do it!
“I think it’s different when you serenade a big group of people than when you try to sing to your other half.
“I’m sure it’s a lot more pressure and all that but he’s done it a few times!
“And it’s always really sweet.”
Carla loves making Christian sing the songs of American boyband BoyzIIMen.
“It’s like we’ve seen him do all the balladeer-ing kind of stuff. So, I always ask him to sing different kinds of songs since I hear that already. He’s got a soulful voice and it’s just so… nice!”
DJ CARLA. After her stint in The Kitchen Musical, Carla was fortunate to have been given a disc jockey post in radio station Magic 89.9. For five months now, she has been hosting On Demand with sports news anchor and disc jockey Boom Gonzalez.
Her eyes twinkled once she began talking about it.
“Oh my goodness, it’s so much fun, you know? It’s probably everything people think a DJ does— we sit in the booth!
She gleefully added, “I have a great relationship with my on-air partner, Boom Gonzalez, who’s a great friend of mine as well, not just on the air.
“And it’s like a family. You know, the boss makes sure you’re okay. Everyone goes to lunch together.”
According to Carla, everyone in her workplace is thoughtful enough to ask ‘Hey are you okay?,’ ‘Do you need anything?,’ ‘I’ll give you a ride, are you cool?’ every single time.
After four months on probation, Carla officially became Magic’s DJ on September 25. Her hosting gigs have been coming along well since.
Noteworthy is DJ Carla’s acting stint in the upcoming Regal Films drama, The Bride, The Lover, which she is currently shooting with lead actresses Jennylyn Mercado and Lovi Poe.
The experience, said Carla, is truly humbling.
“It’s teaching me a lot about Philippine showbiz, the etiquette that goes on here. And every country has different language, so to speak, when it comes to the industry.
“So, I really feel like I’m going back to basics. I’m learning everything from scratch. But it’s very nice.
“I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity only being here for two months I was given a project which is amazing.”
She said she is grateful to the people who are managing her, namely GRowL Entertainment and Talent Managing Agency, Leo Dominguez, Girlie Rodis, and Roselle Monteverde.
“I mean, who would have thought?" Carla exclaimed.
LOVING THE PHILIPPINES. Carla’s pretty face is accentuated by her charming accent. It turns out that it was brought about by her moving a lot from one country to another.
She explained, “I went to Australia for three years. When I went to Australia I couldn’t speak much English and I had a really stiff German accent.
“It was so funny. I was known as the weird girl with this foreign accent. But then, of course, I picked up the Australian accent, being there. Being a child, you pick up things so quickly.
“And then when I moved to Singapore, I picked up the Singaporean accent!”
Yes, Carla said, it does confuse her.
She said further, “I like to travel... It’s always fun to see the world. And it’s great because I have relatives everywhere. It’s so cheap when I travel, I just stay with them!”
Having lived in the Philippines for almost a year now, Carla said she is fitting in just fine. What she loves most about the country is “the warmth.”
“Not about the temperature. Well that, also!” she quipped.
“But the people! I think, out of all the countries that I’ve been to, the Filipinos have by far been the warmest people even though they don’t know you.
“They’ll always say ‘Good Morning!’ They’re always like, ‘Hey, kamusta?’
“It’s so nice to wake up to that and to work in an environment like that, when you don’t dread going to work. When you don’t dread taking a taxi. It’s amazing!”
She suddenly spoke softly, “But, you know, I have to give big credit to Christian and his family for that.”
With much appreciation in her tone, she stated, “I would not have adjusted or integrated, no way, half as near or as easily as I did without them around. It’s the first time I’ve moved away from my family in Singapore and his Mom and his Dad took me in.
“They were like, ‘Hey you know, if Christian’s out of town and if you have nothing to do, you should come by the family’s house and stay here. At least you’ll have someone to be around [with].’
“They’re just the sweetest people you would ever meet. And I just feel so fortunate to be a part of that now.”
PROUD OF CHRISTIAN. In one interview, Christian expressed how Carla has brought in “extra inspiration” and a different “glow” about him. The balladeer also mentioned that his girlfriend “brings so much happiness” to him. (CLICK HERE to read related story)
Certainly, what they have is real as Carla spoke of Christian, “I don’t think words can describe how proud I am of his achievements over the years and especially coming to his tenth year and how successful he still is and how relevant.
“I think it just goes to show that he’s still so down to earth and still so rooted to his family… it’s really rare to find someone with that much balance in their career and in their personal life.”