Aicelle Santos has learned a lot from her past relationships.
But here's the most valuable lesson love has taught her before becoming Mrs. Mark Zambrano: A man never changes for a relationship.
The GMA-7 singer-actress tells PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an exclusive interview before the wedding, "Siyempre may mga past relationships ka na hindi nag-work, pilit mo. Matigas ang ulo mo. Parang you compromise na, e. Bata ka pa kasi.
"'Hindi. Ipaglalaban ko ito kasi he's like this naman. He's like this.' Pero ang daming buts.
"'Pero kasi ganito siya.' 'But ganito siya.' 'No, he'll change for me.'
"It's never true. It's never true."
Hence, it is important to choose carefully.
And Aicelle says she realy took her time.
Aside from constantly including "the one" in her prayers, she also came up with a very detailed checklist.
Aicelle recalls, "Parang, 'Lord, gusto ko iyong ibibigay mo sa akin, gusto ko iyong perfect siya para sa akin dahil binigay Mo. Pero Lord, ito sana...'
"Because alam ni Lord, ready na iyong heart ko, e, na parang alam ko sa sarili ko malaki ako magmahal. I just need that right person na pagbibigyan.
"Kasi lagi, when you give so much, kapag mali iyong tao, hindi siya nagwo-work. Ending, nauubos ka."
That checklist was finalized four years before meeting Mark.
"Nasa prayer ko lang siya na, 'Lord, hindi ako nagmamadali. Whenever he's ready for me.'"
MARK BEFORE MEETING AICELLE
While Aicelle was in a waiting mode, Mark was in a "jaded na jaded" state.
In the same exclusive interview with PEP.ph, the sportscaster reveals that he was then resigned to the idea of growing old alone.
"Kasi pinaghahandaan ko na iyong 'single for life.' As in, kuha na ako ng condo na mag-isa ako. Sinasabi ko sa mom ko hindi ako mag-aasawa. Ganoon na."
But his mother, Mrs. Beng Zambrano, always dismissed it.
"Sabi nga ng mom ko, e, nung time na sinasabi ko sa kanya, 'Mom, single na lang ako.' Hindi daw siya naniniwala.
"Kaya ako, never ko na-remember na sinabihan niya ako, 'Okay lang iyan, anak.' Every time I say that, tatahimik siya."
He had been single for four long years before he making the first move to contact Aicelle in 2016.
AICELLE: "UY, NAKA-COLLAR"
The singer and the sportscaster crossed paths when the latter was still a GMA News reporter.
Mark took a chance to get Aicelle's attention by sending her a direct message on Instagram.
Though he got a reply from her a month later, he saw this as an opening to ask her out on a date.
On their first date, Aicelle recalls quickly ticking off items from her checklist.
"As simple as sabi ko, 'Gusto ko palagi siyang naka-collar.' Sobrang detalyado! Ibig sabihin meron siyang 9-to-5 job...
"'Tapos nung unang meeting namin, 'Ting!' Naka-collar siya!
"'Tapos sabi ko, 'Lord, gusto ko panganay.' Kasi panganay din ako.
"Ayoko ng middle child or bunso kasi feeling ko maghahanap lang ako ng lalaking aalagaan ko.
"Gusto ko yung mararanasan ko na aalagaan ako bilang babae. So ganun, little things like that...
"Long list iyan, 'tapos check lahat.
"Sabi ko, 'Okay, Lord, kung siya na, okay.'"
Two weeks after, they became a couple.
Fast forward to March 2018, Aicelle bagged the role of Gigi Van Tranh in the UK production of Miss Saigon.
But 15 days before leaving for London, Mark proposed to her at Seda Vertis North hotel.
Among the happiest people that evening was Mommy Beng.
Mark recounts their conversation, "...nung nagpro-propose na ako, that night after that, sabi niya [mom] sa akin, 'Alam mo, Anak, di ako naniwala nung sinabi mo sa akin kasi hindi ko matanggap na hindi mag-aasawa panganay ko.'
"Sabi ng mom ko, 'I know how much love you are capable of giving, and alam ko gagawa ng paraan ang Diyos. Hindi puwede ikaw lang. Kailangan i-share mo iyan.'"
MARK: "first thing on your mind, siya..."
And how did he know Aicelle was the one?
He says, "Sa akin kasi, pagkagising mo, 'tapos naiisip mo iyong bagay-bagay, first thing on your mind, siya, every morning. Sign na sa akin iyon, e."
Aicelle affirms, "Mula nung nagkakilala kami hanggang ngayon, every day ako may 'Good morning' text.
"'Good morning, mahal.' Automatic iyon. Naiisip niya talaga ako pagkagising niya."
Aicelle and Mark got married on November 16, 2019, in a garden wedding ceremony at El Jardin de Zaida in San Juan, Batangas.