Maria Christina Stephanie Ayson had managed to stay out of the limelight, despite the fact that she was in a relationship with AJ Perez for the past one-and-a-half years.
This anonymity was broken only when her 18-year-old boyfriend, a fast-rising Star Magic talent, met his death in a vehicular accident. (CLICK HERE to read more about the accident)
Since that fateful night of April 17, the life of the 17-year-old girl from Miriam College has taken a very different turn.
Needing to grieve, Steph has made her love for AJ known to the public.
She says AJ was her first boyfriend, and she wanted him to be her last.
In an interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and YES! Magazine on the third night of AJ’s wake, April 19, a sad-eyed Steph Ayson shares a bit more of her story.
Steph reveals she has had a crush on AJ since she was in grade school.
"Lahat po ng issue ng Candy [Magazine], binibili ko po yun dahil sa kanya. Tapos, nanonood po ako ng About Ur Luv, Boystown, lahat po yun pinapanood ko," she admits with a smile.
She also reveals that they met when she was just 14 years old and a first-year high school student.
"First year high school pa lang po ako nun. We were moving in the same circle of friends. Bale yung best guy friend ko po, isa din sa closest friends niya," she says.
Steph narrates how she first came face-to-face with her longtime crush: "May school activity po ako, and involved din po kasi ako sa student council activities.
"I helped with the annual school fair, so I had to get him po for a dating game.
"Inaayos po namin, so kinontact ko po siya through our common friend."
AJ agreed to join her school fair’s dating game, and somehow their chance meeting blossomed into a friendship which grew into a relationship.
How did she feel when she found out that her longtime crush also liked her in return?
"Siyempre po, haba ng hair! Sobrang overwhelmed po ako. Siyempre, hindi muna po ako makapaniwala. Very, siyempre, sobrang kilig po ako."
She appreciates how AJ so patiently courted her.
"Mas nauna po kasi siyang naging expressive [ng love niya]. So may times po na hindi po ako nakapag-reciprocate.
"So very respectful naman po siya. He didn’t rush anything. So everything is out of respect and with so much time."
When they finally became a couple, Steph recalls fondly that AJ was constantly asking her about her crush on him in the past.
"Proud na proud po siya, pauli-ulit po ’yan, tatanungin niya po sa akin, ’Did you really have a crush on me since we were dating?’
"[Sasabihin ko], ’Oo nga, ang kulit! Grabe!’"
What did she like most about AJ?
"Just like everyone else, it’s his optimism and the way he made me happy.
"Kasi ibang klase po magpasaya si AJ—parang permanent po, permanent happiness."
How difficult was it having a celebrity boyfriend?
"There were problems... with the privacy. And yung comments po ng ibang tao, hindi po maiiwasan.
"Pero AJ naman po is always there to make me feel na hindi po makakaapekto yung impression ng ibang tao sa relationship po namin."
How did she deal with AJ’s overzealous fans?
"Naiintindihan ko naman po kasi fan din po ako dati, e. So, gets ko rin naman po yun."
Before the interview ends, we notice the silver ring that she is wearing on her left hand.
She reveals that AJ gave it to her when he asked her to be his girlfriend.
She says AJ had their initials—AP and SA—etched on the ring beforehand.
Did they talk about their future?
"A lot of times. It went so far as when we would have kids... yun na lang po yung sasabihin ko."
Did she envision herself settling down with AJ?
"Oo naman po. We were both sure," she says, with both certainty and sadness in her voice.