Maja Salvador In Love: The men who got away and the one who is for keeps

by Rachelle Siazon
Apr 14, 2020
Maja Salvador on love: "Matalo, manalo, ang importante, lumaban ka."
PHOTO/S: Cyrus Panganiban for PEP.ph / Noel Orsal / @rambonunez Instagram
ILLUSTRATION: Arianne Braga

Maja Salvador, 31, has this big rule about relationships that go sour: "Walang balikan ng ex."

At the same time, the Kapamilya actress believes in letting love in when it comes knocking unexpectedly.

She tells PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in February 2017: "Minsan kasi hindi mo alam, e.

"Pero yun ang lagi... Kung dumating, if talagang gusto mo, so go.

"Kung hindi mag-work, ganun talaga. Pero meron at merong parang sa iyo."

How is Maja as a girlfriend? What are her most kilig moments? How does she deal with heartbreak? How does she find love again?

Here, PEP.ph talks to Maja about men—the passing fancies, the ones she once loved, those she continues to cherish, and the guy who has won her heart.

JOHN PRATS, 36: FIRST CELEB CRUSH

In 2003, barely a teenager, Maja was just starting in showbiz. ABS-CBN top honcho Charo Santos Concio, the network's executive vice president for entertainment at the time, asked her about her crushes.

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The actress, in a 2019 Jeepney TV interview, recalled, "Tinanong ako ni Ma'am Charo, 'Sino ang crush mo?' So sinabi ko, 'John Prats.'"

John was then a teen heartthrob in the weekly youth-oriented series G-Mik and Berks.

To Maja's surprise, she was paired with John in her very first acting vehicle, the prime-time series It Might Be You starring Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd Cruz.

John was 19 years old, Maja was only 14.

"May eksena na iiyak ako," Maja narrated. "E, di ba, sa harap ng crush mo?

"Maiisip mo, 'Ayoko maging pangit sa harap ng crush ko.' So, yung iyak ko parang pa-cute lang."

The show's director, the late Gilbert Perez, was not pleased.

He demanded a retake of the scene, "Cut! Ano ba 'yan?! Hindi makaiyak!"

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Laughing at the silliness of her youth, Maja told Jeepney TV, "Inuna ko kasi magpaganda, magpa-cute kay John Prats!

"Nakita ko hitsura ni John, 'Ay, ano ba 'yan?' Parang napapahiya na ako, kasi parang ang dami na sinabi ng direktor ko.

"So yung iyak ko, imbis manggaling sa character ko, nanggaling as Maja. Naiyak ako kasi parang nakakahiya kay John."

In 2008, ABS-CBN News Online reported that John, during a presscon for his movie Manay Po 2, spoke about his "past romance" with Maja.

Reached for comment by the same news publication, Maja said she and John had a "mutual understanding" but that that it did not blossom into anything deeper.

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JOHN WAYNE SACE, 30: FLEETING ROMANCE

Maja and John Wayne Sace first worked together in the teen-oriented Kapamilya series, Spirits, in 2004.

They were paired as a love team in the 2006 drama series Sa Piling Mo starring Piolo Pascual and Judy Ann Santos.

Maja and John Wayne's onscreen chemistry soon turned to real-life kilig, much to the excitement of fans.

Eventually, they drifted apart when John Wayne's acting stints became few and far between.

In a 2008 interview with PEP.ph, Maja admitted that she had a short-lived romance with John Wayne.

She said, "Parang fling-fling lang. Kasi siyempre magka-love team kami dati. Halos every day kaming magkasama, ganun po."


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CARLO AQUINO, 34: ON-AND-OFF COURTSHIP

Way back in 2006, Carlo Aquino had been vocal about courting Maja.

He had said they went out on dates, and each time they did he asked permission from Maja's mom.

Carlo said in an interview with PEP.ph at the time, "I won't deny na masaya kami. Okay ang lahat, walang pressure, walang tension.

"Nanliligaw pa lang ako, matagal-tagal na rin...Masaya siya lagi, makulit, maganda, and masarap kasama."

At a press event, Maja was seen wearing a Tiffany bracelet that Carlo had given her when she turned 18 in 2006.

Maja told the story about the bracelet in an interview with PEP.ph of February 21, 2007.

She said, "Di ba, October 5 po ang birthday ko? November niya ibinigay... Pumunta po siya sa bahay.

"Galing po kasi ako ng taping noon, pagdating ko, nandoon po siya naghihintay,

"Sabi ko nga po, 'Ano ba 'yan?! Yung mga lalaking nagbibigay ng regalo, hindi ako kilala!'

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"Kasi po hindi ako ma-bracelet, ma-relo... Wala akong ganyan. E, sayang naman, mamahalin, kaya isinuot ko na."

The affection between Carlo and Maja was also evident at a YES! Magazine event they both attended on February 28, 2007.


But after four months, Maja went on record to say she had asked Carlo to stop courting her.

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She was firm about putting career over personal matters.

She told PEP.ph in a June 2007 interview, "Pag may boyfriend ka, dapat alam mo ang limitations mo, alam mo kung hanggang saan lang.

"Right now kasi, 80 percent ang ibinibigay ko sa work, 15 percent sa family at sa sarili ko, at five percent na lang ang maibibigay ko sa love life ko kung saka-sakali."

Still, Carlo chose to stay by Maja's side.

He was there for Maja when her father Rosauro Salvador, a former actor known by his screen name Ross Rival, died on November 16, 2007.

She told PEP.ph. "Siya ang nagdala sa akin sa ospital papunta sa daddy ko. Sa kanya ako nag-MMK."

Still uncertain about how things stood between them, Maja and Carlo cut off their communication in April 2008 for months.

In December, Carlo pursued Maja again, "Nagde-date muna kami. Pini-feel namin kung may nagbago sa isa't isa sa eight or nine months.

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"As of now, wala pa naman. Malalaman ninyo kung kami na," he told PEP.ph in a March 2009 interview,

Maja said that Carlo was a consistent suitor who often visited her at home, and if not that, regularly communicated via "text" and "phone calls."

But Maja was determined to make it big in showbiz, and did not consider a romance with Carlo.

She explained in a June 2009 interview with PEP.ph: "Meron kasi akong topak minsan, na kahit puwede, minsan nagde-decide ako ng para sa sarili ko, na parang mas kailangan kong mag-focus sa career, ganyan.

"So, kahit na nandun yung communication, nandun yung kilig-kilig, ganyan-ganyan, pag tinopak ako, ay, ayoko na muna!

"As in, nawawala talaga bigla yung communication."

It was not clear how long they had their "mutual understanding" going before Maja and Carlo stopped seeing each other completely.

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A postscript to the Carlo Aquino episode in Maja's love life: She was not the "third party" that caused the breakup of Carlo and Angelica Panganiban in 2006.

In a Gandang Gabi Vice interview in September 2018, Angelica revealed that at the time Carlo broke up with her, he admitted to her his intention to court Maja.

For her part, Maja, in a TWBA interview, clarified that Carlo courted a lot of girls before he pursued her.

Starting with an apology to the actor, she said, "Sorry, Carlo. Ang daming girls naman ni Carlo. Kaya kahit dun sa third party, malabo namang ako.

"Inamin naman ni Carlo na hindi siya behave dati, so bago pa niya ako dati ligawan, ang daming ibang babaeng naging rason ng pag-aaway [nila ni Angelica]."

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SAM MILBY, 35: ALMOST A SUITOR

In 2009, Maja let slip in an interview that she had been getting text messages from Sam Milby.

That slip started rumors linking Maja to the actor.

Sam, in a separate interview, admitted having a "crush" on Maja at one time, but only to say that there was nothing more to it.

He said in the PEP interview in September 2009, "I won't deny I have a crush on Maja before, alam niya yun.

"I find her very, very nice. She's really nice, she's very beautiful, and she's talented."

He talked about how they would "hang out" a number of times, but only as friends.

"I didn't also make any ligaw," Sam clarified, then added, "Up to now, I still admire her."


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Maja and Sam had not been in touch for some time until they worked together in the 2010 afternoon drama series Impostor.

They've become even better friends since then.

Years later, in October 2015, Sam disclosed that there was a time when he thought of courting Maja.

"Nagparamdam ako. She is someone I wanted to go for before, hindi lang nangyari."

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MATTEO GUIDICELLI, 30: SWEET ROMANCE

Matteo had a huge crush on Maja Salvador even before he joined showbiz.

Hailing from Cebu, Matteo used to be a multiawarded kart racer who competed in local and international races when he was a teenager.

He joined musicals while he was studying in Brentville International School, where he finished high school. Then in 2008, he pursued a course in Musical Theater at Columbia College in Chicago.

They did not know each other yet, but Matteo would catch sight of Maja from a distance.

He told PEP.ph that he saw her on "six" separate occasions in the span of "three years."

At the time, he was still a showbiz newbie and had recognized Maja from the "billboards and posters" of her endorsements and acting stints.

Then came Matteo's chance to get close to Maja when he landed a role in Wansapanataym: Inday Sa Balitaw, which aired on September 25 and October 2, 2010.

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Maja played a market vendor really down on her luck, until she comes across a magical bilao that gives her superpowers. She eventually falls for a kindhearted kargador played by Matteo.

As early as that time, there was already talk about Maja and Matteo being an item.

On September 5, 2010, Maja attended the Star Magic Ball with Matteo as her date.

Four days later, Maja also showed up at the Cosmo Bachelor Bash that featured Matteo as one of the celebrity ramp models.

Seated in the front row, Maja reportedly stood up and waved her iPad when it was Matteo's turn to strut his stuff on the ramp. Her iPad flashed the words "Hot Matteo!"

About the episode, Matteo said in an interview published on PEP.ph, September 13, 2010: "She surpised me. Because I invited her and she said she wasn't coming and then I saw her."

Next thing, he was gushing in the interview, "She is the sweetest thing. She is so beautiful. She is so talented."

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A real romance did develop between Maja and Matteo, which they kept secret for a year, until a brawling incident between Matteo and Coco Martin blew the lid off their relationship.

Coco was then Maja's leading man in the ABS-CBN prime-time series Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin.

On September 3, 2011, the three Kapamilya stars attended the Star Magic Ball, then an annual red-carpet event that gathered the stars of Star Magic, the talent management arm of ABS-CBN.

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Citing two eye-witnesses who were at the event held at the Manila Peninsula Hotel, PEP.ph reported that Matteo initiated the fight with Coco at the ball's after-party.

Coco retaliated and punched Matteo in the mouth.

According to the eye-witnesses, Coco recounted his version of the incident to Star Magic chairman emeritus Johnny Manahan, also known as Mr. M.

They also saw the actor demonstrate how Matteo suddenly grabbed his suit from the back, prompting Coco to instinctively fight back.

The PEP.ph report also mentioned that the confrontation seemed to have been caused by Matteo becoming jealous of Coco's growing closeness to Maja.

The following day, September 4, 2011, Maja admitted in a TV interview that Matteo was her boyfriend.

She also confirmed that she was the reason why Matteo got into a fight with Coco.

On September 5, 2011, Matteo issued a public apology for causing trouble at the ball.

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The couple weathered the storm, with Matteo saying that the Star Magic Ball incident had brought him and Maja closer because "we understood na kahit anong mangyari we'll fight for each other."

They even got to work together in the movie, My Cactus Heart, four months after the brawling incident.

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Matteo at some point also said that Maja was the last woman he would ever love.

But they called it quits in July 2012.

Alluding to their breakup, Maja posted this caption on Instagram: “I don’t know why they call it heartbreak. It feels like every part of my body is broken too.”

In an August 2012 interview with PEP.ph, she said lack of "time" was the reason for their breakup.

But three months later, in November, Maja hinted in an ABS-CBN News Online interview that she had felt neglected.

Clearly referring to Matteo, she said, "Ako po kasi, inaamin ko na grabe akong magmahal...

"Gusto ko kasi kahit papaano ay nagkakasama kami, may oras kami sa isa't isa.

"Pero pag yun nga, siguro pag nagkaroon ka ng triathlete na boyfriend, mahirap talagang magsabay yung oras ninyo."

She said her work schedule made it difficult for her to join him for his training.

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Matteo, for his part, admitted it was mainly his fault that his relationship with Maja didn't work out.

He said in a TV interview, "Marami akong mga bagay na I was lacking. I guess one of those was time... because marami din akong gustong gawin,"


GERALD ANDERSON, 31: AGAINST ALL ODDS

Maja found love again in Gerald Anderson.

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Word got out they were an item when they were photographed together at the Misibis Bay Resort in Legazpi, Albay, in December 2012.

The photos, showing Maja and Gerald in group shots, made the rounds online during the first week of January 2013.

Speculation about their romance was also fueled by reports of a strain in the relationship between Maja and her best friend Kim Chiu.

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Kim and Gerald had a four-year relationship, which was much publicized, but not as much as their breakup in 2010.

Fans of Kimerald—the names of Kim and Gerald put together—were cross with Maja for coming into the picture when things, they felt, were not hopeless between Kim and Gerald.

On January 9, 2013, the two actresses found themselves in the hot seat at the press launch of their prime-time series Ina, Kapatid, Anak.

Asked about being seen with Gerald at the Bicol resort, Maja told the press she was there because she had thrown a bridal shower for a cousin at the Legazpi vacation spot.

Maja narrated that Gerald was there too because, weeks before, she happened to mention the bridal shower to him and he was interested in joining a trip out of town with close friends.

However, she refused to say whether Gerald was courting her.

Kim, for her part, openly expressed her sentiment at the press launch, to the effect: How could Maja get close to Gerald, the man who broke her best friend's heart?

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In June 2013, Gerald went public about him and Maja being a couple, saying their love is "worth fighting for."

He told Star Studio Magazine in an interview, "Naramdaman ko na yung feelings na parang gusto ko siya. Bakit ko pipigilan?

"Bakit ko hahayaang mawala pa siya sa akin because of the backlash of people?"

Gerald made grand gestures to show his love for Maja.

For her 10th anniversary in showbiz, he gave her a life-size bouquet of roses.

For their first Valentine's date as a couple, he took her to a restaurant in Tagaytay in no less than a rented chopper.

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At Maja's solo concert at the Music Museum in 2014, Gerald came up the stage to congratulate her.

Maja said then, "Masaya po ako na grabe niya ako protektahan. Kung puwede ko lang po sabihin nang detalyado.

"Siyempre sa amin na lang po yun. Pero napakaswerte ko po."

She also believed their love for each other would last "habambuhay."

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But their relationship fell apart in March 2015, with Gerald announcing he and Maja were "on a break," but were still on speaking terms.

In May 2015, Maja hinted broadly that the problem was with Gerald.

She told PEP.ph, when asked about their breakup, "Hindi ko alam kung ano man talaga yung rason niya, kung ano man pinagdadaanan niya.

"Ipagdasal na lang natin na sana maging maayos kung anong kailangan niya ayusin."

Other than that, she kept mum about what exactly went wrong.

As she explained in the same interview, "Dun sa two years na yun, may love, e. So, yun ang papahalagahan ko.

"And after nun, kailangan mo lang tanggapin na yung journey niyo dun sa love na yun is nag-end na."

But despite the pain of the breakup, Maja said she has no regrets about the time she had with Gerald.

"Sinabi ko naman yan simula umpisa, lumaban ka. Matalo, manalo, ang importante, lumaban ka."

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She and Gerald have been civil to each other since they parted ways.

And, eventually, after Maja made amends with Kim, the two girls went back to being friends again.

PIOLO PASCUAL, 43: FOREVER CRUSH

Maja has always been vocal about having a huge crush on Piolo Pascual.

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"Crush na crush ko siya! I super love Papa P," she told PEP.ph in a 2015 interview.

They have been such good friends, they have no uneasiness about displaying their fondness for each other in public.

During their 2015 London tour, being playful friends forever, Maja and Piolo had their photos taken posing as romantic lovers.

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In 2018, Maja also took a video of Piolo giving her a five-second smooch on her cheek.

Maja asked, "Na-miss mo ako?"

Piolo simply answered, "Sarap!"

Then she also gave him a kiss on the cheek.

For years, Maja and Piolo have been laughing off nosey questions about their closeness.

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They're having too much fun teasing each other to care anyway.

JOHN LLOYD CRUZ, 36: JUST FRIENDS

In August 2016, there were two occasions when Maja and John Lloyd Cruz hang out together.

The first time was when they watched How To Be Yours, a movie starring Gerald Anderson and Bea Alonzo.

Maja and John Lloyd actually took a souvenir photo in front of the movie's poster at the cinema house.

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The second time was when they went on a beach trip after a work engagement in Davao.

One photo showed Maja and John Lloyd smilig from a boat; another was a long shot of them walking by the seashore.

But John Lloyd was quick to shut down any talk of romance between them.

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Saying he and Maja were good friends, he appealed to the media: "The more na hindi dapat lagyan ng ganung anggulo.

“Hindi ako napipikon, nababaduyan lang talaga ako...

"Huwag na tayong dumagdag sa pagbibigay ng confusion sa mga tao."

Maja, in a PEP interview in February 2017, seconded John Lloyd: "Ang malisyoso ng mga Pinoy. Maging honest na tayo.

"Or siyempre sa industriya, iba ang social media ngayon, e. May bagong pic, 'I-post niya na yan. Gawan niyo ng issue para mapag-usapan.'

"Pero sad to say, hindi talaga. Sad to say na ganun ang industriya natin, minsan kailangan ng ingay."

Referring to her friendship with John Lloyd and Piolo, Maja added, "Ka-close ko lang talaga mga taong yun."

HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND: DATING FOR A TIME

A month before her year-long hit series, Wildflower, ended in 2018, Maja admitted to dating a non-showbiz guy who had been a classmate in high school.

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"Lumalabas kami, pero siguro kasi sanay na yung tao na nandun siya sa group ko, kasi magkaibigan na kami for fifteen years," she said in a presscon in January 2018.

She refused to give the guy's name and did not elaborate, except to say he had no problem adjusting to her celebrity status.

Their romance, however, didn't last long.


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RAMBO NUÑEZ: A SECOND CHANCE

Finding a new love was the last thing on Maja's mind when she ran into Rambo Nuñez, an ex-boyfriend, at the airport lounge of NAIA in June 2018.

They were both going to Japan. Maya was off to Nagoya and Rambo was bound for Tokyo.

After several weeks, they crossed paths again at a hotel gym when Maja's visiting male cousins from the U.S. pleaded with her to look for a basketball court where they could play hoops.

When Rambo asked for Maja's number, she instructed her personal assistant to give it to him.

She distinctly remembered her PA telling her, "Ay! Magkaka-love life ka na!"

But even when Rambo began texting her, Maja did not engage him in a conversation at first.

They have more or less reconnected since their accidental meeting at the gym, and in December 2018, Maja decided to give Rambo a chance.

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Maja and Rambo had a brief three-month romance in 2009 when she was only 21 years old.

That was when her personal rule never to go back to an ex-boyfriend got its start.

"Ako rin naman nagulat. Pero sabi ko nga, minsan you break your own rules," she said when she faced the press, including PEP.ph, in March 2019.

"And yung reason naman namin kung bakit kami nag-break noon, hindi matindi. Hindi tulad ng iba na matindi.

"Yung reason namin, bata lang kasi ako nun."

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Maja fell hard for Rambo all over again when he gave her flowers on Valentine's Day, 2019.

That was when she first went public about spending Valentine's Day with the same guy she dated ten years ago.

Ten years ago they were only starting with their chosen careers.

A graduate of Consular and Diplomatic Affairs from the College of St. Benilde, Rambo was just starting as creative head of a company specializing in events.

Maja, meanwhile, was busy co-headlining the series Nagsimula Ang Puso, with Coco Martin, Jason Abalos, and Nikki Gil.

It took nine years of carving their niche in their professions before Maja and Rambo found their second chance at love.

Maja said her relationship with Rambo has become really special also because his family makes her feel loved.

She told PEP.ph and a select group of reporters, "Sobrang suwerte lang din na ang bait ng family, na wine-welcome ka na parang pamilya.

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"Actually, anak yung turing sa akin, e. Yun yung masarap sa pakiramdam. Yun ang pinapa-feel ng family."

A quick look at Maja and Rambo's Instagram feed clearly shows their shared love for travelling.

They went on a Euro trip with Rambo's family in June 2019. Then the couple flew to Cuba for a vacation in October 2019.

She is so happy with Rambo, it shows in all the photos she shares on social media.

Speaking to the PEP Troika, Maja said, "It's my first time na 1,000 percent na walang pagdadalawang-isip if I'll share it or not.

"Yung moment na feel ko na gusto ko i-share, shinare ko. Hindi ko pinigilan ang sarili ko."

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Rambo, for his part, is gladdened by Maja's fans approval of him.

In the same interview with the PEP Troika, he said, "I guess, we’re just being ourselves and enjoying the moment, that’s why they appreciate it."

All odds are in their favor this time, so what keeps them from getting married?

Maja said in a February 2020 interview, "Siyempre, hindi naman kami bagets, may napapag-usapan na. Pero hindi kami atat.

"Basta, magiging updated kayo. Huwag muna ngayon."

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Maja Salvador on love: "Matalo, manalo, ang importante, lumaban ka."
PHOTO/S: Cyrus Panganiban for PEP.ph / Noel Orsal / @rambonunez Instagram
ILLUSTRATION: Arianne Braga
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