“Basta, bigla na lang naramdaman ko sa puso ko na nagkakagusto na ako sa bestie ko,” says Rayver, who laughs at his cheesy but candid admission of how he fell in love with Julie, whom he considered a very good friend long before they became a couple.
He continues, “Totoo naman, e. You just feel it, e. Hirap i-explain and that's the beauty of it.
"Nung talagang naramdaman ko na at sigurado ako sa sarili ko, sinabi ko sa kanya kung gaano siya ka-special sa akin and sinabi ko kung gaano ko siya kamahal.
"For me, I'm pretty sure na ito na. She's my end game."
The two were seated beside each other inside the studio of Summit Media, where they just finished a three-layout photo shoot for PEP Headliner.
They readily spoke about how their love story began.
JULIEVER: LOVE STORY
For many who work in the same TV network, they just consider themselves colleagues who see each other in occasional gatherings.
But being in GMA-7 allowed Rayver and Julie to work with each other in three shows for the past five years.
One of these shows was the Kapuso reality talent show The Clash, which brought them together as tandem co-hosts for all four seasons.
Way back during the second season of The Clash in 2019, their chemistry while singing “Senorita” was already evident on screen. It was a testament to how talented and total pros they are as artists.
Romance was far from their minds at the time, but as early as then, it was clear they have mutual respect and admiration for each other.
JULIEVER: FIRST MEETING
Looking back to when they first met in 2018, Rayver admits he was wowed when he saw Julie Anne sing on stage.
It happened during the rehearsals of the now-defunct Saturday musical variety show Studio 7.
“Nagulat kasi ako, first time ko siya nakita mag-perform ng live, kahit nung rehearsals pa lang.
“Parang gulat na gulat ako kasi, ooh, sobrang legit pala talaga. Performer, sobrang galing.”
Rayver had just moved back to GMA Network after 19 years of being a Kapamilya, and Julie Anne was among the Kapuso stars who made him feel welcome in his new mother studio.
“Actually, first time ko siyang na-meet noon,” says Julie Anne, who remembers seeing Rayver sitting by himself in GMA-7's vast studio at the network's annex building in Quezon City.
She elaborates: “Parang may mga bleachers-bleachers kasi doon sa may gilid ng studio.
“So, every time na may magpe-perform sa gitna, nandun lang sa bleachers yung mga artists na iba, like, nakaupo, watching, and stuff like that.
“I think we were doing an opening number, pero like naka-standby lang kami.
“Tapos before kami mag-take or, like, during on-stage rehearsals, he was just there doon sa may dulo, sa may gilid."
Of the two, Julie Anne was the old-timer in GMA-7, so she approached Rayver first.
Wanting to make him feel welcome, she recalls, “Tapos nagpakilala ako sa kanya. Bagong lipat siya noon.
"And then yun yung unang beses na magkakasama kami sa isang number.
"And then apart from the opening number, we were also doing another number, pero like, kaming dalawa lang yung magkasama.”
Rayver appreciated Julie Anne's welcoming gesture back then.
"Bago naman siya magpakilala, e, kilala ko naman na talaga siya, kasi Julie Ann San Jose siya, di ba?" Rayver remarks.
"Ako, nung nakita ko siya, siyempre, first impression ko talaga is napakabait, napaka-humble.
"Alam naman ng lahat na paglipat ko talaga, pagbalik ko sa Kapuso Network, siya yung naging ka-close ko talaga ever since. Siya yung naging best friend ko sa GMA."
Julie Anne agrees, "From then on, naging besties na kami."
JULIEVER IN SYNC
By the time they were both single and unattached, falling for each other turned out to be a natural progression of their deep connection and mutual interests.
"Yung humor namin, yung mga kuwentuhan, parang swak lahat," Rayver reveals.
Julie Anne points out, "Yeah, saka parang how we are as people, I guess, kung siguro may lalaking version ko, siguro si Ray yun."
"Kumbaga, parang kung paano ako as a person—like, masiyahin, mahilig sa music. Tapos yung mahilig din siya sa music, tapos, mahilig din sa songs, sa dances, yung instruments ngayon...
"We always just get along," the 29-year-old singer-actress explains.
Over time, the two have openly shown videos of their music jamming sessions whenever Rayver would visit Julie Anne at her family's home.
They would perform duets while playing an instrument. Whether it's with the accompaniment of piano, guitar, or ukulele, their random performances are enjoyable to watch because they are so in sync with each other.
They know how to blend their singing voices, and highlights their individual strengths and qualities.
When PEP.ph comments that Julie Anne seems to bring out the best in him, Rayver readily replies, "Oh yes, definitely."
He elaborates, "Ang dami kong ginagawa ngayon na hindi ko alam na kaya ko palang gawin.
"Kasi alam ko, kasi inspired ako kay Jules. Yung influence na nabigay niya sa akin through music talaga is sobrang laki.
"And di ko naman sinasabi na ang galing-galing ko. Pero ang dami ko ng kaya nang gawin na ako."
Citing how he rediscovered his love for singing, Rayver narrates, "And before, yung family ko kasi way, way back talagang sa banda sila, yung mga musicians sila.
"Pero hindi ko naman sineryoso yung paggitara, yung instrumento, yung pag-singing.
"That's why ang ginawa ko talagang profession una is dancing, e, kasi gusto ko nga iba ako from them."
Rayver comes from the showbiz clan of Cruzes. Tirso Cruz III and Ricky Belmonte are his uncles. Sunshine Cruz and Sheryl Cruz are his first cousins, while Donna Cruz and Geneva Cruz are his second cousins.
Sheryl, Geneva, and Donna have established careers as singers, so it made sense that Rayver wanted to take a different route when he entered showbiz.
Rayver would sing occasionally when he was in ABS-CBN, but it was only in GMA-7 where he really got to showcase his love for singing.
"Pero ngayon, parang na-unlock ni Jules yung talent ko. Na masaya rin pala kumanta, masaya maggitara.
"And now, something new, na I play the piano na rin because of her. So, yun, ang galing."
Julie Anne, for her part, encouraged Rayver by cheering for him whenever he'd come out with videos of his cover songs.
"So kasi dati nakita ko siya na sa Instagram, nag-post siya. I think that was the very first time I saw him play the guitar and he was singing at the same time.
"So sabi ko parang, 'Wow! Nakakatugtog pala siya ng guitar!' Like, ang galing!
"Nag-comment ako sa kanya. Sabi ko, 'Wow!' Like, 'Astig!' Ganun-ganun."
Julie fondly recalls that, at the time, she was still calling him "Bro," which is how Rayver's friends would typically address him.
She relates: "Tapos hanggang sa nagtutuluy-tuloy na yung pagpi-play niya ng guitar, mas madalas ko nakikita sa mga posts niya, sa feed niya.
"Tapos hanggang sa, parang nagulat na lang ako one day parang, ang dami niya na palang alam na mga songs.
"Tapos minsan, magugulat ako kasi, like, kunwari, tatawagan niya ako sa FaceTime tapos may bago na siyang ipi-play sa akin.
"So, sabi ko, 'Ang galing!' kasi every now and then lagi siyang may bagong mga songs."
JULIEVER ON BEING TOGETHER
Little did Julie Anne know that it was also Rayver's way of showing his feelings for her.
"Kasi natutuwa ako na parang hinaharana ko siya every time," he grins.
To which, Julie Anne replies, "Natutuwa ako kasi parang feeling ko hinaharana niya ako, ganun. Lagi niya akong kinakantahan."
Rayver adds, smiling, "Na-excite ako maghanap ng bagong song lagi. Kasi sabi ko, 'Ilang years mo nang kinakantahan yung mga fans mo, yung mga manonood mo. Baka it's about time na ako naman ang kumanta for you.'"
Julie Anne admits she feels over the moon whenever Rayver plays a song for her.
"Kasi ang sarap sa feeling nung ganun. Like, siyempre buong buhay ko kumakanta ako.
"Parang ang sarap kasi sa pakiramdam kapag may kumakanta for me. And he does that all the time."
Rayver tells PEP.ph that the moment he realized he's starting to fall for Julie Anne, he really made a move to let her know about it.
"Like, tipong bago siya nag-order ng coffee, may coffee na. Tapos may mga, may mga pa-cute na hirit na ako sa kanya," Rayver reveals.
Julie Anne says she appreciates his simple but sincere gestures.
But what really gave Rayver the extra pogi points was when he made an effort to ask for her parents' permission to court her.
"Yung first time na bumisita siya sa bahay, yun, nagtanong na siya na kung puwede manligaw formally," Julie Anne reveals.
"Like, siyempre, kasi importante din yung blessing talaga ng parents pagdating sa relationship.
"And yung parents ko and yung family ko were very reserved and traditional din, especially my parents.
"So, yun, for them, importante din na makilala nila yung sumusuyo dun sa anak nila."
The singer-actress notes that Rayver is consistent with the way he interacts with her family even now that they're a couple.
Beaming at Rayver, Julie Anne says, "Yeah, they see it in Rayver all the time kasi hanggang ngayon nililigawan mo pa rin ako.
"And di lang ako, pero pati yung parents ko, yung family."
According to Rayver, it was his own initiative to get to know Julie Anne's family.
"Yes, decision ko talaga yun kasi importante yun. Like, yun, nandun yung respeto para sa magulang.
"Like, naging lalaki lang kasi ako, pero yung kinalakihan ko rin kasi na sistema talaga parang kagaya yung kay Jules.
"Nagkataon lang na three boys kami, pero sa family, medyo old school rin kami."
Rayver comes from a close-knit family, and he has always been close to his older brothers Rodjun and Omar.
When his mom was alive, both Rayver and his brother Rodjun would often show on their respective social media accounts bonding moments with their mom and how affectionate they are towards her.
Both Rayver's parents passed away—his mom Beth died of pancreatic cancer in February 2021, while his father passed away in 2009 due to kidney failure.
A RELATIONSHIP BUILT ON SHARED VALUES
Still referring to his courtship of Julie Anne, Rayver continues, "So, gusto rin namin yung sa tama and yung talagang kakausapin yung magulang. So, ayon, ako na yung nagpresenta talaga.
"Siyempre, nakakatakot, di ba? Hahaha! Pero gusto ko talaga siya. Thank you po, Tita and Tito!"
Julie Anne says having shared values with Rayver makes their relationship stronger.
"Ako, natuwa ako. Especially sa panahon ngayon. Iba na yung way of dating and getting to know someone.
"First time siya ever nangyari sa akin. Kaya sobrang, like, wow nanibago ako.
"Kasi, like, pag may nagugustahan ako noon akong guy or kapag kunwari may balak ako ipakilala or something, natatakot ako kasi baka hindi nila gusto or something like that.
"So, ayon, parang wala naman ako naging experience na ganitong klase. Na alam mo yung talagang formal na hihingin yung permission ng magulang."
Julie Anne continues, "Tapos, first time din na, alam mo yun, na talagang naging open yung parents ko ng ganito sa isang guy.
"Kaya, ayun, nakakataba ng puso. Di ko alam kung anong mapi-feel ko. Kinikilig ako pag every time na maiisip ko yun.
"Kasi first time siya ever nangyari. At ang sarap sa feeling pala na ganun. Tapos parang walang problema, open lahat. Yung walang kailangan itago, happy lang."
For his part, Rayver says his brother Rodjun and sister-in-law Dianne Medina are both supportive of his relationship with Julie Anne.
When PEP.ph mentions that Rodjun even said in a previous interview that he hopes to see Rayver and Julie Anne get married one day, Rayver replies, "Big brother ko yun, pero parang erpats ko yun.
"Ganun yun, sobrang caring sa mga kapatid niya, especially sa akin kasi baby brother ako nun.
"Pero sobrang, mahal na mahal nun si Jules. Tuwang-tuwa yun every time na nakikita niyang magkasama kami.
"Fan talaga yun ng JulieVer, silang mag-asawa, at lahat ng family ko."
Rayver adds that even his relatives approve of Julie Anne for him.
"Tuwang-tuwa yung mga tito at tita ko kay Jules. Grabe, sobrang bilib na bilib sila. Bukod na sobrang galing, sobrang humble daw."
Then turning to Julie Anne beside him, he says, "At saka, ang perfect mo, e!"
THE TRANSITION FROM BESTIES TO BF-GF
Because they were friends first and foremost, Julie Anne and Rayver are not pressured to put their best foot forward when they are around each other.
"Importante kasi sa relationship yung hindi mo kailangan magpanggap or hindi mo kailangan magtago or wala kang pretensions.
"Kasi alam mo sa sarili mo na mahal ako ng tao for who you really are," says Julie Anne.
This attitude of openness has also helped them whenever they have misunderstandings.
The singer-actress explains, "Yung major-major tampo, wala. Hindi kami nag-aaway. Pero yung mga petty things, yung mga small misunderstandings lang, ganun."
According to Rayver, he usually initiates the conversation with Julie Anne when they need to settle their differences.
"Kinakausap ko kasi siya agad bilang, I mean, ako naman talaga yung nakakatanda, di ba?"
To which, Julie Anne quips, "Opo. Hahaha!"
Explaining his way of handling an issue, the 33-year-old actor elaborates, "Kailangan ko kausapin, kailangan ko sabihin in person.
"Hindi kasi ako [magaling sa] mga words. Like, for example, sa phone, hindi ako magaling talaga. Alam na niya by now.
"Nag-adjust din siya sa akin doon. Kasi hindi talaga ako, like, ma-cellphone.
"Pero pag kasama ko siya, talagang koala kung koala. And pag may gusto ako sabihin, sasabihin ko talaga."
He also observes, "Yun yung pagkakaiba namin siguro. Kasi siya parang mas nalalabas niya yung emotions niya pagka tahimik siya and sasabihin niya sa phone. Ako hindi. Masasabi ko siya pag magkaharap kami."
For Julie Anne, she admits she needs time to think before facing a person.
"Hindi kasi ako confrontational type of person. So it takes a while for me to compartmentalize the thoughts inside my head.
"Like, I don't want to say the wrong things. Kasi I know myself, e. Minsan kasi yung emotions ko, like, they get in the way.
"So hindi ako confrontational. Tapos, sinusulat ko kung ano yung mga, ano yung nasa isip ko, nararamdaman ko. That's how I sort things out in my head."
JULIEVER: WORK AND PLAY
With the way they breezed through the photo shoot for PEP Headliner, Julie Anne and Rayver make work seem easy and fun.
They arrived at PEP HQ separately, with Rayver coming in first and then Julie Anne about 30 minutes later.
They made no fuss as they were assigned to different make-up rooms situated in different sides of the office floor.
But as soon as Rayver learned that Julie Anne had arrived, he immediately checked in on her and waited for her to settle in before prepping for the pictorial.
In between the shoot, Rayver would head to Julie Anne's make-up room to chat and mingle with her glam team.
At one point, Julie Anne's make-up artist remarked how easy it is to get along with Rayver, even for someone who works with him for the first time.
"Wala pa nga ako sinasabi natatawa ka na sa akin!" Rayver remarks.
To PEP.ph, Rayver describes himself as a "fun guy," much like his brother Rodjun.
Julie Anne agrees when asked if Rayver brings out the playful side of her.
"Di naman ako sobrang tahimik. Pero siguro dahil madami ako usually ginagawa, tina-try kong i-reserve yung energy ko.
"But every time na magkasama kaming dalawa na Ray, yun, kumukulit na din ako lalo."
Rayver interjects, laughing, "Nahahawa na siya."
The two had no problem doing lovey-dovey poses in front of the cam since Rayver is just as affectionate to Julie Anne off-cam.
They would hold hands once in a while or whisper to each other about whatever it is that's making them smile.
While they're far from being PDA, it was pretty clear with the way they look at each other that they are one happy couple.
They also enjoyed goofing around when they were asked to experiment with wacky poses.
FIRST MOVIE TOGETHER
One thing that excites Julie Anne and Rayver is their upcoming movie The Cheating Game, which is showing in theaters on July 26.
Not only is it their first movie together, but it's also the first movie offering produced by GMA Public Affairs and GMA Pictures this year.
Shot sometime in February to March of this year, The Cheating Game centers on the love story of Hope and Miguel, who are complete opposites.
Julie Anne describes her character Hope as the type of girl who plans and puts order in her life with the help of a spreadsheet. It doesn't prevent her, however, from getting her heart broken by a cheating ex-boyfriend.
Rayver's character Miguel, on the other hand, is a successful businessman who has a laidback attitude when it comes to his private life.
The actor says that one of the scenes to watch for is how their characters would meet in the movie, but he doesn't want to spoil the story for now.
Asked about their first acting stint together, Rayver reveals it was nice to do something different with Julie Anne.
"Sa umpisa lang nakakapanibago, 'Uy, nag-eksena na tayo, no?' Pero mas comfortable ako gawin yung mga eksena kasi alam ko na siya yun," he says.
Julie Anne elaborates, "Kasi yung movie, dapat three years ago pa ipapalabas. And things were different back then and things are different now.
"So sa level of comfortability, talagang mas comfortable ngayon kasi, alam mo yun, mas nakikilala ko si Ray lalo.
"Kasi we've worked many times already, like sa The Clash, mayroon kami AOS, then Studio 7 pa kami dati.
"So medyo, alam mo yun, medyo matagal-tagal na din yung pinagsamahan sa work. Mas nakilala ko lang si Ray dito sa The Cheating Game in terms of acting."
In real life, is cheating a dealbreaker for them?
Both of them were quick to say "yes."
"Because it's a way out sa relationship. Cheating is cheating, e," Julie explains.
To which, Rayver adds:
"Kasi if you're contented and super love niyo yung bawat isa, kung ganun katibay yung relasyon, hindi mangyayari yung cheating."
Julie Anne also underlines:
"Cheating is not a mistake. It's always a choice."
ON FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON
At the latter part of the interview, PEP.ph asked the couple about lessons they've learned from past heartbreaks.
Julie's candid answer: "Yung mga heartbreaks kasi, pampa-texture talaga ng life iyan.
"Whether you like it or not, may darating at darating talaga sa point na mangyayari sa iyo yung mga ganitong klaseng experiences.
"But they only make you become a better version of yourself. Even the best when you're with the right person.
"Kasi when you're with the right person, everything just flows naturally. You don't have to think about anything else. Kasi nga nag-take ka ng risk ulit to love again."
Teasing Julie Anne, Rayver quips, "Look at that! Full of experience."
Laughing, Julie Anne exclaims, "Parang ikaw hindi! Lahat tayo may ganoon. Lahat tayo may ganoon klaseng experiences.
"Kaya ayon, pinatibay ng buhay talaga."
She adds that it also boils down to loving one's self and setting boundaries.
"Ako kasi, yung take ko, may experience man o wala, basta ang alam ko, mahal kita, e," Rayver reacts.
But on a serious note, he points out that a relationship will only work if it's anchored on something solid.
"Sa love and sa life in general, pag sa iyo, sa iyo. Pag hindi, hindi. Ibig sabihin, may nilaan yung Panginoon na sakto para sa iyo.
"And then, pag nahanap mo na iyon, and you put God in between your relationship, in the center, then everything follows."
Julie Anne reveals that she and Rayver go to church together whenever they can.
"Actually, it's one of the best feelings when you really make time to pray. Kasi doon kayo nagbi-build ng relationship, e, when God's always in the center."
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Jo-Ann Maglipon
SHOOT PRODUCER: Nikko Tuazon
WRITER: Rachelle Siazon
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Igi Talao
PHOTOGRAPHER: Stephen Capuchino
PHOTOGRAPHER'S ASSISTANT: Joco Antonio Napcil
FOR JULIE ANNE SAN JOSE:
- STYLIST: Keith Angelo
- MAKE-UP: Denise Ochoa-Go
- HAIRSTYLIST: Mark Anthony Rosales
FOR Rayver Cruz:
- STYLIST: Ivor Jullian
- HAIRSTYLIST & GROOMING: Dexter Gonzalgo
VIDEO PRODUCERS: Rommel Llanes, Jino Del Mundo, Richford Unciano
TIKTOK PRODUCER: Nikko Tuazon
SOCIAL MEDIA PRODUCER: Chino Buenaventura
Special thanks to Chester Jan Singian and Fifi Ilaya of Sparkle GMA Artist Center