PEOPLE ASIA: SHALANI SOLEDAD & ROMAN ROMULO: HOLDING HANDS FOREVER
 

MANILA, APRIL 14, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Kap Maceda Aguila (People Asia) - Their eyes mirror how much they love each other.

Their hands are always locked... Their lips, glossed with humor and candor, speak of sweet and sincere words for one another.

Their minds think alike. Their hearts beat as one. No doubt about it — Shalani Soledad and Roman Romulo are in love.

The sparks of love between Shalani, the No. 1 councilor of Valenzuela City, and Roman, representative of the lone district of Pasig City, started at a lunch set up by a common friend on June 8, 2011 at the Barcino restaurant in Rockwell, Makati.

Roman, with obvious fondness, remembers the details of the set-up date.

It was impeccably arranged by their common friend Dan Soliven, an entrepreneur. So it wouldn’t appear obvious, Dan made it look like the event was a joint birthday lunch for friends who celebrated their birthdays between April and May. (Shalani’s birthday is on April 27.)

True to form, a few celebrants came and composed the lunch group of about 12 people. Roman and Shalani were seated together. They talked —about politics, about the RH Bill, about food, movies, music, about casual things.

Two hours later, lunch was over. Time to go their separate ways. Shalani went up to Roman and casually asked him if he would like to go with her to the nearby National Book Store because she wanted to buy some books.

Roman was coy — “because I don’t want it to be hard sell” — and told Shalani he had to rush to his office at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.

He only realized his folly when he was in the car. “I should have joined her in National Book Store,” he says.

On his way to Congress, Roman sent Shalani a text message. It read: “Hi Shalani. This is Roman Romulo. I met you at lunch. I got your number from Dan Soliven.” His message did not get a response from Shalani.

Truth of the matter is, long before the arranged lunch, Roman had wanted to meet Shalani.

Meeting her was first brought up by his godfather, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. Then, businesswoman Nellie King, a common friend of Shalani and Roman, told the two on separate occasions that they should meet for coffee.

In the last week of May 2011, Kathlyn Go, another common friend, could have introduced Roman and Shalani when they saw the latter in Shangri-La Mall but the seemingly elusive councilor was nowhere in sight, when Roman geared himself up to meet her.

But the June 8 lunch was the event that would change the course of his life. Or so Roman thought.

On June 9, upon waking up, Roman sent a text message to Shalani. The message contained almost the same thoughts he sent the day before.

Still, no response from Shalani. The same thing happened on June 10. But Roman was not going to give up easily.

On June 11, he didn’t know what message to send so he texted her: “Hi Shalani. Happy Independence Day!” even if he was one day early. Shalani finally replied. His humor, albeit accidental, got Shalani to respond to his text.

The magic of Independence Day

The “Happy Independence Day” message worked like magic, for it rang freedom for the two to express their thoughts — for each other, for the causes they’re involved in, for their dreams. Roman was getting there; romance was almost at the doorstep.

Then, as Shalani remembers, “Roman stopped texting for almost two weeks” when he went to the States. But just the same, Roman was able to bounce back and bring again his brand of romance to the fold.

“I would always invite her to go out but she would always be busy. I believe her. Shalani is very devoted to Valenzuela. Add to that, she has a TV show,” Roman says.

Roman and Shalani had not seen each other since June 8.

Roman got a letter from the City of Valenzuela to be the guest speaker on Valenzuela Day on July 11. He readily accepted the invitation but did not tell Shalani about it.

When it was time for him to go up the stage to deliver his message, Roman looked around. He saw all the city councilors in front of him except for Shalani. He managed to deliver his speech but his heart wanted to see Shalani.

She would appear at lunch time for the salu-salo. They greeted each other. They had lunch together. After lunch, Roman had to rush back for another important engagement.

While in his car, he sent an SMS to Shalani: “Nice seeing you again.” To which Shalani replied: “Sayang you had to leave early. I would have toured you around City Hall.”

That message was enough for Roman. Indeed, after that day, they started to regularly see each other.

“He was very persistent and patient. For the longest time, every time he would ask me out, I would always say I’m busy — because that’s the truth. I have meetings. I have engagements. But he was patient.

Once, despite his also being very busy, he asked me: ‘Will you allow me to accompany you?’ Ayun, he accompanied me to the weddings, birthday parties, wakes and funerals of my constituents,” Shalani says, the smile on her face indelible.

The proposal

Did Shalani and Roman officially become an item before they got engaged?

No.

There was courtship, yes; but there was no official day that the two became “on.”

“This is our story: we were never boyfriend and girlfriend. But we were going out.

Then he proposed,” Shalani explains, her hand caressing Roman’s as she talks. “I told him weeks before he proposed, ‘This is me. This is what I focus on (public service and, on the side, show business) and this might be unfair to you.’ But he said, ‘Just let me be. Just let me be beside you. Then let’s see how it works’,” Shalani shares.

Roman, with sheer sincerity, swept Shalani off her feet.

One Sunday night in early September, after coming from a late dinner, Roman asked Shalani to go to Our Lady of Fatima church in Valenzuela City, a church that is very close to Shalani’s heart. The church was already closed but the guard on duty opened it for the couple.

Shalani used to pray the Rosary outside the church every night after completing her duties for the day, but one night, the parish priest saw her. It was the start of a special arrangement between the priest and the guard to open the house of God for Shalani even late at night.

Of course, Roman was surprised that Shalani knew the guard on duty. He let them in as he turned on the lights at the main altar. Roman and Shalani were the only ones inside the church. They knelt down. It was so quiet that they could hear each other’s heartbeat.

A little after midnight, while the two were still kneeling, Roman reached for his pocket. He presented before Shalani a diamond ring and asked: “Will you marry me?”

Shalani looked at him — dazed, dreaming, dazzled. In her mind, she was thinking, “This is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

Then she told Roman, “Yes. Yes. I will marry you.” She cried as she melted in Roman’s arms. With God as their only witness that very moment, Roman and Shalani, long before their Jan. 22, 2012 altar date, professed their love for each other — for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.

By the way, the engagement ring Roman gave Shalani is the same ring his father Alberto gave to his mother Lovely when he proposed to her. Shalani says she felt at ease the first time she met Roman’s family.

Their common traits

For hearts that are in love, the length of time — in Shalani and Roman’s case it only took them three months from June to September 2011 to be engaged — is immaterial. They know they will be responsible for each other so they commit to love. And the more they celebrate every single day of togetherness, the more they discover their commonalities.

“Like we both love breakfast food,” Roman says. “I like fast food, actually. I like McDonald’s, pizza, corned beef. Basta breakfast food. Shalani likes the same food.”

“We both like adobo and steak,” Shalani adds.

“And we both like our meat well done,” Roman shares.

They also both love to laugh. A good marriage, they say, is a union not just of two hearts and minds but a unity of two bodies and souls that know how to laugh. Yes, humor is part of Shalani and Roman’s relationship.

“It’s actually Shalani who is the joker between us. She makes me laugh not with her jokes but the way she sees things,” Roman says while gently stroking Shalani’s hand. Their hands, which are always linked, are the tell-tale signs of the couple’s love for each other. Shalani and Roman, in any given situation, automatically hold hands. If one ever unconsciously lets go of the other’s hand, it takes only a jiffy before they lock hands again.

“We first held hands when we climbed Mount Banahaw. He held my hand kasi baka mahulog siya,” Shalani jests. Every step they made was a discovery — of each other, of the kind of love they are capable of giving one another. In effect, the mountain became a symbol of how lofty their love for each other is.

Understanding the real world

Both also understand the serious world they are in — that of a public servant’s world. This early, because of their union, there are already speculations that they will be the next “it” couple of politics. The couple remains unaffected by this politcal conjecture. “Our politics is very separate.

Though I join her in her meetings and dealings with her constituents, I don’t meddle in Valenzuela politics. She does the same thing for me. In terms of planning our careers, kanya-kanya kami,” Roman says.

“When we visit Pasig, I don’t encroach in his style of public service. I’m very careful to give him the space,” Shalani adds.

What are the lessons they have learned from each other?

“Patience!” Roman quickly answers. Then he lets go of that bedimpled smile, so wide it runs across his face that shows signs that, indeed, he, like Shalani, is blooming with love.

“Si Roman kasi is very patient. He is very honest, wala siyang front. His values and morals are intact. But I also learned from him that you can’t just always think of others, you also have to think of yourself. He taught me that I shouldn’t always concern myself about pleasing others. You can’t always think of the happiness and well-being of others. You should also take care of yourself,” Shalani says.

Honesty plays a big part in their relationship. Theirs is a union that hears every whim and wish of their hearts. Open to suggestions — even to the stories of their past.

“With Shalani, I discuss a lot of things about me, about us, about our relationship so there will be no more surprises,” Roman says.

“More or less, Roman knows my insecurities. Wala na kaming tinatago sa isa’t-isa,” Shalani adds.

Roman also knows that he has to factor in the show business side of Shalani. “With that, I will let her be. Being in showbiz makes her happy. I will not stop her from something that also makes her happy. I will simply support her.” And with that, Roman is also prepared for whatever intrigues showbiz might bring to Shalani’s life. But to a man whose rhyme and reason is ruled by love, no river is deep enough to drown him. Their love will keep them afloat; it will keep them alive.

Their plans

Between Shalani and Roman, no plan is more ultimate than loving each other. “That’s our plan, to love each other every day,” Romance, er, Roman says.

Do they plan to have a baby right away? “It depends how it works out,” he says.

Shalani adds, “Well, we haven’t talked about it in terms of planning to have a baby immediately. If indeed we will be blessed with a baby after the wedding, it will be very much welcome.”

“Mahirap naman if you put a timetable on having a baby. We’ll just see how it turns out, if we are blessed with it. If not, we will always have each other,” Roman says.

Meanwhile, the couple enjoys the pleasant surprises they still discover in each other. Like how Shalani lights up when Roman is makulit and how he makes her smile. “He’s very patient... pag hindi siya nagseselos,” she coyly divulges.

“Shalani’s very understanding naman. She’s very caring. Alam niya kasing seloso ako. But she’s very mature about our relationship,” Roman discloses.

“Roman does not only think of me. He also thinks of my companions, of my family. He always considers the people around me. He makes sure that the situation surrounding me is very comfortable for me,” Shalani says.

To many, the road to forever is just a figure of speech. To Roman and Shalani, however, the distance between them and forever is breached every moment their hands touch.

“He’s my forever,” she smiles.

“I simply want to share forever with her,” Roman ends, again punctuating his sentence with that bedimpled smile.

Shalani melts in his arms.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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