Their undeniable chemistry made them the hottest love team in the Philippines and GMA Network's Primetime King and Queen.
But Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera have a very real love story that is full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns that brought them to where they are now.
The year 2007 marked the first meeting of the year's hottest reeltime and real life love team. Marian auditioned for the role in GMA Network's remake of the Mexican series "Marimar" and won over Nadine Samonte, Katrina Halili, Jennylyn Mercado, and Karylle.
Dingdong, who was then Cosmopolitan's No. 1 Bachelor of 2007 and USTV Students’ Choice Award's Most Popular Actor in a Drama/Mini-series, was meanwhile cast to play the lead role Sergio.
"Marimar" became the highest-rated primetime show on Philippine television, and at the same time, launched Marian and Dingdong's career as GMA's Primetime King and Queen.
The success of the Marian-Dingdong team-up led to more soap operas such as "Dyesebel" in 2008, "Ang Babaeng Hinugot sa Aking Tadyang" in 2009, "Endless Love" in 2010, and "My Beloved" in 2012.
In 2008, they starred in their first movie as a love team in “One True Love”. This was followed by “You to Me Are Everything” in 2010.
Although their chemistry was undeniable, Marian revealed that she found Dingdong ‘suplado’ or snobbish and remote. She said in a magazine interview, "Hindi kami magkasundo. At all!",
It was, according to Marian, a little bit disappointing to find a leading man who was a little remote and kind of snobbish. She added in an interview with PEP.ph, “Tahimik siyang tao. At tsaka nung una ko siyang nakita nung audition ng Marimar, sobrang haba ng bigote niya. Hindi kita yung lips niya so mata lang nakikita mo. Naka-bubblegum pa. Kaya feeling ko parang suplado.”
But for Dingdong, their chemistry was something 'special,' and this he found out after holding Marian for the first time for a scene in Marimar. "When I held her, she was like clay that molded itself into my hand. It was like... my hand had its own place on her skin," he said.
The "feeling" was a first for Dingdong, as his previous leading ladies had felt "rough". He could not explain why. He surmised that it was his touch that wasn't the right fit.
But with Marian, her skin just seemed to fit perfectly in his hand, and from there grew a relationship that would change the both of them.
Rumors and declaration
Despite their on-screen chemistry, Marian and Dingdong had, at first, a “strictly professional relationship” as both were with other people; Dingdong with singer Karylle, and Marian with basketball player Eric Vijandre.
In a 2010 magazine interview, Dingdong revealed, "We would connect on the most important scene, and then after that, wala na. Siguro, wala lang sa tipo namin ang magpa-cute sa set."
After working together in numerous projects, rumors of an off-screen romance began to surface.
From June 2009, after their team-up in “Ang Babaeng Hinugot sa Aking Tadyang”, Dingdong and Marian grew closer despite the non-to-stellar first impressions. From working out together to travelling abroad together, the actors started to behave as if there was something more between them.
Then came Marian's 25th birthday in August 2009 where they openly held hands all evening and looked very much like a couple.
Dingdong explained in a later interview, “We're happy together. Open kaming nakakalabas na dalawa, nagdi-dinner, nakakapanood ng sine... Sinusuportahan ko siya sa pagte-training niya ng Darna. Kung may time siya, sumasama siya sa workout ko sa gym at itinuturo ko kung ano ang makakatutulong sa kanya.”
Finally, in February 2010, Dingdong and Marian revealed in an exclusive magazine interview that they had a special relationship. They came to the relationship slowly, shared Dingdong. He was in New York with friends and Marian was in Los Angeles when they realized they had feelings for one another.
It turned out that the initial impressions they made on each other was the first step of their journey as a couple, as it helped them realize how, as opposites, they complemented each other.
Dingdong and Marian had started out by getting to know the worst of each other first, after which they made the worst work for them. "Aminin man namin o hindi, kung anong kahinaan ko, meron siya. At kung ano ang kulang sa akin, napupunan niya. Swak kami. Kaya balance kami. Hindi kami parehas," Marian said.
Love Lessons from DongYan
Their relationship transformed both Dingdong and Marian into better versions of themselves.
Fun-loving Marian made the quiet and reserved Dingdong more expressive and made him adapt to her humor and positivity. One of the things Dingdong learned from his fiancee was, “Huwag masyadong seryosohin ang lahat ng bagay. Sense of humor sa mga bagay.”
The couple also never fails to surprise each other and show their appreciation for each other with simple gestures. Their first date was a simple road trip to Tagaytay on a motorcycle. Simple as it was, the date was one of their most memorable moments.
“Nakakatuwa at nakakakilig isipin. Imagine mo, ilang oras akong nakayakap sa kanya. Nagkwentuhan kami at kumain. Favorite namin 'yung Sonia's Garden,” Marian shared in an interview with Jessica Soho in GMA Network's "Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho".
Though they are both working actors who are always the focus of the public's attention, they are at their best with each other during private moments. That's why they often like to travel and be alone together. According to Dingdong, his favorite travel moments are the airplane flighs during which they do nothing more than sit next to each other and just talk.
“[Ang gusto lang namin] Makaupo, makakain, makapag-usap ng maayos. Regardless kung saan,” Dingdong said.
Despite this, Dingdong and Marian never neglect the grand gesture. On Dingdong's birthday last August, Marian surprised Dingdong with a concert from his favorite band, Wolfgang. Marian gathered his fiance's four best friends, his family, and friends to celebrate with them.
Marian shared, “Lahat na ng pakiusap, lahat ng pagmamakaawa ginawa ko masorpresa ko lang siya... Ang hindi matatawaran, yung nakita kong masaya siya.”
The Kapuso Royal Couple also made an effort to know the people who matter to each other.
Dingdong proved his intentions were honorable when he arranged a trip to Spain with Marian in 2010 so he could meet her father.
According to Marian, it was very special because it was the first Valentine's day that she got to spend with the two most important men in her life. For Dingdong, it was the perfect opportunity to “share a date.”
“That was a Valentine's day and proud ako na may kahati ako sa kanya sa date na 'yun,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Marian's father gave Dingdong his blessing.
Marian, meanwhile, is very close to Dingdong's mother, Angeline Dantes. She confides with her when she and Dingdong go through rough patches. One of the things she learned from her soon-to-be mother-in-law was “Kapag may away, hindi dapat sumasabog. Kumbaga kung 'yung isa mainit, magpapalamig 'yung isa. Hindi dapat sumasabay.”
Marian also liked that Dingdong was close to his family. She saw it as an indication of what kind of a father he would be someday.
“Sabi nga ng iba, kung paano i-trato ng boyfriend mo ‘yung nanay niya, ganoon niya ita-trato ‘yung [sariling] pamilya niya,” Marian said. “Nakikita ko kung ga’no niya kamahal ang mommy niya. Lahat ng pagmamahal, nakikita ko sa kanya sa mommy niya.”
And domestic bliss really seems to in the cards as Dingdong likes Marian's cooking. Marian’s version of sinigang na hipon is Dingdong’s favorite. “Proven na talaga kapag masayang-masaya ako kapag nagluluto ako, nagiging masarap,” Marian said.
‘Wedding of the Year’
After eight bridal showers, a few despedida de solteras, a bachelor's party, and wedding preparations in between-- Marian and Dingdong are set to say their “I dos” on December 30, 2014 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cuabo, Quezon City, the parish where the groom-to-be was born and raised.