“He is first and foremost my best friend,” the newly engaged Jenilee Chan shares of her fiancee Migi Soriano. The pair met in 2010 through Ateneo’s Junior Term Abroad (JTA) program—they both picked Telecom in Evry, France as their school for the four-month semester.
There was zero attraction at first. In fact, she got mad at him (over an incident we will not elaborate on) the first time they met, during orientation for the program. But later on, as they were talking about the trip on Facebook Messenger, Jenilee found out that Migi was also into Lost; the commonality opened Jenilee up to him, thinking that, “oh, he might not be so bad.”
Their semester in France proved to be the foundation for their relationship. Although they were 10 students in total who went to Telecom, Jenilee and Migi struck an easy dynamic right away: she was the group’s self-appointed tour guide, planning excursions to Italy, Greece, Spain, Germany; Migi was her second in command, who would make sure they wouldn’t get left behind by any trains or planes (which happened more than once, train strikes and all). They would end up sitting together during the long hours in transit, telling each other stories of their family or childhood, or discussing their favourite TV shows. (Lost remained a constant talking point.) “Once, we were on an overnight train from Spain to France, and we both found out we were huge fans of WWF when we were younger,” recalls Jenilee. “We started laughing so loudly, to the annoyance of our friends who were trying to sleep.”
The list of things they had in common grew and grew. “I get his weird jokes, and his sense of humour, just like how he gets mine. We laugh too much,” Jenilee shares. “I think that our first couple of months traveling together really shaped our friendship.” But with one caveat: they didn’t want to date while abroad. In fact, they actively tried to stay away from each other.
That, however, didn’t last long. By the end of their term abroad, they couldn’t deny the attraction anymore: it was there, clear as day. They decided to try dating once they got back to Manila; they did exactly that for 6 months, before he asked her to be his girlfriend.
Travel has remained a big part of their relationship to this day—so much so that they came up with a signature travel video, which is a 360-degree selfie of just the two of them. Migi had just gotten his GoPro, and she told him about some similar videos she’d seen online. They tried it first on a trip to Anawangin a couple of years back, and the habit begun. Even when Jenilee left for a master’s degree in London, he visited a couple of times over her two year stay, and they continued to do the 360 videos in London, Stonehenge, Edinburgh, Seoul, Beijing, and the site of his proposal, Tokyo.
They were sitting in Yoyogi Park, on a bench. He beckoned her to cross a bridge with him, and tried to distract her by asking her look at something while he was looking for something on this phone. When he handed it over to her so they could do their 360 video, she could tell he was nervous; his hands were shaking. Then when the video began, the soundtrack was too much—she had a feeling he would propose then.
When they were done taking the video, he twirled her around with the camera in the same 360 selfie fashion. Then he got down on one knee.
It was mostly a surprise to Jenilee, but there had been little clues here and there. One of her best friends had asked her about engagement rings, and they exchanged photos of rings that they liked—Jenilee spotted the ones she sent her friend a few weeks later, saved to Migi’s phone.
Jenilee’s mom was also in on the engagement; he had asked permission from her parents in March. “I had told him way before that if he ever wanted to look for a ring, he should approach my mom, who’s an avid fan of jewelry,” she explains. True enough, Jenilee’s mom took Migi to her jewellers in search of the perfect diamond.
As for the wedding itself, they’re looking at sometime next year, perhaps in September. “I have 3 older sisters who are already married. Learning from their own weddings, I [already] have an idea of which suppliers I want, plus the look and feel of the party,” Jenilee explains of her desired beach wedding. “I’d prefer it to be small and intimate, near the ocean, with a lot of natural elements. Simple and classic, not too formal.”
The beauty of it all is that with the wedding, they’re bringing back their old tandem from JTA days. “When I met him, he wasn’t a planner. At all! However, recently, he’s been stepping up his game,” Jenilee concedes. “Especially during our Tokyo trip where he planned most of the itinerary. He told me that my planning from our exchange program made him notice me.” It was something he admired about her—and undeniably something that will definitely come in handy come September.
SPECIAL THANKS TO PATRICIA MEDINA