It started with stylist Ria Casco noticing him out of the corner of her eye. He was from a sister company of the entertainment/nightlife and promotions company she had signed up for right out of college, and she’d only ever seen him as he went in and out of the conference room. He was quiet. He didn’t really talk to anyone. He just spent the day working there on his laptop. “Actually, I think most of us didn’t even know who he was or what project he was working on exactly with our boss,” laughs Ria.
It wasn’t immediate attraction for Ria. “It was more of curiosity,” she confirms. Then curiosity got the better of her: she asked her colleague. “Maybe it was because he seemed so intelligent, yet so low-key and polite. He didn’t have a bullshit façade. I really found that intriguing.” His name was Mike, she learned. Mike Pio Roda.
“Mike is incredible,” she says now. “He’s an extremely hardworking person with big goals, and he is relentless when it comes to pursuing them. In fact, every day he inspires me to think big, go after my goals, and stop second-guessing myself. He is the most supportive and understanding person I have ever known in my entire life. He’s humble and kind despite his accomplishments. He’s resilient despite adversity. As a partner, he really makes you a priority—he’s very considerate.
“On the flip side,” Ria adds with a sly grin, “he’s also a cartoon-watching, gummy candy-eating, snuggle-hungry toddler trapped in a grown man’s body.”
But before all that, he was just a question mark wrapped in an enigma. He “magically” just started hanging out with her friends (“Quite possibly on purpose,” Ria interjects); they eventually became friends as well. “And that eventually turned into just the two of us. We’d eat out or catch a movie, just hang out,” Ria shares of their easy transition from the whole getting-to-know-each-other phase to full-on dating. “Then one time after dinner, he asked me, ‘So, we’ve been seeing each other every day for the past two weeks. Would you consider that dating? Because I like you.’ He totally caught me off guard! I didn’t even really think about it or know what we were at that point because all I knew was that we were enjoying each other’s company. And since I had a full-blown crush on him by then, I said, ‘I guess so!’ That’s pretty much how it started.”
Recently, they moved on from dating to engagement. A friend, who owns the restaurant Hey Handsome, invited Ria and Mike to a private cocktail on Labour Day. No biggie; Ria and Mike were both used to the events circuit. “I even asked to bring my dad along,” Ria says.
But it turned out to be a surprise send-off party that Mike had put together for her. Ria would be leaving for San Francisco for good in few days, and she was dumbfounded as to how she had no idea that her closest friends and a few long lost ones all came together for it.
A speech would be necessary for such things, of course. Mike started rifling through his backpack for what Ria thought was his prepared speech—but it turned out to be a ring.
“I’d have to give mad props to Meg Manzano, who apparently from day one was Mike’s co-conspirator with the engagement ring,” laughs Ria. “She seriously is one of the best and now definitely the sneakiest friend I have.”
Ria and Mike’s next chapter is still being written, given that there are still so many factors to consider, like Ria’s move to the US to pursue fashion, perhaps an MBA down the line for Mike. (“We basically have to get all of our shit together!”) But they’re considering something in maybe two years—not a problem for a stylist like Ria, who already had a secret Pinterest board of it.
“I’ve never really been a fan of big, over-the-top weddings. I prefer something very intimate, but tasteful, of course. I have to say I think I’m gonna be pretty cutthroat on the guest list,” she shares. “And Mike being the very private person that he is appreciates that. I just want us to be around people who are genuinely a part of our lives, and always had our backs throughout the years, especially because we’ve had extraordinarily challenging ones.”
She adds, with a laugh, “I also vowed to myself to not wear a poufy princess dress.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICA ABESAMIS
SITTINGS BY MAGS OCAMPO