A Match Made By Cupid
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2014 - 12:00am

You can think of all the clichés and they will apply to James Yap, who turned 32 yesterday (Feb. 15), and his girlfriend, Michela Cazzola, 30 (Oct. 27, 1983), the beautiful (and sexy!) Italian who captured the (elusive/slippery?) heart of the San Mig Coffee gunslinger — you know, East meets West, two right people meeting at the right time, two peas in a pod, perfect pair, opposites attract (she’s outgoing and outspoken while he’s reserved, a man of few words) and, yes, a match made (maybe not in heaven but) by Cupid.

A Diplomatic Studies graduate from a university in Italy, Michela (pronounced Mi-kae-la) has been working with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for five years. She said that she studied Law but she quit when she found it “boring.”

She is a charming lady who can win your, or anybody’s heart, at first meeting. She’s sweet, engaging, friendly, with no hang-ups, very connecting and genuinely sincere (no put-ons), not maarte, laughs a lot and looks at you straight in the eye during a conversation. She’s also simple in her ways, very much like James who is self-effacing.

Tuesday night (Feb. 11), STAR business columnist (for the Lifestyle Section) Wilson Lee Flores and I were at Santouka Japanese restaurant (more on it on the “jump” page) at the Promenade in Greenhills, San Juan City, upon the invitation of James and Michela’s to an oft-postponed dinner. With us were the sweethearts’ best friend Jeffrey Yap (no relation, one of James’ partners in their Mototechnik [on Gilmore Avenue, Quezon City], a car/motorcycle store which Wilson is writing about in his column tomorrow), Jeffrey’s girlfriend Pritz Chua and Jeffrey’s father Dr. Welson Yap.

It was a fun dinner. James and Michela were relaxed and uninhibited, at ease with themselves and with the company, very buoyant and in a playful mood. We casually requested for an interview. At first, they begged off. Told that it was James’ birthday and it was Valentine season anyway, why wouldn’t they? They later relented and even agreed to a brief TV interview for Startalk (airing this afternoon at 4 to 5:30 on GMA).

The day after, on Wednesday (Feb. 12), James scored 30 shots at his team‘s crucial game against Barangay Ginebra. San Mig won (110-87), another reason for James and Michela to celebrate…in private?

Excerpts from our rambling Conversation with the couple:

When and how did you meet?

Michela: It was at an ADB outing. We were introduced by an ADB girl from another department hosting the party. Actually, I wasn’t in the mood to party but I went just the same. I didn’t even know who James was, that he’s a popular basketball player.

What was your first impression of James?

Michela: Oh, he was very quiet; he hardly talked. Uhm, we didn’t really talk that much, actually. He was very shy.

What about you, James? What was your first impression of Michela?

James (Blushing): Medyo madilim kaya hindi ko siya masyadong makita. Pero nagandahan ako sa kanya. I asked for her phone number.

How long after that did you meet again?

Michela: A day after.

James: No, one week after? Teka, soon after.

Michela: We just rode in his car and we drove around and around. Then, we ordered ‘drive-thru.’ At that time, I was the one quiet and he did all the talking.

What did you talk about?

Michela: Ask him. (Pointing to James).

It’s good that when you met, you were both free.

Michela: It was in late 2011 but we didn’t really get together until much later. We started getting together only in August 2012 when we went to Italy together to visit my parents. I grew up in a small medieval town in Italy.

What was your parents’ reaction to James?

Michela: Oh, they instantly liked him; they easily became fond of him. My mom cooked Italian food for him. My dad is retired and my mom is still working. (Michela is an only child; James and his three siblings were, like Michela, raised in a small town in Negros Occidental.)

Are you close to each other’s family?

Michela: Yes, we are. I’ve met his family and I am relaxed and comfortable with them.

No cultural differences between you?

Michela: There’s a few but nothing major.

Any difference in the way you were brought up?

Michela: A little bit different although like Filipinos, we Italians are family-oriented. Like James, I’m Catholic.

Anything that you have in common?

Michela (Prodding James): Why don’t you answer?

James: I think we love to ano…travel.

Michela (Picking up from James): But I think the main thing is that we are both quiet. We love to stay home. I could never stay with a boy who is out all the time. We are not the party-going type.

How many times have you traveled together?

Michela: Within the Philippines and abroad? Oh, many times! We’ve also been to Paris and Hong Kong, to Boracay and to Escalante (James’ hometown).

What do you usually do when you’re traveling?

Michela: Aside from shopping? We love to sit in the park or in the plaza and just relax, watch people go by.

Are you selosa?

Michela (Who understands only a little Filipino): What’s that?

James: She wants me to translate everything for her.

Michela: And you also wanted me to translate everything for you when we were in Italy.

So are you the jealous type?

James (Teasing Michela): Selosa ‘yan!

Michela (Protesting): No, I’m not! I’m not jealous of other people; I just want the attention to be on me.

Is James faithful?

Michela (Looking at James, as if to test him): I don’t know. Ask him!

James (Winking at Michela): Baliw!

Michela: My friends are saying that it’s hard to stay with somebody who is popular. I always say, “Actually, it’s much easier because a normal person can do whatever he wants and nobody will mind. But somebody who is popular should be 300 times more careful.”

So have you learned to live with a hugely-popular celebrity like James?

Michela: Oh yes. He’s so normal. So easy to be with. So nice even if he’s so quiet.

Is marriage part of your plans?

Michela: Ask him.

James: It will come. Nandyan lang ‘yan.

Michela: But what’s among our plans is to travel some more. In August, we might go back to Italy and visit Sicily.

Wow, Sicily! That reminds me of The Godfather (Part 1). That’s where Al Pacino’s character Michael hid from rival mobs after he killed a member of a mob. Then, he fell in love with a beautiful village girl named Apolonia (played by Italian actress Simonetta Stefanelli) who got killed while learning to drive a car exploded by the enemy. You look a bit like her.

Michela: Is that so? (Turning to James) Maybe we should watch The Godfather before we go to Sicily.

If and when, how many kids do you want to have?

Michela: One is enough.

You should have six, to form a basketball team.

Michela (Joking): Oh, you mean four more? James has two already, right?

To James (Mum on how many more kids he wants to have): What do you like most about Michela?

James: Marunong makisama. Kahit saan mo dalhin ‘yan, maski sa turo-turo, game ‘yan. ‘Yon ang pinaka-maganda sa isang relationship, na puede mong dalhin kahit saan. At pinaka-importante sa isang relationship ’yung nagkakasundo kayo at masaya kayo, may tawanan, may biruan.

(No need for translation for Michela to understand that.)

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)


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