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Why Daniel & Vanessa Matsunaga have made the Philippines their home |

Sunday Lifestyle

Why Daniel & Vanessa Matsunaga have made the Philippines their home

10 THINGS - Bianca Gonzalez - The Philippine Star

Despite the influx of Brazilian models taking over the Manila modeling scene the past few years, two names still stand out. What would drive two siblings with zero Pinoy blood to live halfway across the globe, and, are Brazilians and Filipinos really so different? Here are 10 things you should know about Daniel and Vanessa Matsunaga.

1They moved out of their home in Brazil when Daniel was 16 and Vanessa was 18 to pursue modeling around the world.

“Every two or three  months we would move country. As models we’re always looking for the right season. When we were in Hong Kong, a lot of people were telling us, ‘Why don’t you go to the Philippines?  You guys will work very well there,’” Vanessa says. “’It’s your market, and Filipinos are very nice,’” Daniel added. Before 2009 ended, Vanessa and Daniel moved to Manila to pursue modeling but only for two months.

“I’ve lived in over 25 countries,” Daniel shares. “Yes,” Vanessa adds. “We’ve both filled up four passports with stamps because of modeling.” They lived the longest in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, and Singapore. “My dad Paulo was born and raised in Brazil, but he is actually pure Japanese. He looks Pinoy though! My mom Geralda is Brazilian,” Vanessa says.

On the decision to settle in the Philippines: “We are both Christians, and our pastor in Brazil advised us that there was a purpose here for us. I was in Hong Kong at that time and work was good for me. Vanessa said that we have to go to the Philippines because we have a purpose there. In the beginning, I didn’t believe it and I told her that it’s hard to leave something that is concrete, versus something that is not,” Daniel recalls. “We were working here in Manila already, and then when we were about to leave, I met my husband. How was I gonna leave, I was already so in love with him,” Vanessa gushes. 

“Nine years of modeling, it can get boring. When I also entered showbiz, I found it more exciting. Step by step, I’m trying to improve. All the purpose that we were told we had here, it was true. It’s been almost five years and we haven’t left,” Daniel says.

2On their fondest memory as kids: “We were so mad at each other that our dad made us hug till we loved each other.”

“We used to fight a lot!” Daniel says. “Probably about things that were really stupid. I remember one day, Daniel punched me in the stomach, and I punched him back. Our dad got so mad that he made us kneel down,” Vanessa recalls. “…and made us hug each other!” They said in unison, laughing. “We were hugging for hours until we loved each other again,” Vanessa says. “That’s worse than standing in the corner. It’s so hard when you’re angry at each other then you have to hug each other,” Daniel adds. They were four and six years old then.

“I remember our little brother Gui used to love cooking even if he was so young and so small he could barely reach the stove. Daniel was always like, ‘Gui, cook me something!’ and all the time, Gui would cook for him. So bossy,” Vanessa says about Daniel as a kid.

“The funniest is when she starts talking to animals. She would start speaking this other language that nobody understands, and it’s this voice that’s really funny,” Daniel says about Vanessa when they were growing up. “For her, the animals really understand her,” he adds. “And they do, I believe they do! I should be an animal trainer,” Vanessa says with a laugh.

3Their favorite Tagalog expressions are “Talaga,” “Syempre,” “Oo nga,” “Diba,” and “Ano?!”

“When I bought Lumi (their pet bird), I wanted to name her Trixie. Then our yaya Ate Alice said, ‘Ma’am! Baka lumipad,’ pointing to the bird. And I said, ‘Ate, Trixie na lang, mas magandang pangalan’ ‘Hindi ma’am, lumipad yan!’ ‘Sige, Lumipad na lang.’ I didn’t know what the word meant! So that’s how her name became Lumi,” Vanessa shares giggling.

“When I first came here, at work I was always surrounded by beckies (gays), and they always teach you the bad words. And they taught me to say bakla, they would say ‘O, call him bakla, call him bakla,” Daniel recalls.

On people’s biggest misconceptions about them: “Everyone says Daniel is so serious, but for me he is very silly! He makes me kulit all the time, he’s like a kid,” Vanessa shares. “If not for events or birthdays, Vanessa doesn’t like clubbing or partying. She doesn’t drink. Bahay lang ‘yan, she can watch six movies in a row,” Daniel says. 

4The first time Vanessa met her husband Jun Sunga, she didn’t like him right off the bat; and at one point even teased him about being a stalker.

“One of the few events I went to, in Embassy, he was there and we met. He was tipsy. I was like, ‘Uh, no,’” Vanessa recalls. “But we met again at a shoot. I was the model and there were two photographers. And every time I would step in front of him to have my photos taken, he would give the camera to the other guy. I thought, ‘What was wrong with him? What was wrong with me?’ But I already found him cute then,” she adds. “He was sending flowers to the house all the time! What’s this? Again?” Daniel reveals.

“He proposed after five months of dating, and five months after, we got married,” she shares. “I just wanted to get married under a tree! That was my dream. And it was so hard to find a tree. And I remembered in Bellaroca in Marinduque there was a beautiful tree, so it was perfect.” Jun and Vanessa are now three years married. “We don’t have kids yet, so we have our dogs and birds for now.”

On what she loves most about Jun: “He’s masipag, very organized, down to earth. So many! He’s very sweet, very gentlemanly.”

5 Daniel has been in five serious relationships (four were Brazilian and one was Pinay) and he believes he will probably end up with a Filipina.

He is currently single. “I told myself that I want to really focus on myself first, on work, I told myself I wanna stay single for at least two years and it’s already been two years,” Daniel says. “I learned a lot in my relationships, including the one with Heart (Evangelista), I learned how to deal with myself.”

“He is waiting for the right one,” Vanessa says. “Daniel looks all tough, but he believes in these kinds of things, that there’s one right person.”

On the differences between Brazilian women and Filipina women: “You guys are more conservative, more family-oriented, and more malambing,” Daniel says. “Brazilians are more fiery and more independent,” Vanessa says. “And more open,” Daniel adds.

“I’m not gonna say that I for sure will end up with a Filipina, because you never know. But yes, I do expect to, because I love this country, I love everything about the people here. And since she has not arrived yet, I will have to wait,” Daniel reveals.

6Vanessa has a pretty low maintenance beauty regimen:

1. “I never sleep with makeup on, and I only put a bit of makeup on when I need to. I like Esteé Lauder.”

2. “Always moisturize.”

3. “I love home massages, we call for that a lot, Jun and I.”

4. “For my hair, I like everything organic. I love the products of Healthy Options, they smell so good and I like them because they are not animal-tested.”

5. “For my nails, I love Orly. I actually do my own nails! I enjoy it.”

7Daniel says his physique doesn’t only come from good genes; in fact, he works out every single day. “It really takes a lot of work.”

“I play football every day for two hours, so that’s a lot of cardio, running. I do gym also, every day, for two hours. No trainer because since I was 14, I’ve been working out, I learned everything about fitness and food,” Daniel shares. 

His tips? “Less carbohydrates and sugar; instead, have fiber and protein. I usually eat a piece of chicken breast with broccoli and mashed potato, a lot of beans, fish fillet, salad, fruits. It’s not actually the genes, I was chubby before,” he reveals. 

His favorite cheat day indulgence? “Ice cream. Anything sweet,” he says. “He always has snacks or chocolate beside his bed,” Vanessa reveals. “When we used to share a room I would wake up in the middle of the night to this loud sound! It would be Daniel, opening the bag of Lay’s or something.”

8The perfect day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

“People normally wake up early, at 7 or 8 a.m., then eat breakfast with fruits and bread. Then you head to the beach, to Copacabana or Ipanema. Then you play football or hang out at the restaurants and cafés all over,” Daniel says. “Then have lunch at a churrasco, that’s eat all you can and they have the best cuts of beef! Then afternoon, you wanna sleep, after you eat. Basically people stay on the beach the whole day, and drinking in Brazil is the whole day. Either beer, or caipirinha,” Vanessa shares. “Sunset is beautiful at the beach. Then dinner, there are a lot of restaurants with live music, so depends on what you like, there’s bossa nova, or pagode, or samba,” Daniel adds. “People can party till 5 a.m.! Midnight or 1 a.m. is early.”

9Daniel and Vanessa Matsunaga in numbers: 

5’8”: Vanessa’s height

6’1”: Daniel’s height

1,000+: number of DVDs in Vanessa’s collection 

12: jersey number of Daniel for his first division football team, Kaya FC

10: number of pets at home. There are two birds and eight dogs, all Alaskan Malamutes

2: number of times a year they usually go home to Brazil

10On what Brazilians can learn from Filipinos, and what Filipinos can learn from Brazilians:

“I think from Brazilians, Pinoys can learn that criticism is not always a bad thing,” Vanessa says. “In our culture it’s very normal for people to tell you these things, but Filipinos are very non-confrontational.”

“What I think is most captivating that Brazilians can learn is, you guys are such a happy people. Kahit may problema, you guys are very happy with what you have. Even after Yolanda, people were still laughing and smiling, it’s very touching,” Daniel says.

“One thing that both cultures have is that thought to never give up. When a challenge comes, believe in yourself, and trust God,” he adds.

It took Vanessa, 27, and Daniel, 25, a trip halfway around the world and four passports before they decided to build their dreams and their future here in Manila, which they now fondly call home. “You really don’t have Pinoy blood? Not even a bit?” I had to ask. “Wala talaga,” they said with their thick Brazilian accents. “Sa puso, Pinoy!” they say with a smile. 

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Email me at or message me on Twitter @iamsuperbianca.

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