When Julius Naranjo met Hidilyn Diaz at a weightlifting competition in Turkmenistan, he already had a crush on the Olympic silver medalist. The feeling, however, wasn't mutual at first.
"I got introduced to Hidilyn [by] my teammates because they did the 2017 Hidilyn Diaz Weightlifting Open Championships," said Julius, a Filipino-Japanese weightlifter based in Guam, in an episode of "Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho."
"I was very shy, so when I actually got to meet her... she actually didn't like me in the beginning. So it was kind of interesting because I obviously had a crush on her, but when I first met her, her first impression of me was, 'Oh he's short.'"
Hidilyn corroborated Julius' account.
"Fan ko raw siya. Then, ayun, ini-snub ko siya noong una, then niloloko ko na walang magkakagusto sa kanya dito sa Pilipinas kasi maliit siya—siyempre kaming mga Pilipina, gusto namin matangkad," she said.
"Tapos brokenhearted yata ako that time tapos magkasama kami sa... niyayaya ko siyang uminom, magkasama kami sa inuman."
From there, the couple's courtship lasted for two months, and was mostly conducted through phone and video calls.
It has not been easy, both admitted.
"At least, leading up to competition, one of the hardest things is she is emotionally invested in weightlifting, so it gets hard for me when I'm feeling down because I don't want to distract her from focusing. If I tell her what I'm feeling, I don't want to affect her," he said. "So it gets hard, especially if, one, she's not emotionally there for me, and two, I can't be there physically with her, too."
Hidilyn also said that it's also been hard for her.
"Para sa akin mas gusto ko kasing [long-distance relationship]; nagagawa kong mag-training and nakakapag-focus ako. Pero mahirap din," she admitted.
Hidilyn triumphed at the Asian Games last month, bringing home one of the Philippines' four gold medals after lifting a total of 207 kgs (92 kgs for snatch 115 for clean and jerk).
"I am grateful to God that I won the gold medal that all of us Filipinos dream of," she said at the time. "This proves the Olympic gold medal is possible."
Julius said this is what he admires most about Hidilyn: her determination and passion. "I love weightlifting and she loves weightlifting and she loves representing [the Philippines] and doing everything she can to promote and to represent her country," he said.
Meanwhile, Hidilyn couldn't be more grateful to have someone who understands and supports the demands that come with working towards her dream, someone "who appreciates me kasi ang hirap na lumaban mag-isa," she said of Julius. "Thank you for believing in me."
She said that she is also grateful for Julius' understanding.
"Hindi ko alam na ganoon 'yung nakikita niya sa akin kasi nga sobrang determined ako sa gusto ko para sa weightlifting and para sa Pilipinas, pero 'yun nga, nagiging selfish ako. Wala akong time sa kanila pero nakita niya 'yun, so sobrang grateful ako. At nakita niya rin 'yung pinagdaanan ko," she said.
Julius said he wants to use everything in his power to help Hidilyn with her dreams, while he too works on his own goals in film-making and weightlifting.
"I want to use my skills and my talent to help her because I finally found someone that I share a common interest with and someone who supports me. So I think, in the future, it's really about establishing myself as a filmmaker here and also to promote weightlifting. I also want to help her with her business and investments, and to help her as an athlete," Julius said.
Hidilyn said she and Julius plan to settle down after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and promote weightlifting as a sport in the Philippines.
"'Yun ‘yung gusto ko kay Julius eh, nakikita niya 'yung future namin together," she said. — Jannielyn Ann Bigtas/BM, GMA News