It was eight in the morning, and the new Mrs. Nicole de los Reyes (formerly Miss Tantoco) sat on a large couch in the corner of fashion designer Jojie Loren’s atelier. The walls of the antique house in Manila were a familiar sight to Nicole, having frequently visited a few months earlier to fit her custom-made wedding gown by the esteemed couturier. Marriage looked good on Nicole. She looked healthy and happy, and was sporting a new bob cut hairdo that framed her face. Her new husband, Miko, sat at the grooming station across the hall, prepping for his solo layouts. That day, the newlyweds were shooting for Lifestyle Asia’s December digital cover, their first photoshoot and interview together since tying the knot last August.
“Miko doesn’t like things on his fingers, so he actually wears his ring around his neck. As for myself, I’m always checking if it’s here.” Nicole shared. She puts her hand forward, showing us a custom-made yellow diamond ring stacked under her wedding band. “He chose a yellow diamond because it’s unique. It’s not a fussy design. Now I feel like it’s a part of me. It’s not so much to let people know that I’m married, I just feel naked when I don’t wear it.” The two rings that now permanently sit on Nicole’s finger aren’t the only change that has come with married life. Over the course of the morning the couple shared their experiences with “nesting”, their conscious effort to live green, how they are saving money, and their plans to build their dream home.
The Meet Cute
“We met through my cousin Tara, who joins art fairs a lot,” Nicole looks back. Miko’s mom is a client of Tara Soriano, who makes jewelry and regularly sells in bazaars such as Artefino. “One day, I was single and Tara was like, ‘I want to introduce you to my crush. He’s an architect!’” She told her cousin that she wasn’t interested, having been newly single. Eventually, the two met at Nicole’s birthday party, where Tara brought Miko. “We liked each other instantly,” she laughs about their meet cute.
It was 2014 when the couple started going out. Nicole shared that Miko was unlike anyone she’s dated before. “Before I met Miko, I had a few really unconventional relationships. I didn’t like guys going after me. Once you started going after me, I just wasn’t for it. I liked being the one to go after guys. Which is pretty weird, but I wanted to feel empowered. When I met him, he changed the way I saw everything. He’s pretty traditional. He didn’t make me work for things at all. I kind of like it that someone is taking care of me for once.”
Three years (and a few road bumps later), Miko decided it was time to pop the question. His plan was to do it on a trip somewhere (the couple loves to travel). He started planning a romantic Palawan getaway. Unfortunately, his plan was thwarted due to a storm which forced the hotel and airline to cancel in the last minute. Scrabbling for an alternative plan, he decided to organize a spontaneous trip to The Farm at San Benito instead. “That’s where I asked,” he shared. “It was nothing too flashy. There was no hidden photographer in the bushes. It was just the two of us. I set up a bucket of flowers, which we eventually patterned our photo booth at the wedding after. I woke her up at 5:30 AM, and she’s not an early riser. I wanted it to be the first light of the day. I took her to the balcony where the flowers were, and I asked.”
Surrounded by dozens of Alstroemeria flowers, Nicole said yes. “When he proposed to me, it was a complete surprise. I didn’t even know he was thinking of that. I knew we were happy, but it was so fast. We’ve gone through a lot of things. It hasn’t always been easy. There have been challenges with the relationship, but we’ve always stuck it out and we never allowed anything to break us. We’ve already gone through so much and now that we’re married, we can only become stronger,” Nicole says. The ring had a yellow diamond, something Miko was keen on getting his then-fiancée. “I have nothing against the clear [diamonds], but the ring is supposed to be a symbol of what we have. And for me, yellow means happiness,” he says about his choice.
An Unconventional Wedding
When Miko and Nicole were engaged, they became the subject of many lifestyle journalists interested to tell the love story of the Tantoco heiress and the budding architect. They appeared on the cover of a magazine, and many websites covered their journey to married life. Nicole’s grand Despedida de Soltera was highly publicized. However, for the actual wedding day, Miko shared that he and Nicole wanted to keep things simple. “Everyone’s attention is on you, which we actually don’t like. That’s what I was dreading most. Not that I was afraid of getting married or that I was afraid of commitment, but I was anxious about the attention. I don’t like saying ‘Hey, look at me’. That’s why we decided to do the program the way we did. We didn’t have a typical wedding,” he shared when Nicole was shooting her solo layouts. Miko, a natural in front of the camera, finished all of his in just 30 minutes.
The two wed at Montecito, Our Lady of Guadalupe, a church inside a subdivision in Nuvali. Miko says they were taken by the church’s simplicity and intimate feel. “When you open the doors of the church, all you see is greenery,” he mentions. The young man is attuned with nature, as he helps run the family’s 30-year-old flower farm in Tagaytay. As for the wedding reception, Antonio’s in Tagaytay was chosen, and they invited only their closest friends and family. Miko continued to enumerate how their wedding was unconventional.
“We didn’t have a first dance. We didn’t have a formal stage. We didn’t have a normal cake cutting. We didn’t even have an entrance. We just mingled and ate our food. It was just like having big dinner with family and friends. If people wanted to have a photo with us, they’d just come up to us. After the ceremony, we realized we hardly had any photos with our family and friends. Our photographer just captured the moments. When everything is too staged, you lose the essence of what the day is about.” Afterwards, they had a mini honeymoon getaway in Siargao. Their “real honeymoon” happened months earlier at Sri Lanka.
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The Doting Husband
Now four months after the wedding, Miko and Nicole are looking for their rhythm in their new life. Things have definitely changed, especially for Nicole, who says her parents were quite strict with her when it came to dating. Today they live at Miko’s childhood room, inside his father’s house in the south. A young architect and design fanatic, Miko saw the chance to remodel the room before his bride moved in. He talks about throwing out most of his “personal junk” (old aquariums and toys), and starting from scratch. He refurbished the room, and then custom built most of the furniture at his office.
“We also have a second room in the house, which is our messy room. It’s like Nicole’s closet, where she puts on her makeup. I have my desk there, and that’s also where I paint. I do dog portraits for other people. We work out in that room too. We just take out our yoga mats and workout. It’s basically our hangout room. We spend more time in there. The other room is just for sleeping,” he explains.
“The first week I moved in, Miko was really nesting,” Nicole continued. “We had all these home goods from our wedding gifts, and he was busy organizing it all. I’m not really the nesting type, but I learned it from him. He was making little vignettes and he was showing it to me. He’s super doting. Sometimes he has to remind me to take care of him. Sometimes I take it all for granted. Miko is so thoughtful. He’s thoughtful 11 out of 10 times. I’m thoughtful 1 out of 10 times. I would go downstairs and he would be there showing me random things that he bought for me. He makes me my breakfast and my baon for the day. He takes care of everything. It’s amazing. He thinks of the smallest things. He just naturally thinks of others before himself.”
Living the Dream
Miko works for the family architectural firm called Imagimax. His mother is also an architect, so design has played a large role in his life for as long as he could remember. It wasn’t a surprise to hear that the young man already has plans on building a dream home for Nicole and himself. “Even before I got married, I was already saving. I invested in my own property. That was a big help for the both of us. That helps the milestone on trying to acquire your first property. Now it’s all about saving to build a house,” he says.
He explains his five-year plan, “For me it’s really having our own home. There’s no plan specifically not to have kids. That’s definitely there too. I guess basically, we want to build up. I don’t think we want anything extravagant. We don’t have dreams of owning a mansion or anything like that. Just a small, happy family in 5 years. And we welcome anything that will help us financially and career wise that will lead us up to that.” He then took his iPhone out of his pocket, and began scrolling through a photo album of sketches and renders on what their future home will look like.
Influenced by his favorite architect, Geoffrey Bawa, the Laguna-based property will have colonial elements with a touch of the contemporary. With three floors, he says the house won’t be very big, but it will be tailored exactly to their liking. For instance, he will dedicate a generous portion of the second floor for the master’s suite, which will have double bath linked together by a sizable walk-in closet. The third floor will be an open space where they can exercise and he can paint (reminiscent of their “messy room” in Miko’s dad’s house). Miko says the living room on the ground floor will be small. He wants to have a large dining area since people spend more time in there eating, drinking, and sharing stories. The dining room will spill out to a small porch. Also, he will build Nicole (an avid reader) a library for all her books. “I designed it two years ago. I continuously showed it her since the beginning. She said she wanted it white. So it is white and grey.”
To achieve this dream house, the couple must save what they can. “Recently, we had a garage sale to sell all the old stuff. The little money we made there, we put it in our savings accounts. We also add whatever we can save from our salaries. We try to make a monthly goal on what we can save. Certain months we save more, and some months we don’t.” He notes that December has been quite difficult, for the holidays require a lot more spending than usual.
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Eat, Drink and Be Married
In an effort to save money, Miko admits that they spend most of their time at home, rather than dining out. Nowadays, they prefer inviting friends over, enjoying a plate of cold cuts over a few bottles of wine. The couple has also begun their journey in eating clean. Cooking and preparing their own meals comes with the territory.
“Before I got married I had no knowledge of cooking at all. I love cooking now. I’m not good at it. I’m actually bad at it! But I’ve found some 0 level recipes. I read Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen’s books. I’m trying to model my life after them. It’s nice to have a peg,” Nicole shares with a giggle. “Just this week I made some curry. We eat pretty healthy. He’s gluten-free, and I prefer vegan dishes. Although we don’t go completely vegan because Miko is already gluten-free and I think if he goes vegan, he’ll disappear! It’s all pretty opposite from how I ate before I was married. Last weekend, Miko was at an event. He was setting up someone’s wedding, so I decided to visit my parents. When I ate lunch at their house, I was like, ‘It’s all gluten!’. I haven’t eaten like that in a while.”
Miko and Nicole consider cooking together a great way to bond. They described experimenting on gluten-free recipes. For instance, after watching a Filipino contestant on Master Chef make adobo fried chicken with coconut milk adlai, they decided to copy it, but used gluten-free ingredients instead. Nicole notes that the lifestyle shift has been pretty great, stating that she is surprised that vegan and gluten-free food is just as good as what she used to eat pre-married life. As for grocery shopping, that’s another story. She mentions that before becoming Mrs. de los Reyes, she had never gone grocery shopping before. Miko opened her eyes and palette to a medley of different ingredients, especially local fruit she’s just trying for the first time.
“Errands are really a bonding experience. I actually love doing the grocery now,” she says. “I love the control we have when it comes to our lifestyle choices. Little things like bringing an eco-bag and being eco-friendly have become some of the biggest changes after the wedding. My lola and my mom never told me that you have to learn [how to be a wife]. It’s a challenge if you haven’t done these things because someone else always did it before. It’s about finding your identity together as a couple. It’s really helpful to do the grocery together and cooking together. In some families it’s always the wife dictating, but Miko is so involved. We love making decisions together. It’s really equal. It’s one of the most enjoyable experiences of being married.”
Having been together for five years (and married for four months) now, the couple seems to be finding their feet in this crazy roller coaster ride called marriage. We have to note that this story is yet to be finish being written. New chapters and milestones will have to be added as the years go by. As Nicole mentioned earlier, there have been challenges with the relationship. But what relationship is without its difficulties? However, this time it’s different. They are now husband and wife, and whatever storm may come, they are ready to take it on together while eating clean and drinking wine.
Photography by Yukie Sarto
Styling by Roko Arceo
Hair and makeup by Syd Helmsley
Shot on location at Jojie Loren’s atelier
Special thanks to Jojie Loren
All clothes available at Rustan’s Department Stores