Can I Call You Honey?

She's a sexy comedienne. He's a hunk cager. She didn't know he even existed. He was fully aware of her. Yes, she knew his name because one of her friends was his ex-girlfriend but she didn't know who he really was. No, he didn't know that she was his ex-girlfriend's friend but he had been following her showbiz career. She was married then. He was also married. Everything seemed so against them. But somehow, their worlds crossed paths.

One Sunday, Chris Tan who is a former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player chanced upon "Sanlinggo nAPO Sila," the now-defunct TV noontime show featuring the Apo Hiking Society. In one of the segments, he saw her, actress-comedienne Sherilyn Reyes, co-hosting the show and even performing a dance number.

When he saw her, Chris was mesmerized, to say the least. At that moment, he developed a big crush on Sherilyn. Without her knowing it, he became her number one fan. From then on, he followed her career, watching the shows she was part of like "Eat Bulaga" and "Bubble Gang."

Without any intentions or expectations, Chris wanted to meet her. Just like a fan meeting his idol. There was a time when he was still playing for Cebu Gems that he thought he was given the chance.

That time, he and his team would be playing against another MBA team in Pangasinan. He learned that Sherilyn was also in Pangasinan for a show. He followed the lead and learned that she was staying in the same hotel he was billeted in. He tried to sweet talk the hotel receptionist and asked what room number Sherilyn was staying in. The receptionist gave him the room number, but the wrong one. His plan went pfffft.

In his heart, he knew it was impossible because they moved in two different worlds but he was still hoping he would be able to meet her.

Heaven must have heard him because fate intervened. One day, he got a call from the talent coordinator of "Eat Bulaga," asking him if he wanted to be one of the participants in the show's game segment. Knowing she was part of the show, Chris readily agreed.

That Saturday, Chris excitedly went to Broadway. Rather than stay in the dressing room while waiting for the segment to start, Chris positioned himself on the pathway that the cast and staff used to go to the stage and back to the dressing rooms because he thought there would be a bigger chance he would see Sherilyn there. However, she didn't pass that way.

Without losing hope, Chris talked to comedienne-host Jose Manalo who was the floor director then and asked if he could meet Sherilyn or have her number. Jose encouraged him, telling him 'Ok 'yun. Mabait 'yun." But still, nothing happened.

When the segment ended, Chris prepared to leave. Just then, one of the show's personal assistants grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the studio. Without knowing where the PA was taking him, Chris just let her lead the way and they ended up in one of the dressing rooms.

When Chris opened the door, he saw the show's top hosts - Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey de Leon, looking intently at him. Not knowing what to do, he only managed to say a simple "Hello." Just then, another door burst open and there came in the very person he so wanted to meet, Sherilyn.

The PA introduced Chris to Sherilyn. Apparently, the PA had already asked Sherilyn if she could give her number to Chris, but Sherilyn told the PA that she didn't know the person asking for her number so why would she give it out. So, the PA sought out Chris and brought him to her so they would meet.

When Chris came face to face with Sherilyn, he didn't know what to do or what to say. After a while, he managed to say: "Hi, my name is Chris Tan. I think you know my ex-girlfriend."

Dumbfounded, Sherilyn asked who the ex-girlfriend was. Chris told her the name. Sherilyn recognized the name. Unknown to Chris, his ex-girlfriend had confided to Sherilyn and even asked the actress-comedienne to accompany her to Makati Coliseum just to see Chris practicing. In turn, Sherilyn would badmouth Chris to his ex-girlfriend's sister.

Soon, they exchanged numbers. While driving home, Chris texted Sherilyn. She answered. They exchanged text messages some more, but then Sherilyn stopped texting him. Chris wondered. He called his friend who was working at a telecommunications company and asked if he could check on a certain number. Chris found out it was still working. What happened was he put her number under a teammate's name.

"I know she's off-limits, but I just kept texting her. I felt a certain attachment to her, like she's my soul mate. That time, our marriages were already on the rocks. So, I told myself I have to try it. I have to see where this could lead, if this is a dead end or not," says Chris.

Chris kept asking Sherilyn out, but she would turn down every invitation. "Natatakot na ako. Kasi imbita siya ng imbita, di ba niya alam na married na ako? Then, I learned he was also married. Mas lalong gumulo. One time, he invited me. I told him, 'sure, we can hang out with you and your wife.' Pero hindi pa din siya tumigil," shares Sherilyn who is currently starring in GMA 7's "Daddy Dearest."

There was even a time when he asked if she would like to go with him to Singapore since they couldn't be seen together here because that would generate intrigues. She still refused. He again insisted na "Dito na lang. We can go to a hotel. I can book two rooms. You can bring friends with you. I have no intentions. I just want to sit down and talk to you." But she still refused. After several attempts, Chris gave up, consoling himself that at least he tried.

But one time, after a team building session, Chris got tipsy and called Sherilyn again, telling her that "Susunduin kita wherever you are. I want to talk to you." Sherilyn told him she would be having a dinner with friends. But Chris told her: "Susunduin kita kahit saan pa 'yung dinner nyo, kahit ano'ng oras pa matapos."

Confused, Sherilyn didn't know what to say. Then, she remembered what her handler, who knew everything about her and her marriage, told her: "Anak, baka ito na ang hinihintay mo." That got her thinking.

Meanwhile, Chris drove around Pasay Road looking for a flower vendor. He told the vendor that he would buy all the flowers she was selling if she would come with him to the restaurant where Sherilyn was having dinner with her friends.

When Chris and the vendor arrived at the restaurant, he asked the young girl to give all the white roses to the lady wearing a white dress. It was a signal that Chris was already there and he was waiting for her at the basement parking.

When Chris saw Sherilyn approaching, he went out of the car and enthused: "Sino ka? Hindi ikaw 'yung sinusundo ko." That acted as an ice-breaker. They stayed in the car and talked for three hours before Chris brought Sherilyn to her home. She thanked him and said goodnight.

After that, Chris drove away only to find out that Sherilyn had left all the roses in the back seat. Chris made a U-turn and went back to Sherilyn's place. When he handed her the flowers, he joked: "Sinadya mo 'ata eh. Ayaw mo 'ata akong paalisin eh. Gusto mo dito na lang ako?"

But Sherilyn only laughed and shooed him away. Chris reluctantly left. It was already 1:30 a.m. When Chris entered the subdivision, he parked somewhere and called Sherilyn again. For the next three hours, they talked over the phone. In the middle of the conversation, Chris asked Sherilyn: "Can I call you honey?" That same night, they became a couple.

YOU AND ME AGAINST THE WORLD

But they still have things to iron out. They had their previous marriages to think about. Their relationship was bombarded with trials, hardships, and sacrifices.

"It was quite a challenging time for us. We started from scratch. We had to let go of everything. We didn't have the finances. Our families were against our relationship. We couldn't count on our friends. We were on our own," shares Chris.

Sherilyn adds: "We were facing annulments. So, times two lahat ng bayarin. Buntis pa ako that time, so si Chris lang ang nagwo-work. Everyday, nasa Adoration Chapel kami. We were praying for things to turn out well. There was even a time, may papasok na checks and we didn't have enough funds to cover them. Tataya kami sa lotto. God was so good to us because we would win enough to fill in the check."

Chris continues: "That went on for years. For five years, we didn't go out. Wala kaming pera to shop or just to dine out. It was hand to mouth existence. What I was earning from playing basketball, dumadaan lang. There was one time, sa Rustan's Makati, we saw this restaurant. We wanted to eat there. She was asking me if we have money. Sabi ko, may card ako alam ko may laman pa but I don't know how much. We ate there without knowing if we have enough money to pay for it."

RAISING THEIR CHILDREN, RYLE PAOLO, 13, LORENZ CHRISTOPHER, 9, and ANYA SABRINA, 1

He shares: "Sometime ago, I asked Pao if there was a time when he felt na naghirap kami. He told me he didn't and that we have provided them with everything. Even during that time na we were so down, we tried to provide them with everything they needed. We want them to grow up na makatao. We are not strict with grades, but we're particular with conducts and values. Pao is not mine, but I love him more than, say, my relatives. I don't believe that blood dictates the relationship. I believe in nourishing relationships. I gave up basketball because I want to spend more time with my children. There was a time when Paolo came home crying because I failed to attend his school event. While I didn't see myself in the PBA for the long haul, seeing Paolo cry made me realize what things are more important than others.

She said: We are not the conventional parents. We are very realistic. Kami 'yung 'cool parents.' We would sometimes tell them na umabsent kung wala namang exam so we could travel together. Our children grew up wanting to be with us, unlike other kids na 'pag lumaki na ayaw ng sumama sa mga parents. Kapag pumipili ako ng projects, I consider my children. Yes, I'm an actress. But I'm more of a wife and a mother. Madaling kumita ng pera, pero mahirap hanapin ang pamilya.

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