CHRIS Aldeguer clasped his fingers, leaning on the ledge at the cashier as he silently examined the store – the lights on the ceiling, the arrangements of clothes on each rack, and the behavior of customers coming in at high noon.

He could have been thinking of what stocks to put in for the coming months, but it was clear enough he was waiting for someone: His wife Nia had a quick make-up and hair fix in the dressing room after the Father’s Day program at their son’s school on an early Saturday morning.

If there’s one virtue Chris, 34, dominantly possesses, it is patience: He had to endure 10 years of being away from Nia until he married her.

Another is passion: He thought of different means (long distance calls and snail mail) to communicate with her, who was then an architect in Los Angeles, California.

But if there’s one virtue he’s most proud of, it is love: He ended up flying from Cebu to L.A. to propose to her, and then after six months, they decided to sanctify their relationship in Danao, Nia’s hometown.

Married for five years now, they narrate the love story all over again, detail after detail. They still experience the same exact sensation that brought them closer to each other through differences and sameness.

“While I was studying in San Francisco, I knew he was ‘the one’ because he was always in my thoughts. And looking back at our meetings, I think it was the happiest time for me. I just knew that he was my soulmate because Chris was the only person I can see (myself) spending the rest of my life with. Something you can’t really explain but you just feel and know it,” Nia said.

Serendipity figured in their lives when they were quite young.

Chris recalled: “I remember meeting her first when we were kids, for a shoot for Loalde’s kids’ line. That was about 25 years ago. I didn’t get to see or even hear from Nia for almost 10 years, especially that she was in the States most of the time.

But one evening, we saw each other at a cafe here in Cebu when she had a short vacation. I was so surprised to see her there.

From that moment, it felt very right. It’s hard to explain but I was sure she was the one I was going to marry.”

And sometimes, romantic movies do come alive, like how their attraction instantly clicked.

“I love his eyes. What I find admirable is his being responsible, honest, and driven with what he loves,” said Nia, enumerating the qualities in Chris she admired the most.

Then, Chris makes a comeback: “Her eyes, too, and she is very humble and simple.”

Now, working together for Loalde, the Cebu-based ready-to-wear line, requires perfect timing and a good sense of professionalism. Nia, the creative director, supervises the products that would soon hit the stores. She also creates the collection herself, aside from collaborating with in-house designers.

Meanwhile, Chris, the president of the company, takes full charge of operating 12 branches nationwide. But the couple frequents their shop at the Northwing of SM City Cebu and at the ground floor of Ayala Center Cebu (where the cover photos were taken).

“It was very difficult at the beginning. It was a struggle to mix both the personal and professional relationship. However, adjustments were made, and they are really great now. Yes, it has more advantages because it brings in more critical ideas.

Above all, our work doesn’t take our time away from each other; thus, being committed to work is not an issue,” explained Chris.

Nia agreed: “We just really have to respect our responsibilities at work. I don’t meddle with his management skills, and he lets me express my creativity. The longer we work together, the more we understand each other. We try our best to communicate and try to talk about it. We also know which things that annoy us and avoid those.”

Perhaps, their jobs could be the perfect excuse to travel around the country – store visit in one hand, discovering new places on the other.

And thus, Chris and Nia could never forget the Valentine’s Day in their beach house in Danao, north of Cebu, where she prepared dinner by the pool, under the starry night and with a warm breeze from the sea. But as both constantly promise each other, it gets better everyday.

This means, another Valentine’s Day appointment will remain a secret until tomorrow.