SUCCESS was with her even at a young age of 22. She was just a fresh graduate then in 2012 but already made the mark with her mini food stalls slowly gaining its name in the Davao Market.
Melissa Concha Arandia could not ask for anything more in her life but the universe gave her here first boyfriend in the same year and so, she thought she was happy with the blessings that filled her basket.
But her happiness was short lived as the man who she thought completes her turned out to be a con that just used her to pay his debts and exhaust money from her business.
"I was miserable and devastated. I did not notice how he manipulated me to get what he want while making me believe that he is someone I long for and desire," Melissa said while reminiscing how abusive the relationship was.
The man, who she dated for some time, blocked all the other guys who would message or try to reach her on Facebook, even those who were her very close friends. He eventually lured her into thinking negatively and deactivated her account for two years.
But by the time she realized how foolish she is becoming; she broke up with him and made a comeback to the social networking site. There, she was welcomed by her friends who she lost contact with, including Dana Zapanta who was then all curious with her disappearance.
"Dana was among my closest friend since before, we would talk over stuff. Everything about life, the world, how people are connected by each other through the universe. From sushi to theories of Marx. Our connection was always there but it somehow got lost during my down years," Melissa recalled.
Dana, who was working then in Japan as a chef, longed for his friend Melissa and checked on Facebook every time until he found her again.
"I added her but she had a different last name that time in her profile. I really prayed she wasn't married yet and thank God she wasn't," Chef Dana said and remembered how great it felt to have her again in his life.
Chef Dana would share his troubles with his friends but he said there's a different sense of comfort when he would talk about it with Melissa.
And though their friendship was tried by miles of distance, they still made it through by talking to each other via Skype and Facebook.
"I share with her the milestones in my life. My success in the field of culinary, even the approval of my divorce papers, she would know about it all and I never felt so lucky having someone to share whatever baggage I carry," he said.
They were enjoying both of their lives individually until an opportunity to go back to the Philippines came in 2015. Chef Dana's high school classmate invited him to venture into food business in San Juan, La Union and so he came.
Melissa and Dana talked about meeting each other but the latter said there was not enough time and he could only stay a while for business then he had to go back abroad.
They still did not meet until that fateful day on January 29, 2016.
"The business in San Juan flourished but it was getting bigger and bigger by the minute that I found myself working too much and had not enough social interaction. I know I had to quit it and set myself for what I've always wanted -to meet Chang (Melissa)," he said.
"That time, I asked for a sign from God that if he wears something unusual from what he keeps-denim polo perhaps, then, he's the one," Melissa shared.
And when Chef Dana was at the lobby of the hotel, waiting for her workshop to end, Melissa was pleased to see him donning dark denim polo. After a while, they were already talking and said that the night before, Dana was pondering over which denim shirt he would wear for their meeting- whether the lighter or darker one.
Several months more of spending moments and creating memories together, they decided to tie the knot and later on built their own Japanese restaurant. That one that's always buzzing at night time in Torres Street which they named, Kaizen, meaning continuous improvement in Japanese.
Today, as Melissa would say, the pain were all behind her now and she's more than thankful for everything she's gone through, "I was really prepared to meet Dana. Parang pina-experience muna sa akin lahat ng bad so I'd be prepared for my future".
Now, both of them have been working on continuing the good image they have started with Kaizen and soon after, they are welcoming another branch outside the city. To give you a hint, it's a place where the surfers and non-surfers would love to go and never leave.
Indeed, these two lovers have found and fought their way to each other. And whatever good they have found, they are ready to share it to the world.