A few months after posting a sweet birthday message for her mystery special someone, Kris Aquino has finally revealed his identity: Mel Senen Sarmiento.
The Queen of All Talk's post on Oct. 24 announcing their engagement was the first time she publicly acknowledged their relationship.
But who exactly is Mel Senen Sarmiento and how did he and Aquino meet?
According to Aquino's Instagram post, she and Sarmiento first connected through her brother, the late Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. Sarmiento served as a Secretary of the Interior and Local Government under the former president from 2015 to 2016 after Mar Roxas vacated the post to run for president in 2016.
Before that, Sarmiento began his public service as the vice mayor of Calbayog City, his father's hometown, in Samar from 1992 until 1995. After losing the mayoralty race for the following term, he took a six-year hiatus from politics and served in the Rural Bank of the same city. Sarmiento finally became Calbayog mayor, the youngest at 30, in 2001 and held the position until 2010.
The 59-year-old politician then was elected as representative of the first district of Western Samar in the 15th Congress. He authored and co-authored bills including the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, and more.
A 'shy' public servant
The former secretary general of the Liberal Party was described by his nephew as "shy" and "has always tried to avoid the limelight."
"I’m not surprised that people may have been clueless who he is, knowing how Rep. Mel has evaded the limelight while being a public official. And I will not be surprised if he chooses to work unnoticed if he accepts the challenge,” Drew Sarmiento said in 2015, noting how his uncle never intended to enter politics.
In the engagement announcement video, Sarmiento even joked with Aquino, saying "Hindi ako pang-showbiz ano ka."
When they first met at Bahay Pangarap, the former DILG secretary was timid and quiet around the TV host, who said that she tried chatting him up.
"Kwento nang kwento ako sa kanya pero 'di niya ako pinapansin," she said. "It was so weird kasi most people pag kinkwentohan ko and I ask them questions, natutuwa naman when they talk to me, and then siya talaga would ignore me. Like one question, one answer, really short so I had to ask the staff, shy ba siya talaga?"
Meanwhile, Sarmiento admitted that he already had a crush on Aquino but was reluctant to make a move because her brother was his boss. "Admittedly, crush ko siya, napapanood ko sa TV tapos bigla nasa harap mo, tapos boss ko pa kuya niya, so nung nasa tabi ko na siya, di ako makapagsalita. 'Pag nasa iba naman kaming lugar, she would start talking to me pero si sir andyan, baka magalit.”
"Nag-ilang out of town tayo pero 'di mo ako pinapansin," Aquino said. "You could've gotten my number already because at the time I was single."
How did they reconnect?
The two would reconnect only after the death of Noynoy Aquino in June this year. The TV host said that she started talking to Sarmiento again to get details about the 2016 kidnap threat that her brother gave her the "cleansed version" of.
"He (Sarmiento) did give me the truth and it made me love Noy more. Then he started coming here more often. It took the third dinner to finally get him to talk."
The sweet birthday message
In August, Aquino shared a cryptic birthday message to a then unidentified special someone, which she was reluctant to write because it would start speculation about her love life.
"He makes me feel taken care of, secure, and SAFE. So he is deserving of this birthday greeting that all of you are now seeing (care bears na kung anong iisipin ninyo) BECAUSE for me he is #special," she wrote.
Fans began to speculate who the mystery man was, searching for celebrities with birthdays on Aug. 11.
Sarmiento, however, revealed himself in the comments of Aquino's post to defend her.
On Aug. 12, the Queen of All Talk shared a photo of a big bouquet Sarmiento had sent her as a "thank you" for the birthday post. In the caption, she said she had reconnected with Sarmiento this year after Noynoy's death.
"This time, I feel even Noy in heaven will finally approve, siguro naman because we’d never have met had it not been for him," Aquino wrote.
Sarmiento has two sons, who Aquino said are around her 26-year-old son Josh's age.