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A moving experience with Hidilyn Diaz and Julius Naranjo

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 14, 2021 6:00 am Updated Aug 14, 2021 12:08 pm

Home, at last, is our heroine.

Last Thursday, Aug. 12, Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and her boyfriend, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo (a Filipino-Japanese weightlifter who was on Guam’s national weightlifting team and holds the record in the old 69-kg weight category), moved to One Eastwood Avenue, a P14-million, two-bedroom condominium in Eastwood City given to them by Dr. Andrew L. Tan of Megaworld.

It was a spontaneous decision to present her with this most generous of gifts, according to Tan’s son Kevin Tan, chief strategy officer of Megaworld: “Hidilyn is the first-ever Filipino athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. She really deserves that gift after she gave us so much pride and joy. We also learned that she really needs her own place here in Metro Manila, which makes our gift even more important to her at this point of her life and her career.”

Hidilyn and Julius will be living in one of One Eastwood’s two towers, just above the amenity deck close to the gym, according to Harold Geronimo, Megaworld’s head of public relations, who arranged our Zoom interview. “She’s going to store all her barbells and weightlifting equipment in the gym, so it’s convenient for her,” he says. This condo gym is huge, around 200 square meters.

Hidilyn Diaz’s two-bedroom unit in One Eastwood Avenue, Eastwood City, has an open-plan living and dining area.

One Eastwood boasts the tallest building in Eastwood City at 53 stories, and Kevin Tan says they chose it out of Megaworld’s many developments because “it felt right to have the first-ever Filipino Olympic gold medalist be part of our first-ever township development. We know that the township lifestyle in Eastwood City will be very convenient for her. Whether she’s going for a quick run at the supermarket, go to church, sweat it out in a fitness center, or get her coffee fix, she can do whatever she wants because everything is just within reach. She doesn’t even have to drive her car or go too far from where she is because she’s surrounded by everything she needs in Eastwood.”

When Tan turned over the condo to Hidilyn, he says, “She was so excited about living in Eastwood City because everything is so conveniently accessible. She got banks right across and beside her condominium. There are a variety of restaurants and retail shops on the ground floor of her building and just a short walk from where she is. She’s really excited to bring her family around when she formally moves into her unit. She’s also very excited to bring her pet along because, like all our other townships, Eastwood City is a pet-friendly township.

 The 47-storey One Eastwood Avenue is the newest residential tower inside the 18.5-hectare Eastwood City.

“The condo wasn’t all: the Tans also gave Hidilyn a P50,000 gift certificate for Pickaroo (a grocery, food and shopping delivery app), and even commissioned John Ken Gomez, a 21-year-old Fine Arts student at Far Eastern University, to do the charcoal painting that captured the emotions and triumph of Hidilyn’s historic moment at the Olympic Games.

“That way, we did not only add a beautiful centerpiece in Hidilyn’s space, we also supported a young, talented Filipino who can also make it big like Hidilyn someday,” Kevin says.

We spoke to Hidilyn and Julius on the morning of their move to Eastwood.  They were billeted at the Sheraton Hotel, another Megaworld property.

You’re moving into your condo later this afternoon. How big a move is this going to be? How much stuff do you have?

HIDILYN DIAZ:  Marami po kaming gamit na dala-dala. Galing sa Malaysia at Japan. Ang dami pong nagbigay ng gifts, so sa lahat ng nagbigay, marami pong salamat.  Para sa amin it’s something na nakaka-excite, kasi nga nakita ko yung place, ang laki.  Dati kasi studio bedroom lang, eh ngayon nasa two-bedroom tapos ang ganda pa ng dining area.

 The dining and kitchen areas
  The two-bedroom condo unit comes complete with furnishings and appliances.

Which room were you most excited about?

HIDILYN: Siyempre yung master bedroom kasi may sariling CR eh. (laughs) Pero sa kusina! Kasi sa kusina pwede makipagluto ako eh. Mahilig ako magluto sa imagination lang.

The master's bedroom

What are your favorite foods?

Marami po, eh. Pero gusto ko mag-explore sa baking.

What’s your favorite cheat food?

Marami din. Cake.

Julius, are you bringing a lot of barbells with you?

JULIUS:  We’ll bring two barbells and then a few plates that were lent to us by the PSC. We also have a squat rack and rubber mats because we want to make sure that we don’t destroy anything. We want to preserve the floor.

Do you have a special corner of the gym that’s going to be reserved for you?

JULIUS: Yes. Fortunately, they’re able to find a small section in the gym for us to put our weightlifting equipment, because we need to continue our training. And since it’s ECQ, we can’t really go out, so it’s better we’re continuing to train and continuing to keep our fitness up because we have a competition in November.

 A special area in the fitness center will be reserved for Hidilyn’s equipment and training.

Which competition is that?

JULIUS: It would be the World Championships in Peru, but there is a possibility that they may change the location because of the new variant from Peru. So, hopefully, it’s still within Pan-America, so possibly Mexico or somewhere in that region, so that way it’s not much of a big logistical change if we need to make one prior to the competition.

How do you two feel about living in Eastwood City?

HIDILYN: First na pagpunta namin doon, kasi tinurn over sa amin, nakita ko yung location, sabi ko, Wow. Ang daming pagkain dito, ang daming restaurant. Nandoon na rin ang banko. Tapos pumunta kami sa amenities, sabi ko, Wow. Kine-cater nila yung pangangailangan ng homeowners, tapos may badminton pa sa taas, ang ganda ng view

Badminton court

Ang ganda ng location eh. Tapos convenient siya kasi nandun na yung banko, andun na yung restaurants, nandun ang supermarket. Eh yon ang kailangan na basic ng bawat Pilipino, so thankful ako sa Megaworld na binigay itong condo sa amin.

You guys are staying in the Sheraton right now. When you’re in a hotel or traveling abroad, do you bring any special objects or good-luck charms to make you feel more secure?

HIDILYN:  Weighing scale!

Do you have to be very conscious about weight?

JULIUS: Yes, we need to stay consistent with our weight, so it’s very important for us. And just maintaining, because it’s going to be harder the closer you get to competition if she’s overweight. So it’s also important to note the fluid intake change and also hormonal changes when it’s the time of the month.

What is Hidi’s ideal weight?

JULIUS: At this point she’s best at around 57 kilos. That’s her optimal weight when training, and then when we get to competition we just need to drop two kilos of water weight.

One of the most successful parts of our competition in the Olympics was Hidi’s weight was on point. Maybe now it’s a little bit higher because of all the delicious food and amazing amenities here at Sheraton in Resorts World. So we’re definitely super-excited to put in the work in Eastwood, because we finally have a bigger space, and hopefully everything slows down just a little bit for us.

  Nursery and kids playroom

When you get to the condo later, what’s the first thing you’ll unpack?

JULIUS: For me, it would probably be my gym equipment, because I want to consolidate it in the area where it’s easy to access: have my shoes, my bags. I just want to make sure that we’re able to go to the gym readily and availably.

HIDILYN: Siguro medal ko. Sa ngayong dala-dala ko pa kasi kailangan makita ng bawat Pilipino eh. Siguro mga damit ko, para mas-maayos ko talaga at ma-feel ko na eto na yung permanent place ko pag nandito kami sa Manila. Maganda yung feeling na stable na at hindi na yung papunta saan-saan lang; ngayon meron talaga kaming lugar na.

When you guys met in Turkmenistan, was it love at first lift?

JULIUS: No, it wasn’t love at first lift. Actually was just, “Oh hi, nice to meet you. Oh, you’re short.” So it was more like, like, first impressions, and I was just very, very surprised with her reaction, but it’s okay. I really didn’t know that she was such a pride and joy of the Philippines when I first met her.

Hidilyn is a strong-willed character with a very determined mindset, so she’s set on her goals, and she’s very focused. If she wants something, she will get it. She basically has all the traits an Olympic gold medalist has.

Then when she told me more about herself, I just really liked her determination and her humility and her will to bring pride to her country. Plus, I love weightlifting so much and the fact that she loved weightlifting was a common interest that was pivotal to what made us eventually become partners.

Hidilyn, can you carry Julius?

HIDILYN: No. (laughs) Have I tried, Jules? No. Naalala ko nung na-meet ko siya, yun nga, sabi niya kasi mga Pilipina gusto mga matatangkad. Sabi ko, kasi short ka, hindi ka gusto ng mga Pilipina. Kasi nga yung ideal type ko, kasi maliit ako, so gusto ko matangkad na lalaki. Nung time na yon nakilala ko siya, sumama siya sa akin, ayon, brokenhearted ako. Pinakikinggan niya ako hanggang sa naging close kami. Hanggang sa nagkagustuhan.

What is your dream house? What did your last home before this one look like?

Hidilyn's unit also comes with a jacuzzi.

HIDILYN: Kasi siyempre stranded kami sa Malaysia. So first nasa parang hotel kami ng Malaysia Sports Center. Tapos next, dahil nag-lockdown, nag-stay kami sa condominium. Three bedroom yon. Doon kami nagbubuhat.  Tapos next three bedroom uli, may nag-offer yung OFW Pilipina doon.  Dahil nag-lockdown uli, pumunta kami sa Malacca, may four bedroom tapos doon kami nagbubuhat sa backyard gym. 

Dito naman sa Pilipinas yung bahay namin o condo sa harap mismo ng Philippine Sports Commission. Sa Pacific Regency, doon mismo bahay namin, tapos studio lang, nasa 20 o 30 square meter lang. So sobrang liit, tapos may aso pa kami that time at mahirap gumalaw at kung ico-compare ko, sabi ko, sobrang thankful talaga ako.

Kasi nga, hindi ko in-expect ito, na magkaroon na two-bedroom na condominium. Tapos nasa magandang location pa. Tapos may church pa sa loob ng township tapos meron din sa labas, so para sa akin ang ganda ng location, kumpleto na lahat, tapos mas-connected din ako. Yung Team HD, nasa Quezon City din sila, so masmalapit ako sa team at kaibigan ko.

In case of fire, what is the first thing you would lift to rescue from your home?

HIDILYN: Mahirap yan. (laughs)

Do you have a dog now?

HIDILYN: Wala eh. Gusto ko, kaya lang, ayaw ni Julius. Namatay kasi yung aso namin na French Bulldog. Good thing din sa One Eastwood, pet-friendly din sila, so sabi ko, okay to. Kasi kumpleto, may yoga, may meditation pa, may badminton, tapos may game entertainment pa from gym.

  Game room

What sports do you like to do together?

HIDILYN: Sumama si Julius sa yoga. Ako din nagyo-yoga ako, kaya sabi ko, wow, gusto ko to.

So will this Eastwood condo be your home for good?  Julius, are you settling in Manila?

JULIUS: I think our condo in Eastwood would be our main place to stay in Manila. But right now we’re still competing and continuing with our advocacy, so I think it will be a base when we’re in Manila.

Do you have any wedding plans right now?

JULIUS: There’s something in the works, but I think it’s something that we will do when the time is right. Right now we have a lot of things to settle. Time is precious, so we want to make sure that we choose the right time.

 Swimming pool at the 7th floor amenity deck

What do you guys plan to do with all the cash prizes you got, like what’s the first thing you’re going to buy?

HIDILYN: Wala pa, eh, nagpaplano pa lang dahil sobrang busy. Yesterday ginawa ko pa assignments ko para sa exam (she’s taking Business Management at College of Saint Benilde). Kailang mag-spend time muna ako sa parents ko. Kasi wala, andito nga sila, hindi pa ko nakakapagbigay ng oras sa kanila talaga.

How would you two describe each other?

JULIUS: Hidilyn is a strong-willed character with a very determined mindset, so she’s set on her goals, and she’s very focused. And if she wants something, she will get it. She’s the type that will work towards it, or will expect it. She basically has all the traits an Olympic gold medalist has.

You have to be selfish about certain things, you have to make sacrifices and the thing about her, she’s very selfless as well when it comes to the people she cares about. It’s also important to note that she is a very kind and humble person and she really cares.

HIDILYN: Para sa akin, si Julius, matalino at supportive din, and ang galing niya sa communication. Di ako magaling sa communication, pero siya yung magaling talaga. Tapos napakaraming role na pine-play niya sa buhay ko.

Hindi lang siya strength and conditioning coach, boyfriend ko rin, pero di alam ng iba, siya nagluluto, siya nagda-drive, siya minsan videographer, photographer. Pero yung pinaka-gusto ko sa kanya, naniniwala siya sa akin, sa kakayahan ko, at pinu-push niya ako para ma-achieve yung dream ko.

Hindi lang siya strength and conditioning coach, boyfriend ko rin, pero di alam ng iba, siya nagluluto, siya nagda-drive, siya minsan videographer, photographer. Minsan siya yung naga-assist sa akin. Pero yung pinaka-gusto ko sa kanya, lalo na sa training: naniniwala siya sa akin, sa kakayahan ko, at pinu-push niya ako para ma-achieve yung dream ko.

So what are your dreams now, individually and as a couple?

JULIUS: Our dream now is to really focus on inspiring more people, and to spread the awareness of weightlifting. We’ve achieved gold, but I feel like our journey has just begun.

In the Olympics, Hidi inspired so many people around the world, not just in the Philippines; she made so many people cry, it’s so amazing, the impact that she’s had, and even the Olympics itself, the IOC is really, really looking at Hidilyn as one of the faces of the Olympics because of what she has done, not only for the Philippines but for the world: empowering women to show that they can lift their country out of despair.

This pandemic is tough, and for her to be able to lift us, to give us this really good amount of confidence in ourselves and to show how resilient we are as people, it’s just a very good reminder that she is really a person who can really impact the world.

 Big guns: Olympic gold medal-winning weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and her boyfriend, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo.

HIDILYN: Sabi ko yung medal, di lang siya medal eh. There’s a responsibility. Then na-realize ko naging role model ako sa mga kabataan, tapos may influence ako sa kanila. So yung gold medal I will use it as a platform para maipakita na yung role model natin ang mga athlete na ginagawa lahat para sa Pilipinas: Train hard and to represent our country. And maging voice ng bawat Filipino at maging boses ng mga Filipino athlete at mga young-generation athlete.

When you guys fight, do you throw things at each other?

JULIUS: Hidi would throw something when she’s angry — not at me but on the floor. Sometimes she doesn’t know her own strength, but we haven’t broken anything. I’ve heard stories of people breaking their phones, but we don’t do that. We argue, yell, and then silent treatment all day.

HIDILYN: We just don’t talk if nag-aaway kami. After that pinaguusapan na lang. Hindi kami buong araw hindi naguusap. Pagka-gabi, siya mismo ang nagso-sorry. So nagiging okay na kami.

If your condo weren’t fully furnished, how would you decorate it yourself?

JULIUS: I was actually really impressed at what Megaworld prepared for us. I didn’t expect it. For me I’m very simple, I don’t really think too hard about what I want. For sure I would like a nice coffee stand where I can have my coffeemaker because me and Hidi love coffee.

But wow, what Megaworld did and had for us in Eastwood, I really was very thankful and grateful for what they provide for us, because honestly we’re so overwhelmed, and the last thing we want to think about is furnishing our place, but they really impressed, and it just goes to show the type of company they are and the type of work they put in is really, really great.

HIDILYN: Sa akin, gusto ko lang may coffee stand, aside from sa lahat, perfect na. Andun yung mga pictures ko na memorable, tapos, ayon, maganda yung fully furnished na siya. Wala na kaming iisipin, kasi medyo busy sa interviews, sa school, maraming pinag-iisipan, tapos it takes time to decorate and curate ideas, so buti wala na kaming ibang iniisip. Pero sana may parking slot. (laughs)

So if there are any sponsors out there who plan to give Hidilyn a gift, please remember that she needs parking.