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KATARINA (PART 2)

I didn't know if I was supposed to call him, “Tito” [uncle] or “Kuya” [big brother]...and I kept thinking, like, this guy's a D.I.L.F. You know what a D.I.L.F. is, right? I wonder how many kids he has.

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ON FIRST LOVES

I’d say my first real love would have been my first boyfriend here, which would be Lucas. This is the first time I was really recognizing, “OK, this isn't puppy love,” this is what it means to truly care for a person. I think we were also just too young at the time, which is why we're not together.

Beauty Queen Katarina Rodriguez and her boyfriend, Nino Barbers

We're friends now, but when I look back at how our relationship was, I can really see how we cared for one another. And he taught me a lot, too. And I think that's when you know that, OK this is a real relationship, is when you start learning things about yourself and about how to love another person.

My pride--always at the beginning--it's quite high because I'm like, I'm not an option.

Because, you know, when you're young and you don't really care and you just keep thinking like, “He gives me butterflies.” And then months later, another guy gives you butterflies and then you're like, “So I should be with this guy?” Which isn't the reality of it, because throughout your life, there's always going to be somebody who will also give you butterflies. It's a matter of acting on it or not.

THE “CURSE” OF THE EXES

I've had very bad luck with ex-girlfriends. There's always an ex who comes in, in the beginning and who tries to get the guy back--whether she has a boyfriend or not. And, of course, whoever the guy is, because they have a past and a history with this girl and also loves the girl. It's hard for them to straight away just choose me and, kind of remove her.


My pride--always at the beginning--it's quite high because I'm like, I'm not an option. That's always the hardest part, because it's always a battle with myself. Do I keep my pride up and walk away from this person?

Throughout your life, there's always going to be somebody who will also give you butterflies. It's a matter of acting on it or not.

It's hard because every time this happens, I'm always in a good state in my life. I'm single, and I'm fine being single, and I don't want to date anyone. Then along comes this guy--and along comes this extra baggage. And those are the guys, for whatever reason, that in the beginning I fall hardest for. And then I'm like, he has to have, like, an ex girlfriend. I know it, I know it. My curse is definitely ex-girlfriends.


HOW SHE MET NINO

So we met right here. He was sitting there [points to the seat at the head of the table] and I was sitting here [seat to the left of Nino). We're in his resort here in Siargao [Bayud Boutique Resort]. I love telling this story. It's really funny.


Katarina and Nino with their Lab, Leo

When I came to Siargao, I had just arrived a week before from the States. I was in the States for maybe 3 months, L.A. and New York. It was my first time in New York, and I got claustrophobic. I was like, “Oh my gosh, there's so much going on, but there's no nature.” It’s all buildings, except for Central Park. I had a great time in New York. It was my first time to travel [that’s] not work-related. I was single then and I kept thinking, “OK, I'm going to find myself.” Yeah, no, you don't go and try and find yourself in New York. That's like the last place you go to.

“What am I going to do with my life?” There was this thing that happened in New York with this guy. I'm like, “I don't know what I want in life.”

So when I was on the plane coming back, I kept thinking, “Oh my gosh, I need to go to the beach.” What happened in New York is not what I needed. I was invited by Michael, he's my second boyfriend. So my ex-boyfriend, their barkada [group of friends], I stayed pretty close to them. I thought, “OK, you know what? They have everything planned. I just have to book my ticket.”


‘Til the last minute. I was still debating if I should go. So I came to Siargao with them, and they like to day drink. They like to drink at 11:00 in the morning. I go to the beach to surf, to go run on the shore, to do yoga, to have ‘me time.’ Kind of different vibe.

So we were only supposed to be here [for] 4 to 5 days. It was fun. I was doing what they were doing, then surfed a few times. In my head, I was just like, “What am I going to do with my life?” There was this thing that happened in New York with this guy. I'm like, “I don't know what I want in life.” All these questions. But I was having fun trying to figure myself out.

And I'm so thankful because he was like, “If you did, then I wouldn't have reached out.”

And Nino will admit this now--but at the time he wouldn't admit it. We have a mutual friend. Her name is Danika. Her and her boyfriend were also in Siargao at the time, with their baby. She messaged me and she's like, “Hey, you're on the island. Do you want to get together?” I told her, “Yeah, sure.” We had never met, but we've always been complimenting each other in social media.

So she told me, “OK, let's meet. Let's have lunch in Bayud.” We were supposed to meet on a Tuesday, and then I had to reschedule with her. I remember Tuesday she messaged me. She's like, “Hey for sure, we're going to meet tomorrow, right? Lunch?” And I was like, “Yeah, definitely, I'll see you there.” And she goes, “OK, I'm just making sure just so everything’s prepared.”

The food arrives, it's shellfish. I'm allergic to shellfish,

And I'm thinking, like, “What does she have to prepare?” We're just going to order food. And I'm thinking, “Is this a mom thing?” I think her baby was only 1 [year old] at the time. “Doesn't she breastfeed?” I didn't get it. I arrived a little later because I had surfed. And then when I arrived, I remember she was playing with her baby by the pool, and she's like, “Oh, Katja [Katarina’s nickname], we already ate, because we eat early.”And she's [Danika’s] like, “No, no. But I'll sit with you, and I’ll eat with you.”


And Nino was sitting at the kabisera [head of the table] seat. So he was there where I showed you [points to seat]. And then Danika was sitting here [points to the chair beside Nino] and then I sat there [points to the chair beside Danica]. So I was a seat away. She's like, “This is Nino. He's the owner.” And I was like, “Hi!”

And I didn't know if I was supposed to call him, “Tito” [uncle] or “Kuya” [big brother]. And all I could think was--he was wearing shades at the time, too--and I kept thinking, like, this guy's a D.I.L.F. You know what a D.I.L.F. is, right? I wonder how many kids he has. That's all that was going through my head. He was super like, “Oh, we prepared food.” I was so hungry. I was so hungry.

He was like, “Oh, I have one kid.” And he meant Leo.

The food arrives, it's shellfish. I'm allergic to shellfish, so I can't eat shellfish. And it's all set up nicely. And I was so shy. And then he was like, “Oh, OK! Take it away, take it away” He was like, “OK, I'll order for you.” And in my head, “I'm so gutom [hungry]. I just surfed for 3 hours.”

She [Danika] only stayed 20 minutes, because she had to go home and put the baby to sleep. And she's like, “Do you want us to bring you home? And my food just arrived when she said this. And I was like, “I just want to eat. Like, that's all I want to do.” And then Nino was like,” Oh, I can drop you.” And I was just like, “Oh Danica, he'll just drop me. I'll just eat and then we can hang out later on.” She’s like, “OK!” So I really think it was a whole plan.

I think he was just saying that to keep the conversation going [laughs].

But then, there were a few like influencers and celebrities staying in Bayud at the time because there was an event. And they'd all come by while him and I were talking, and I would always listen to hear what they would refer to him as--because I didn't know what to call him. But it seemed like everyone just kept saying his first name. So I just didn't put a “Kuya” or a “Tito.” And I'm so thankful because he was like, “If you did, then I wouldn't have reached out.” [laughs out loud] He wouldn’t have made any move. He would have just been like, “OK, I just got shut down.”


But we started talking because of Leo, his Lab [Labrador Retriever]. He was like, “Oh, I have one kid.” And he meant Leo. So he had Leo brought out. And then I got it that he didn't have kids, has never been married. And then I have a Lab too, a chocolate Lab. But he's my dog with my ex, and he stays with my ex now.

This is when the conversation got really interesting--when he asked me what I thought about Siargao.

And at the time, my ex didn't know if he wanted to keep him, so I was looking for an owner. So how Nino and I started talking, I was like, “Do you want my Lab?” And he was like, “What do you mean?” I'm like, “I really love this dog, but my ex can't keep him. He can't live with me, because I live in a condo. Do you want another Lab?” And then, Nino was like, “Can I see him?” So I showed him. He's like, “Oh, I'll think about it!’ And I think he was just saying that to keep the conversation going [laughs].

This is when the conversation got really interesting--when he asked me what I thought about Siargao. I didn't get the hype because my ex before Nino--the one who I shared a dog with. His name’s Anthony. He's my favorite ex-boyfriend, because he was such a great guy. I had this negative feeling toward Siargao, because when we first started dating, Anthony and I, and when we did get together--he would come to Siargao a lot with his barkada, and the ex would be there sometimes.

I'm just like, “Screw Siargao. I don't want any part of it.”

And I didn't understand when he said there's no [cellphone] signal, he's not replying. The ex is there. They stay in the same resort. I'm having all these things going through my head, and I'm just like, “Screw Siargao. I don't want any part of it.” They used to come here all the time. And he would always come back and be like, “Siargao is so amazing. It's so magical. Like something happened to me while I was there. So when I got here, I was like, “What is it? What were they talking about? I don't get it.” I'm like, for sure they might have been tripping, or something [laughs].

Nino asked me what I thought. I really just replied to him, “It's OK. [dryly]” And then he was like--this is when he finally took his sunglasses off and he was like--”What!?! It's just OK!?!” I'm like, “Yeah, it's beautiful, you know? But...” And he's like, “Who are you here with?” I'm like, “I'm here with my friends. I told you that.” He's like, “No, no, no, no. You have to extend. You have to extend. I have to show you the island the right way.”


But he was really affected by my answer. My friends had left a couple of days later, and Nino had invited me to stay in Bayud. He dropped me to my AirBNB, and then he left one of these guys and their motorbikes with me. So I had a driver and a motorbike to myself. When I got back to my friend, he's [Nino] like, “Just use him [the driver] the whole night!” I was like, “Wow, this is a really nice guy!”[laughs] And I think that was also his way so we could exchange numbers.

He's like, “No, no, no, no. You have to extend. You have to extend. I have to show you the island the right way.”

He [Nino] was like, “So are you going to extend?” And then I told him, ”Can you help me find a place to stay?” Mind you, earlier that day he was telling me that Bayud was fully booked. And then he was like, “No, no, you can stay in Bayud.” I'm like, “But you told me it's fully booked.” And he goes, “You'll stay in Bayud. Period.” I ended up moving to Bayud. Had my own room. There’s aircon, nice shower--because the AirBNB we had, had no aircon. We had to use a tabo [dipper] to shower, which was fine. But it was nice to be in a nice room. While I'm talking with you, this is what I get to look at [pans to her view from where she was talking--oceanfront, white sands].

He's the oldest guy I’ve ever dated. Usually they’re about my age, which I'm 27. I mean, he's not that old. He's 36, and the style of courtship is different.

I really thought he just wanted me to post [on social media] for him [for the resort]. I didn't think that we would spend so much time together. And I was like, “Wow, this guy is very hands on with the people he invites to stay.” To the point that he flew back with me to Manila, and dropped me to my house. I was like, “I think this is more than just being a good host at this point.”[laughs]


KISS THE GIRL

There's all these instances where I thought he was going to kiss me, but I was never sure because he's the oldest guy I’ve ever dated. Usually they’re about my age, which I'm 27. I mean, he's not that old. He's 36, and the style of courtship is different. There was a time we were in the mangroves and we were paddleboarding, just us two. I was like, “Is he gonna kiss me?” Because he kept coming closer, and then, you know, he’d just come closer and closer, and then I'm like, “Oh my God, I think he's going to kiss me.” And then he wouldn't.

“Oh, my God! He’s gonna kiss me!” I'm like, “What's going on?” And then he didn't do it.

Then there's another time we were in a beach area and no one was there, and we were swimming. And all of a sudden I feel a hand grab my foot, and pulled me closer. And I was like, “Oh, my God! He’s gonna kiss me!” I'm like, “What's going on?” And then he didn't do it. Whatever he did, it worked. And he did admit that he talked to our friend Danika, and was like, “Hey! This girl's here. Can you invite her over?

RELATIONSHIP TIMELINE

This was July 2018. We had a period where we didn't talk because...there, the “dark ages.” I’d say [we didn’t talk] from August ‘til December. Then I kind of dated someone else, since that girl [Nino’s ex-girlfriend] was here [in Siargao], and I was like, “I don't want to be part of this.” I was just not into him after the ex came back because it's happened so many times. I was just like, “I don't want to be part of this again.” Like, I've done it too many times, and it's ruined my relationship with all of the guys I dated before.

Whatever he did, it worked.

Nino and I started talking while it was still in China, in Ms. World [beauty pageant], more consistently. He was thanking, or congratulating me. And then I came to Siargao when I came back from Ms. World. That was the first thing I did. Not because of him, just because it just felt right to come back after experiencing what I experienced. Nothing really happened between him and I [until] I'd say, January. We were hanging out in December. He asked me on July 10th of last year [2019] to be his girlfriend.

Story of Katarina Rodriguez, Ms. Intercontinental 2017 First Runner-Up, and Resort Owner and Restaurateur, Nino Barbers (Part 2)

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