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CPI President And "G Diaries" Host Ernie Lopez And Michelle Arville Get Engaged Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

What could be more unique than having a "lockdown forever proposal?" The bride-to-be got a hologram ring for the meantime, as jewelry stores are closed while Luzon is under quarantine

"I ask you all the time, and you think I'm not serious," Ernie Lopez says, with a smile that stretches from ear to ear. His eyes crinkle at the corners at the prospect that his girlfriend, Michelle Arville, might soon give an answer to a very important question.

"I got witnesses to let you know I'm really serious," he continues, still grinning. It doesn't register on the camera, but we're sure that his heart was racing in his chest in this moment. 

This was a proposal done in the time of coronavirus, after all; he was sitting next to an unsuspecting Michelle—who appeared to be delighted and surprised all at once—as he explained himself. As for the witnesses? They were with the couple via a Zoom conference, but even the physical distance didn't stop them from squealing with glee when Michelle realized what was unfolding in front of her. 

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"Is it a yes or a no, Chelle? Say yes, Chelle!" said one of the witnesses. 

A chorus of "Oh my gods!" soon followed.

"There's no backing out," someone said next, leading Michelle to let out a small giggle. 

The section manager of St. Luke's BGC Patient Experience Group tried her hardest to keep her reactions small and low-key all throughout the recorded digital proposal. But that smile was something she couldn't hide, no matter how big the effort. We understand—happiness like this is something brides-to-be can't possibly keep within the (emotional) floodgates. 

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It's a question that ABS-CBN CPI (Creative Programs, Inc.) President and G Diaries host has been wanting to ask for months now. 

See, by some beautiful, cosmic turn of events, Ernie met Michelle while his late sister Gina Lopez was getting her MRI scan. Gina was confined at St. Luke's BGC and it was Michelle who brought Ernie to see her in her room. By then, Gina's condition had worsened dramatically and she wasn't wasting any time giving out final messages to her family surrounding her—including predictions about their romantic lives. 

"I saw this beautiful woman who worked at the hospital and I [had] met her [on] three other occasions but nothing happened. She accompanied me to Gina, and Gina said, 'What’s your name?' She said, 'My name is Michelle.' Gina [asked], 'How old are you?' and Michelle said, 'I’m 48 years old.' Gina said, 'Are you married?' Then Michelle answered, 'I’ve been annulled for the last 19 years.' And then Gina told her, 'I want you for my brother.' She doesn’t waste time talaga; she’s always in a hurry. So she started telling the doctors in the hospital, 'This woman is going to marry my brother," Ernie recalled when he delivered his eulogy at Gina's wake held last year. 

Michelle shared that she had actually met Ernie through a common friend a few days before that fateful day in the hospital. Little did she know their paths would cross again at such a special moment. "Gina kept on pairing us together at that exact moment even if I just met her 20 seconds ago," Michelle recalls.  

Surely, the memory is a bittersweet one for both Ernie and Michelle. 

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Gina might as well have put Michelle's hand in her brother's; her words were almost prophetic, and in fact, Ernie considers Gina's part in bringing him and Michelle together her last great gift of love to him. Ernie has three kids, while Michelle has one son.

It doesn't come as a surprise to those who know Ernie best that he, too, would not waste time especially in matters of love. 

He set up the proposal with a pretty neat trick; he had a goody bag on hand filled with surprises for Michelle.

First, he brought out a yummy treat. (The gesture was simple enough). 

Second, he revealed a nifty little gadget that allows you to see holograms with your mobile phone (The gesture was getting grander). The first hologram he showed Michelle was a heart. 

"I can see it! It's a Toshiba," Michelle teases.

The second hologram was that of a ring. 

"It's the ring," Ernie says. 

In an instant, Michelle's face changed—she had no idea what that goody bag had in store for her. 

She, of course, said "yes!"

"This is the most unique proposal because I got a hologram ring since the jewelry stores are all closed," Michelle points out. 

In this exclusive interview, the bride- and groom-to-be shared more details about the unique and creative proposal and talked about what they love most about each other.

How did the proposal take place?

Ernie: "I took advantage of the lockdown and her birthday celebration. I was supposed to buy an engagement ring, organize a party of her friends, and then propose, but after the lockdown was implemented, I couldn’t continue with my plans. The first thing I did was to reconfirm with my kids if they were okay with my plan to marry Michelle. When they all said yes, they even helped me plan it. Sabrina told me to record the whole proposal. Isis suggested a hologram for the ring because I couldn’t buy one right now. Both of my girls planned, designed, and constructed the hologram of the engagement ring I could project from my cell phone. My son Nathan was my cameraman who interviewed me before the proposal, recorded the whole event, and then edited the poignant video for us... Because of the lockdown, she was going to have several Zoom parties of her friends and family greeting her so I just had to pick which Zoom party to pop the question in."

Michelle: "The proposal happened on my birthday. I had a Zoom party because I couldn't celebrate with my friends and they called to greet me. Ernie sat down beside me and said hello to them like he did with the other Zoom parties I had throughout the day. My friends asked him what he gave me for my birthday and I was surprised with his answer when he said he will show them now. I was super shocked because I know there is nothing open and he has remained on lockdown. I didn't even notice early on that Nathan, his son, was filming our conversation. As they say now, [it's a] LOCKDOWN FOREVER PROPOSAL."

What do you love and appreciate most about each other?

Ernie: "Her relationship with God is what I love most about her. I would have never even considered her without that. She is devout in her relationship with the Lord. She is also not materialistic at all. She allows me to lead the relationship. She will let me know what she thinks but she leaves the decision to me."

Michelle: "Ernie is super down-to-earth. He is so makatao. He helps so many people in so many ways. He is a great father and above all, I love his relationship with the Lord. Even if we have different religions, I am a Catholic and he is a Christian, we find a common ground... 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and everything will be added unto you.' I attend Simbang Gabi for the past 26 years straight, no fail, waking up 4:30a.m. and completing nine mornings each year. I would pray that one day 'The One' for me will come with me to Simbang Gabi without me asking him to, he shouldn't sleep during the Mass, he shouldn't complain, shouldn't be late and shouldn't leave in a hurry. All my other Simbang Gabi wishes came true, each of them every year—except this one, but last December, Ernie fulfilled it na!"

For Michelle, how did your son react to the engagement?

"My son spends a lot of time with Ernie, and his father is the best friend of Ernie's first cousins. So it became easy at the beginning. But, I promised my son I will never get married again. I told him to never worry because he has me. I even joked that I would live with him until he has a wife and kids of his own. I had relationships before Ernie, but I never got married. So it was very difficult to ask my only son, the love of my life, the reason and purpose of me being here on Earth, to release me from my promise of not getting married anymore. I never had a problem with my son. I am blessed to have a kindhearted son, and he said yes to releasing me from it."

What do you and Ernie enjoy doing together?

"My son and I are movie addicts and now he joins us. We don't eat in fancy restaurants because I love fast food so even if he eats healthy, he would accompany me to eat in Shake Shack, Shakey's and Jollibee. We spend time with our children and we always attend each other's Church."

Michelle, are you eyeing a date for your big day already? As the bride-to-be, how do you envision it?

"I want a very simple wedding in the States where my immediate family is (it's just me and my son here in Manila), and in the presence of his mom, too, who also resides in San Francisco. Just family and nothing formal. I know a wedding is a bride's day but I don't need it, I just want to be with family—our moms and siblings. But I think you need to ask him, he has a different plan."

Ernie, your sister Gina played a role in this love story. If you could talk to her now about this, what do you wish to tell her?

"I would tell Gina 'how the heck did you know within one minute of meeting Michelle that she was the right one for me? Gina, I can’t thank you and the rest of the family enough for putting Michelle and I together. You started the avalanche of support for Michelle in our family. She is more than I could have ever imagined or asked for. Why did you have to leave before I married her?'"

Photos from @michellearville and Ernie Lopez