Best friends-turned-lovers Matt Acosta and Monique Mujer open up about taking a beautiful friendship to the next level.
When you think about it, falling in love with your best friend seems convenient. You know the other person well enough, you can be natural around them (as opposed to putting your best foot forward to impress a date), and you can overcome challenges easily with that person because, well, you’ve been through thick and thin as besties before.
On the flipside, it can get awkward. How can you possibly be all sweet and cuddly with somebody who’s like a brother or sister in your eyes? Won’t it be odd to say “I love you” with different intentions now? And what if they cannot reciprocate how you feel? How will that affect your friendship and the people around you?
Matt Acosta and Monique Mujer know the answers to these questions quite well. After all, it’s been a little over four years since these then-best friends became a couple. Their solid foundations worked in their favor, from feeling at ease with each other at the get-go, braving the pandemic apart, and now nurturing a long-distance relationship with Matt’s recent move to the United States. Here’s their story.
Matt and Monique went to different elementary schools, but they had a common connection in Jophi Patacsil. He was Monique’s classmate in Maquiling School, Inc. (MSI), before the former transferred to The Learning Place (TLP) in 2005. In the same year, Matt also transferred to TLP, where he became close with Jophi.
“At that time, Jophi would always talk about his crush from MSI. That girl happened to be Monique,” Matt recalls. “Other than that, I only knew her by name.”
On Monique’s part, she got to know of Matt and his TLP classmates online. “Jophi would introduce me to them on Friendster. Like Matt, I only knew his name and nothing else.”
In 2008, Matt and Monique became batchmates in high school, but they didn’t end up in the same section until third year. Prior to that, their knowledge of each other was anything but romantic.
“I knew him as the noisy kid!” Monique candidly shares. “The girls in my section (Dao) kept on talking about how Matt was that loud and hyperactive boy. When I saw him in person for the first time, I understood why.”
In Matt’s defense, coming from a small elementary school whose class sizes never exceeded 12 to a section, going to a high school with roughly 40 people per class (times three sections to form around 120 students to a batch) activated his extroversion.
“It was a new school, a new environment. It was both exciting and overwhelming! I was all fun and games then, so I talked to as many people as I could—and honestly, I tried being flirty with some of the girls,” Matt sheepishly admits. “Monique was… the girl from Dao. That’s just how I knew her.”
It was in third year (2010) when Matt, Monique, and Joepet Oribello—the third member of their best friend trio—became classmates and began their strong bonds. For some reason, they became seatmates for a class being held in a computer laboratory, and they started laughing at something they saw on one of the keyboards. “We couldn’t remember what we were preoccupied with, but that’s what started our close friendship then,” says Monique.
Did the two ever consider dating each other then? Not quite. Aside from seeing each other as siblings, Matt and Monique were in their respective relationships with their exes. It became a running theme among the besties: whenever Matt was single, Monique was taken, and vice versa.
“Sure, I thought of Matt as one of the more handsome guys in our batch, but I never thought of him as a love interest. Besides, he was always taken!” Monique quips.
Given their dating histories, Matt and Monique’s blossoming friendship inevitably stumbled upon the elephant in the room: were their exes comfortable with their then-partners having best friends of the opposite sex?
“Jealousy was inevitable, even if I explained to my exes that I treated Monique like a sister,” Matt notes. “They didn’t fully understand where I was coming from, but I acknowledged that their feelings were valid.”
With two guy best friends, Monique had it more difficult. “You know, it wasn’t that big of a deal when we were in high school. I had a boyfriend, I had two guy best friends—nobody batted an eyelash. When I entered college (2012) and met other people, I dated guys who were uncomfortable with my friendship with Matt and Joepet,” she recounts.
Some of Monique’s past dates were especially wary of Matt. “He’s so playful kasi! He’s the type to send me messages like ‘miss you, besh!’” Sensing strong feelings of jealousy from her dates and exes, Monique had to limit her interactions with Matt and Joepet.
As a result, the trio didn’t hang out as much throughout their college years. Distance also played a part, however—Matt entered the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Monique went to De La Salle University (DLSU), and Joepet studied in the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).
Humorously, whenever Matt or Monique had their share of relationship woes, they’d regroup and console the hurting party. The set-up was still the same—whenever one was single, the other was taken. It’s as if, in retrospect, life set Matt and Monique to be star-crossed lovers—except that wasn’t what happened.
In the summer of 2018, Joepet had to leave Manila for Bicol on official business. Matt was finishing his remaining units in UPLB, while Monique had accounting board exams and the summer break before law school. Matt had been talking about his recent breakup to Joepet then, so when the latter left, he turned to Monique for guidance and comfort.
“I was looking for somebody who I could confide in. Looking back, I think I bombarded Monique with all my feelings. I even told her about the girls that I started talking to after my breakup,” Matt shares.
With Joepet busy, Monique felt that duty to be the best friend that Matt needed at the time. She knew that her ex would feel jealous if she talked to Matt, but their friendship prevailed. Coincidentally, she was also going through relationship woes that summer.
When Monique broke up with her ex, she knew that she needed to talk to Matt. “Let’s just say that the reasons for our breakups were similar, that’s why he was the first person I thought of confiding in. In fact, being the guy who goes the extra mile to address rough patches in a relationship, Matt was still encouraging me to fix things with my ex.”
There wasn’t anything left to save for Monique, however. And so, for the first time in their eight-year friendship, Matt and Monique became single together.
Way Back Into Love
Several stars aligned to make Matt and Monique grow closer together that summer. Matt had more free time than usual, what with less units; Monique had just finished boards and wanted to go on a “revenge social life” before law school. As such, they reconnected with some of their high school batchmates who were around Los Baños and Calamba—Matt’s and Monique’s respective hometowns in Laguna then.
“Now that we were both single, we began sharing dramatic hugot memes and quotes to each other. We even curated and sent each other break-up playlists!” Monique recalls. “Our post-breakup lives then weren’t anything like a healing journey; instead, we were wallowing in despair together.”
Matt shared that there was one song in particular that encapsulated their respective situations then: “Coaster” by Khalid. Incidentally, the American singer had already announced his November concert in Manila early that year.
“I told Monique that the song was perfect for us. And since Khalid was going to perform here, I asked her to go with me. You know, as moving-on buddies” Matt shared. The two bought their tickets in July.
Within the months leading up to the concert, Matt kept talking to other girls (and sharing his stories to Monique). It was around this time that he noticed that something was different. “Sure, I was texting these girls, but I always found myself looking forward to Monique’s messages more. That left me confused, because I still thought of her as my best friend. Why was I feeling that way?”
Monique also noticed this shift between their dynamics, but she didn’t pay it any mind then. “Around October, we graduated from sending each other sappy things to asking how our days went. Sure, I started feeling a certain way toward him, but I found it weird—he’s my best friend!”
“I’m the type to reciprocate rather than throw myself toward a guy I like, and since I didn’t think that Matt had feelings for me, I kept my thoughts to myself,” Monique adds.
Come November 2, Matt and Monique drank after Khalid’s concert. It was then that the former tried to make a move. “While we were drinking, I bravely told Monique that if we weren’t best friends, I would date her.”
“‘Too bad, but we’re best friends,’ is what I said in return. It didn’t sink in that he was already making a move!” Monique admits. “We’ve always been the type to be each other’s hype man and woman—we’d praise each other, jokingly say how handsome, beautiful, smart, and hardworking we are, among other things. So I thought that he was still saying those things in that light.”
Matt took Monique’s reply as a soft rejection. The next day, both agreed to not make things awkward between them.
However, that didn’t stop Matt from sending flirty messages days after.
“Dyusko, he began texting “good morning” with hearts! Though I’m one to talk—I also responded to his messages in a flirty way,” Monique admitted.
Around a week after the concert, Matt took Monique to the movies. There, Matt outright expressed wanting to date Monique. It was also that time that they agreed to tell Joepet what was happening between them.
“Joepet was so surprised! He never saw it coming. He kept asking us, ‘are you guys sure?’” Monique recalled.
Eventually, on November 25, 2018, Matt and Monique—the best friends who hyped each other up at their time of need—officially became the best of lovers.
Lucky I’m In Love With My Best Friend
Matt and Monique shared that their strong friendship made it easy to adjust to each other as lovers. No more putting one’s best foot forward to impress the other person; no more guesswork about how one will react to certain things—the couple noted that everything felt smooth and natural—well, almost everything. They joke that it felt awkward to hold hands for the first time as lovers.
“Matt was the first guy who ticked all of my boxes in terms of a romantic partner. Honestly, I never liked the idea of dating your friends, since it could ruin your dynamic with that person. It helped that I already knew Matt—how he’s close with his parents and God-fearing, among other good things—from way before,” shared Monique.
“I go into relationships thinking about the long term. Back in 2018, I already had my fair share of experiences, and I guess we were mature enough to know what we were looking for in a partner,” Matt admitted, noting that if he and Monique tried dating years earlier, their relationship might not have worked out.
“Call me cheesy, but I asked myself: ‘Would I be okay with waking up every day and seeing Monique’s face first thing in the morning?’ Right off the bat, I said yes. And I still continue to say yes with conviction.”
That said, as they spent more time together, the two—close as they were—learned so much more about each other. For instance, Monique found it refreshing to see Matt’s more reserved and introverted side.
“I’ve always known him as a loud and extroverted guy, so to be in social situations with him wherein he’d take a step back and I’d take the lead on interacting with people was a refreshing dynamic,” Monique noted.
She was also surprised by how hardworking and supportive he is. “I always got the impression that Matt was chill with school and work. It was an energy that I thought could balance with mine. Getting to spend more time with him though, I witnessed how he could get so focused and passionate with the things he wants to achieve in life.”
What’s amazing with this, Monique adds, is that Matt was never competitive. “He hits that balance between working hard alongside me and supporting me with my own dreams and goals. I never felt so supported in my life—Matt makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind into,” she added.
In turn, Matt appreciates how Monique—driven and diligent as she is—showed a more vulnerable side when they got together. “Monique is a smart woman, and I know how hard Monique works to achieve great things in life. I’m grateful that I can be a helpful part of that journey; that I can be—and she wants me to be there in her times of need.”
On the flipside, the couple also learned how wildly different their communication patterns can get (and how they could meet in the middle).
For instance, there are times when Monqiue has to explicitly point out to Matt that he did something wrong because he doesn’t initially realize it himself “I had to strike the balance between expecting him to realize his mistakes right away and guiding him around things he genuinely might not understand,” shares Monique.
Matt admits that he can be quite dense sometimes, so he’s grateful for Monique’s patience. “I always told her that if there’s something wrong, she should just tell me immediately. There were times when I had to remind her more than usual, because she’d keep her feelings inside. But of course, I also worked on understanding her even more on my own initiative.”
The pandemic only further highlighted their differences. Zoom calls took a toll on Monique, who was studying in law school amid the lockdowns—the last thing she wanted after a full day of online class was another video call. This posed a problem, since Matt preferred speaking, complete with gestures and expressions, over texting or chatting.
“Matt’s texts can be interesting, sometimes,” Monique jokes. “He’d send messages that I’d have to clarify because there’s no context or the details are incomplete.”
As such, it was inevitable for the two to miscommunicate several times while apart. With in-person quality time as their foremost love language, the two found it challenging to reconcile their preferred communication styles while apart.
However, as the cliche goes, love conquered all. In Matt and Monique’s case though, their strong friendship played a big part in understanding where the other person comes from, flaws and all.
“You know how you hold on to a list of deal breakers when you date and get into relationships? What I learned about being in love with my best friend is that though they could have some attitudes or tendencies that might be a ‘deal breaker’ on your list, you understand why they have those behaviors. So, you learn how to adjust accordingly and help them work on those traits,” Monique notes.
To date, Matt and Monique have been together for over four years now. Matt left the country in December 2022 to work as an electrical design engineer in the United States, while Monique currently works for a law firm in Makati. Aside from getting back to Zoom calls, they’ve picked up the habit of sending more photos than usual about their day. Strengthened communication has never been more important for the two.
“Though apart, we learned to work as a couple over the pandemic, and that helped us now with our long-distance relationship,” Matt says.
“I’d like to think that we’re way beyond the honeymoon phase already. We’ve found so much comfort in each other, and we choose to love each other every day,” Monique concludes. “This choice pushed us to take risks, to change for the better, and to trust and openly express ourselves to each other. These things keep our relationship strong and thriving.”