Richard Ng and Jennifer Tan’s love story began in 1997 when they were both high school seniors. Back then, Richard was the popular varsity athlete, while Jennifer was the shy, quiet girl. They were friends before they became romantically involved, although it didn't follow the conventions of dating.
“He didn’t court me. We were barkada, so we were together all the time,” Jennifer shares. “When I broke up with my first boyfriend, I was very sad, and he was the one who made me laugh. He was dating a lot of girls back then and would sometimes ask me for advice, so we grew closer. Eventually, becoming boyfriend-girlfriend just happened.”
Going to separate colleges tested their relationship. Different class schedules, new sets of friends, and Richard’s basketball practices caused the two to have less time for each other. Jennifer said that Richard’s friendly-flirty nature with girls was the cause of many of their petty fights, although Richard countered that Jennifer was also always surrounded by boys in college.
Going on a break Around this time, the two of them also started frequenting a club in Libis, Quezon City. It was to show their support for the club owner, who happens to be Richard’s relative. The club featured provocatively-dressed women gyrating onstage. The temptations of these ledge dancers were too much for Richard to resist. In 2002, he told Jennifer that he needed to take a break from the relationship. Jennifer was devastated, especially when she found out eventually that what Richard needed was time and space for dating many other girls.
Richard admits now that he let his machismo get into his head. “When I was in college, I was a hotshot varsity player. Many girls approached me, but I couldn’t ‘take advantage’ because I had a girlfriend that time,” he says. “[Now that I was working] I had money to spend, and I felt that I had the right to enjoy myself for a bit.”
The two promised to remain friends and even continued to show up at gatherings of mutual acquaintances. Again, it became an unconventional break-up, causing people to wonder if the relationship was over or not.
“We were still calling and texting each other every day,” Jennifer recalls. “Then eventually it dwindled to once a week until I finally swore to that I would stop all forms of communication with him so that I could move on. But every time I started feeling that I was already getting over him, he would suddenly text me to say that he missed me, etc. I didn’t reply to these messages, but they would make me sad again.”
Moving on When Richard felt that Jennifer was already past the heartbreak, he enlisted the help of a male mutual friend to keep tabs on Jennifer.
“That guy friend was with me wherever I went. Once he came all the way to Baguio with a bunch of my girlfriends,” Jennifer recalls. “On weekends, he would invite me out for coffee; I guess to make sure I wasn’t off somewhere by myself. It came to a point when rumors started going around that that he and I were dating.”
Richard felt this move was the only way he could keep his grand plan in place. “I was dating around a lot, but it was never serious,” he says. “I knew that I was just going through a phase, that once I exhausted my enjoyment, I could easily get Jennifer back anytime. So when I felt that she was already moving away from me, I had to make sure she wasn’t getting away for good.”
In time, Jennifer also started going out on her share of dates, but it still hurt whenever she would see Richard with other women.
“One time, I went to that club [Richard and I frequented before] and saw him holding hands with a girl. I don’t know what came over me -- I went up to them and slapped their hands so they would let go of each other. Then I ran out of the club and into the street,” Jennifer shares.
Richard ran after her for a good six blocks. Friends called it a pang-teleserye moment, although Jennifer admits that she no longer recalls how the evening ended. “I think I asked a friend to pick me up,” she says sheepishly. Getting her back Richard’s wake-up call happened six months after he and Jennifer broke up. He got word that Jennifer was dating a guy and it was getting serious. He asked to meet for dinner to talk.
“At first, I didn’t want to, but he insisted, so I went,” Jennifer relates. “At dinner, he told me he wanted to get back together. I told him that I wasn’t sure, that I felt like I didn’t want to. I told him to give me a week to think about it.”
What Richard said next would be, in Jennifer’s mind, the sweetest thing he ever did. “He told me that if he gave me a week, I was not going to go back to him, that he would lose me forever. So he said he wanted an answer right now,” Jennifer says. “Of course I said ‘okay,' because I never stopped loving him anyway.”
Moving forward After the reconciliation, Jennifer saw how Richard changed for the better. “This time, I felt that he loved me. He became more sweet and sensitive to my feelings, and he exerted more effort to show how much he valued me,” she says. “Before we broke up, he rarely picked me up from school; we would always just meet up somewhere for our dates. Now, hatid-sundo na!”
Richard recalls the breakup as one of the darker moments of his life. “I was miserable without her,” he admits. “When I thought I was losing her for good, I told myself I had to grow up and move forward. Five minutes of fun (with other girls) is not worth a lifetime of despair!”
They got married in June 2006, after a total of nine years as boyfriend and girlfriend. In January 2007, Jennifer gave birth to their eldest son, Rashard Jermainne. Two more children followed -- another boy, Rajon Jiro, in 2009, and a daughter, Jillianne Reese in 2012.
Jennifer says she and Richard have more interesting conversations now after they got married that they have three kids. They even run an insurance provider business together.
“There are days when would be together 24 hours a day because of work, but we don’t get sick of each other,” Richard smiles. “We can talk about anything and everything, whether it’s strategizing for the business or laughing over something. We are not just a married couple; we are a team.”
The two go on weekly date nights and have recently made a tradition to go on an international trip once a year without the kids.
Richard says he would not be where he is today if Jennifer had not taken him back. “I’d probably still be that happy-go-lucky guy I was back in college, lost, and immature,” he shares. “She taught me what it means to humble myself and show respect to the person I love. It’s easy to say ‘I love you’ but you can easily fake that. Showing respect and humility is what separates men from the boys.”
Jennifer, on the other hand, feels that she got the better part of the deal. “I got to marry my best friend,” she gushes. “And I got to see him grow and change into the person that he is today.”