Distance means so little when someone means so much.
This maxim rings true for Nory Joy “NJ” Torres, a 31-year-old Filipino public relations practitioner, and her 31-year-old Swiss-Italian boyfriend of four years, Christophe Jacobson. From the time they made their relationship official in 2012, they’ve been living oceans apart – Torres in Manila, Philippines and Jacobson in Geneva, Switzerland.
Despite the long distance, the two have managed to keep the flames of their relationship alive.
It was on the eve of Jan. 1, 2005 when Torres met Jacobson at a street party in Makati City. Torres, who was recovering from a breakup at the time, thought that celebrating New Year’s Eve with her best friend would take the breakup blues away.
Little did Torres know that she would cross paths with Jacobson at the street party. At the time, Jacobson was just visiting from Hawaii to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a friend.
“Christophe was with a friend back then. He was here because he wanted to see his family. His dad was working in the Philippines as an expat. His step-mother is Filipina,” recalls Torres. “My best friend Caloi [Madrid] and I arrived at the party some thirty minutes before the fireworks display. Christophe was with another friend. They got to the party about the same time we did.”
Madrid at the time worked for an international business process outsourcing (BPO) company. Since he was used to communicating and dealing with foreigners, Madrid thought that it would be good idea to invite Jacobson and his friend to join their group, just for kicks.
Seeing that it was just a friendly invitation, Jacobson gamely obliged. It was a party, after all, and meeting new friends, especially on New Year’s Eve, was part of the fun.
“He [Jacobson] was wearing a casual suit that time, looking like a cross between Nick Carter and Justin Timberlake. I was a big fan back then. He had this bad boy, relax-happy- go-lucky air – that was my kind of guy,” she recalls.
That harmless, friendly invitation turned out to be a memorable one for the newly-acquainted Torres and Jacobson. After the fireworks display, the group thought of transferring to Il Ponticello, a popular haunt for partygoers in Makati City.
“We were young so we were allowed to drink and party till morning,” Torres says with a laugh. “But what happened that night between Christophe and I was really more of a social drinking. Christophe stayed with us the whole time. Although he seemed playful, my friends and I knew right away that Christophe was different. We thought he was the stick-to-one type.”
“We continued partying at my condo,” shares Torres. “For some reason, we clicked. I knew that he was only staying for two weeks and that he was leaving soon for Hawaii because he was still studying that time.”
Jacobson left around five in the morning. Torres thought that it was the last time that she would see him. But that same afternoon, she had the surprise of her life.
“He called me!” beams Torres, “I was a bit surprised because most twenty-something guys would not even bother calling or would have waited after a week or so. But Christophe didn’t play around. He called me up and told me that he would like to spend the remaining two weeks with me.”
For two weeks, Torres and Jacobson got to know each other more. She brought him to her favorite places, introduced him to her favorite Filipino food like sinigang, pusit, and pancit canton, and made him watch Filipino movies even if he didn’t understand a single Filipino word. “It was really excruciating because I had to translate everything. But I didn’t mind. We watched Madrasta, which we could both relate to because we come from broken families,” she adds.
So special were those two weeks that when it was time to say goodbye, Torres was heartbroken.
“I cried the day he left. But we made a promise to each other –that if we were not going to end up as boyfriend and girlfriend, I knew that I would always have a friend in Hawaii,” says Torres.
Torres tried to move on with her life. Jacobson did the same. Torres didn’t believe in long-distance relationships, so she tried very hard to forget Jacobson. But as luck would have it, Jacobson would always find a way to make Torres feel his presence.
“On Valentine’s Day [in 2005], he sent me a bouquet of pink roses,” she recalls. “So of course, I called him to say thank you. Since then, we would send constant emails to each other.”
Jacobson came back to the Philippines some four months later.
“It was then that he officially asked me to become his girlfriend,” Torres says with a smile. “It was then I realized that I really want this long-distance relationship to work.”
Lovelier the second time around
Torres and Jacobson have been through a number of ups and downs. There even came a point when the two called it quits –all because Torres felt that they “were slowly growing apart.” But no matter how complicated and frustrating things got, they would always find themselves longing for each other.
“There was a point in a relationship that we decided to give each other space. I think three to five years? Yes, it was that long,” narrates Torres. “But we promised to keep in touch. Every year, for five years, we would text or e-mail each other, especially during our birthdays, Christmas, and New Year –the holidays will always be our favorite part of the year. Maybe we still loved each other all those years or just simply keeping our promise and staying friends.”
In 2009, at the height of Facebook’s popularity in the Philippines, Torres decided to add Jacobson up. Little did she know that her “friend request” would rekindle a romance that was previously put on hold.
“In 2010, his dad, who at the time was in Geneva, Switzerland for a vacation, texted me and told me that the family talked about me,” says Torres. “He told me that Christophe was still in love with me. I thought he was just teasing. But somehow I took it as a sign for a possibility of reconcilation.”
Two years later, Torres and Jacobson finally decided to give love a second chance.
“It was Christophe who reminded me that I still have a heart,” fondly remembers Torres. “But this time around, we became more realistic about it. We told each other that if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then we’d move on.”
Fortunately, it did happen. On June 5, 2012, when Jacobson visited Manila again, They got back together again. Torres was asked for another chance for a long distance relationship, and she didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.”
While Torres admits that long-distance relationships are difficult and can be “expensive,” she believes that hers has done her a lot of good.
“This relationship taught me to become strong, independent, and not to be needy all the time,” proudly says Torres. “I started to like myself even more. My career got better. I found a job that I think was really meant for me. And Jacobson made me realize my potential. He inspired me to dream big. Best thing is we both have passion to travel around the world, so seeing each other often becomes an experience for us that we enjoy a lot and look forward to.”
Torres says that it was constant communication, through “phone calls, Viber chat, video calls, and e-mails,” that made the relationship possible. Having a realistic and practical mindset was also important.
“We would talk about our relationship in a matter-of-fact way,” Torres says. “We would tell ourselves that now we have no excuse not to talk. There’s Viber, iMsg, Facetime, and other apps. We have to do our part to make it work. Sometimes we talk about senseless things, but that’s okay.
When you’re in a long-distance relationship, you have to make your partner feel that he is part of your life, even when he is miles away.”
To keep the flame burning in a long-distance relationship, Nory Joy Torres gives advice:
- Keep an honest and realistic conversation all the time.
- Set rules when it comes to everyday communication. There should be no excuses why you can’t use the phone or any other mode of getting in touch.
- As much as you can, invest in traveling to each other’s country for at least two to three times a year.
- Set future plans. Discuss who has the greater flexibility to move. Be open to certain sacrifices.
- Keep the romance alive. Learn how to constantly surprise your partner. IT IS A MUST.
- Don’t be shy/afraid to talk about sex. This helps avoid temptations outside the relationship.
Gabby Libarios is a writer for an entertainment magazine in the Philippines. While he finds pleasure in meeting and swapping stories with celebrities, nothing excites him more than the stories from ordinary folks. In this story, he writes about a longdistance relationship, discovering that distance really does not matter for two people madly in love..