Meant to Be
Love is really sweeter the second time around for Jimmy and LJ Alapag. Zen Health sits down with this celebrity couple who shares how a second shot at love led them to walking down the aisle, having kids, lollicakes, and basketball
TEXT BY MYLENE C. ORILLO
PHOTOS BY VON ONEIL BUENCONSEJO
ASSISTED BY REGINE SANTELICES
SPECIAL THANKS TO CHARLIE DY, KRIS ESTOLAS, AND JUN MENDOZA
Their love story was one of those I’ve followed among celebrity couples in the Philippines.
Who wouldn’t? Jimmy Alapag is a basketball superstar and LJ Moreno is one of the hottest and beautiful faces in showbiz. The two fell in love, broken up, but still found their way to each others’ hearts.
It’s very rare to see couples nowadays, especially celebrities, getting back together. But in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Alapag, they have only proven that their relationship is up for keeps.
It’s been five years of a happy married life and the couple is now blessed with two kids, two-year-old, Maximus and eight-month-old, Keona Skye, managing a business, and busy with their respective careers.
What else is new and how has life changed since then?
“It’s been awesome. They’re both such a blessing in our life. I feel like our home is complete, not to say that things were bad when it was just LJ and I, but I don’t know, it’s just something about having kids around the house, and nowadays it doesn’t feel like it,” tells Jimmy while we’re sitting in the living room of their Dream House in Pasig City after the photo shoot.
Jimmy loves the idea of coming home from work and seeing the kids. While sleep is not so common for him and LJ these days, having kids is better than not having them at all.
“It’s just a special feeling. It is a challenge having two young kids, but every day is almost like an adventure,” Jimmy quips.
How they met
The two met through common friends. They were around the same group and their friendship developed more and more into a relationship.
LJ Moreno (Lari Jeanne Lacsamana Ricafort) is the niece of actress, Alma Moreno. She started in “Gimik” of ABS-CBN, and then starred in movies and TV shows such as in “Kool Ka Lang” as the street-smart girlfriend of Raymart Santiago.
Jim Olmedo “Jimmy” Alapag, on the other hand, is dubbed as The Mighty Mouse or ‘small but terrible’ of Philippine Basketball because despite of his small stature, he plays with a might heart in every game. He’s known for his killer three-point shots and great leadership inside the court. No wonder he is the team captain of Talk ‘N Text and Gilas Pilipinas.
The couple lived together for three and a half years until they broke up. After a year, Jimmy and LJ got back together just like nothing happened and in less than six months, he proposed to LJ and got married at the Catalina Terrace of Surf and Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, California on August 19, 2010.
“Before Jimmy and I broke up, I was (torn) from our relationship, parang kailangan ko lagi may someone (I need to always have someone), so that was the time I said, wait…I’ll take a break first,” shares LJ who found contentment and peace in her relationship with God.
In 2004, LJ stopped showbiz after Kool Ka Lang and decided to go back to school where she finished a degree in Education and decided to practice teaching.
She initially wanted to put up a pre-school, but when they broke up, an opportunity came to join Pinoy Fear Factor where she got the moniker Daredevil Chic. She also joined the Amazing Race Philippines where she and her best friend, CJ Jaravata won its first season.
“When we got back together all my insecurities were gone. Before, sobrang selosa ako (I’m too jealous), but when we broke up, I gained more confidence,” shares LJ.
As for Jimmy, he revealed they both had issues when they broke up, but the time they’re away from each other allowed them to really understand the good in their relationship and at the same time allowed them to fix some of the things that weren’t so good.
“I think one of our biggest issues years ago was communication. I don’t think I did a really good job expressing. Her issues were way out of hand, big or small, when we did get back together after the break up, we really made that one of the priorities to make sure that if there were issues big or small we’d talk about it and find some sort of solution and move forward and it really helped from that time up to five years now,” reveals Jimmy.
He adds, “You know, I think the time apart allows you to do that because you have time to really focus on yourself and see what you want to do with your life and know how we could be better in our next relationship and it just so happened that we found our way,” says Jimmy.
The two admits that their status as celebrities in their own respective fields has never become an issue.
In fact, LJ finds being Jimmy’s wife as fun and she understands the nature of his job; and Jimmy understands what his wife does as well and she’s always been supportive of him, his practices, and game schedules.
“I’ve always want to make sure that I support her the same way even if it’s her going back to school to get a degree, teaching, or getting back slowly into showbiz. I think it’s important in any relationship to make sure that both of you are supportive of each other,” says Jimmy.
The couple makes sure that whatever decision, especially if it’s a big one (business venture or career), that they do what’s best not just for themselves but for their family as well and they talk things through.
Earlier, Jimmy announced his retirement from Philippine basketball and accepted the assistant coach position. Having played for so long, it’s always an adjustment switching from a player to a manager.
“I played games since I was three years old so it’s been a huge part of my life and really helped mold me into the person I am now, just, the work and the discipline, (and now I just pour a lot of that work ethic rather than playing basketball into raising our kids),” says Jimmy.
But the biggest message Jimmy thinks he can share to his players as a coach is, “To continue to maintain that work ethic and I was very fortunate with my time with Talk ‘N Text to be with a lot of guys with a very high character and great work ethics and I think that was a huge reason behind our success.”
Jimmy believes he can help in the needs of the team inside and outside the basketball and make sure that things are running smooth.
“If there are issues be it basketball or non-basketball related, I’m really a direct outlet to our bosses, as a manager, I’m still a former teammate and a friend and the guys know that I’m genuinely trying to do my best to help the team,” he says.
*As of this writing, Jimmy has postponed his retirement to play for Gilas Pilipinas. Gilas Pilipinas (Philippines National Men’s Basketball Team) placed second after Iran during the 37th William Jones Cup FIBA Asia Championship New Taipei City, Taiwan.
From acting to baking
Alongside with her being a wife, mother, and host of Happy Wife, Happy Life television show with other basketball wives, LJ is busy with her The Lollicake Factory business.
“After the wedding [in the US] I went back home and I was craving for it, I tried to check if anyone is selling that here, I couldn’t find anywhere so that’s when I created Lollicakes. I researched how to make it and once I got the flavor down, I started giving it away to family friends,” says LJ.
As the business grew bigger, customers started suggesting that she also sell cupcakes and cakes so she went back to school, took up cupcake decorating with chef (Heni Sison) and then pastry so she also became a pastry chef.
At first, LJ used to do everything from baking, answering emails and calls, to delivering order, but later on she realized that if she wanted the business to grow, she can’t do everything on her own, one needs to delegate.
Jimmy trains at least four days a week to stay in shape and in good condition, and chase his kids as well.
“We start the day together, usually have breakfast together whether if we have enough time or sit down at breakfast or if we’re both busy we’ll have something quick and we go about our day.”
At night, the couple tries to be at home with the kids, watch TV, have dinner, and put the kids to bed.
“I think our day, no matter how busy it is, our priority is our kids. Our world, we, again, because of communication aspect, we’re on the same page as far as making sure we take care of each other at the same time making sure that the kids are the priority and make sure they’re okay.”
For LJ, she usually gets up around 5 or 6 am, takes care of the kids, finds quiet time, and then goes to taping and depending on the location, she would sometimes bring her kids.
“I check first if the venue is okay, I have them follow so I have them with me, but as much as possible we want them around family so if I’m not available and Jimmy’s out, my sister here or my aunt would be,” explains LJ.
As to TV roles, LJ has no restrictions except for the time. Jimmy reminds her to make sure she has time for the kids. “Right now, Happy Wife keeps me busy so I know if I ask him should I accept another show, I know he’d say no because of the time. If I’m not taping Happy Wife, I’m with the kids or I’m doing something for my business,” shares LJ.
For now, LJ just wants to focus on expanding her business. She’s currently on the finishing process of fixing a bigger commissary so that she can cater to more customers, not just in Luzon, but also in Visayas and Mindanao.
On LJ’s advice to budding entrepreneurs, “Do something that they really like, or they’re passionate [about] because if you take money first, you might end up not liking what you are doing and it won’t last. You have to have push to keep going and keep trying harder.”
For women, LJ think it’s important that whatever they choose to do, put God first and when they plan on doing whatever it is, they do it wholeheartedly. “Know your priorities. If you have a family, make sure you prioritize your family before anything else.”
As for Jimmy’s advice to aspiring basketball players, “Understand that there are no shortcuts. It takes a lot of focus, discipline, hard work and hopefully, kids who had been told that they can’t make it and that they’re too small to make it can look at my career and say, well if you get it then why can’t us? Stay focused, stay disciplined and hard work, if they do that, they’ll find opportunity for themselves to hopefully make it into high school, college, and eventually to the PBA or further.”
Secret to a lasting relationship
LJ believes that the secret to their lasting relationship is putting God in the center, knowing their priority – family, and maintaining good communication, to which Jimmy also agreed.
“Good communication is what’s important because we just not worry for each other, we worry for our kids too so we speak respectfully and openly at the same time as far as, if she has any concern or issues and likewise with myself, we try to do our best to support them and love each other the best we can and at the same time create a home for our kids that they know they’re at home and know that they are loved and cared for,” he says.
Jimmy says good communication made a world of difference from the early part of their relationship, even when they weren’t married. “There’s so much going on a day especially if both people are busy, good or bad, it’s just important to talk what happened to your day and more so now that we have a family.”
On their kids following their footsteps, the Daredevil Chic says it’s too early to say, but Maximus is showing potential for both.
“We want to expose our kids in what we do, but the last thing they want to do is to force them on anything. Whatever path our son and daughter choose will be up to them, but in the meantime if we can do our best to raise them in the best we can, teach them the importance of respect, love and hard work and just know that they have not just their parents but families on both side that love and support them,” the Mighty Mouse says in conclusion.
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