In most cases, the first year of a relationship will be the ‘puppy-love’ stage where couples spend time together. But Stella Loh* shares how she went through a great deal of pain for a happily ever after. By Tammy Chan
“I’ll forever remember the day it happened. It was four in the afternoon on 13th November 2014. I was at home when Jared Gan’s* aunt came by sobbing, telling me that my boyfriend of nine months was kidnapped. I couldn’t believe what she said knowing I had just spoken to him an hour before! Feeling desperate and scared, I tried calling Jared immediately but failed to reach him. We rushed to the plantation where he was working at, situated an hour away from Lahad Datu, Sabah, and found his phone in his car. The reality of knowing that he didn’t have the chance to call for help struck me like a cord and broke me inside.”
A NIGHTMARE I COULDN’T WAKE UP FROM
“We met in a pub six years ago when I was 19; I was from Sabah and Jared was from Port Dickson. It was his first year of working in Sabah and my first start to a serious relationship. The loneliness that I felt during this time was unimaginable; I cried myself to sleep every night and just the thought that I might never be able to hear his voice again would bring tears to my eyes.”
“The first month was the hardest. I couldn’t eat or drink, and the pain was unbearable. The mere thought of Jared being tortured or possibly murdered drove me crazy. Most of my time was spent at police stations, answering their questions and helping out as much as I can with the investigations. Every time they said they had news, it turned out to be the same old update. I was so desperate for answers that I even resorted to following Jared’s aunt to see a bomoh who wasn’t able to give me any answer at all.”
“During this time, my dad lost his patience and told me that if I continued to go down this road, I’ll lose myself even before Jared is back. I knew he was worried about my health but at that point, I didn’t know what my purpose in life was anymore. Jared had everything – a good heart, a great personality, and he always treated me with love and respect. Others outside the circle kept telling me that I could find someone else, but I knew no one would care for me the way that he did.”
He counted the days until my birthday that year and sang me a song from the small house he was held captive in.
“In January 2015, his family received a call from the kidnappers asking for a ransom of half a million Ringgit. They identified themselves as the Abu Sayyaf who used caller IDs registered in the Philippines and each time they called, they asked for more money. When his family finally had the money ready, they were advised by the police to not give in to the terrorists.”
MY HAPPY ENDING
“I admit that I used to be very active in church but over the years when this took place, I wasn’t. I thought God was trying to punish me but now it’s safe to say that if I hadn’t gone back, I would not be here today as I would have eventually taken my own life.”
“In the nine months of Jared being kidnapped, I made the effort to fly to KL to visit his parents every month. Although we were only dating back then, I knew that it was the right thing to do and that he would have wanted me to take care of his mother. So when I got a text from a friend saying they saw the news that Jared has been found, I dismissed it naturally given the multiple false messages I’ve been receiving. But when a second message attached with a picture of him in a wheelchair came in that day, I immediately made my way to his parents’ house to check up on them.”
“Eventually, we found out that Jared was locked away on an island in the Philippines and his cousin who was kidnapped with him unfortunately passed away due to an illness. Days felt like years and thanks to his determination of wanting to be free, Jared’s hardwork of rubbing his chains agaisnt an iron spoon paid off when they broke loose, allowing him to make his escape on 5th August 2015. Fortunately, he managed to flee far enough until he stumbled upon a government building to ask for help.”
Of course our life hasn’t been picture-perfect since, but we still appreciate the second chance we’ve been given and the relationship we’ve fought for.
“When we were finally reunited, I hugged him tight and we both cried. Jared looked weak, tired and fairer from not seeing the sun for the past nine months. He even seemed surprised to see me there, telling me that he thought I would have given up and run off with someone else. He exclaimed that missing our anniversary and Chinese New Year killed him inside. He told me that he counted the days until my birthday that year and sang me a song from the small house he was held captive in, wondering how we would have celebrated it had we been together.”
“Needless to say, we matured while we were apart. He proposed two months later and we got married right after. Today, seeing him play with our children (a son who’s four and a one-year-old baby girl) makes me the happiest person. In fact, just knowing that we’ve pulled through the hardest test in our relationship makes me smile from ear to ear and no traumatic experience would ever bring us down again.”
*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Taken from the print issue.