It is evident from the onset that Nikki Gil Albert is a genuinely nice girl. A flash of her gorgeous grin instantly tells you that she is warm and welcoming, and her reputation as a good, joyful, and kind woman are all true. And so much more. Nikki isn’t afraid to be authentic even in her struggles with self-esteem, commitment to purity, and the need to be told she is beautiful.
The actress, singer, and host for Philippine TV, cinema, and theater recently married husband BJ Albert, and their love story has inspired thousands. Now with a little over a year of marital bliss, Nikki speaks candidly about what it meant to pray for a godly man, wait till marriage to enjoy sex, and that love doesn’t need to be complicated and difficult to mean that it is real. “For the most part, it’s not supposed to be hard to love a person… The more you cry over a person, it doesn’t make the love stronger,” Nikki says. With BJ, she has learned that love can be easy and simple, and still equally romantic and thrilling.
Ronna Capili Bonifacio (RCB): Tell me about your love story with BJ.
Nikki Gil Albert (NGA): Prior to meeting my husband BJ, I was in a very public relationship for five years. That season, albeit heartbreaking, I think it was necessary for me because I learned a lot of things about myself as a partner and the reason for why the Bible has very specific instructions when it comes to dating, relationships, and life partners. After that relationship ended—I mean of course there was a mourning period—I was able to get out of it quicker than I had expected because I had so believed that God is a good Father, and that He has plan for me, and that plan is good, and that plan is for me not to be devastated forever.
After the breakup, I wasn’t looking for any relationship. I was hungry for inner healing. Of course I had many questions like, “Why Lord? I’m a good girl… I’ve always played by the rules, by Your rules.” That season after my breakup, I found that it was crucial for my relationship with God because it was at that moment I realized I was okay even without a boyfriend. I was okay even if I wasn’t anybody’s girlfriend. I was okay even if no one was telling me I was beautiful, I was special—I was okay. When I had gotten to that point that “God I’m fine, I’m okay, I’m not looking for it”, that was when I met my now-husband BJ.
RCB: Did you always feel that a relationship was necessary?
NGA: Not that it was necessary but it was all I knew and was accustomed to. I was so used to being someone’s girlfriend. I don’t know if it was also the showbiz industry also, that there was always a constant need to belong to someone—to a love team, someone courting you. I guess to a certain extent I needed it and to belong to someone, so that I can feel I’m beautiful, I’m special. I guess that’s why there was that constant desire to have a regular.
I had already gone on a couple of dates before meeting BJ. I thought he would be just another date. We were setup by my cousin’s sister-in-law. My first impression was “This will just be one date. There won’t be another one.” First ten minutes I was like, “This guy is for one date. If ever, we’ll just be good friends.” But as the night progressed, I was just so—and I didn’t even realize it—smitten by the conversation. My soul was so hungry for such a meaty conversation with such an intelligent person. So I ended up staying. We met for dinner and I thought I wouldn’t even get dessert and I would leave after, but we ended up really talking for a long time.
RCB: Do you remember what it was that caught your attention?
NGA: So we would talk about church. And obviously a prayer of mine in every journal I’ve had would say, “I want a man of God”. Only to realize a few years later that it wasn’t enough that he knew God and went to church. It wasn’t enough. What made me think, “Wow, this could be it” was because we would talk about church and he would never make me feel like he knew the Bible. He wasn’t preachy. Only to find out that he would actually preach—so he knew the Bible. I realized that this person had reached a different level of maturity because several would make it a point that “I know this and that about the Bible, I’m godly”, but he wasn’t. Because I had been so vocal that I want to end up with someone like my Dad, someone who is a godly man, some see it as a come on. I was surprised that he invited me to his church because he was preaching—I was surprised that he preaches. So I attended, and that was when I realized that this could be it.
We dated for around six months before we got together and I would say it was a bit of struggle because I had come from a very public relationship and I had to prepare myself for people and their opinions. And we got it. We got a lot of, “He’s just a rebound”, “It’s too fast”, but our inner circle was overjoyed. Why prolong it? Is there peace? There is. Is it right? It is. So what are we waiting for? Why will we play games? I think that also helped seal the deal for me, because people were questioning—it’s too fast, she’s still heartbroken because it was a five-year relationship—and that made me ask, what if they’re right? So we broke up for a week because I said “I want to be fair to you and I want to make sure that it’s not because I just like being with you and I don’t want to be lonely.” And in that breakup, it was so clear—why is this more painful than the other breakup? And we had only been together for how long? So that’s when I knew that it’s not the feeling, it’s the person.
RCB: How has married life been?
NGA: Surprisingly, easy! I say it a lot and it’s cheesy—who did I hear this from—relationships aren’t supposed to be difficult. Yes, there are challenges. Yes, as a couple, you’ll encounter things that will really put a strain in your relationship but for the most part, it’s not supposed to be hard to love a person. And I only realized that when I got with BJ. Because before it was always, “Should I text?”, “But if I do this, he’ll think I’m jealous”, “I should give him space”, or “If I do this, then he’ll feel suffocated”,—so many unspoken rules. So when we got together, I realized it can be easy. You don’t always need to cry for it. There are so many women who are under the impression, myself included at one point, that when you cry over the relationship, you’re more invested in it because you fought for it. It sounds romantic. But it’s really not. It’s not necessary. The more you cry over a person, it doesn’t make the love stronger, if anything you’ll just regret that you cried over a person so much for nothing. But I realized with BJ, it’s not supposed to be hard.
RCB: Was it also because BJ is straightforward? He doesn’t play games?
NGA: He does not. He knows what he wants. His friends were teaching him, “Don’t text her first because she’ll think you’re so into her”. He didn’t listen. He texted me right away. He said, “I saw something, I know I want it, why will I wait for someone else to get it?” I think that helped. And I wasn’t used to it.
RCB: What are some of your biggest lessons since you’ve been married?
NGA: I actually wrote this down! Every time I learn something from BJ, I write it down. (Looks through her phone) There! I’ve learned a lot from him, but mostly how to deal with life. I’m an artist, I’m more emotionally unstable, I’m more dramatic than him—he’s a businessman, he’s more level-headed, strategic, and analytic, those are his strengths. I’m more empathy, maximizer, relationships—that’s me.
What I learned is, one, your problems are indications of your blessing. When I go through something like, “This work thing is a hassle”, it means you have work. “Traffic!” It means you have a car. “I’m fat!” It means you have food. The second would be celebrate little victories. I always look for what’s next. With me it’s, “Good. Awesome. Clap, clap, clap. What’s next?” He says savor the good thing that God is giving you daily.
RCB: Were your parents ever a factor when you were dating BJ?
NGA: Yeah, of course. The first time my Mom met him, she knew in her heart that he was the one. I don’t know what it is with moms, they have spidey senses. At one point also—I said this in my vows—when we were dating, I wasn’t head-over-heels, I-couldn’-t-eat-I-had-a-pimple-on-my-nose in love with him like a high school kid, but for some reason, I knew in my heart, Lord why does feel like this is the one? It’s strange. People would ask me, how did you know that he was the one? And I would describe it as, I don’t know, it’s just in your spirit. There’s peace. And it feels right. That’s really all it is. It’s not like I can’t eat because I’m so in love—all those things are still there but that’s not the most important part anymore.
RCB: Was there more self-doubt in the past? Was there more “Lord is this it?” before BJ?
NGA: Yeah because with BJ, I knew right away. The ones before, no. It was more, I would justify it with God. Lord, this is the one, right? That was the difference. If it’s not from God, you’ll defend it. You’ll justify it. “Anyway he goes to church.” And I’m not just speaking for myself. Like a brat, when you want something, you’ll come up with all the reasons why I should have this. And of course, only God knows, “No, only I know what’s good for you”.
I mean all of those things are still there with BJ, there’s still the, “Oh my gosh, what time is it? We’re still texting!” There’s still butterflies in my stomach, but it’s even better when it happens in your late twenties than when you’re in high school because you can really enjoy it just because both of you are at a certain level of maturity already.
RCB: You were always vocal about your commitment to pursue purity. Was it ever hard?
NGA: Yeah. Of course. I’m only human. In a compromising relationship. My Mom sat me down and gave me a purity ring when I got into a relationship prior to BJ. I was 21. But I guess during the course of the five years, it was also mixed with fear. My stand to stay pure was at some point was mixed with fear of becoming pregnant and shamed. What started as a “Yes Lord, I will honor you with my body and my purity” was suddenly mixed with fear of being shamed just because people were making fun of my stand. So there was also fear of being shamed.
When BJ and I got together, the desire to stay pure became easier just because we were on the same page. It doesn’t make the temptation any less strong. We’re both human. It’s still there. We’ll still find ourselves alone in the car. We’ll still go on dates. But it was just easier to put your foot down and say no, let’s wait.
I was never really preachy about it. I don’t have anything against those who have given it up. For me, it’s just my personal resolve and I have my reasons for it. Primarily because I know this is how God designed it to be, and because I’m a maximizer, I want to maximize the full benefits of the beauty of sex. God designed it this way, I want to read the manual, and use it that way. It’s like I have an iPhone and I want to avail of all the special features. I don’t want to just use it to call and text. It’s a personal choice. It just became big because people were making fun of it. I never really shoved it down anyone’s throats.
But after getting married, I realized that “Thank you God, that you helped me wait for this person” because it is such an intimate act. My first thought was, “Wow God, I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else”. Or I would probably be a wreck if I did this with anybody, just because of my personality. It’s different for everyone. The intimacy of the activity dawned on me. It’s really a part of you that you give to person. For me, I really felt like I was giving a piece of myself to this person for him to have, and to keep, and that’s his.
RCB: That was actually one of my questions—what can you say now that you’re married? Was it worth the wait?
NGA: Definitely. I can enjoy it. I can enjoy talking about it also because I’m married. We can joke about it with each other. It’s not the end-all-be-all of a relationship. Some will say “Come on let’s get married already so we can have sex.” It’s actually not all about that. It may feel like it is, because at one point we were like “One week to go. Can we just get married already?!” But when you get married, it’s not. It’s just one aspect you get to enjoy.
RCB: What’s your advice to women who want to continue their commitment purity? I’m sure you get a lot of those questions.
NGA: Yes. Like, how do you do it? I won’t even give you a list of do’s and dont’s. I won’t even give you a “Don’t hold hands”. We both know it’s not going to happen. Why are you doing it? Make that very clear. Is it because your Mom told you and she will disown you if she finds out? Is it because you’re afraid of getting pregnant? Why are you doing this? And once that’s clear… I can be preachy and say “It’s because I want to honor God with my purity” but I’ll be honest, it wasn’t always just that. It also had to do with, I don’t want to be shamed. I knew there were consequences. Don’t do it for other people. Have your own reasons why. It can’t be because another person said so. It also helps that your partner is on the same page. And by the same page I don’t mean patronizing like “Yeah, yeah, I respect you”, and then it isn’t true. It has to be a choice for him also. BJ also wanted to wait until marriage. Primarily because he wanted to honor, it’s what God expects from him. So it made things easier.
RCB: What did you do when it got hard?
NGA: (Pauses) I think I never let it reach a point where I couldn’t back out any more. And God will never test you beyond what you can bear. If you reached that point, don’t blame God, that’s already your fault (laughs). You know yourself. You know up to where. You know that if you do this, the rest will follow. So don’t even. When it got hard there was just that instant, “Okay, stop.” And then remember why I chose to do this.
RCB: What was it like when you were making a stand on purity for yourself—and people were talking—what was your conversation with God like?
NGA: It was a lonely place to be in. Also because “God, it’s not like I’m bothering them with my beliefs. It’s not like I’m shoving it down their throats.” It’s just because people ask, so I give them my answer. And it is what I believe in. And people challenged it. I don’t owe anyone an explanation. I think it garnered so much attention because people saw, “Oh it can be done”. And to some extent, maybe even people who are trolling have a desire to have done the same thing. What kept me going was there many women who reached out to me to tell me that they had made the same decision. I had a lot of friends who had the same resolve. There was like a support group of sorts in that sense. And the support group was not ridiculing any one who chose otherwise. It was, “This is our choice. Let’s stick to it. Let’s help each other.” In that sense, God made it easier for me.
RCB: What’s a big lesson you learned from being in show business, and living a life that is heavily watched?
NGA: That you can’t please everyone. My husband is a numbers guy. So when I read nasty comments he’ll ask, “How many followers do you have?” In Twitter I’ll have something like four million. What’s one percent? 4,000 people. So he was like, “Scientifically, you should have 4,000,000 people hating on you. And yet you don’t. You have two. It’s not even statistically one percent.” I was like, “Oh yeah.” He said you have to learn to accept that you can’t please everyone. No matter how good you try to be. Statistically it’s only right that people troll on you or hate on you. So that’s helped.
It also helped to remember that God put me here for a reason. He will take me out of it when He wants, He will also put me back when He wants.
RCB: I heard you’re in school, studying interior design. Why are you back in school?
NGA: I’m back in school because—seasons. I’m really big with seasons in life. I just feel like this is what will make me happy right now. It’s a new circle, a new group of people to build relationships with. And I think to sound selfish that I feel like my soul needed this. I’m the kind of person who works hard, works hard, works hard, because I know I’ll get good results. In theater, I’ll work hard, I’ll work hard, I’ll work hard, then I’ll come up with a good show. That’s the formula. In school, I’ll work hard, I’ll work hard, I’ll work hard, I’ll get good grades. In show business, I feel like I was robbed of that. Because I worked hard, I worked hard, I worked hard, and the result is not… It was like if X then Y. In show business it’s if X then A. If X then B. And then there are times that if X then Y. But for me it was years of X’s, working hard, but there was no guarantee that you would get rewarded for your hard work. It felt like it was always I was back to zero kind of thing. There was no formula. If there was a formula, it wasn’t something I was willing to do. So I think my soul needs this.
I’ve always liked interior design. I’ve always enjoyed playing Sims when it first came out a lifetime ago. I like nice spaces. I like Pinterest. And my mom would always—before she started studying Interior Design—buy a house, make it nice, and sell it. Then buy another house, make it nice, and then sell it. We’ve moved five times.
RCB: What is your plan for 2017? Do you have clear cut plans?
NGA: For 2016 it was very clear, our plan was to travel. For 2017, God-willing, I think it’s baby. And to study.
RCB: What are your tips for women who are praying for a husband? What is your sage advice for women getting over a heartbreak?
NGA: I’ve been there. At one point, I would Google “how to get over a heartbreak”. Because you reach a point where you say, “Lord, I’m tired of crying. I’ve spoken to everyone I needed to. I’ve thrown everything out. What else do I need to do?” So I guess my advice, if you’re getting over a heartbreak, general rule is cling to God. Because he’s the only one who can restore your heart. Obviously, do the practical stuff like stay away from social media, surround yourself with good people. Do all the practical things. But my general advice is cling to God for restoration. Because He’s the only one who can.
For those who are praying for a husband, I think the prayer should be a prayer for God’s will. Because praying for a husband is like admitting that the only answer to your problems is a man. Or the only way I’ll be okay is if you give me a man. I guess the prayer should be God’s timing and God’s will. Because if you’re praying for a husband, any guy who comes along, you’ll look at it with the lens of, “This could be the one!” So you miss out on building friendships that would have otherwise been good for you. Maybe he’ll introduce you to your future husband! So you can’t look at it with those lenses. So the prayer should be, “Lord your will be done, at your own time.” But in the meantime, I guess this is what I can add, “In the meantime, please keep me from being lonely.” Because I can understand that it can get lonely. There are many books that say “be empowered! You are single! Push your career!” Those are good, but you can’t deny the fact that it can get lonely at times. So the prayer can be, “God your will, your timing, person of your choice, but please keep me from being lonely during the wait.”
Visit Nikki’s blog at nikkigil.com/blog.