Better And Stronger: A Love In Evolution - LA Lives

Rex Atienza and Jay Sarmiento let us in on the do’s for a thriving marriage.

Stylist Rex Atienza and artist Jay Sarmiento were married in an intimate ceremony in Paris’ Hotel Plaza Athenee in 2017. They actually met when they were both committed to others. However, as destiny would have it, they ended up together through a story that could be the plot of a Netflix series. Atienza recounts, “I first met Jay when I was still working in a retail store in Makati. I was managing a fashion brand, and Jay was a familiar face in the store, as he would frequent it to browse. We both had boyfriends back then.

Rex and Jay in Rajo Laurel

The formal meeting happened in late 2005. We were both already free. I knew he had an interest in me through a common friend who was also a staff member of mine. I clearly remember, on December 30, Jay passed by our Rockwell branch to browse (again). We were understaffed, so I was front-lining the store. He came in and left the store with that pa-cute look and smile. He said ‘Happy New Year’ to me with a very flirtatious smile. I knew he was flirting with me, so later that night, I asked for his number from our common friend who was also a staff member of mine. I messaged him on January 1, “Happy New Year.” It was a short message. We decided to meet on January 5 for a movie date that became dinner instead. He was late. We are still together and going on our 17th year this coming March.”

Jay and Rex in Joey Samson

Though Atienza wasn’t sure if they have the same memory of that meeting, Sarmiento, recounts the same only with heartwarming admissions about how he felt.

READ ALSO: Choose Happiness: Why This Couple Surrounds Themselves With The Ones Worth Keeping

Rex and Jay in Joey Samson


“I remember it was the last day of 2005, I decided to go shopping for a New Year’s Eve outfit. To my surprise, I saw Rex, he tried to assist me as he would always do whenever I’m in the store, but as usual, I didn’t say anything because first, I don’t normally get into a conversation with a person that I like, and second, I didn’t expect to see him at the store that day. When I was about to leave, I told myself ‘It’s now or never’ so I went back and said “Happy New Year!” and he replied. And the rest is history!” 

Rex and Jay in Joey Samson

Curious as to what drew them and keeps them together, the question of what they like about each other comes up. “He’s patient, he’s sweet, and he prays a lot,” Atienza enumerates. “He’s not religious, but spiritual. He really gives time to praying and meditation, which I think is a beautiful and powerful trait. You want a partner who shares the same values as you.” Sarmiento, on the other hand, lists his partner’s ability to be objective and set aside emotions, his sense of humor, and of course, his sense of style, which has made him a sought-after stylist as the attributes that attract him most to his husband.  

Rex and Jay in Joey Samson

In any love story, there is that pivotal moment when the other realizes that this person is “the one,” and this moment for Sarmiento, came the day he proposed.”This was the day I knew,” he says in retrospect. Atienza, on the other hand, admits, “To be honest, for me, you’ll never know or be sure if you are marrying or are married to the right person. In our case, we got married in 2017 after being together for 11 years as boyfriends. We needed a next step to cement the relationship. Of course, there should be love before anything else. Believe it or not, I can say that I love Jay more now than before. It’s (our relationship) really a work in progress. More importantly, if you can visualize your future being with this person—I mean, building your life together until the end—then that must be it. I know that sounds cliche, but just like any other relationship, we wanted to make it official and say, ‘I’m married, and this is my husband. For better or for worse, till death do us part.’”

Jay in Rajo Laurel

But like all relationships, there have been times when things were far from perfect. What kept them together despite such times?

For Sarmiento, communication has been the key to surviving such times while for Atienza, “Our relationship is not all fairytale, and just like any other relationship, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, there are ups and downs. For me, you have to fight for what you want, but at the same time, it should always come from a good place. One must know when to stop when others are enraged. You need to support each other. Empower each other. Our relationship got better over the years. Meditating and yoga together helped us be kind to each other. It centered us in so many ways. We became more appreciative, grateful, and mindful. It also helps that you have a support system of family, friends, and fur babies. And this may sound weird, but you need to surround yourself with good energy and nature.” 

Rex in Rajo Laurel

The strength of their relationship might also be attributed to the fact that their professions complement each other’s. Perhaps enhancing their compatibility and giving them something in common to work on.

“I think that is the fun and exciting part of our relationship. We are both creative. We have interests in each other’s pursuits. We are very supportive, and we empower each other. There’s always something to talk about, and we always brainstorm, even if it’s not about work. I think that’s the beauty of our relationship. We collaborate most of the time. He asks for my advice, and I would also consult with him,” shares Atienza.

“Rex is a very creative person. I value his opinions and input regarding my work and how I do my business. I consider his wisdom an important contribution to my career as an artist. I think this is why we get along too,” says Sarmiento.

Five to 10 years down the line, he sees themselves, “Living by the beach with a small farm growing fruits and veggies, taking care of different animals, living a sustainable life in a community that we built including our closest friends and family.” Meanwhile, Atienza takes the vision a bit further, “Right now, we are still growing individually. Before Jay decided to be a full-time artist, we were practically together 24/7. I was leading our styling company while he was handling our operations and a bit of styling as well. As a couple, I believe you need a breathing space to grow individually. And that’s where we are in our lives right now. If given a chance, I’d like to have kids and build our own family on a farm with a beach.”

With an almost perfect relationship that continues to grow stronger, perhaps the couple might have a word of advice to couples who are in the same situation as they were before they made the commitment to “make it official?”

“At the end of the day, love always wins. It will withstand all the tests, and it will survive them for sure,” assures Atienza. “Be with someone who will make you feel happy always, in all ways,” advises Sarmiento.  

Shot on location at RUBY WONG’S GODOWN AT ADMIRAL HOTEL MANILA – MGALLERY.

Photos EXCEL PANLAQUE OF KLIQ, INC.

Grooming by AIMEE GREY Assisted by ALVIN GERARD

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