This is a love story. It involves stolen glances between two strangers, and their leaving the restaurant at the end of the evening without knowing each other’s names or even having had any conversation with each other. But the flame has been lit. The question is, will it have happy ending?
The tale that Prestige is about to tell is surely a happy one. But what makes a love story intriguing is never what happens at the end of the road, but the journey towards it. It’s the journey of two individuals who find each other and then choose to stick together until they reach the finish line.
This is the story of how Rosalindynata Gunawan, or as her friends know her, Ling Ling (her Chinese name is Wen Yu Ling) met a “cute stranger” named Adhika Nuraga (Aga) Bakrie, the eldest son of Nirwan Bakrie and a member of the third-generation leadership team at Bakrie & Brothers.
The low-profile, yet adventurous, pair will tie the knot on Friday February 9 in the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Mulia Senayan, followed by a reception two days later for about 1,500 guests.
Twenty-nine-year-old Ling Ling is the talented designer behind the children’s wear line Bubble Girl, which was launched by her uncle, the esteemed couturier Sebastian Gunawan. She studied Fashion Design at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), graduating with an honours degree. She took up her role as Head Designer of Bubble Girl in 2013. Ling Ling is also an art lover. She developed InHype, a wearable art project, which was showcased at Ciputra Artpreneur in 2016.
More recently, Ling Ling has discovered another passion, education, which she plans to continue pursuing in the future. “Three years ago, a couple of friends and I started doing free classes for underprivileged children at Taman Menteng,” she says. “We teach the students English, reading and drawing. Teaching is fun and I would love to do it more often.” Other than that, Ling Ling is a much-loved personality in Jakarta’s style scene. She frequently appears in glossy fashion magazines.
“I remember thinking that he was cute,” recalls Ling Ling of the first time she saw Aga in March 2013. The conversation with Prestige takes place the day before she is due to go off on a bachelorette trip that will include Hong Kong and Tokyo.
“I was with some friends for dinner at Union in Plaza Senayan. He sat at one end of the table and I was at the end. I didn’t know him at all, not even his name. Our friends didn’t even introduce us. But our mutual friends were dating and we would all meet up once a week. But it wasn’t until after two months that Aga asked me for my phone number. That’s his personality. He’s not into bold moves. Little did I know, however, that during all this time he was asking our friends to make sure I was invited to every one of our rendezvous!”
As they got to know each other better, Ling Ling and Aga found they had a lot of common interests, such as diving, island-hopping and watching movies. “We are both a big fan of zombie films. Our first movie date was watching Quarantine on DVD,” she laughs.
They spent a lot of time together. But like many 21st-century couples, they never described themselves one. “Then one day, another guy asked me for a date,” says Ling Ling. “I felt obligated to ask Aga for permission. I said to him, ‘Are we officially a couple now? Because if we aren’t, I’ll probably go on a date with this guy.’ And he replied, ‘Are we not?’ That was how our journey as an official couple started. It was kind of cute, though. I felt like a high-schooler!”
Ling Ling describes Aga and herself as “one of those boring couples who like being together.” Neither of them much enjoys going to parties. They prefer to be active in their own world. “We are an adventurous couple in many ways,” says Ling Ling. We go diving in Thousand Islands, Gili Islands, Bali and Labuan Bajo. We also love doing road trips. Last year, we did a 12-hour trip from Geneva to Zurich, and it was such a blast. Just the two of us in the car, no itinerary. We let Yelp guide us.”
Over a period of almost five years, they become an inseparable couple. As with any relationships, they have had their highs and the lows. But they have never had a serious breakup. “We actually did for like three days,” she laughs. “I think this is because we’re both independent people. We love to work and travel, but deep inside we can’t live without each other. At the same time we give each other a lot of space. Because I love to do my own thing and I have my own life. I take my relationship as a partnership, not as the other person defining who I am. It’s an equal partnership.”
Ling Ling feels that this is why their relationship has lasted for five years and has eventually led them to getting married. A five-year engagement might seem unusual for today’s fast-moving social-media era. “Yes, it is a long time, I suppose. But I don’t feel it that way,” she laughs. “To be honest, it was our parents who brought up the wedding topic. It is natural for parents to ask their children to find the one and settle down. Personally, we are keeping it all very low-key. At first, we didn’t want an engagement party or a reception. We didn’t even have a pre-wedding photo shoot. But then we had to compromise with our families, so we agreed to have a reception and all.”
Ling Ling and Aga got engaged during an intimate event on November 5 at Bimasena at The Dharmawangsa hotel in south Jakarta. The idea of the event was a meeting of two cultures: Chinese and Melayu. Ling Ling looked stunning in one of Sebastian Gunawan’s red cheongsam dresses. The rest of the ladies in her family and the bridesmaids wore cheongsams or changshans.
Bakrie’s family members wore batik and baju kurung with songket. The highlight was when Aga got down on one knee and offered Ling Ling a heart-shaped ring. “That was the biggest grand gesture he has had done in the last five years,” Ling Ling grins. “I am a hopeless romantic, a quality I got from my father. Aga is 180 degrees different. He’s just so calm and cool. I express my affection with words and hugs, while he’s more into small gestures. So when he did that, I was completely surprised, and even the whole family as well.”
How did the proposal dinner go? “Believe or not, he proposed exactly at our engagement event,” laughs Ling Ling. “So, sorry, I can’t give you a romantic head-over-heels proposal dinner story.”
Their wedding reception will be decorated in Lampung tradition with red and gold dominating the colour scheme. For the akad nikah, Ling Ling will be in a white kebaya. She will don a blue cheongsam for the tea pai. All dresses will be by Uncle Sebastian, naturally. “I can’t tell you he details now, but the after party and entertainment will be awesome,” she promises. The buzz of all the events can be found at hashtag #finaling on Instagram.
“Love can be fragile,” Ling Ling continues. “If you just slightly ignore it then it could become nothing. It’s about compromise and commitment. It’s when you stand by each other’s side, no matter what. That’s what I admire the most about Aga. He has stood by my side for all these years.
“Other than that, he has great patience. He’s very positive and kind-hearted. Yes, I am excited about the wedding and all, but it’s merely a formality. I’m more excited about the fact that I will build a family with him. He’s very excited as well, especially about how many children we’re going to have. I’m fortunate enough to marry someone that I love. Some people don’t have that privilege.”
The couple will spend their honeymoon in Scandinavia and, of course, it will involve road trips. “I am looking forward to seeing the Northern Lights,” says Ling Ling. “This has been on my bucket list for a long time. We like to get out and about. We’re not the type of couple who like to spend their days sitting in five-star resorts.”
At the end of our conversation, Ling Ling takes a phone call. It sounds like she’s chatting with one of her best friends. “That was Aga,” she says after hanging up. “He didn’t know that we’re doing an interview today and that we’re talking about him and how great he is. That doesn’t sound like lovers, right?” She laughs, and somehow shows how love can be found in many little things.
See our behind the scenes with Rosalindynata Gunawan: