Photos: Lee Lay Na
In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health: Pan Ling Ling and Huang Shinan’s marriage of 21 years is one that has withstood the test of time. Due to their nine-year age gap, their relationship weathered her dad’s disapproval – plus, it didn’t help that Shinan was too poor to date her. Then, just when things were going good for them, life threw a curveball two years ago and she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she bravely fought and, thankfully, overcame.
Everyone loves a feel-good love story, especially when good triumphs over evil and our protagonists get the happy ending they deserve, and we’d like to think the same of Ling Ling and Shinan’s story.
By now we’re no strangers to how their 28-year-long romance began: Ling Ling, then 16 going on 17 years old and a trainee actress, was said to have played a prank on Shinan by mistake; they went on a few dates subsequently and exchanged numbers one fine day. In the couple’s words, she never thought she’d date and eventually marry an established actor she “grew up watching on TV dramas” and he never dared harbour the thought of dating her because of family problems. But as fate would have it, they fell in love and tied the knot on Valentine’s Day seven years later.
A lot of things have changed since then, like how they are now parents to two teenage sons and how he’s no longer a full-time actor, but some things remain the same i.e., Shinan’s sentimental streak and his sometimes over-the-top (but adorable) pampering of Ling Ling.
In Toggle’s final In Bed With interview series, we look at one of showbiz’s sweetest love stories and learn a few important lessons on maintaining a lifelong marriage. Read on to find out why we think Huang Shinan deserves the ‘Best Husband Award’ as well.
WATCH: How much does Huang Shinan dote on Pan Ling Ling?
They went through odds to be together
The 118 S2 actress is undoubtedly the queen of Shinan’s heart and is treated like a princess at home. Shinan’s immense love for his wife can be seen from the way he took care of her – especially during her battle with cancer where he gave her daily massages, stayed up until her ‘nightmare hour’ had passed, and took on the sole responsibility of parenting their two sons so that she could focus on getting well.
According to Ling Ling, what really “touched” her was when he told her to let the air-conditioning unit at home run 24/7, despite the hefty electrical bills he had to bear because of it.
Funnily, money, which is the least of his concern today, was the main factor that deterred him from going ‘steady’ with Ling Ling 28 years ago. “I was really scared, I had no money to go on dates,” Shinan said. “I really struggled… I wanted to give up on this relationship at one point because I needed to work to support my family.” But what made him change his mind was when Ling Ling helped shoulder his family burden and even got along with his mentally ill mother who didn’t take well to strangers, including their neighbours.
“She came up to my place and saw buckets of unwashed clothes in the toilet and started washing them for my mother. And you know, those clothes have been soaked in water for 2 to 3 days so it stinks too, but she made no fuss about it and even did it again when she visited my place for the second time,” he marveled.
So impressed by her willingness to stick by him, Shinan decided to take the plunge with Ling Ling and never looked back. “Even if I had no money, I decided I was going to date [her]!” It’s no wonder he cherishes her this much.
His OTT pampering and caring ways for his family
You know how longtime couples tend to complain about the lack of spark and romance in their lives after years of marriage or when kids come into the picture? Well, while Shinan no longer hugs Ling Ling to the point of suffocation when they sleep at night now (see picture above), he shows his love and affection for her in different ways. As for Ling Ling, she picked up cooking and went from being a wife who did not know how to fry an egg to one that could whip up three square meals for her three boys at home.
“I make it a point to eat every meal she cooks,” Shinan beamed proudly, “This is the best form of appreciation – to eat everything on your plate with no leftovers.”
Apart from supporting Ling Ling’s culinary efforts, Shinan says he makes it a point to always apologise after a fight, regardless of whether he is right or wrong (to quote Ling Ling’s favourite line by former Taiwan president Ma Ying-Jeou: “It’s always the man’s fault”), and shows his love by making sure his wife and two sons have a clean space to live in – so much so that he sometimes ends up cleaning the house in the middle of the night.
“When I turn on the air conditioner and realise that it has become dirty, there’s no time to waste because my wife and kids’ health are of top priority. I would dismantle the unit and wash it clean immediately before putting it back together,” Shinan explained, adding, “Sometimes when I see that the water filter is dirty, I’d dismantle it and wash it immediately too.”
After Ling Ling jokingly expressed her displeasure at Shinan’s noisy midnight antics, he solemnly promised, “I’ll try to change – next time I’ll do the washing downstairs instead!”
(Continued on the next page: Shinan still keeps Ling Ling's first gift to him)
His sentimental habit of keeping love mementos
To add on to his OCD streak, we learned that Shinan’s also a bonafide rag-and-bone man (or as Ling Ling calls him, the “karang guni”) at home. Not only does he have a collection of their old drama serials on VHS tapes and an actual working VCR set, he also keeps various gifts that Ling Ling gave him during their courtship days – like a tie with his initials ‘WSL’ on it and a pair of cushions she gave him when he got his first car, which she secretly threw away during a spring-cleaning session because it was torn and tattered.
If you’re wondering about the extent of Shinan’s sentimentality, here’s what he had to say of Ling Ling’s first gift to him: “It was a purse she bought for me when she went to Japan. She gave it to me nicely wrapped up and I used it for several years, but when it got dirty and spoilt, I kept it and it’s still in my drawer to this day.”
There was once he even resorted to sewing and mending a pair of soft toy pigs she gave him because it was spoilt and he couldn’t bear to throw it away. “I’m definitely a hoarder,” he confessed. “I’m sentimental like that.”
Their enviably close relationship with their kids
Shinan’s love for Ling Ling extends to their two kids, Beckham, 18 and Kynaston, 14, too. He checks in on them to make sure their blankets are not kicked away, their bedrooms are not too cold, and their mobile phones are fully charged every night before he goes to bed AND never fails to massage or scratch their backs on a daily basis. “That’s how the three of them bond with each other,” revealed Ling Ling, who in turn bonds with her sons by having heart-to-heart talks on her bed.
Thanks to Shinan, the actress says she gets to have an occasional sleep with her sons by her side – when they have no choice but to come looking for mummy if daddy sleeps with them. Grinning bashfully at the mention of his bad habit, Shinan gushed, “My younger son is really cute and I really enjoy hugging him to sleep, but he’s afraid of the heat and of me hugging him. He’d tell me: ‘Daddy, go back to your room to sleep’ but I’d tell him to just let me hug him for a little longer. But when I turn around, he’s no longer on the bed. (Chuckles)”
Shinan loves smothering his sons with hugs, but he doesn’t go easy on them despite his sentimental and sensitive side. It pains him to discipline his sons and he once hid in a corner to cry after punishing them. “Sometimes after I hit them I end up regretting it and I’d go up to them in the middle of the night, hug him and tell him: ‘I’m sorry, but you will be a father in future too so I have to educate you now.”
Looking back on how far they’ve come as parents, the Chinese-educated man had some wise words to share, “Children are not as easy to read as ABC, you have to understand them to manage them, and you need to know how to say and do the right things at the right time.”
Now, what do you say about giving him the Best Husband (and Dad) Award?
WATCH: Shinan and Ling Ling rate each other’s massage skills
Having the right pillow and mattress maximises comfort and provides one with adequate spinal support for a good night’s sleep. To find out more about their bedding collections, visit any King Koil store (full list of locations here), check out their Facebook page or make your purchase from the comfort of your home from their authorised online distributor SleepWell, whose store can also be found on Qoo10.
Special thanks to Swissôtel The Stamford