He speaks flawless English. She's more comfortable in Tagalog. He is her "walking English dictionary." He turns to her when he can't understand a difficult Tagalog word.
He plays badminton and golf. She's into rugged sports like mountain climbing and scuba diving.
She adores jewelry, which she wears often. He is not crazy over any kind of jewelry.
Yet Rico Yan and Judy Ann Santos are as close as can be. He's the first one outside her family she runs to whenever she has a problem, the biggest of which involved a clash between two people she holds dear --- her mom Carol and manager, Alfie Lorenzo.
He admits only Judy Ann can wake him up on the set without incurring his ire when the director or the production assistant has failed.
"I'm usually grumpy when someone jolts me from sleep. I tend to snap at others," explains Rico. "But Judy Ann's voice is the voice of a friend's."
They exchange gifts the way two people unabashedly fond of each other do. Rico can still recall his first present to his leading lady in Star Cinema'sKay Tagal Kang Hinintay.
"It was a striped green and white blouse from Hongkong," he recalls. Judy Ann's gift, in turn, was a red, white and blue Gap shirt.
Judy Ann has a softening effect on Rico. Before, he was the typical rich boy who couldn't understand why people from the masa-oriented world of showbiz would peek into his private world.
Back then, the movie press thought he was aloof, distant, and he couldn't care less about reaching out to them. In came Judy Ann, who understands the public feel more, being more attuned to what the masa thinks and wants.
She taught him to be more open to others, to slowly tear down this wall separating him from many people. He answers virtually all questions thrown at him --- even the personal ones.
He stops and makes small talk with reporters, something you wouldn't imagine him doing many years back. Rico has changed. And Judy Ann played a major part in this change.
The effect is not just one way. It was Rico, Judy Ann reveals, who gave her strength to hang on, not to give in, when she got caught in the middle of a problem that pitted her balikbayan mother and Alfie, whom the actress has considered her surrogate father for years.
On one hand was the woman who gave birth to her 19 years back. On the other is someone who "gave birth" to her career and made her a soap opera star. Confused, Judy Ann turned to Rico. He advised her, "Don't trust anybody but yourself. Don't give up (on your career). Doing so would mean defeat." Judy Ann couldn't help but agree.
"I'll never know when people will label me 'Flopsina Queen' (for someone whose movies don't earn money at the tills) again. I've worked to get to where I am now. And I must take care of this career. That's why I'm more cautious now."
Rico, to her, is not only a friend, but a big brother.
He lets her help herself at the meal table first before she starts eating. He waits for her to arrive before leaving for the hotel where they are billeted for a typical shooting day.
The gesture is not lost on Judy Ann, who describes Rico as "sweet, responsible, mature."
Of course, he can be moody, swinging from light moments one minute to a grumpy mood the next. Judy Ann, on the other hand, reveals Rico, is capable of biting her on the shoulder.
But the two hit it off well, exchanging what to an outsider would seem biting jokes that would have stung two people who didn't know each other well the way Rico and Judy Ann do.
They became even closer while shootingKay Tagal Kang Hinintay in Ilocos.
Both discovered that despite their differences, they have many things in common. They laugh at the same jokes and therefore have the same concept of humor. They share a love for good food. Both put a high premium on friendship.
"If I'm in Aparrin and you call me because of a problem, I'll run to wherever you are," says Judy Ann.
The duo's love for family is all-consuming. Rico, 23, may not be the breadwinner the way Judy Ann is, but he shows the kind of concern for the family the latter finds admirable.
"He won't schedule any taping or shooting on his mom's or dad's birthday," Judy Ann gushes. "Most successful actors forget their family when they're already up there, but not Rico." Like any true friend, both have allowed the other a peek on the "dark side" of their respective personalities. It is this transparency, in fact, that makes their tandem click and adds spice to their friendship.
"He can be one track-minded, insisting on what he wants, no matter what. He wants his own solution to a problem," Judy Ann observes. She qualifies that in most circumstances, Rico lends an ear to what you have to say, and asks you if what he's doing is right.
The diplomatic Rico remarks, "She has a strong appetite, the offshoot of which is her determination to lose weight."
Both would rather keep the relationship on a friendly basis, lest getting involved in something deeper would get in the way of their respective careers. After all, it's a career Rico and Judy Ann have labored long and hard in. It's something they want to nurture some more for their own good.
Like true friends, Rico and Judy Ann are looking out for the other. It is precisely because of this that they manage to exude so much chemistry on screen. Even after the closing credits are shown, you know that Rico and Judy Ann are still part of a team, laughing together, swapping stories.
The last scene in their screen team-up does not spell finish to their growing, developing relationship as real-life friends.
The two are paired anew in Star Cinema's Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, a story of young love set in scenic Ilocos. On screen, they're lovers; off screen, they're the best of friends.