A love to build on
Richard surveyed the crowd, trying to find Maya, but failing. There were just so many people in the multi-purpose hall where Lim Corporation was holding its community service for Barangay Pag-asa. He was not exactly needed here in his capacity as CEO, but he wanted to be here for Maya and support the foundation’s project on a personal level.
The whole place was transformed into something akin to a one-stop shop of services that will benefit the residents of the community – from medical, dental and other health services; to different livelihood seminars, like candle and soap making, making bags out of old phone directories, newspapers and juice tetra packs; making peanut butter, jam, empanada and longanisa which the residents can easily sell. LC Foundation had already made arrangements with an organization promoting community-based industries for the residents’ finished products. LC will provide a start up capital for those who want to start a small business, the progress of which will be supervised and monitored by the foundation. LC Foundation also included a feeding program for the community.
Richard noticed that while there were a lot of people, everything is very organize and orderly. He is very much impressed with Maya and her team’s organizational skills.
On second look, Richard saw Maya chatting with a tall, good-looking guy who was looking at her intently. The guy looked familiar to Richard, but he cannot place where he have seen him before.
“Hi Maya, how’s everything?” Richard said by way of greeting, then kissed her on the cheek.
“Hi Ricky! You didn’t tell me you will go here!” Maya greeted Richard with a big smile. “We could have gone together.”
“I wanted to surprise you.” Richard explained. “I also want to see firsthand our project. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Thanks a lot for coming and for the offer. Everything is running smoothly. You can just observe. Then, I will introduce you to our partners for this project, starting with this guy beside me.” Maya replied with a smile.
“Ricky, this is Anton Cortez. He and his NGO is our main partner in this project, and some others we had in the past. They are handling all the livelihood trainings for the residents, teaching them to be self-sufficient, like for instance, by a starting a business with materials they can easily find within the community and recycle. Anton and I went a long way back, before I work for LC. Anton this is my boss, Richard Lim.” Maya introduced the two and then added, “He is also my boyfriend.”
“Hi Anton, nice to meet you.” Richard said politely, offering his hand, at the same time wondering what did Maya mean when she said she and Anton went a long way back. But, he decided to leave that question for later. “Thank you for being a part of our project. We appreciate all the help.”
“Please to meet you too, Richard.” Anton said while shaking Richard’s hand. “We are happy to be a part of this project. Saka malakas sa akin si Maya, eh. You are so lucky to have her as your girlfried, as not only she is a fun person to be with, one of the nicest persons I met, she is also the most beautiful lady I know.” He said and looked at Maya intently, which raised Richard’s radar. Now he remember who Anton is!
“Maya, I will just go and check on my team. Excuse me please, Richard.” Anton said and with a wave, went to where the livelihood seminars were being held.
Before Maya and Richard could react, he was gone. Maya thought of saying something more to Richard, but she was interrupted by Emman.
“Sis, you are needed at the registration. May kailangan ka i-troubleshoot, I think.” Emman said, and then said hello to Richard. “Hi Sir Richard, good morning po.”
“Hi Emman, nice job, you and the rest of the team are doing here.” Richard told Emman, then held Maya’s hand and said, “Sweetheart, go ahead, attend to the problem and I will just wait for you here.”
“Oh, just go with me please, Ricky, para we don’t lose each other in the crowd. This wouldn’t take long.” Maya assured Richard and ushered him outside by holding on to his arm.. “Tapos I can introduce you to our volunteers, doctors, and the community leaders here.”
Maya took care of the problem and then proceeded to introduce Richard to the volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, barangay officials and the other members of Anton’s team. Then they went around the venue, with Richard pitching in from time to time, or just assisting Maya. Those who observed noticed how sweet and solicitous he was to Maya. By 5PM the event drew to a close.
“Thank you very much again Anton, for the help and the support.” Maya said as she and Richard stood with Anton at the entrance of the multi-purpose hall. ”Sa uulitin ha.”
“No worries, Maya. Anytime, just give me a call, or better yet, let’s have dinner one evening so we can map our future projects.” Anton issued the invitation, then belatedly adding, “Join us, please, Richard.”
“Better yet, let Ricky and I treat you to dinner, please. I will call your secretary.” Maya smoothly and by doing so, diplomatically sidestepped Anton’s invitation.
“Yes, Anton, Maya and I would like to take you and also your team to dinner, as a way of thanking you guys, for your support to LC Foundation.” Richard added, to support Maya’s invitation.
“Oh, okay, let us do that, then.” Anton said with a bit of regret in his voice. “See you then, Maya and Richard. Have a nice evening.”
“Ricky, I will just say goodbye to Emman, then we can go also.” Maya said as she looked around for Emman. “I think Manang Fe cooked your favorite kare-kare. I mentioned to her that we will see each other after the event. Lakas mo talaga kay Manang. Instead of getting banned, ipinagluto ka pa!”
Richard smiled and teased Maya. “Manang loves me kaya. Boto kaya sa iyon sa akin.”
Maya told Richard yesterday that the following morning after Manang Fe ‘caught’ them, she was a bit embarrased to face her. But Manang Fe was pretty straightforward about the whole thing, told Maya that she is of age, and that she can think and decide for herself. Her old nanny even teased her that she is ‘boto’ to Richard for her.
“Hayan ka naman, Mr. Lim. Confident na confident ah.” Maya said, laughing. “Halika na nga.”
They went to the parking lot, holding hands, with loving gazes for each other. They also teased each other a lot. Anton, who hasn’t left yet as he forgot something inside the venue, saw these actions, and said to himself, “My lost, my lost. You are one lucky guy, Richard Lim.”
Maya and Richard arrived at the Dela Rosa residence one hour after, quite hungry. Manang Fe told them to wash their hands, like little kids, before they proceeded to the dining table. Not only did she prepare Richard’s favorite food, she also made chili crabs for Maya and their favorite dessert, leche flan. Richard and Maya felt their tummies groaned after eating all the delicious food.
“Come, sweetheart, let us have coffee at the veranda, para bumaba itong mga kinain natin.” Maya said as she stood up. “Manang ako na po ang gagawa ng coffee namin ni Ricky.”
While sipping coffee, Richard asked Maya what he had been meaning to ask earlier, but got sidetracked.
“So, how did you meet Anton? He looked familiar the first time I saw him talking to you. Then I remembered reading about him in the papers about his various social projects, also that he is the eldest son of one of Papa’s friends, Tito Fernando.” Richard said.
“I met him while doing work for the UN. Nagkasama kami sa isang project. This was before he went back here for good and started his social advocacies. We clicked rigth away. Siguro dahil kaming dalawa lang din ang Pinoy sa project na iyon. I remembered him when I started with LC. He really have a good network and his NGO is doing very good work, so I asked him if he would like to partner with us.” Maya explained. “We became good friends din in the process.”
“I think he likes you.” Richard commented.
“Like? What do you mean like? In what way?” Maya asked, curious.
“I think he would like to be more than your friend, sweetheart.” Richard said. “I’m a guy, so I can sense that, lalo pa at girlfriend ko ang gusto niya.”
“Hmmm, talaga, sweetheart? Tama yata talaga ang instinct ko when I arrived at the venue earlier, and saw him after ilang months. Parang may iba sa kanya.” Maya remarked while looking at Richard and decided to tease him. “Selos ka, Mr. Lim?”
“Hindi ha.” Richard quickly assured Maya and gave her his lopsided smile. “I don’t have a reason to be jealous, sweetheart. You even introduced me as your boyfriend to him agad.”
“Talagang wala kang dapat ipagselos! Ikaw lang kaya ang nandito Mr. Lim.” Maya said lovingly, and pointed at her heart.
“I know that sweetheart. I feel secure in my place in your heart, and I know you feel the same in mine, kaya nga you handled Josephine well.” Richard gazed at Maya with so much love, and then interwined their hands.
“I love you sweetheart.” Maya said. “Thank you for being the most loving, understanding and the sweetest boyfriend in the world.”
“I love you more, sweetheart.” Richard said and started kissing Maya. Maya responded and they shared a sweet kiss, full of promise and trust for one another.
Before it could go any further, they heard Manang Fe’s distinct footsteps. They sat straighter and grabbed their coffee cups.
“Maya hija, Richard, maabala ko lang kayo ng kaunti.” Manang Fe said as she smiled at her alaga and the man who loves her. She really likes Richard for her ward. “Kamuntik ko ng makalimutan. Tumawag ang Mommy mo. Hindi ka raw kasi makontak sa cellphone kanina.”
“Oo nga pala Manang! I forgot po na may missed call pala ako kanina galing kay Mommy. Busy po kasi kami with the project. Ang dami rin kasing tao.” Maya remembered checking her phone at some point, and seeing a missed call from her Mommy Tere. “Ano pong sabi ni Mommy?”
“Sabi niya, uuwi sila ng Daddy mo next week kasi kailangan ni Arturo na mag-report muna sa DFA, pagkatapos, bakasyon sila ng kaunti. Mga two weeks daw sila rito.” Manang Fe informed Maya. “Mabuti iyon, kasi matagal-tagal na rin silang hindi nauuwi.”
“Yes!!! I’m so happy to know that Manang. Missed ko na nga rin sila.” Maya said smiling. “Richard, we should have dinner with Mom and Dad, one evening. I want to introduce my ever loving boyfriend to them.”
“Of course, sweetheart. If you didn’t invite me, I would have invited myself. I want to formally introduce myself to them, and thank them for their wonderful and loving daughter, di ba, Manang Fe?” He said while lovingly pinching Maya’s cheeks.
“Oo naman, Richard.” Manang Fe said, smiling. “O siya, maiwan ko na kayong dalawa at magpapahinga na ako.”
“Good night Manang Fe.” They both said.
Richard and Maya continued to hold hands, with Maya’s head on Richard’s shoulder, half-reclining, as they chatted, and enjoyed their coffee, exchanging kisses in between.
Richard said goodbye after several more kisses.
“Good night na talaga sweetheart, and last kiss mo na ito ngayong gabi.” Maya said as she tiptoed and give Richard a bone-melting kiss. “Sweet dreams. I love you.”
“Sweet dreams, my love. I love you very much.” Richard said as he gazed at Maya lovingly. Maya’s parents are coming home for a visit, he thought! This is his chance and the opportunity he has been waiting for. He went home very happy, a beautiful plan forming in his head.