‘Staying the night’
Maya and Richard went on their separate ways to shower and change when they returned to the house. They still have time as Captain Ventura has not called again since the last time Richard talked to him. Richard was not worried as they still have a window to fly back. He does not like flying when it is already too dark. He led Maya to the room she used earlier, then went to his bedroom.
Inside the shopping bag that Richard gave her earlier, Maya found a printed maxi skirt, a purple baby tee, and a change of undies. Like the swimsuit, this set of clothes fitted Maya perfectly.
She took a quick shower in the big bathroom. When she was finished dressing up and packing her dirty clothes and wet swimsuit, she went down, and looked for Richard.
“Ma’am Maya, kain po muna kayo ni Sir Richard bago kayo bumiyahe. Nakahanda na po ang merienda ninyo sa veranda.” Manang Linda told Maya when she saw her going down the stairs.
“Naku, salamat po talaga ng marami sa inyo ni Manong Benito, Manang Linda.” Maya thanked the nice old lady. “Hanapin ko lang po si Richard.”
“I’m here, my love.” Richard said, coming from the direction of the veranda. “Halika, you will like what Manang prepared.”
“Manang Linda, thank you po ulit.” Richard smiled at the old lady.
“Wala pong anuman, Sir Richard.” Manang Linda told her employer. “Balik na po ako sa kusina. Tawagin ninyo lang po ako kung may kailangan kayo.”
Richard and Maya went to the veranda. Maya saw her favorite Filipino merienda food – pancit with a lot of toppings, lumpiang toge with vinegar dip, tokwa’t baboy and pati her favorite dessert, ginataang bilo-bilo with ube, sago, langka, kamote and saging.
“Wow, Babe! Heto lahat ang inihanda ni Manang? Sobrang dami naman and lahat favorite ko.” Maya exclaimed. “Thank you. Ikaw, hindi ka nagpahanda ng favorite food mo?”
“Makita lang kitang masaya at enjoy sa pagkain ng mga iyan, Honeybun, busog na ako.” Richard said, teasing Maya.
“Babeeee, di na iyan corny, uber sa pagka-cheesy lang ang peg!” Maya laughed.
Richard laughed. “I like those food too. When you were telling me about it several days ago, I realized I haven’t eaten those in a long time. I knew someone who makes them very good, si Manang Linda. Kaya hayan, I asked her to prepare those.“
Maya and Richard enjoyed their merienda. When they were about to eat the ginataan, Richard’s phone rang.
“Yes, Captain Ventura?” He asked when picked up the call.
“I’m so sorry, Sir Richard. Hindi na po namin kayo mapi-pick-up diyan ni Captain Corpuz. Lalo pa pong lumakas ang ulan, zero visibility, and nag-warning na rin ang PAGASA of intense and very heavy rains for the next three hours.” The pilot explained apologetically.
“Oh, ganoon ba? How’s the city? Baha na rin ba sa maraming areas.” Richard asked.
“Yes, Sir Richard.” Captain Ventura said. “May areas na that people are being evacuated. Sobrang traffic na nga rin kasi the vehicles on the street are not moving na dahil sa baha. Marami na ring stranded.”
“Oh, that is bad. I hope the rain will stop soon and the situation will not turn into another ‘Ondoy’ or the bad monsoon rains we experienced the last two years.” Richard told the pilot. “Better stay put and be safe then, Captain. Okay lang naman kami rito ni Maya.”
“Sige po, Sir Richard. We will pick you up na lang din first thing in the morning as soon as the weather clears. Or kayo po, mga anong oras ninyo kami gustong bumalik diyan.” Captain Ventura asked Richard.
“Hmmm, let me see. I’ll ask Maya first if she has something scheduled tomorrow.” He looked at Maya who was listening intently to his conversation with the pilot.
“I’m good, Babe. Wala naman akong schedule tomorrow. Magpe-prepare lang sana ng gamit for my trip to Vigan. But I can do that fast naman. We can be picked up late morning or after lunch. That way I still have time to see my mother and sister.” Maya said.
“Okay, Honeybun.” Richard said, then went back to Captain Ventura. “Please pick us up na lang around noon, para rin hindi masyadong maaga for us and for you rin.”
“Copy, Sir Richard. Captain Corpuz and I will be there at noon. Have a nice afternoon, Sir.” Captain Ventura said. “And enjoy your unexpected stay in the island. Mabuti diyan, maganda ang panahon.”
“We will. Stay safe, Captain, and I do hope your family are also safe and sound.” Richard told the pilot.
“Okay naman po sila. Hindi naman binabaha sa lugar namin. Until tomorrow po.” Captain Ventura ended the call.
Richard put his phone at the side table and went back to where he and Maya were eating their merienda.
“Sobrang bad ng weather sa Metro Manila, Babe?” Maya asked.
“Yes. Sabi ni Captain Ventura, marami ng areas na baha, and the weather bureau has warned of more rains for the next three hours. Are your mom and Patty okay where they are?” Richard asked.
“Oh, they are okay. Our place is on the high part of the city. Which reminds me, Babe. Excuse me. I will just call my mom to let her know that I can’t see her this evening.”
Maya walked inside the house and got her phone from where she left it. She has not checked it since they arrived here. She just completely forgot about it, not that she is expecting a call or an important message. Gone were the days where she needed to be glued on her mobile phone because of her work.
“Hi Mom, how are you and Patty? I heard the weather is bad in Manila at the moment.” Maya said when her mom finally answered her call. Mommy Tessie has a habit of forgetting where her phone is.
“Maya, anak. Good to hear from you. Nasaan ka ba?” Mommy Tessie asked. She thought of giving her daughter a call because of the bad weather. But knowing her daughter, she knows that she is okay. And knowing Maya, she will surely give her a call at some point. Malaki na naman and of age ang anak niya, mabait and responsible, kaya hindi masyadong nag-aalala si Mommy Tessie.
“Nandito ako sa Occidental Mindoro, Mom.” Maya told her, as she settled more comfortably in the armchair in the living room. “Dapat pupunta kami diyan ngayong gabi, pero heto na-stranded kami dito.”
“Kami…..?”” That did catch Mommy Tessie’s attention. Parang iba, when her daughter spoke the word. Saka, kasama pagpunta sa kanila. Maya rarely brings home guests. Si Cris lang ang madalas na pumunta sa kanila, also Emman.
Maya then realized that she needed to tell her mom on the phone about Richard. She wanted to do it in person sana, but maybe she can make an intro on the phone. Tutal, like before at madalas, nadulas na naman siya.
“Mom, I wanted to tell you this in person pero since nabanggit ko na rin lang. I will tell you na.” She took a deep breath and told her mother. “Mom, I have a boyfriend na po. He is the most wonderful guy in the world. Gusto ko nga po siyang ipakilala sa inyo in person and gusto niya kayong makilala ng formal. Na-meet ko na rin kasi ang parents niya.”
“Na-meet mo na agad ang parents niya? “Mommy Tessie asked, surprised dahil since last week, wala namang nababanggit ang anak niya na regarding this. Wala pa nga itong nagiging boyfriend sa pagkakaalam niya. For sure naman kung meron, sasabihin ni Maya sa kanya before dahil hindi naman ito malihim pagdating sa mga ganitong bagay.
“Yes Mom. Kasi Richard is a cousin of Cris.” Maya explained.” Last night I attended their family dinner since wala ng time si Cris na i-meet ako before she leaves for the States tonight. Saka di ba parang second parents ko na rin sina Tita Susan and Tito Rafael.”
“Oh, okay. Iyong cousin niya na head na ng company nila and where you also freelances?” Mommy Tessie made the connection. She knows Cris very well since she and Maya were the best of friends all throughout their late teens, into adulthood. She likes her daughter’s friend a lot, parang anak na rin niya.
“Yes, Mom. Mom, I know that this a surprise for you and all seemed so sudden. But Mom, I have never been so sure of something in my life, than this. You will love Richard when you get to meet him.” Maya told her mother passionately. “He is the best boyfriend. I love him very much. I just fell, so deeply and completely in love with him in such a short time! Para ngang feeling ko sobrang tagal na naming magkakilala.”
Mommy Tessie believed her daughter. Besides, she trust her to make the best decision for herself. Maya is a sensible girl and she was also getting worried that at almost 28 years old, her daughter seems to be untouched by love. Hindi niya alam kung may kaugnayan dito ang pagkamatay ng Dad niya, her dear Arturo.
“Maya, anak. Hindi ko man alam ang buong kwento. Kahit mabilis ang mga pangyayari, I’m very happy for you. May tiwala ako sa iyo and I know that this must mean the world to you to make that quick decision.” Mommy Tessie assured her daughter.
“Minsan, anak, may mga bagay na dumarating sa atin kapag hindi natin inaasahan. Saka ang love, wala rin iyan sa tagal ng pagkakilala niyo sa isa’t-isa. You met someone that just make your heart beat so fast, then you connected instantly na parang kahit kakikilala ninyo pa lang, parang ang tagal mo na siyang kilala. Tapos, parang ayaw niyo nang maghiwalay after that initial meeting. Then the more you get to know the person, the more you love him. You just connected and that’s it. You just accept the person, no matter what. Kahit minsan, he is not your idea of the perfect guy. Wala naman kasi talagang perfect or sobrang ideal na guy. You just love that person as he is.”
“Mom, bakit mo alam?” Maya was surprised hearing her mother described what she experienced upon meeting and loving Richard.
“Our circumstances and experiences are different, anak, pero parang ganyan din ang nangyari sa akin pagdating sa Dad mo.” Mommy Tessie, smiled at the other end of the line, remembering her beloved husband. The pain and the sadness linger, but she has accepted that her husband is gone and she is just thankful for the love and the wonderful memories they have shared kahit sa maikling panahon. She thought that they will grow old together, pero it was not meant to be.
“Talaga, Mom. I know you love each other very much. Kita namin namin ni Patty iyon, pero siyempre not the details on how you fell in love with each other.” Maya missed her Dad at that instance.
“O basta, pagbalik mo rito, ipakilala mo sa akin ang lalaking finally nakapagpatibok diyan sa pihikan mong puso.” Mommy Tessie. “Aba eh, kailangan kong makilatis ang magiging manugang ko, at kung deserve niya ang dalaga ko.”
“Mommmm….!!!! Wala pa naman kami diyan.” Maya protested, smiling, happy.
Mother and daughter laughed. Mommy Tessie decide not to tease her daughter about it. But she have a strong inkling, that this is it, for her wanderlust daughter.
“Kailan pa pala kayo sa Mindoro?” Mommy Tessie asked.
“Kanina lang po, Mom. Nandito kami sa island nina Ricky. Pabalik na sana kami ngayon, but the chopper can’t pick us up. Hindi makalipad from Manila kasi masama ang weather.”
“Balikan lang kayo?” Mommy Tessie was surprised to hear that. Akala niya nagbabakasyon doon ang anak niya.
“Yes, Mom. Surprise ni Babe, errr, I mean, ni Ricky for our ‘first date’?” Maya explained.
“First date?” Maya’s mom suddenly got confused. “Eh di ba, mag-boyfriend na kayo?”
“Mom, hahahaha, it is a long story. Huwag kang mag-aalala, hindi lang ikaw ang nahihilo sa amin ni Ricky, pati na rin si Cris.” Maya laughed.
“O sige, hindi na ako magtatanong.” Mommy Tessie laughed. “Pero, Maya, anak, chopper trip to an island for a first date?”
“Yes, Mom.” Maya replied smiling.
Welll…..anak, kinikilig kahit ako!!!” Mommy Tessie teased her daughter.
“Mommmmm….” Maya said, groaning, and laughing. She can’t imagine her very proper mom na kinikilig!
Mother and daughter laughed, then said their goodbyes, with Maya promising to see her mother, with Richard then they return to Manila the following day.
Maya was still smiling when she returned to the veranda. Richard looked up and gave her a lopsided smile that never fails to make her heart skipped a beat.
“O Honeybun, ang laki ng ngiti mo.” He greeted. “Is everything okay in your house in Manila?”
“Yes. And I’m smiling kasi Mom was teasing me about us, and our unusual courtship, told her kasi na nandito tayo on our first date. Nahilo rin siya, like Cris.”
Richard smiled. “You told your mom about me, already?” He asked, happy.
“Of course, Babe. Nadulas kasi ako. Bukas pa sana since I want to tell it to her in person. But at hindi rin ako makahintay. I want to tell her that I found myself a wonderful guy, and that I’m so happy at the moment.” Maya smiled at Ricky and caressed his arm. “Siyempre, na-build na kita. Sabi ko, she will love you when she meets you kasi you are the best boyfriend.”
“Thank you, Honeybun.” Richard told Maya, lovingly. “I’m looking forward to meeting your mother and your sister.”
Maya smiled sweetly at Richard. “Babe, prepare na makilatis ha. My mom said she will check kung sino ang nakapagpasagot sa wakas sa dalaga niya.”
“For sure, Honeybun, papasa ako. Sa bait kong ito, pasensyoso sa makulit na girlfriend, at maasikaso pa na boyfriend.” He teased Maya. “Saka sabi ng mom ko, guwapong-guwapo naman ako.”
“Ha, ha, ha, hayan ka na naman, Honeybun.” Maya laughed. “I’m sure, papasa ka sa mom ko, otherwise, hindi kita sinagot agad-agad.”
“Honeybun, thank you. I love you.” Richard kissed Maya lightly on the lips.
“I love you too, my Babe.”
“Come, let’s go. Since we have all the time in this island now.” Richard said, holding out his hand to Maya.
“Let’s go for a walk and watch the sunset. Inform lang natin sina Manang Linda at Manong Benito na we will be staying the night.”
Richard and Maya informed the caretakers that they will stay for the evening. Manang Linda told them that she will prepare a nice dinner for them and prepare the rooms. She also gave them a mat they can sit on. They brought with them a bottle of wine.
“Babe, where do they live?” Maya asked as Richard assisted her down the path leading to the beach. “I mean, Manong Benito and Manang Linda. Just thinking na since we are staying, then they can’t go home also for the night.”
“Here also. They have a cottage at the other side of the island. They also have a small boat that they use to visit their kids and get supplies from the town, around thirty minutes from here. From there also, one can take a trip by land to other parts of Occidental Mindoro.” Richard said. “They like staying here in the island. Tahimik daw kasi and saka sabi nila mabuti na iyong merong 24 hours na bantay.
“I know you don’t have any more change of clothes pala, Honeybun. But we can check one of the rooms, baka Cris has left something the last time she was here. But I think my mom has some supplies here. May pagka-OC iyon, always having something extra, just in case a family member forgot to bring something.”
“Oh, that is good. I have basic toiletries in my bag. I think I just need something to sleep in. I can just wash the clothes I was wearing earlier. Don’t worry about it, Honeybun. I’m used to all the unexpected kinks while traveling and also bring the basics, like toothbrush, everywhere I go.” Maya assured Richard.
The island is really beautiful, with an overabundance of trees and all kinds of plants and flowers. One part of it, looks like it is still a forest, untouched. The beach is unspoiled, the sand perfectly fine white, and inviting. Richard and Maya found the best vantage point to watch the setting sun. They spread the mat they got from Manang Linda. Then put the bottle of wine and wine glasses beside it.
“Wow, this is the best ever.” Maya sighed contently while leaning against Richard, sitting in between his legs. He was hugging her from behind, with his chin on her shoulder. “The best island experience ever, my love.”
“For me, too, my love.” Richard simply said, very happy to feel Maya in his arms. “Would you like some wine, my love?”
“Yes, please.” Maya said.
Maya and Richard sipped wine as they watched the setting sun. Everything was just beautiful.
“In all my years of traveling, there couldn’t be any more perfect trip than this.” Maya remarked.
“I’m glad, my love. For me too.” Richard said. When they grow and old, this moment will be part of the wonderful memories they will reminisce, something to tell their children and grandchildren. Yes, he want a future with Maya. He wants a forever with this wonderful woman.
“Have you always wanted to travel, like what you have been doing the past years? I sensed that something triggered it. It all seemed to happen after your father died.” Richard asked after a while, lying on the mat at that instance, his head pillowed on Maya’s lap. He knew that traveling and moving around is a big part of Maya’s life and he wouldn’t want to curtail or change that. He loves her to much to restrain her like that, or make her feel that she needed to cut back on those because of him.
Maya looked at the horizon, then settled more comfortably, caressed Richard’s head, then started talking.
“Yes. But I only decided to do it fully when my Dad died. Before that I didn’t really have time because of my demanding work. I barely had rest days. I was so busy establishing a career. I didn’t have time for my family. Then one day, Dad just suddenly collapsed while I was having one of my rare dinner with my family. Mom and I rushed him to the hospital. He had a heart attack. Imagine that. A heart attack in his 40s! He was too young, Before he died, he told me to live my life the way I want it. Enjoy it to the fullest. At that point, I realized that while I love the written words, being a reporter was not what I really wanted. Dad wanted to be one, it was one of his unfulfilled dreams, and I think without him knowing, his telling me about it, influenced my choice. I thought that I loved it too.
My Dad’s death made me re-examine everything. To deal with my grief, I went on my own to Sagada, stayed there for several days, talking long walks, sitting for hours in a boulder in Echo Valley, communing with nature, and thinking amid the beauty and quiet of the place. I realized that is what I wanted to do, travel and write about it. Not that it would bring me a lot of money or make a real living out it in the beginning. But I’m luckier than most, and I know I have the means to do it, since I have the family wealth to fall back to. But I don’t want to be dependent on the money we have. I did use it a means to achieve my dream, including the cafe. I feel so free when I travel and my heart sings, seeing the beauty around me. I mean the beauty beyond the usual tourist attractions or picture perfect sceneries. I mean seeing people live. I love the people I meet. Sometimes, I’m amazed and how happy people are in the countryside, even if they have so little.”
Maya took a deep breath. “Sorry, got carried away. This is something I feel passionately about.”
“My love, you don’t have to apologize. I know traveling is a vital part of you. I can sensed in the way you write, even before I met you that there is a depth to you that spoke beyond what you have written. I was also drawn to it. You have a wonderful gift for storytelling. For visualizing for people what you see. Something like what a great photographer see through the lense of his camera or a gifted filmmaker manages to transport to our screen, and that made us feel like we are there with the characters, celebrating their victories, cheering them overcoming odds, and feeling sad with them when they are.” Richard said lenghtily.
Maya looked at Ricky with so much love. How did she get lucky to find a wonderful guy like him! “Ricky, my love. I’m astounded at your perceptiveness. I’m so happy you understood me and what I do. Thank you. I love you very, very, very much.”
“I love you with all my heart too, so I want to support you in everything you do. I know there will be moments where we will be apart because of your trips. I just want you to know that you don’t have to worry about me feeling neglected. I perfectly understand what you need to do. Maybe, I can even join you in some of your trips. You are not alone anymore. I want to be a part of your journey, too.”
Maya cupped Ricky’s face. Look deeply in the eyes. “Babe, of course I would love you to be a part of it. My journeys would be more wonderful and more colorful with you beside me. Thank you for being with me, for loving me.” Then she lowered her lips and kissed Richard with all the happiness and love she was feeling at that moment.
Richard returned the kiss, wanting to show Maya through the kiss, how much he loves and treasures her.
With the sound of the waves hitting shore and the stillness of the night, they shared a very passionate kiss, silently promising forever to each other.