Maya took a sip of her brewed coffee, while enjoying the peace and quiet, sitting at one of the outdoor tables in a cafe in Calle Crisologo in Vigan, soaking in the atmosphere. With the cobblestones street, the many calesas taking in and unloading tourists as it was the only mode of transport allowed in that particular street, and the rows of beautiful old houses, she felt like she was transported back in time, to the Spanish colonial period in the country.
The coffee she was drinking was not as good as the one at Cafe M’s, but it was good enough, and it was a balm to her tired body. She and her team had just finished another whole day shoot, the last one, and interviews with several owners of the ancestral houses in Vigan that will be featured in the lifestyle magazine that commissioned her to do the article. Her photographer and his driver opted to return to Manila, instead of resting there one more day, as soon as the shoot was finished. She told them earlier that she will stay behind, then take several days vacation.
Finally, she is finished this assignment! She sighed and mentally stretched her arms and back. It’s a good feeling to finish the hard part of the job. As for writing the whole thing, she always find it the easiest aspect of her work. And since she can work anywhere, with a laptop and an internet connection, she decided to stay in the area for several more days, just taking leisurely trips. She can do the writing in the evening, maybe in a beach place. Tonight she will stay there and rest, then she is planning a road trip that would take her to Laoag, Pagudpud and if she still feels like it, to Cagayan Valley. This is for her blog and also a travel book she would like to publish. That is the reason she decided to drive herself to Ilocos Sur instead of taking the service vehicle provided for by the magazine. Maya opted not fly, either, as she enjoyed traveling by land more. That way, she can stop anytime, explore a bit, take pictures.
Maya knew the trip to Ilocos Norte and Cagayan Valley will take her several more days away from Ricky. But like he had told her, he insisted that he completely understands the nature of her work and her need to travel. He assured her that it is perfectly okay with him, even if he will miss her a lot. Maya is grateful she found herself a very understanding, very supportive, and loving boyfriend.
It has been more three days since she last seen Richard. She missed him a lot. But the trip around Ilocos was something she had planned even before she met him. She just wished that like the island trip, he was here to share the beauty of the Ilocos Region with her. Maybe, she can just cut short the Cagayan Valley leg of her trip. She will see if it is enough just to go up to Patapat viaduct.
Maya thought of calling Richard, but then she remembered that he told her during their nightly talk that he has a meeting today that would last from two o’clock until five o’clock in the afternoon. Maybe, it would be better to talk to him in the evening. He needed to catch up on work after their wonderful trip to Mindoro and their dinner with her family.
She smiled remembering that evening.
She and Richard arrived at her family home at around seven o’clock in the evening. She put her hand on top of Richard’s when he parked the car in their driveway. They smiled sweetly at each other. He opened the door for her, then got the flowers and the chocolate from the back seat of the car.
“So, Babe, ready to meet my mom, and also my makulit na sister?” She asked Richard as she held on to his forearm while they walked to the house from the driveway.
“Of course, Honeybun, I want to meet her and thank her for her beautiful, loving, and sweet daughter.” Richard tipped her head lovingly, then gave her a quick kiss.
“Awww, grabe ka talagang magpakilig, Babe.” Maya said as they entered her family home.
“Maya, anak, nandiyan ka na pala.” Mommy Tessie greeted her daughter, then at the same time, looked at the tall, handsome guy who was holding her daughter’s hand.
“Mom, good to see you. Sorry, na-delay na ang pagbisita ko sa inyo.” Maya hugged her mom and kissed her. “Mom, this is my boyfriend, Richard Lim. Ricky, this is my beautiful mom, Teresita Dela Rosa. Tessie for short.”
“Good evening po, Mrs. Dela Rosa.” Richard said politely. “I’m glad to finally meet you. For you po, and also for Patricia.” Richard gave Maya’s mom the flowers and the chocolates.
“Good evening din, Richard. Welcome to our home ” Mommy Tessie greeted the man who finally made her daughter fell in love. He seems lke a very nice young man, polite too, and thoughtful! “Please call me, Tita Tessie. Thank you for these. The flowers are lovely. Paborito ko ang white and red roses! Did Maya tell you that?”
Richard smiled at Maya’s mom. “Mano po pala.” He got Maya’s mom’s hand. “Talaga po? Hindi po. Just a lucky guess.”
“Hi Ate, sa wakas, nakadalaw ka na rin. Nasaan na ang pasalubong ko?” A teenager, greeted Maya exuberantly. “Ooops, we have a guest pala. Hello!”
“Ricky, this big rascal, is my sister Patty.” Maya said as she hugged her sister and tweaked her ponytail.
“Big sis, ouchy. Di na ako, bata, don’t do that.” Patty complained, as she hugged Maya back.
“Basta, you will always be my little sister.” Maya said. “Patty, this my boyfriend, Ricky.”
“Hello Patty, nice to meet you.” Richard smiled at Maya’s sibling.
“You have a boyfriend na, Ate Maya! Sa wakas!” She blurted out, happily. “Hello, Kuya Ricky. Buti na lang napasagot mo na si Ate Maya. Now, wala ng excuse si Mom para hindi ako payagang magka-boyfriend!”
“Patricia Bettina Dela Rosa, not until you are 25 years old, at least!” Mommy Tessie told her youngest daughter, trying to be stern.
“Mommmm, that’s soo ancient already. No offense meant, Ate, hahahaha!” Patty said irreverently.
Mommy Tessie laughed. She knew her youngest is as level-headed as her eldest daughter.
“Naku, Patricia, tama na nga iyan. I’m sure you will be sensible when the time comes. Let’s go eat dinner.
They had a wonderful dinner. Maya saw her mom looking at her and Richard several times, smiling happily. She even raised her eyebrow, as if asking a question, when she heard them saying ‘Honeybun’ and ‘Babe’ to each other.
The whole family had dessert and coffee at the veranda. While they were there, Patty asked Maya if she could to her room and check the clothes she will wear for a school event. Maya excused herself from her mom and Richard.
When they were in Patty’s room, her sister ribbed her about how handsome her boyfriend is, and that her ‘Kuya Ricky’ seems very nice.
“Ate, ang sweet niyo ni Kuya Ricky ah. Sana ganyan din ang mahanap kong boyfriend.” Patty exclaimed.
“Yes, I’m so lucky with your Kuya Ricky. Kaya ikaw, piliin mong mabuti, and believe that the right guy will come for you, at the right time.” Maya stressed to her sister.
“I will, Ate! Alam mo naman na wala pa iyan sa akin. I want to concentrate on my studies muna. I was just trying to pull Mom’s leg earlier.” Patty assured her sister, as she got a lavender gown from her closet. “What do you think? Okay na kaya ito?”
The sisters inspected the gown. Maya asked Patty to put it on and they discussed what kind of accessories will best go with it.
Maya returned to the veranda 30 minutes after, to find her mom and Richard in earnest conversation. Her mom had a happy, teary smile on her face and her Babe was smiling very happily. When she asked them what she missed, they assured them they were just chatting about stuffs.
Mommy Tessie, then went to Maya, hugged her tight and told her she loves her very much. She also told her be happy. She was a bit puzzled. But she thought that maybe Richard and her were just talking about her Dad.
They said goodbye to her family at around 10PM, went home, and parted sweetly at her door as she will leave early the following morning. Richard, at first, had misgivings about her driving alone, but she assured him, that she had done it before. She also promised to send him a text message every stop she makes.
Maya sipped her coffee, remembering the scene between her mom and Richard at the veranda, starting to analyze it, coupled with Richard calling her mother, ‘Mommy Tessie’, when they were leaving. She thought it was just a slip in his part. Before her brain can latch on something concrete, out of the nebulous thoughts in her head, her phone rang.
“Hi Babe! Done na meeting mo? I was about to call you nga earlier then I remembered you told me you will be in a meeting this afternoon. Mamayang gabi na lang sana ako tatawag.” Maya greeted her boyfriend happily.
“Hi Honeybun! Where are you?” He asked.
“I’m here at Vigan Coffee Blends in Calle Crisologo, drinking coffee, as usual, and relaxing a bit. We are done with the shoot, as scheduled. Nakakapagod pero happy naman ako sa outcome.” Maya said, in between sipping coffee. “How about you? How’s your day?”
There was silence at the end of the line, then Richard said, “Honeybun, something came up. I will be in touch soon.” He ended the call before Maya can say something more.
Maya was puzzled why Richard abruptly ended the call. But she shrugged it off, and thought he was just very busy.
She continued her coffee time, watched people passed by, and when she got tired of doing that, she went online and checked her favorite blog sites. She was engrossed in reading a riveting post, when suddenly, someone hugged her from behind and kissed her on the lips.
She jerked up and got the surprise of her life.
“Ricky, what are you doing here, Babe?!”
“Surprise, Honeybun???!!!!” He grinned. Then gave her a huge bouquet of sunflowers.
“Sus, sobra-sobra!!! Kamuntik na nga kitang nagamitan ng karate chops ko!” Maya said, teasingly, her heart still beating so fast from Richard’s surprise.”Kanina lang kausap kita sa phone. Di ba, may meeting ka? Paano ka nakarating kaagad dito? Kanina ka pa ba?”
“Woooohoo, my love!!! Kalma lang. Isa-isa lang ang tanong.” Richard said, still grinning, putting up his hands.
Maya laughed. “Oo nga. Sobra mo kasi akong ginulat and at the same time I’m so happy that you are here.” She then stood up, hugged Richard tight and gave him a sweet kiss.
Richard sat down on the chair beside Maya’s and then held and caressed her hand.
“Well, I kinda missed you a lot. So, yesterday, I started toying with the idea of following you here and going with you on that road trip kasi ilang araw pa ulit bago kita makita. I checked with Liza if I have a anything urgent and she told me, not much, and it can be postponed naman. I had her cleared my schedule, so I can be with you until Sunday!” Richard happily said. “I took a flight to Laoag, then traveled by land to Vigan. I asked a friend if one of his company cars can take me here. So here I am.”
“Awwww, Babe, I’m so happy naman that you decided to follow me. I was thinking nga of cutting my trip to Cagayan short, so I can go back earlier. I also wished you were here. Now that you are, I’m so happy! “Maya touched Richard’s face lovingly. “Saan ka pala naka-check in?”
“Well, with you.” He grinned. “We have some unfinished business din di ba. You know….”
Maya blushed. “Ha, at iyon kaagad ang naisip mo?” She teased.
“That and more.” He simply said and looked at her heatedly. “So can I stay with you, Ms. Dela Rosa? Otherwise, dito ako sa kalye matutulog.”
“Ha, pa-konsensya ka pa, Mr. Lim. Mabuti na lang I booked a big room in a very beautiful ancestral home that has been turned into a hotel.” Maya said smiling. “Nasaan pala ang mga things mo?”
“Nandoon na! I left it sa reception, saying that I will just look for you.” Richard said. “Mabuti nga, hindi mo ako nahalata when I asked you last night what is the name of your hotel and the address!”
“Babe, talagang ang confidence level na patutuluyin kita ah.” Maya retorted. “Mabuti, naniwala sa iyo ang reception na magkakilala tayo.”
“Honeybun, alam ko namang hindi mo ako matitiis. Naniwala sila kasi I described you, told them this tall, beautiful lady, with bambi eyes” Richard said. “I told them I want to surprise you. I assured them, I’m not going to your room, but asked them if I could leave my things there. I think the receptionist found the whole thing romantic! Saka mukha naman akong trustworthy, ah.” He finished, teasing.
Maya smiled. Well, if she was the receptionist, she will find the whole thing romantic too! In fact it is in the super ‘kilig’ levels since sinundan pa siya rito ni Ricky, just to be with her, with matching flowers pa. She smiled at him lovingly.
“I love you.” He said and then kissed her again lightly.
“I love you, too.” Maya said, so very happy that her Babe was there.
They stayed in the coffee shop until twilight. There was a nice breeze blowing, and it was very relaxing just to sit there. There were not so many people at that time of the day since it was a weekday and it was not the height of the tourist season. When it got dark, they went to an inn where one can find the best food in Vigan.
“Grabe, Honeybun! Tama ka, the food here is the best!” Richard remarked after they have eaten dinner. “I love the best iyong may small shrimps.”
“The best talaga iyon. Saka seasonal lang nila sa menu. We got lucky, meron ngayon.” Maya added. “Coffee and dessert?”
“I don’t think I can, anymore. I’m too full. Let’s go for a walk na lang before we go back to our hotel.”
Maya and Richard walked to the plaza, then to the church, to the side streets, then through the length of Calle Crisologo, hands intertwined, Maya still holding on to her beautiful flowers, marveling at the beautiful, old houses that had withstood the test of time. They still stand proud, speaking from the past, as if telling about the generation after generation that had lived and loved in these houses.
Richard touched the small box in his pocket as they walked around the Spanish-era houses. He mused, love and marriage, something that have remained constant through the centuries, something tangible that lived on from one generation to another. His and Maya’s will be a part of that journey through time, to the future. He had been looking for the perfect moment, and even thought of another place to do this, but for him, there was no other perfect moment than this. It just felt so right to do it there.
“Maya, I love you very much.” Richard said, stopping Maya in the middle of the now deserted cobblestones street, with the street lamps, casting a warm glow on everything around them, making the place magical and special. He knelt before her. “Maya will you marry me. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Compared to his sudden appearance this afternoon, this one, for Maya, was the mother of all surprises. She never thought, she never had any inkling that Richard will do this, so soon. But as she looked at his hopeful face, so full of love for her. She knew what her answer would be. Her subconscious had known what her answered would be, so soon after meeting Richard. She has never been so sure in her life.
“Yes, Ricky, my love, my Babe, I will marry you.” Maya said emotionally, her voice breaking a bit from the overwhelming emotion she was feeling at that moment. She is completely unaware of her surroundings, except for the man kneeling before her. “I love you very much! I want to spend the rest of my life with you, too.”
Richard stood up, put the beautiful platinum ring with colorful stones on her finger, then kissed it lovingly. He interlaced their fingers, then, he looked at her with so much love. Amid the beautiful, graceful houses that have witnessed, sheltered, and nurtured love through the centuries, they kissed to seal their promise to each other.