Note: Errr, double treat! 🙂 Pambawi ko sa inyo! 🙂
Richard Lim strode through the busy airport, unmindful of the people, especially women, who were taking a second look at the handsome, confident man with eyeglasses, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, in their midst. He looked serious and in deep thought.
Home! Richard mused as he waited for his luggage. It is good to be back. He had been pretty restless lately. He didn’t know if it has something to do with the death of his Papa and being the new CEO of LHI. He does not think so. The truth is, he had been restless and unsetttled for eight years. It felt like a big part of his life stopped after the painful incident that happened eight years ago. Maybe, this is better, he mused. Taking the reins of the company will keep him very busy that he will not have time to think of the unresolved issues from his past. Besides, he will at least see his mother more often, especially now that she can’t seem to get over his father’s death. There were times that he had a hard time understanding his parents’ dynamics. For him, his father was very strict and forceful, and yet his mother loved him so much until the end. His father seemed to be very devoted to his mother too. Such contradictions!
Richard was about to exit the terminal with his luggage when he saw a seemingly familiar figure. His heart skipped a beat. He can’t breath all of a sudden.
“Maya!” He muttered.
The lady turned, as if she had heard him. And with it, came another disappointment. It was not Maya, the one and only woman he loved, still loves, he admitted. When will he stop yearning? Maybe, it is about time he confront the past and his big role in hurting her. Even if she can’t forgive him, isn’t it better than this? He tried to forget, but he was unable to do so. He avoided finding out about her in an effort to forget and let her be, after what he did, after what happened, but there were times when he found it so very difficult to do so. In hindsight, he knew that there were things he could have done, but it was just in hindsight. What had happened, happened and no matter how much he wanted to go back and change it, he can’t anymore. He needs to move on. Maybe, it is time to confront the past and laid it to rest.
“Sir Richard, Sir Richard!” Joma, the Lim family driver, called Richard’s attention several times before he reacted and looked at him.
Joma rushed to Richard and helped him with his luggage. “Welcome back, Sir.”
“Thank you Joma, it is good to be home. It has been a while.” Richard got in the front seat of the car, then looked straight ahead.
If Richard had looked sideways at that moment, he would have found out that after so many years imagining seeing Maya in a crowd, he would have finally found her! At that moment Maya was also coming out of the airport. She just came back from Bangkok, meeting her UNICEF colleagues there.
“Rafael, hola! ?Que tal?” She greeted her longtime friend, Rafael Rodriguez. They met each other when they were both stationed in Geneva, in between assignments. When she was assigned to the Philippines, Rafael soon followed. He is a doctor working for WHO.
“Bien, Maya! And you, how are you? Did you have a nice trip? How’s Lizbeth and the rest of the team in Bangkok?” He asked as he took care of her luggage and guided her to his waiting car.
“It was great. We can sync our projects. I just need to meet with our private sector counterpart here and finalize our project and its implementation.” Maya told Rafa.
What she was not telling him was that, the counterpart she mentioned would bring her to the same world inhabited by the one and only man she loved, especially now that she knew he is coming back to the Philippines for good. For the past months, she had been working closely with the head of LHI Foundation who happened to be Mrs. Esmeralda Lim, Richard’s mom, for a literacy campaign. At first, she didn’t know she is Richard mom, until they got to know each other more and she told her that her only son was in charge of the LHI office in New York. Then she mentioned that her son Richard is still single. It seemed that Mrs. Lim was trying to matchmake between her and her son. Maya, at that time, didn’t know whether she would disclose that she knew Richard. She was saved by one of her colleagues who arrived and the discussion shifted on to another topic. Thankfully, Mrs. Lim has not mentioned Richard since then.
Maya asked Rafa if he would like to come in when they reached her house in a nice subdivision in Quezon City. She knew a house an impractical choice as she is not home much, but she wanted a house of her own. She came to a point that wherein she wanted a permanent base after eight years of living everywhere. She wanted to settle in the Philippines too, and not in the States. Lately, she had been thinking of leaving the UN and establishing a non-governmental organization that would help people living in the countryside, but she haven’t made up her mind.
“Thank you, Maya. Maybe another time. I have to be at the office later for a meeting.” Rafa said. “How about lunch tomorrow?”
“Oh sorry, I can’t. I’m meeting Mrs. Lim in BGC.” Maya said. “Anyway, let’s check if we are free by Friday night, would that be okay? We can go out with Emman and Edselyn.” Like her, Emman returned to the Philippines and is now working for a public relations firm. His cousin Edselyn is currently in Manila at the moment, visiting for two months.
“Hmmm, can we just go out, the two of us, I mean, on a date?” Rafa suggested. He made his intentions known to Maya, but until now, she had not given him any indication that he likes her beyond friendship.
“Rafa, about that, can we just be good friends for now? I’m not still sure if I’m ready for a relationship.” Maya said carefully.
“But Maya, I have known you for five years and all those times, I haven’t seen or known you to be with anyone. I know it is your life, but maybe, it is about time you open your heart again.” Rafa pointed out. He knew he can speak frankly with Maya as they have been friends a long time. “Give me a chance. That is all I’m asking.”
“Rafa, Rafa, please give me time. It is not fair to let you hope when I can’t give my 100 percent to you. Let’s just be friends for now, okay.” Maya pleaded.
“Okay, Maya. I respect your decision. I will get going. Take care of yourself.” He said, resigned to the fact that it seems, he is destined to be just a good friend to Maya.
“Thank you, and thank you for being a wonderful friend.” Maya said, then wave at Rafa as he got into his car.
“Ma’am Maya, welcome back!” Sabel, Maya’s kasambahay shouted from the door.
Maya smiled at Sabel. “Sus, Sabel, parang ang tagal ko namang nawala this time, para ilang araw lang ah!”
“Naku, Ma’am Maya, kapag mag-isa ka lang naiiwan sa bahay gaya ng nangyayari sa akin kapag wala ka, parang taon ang dating sa akin.” Sabel quipped. “Si Sir Rafa po ba ang naghatid sa inyo? Sayang hindi ko man lang nasilayan ang kaguwapuhan niya ngayon.”
“Yes, siya nga.” Maya replied.
“Ma’am, hindi mo pa po ba sasagutin? Aba eh, saan ka pa ba makakakita ng boyfriend-material na kamukha ni Antonio Banderas, saka nung tennis player na paborito niyong panoorin.” Sabel said. She knew she can tease Maya as they had known each other for quite a number of years na. She was one of Maya’s playmates when she visited Mamang in San Nicolas. When Maya moved back to the Philippines, Mamang asked Sabel if she would like to work for Maya. Even if Maya kept on insisting to just call her ‘Maya’, Sabel insisted on using Ma’am!
“Si Rafael Nadal! Ikaw talaga, Sabel! Halika na nga. Anong dinner ba ang inihanda mo?” Maya asked.
“Naku, masarap na masarap na kare-kare po.” Sabel replied.
Maya suddenly stopped walking. Sabel had cooked kare-kare in the past, but this time, hearing the word, the memory of her last day with Richard came rushing back. She flinched a little. Maybe the article she had read about Richard opened the floodgates of the past for her.
“Bakit po, Ma’am Maya? Ayaw niyo po ba? Magluluto na lang ako ng iba.” Sabel looked worriedly at Maya.
“No Sabel, it is okay. May bigla lang akong naalala. Halika na, ipaghain mo na ako. I will just bring my things upstairs.” Maya said.
“I wonder if he here is now.” Maya mused as she plopped down on her bed to catch her breath before she goes back downstairs.
“I wonder where she is at the moment.” Richard mused while he was on his way to his family’s home in Makati from his condo unit in BGC. He just dropped his things and decided to see his mother whom he hasn’t seen since his father’s funeral.
Since he left the Philippines in 2009 for good to head their international operations, a year after the divorce with Alexandra, he was rarely in the country. His trip got more frequent, though, when his father got sickly and he had to take over his responsibilities. He was in the country for the funeral of his father, but returned to New York the day after it, while the board was deciding if he will be the CEO or his Uncle Patrick. Ryan informed him that he was the one the board picked, several minutes after the final voting.
“Ricky, hijo!” Esmeralda Lim greeted her son as soon as she saw him walking towards the front door after parking his car in the driveway. Joma had told her earlier that he dropped off his Sir Richard first at his condo unit. He also informed her, as per Richard’s instruction, that he will have dinner in the family home and stay the night. “I missed you a lot, son.” Donya Esmeralda hugged her son tight.
“I missed you too, Mama! How have you been?” He asked.
“Heto, I get by. I still misses your Papa a lot. Pero tanggap ko nang wala na siya. Life has to go on.” Donya Esmeralda said. “I just keep myself busy, hands on na hands on ako ngayon sa foundation natin. Doon nalilibang ako and fulfilling naman ang work.”
“It is good to know, Ma. Tama iyon.” Richard was glad to know that his mother is moving on. “What’s your latest project?”
“Tungkol sa literacy! Tamang-tama, di ba, you are staying the night. You can come with me to my meeting with the UNICEF Communications Officer here, sandali lang naman iyon, tomorrow. Please, son.” Donya Esmeralda pleaded. “Di ba sa susunod na araw ka pa magre-report sa LHI.”
Richard knew that when his mother take that tone, he better say yes, so he did. Besides, he wanted to indulge his mother, especially now that he only had one parent left. He does misses his father, despite the fact that he could be exacting and that he had a hand on how things turned out differently from what he wanted eight years ago.
“Okay, Ma, I will go with you.” Richard agreed.
“I’m glad son. Come let’s have dinner. Fe cooked your favorite food, kare-kare.” Donya Esmeralda chatted on.
Upon hearing the word, Richard stopped and thought of the last night he had been with Maya. It was the food she cooked for him lovingly, and how he repaid that with what happened afterwards.
“Ricky, hoy Ricky, is something the matter son? Ayaw mo ba ng kare-kare? Di ba, tama ako, favorite mo ito.” Donya Esmeralda had to call Richard several seconds more before he reacted.
“Oh, I’m okay, Ma. May naalala lang ako.” He said simply. “Halika na. I want to see Manang Fe too. Na-miss ko rin siya ng husto.”
Mother and son went to the dining room. Upon seeing her alaga, Manang Fe got teay-eyed and hugged him. “Ricardo, kumusta ka na?”
“Mabuti po Manang. Ikaw talaga, Manang, parang ilang linggo pa lang ulit tayong hindi nagkita ah.” Richard said affectionately.
“Iba naman iyon, anak. Ngayon natutuwa ako na dito ka na ulit sa Pilipinas titira.” She said.
“Me too, Manang. It seemed right po na bumalik na ako dito.” Richard said as he pulled the seat for his mother. “Manang, sabay ka na po sa amin ni Mama.”
“Oo nga naman, Fe. Saluhan mo na kami nitong si Ricky.” Donya Esmeralda added. “Huwag nang magpaka-others.” Fe is like a friend to her, though, when she insists that she eat with her, she refused.
“Sige po, Ma’am. Na-miss ko nga ang mga kwento nitong si Ricardo.” Manang Fe finally agreed and sat across mother and son.
The three had a nice dinner. It was Donya Esmeralda who mostly talked. Manag Fe noticed Richard getting silent at times and looking at the kare-kare intently, as if remembering something. Later on, after dinner, Donya Esmeralda excused herself and said she need to make some phone calls. Richard walked to the veranda.
“Ricardo, kape o.” Manang Fe handed Richard a steaming cup of coffee.
“Thank you po, Manang. The best ka talaga.” Richard said, smiling at his old nanny.
“Naku, wala iyon. May gusto ka bang pag-usapan, anak?” She asked. Manang knew what Richard went through with Alexandra and felt that there was something he didn’t tell anyone, even to her. All the time he was married to Alexandra, she can see that he was just half-alive. Parang walang sigla sa buhay. “Napansin ko kasi na tahimik ka kanina at parang may iniisip. Naisip ko rin naman na baka pagod ka lang sa biyahe.”
“Meron nga po akong iniisip Manang, Pero saka ko na po sasabihin, Manang, kapag naayos ko na ang lahat.” He simply said. “Ikaw po and si Mama ang unang makakaalam, promise.”
“O sige, basta, nandito lang ako kung kailangan mo ng kausap.” The old lady said.
“Maraming salamat po. Magpapahinga na po ako, Manang.” Richard said as he put down his coffee cup.
“Okay, sige, ayos na ang dati mong room. Pinalinis ko ng husto iyon kay Lea kahapon.” Manang said. “Good night.”
It took a while before Richard fall asleep. There were so many thoughts in his head, but it was not about work, it was about Maya.
The following day, mother and son arrived at the restaurant where Donya Esmeralda will meet the UNICEF officer she mentioned the night before.
“Naku, son, mabuti, we are early. Halika doon na lang tayo. Parating na siguro iyon.” Donya Esmeralda sat on the chair facing the door so she can see the coming and goings of people. She was ordering coffee when the door opened, she looked up and smiled.
“Mrs. Lim, good afternoon po. I think I’m a bit late this time.” The woman greeted Donya Esmeralda. “Pasensya na po.”
Upon hearing the voice, that voice, Richard suddenly whipped round to face the woman who greeted his mom. He needed to be very very sure, but he knew he couldn’t be wrong.
“Maya…..!” He said with wonder and with a huge smile on his face.
“R-ricky….!” Maya uttered, realizing who is the man sitting with Mrs. Lim, not being able to say anything anymore.
“You know each other?” Donya asked, very surprised at this turn of event. Yes, she had an ulterior motive when she asked her son to go with her. She wanted him to meet Maya. She really likes this young lady and is hoping that she can matchmake between her and her son. It is about time her son smiles again. She wants him to be happy.
Donya Esmeralda’s question fell on deaf ears as Richard and Maya only had eyes for each other. The years just fell away, and all the bad things that had happened suddenly forgotten, as they both looked at each other with longing and yes, love.