“Mr. Lim, we are so glad you can make it.” A lady in her late 40s, but still very beautiful shook Richard Lim’s hand as soon as he introduced himself and she introduced herself as the organizer of that night’s event. She was obviously very happy and very relieved that he was there. “How is your mother?” She inquired.
“She is doing better, Ms. Bermudez. Thank you. The doctor said she has stomach flu.” Richard Lim replied. It was his mother who was supposed to be a judge at the Miss Mindoro beauty pageant being held in San Nicolas, Oriental Mindoro that night. “What time will the pageant start?”
Rebecca Bermudez checked her watch, then looked again at the handsome young man before her. By her calculation, he is in late 20s. A lot of the girls may not be able to concentrate if they see the Chairman of the Board of Judges for this year’s pageant!
“The pageant will start in 15 minutes, Mr. Lim. You are just in time. Why don’t you take your place with the other judges in front of the stage!” Ms. Bermudez suggested.
“Please call me Richard, Ms. Bermudez.” Richard gave the lady his bone-melting lopsided smile which didn’t fail to make her heart beat faster.
Oh my goodness, Rebecca thought, he is as old as her eldest nephew and he still charms her like this. The ladies will be in for a treat this evening. “Okay, Richard it is then. Please do call me Rebecca.”
Rebecca led Richard to the long table where all the four other judges were. Richard recognized one of them as the well-known acoustics singer Violet who was from Mindoro. There was a another guy that looked liked a politician and the two others who seemed to be former beauty queens.
They introduced each other. And he was right in his assessments, the guy is the congressman representing the lone district of San Nicolas in the House of Representatives. The other ladies were former Miss Mindoros. One of them, Tiffany eyed Richard with interest, which he ignored. He is not into relationship these days, even short term ones, having just come out of a bad break-up.
Shortly after, the candidates, all 10 of them, representing different parts of Mindoro paraded on stage. Some of them have the looks of being veterans in the pageant circuit and heavily made-up. Some of them seemed too young for the gowns they chose to wear for the competition. Richard was already getting bored and jaded, trying hard in keeping an impassive face, when the last candidate entered the stage.
“Good evening! I’m Maya Dela Rosa, from San Nicolas. I’m 19 years old.” She introduced herself after waving in a very distinct way. She then gave the audience a smile that lit up her whole face and made her so much beautiful than she already is.
Richard Lim sat straighter on his chair. He took a second, and a third, and another look at the tall, willowy girl on stage, who appeared very confident, except that from his seat, he noticed her crossing her fingers behind the folds of her gown. Unlike the other candidates, she was wearing a simple, classically cut gown in deep violet that suits her a lot, and her face was almost devoid of make-up, highlighting how beautiful she really is, with her high cheekbones and doe-shaped eyes fringed with long lashes.
Like the other nine candidates, Maya Dela Rosa took a short turn around the stage and this she did, with so much grace and poise. Richard felt his heart beat faster, when before she exited the stage, their eyes met and held. It was just in seconds but it felt so much longer.
More than two hours into the pageant which had involved the candidates parading in their swimsuits, with candidate number 10 getting the loudest applause, and a talent portion with the same candidate wowing the audience when she danced with all her heart and interpreted superbly the swan’s dying moment in ‘Swan Lake’, the competition was down to three finalists vying for the title.
The question and answer part of the competition will be a big deciding factor in who will win the coveted title.
The hosts called on the first of the three finalists, Stephanie Rivera who fumbled with her answer to a question asked by Congressman Renato Santos. The second one, Jessica Lopez didn’t fare better with the question from Violet. She got very nervous and made a convoluted response to a simple question.
Then it is Maya Dela Rosa’s turn, candidate number 10 in the early rounds of the competition. She fished a piece of paper from a glass bowl and than handed it to the male host, James Ventura, son of the mayor of San Nicolas, who was barely concealing his admiration for this beautiful and poised candidate.
“Ms, Dela Rosa, you got Mr. Richard Lim, of Lim Corporation, our Chairman of the Board of Judges. Mr. Lim, your question for Ms. Dela Rosa, please!”
Richard gazed at Maya Dela Rosa, who met his gaze confidently and without blinking, offering him also a shy smile. Richard, for some reason, fumbled a bit seeing that smile directed at him, and it had not happened to him before. He had to clear his throat before he can speak clearly again.
“Good evening, Ms. Dela Rosa! Here is my question. What, for you, is the most important words of wisdom your parents or grandparents have told you?”
“Good evening po, Mr. Lim. For me, it is what my maternal grandmother has told me when I turned 18. She told me to live my life to the fullest and with no regrets. She told me to grab all the opportunity I could, be the best I could be, work hard to achieve all my dreams, and at the same time reach for those goals the honorable way, and not because I killed someone else’s dream to achieve it. She said, at the end of my journey in this earth, I should be able to say that I have lived and not just existed.”
“Thank you, Ms. Dela Rosa. Wise words indeed from your grandmother. She must be a remarkable woman.”
“She is, Sir. She is.” Maya simply said but Richard felt the emotion.
Richard thanked Maya. She executed a curtsy, then walked back, and joined the other two finalists.
The judges deliberated for several minutes. The results were soon tabulated by the accounting people and handed to the hosts.
“Okay, here is the moment we have been waiting for, the results of this year’s closely fought competition.” James Ventura thundered to a waiting crowd. “Our second runner up, is Ms. Stpehanie Rivera from Poblador.”
Stephanie stepped forward and tilted her head a bit, unable to conceal her disappointment in not winning.
James Ventura was all smile by then, teasing the audience a bit. “Now, I will announce the first runner-up first, and then the winner of tonight’s competition. And the first runner up is Ms. Jessica Lopez of San Fabian, and this year’s Miss Mindoro is no other than, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa of San Nicolas!” He announced to the deafening cheers of the mostly San Nicolas crowd. His co-host, a TV personality who was also from Mindoro, called on the reigning Miss Mindoro for the transfer of the crown to Maya Dela Rosa.
Richard was looking intently at Maya and saw her reaction when she was announced as the winner. She closed her eyes and it seemed like she uttered a silent prayer. It seemed like she was not really expecting that she would win! It was so fleeting and he felt he was the only one who saw it. She also sought him out and they shared a silent look, which both of them didn’t seem to understand that time. Then her attention was called by the reigning Miss Mindoro who was transferring the crown to her.
The ceremonies completed. Maya and the runner-ups posed for pictures.
Rebecca took this opportunity to usher the judges to the reception the organizers have prepared for them, the winners and their families. Initially, Richard was giving it a miss since it was his mother who was supposed to be there, but changed his mind because of Maya. He wanted to talk to her, even for a short time, as if there is a force drawing him to her. He knew he had an early flight the following day, but he was willing to forgo sleep just to see what it is that is attracting him to this lady.
Less than an hour later, the main room of San Nicolas Golf and Country Club was bustling with conversation with candidates mingling with the who’s who of San Nicolas and other guests. Several tried to engage Richard in a conversation, mostly ladies attracted to this silent, handsome chinito guy. They were drawn at his air of mystery. He politely did, but his mind was elsewhere.
“Our new Miss Mindoro sends her apologies. She can’t join us for this gathering. She has a family emergency.” Rebecca announced briefly “But do continue enjoying the night. There are plenty of food and we have hired a band from Manila for tonight’s party.” Maya insisted to her earlier not to tell why she is missing this after pageant party. It was too private for her. Rebecca’s heart goes out to the young lady. She also insisted that everyone should enjoy even without her.
Richard was in a quandary. He wanted to ask Rebecca for information, but was reluctant to do so as it was a bit irregular. Besides, what can he do, he does not know Maya at all, come to think of it, to be asking what made her disappeared into the night, like Cinderella from Prince Charming’s ball!
Note: My new story, begging to be written, so I did this first. Chapter 9 of Crushing On You coming up as soon as I have finished writing it. 🙂