“Sweetheart, is this the place?” Richard asked as he slowed down at the gate of a sports complex in Quezon City, around four o’clock in the morning, the following Saturday, a week after they got engaged.
“Yes, I think this is the place Diana told us. Dito raw ang assembly ng convoy natin, di ba.” Maya replied. “Drive ka na sa loob, Sweetheart, then I will call Diana na lang to ask kung nasaan sila, exactly.”
“Hello Diana! I’m here na with Ricky. Nasaan kayo?” Maya asked her doctor friend when she picked up the phone. “Okay, sige, doon na lang tayo magkita. Bye.”
“Sweetheart, nandoon daw sila sa may left side. Hayan, turn ka lang diyan, please.” Maya told Richard.
Richard and Maya saw more than 10 vehicles of varying models parked at the place where Diana indicated. There were also two mobile clinics. Richard found a parking slot behind a Toyota Fortuner. The car looks familiar and he managed to confirm who it belongs to when the owner stepped out of his vehicle at that moment.
“James!” He greeted LC’s COO and Maya’s friend. “Sabi ko na nga ba, sa iyo ito. Maya mentioned that you are joining this outreach program also.”
“Richard! Maya!” James greeted them with a big smile. “Ito kasing si Maya, pina-guilty ako. Birthday gift ko na raw sa kanya. Feeling ko naman hindi na niya kailangan at wala nang makakatumbas sa birthday gift mo sa kanya, Richard, di ba college BFF?”
“James, ikaw talaga. A promise is a promise, di ba. Saka, pagkakataon mo na itong magpakitang-gilas with you-know-who.” Maya teased her friend.
“Hahahaha, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa soon-to-be Mrs. Richard Lim, ganyan ba talaga ang mga in love at newly-engaged, gusto niyo lahat ng tao ganoon din.” James teased them.
“Siyempre naman, di ba, Sweetheart?” Maya said, then turning to Richard for affirmation.
“Of course! Being in love is the most wonderful feeling, James!” Richard told James, grinning.
“Hahahaha, Atty. Lim, nahawa ka na talaga rito sa college BFF ko.” James said, laughing, teasing them. “Let’s go, papakapehin ko na lang muna kayong dalawa habang hinihintay natin iyong isa pang lawyer na sasama sa atin sa outreach program na ito.”
The three of them proceeded to the small canteen inside the complex.
James found out about Richard and Maya’s engagement as soon as he had arrived from work that Monday after Richard proposed to Maya. He found Maya waiting for him at his office. She had a big grin on her face. Then she showed him her ring, telling him that she got engaged with Richard. At the same time, she asked if she would be part of her wedding entourage. He readily agreed and congraulated her.
“Have you set a date for your wedding?” James asked the couple while they were walking towards the direction of the canteen.
“In three month’s time.” Maya replied. “Iaayos pa namin with Mom and Dad and Ricky’s parents pag-uwi namin sa Mindoro next month. Hindi ka ba talaga makakasama sa amin?”
“Maya, Richard, I would like to. Pero I need to fly to Singapore on that weekend.” James said regretfully. “Sayang, I would like to be there sana talaga when Tito Arturo and Tita Tere renew their vows. Please tell them I’ll make it up to them.”
“O sige na nga, ha. Basta sa wedding namin ni Ricky, kapag nawala ka, I will not forgive you.” Maya said, teasing James.
“Hahahaha, as if, I will. Takot ko lang sa iyo. Heto nga oh, nandito ako sa outreach na ito para sa iyo.” James retorted.
“Ha, James Ventura, you are not really here for me.” Maya teased. “Mabuti nga kinulit kita.”
“Maya naman…..” James protested.
“Sweetheart, tigilan mo na nga itong si James o, namumula na.” Richard said smiling, then added, “Baka naman, lalong hindi makapanligaw iyan, Sweetheart.”
“Richard! Pareho na talaga kayo!” James said smiling. “Ano bang sinabi nitong si Maya sa iyo?”
“Wala naman, but I have eyes. I saw where you were looking earlier before you told us that you will treat us to coffee. I just put two and two together.” Richard said. “Good luck, Pare.”
“In that regard, match na match talaga kayo ni college BFF!” James replied, smiling. “But thank you, and wish me all the luck. Nakakahawa talaga kayong dalawa!”
The three of them shared a laugh. Richard and James became closer since he and Maya became a couple. The morning after James found out his and Maya’s engagement, James sought him out and offered his congratulations. He also told him to take care of his college best friend and admonished him not to make Maya cry or he will answer to him.
Richard told James that he is glad that Maya has a good friend in him. He said to him that Maya is the great love of his life and he will strive to make her happy always. In the end, James told Richard that he wish he will find a love like theirs also.
The three of them were about to order coffee when one of Diana’s doctor friends, Michelle told them they will leave now as the last member of the group is already there.
“James, sumabay ka na lang kaya sa amin ni Maya. Mag-isa ka lang ba? Balikan na lang natin ang car mo dito mamaya.” Richard offered.
“Thanks Richard, I’m good. Iiwan ko lang naman talaga iyang sasakyan ko dito. Sasabay ako kay Diana at doon sa ibang doctors sa van para tipid sa gas.” James said.
“Really!” Maya asked, her eyes round as saucers and with a teasing glint on it.
“Maya Dela Rosa, stop that, hahahahaha. I know that look.” James said, putting his hands up.
Soon after everyone left the compound one after the other. Each group or vehicle was issued a map and a detailed direction of the place where they will do their community service.
Maya and Richard were the only one who rode in the 4 x 4 pick-up truck that Richard decided to use for the occasion. There was not much space anyway, as the vehicle was filled with books, toys, and food for the little children of the barangay in Aurora they will go to. Diana’s group is going there on the request of one of their members who is from the area. Richard thought it would be a nice treat to the kids so he sent Liza to organize those.
Earlier, when Richard picked up Maya, and she saw the stuffs inside the pick-up, all she managed to say was wow. Richard asked if the stuffs are okay. Maya cupped his face and told him, it would be great and that he is a very wonderful and giving fiance.
Throughout the trip, Richard and Maya chatted about their upcoming wedding and remembered the week they had since their families, friends and colleagues found out that they got engaged.
Liza and Emman squealed with delight and hugged each other when they noticed Maya wearing a beautiful engagement ring. Richard and Maya chanced upon the two when they boarded the elevator at the ground floor of LC after having breakfast. Both felt they had a big hand in their bosses love story. When Minerva found out naman, in her delight, she hugged Maya and Richard tight and got teary-eyed. She told them she was just very happy as she saw their love story unfolding before her very eyes.
Since the news of their engagement spread like a wildfire at LC, it was difficult to concentrate at work that day. A lot congratulated them, from the officers of the company to Richard’s and Maya’s staff. Since Richard was so happy, he treated his whole department to pizza, pasta and drinks, as well as Maya’s employees. They went home very happy that night. They dined at Maya’s home as Manang Fe prepared a sumptuous dinner for them, galing daw sa kanila ni Fely, pakiki-celebrate sa engagement ng alaga niya at ni Richard.
The following day, a Tuesday, Maya finally met Richard’s cousin, Rafi, her husband Charlie and their cute daughter Abby.
“Chard, hello. Hi Maya, at last we have finally met!” Rafi greetd them effusively, giving Richard, and then Maya, a big hug, as soon as she saw them walking towards the main house from the driveway of the Lim family home. Mama Esme asked Maya to dinner that evening to meet Richard’s closest cousins, aunts and uncles.
“Rafi, good to have finally met you too! Though, I have seen you having lunch with Richard one time.” Maya said, smiling at Richard’s exuberant cousin.
“Hmmm, about that! I have been meaning to find out something. I hope you don’t mind me asking ha.” Rafi said, looking at Maya and then Richard with mischief in her eyes.
“Sure!” Maya said. “Ask away.”
“Oh no, Rafaella. I know what you will ask.” Richard said.
“Chard, let me na. Sabi ni Maya okay lang. Di ba, Maya?” Rafi said.
“Okay, okay, fine.” Richard said smiling, remembering that day.
“Maya, were you jealous of me that day? I didn’t think you know Chard was having lunch with a cousin.” Rafi asked. “Sabi ko kasi sa kanya parang nagselos ka sa akin.”
Maya laughed, remembering that day too, the text message she sent to Richard and the outcome. She looked lovingly at Richard, then looked back at Rafi. “Ah errr, yes, a bit!” She admitted, turning a bit red, then giving Richard a loving smile, which he returned. They forgot Rafi for a while, remembering that afternoon.
Rafi looked at her cousin and Maya. Hmmm, there is a story there that I don’tknow yet pero parang nakakakiilig, she mused. “See I’m right, Chard?”
Now it is Maya’s turn to get puzzled. “Bakit ka tama, Rafi?”
“Come, Maya, let me tell you about it. That is after you tell me too what happened after that lunch.” She got hold of Maya’s hand and dragged her inside the house, chatting along the way.
However, it took a while before Maya and Rafi had that chat, as when they got inside the aunts and uncles asked to be introduced to Richard’s beautiful fiancee. At the end of the evening, Rafi also had her cousin and Maya’s promise that Abby will be the flower girl at their wedding.
Rafi was also very touched when Maya asked if she could design her wedding gown. She already like her soon-to-be cousin-in-law very much. Natasha is not even a fourth of the person Maya is. She is very happy for her cousin, she told Richard so, the day after that dinner.
Maya smiled remembering Rafi and her whirlwind-like personality. The rest of the week passed by like a blur for the two of them.
Diana called mid-week and reminded Maya about their outreach program. She checked if Maya will be able to join. Maya told her that not only she is joining, but James too. Diana was surprised to know as she never thought James would be interested in activities like this. She got a bit flustered too and that is when Maya confirmed that maybe, there is a romance in the offing for her two best friends.
Maya also took that opportunity to invited Diana to a dinner with her and Richard and asked her to be her maid of honor. Diana said yes and she and Richard clicked right away. They also got to discuss the outreach program and where they will meet.
“Sweetheart, nasaan na tayo?” Maya asked when they reached a long bridge after exiting SCTEX towards the direction of Nueva Ecija.
“I think we are in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija.” Richard said. “Then we will just go straight and take the road through Fort Magsaysay, according to the direction Diana gave us.”
More than an hour after that, they have entered the beautiful, mountainous town of Dingalan and from the road that goes up and up, Maya caught a glimpse of the sea from the distance. The place reminded her of Bukidnon. Thirty minutes more and they have arrived at the barangay where they will have the outreach program.
The covered court of the barangay was teeming with people, checking out the services available to them. Each booth has a sign on it. Richard and Maya approached the booth with the sign Legal Services. There was already a lawyer sitting at one of the two desks there, writing something. She looked up when they approached.
“Richard, fancy seeing you here!” Josephine greeted Richard with a big smile, happy to see him. Her smiled dimmed a bit when she saw Maya beside Richard.
“Ghie! Nandito ka rin.” Richard politely said. He had a feeling that Ghie was the last member of the group they were waiting for earlier. He didn’t see her beforehand. He also remembered that James said they were waiting for a lawyer pa. That must be her. “You remember, Maya? My fiancee!” He added.
Josephine thought she heard wrong. “Fiancee?”
“Yes, Maya and I will get married in three months.” Richard said, then looked lovingly at Maya.
“Oh!” Josephine managed to say, then swallowing hard, she tried to regain her composure. He is getting married! “Congratulations then to the two you! I guess we better work. There is a line forming in front of us.” She said abruptly.
“Sweetheart, I will see you at lunch.” Maya said, smiling sweetly at Richard. “I will just assist Diana. Nice seeing you again, Atty. Ghie!” Maya politely added. She kissed Richard on the cheek and then she was off.
Josephine’s gaze followed Maya. Lucky girl, she thought. “Member ka rin pala ng group nina Diana and Michelle? I have not seen you with them before. Pero I have not joined them for quite sometime na rin. Ngayon nga lang ulit ako nakasama.”
“Not really! Diana is Maya’s college bestfriend, together with James Ventura. When I heard that they do this, I volunteered to go. Friend ka rin pala ni Diana?”
“No, ni Michelle, iyong isa pang founder nitong group. Friends kami since our high school days.” Josephine said, then she excused herself and attended to their first client.
By lunchtime, Richard and Josephine managed to help quite a number of residents with their legal problems, mostly involving properties and land dispute. Richard spent a lot of time with Mang Boni who needed help with the land dispute between him and his siblings. Richard’s heart went out to the older guy since he seemed to be too kindhearted to be saddled with that kind of problem. He gave Mang Boni his card, just in case he needed more help. Soon after, Maya returned.
“Sweetheart, lunch time na! May tent doon sa may likod for the lunch. Then afterwards pala, we can distribute the food, toys and books for the children. The barangay captain is gathering all the small kids.” Maya said. “Iniayos na namin ni Diana kanina habang busy kayo ni Atty. Ghie here!”
“Thanks Sweetheart.” Richard said smiling. He is really happy to be here and to be helping people in his little way. He had been meaning to continue doing this when he returned to the Philippines. He wanted to, somehow, made good of his vow to help people in legal troubles after he was unable to help Abraham, an old guy he knew in the States, because the tides was against him at that time. It was the reason he missed his dad’s 58th birthday party.
“You two, go ahead. I will wait for Michelle.” Ghie said.
Maya and Richard went to the food tent. Then after lunch, they met the kids. They did a storytelling, then distributed the books, toys and food to them. One of the little girls hugged Richard tight and asked to be carried by him. He looked at the older woman who was with her.
“Naku, Attorney, okay lang po ba na kargahin niyo iyang apo kong si Anne. Nakakapagtaka nga po, kasi mahiyain ang batang iyan.”
“Wala pong problema. Di ba, Anne. Halika, kargahin ka ni Tito Richard. Since tapos na naman tayo, gusto mo bang makita iyong office ko dito?” Richard said. “Okay lang po, ‘Nay?…..”
“Milagring po. Mister ko po iyong isa sa humingi ng tulong sa inyo kanina tungkol doon sa lupang pinagtatalunan ng mga kapatid niya.”
“Oh, kayo po pala ang maybahay ni Mang Boni. Sana nga po, maayos na. Mahirap po kasi iyang nag-aaway-away ang mga magkakapatid nang dahil lang sa lupa. Basta po kung kailangan niyo pa po ng tulong, may iniwan po akong contact information sa card na ibinigay ko sa kanya. Inilagay ko rin po roon ang personal cellphone number ko.”
“Maraming salamat po ulit sa iyo Attorney. Malaking tulong po kayo sa amin.” The old woman told Richard gratefully.
“Wala po iyon, basta makakatulong.” Richard, then looked at Maya. “Sweetheart, gusto mo kaming samahan ni Anne sa pag-ikot. Baka kailangan pa ni Ghie ng tulong.”
“Sure, tayo na po ‘Nay Milagring.” Maya said. She can’t help but imagine Richard with their own little girl, seeing him like this, so caring for the cute little girl who seemed to trust him instinctively. He will surely be a good father to their children. She is also seeing another facet of Richard’s wonderful, caring personality today. She is very happy to be sharing this part of her life with him too.
They all went back to Ghie who was only attending to handful of people. She assured them that she can handle the rest. The thing is Ghie was not so sure, she can concentrate with Richard and Maya beside her. It reminds her of what could have been. Well, what she wished could have been!
The outreach project closed at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Everyone trooped back to their vehicles, with James riding again with Diana. They were inseparable earlier. James became Diana’s ‘receptionist’ and unofficial patients’ ‘entertainer’. He made the people waiting laughed with his antics and his jokes.
On the way back, Maya asked Richard how was his first outreach program. He told her it was very fulfilling and that he would like to do it, if their schedule permits, as often as they could. Richard also told Maya about that Abraham, his case that somehow left a mark on him. On how he was unable to help him no matter how he tried. Maya told him, he had surely helped others a lot and he should just think of those instead. Then she held his hand to her cheek, comforting him. Richard told her, she is right of course. Then they shared a loving smile. Richard mouthed a ‘thank you’ lovingly to her.
Several hours later, they arrived back at the Dela Rosa residence.
“Sweetheart, would you like to come in? Have coffee before you go home.” Maya asked, while unfastening her seat belt.
“No na, Sweetheart. I will just pick you up for our lunch with Mama and Papa and our meeting with the wedding planner tomorrow afternoon. Doon na rin daw pupunta iyong friend ni Mama na gagawa ng wedding rings natin.” Richard said, then he too, unfastened his seatbelt, went out of the car, to Maya’s side.
“Come, I will walk you up to the garden.” Richard said as he assisted Maya out of the car.
“Okay!” Maya was puzzled why he wanted to accompany her up to the garden, as usually either he went inside or up to the gate only if he is not coming in.
When they reached the garden, Richard stopped. “I have been wanting to do this the whole day and I want some privacy to do this, finally.” He said, then cupped Maya’s chin, lowered his lips to hers and gave her a long and tender kiss. They kissed and kissed amid Maya’s beautiful flowers.
“I love you very much, Sweetheart. Thank you for today. I will never get tired of saying that you are the best that happened to me. Soon mine, and I, yours, my wife-to-be!”
Maya smiled brightly. Her fiance really never fails to make her feel so loved and so giddy with happiness. She touched her beloved’s face. “And you are the best that happened to me too. I’m so lucky and so blessed to be getting married to a very wonderful guy! I love you very much too, husband-to-be. Soon!”
Richard told Maya to go in and that he will lock after himself. They gazed at each other lovingly one more time, then parted for the night.