Something wet hit the page of the journal that Maria Yasmin Ventura Dela Rosa, ‘Maya’ to family and friends, was reading by the beach, then another, and another. Maya closed Ricardo Lim’s journal hastily, and clutched it to her chest tightly. She looked up at the sky and noticed that it has gotten dark the past hour or so. She got engrossed in the journal again, lost in the past, and didn’t notice the changing weather!
“Oh my God, uulan na! Mukhang malakas pa. Ano ba iyan, ang ganda-ganda ng araw kanina! Naku, mababasa itong journal!” Maya exclaimed, panicking. She needed to protect the precious journal that she found while cleaning the attic of the Ventura ancestral house in New Manila, several weeks after her grandfather James died.
The house in New Manila was bequeathed to her mother, but since it was Maya who has been staying there with her grandfather, Marina Ventura-Dela Rosa told Maya that it’s hers, since she loves that house very much. She and Maya’s father prefer their house in Ayala Alabang. Maya’s mother also told her, that eventually, anyway, it will pass on to her as per the term of her grandfather’s will stated. Maya discovered the journal while organizing things in the attic as she would like to put her grandfather’s stuffs there for safekeeping, with her and her mother’s yaya, Manang Fe helping her.
Maya looked around and checked where she really was. She realized that she had wandered a bit farther off from where the beach house her mother’s family owns. The nearest shelter is the white house several meters away that looked abandoned the past several times she passed by it. Manang Miring, the caretaker of the Dela Paz beach house mentioned that the family of the late Ricardo Lim, from Manila, owns it. It turned out, it is the same Ricardo Lim whose journal she was trying to protect at that moment. She should have just photocopied it and leave the original in a safe place to protect the almost 50 years old journal, but Maya like the feel of it on her hands, her link to a past that she is very much drawn to. She did scan all of the journal’s pages and the photos she discovered were inserted in it, to save it for posterity. She ran towards the white house, keeping her fingers crossed that she will reach it in time. The large droplets got more frequent while she was running towards it.
By the time Maya was catching her breath at the covered part the terrace of the beautiful house, it was raining very hard. Seeking a warmer place, Maya tried the glass door that lead to the living room of the house. Luckily, it was unlocked. Maya was a bit nervous entering the empty house as it belongs to another, but the desire to make sure that the journal is completely dry was stronger. For reasons, she can’t explain, Maya was drawn to the journal, which according to her mother, when she asked her about it, belonged to her mother. Marina Dela Rosa never thought much about that journal, that at times, she would see her mother caressing and holding from time to time with a pensive expression on her face. Maya Dela Rosa-Ventura, yes she and her grandmother share a nickname, aside from the fact that she is the spitting image of her grandmother, never knew that her daughter saw her holding the journal, and writing on it at times.
Maya had asked her mother if she had read the journal, after she had read it herself in one go, late at night. She was unable to put it down once she had started reading. Marina Dela Rosa told her daughter that she had been meaning to, when she saw it several years ago, while looking for a vintage Chanel dress she would like to wear for a theme party, among her mother’s things. Marina told Maya, it must have been her father James who boxed her mother’s journal, without knowing what it was, when her mother died when she was 18. Marina told Maya that she accidentally dislodged the box containing it while looking for the dress inside her mother’s old aparador.
Marina then asked why Maya was asking whether she had read it. She asked what was in it. Maya was not sure whether to tell her mother about the content of the journal at that moment, and over the phone. She told her mother she will just tell her about it when she and her father, Antonio return from their business trip. Her parents were in the States for their cargo business. It was a business started by her father’s father, her grandfather Fernando Dela Rosa, no relations to her grandmother’s family who bore the same last name.
Maya suddenly was pulled from her thoughts when the living room was suddenly illuminated by a sharp lightning, followed by a very loud thunder. Maya screamed, surprised at how loud it was. Suddenly, she heard a loud sound from one of the upstairs rooms. That, startled her more than the lightning and thunder, as the house was supposed to be vacant.
“Oh no, sabi ko na nga ba, haunted itong bahay na ito!” Maya said, her heart thumping too much from fear or nervousness, she can’t explain. Her very vivid imagination going into overdrive! She closed her eyes and tried to comfort and calm herself. “Maya, Maya, hayan na naman ang imagination mo. Kalma lang, baka naman daga lang iyon o kaya naman pusa, aso, kambing na nakapasok sa bahay! Mabuti pang makipag-meet and greet ka na lang sa multo kaysa naman mabasa itong precious journal!” In her state, it never occurred to her that she should fear the living more than the dead, na baka may ibang nakapasok na tao sa bahay na bakante, maliban sa kanya.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Someone suddenly bellowed from the balcony, at the same time the huge chandelier above her flooded the living room with bright light.
Maya looked up in surprise and saw a guy rumply dressed in a white shirt and dark-colored jeans. Another lightning lit the sky, and she saw his face clearly from where she was craning her neck. She shrieked. “Oh, my God. Multo nga! Please, please nakikisilong lang po, Mr. Ricardo Lim. Malakas kasi ang ulan. I don’t want the journal to get wet!” She said, trying to be brave, saying his full name comforted her, made him more real to her. That is how she thought of him ever since she had started reading his journal and after she discovered his pictures with her grandmother. “I know you are a good ghost naman!”
“Sandali lang Miss, don’t move, please. I will go down.” The handsome and seemingly very familiar vision told Maya.
“Ganoon ba talaga magsalita ang mga multo?” Maya mused, her heart still beating very fast. “Parang normal lang at modern na modern. Saka naka-jeans din, di ba dapat naka-barong at dark pants, gaya ng sa movies!”
‘Mr. Ricardo Lim’ reached Maya finally. With arms folded, he asked her again, gazing at her intently. “Do I look like a ghost to you? Look closely, Miss. How did you know my name?”
Maya looked closely, and realized that he is no ghost. He looked liked he just got out of bed and still looked quite tired. To be completely sure, she slowly approached him and poked him on the face gently. “Oo nga, tao ka!” She blurted out.
“Of course, I’m human! Why would you think ba that I’m a ghost? Saka, you haven’t answered my question, how do you know me? I don’t think we have been introduced. Do you live nearby? Why are you here?” ‘Ricardo Lim’ asked in rapid succession.
“Your name is really Ricardo Lim?” Maya asked inanely, not quite believing yet that she is meeting this guy who is the spitting image of Ricardo Lim of the journal! Truth to tell, Ricardo Lim was a handsome man in the black and white and sepia photos she had been gazing on the past weeks. But this Ricardo Lim takes it to another notch higher. Maya, looking at him closely, felt her heart beating faster.
“Yes, let me introduce myself properly. I’m Ricardo Lim III. But you can call me Ricky.” He then gave Maya a lopsided smile that made her breathless, her heart galloping with an a feeling she can’t yet fathom. “And you are?”
“The third, this must mean, you are the grandson of Ricardo Lim, Senior, who was married to Alexandra So-Lim-Valderama! You are the current CEO of the family corporation, that is after your father Ricardo Lim Jr. took an early retirement early this year. Your mom is the former Rosemarie Madrigal, the pianist, and you are an only son, just like your dad.” Maya blurted out, her brain suddenly functioning in full gear again, remembering the information she had searched before.
“Now, I’m getting nervous.” Ricky Lim said with a hint of a smile in his voice, an imp seemed to have suddenly possessed him, looking a at the beautiful lady wearing a maxi halter dress, with doe-shaped eyes, pouty lips, and high cheekbones, clutching something to her chest. “Are you a stalker of my family?”
“Of course not. Hello, there’s Google kaya, Mr. Ricky Lim! Anything I needed to know about your family, I found there.” Maya retorted, getting flushed in the face. She does sound like a stalker, isn’t, with that statement? “I mean, I did check on your family several weeks ago.”
“So, stalker nga. Online stalker!” Ricky insisted. He likes seeing her flustered. At the same time, he was trying to cover and make light of the whole thing to drown the instant attraction he was feeling. She looks more beautiful with her trying to explain herself to him, and her witty reply. Now, he is liking the unexpected turn in his afternoon. He smiled charmingly.”So, Ms. Stalker, what is your name?”
“Hmmmp, maybe I should tell you, only if you take me seriously, Mr. Ricardo-not-a-ghost-Lim-III.” Maya said, for some reason, she is enjoying their repartee.
“Okay, serious na talaga. May I know your name and how come you know a lot about my family?” Ricky asked with a friendly smile. “Maybe, we should sit too, since kanina pa tayo nakatayo.” He then led Maya, by holding on to her elbow to the sofa by the big window of the living room overlooking a garden. He sat on one of the armchairs to her left.
“I’m Maya Dela Rosa,” Maya started after she sat down. “I live in the beach house before this one, for now. I don’t really know your family, but I do know of your family because of this.” Maya opened the journal and got a black and white photo from it. She handed it to Ricky. “That is the reason why I checked on the Lim family.”
“This is my grandfather, Ricardo! But I don’t know the lady with him.” Ricky said, then he looked closely at the photo, then back to Maya. “She looks like you. It is really uncanny! Parang ikaw talaga, except that the clothes she was wearing was from another time period. Grandmother mo?”
“That is true. My family has told me that countless of times. And you look like your grandfather! Uncanny. I never realized that when I saw some photos of the family. Medyo iba kasi ang hitsura mo doon. That’s the reason why I thought you are a ghost and also sa katitingin ko na rin sa photo niya! Kamukhang-kamukha mo kasi ang grandfather mo. And yes, the lady in the photo was my grandmother Maya, same nickname as mine. Her name, though, is Maria Eulalia, and mine is Maria Yasmin. Since she died young, 45 years old lang, my grandfather asked my parents if he can call me Maya too, in her remembrance. Everyone did eventually.”
“Maya, Maya…..” Ricky said softly. “Why does the name sounds familiar? I know it is not uncommon name, pero narinig ko na ang pangalan na niyan sa bahay namin. Oh well, I will remember it din siguro in a while. My grandfather died young also. He was 40.”
“Maybe because of a painting she did na nasa family mo, if your family still has it. I guess it is, because it has not turned up in the market after all these years. You see, our grandparents knew each other. According to this journal, the painting was given by my grandmother to your grandfather in 1965.” Maya said showing Ricky Lim the journal.
“Oh, I think I know that! My grandmother Sandra still has that painting. Now I know I remember where I have heard, or rather, seen ‘Maya’ before. It was scrawled at the corner of the painting, a painting of the beach outside actually, with a guy gazing at someone off the frame, with an obvious look of love on his face.” Ricky Lim said. Every time he visits his grandmother, he had stared at that painting. He was drawn to it.
“That’s the one! Your family still has it? I’m glad! Amazing! How’s your grandmother?” Maya asked. She read some articles about Alexandra Lim also and her charity works, but not much about her personal life. She had gleaned also that she got married again several years after having been widowed, to Victor Valderama, a property developer.
“She’s doing well, considering that she is now 79 years old. She and my second grandfather, Victor, actually the only grandfather I have known since Lolo Ricardo died before I was born, now live in Batangas, at their property there.” Ricky Lim said. “Whose journal was that nga pala?”
“Oh, this one! It’s a journal I found among my grandmother’s things. I think it belonged to your grandfather, and was continued by my grandmother after his death. May ilang pictures na naka-insert also.” Maya said. “I asked my mother about it, but while she knows that it is my Lola Maya’s, hindi niya alam na sa lolo mo ito. Manang Fe, my old yaya mentioned that the first time she had seen that journal was after your grandmother visited my grandmother one afternoon in 1975. She remembered well kasi raw sobrang lungkot ni Lola Maya after. That year din nagsimula ang entries ng lola ko sa journal na ito. My grandmother also made mentioned of your grandmother’s visit din sa entry niya, but not much else. I Googled your family, to check if the photos were that of Ricardo Lim. After reading the journal I just needed to find out more.”
“Hmmm, 1975? That year namatay si Lolo Ricardo! Baka it has something to do with that. My dad said that year rin sila umuwi ng Pilipinas from San Francisco to settle here for good.” Ricardo said, thinking and staring out., then he looked at Maya again, who he caught was staring at him. “So, not only our grandparents knew each other, they more than just knew each other, is that correct?”
“Errrr, yes. They fell in love in this very place. This is the place where they met!” Maya said softly. “I guess you have a right to read this also as he was your grandfather. Would you like to?”
“If it is okay with you, yes please” Ricky said. Somehow, he is also drawn to the journal, in the same manner that he is very much drawn to the beach painting, and this place. “Mukha namang matatagalan pa ang ulan na ito and you can’t go to your house yet, not that I’m sending you away, you can stay as long as you want, I can read it now.”
“Okay, that would be best. Honestly, the journal has become precious to me and I don’t want to part with it kahit sandali lang.” Maya admitted. “I guess, because I feel the emotions that came out of the pages of it and it is my only link to the thoughts of a grandmother whom I share a name and looks, but haven’t had the chance to be with.”
“Your grandmother must have been very beautiful.” Ricky said all of a sudden.
“She was. Di ba, kita naman sa picture.” Maya replied. “You should see her photos in some of the clothes she had worn to some parties. She was very beautiful and elegant. She was also a very talented painter.
“Not only because of what I see in the picture, but because you are, very beautiful you know, if I may say so.” He said, gazing at Maya intently.
Maya blushed, her heart beating fast. “Errr, thank you.” She simply said. “Here’s the journal.” She needed to regain her equilibrium.
“Before we go back to the past, so to speak, would you like a cup of coffee?” Ricky asked, giving Maya another of his lopsided smiles.
“Sure, it would be great in this rainy afternoon.” Maya said, returning the smile with one of her own, which lit up her whole face. “Thanks.”
“I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” Ricardo Lim stood up and walked towards the direction of the kitchen.
While waiting for him, Maya took the opportunity to look at her surroundings. The house feels familiar and she feels at home with it, kahit noong una na akala niya walang tao, also when she passed by it the past several days. Kahit doon sa bahay ng pamilya ng lola niya, ganoon din ang pakiramdam niya. She has not been here before as her mother only told her of this place after her Lolo James died. Marina Dela Rosa said she thought the place has been sold a long time ago.
Since she is at loose end at the moment, Maya decided to take the trip to Ilocos and check the beach house on impulse. Hindi niya inakala na nandito rin si Ricky. Ricky! Imagine, she got to meet the grandson of the man her grandmother loved very much until the end. Magaan ang pakiramdam niya kay Ricky. Normally she is not completely at ease with someone she just met. Kasi nga siguro, they have a ‘shared’ past, their grandparents and their ill-fated love! Hay, she sighed.
“Why the sigh, Maya? Is everything okay?” Ricky asked when he returned carrying two steaming cups of coffee.
“No worries, Ricky, okay lang ako. I just sighed because I thought of our grandparents and their love. You will understand after you have read the journal.”
“Okay, I will do so, now.” Ricky said, giving Maya the coffee and sitting beside her this time.
Both Maya and Ricky took a sip of their coffee, looked out of the window, then at each other, with smiles of instant connection and understanding, before starting the journey to the past, to a love that had come at the wrong time for two people who found it, while not looking for it.