“Go ahead, Ethan, please use the bathroom first. I will just unpack my clothes. How about you? Do you want me to do it for you?” Pippa offered. She likes arranging her clothes in a cabinet instead of all of them getting crumpled in a suitcase, even if it is just for several days. The room that the hotel gave them as a beautiful, antique aparador.
“Thank you, Pippa darling. But I can do it myself.” Ethan hastily said. “I will use the bathroom first, then.”
“Ye, please go ahead. I’m not going to get settled in until I have arrange my stuffs.” Pippa smiled self-deprecatingly. “I’m a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to my things and traveling.”
“Whatever makes you happy, darling, that’s okay. I hope it is okay too that I’m on the messy side.” Ethan said, cupping Pippa’s chin.
“Sure, but I’ll nag you about it, once a while ha, and maybe arrange your things for you.” Pippa said teasingly.
“Oh, that’s fine with me, Pippa. I don’t mind, except I will do it this evening.” Ethan was afraid that Pippa will see the box containing the engagement ring he bought if she arranges his things. “I’ll go ahead and take a shower.” With a kiss on Pippa’s forehead, Ethan was off to the bathroom.
Pippa was humming while she put her clothes inside the clothes cabinet with an intricately designed front. The whole room, is actually furnished with antique furniture, from the four-poster bed to the night tables, aparador and the tokador. When she had finished doing that, and while waiting for Ethan, she sat cross-legged on the bed, opened her laptop, and made some notes on the places they will see in the morning, and the whole of their travel to Ilocos and Cagayan regions. They decided to leave off Batanes for another time as it would need a trip by itself!
“The bathroom is yours, darling.” Ethan said after several minutes, getting out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, freshly shaven.
Pippa seemed to be engrossed in what she was doing, as she didn’t hear Ethan right away. She looks so beautiful with her brows knitted, typing on her Mac, sitting cross-legged on the bed. Ethan slowly crept on to her, then kissed her on the nape. “My lovely darling, it’s your turn. Bathroom is yours.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Ethan, I didn’t hear you!” Pippa said, smiling sheepishly. Ethan looked so neat, as he had shaved. and smelling of the soap that Pippa has grown to like very much, a smell she considers distinctly Ethan’s.“I’ll go in then. Here are the itinerary I plotted for tomorrow, please check if everything is okay with you. I also made a list of the places we can see in Ilocos Norte, after here in Sur, and Cagayan Valley with a summary of information. I made some revisions to our original plan.” Pippa handed the laptop to Ethan, gave him a quick kiss and went to the bathroom with her night-clothes.
Ethan put down the laptop first, went to his backpack and got a pair of boxers and t-shirt. He usually sleeps in the nude, but in deference to Pippa he had taken to wearing a t-shirt and pair of boxers to bed. After checking where the engagement ring is, he went back to the bed, checked Pippa’s itinerary, which looks fine, especially one of the places she had included in the list, fits with his plan. It looks to very nice in the photos he had seen. He had surreptitiously checked it the night before, when Pippa was in the bathroom.
He then waited for Pippa by trying to read the latest Ken Follett book that he and Pippa bought the day before. However, after a page or two, he found himself nodding and yawning, he tried to move so he will not fall asleep, but it was a losing battle. He turned on the TV, but nothing in the telly caught his attention. He gave up. For sure, he will wake up when Pippa comes out of the bathroom. Maybe, he can just take a very quick power nap!
More than an hour later, Pippa got out of the bathroom and saw Ethan fast asleep on the bed. The book that he started reading was on the floor. Pippa presumed that it fell as Ethan was in a bit of an awkward position on the bed, as if he was not intending to fall asleep yet. She picked up the book and placed it on the side table.
The driving was probably too much for Ethan as he told Pippa that has not done it in a while, added to this is the fact that he is not used to driving in the Philippines. He also spent longer hours driving than her. Pippa was afraid the position was not comfortable for Ethan and he will feel the effect of it in the morning, so she tried to move him gently so as not wake him up. Luckily, he just moved and didn’t wake up.
She pulled the blanket over him and looked at his beloved face with tenderness. Sharing the bed with him the past weeks, even if was of the innocent kind, made her realized something, he is the one she wants to wake up with every morning for the rest of her life. She gave him a tender kiss on the lips. He murmured her name but didn’t wake up. Pippa settled in beside him. Ethan put his arms around her while in sleep and it touched Pippa a lot. Even in sleep, he sought her.
The following morning, Ethan’s freshly showered face hovering over her was the first thing that entered her consciousness. She sensed him first before she saw him. She gave him a sleepy smile. “Good morning, honey. Kanina ka pa ba gising? What’s the time? Parang mataas na ang araw!” She saw that he is ready to go out in in his favorite cargo shorts and a t-shirt.
“Lovely morning to you, my darling Pip.” Ethan said, then lowered his lips to Pippa’s, giving her a good morning kiss before she can react and protest that she hasn’t even brush her teeth yet. “Sorry, I just slept on you last night. I must have been very tired from all the driving we did yesterday!”
“It’s okay, honey. That’s why I didn’t wake you up, para na rin makapagpahinga ka. I felt tired nga rin. I decided to sleep early na rin para we have energy for our sightseeing.” Pippa said, as she got out of the bed and go to the aparador to get new clothes.
“Wow, you really arranged your clothes neatly and nicely in that beautiful, old thing!” Ethan said, seeing the insides of the closet when Pippa opened it. “I noticed in your flat, but never thought much about it.”
“I told you!” Pippa said laughing, then she was off to the bathroom.
More than half an hour later, she came out of the bathroom, wearing a beautiful patchwork skirt and a white sleeveless top. She opted not to wear make-up. Her hair was tied in a ponytail. “I’m done, let’s go to breakfast.” She said, giving Ethan a brilliant smile. She is so looking forward to hers and Ethan’s adventures today and the next day and the next. Her heart is suddenly filled with an unexplained excitement for all the things they will see and experience starting today.
Ethan smiled at his radiant, lovely girlfriend. He, too, is excited for the start of their very special day. They ate breakfast at the hotel, longganisa, eggs, coffee and juice. One hour later, they were in Calle Crisologo, renting a calesa for the day. The kutsero know already here to take them as he had done it for the countless tourists that come to Vigan.
Mang Erning, their very friendly kutsero, told them that the usual sightseeing route would be to Bantay to see the bell tower and then the church, then to a burnayan, the hidden garden, the Baluarte zoo, an abel Iloco weaving place. As for the old grand mansions they can visit, and the museum, they are within walking distance of the hotel where they are staying, and Calle Crisologo. He did ask them in what particular order they want to go, or if there is somewhere else they want to go aside from the places he had mentioned. Pippa and Ethan everything sounds fine with them. They told Mang Erning that if they still have time they will take a car trip to Santa Maria and see the beautiful centuries old church there and stop at the Quirino Bridge, otherwise they will just do it the following day. Mang Erning said their plan is a good one. The tour will depend on how long do they want to stay in a place they will see.
Mang Erning first took them to Bantay. On the way, he also suggested where is the best spot to take a souvenir photo of them in his calesa, which had Pippa and Ethan smiling broadly as he assured them it’s a pam-Facebook shot! They just love their kutsero and considers themselves lucky to chance upon him when as soon as they got out of their hotel! He stopped the calesa after the arch that says Vigan and took their photo with the signage in the bakground.
“I can use it as the new cover photo of my Facebook page,” Pippa said happily, reviewing the shot. She likes hers and Ethan’s photo. Ethan’s arms were around her as he smiled handsomely at the camera.
Ethan smiled at her. “Maybe, you should wait before making a final decision, darling. I think everything in this place is picture perfect!”
“You are probably right, honey!” Pippa said. “I will surely have a hard time picking photos for the blog I’m going to write. At least, it would be easier with the videos.”
“I’ll help you.” Ethan offered, squeezing Pippa’s shoulder reassuringly. “We are in this together!”
“Thank you again, Ethan. You are the best and ever supportive boyfriend!” Pippa said, hugging Ethan and giving him a kiss. Ethan returned the kiss and they got engrossed in it and didn’t realize that the calesa has stopped at the gate of the church compound in Bantay!
“Ehemmm, Sir Ethan, Ma’am Pippa, nandito na po tayo.” A smiling, indulgent Mang Erning told them. “Dito ko na lang po kayo hihintayin.”
Pippa blushed and Ethan grinned happily at the old man. “Thank you po Mang Erning.” He assisted a still blushing Pippa down the calesa. They looked at each other lovingly, then walked hand in hand towards the entrance of the church.
They went inside the San Augustine Church first as per Pippa’s request when they were discussing the places they will go to. She likes being inside old churches, and this one, which is one of the oldest, still standing, churches in the region She wanted to go inside first before they explore the bell tower. Inside the beautiful centuries-old church, Pippa uttered a solemn silent prayer. She prayed for her and Ethan’s relationship, that they will be together for the rest of their lives. Ethan, not a very religious man, and a non-practicing Catholic, also found himself praying inside the church which has seen the flow of life for several centuries now.
Getting out of the church, they went to the place handling the tour to the Bantay Belfry/Bell Tower. Since it was still quite early, and it was on a non-peak tourists season, the was not much people going up, and having their photos taken in front of the very picturesque and towering belfry. Their guide introduced herself as Manang Lucing. While Pippa was busy taking photos, Ethan whispered a request to Manang Lucing, which had the old lady, grinning.
“Manang Lucing, bago po kami umakyat, pwede po ba kaming magpa-picture ni Ethan.” Pippa requested the smiling lady.
“Sure na sure po, Ma’am.” Manang Lucing said, taking the camera from Pippa.
Ethan and Pippa posed in front of the steps leading to the belfry which was built in the late 16th century according to the information Pippa researched. Ethan’s arms were around Pippa as they grinned at the camera.
“Ma’am, check ninyo po ang pictures,” Manang Lucing said, then remarked, “Bagay na bagay po kayong dalawa.” She told them.
Ethan and Pippa thanked the old lady and shared a loving smile. Soon after, the three of them walked towards the entrance to the bell tower. After unlocking the door, Manang Lucing guided them to the top of the belfry. When they reached the highest point that can be accessed, she told them to take all the pictures they want, and that she will just wait for them in the bottom.
“Wow, look at the view from here!” Pippa remarked as she looked out of the tower and the panoramic view that is a feast to the senses. “Ethan come, I feel like I’m on top of the world here! I’m so liking the start of our adventure together.”
When Ethan didn’t say anything, Pippa turned around to check what he was doing. He was looking at her with a big, loving smile. “Ethan…?” He walked towards her, gazing at her intently, lovingly.
When Ethan reached Pippa’s side, by the big window which framed her lovely self, he got something from his pocket, and knelt before her on one knee. “Pippa, will you marry me? Share the adventures of a lifetime with me, please.” He finally managed to say, amid the fast beating of his heart and his hands that suddenly got so clammy. He waited for Pippa’s answer.
Pippa was so surprised at Ethan’s proposal, than she was unable to react right away. She never thought that Ethan is planning this! Now she understood why he went missing in the mall. He went out to buy her an engagement ring. She swallowed for she is suddenly breathless, her throat constricted, staring at Ethan’s. This is what she had prayed for in the church, but she never expected that her prayers would be answered this fast!
“Pippa…..” Ethan said softly, getting more nervous, starting to think that maybe his proposal is too soon. But he has never been surer in his life than this.
Pippa knelt also, touched Ethan’s beloved face. “Yes, Ethan, I will, gladly.” She managed to say as tears of happiness started flowing from her beautiful, expressive eyes.
Guiding Pippa up, Ethan stood up, then gently wiped Pippa’s tears away. “Thank you with all my heart, Pippa darling. Promise, it will be my goal in life to make you happy always. Everyday with you would be a wonderful adventure that would last a lifetime, our lifetime!” He then put the beautiful ring on Pippa’s finger, slowly, lovingly. It was a perfect fit. He then raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I love you will all my heart, with all of me, and with all that I could give you to make you happy and loved always.”
“Ethan, Ethan, honey. You made me the happiest girl in the world. I love you very much, with all of me and all I can give you too. You are my life now. I am so looking forward to all our adventures together. It will be so wonderful with you by my side for always.”
With that, and amid the beautiful, blue sky, the panoramic view outside, and the centuries-old bell tower who already bore witness to a lot of things throughout its long history, Pippa and Ethan sealed their promise to each other with a kiss.