“Excited, darling?” Ethan asked Pippa as the two of them settled more comfortably into the seats at the open part of the boat that would take them back to Puerto Galera from the Batangas Port, more than a month after they have left the island, one after the other. It was just four weeks ago, but it felt like ages as so many wonderful things had happened to them, so many beautiful places they have been, the warm and nice people that they had met, and the unforgettable experience they have shared together!
“Yes, darling, and I’m also quite nervous!” Pippa admitted, taking comfort in hers and Ethan’s clasped hands. This is it for them! They will tell her mother, that not only they are in a relationship, but that they are engaged, and would like to get married the soonest time possible.
Pippa and Ethan decided that they would like to get married at the place where they have met, Puerto Galera, and have the reception at Pippa’s family’s resort! The honeymoon, they haven’t decided on a place yet, though they are thinking of Palawan, in a small private island that belongs to one of Pippa’s godmothers. She has a standing invitation from her Ninang Evelyn to go and stay in the island, which is just being used as a vacation place of the Romeros and their families and friends. Pippa was actually planning to take Ethan and Ally to that place had their Palawan trip pushed through.
While Pippa and Ethan have called their respective parents during the two weeks that they have been traveling around Northern Luzon, they opted not to tell them about their relationship, and their engagement over the phone as they want to tell the wonderful news to them in person! They are planning to see them the soonest. In the case of Marianne Montenegro in two weeks time, which is in about an hour or so, and the Bowmans after a month, depending on what Pippa and her boss will agree on. She had decided to tell her boss that her decision is final, she is resigning from her job. Then, she and Ethan will travel to England to see his parents, and to give Claudia’s diary to her mum.
Pippa almost told her mother that she and Ethan are in a relationship when they talked to her briefly before their trip to Northern Luzon . But it was so new then, and she wanted to have a heart to heart with her mother about it. She was planning to call her and tell her about it, but she was the one who phoned and asked how she and Ethan were. The three of them ended up talking about their trip and Ally’s vacation in Mindoro. She felt at that time that there was just too much to tell her mother over the phone. She would tell her about all the wonderful developments when they see her.
Only Allison knows about their engagement. She phoned Ethan one evening and he admitted to her that he had proposed to Pippa at the Bantay Bell Tower! Ethan said his sister was being makulit as she knew that he was planning to propose to Pippa. He just asked her to keep it to herself as he and Pippa are planning to tell the parents in person. Ally told the two of them that of course, she will and that she is very happy for the two of them. She also informed Ethan that their parents will be home in two weeks time.
Pippa smiled and gave Ethan a kiss while the boat was under way to the port in the town, where they will be pick up by Mang Ben. Pippa had called her mother the night before. She told her that she and Ethan were back in Manila and that they will travel to Mindoro the following day. Her mother was happy know that and told them that she will prepare all their favorite dishes, and that Manong Ben will pick them up from the pier.
“What’s that all about darling? Not that I mind you kissing me! You may kiss me anytime, you know.” Ethan said smiling at the love of his life.
“Wala lang, honey, I’m just very, very, very happy! I will see Mom na, and also I was remembering your proposal and our trip! I can’t wait to tell her that we are getting married!” Pippa replied, looking again at her ring for the nth time. At times, it still feels unreal to her that she and Ethan are about to get married. It was already hard enough believing that they are in a relationship, that in just a short time after her heartache with Martin, she found the love of her life! “Sometimes, I feel like asking you to pinch me at baka kasi nananaginip ako!”
“You are not the only one, Pippa darling.” Ethan hugged Pippa and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “But what we experienced together so far, it is just the beginning of our wonderful journey together.”
Hugging each other and with loving smiles solely for each other, they passed the time by remembering their wonderful trip the past two weeks and the nights they have spent in each other arms, savoring the feeling of knowing that they are committed to each other for life. That their lives would be like that, in each other arms, sharing each other thoughts, sharing experiences, hopes, dreams and loving for always.
The first person who congratulated Ethan and Pippa when they got down from the bell tower was Manang Lucing and a group of tourists wanting to climb the bell tower after them. Ethan had asked Manang Lucing in secret to leave them alone in the bell tower as he would like to propose to his girlfriend. The old lady, a romantic at heart, was all smiles and readily agreed. She also promised him that they will not be disturbed while they were there. She also wished Ethan luck. Like what they have agreed on, after taking their photos, she went down to stand guard.
Seeing the ring on Pippa’s finger when they got out of the tower, and the happy smiles on their faces, she readily concluded that the proposal was a success. She offered her congratulations. The other tourists upon hearing this, congratulated them as well. They even teased Ethan na kaya pala ayaw silang paakyatin pa sa bell tower ni Manang Lucing eh magpo-propose siya! Ethan and Pippa thanked the old lady and their well-wishers. The two of them went back inside the church and prayed for the success of their relationship, and thanked God, again, for bringing them together.
When they returned to Mang Erning’s calesa, they told him of their engagement, unable to contain their happiness. The old guy was also all smiles, offering his congratulations. They continued their sightseeing tour, chatting with their kutsero about their relationship, and in the process, they also found out a bit about him, that he has four children, he and his wife has sent to school by sheer hard work, him as a kutsero and a handyman, and his wife as a weaver and a seller of cosmetic products. All of the kids had finished college and wanted for Mang Erning to retire as kutsero as they can provide for him and their mother. But Mang Erning told them that he likes what he is doing and chatting to very nice tourists like Pippa and Ethan makes him happy and it is his life now.
Hearing his story, Pippa asked him if she could write about his story in the blog she is making. Mang Erning he would be happy too as he would like other parents to get inspired into sending their kids to school no matter what and no job is too small or too ordinary basta love mo ang ginagawa mo. Hearing the old guy and his positive attitude, Pippa’s felt that she had made the right decision in pursuing her dreams too.
While they did their tour, Pippa interspersed it with an interview with Mang Erning, with Ethan acting as her cameraman. They also invited Mang Erning to lunch as a way of thanking him for showing them around and treat nila sa engagement nila. They also hired him for the rest of the day. Like what they have agreed on, he took them to a burnayan where Pippa tried her hand in making a simple burnay jar, while Ethan took a video of her doing it for her blog, as well as recorded her interview with the potter. They did the same thing in the weaving place where Mang Erning took them next. Seeing it, and trying her hand at weaving, Pippa realized how difficult it is, and how much work goes into a single inabel blanket.
Pippa and Ethan didn’t make it to Santa Maria and the Quirino Bridge that first day. They just went around Vigan and the nearby areas. They also managed to tour several ancestral homes, and also the Burgos Museum and had coffee at Calle Crisologo after they have said goodbye to Mang Erning, who wished them well on their upcoming marriage.
The rest of the evening was spent going around the streets of Vigan on foot and a romantic dinner at one of the ancestral homes in the city which has been turned into a hotel. When they returned to their hotel, like the previous night, Pippa and Ethan took turns in the bathroom before they retired for the night.
However, unlike the previous night, Ethan was waiting for Pippa when she came out of the bathroom. He was reading the book he was trying to read the night before, which he quickly put down when he saw Pippa getting out of the bathroom, wearing another of her sleep t-shirt. He patted the space on the bed beside him. Pippa went to him, sitting cross-legged, trying to comb her hair. Ethan took the comb from her hand, and combed her hair gently, massaging her hair in the process.
Pippa asked Ethan where he had learned to do that as he can make a fortune doing that, as it was very relaxing. Ethan sheepishly admitted to Pippa that was the first time he did it, and hoped he did okay. He did it instinctively as he just wanted to do something for her. Pippa thanked him and said he did good and that she enjoyed it very much. She was also touched that Ethan would do that for her. She turned to face him, their eyes met and they shared a kiss that led to so much more. However, before it could go any further and cross the point of no return for them, Ethan stopped, with difficulty. Haltingly, he told Pippa that he promised himself inside the church in Bantay that he would wait for the wedding night before making love to Pippa fully.
Ethan cupped Pippa’s face and gently told her that he knows that it is very important to her, that even if she is ready to make love with him, that act is something very important to her. She had waited for the right time for it. They might as well wait for the perfect time for it, which is their wedding night. He told Pippa he can wait, honest, cross his heart. He also teased her that it is going to be a big struggle, though, as seeing her, especially dressed like that is temptation itself and he hopes he has the willpower of a saint to survive the coming months before their wedding.
Pippa can see in Ethan’s expression his resolve not to consummate their relationship before the wedding. She understood what he meant. Even when she said to Ethan almost a week before that she was ready to take their relationship to the next level, there is a part of her that is nervous of the unknown, that she needed to be eased into first. She loves Ethan the more for seeing that, and understanding. She kissed him softly on the lips and told him she loves him very much. Yes, they can wait! They went to sleep with arms around each other. Pippa slept promptly, while it took a while for Ethan to do so, praying then that he will survive the night, and the next night and the next without making love to Pippa.
Ethan did survive, barely, in the two weeks that they have traveled from Vigan, to Laoag, Paoay, Batac, Burgos, and Pagudpud, seeing the beautiful sites in these places – from the Paoay Church, to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, to the Bangui Windmills which Ethan saying the only time he had seen windmills up close was at a farm in Denmark, then to the Cape Bojeador or the Burgos Lighthouse, down to the beautiful beaches of Pagudpud, marvelled at the Patapat viaduct engineering, also at the wonderful view and the seemingly endless sea one can see from there. Throughout their trip to the region, they also tried all the delicious local food, from bagnet to longganisa, to dinengdeng, empanada, pinakbet and some others with unusual names.
From the Patapat Viaduct, they drove to Cagayan Valley, stopping at Sta. Ana for their 45-minutes or so boat trip to Palaui where they spent most of the day, and from Sta. Ana again, they drove to Tuguegarao for the night. They also explored a bit of Tuguegarao the following morning, they went to the centuries old cathedral there, explored other old churches in the nearby areas, and tried pancit batil patung, before they went to Callao Cave, taking a boat trip down the Pinacanauan River while waiting for the thousands of bats to come out from the cave at twilight. It was worth the wait and it was a sight to see!
From there, they drove down to Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya and up to Banaue, using it as a base as they explored the rice terraces there, and then the much beautiful one in Batad. After that, their trip took them to Bontoc, then to Sagada for several days, then to Baguio. The last leg of their trip was Pangasinan, to Alaminos for the Hundred Islands and Bolinao for the beaches there, and from there they traveled back to Manila. They arrived at Pippa’s condo the night before, rested a bit, then off to Batangas that morning for their trip to Puerto Galera.
“Why are you smiling and sighing at the same time?” Pippa asked Ethan, curious. They are about to dock at the Puerto Galera Muelle Pier, as from where they are, she can see that their boat was about to enter the lagoon that leads to it.
“Wala lang….” Ethan said, shrugging.
“Hmmmm, meron. I can see na meron.” Pippa insisted. “Tell me!”
“Okay, I will tell na.” Ethan said, then whispered, “I was smiling and was sighing because I just realized that I survived not making love to you while your delectable body was by my side every night. You don’t know how hard it was not to make love to you, you know. While I will miss you by my side when we get to your mother’s home, it is respite for me. Otherwise, I don’t think I will last longer.” Ethan confessed.
Pippa smiled, an element of mischief in it. “And I thought you were Mr. Cool all the time we have shared a bed. Maybe, I’ll sneak into your cottage, you know, make you lose that control.” She teased. But honestly, she too, thought that she wouldn’t last longer if she has to share another night with Ethan, especially now that they are not too tired from all the road trips they did.
“Pippa, darling, then I will break my promise to God.” Ethan smiled. He is sure Pippa will not do it. Despite the fact that she says she was ready for intimacy between them, she is a conservative girl at heart.
“Just teasing you, honey.” Pippa said, then gave Ethan a quick kiss. While they have not done the deed, so to speak, their sharing a bed night after night was not completely innocent. They have indulged a bit, testing the limits of their controls. Ethan also candidly answered all of Pippa’s questions about making love and intimacies between a man and woman, putting Pippa’s fear of the unknown to rest. “We really have something to look forward to on our honeymoon, Mr. Bowman.”
“We do, Mrs. Bowman-to-be. But I’m looking forward, not only to that, but to finally spending the rest of my life with you.” Ethan said, giving Pippa a gentle kiss.
“Me too, Ethan.” Pippa whispered.
The boat finally docked at the pier, and they saw Manong Ben right away, and he was with Pippa’s mother! She was supposed to be just waiting for them in the house. She waved at them as soon as she saw them! It also didn’t escape Marianne Montenegro’s notice the way her daughter and Ethan look at each other, not to mention their intertwined hands! There is something different about this two, she thought to herself. Meron na dati, pero parang mas meron ngayon!
“Mom, great to see you again!” Pippa hugged her mother tight and gave her a kiss.
“You too, anak! Na-miss naman kita ng husto!” Marianne said, then she looked at Ethan. “Ikaw din, Ethan!” She went to hug him as well.
“Hello, Tita Marianne! Glad to be back here in Puerto!” Ethan said. “Hello po, Manong Ben.” He said, waving at the old guy.
“Tara, sa bahay na tayo magkwentuhan.” Marianne Montenegro said. “Nagpaluto ako ng mga paborito ninyong food kay Doray. Hindi ko lang napigilang hindi kayo sunduin, hindi ako mapakali sa paghihintay. Kasi naman anak, I missed you ng todo-todo. Ewan ko ba, dati ka namang matagal hindi muuwi kapag marami kang trabaho, pero this time parati kitang naalala. Ikaw din, Ethan.”
The three of them walked to the car where Manong Ben parked near the restaurant where Pippa and Ethan had breakfast weeks ago. Ethan opened the door for Marianne first, then Pippa and sat with Manong Ben in front.
“Kailan pala ang dating ni Allison, Ethan? I thought kasabay ninyo na ni Pippa?” Marianne asked when they were on the road. “I forgot to ask you last night.”
“In a week’s time po, Tita Marianne. Nag-extend po siya ng kaunti pa sa Mindanao. Our cousins took her also to Iligan, Bukidnon, Cagayan De Oro, Camiguin and Siargao pala! She extended her vacation. Nag-enjoy!”
“That’s a lot of places!” Marianne remarked. “Pero I heard, magaganda raw sa mga lugar na iyon. Kahit sa Davao, hindi pa nga rin ako nakakarating. Your mum did ask me to go with her noong college kami, Ethan, pero hindi nagka-chance.”
“Oo nga Mom. Ethan and I would like to go to those places also.” Pippa remarked. “Gusto mo sumama ka na lang sa amin.”
“Kailan ninyo plano? Paano iyong work mo pala Pippa?” Marianne asked, surprised as her daughter rarely takes a vacation, and not this long.
“Oh, about that. Mom, I have a lot to tell you, pero can we wait until we get home, please.” Pippa said, hugging her mother and giving her a big, happy smile, before looking at Ethan and sharing something, a big something again.
Hmmm, now Marianne’s intuition and motherly instinct are working overtime. Marianne has an inkling that she is in for some big surprises! “Okay!” She simply said.
Soon after, they were in the driveway of the family home. Ethan opened the door for Pippa. Pippa in turned, extended her hand to help her mother out of the car. That was when her mother noticed the beautiful ring on Pippa’s finger. It looks like, it looks like, an engagement ring!!!
“Could it be??? Are they????” Marianne asked herself. Her heart also started beating fast, coupled with this, she remembered Pippa’s words early, that she has a lot to tell her. Marianne barely stopped herself from asking her daughter or screaming in delight at this development! She had hoped, wished and prayed that Pippa would find someone who will love her like she deserves to be love, and also wished that it would be Ethan, but she never expected that it will come true this soon! She felt very happy at the moment.
“Mom? Is something wrong? Bakit hindi ka pa bumababa?” Pippa asked, puzzled and then she saw where her mother’s gaze is. She smiled, blushing a bit. “Yes, Mom. I found my prince after all the ‘frogs’.” Pippa said softly to her mother, then looked at Ethan with so much love. Ethan looked at Pippa with the same expression. “Ethan and I are engaged, Mom!”
Marianne Montenegro slowly got out the car, like in a trance, then her face was wreathed in smiles, at the same time teary-eyed. She touched her daughter’s face. “Pippa, I’m happy to know.” She hugged her daughter tight, then looked at Ethan. “Come here, Ethan.” She included Ethan in the embrace, then said, “Welcome to our family, Ethan.”
“Thank you very much, Tita Marianne. Sorry po, hindi pa namin nasabi ni Pippa sa inyo sa phone. Gusto po kasi naming in person sabihin sa inyo, pati na rin kina Mum and Dad. Kaya nga po kami umuwi ng mas maaga kaysa kay Ally so we can talk to you.” Ethan said.
“Oo nga Mom. Iyon po sana ang isa sa sasabihin namin ni Ethan sa inyo.” Pippa said. “Sorry po, naunahan niyo na kami.”
“Naku, you two owe me a lot of kwento talaga!” Marianne said, smiling through her tears of joy. “Hindi ko nga alam na kayong dalawa na. Though, I had an inkling that you two are heading in that direction. Halika pasok na tayo sa loob so we can get settle in and so you can tell me the whole story from the beginning. Who would have thought ha pag-alis mo last month, Pippa anak, pagbalik mo magkaka-son-in-law na ako. And Ethan before I forget, call me Mom na rin, no more ‘Tita Marianne’!
“Yes po, Tita….Mom.” Ethan grinned, so happy that everything is okay with Pippa’s mom. He and Pippa shared a looked and his happiness was also reflected on her face.
The three of them entered the house with arms around each other. As Manang Doray serves merienda, and with Pippa and Ethan holding hands, they told Marianne Montenegro how their relationship started and how it led to Ethan proposing at the Bantay Bell Tower, two weeks before. Pippa’s mom was smiling all the time they were telling her. She was very happy for her daughter and she couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law! She is so looking forward to finally having grandchildren to spoil!