“Maya, Richard, kain muna kayo.” Nanay Tessie said when she returned to the living room, followed by Manang Maring, carrying a tray. “Nag-order ako ng paborito mong palitao, anak. Nagpahanda rin ako ng suman sa latik dito kay Maring, para matikman ni Richard. Richard, kumakain ka ba ng mga ito, pala?”
“Yes po, Tita Tessie. Matagal ko na pong gustong matikman ang mga paboritong kakanin ni Maya. Madalas niya pong makwento sa akin ang mga iyan kahit noong una pa lang kaming nagkakilala.” Richard assured Nanay Tessie. “Thank you very much po.”
“Hi Manang Maring!” Maya greeted their kasambahay, a distant relative, who also helps out in the restaurant. “Ako na po ang maglalagay niyan dito sa table.”
“Maya, natutuwa naman ako at nauwi ka ulit dito, anak. Ako na ang gagawa niyan.” Manang Maring said. “Masarap kasama nitong suman at palitao, itong ipinahanda ni Ate Tessie na kapeng barako. Bagong giling lang iyan, galing sa kapihan ni Kuya Fernando sa Batangas.”
“Wow, ang sasarap nga ng mga ito, Nay, Manang Maring! Thank po talaga. Sobrang na-miss ko ang mga ito.” Maya said. “Ricky, si Manang Maring pala, kasama ni Nanay dito sa bahay, also katuwang ni Nanay sa restaurant sa ibaba. Manang Maring, si Richard po, boyfriend ko.”
“Magandang hapon po, Manang Maring. Maraming salamat po dito sa masarap na merienda.” Richard offered the older lady a big friendly smile.
“Ikinagagalak ko po kayong makilala, Sir Richard. Walang anuman po, Sir. Tiyak pong magugustuhan ninyo ang mga ipinahanda ni Ate Tessie na kakanin.” The middle-aged lady said, then she grinned and looked at Maya. “Ka-gwapo naman nitong nobyo mo, Maya.”
“Siyempre naman, Manang.” Maya said, laughing.
Richard was also smiling. “Richard na lang po, Manang Maring.”
“O siya, maiwan ko na kayo, Richard, Maya, Ate Tessie.” Manang Maring said. “Ate Tessie, babalik na ako sa restaurant at baka marami nang tao roon. Para rin makapag-merienda na sina Melinda at Chona.”
“Ricky, kain na.” Maya gave Richard a plate with a big serving of palitao and suman sa latik. Then she gave the second plate she made to her mother, who told her while she was preparing it that she would only like a small serving as she was still full from the big lunch she and Maring had.
“Thank you, sweetheart.” Richard said. “Ikaw?”
“Heto, kakain na rin. Handa ko lang itong kape natin.” Maya said, pointing at the third plate, then made coffee for the three of them. “Wow, ang sarap nga. Grabe, Nay, na-miss ko ito talaga!” She exclaimed after she took her first few bites of the kakanin.
“Tama po si Maya, Tita Tessie! This palitao is very delicious, also this suman sa latik! I’m sure magugustuhan din ang mga ito ni Abby!” Richard said while enjoying his third helping of the delicious rice cakes.
“Ilang taon na nga ang daughter mo Richard?” Nanay Tessie asked as she took a sip of her coffee.
“She is almost eight years old po, Tita Tessie. Same age as Lance. I think nabanggit din po ni Maya na Abby has the same condition as Lance. Pero despite that, she is a very bright girl. Most of the time, she seems older for her age kung mag-isip!”
“Naku, Nay, may tawag na nga pala sa iyo si Abby. Sabi niya sa amin ni Ricky kanina, she wants to meet daw po Lola Nanay Teresita!” Maya told her mother.
“‘Lola Nanay Teresita’! I like that a lot.” Nanay Tessie smiled happily. “Nakakatuwa naman ang anak mo Richard. Please tell her, I’m also looking forward to meeting her. Sabik nga ako sa apo eh. Ito kasing nag-iisa ko na lang anak, eh, hindi pa ako mabigyan ng apo eh.” She teased her daughter.
“Nay naman!” Maya said, blushing and getting self-conscious, taking a big gulp of her coffee. “Ikaw talaga, mother.”
Richard grinned. He almost teased Maya and her mother about Maya and him giving her an apo soon. But he stopped himself, too soon, and Maya was already blushing. Instead, he said, “She asked me po a lot of questions when I told her that Maya and I will visit you. Tapos nung nagpaalam kami ni Maya kanina, iyon ang sinabi niya. Matutuwa po iyon na makilala kayo and makapunta rin sa San Nicolas. Sabik po iyon sa probinsya.”
“Naku, next time, isama ninyo rito si Abby. I’m sure, she will enjoy going around San Nicolas.” Nanay Tessie said. “Maya, bukas ipasyal mo si Richard diyan sa mga tourist spot natin. Pero, baka nga pala, Maya, hindi mo madala si Richard doon sa ‘most romantic place mo’!”
“Bakit po Nay?” Maya asked as she was really planning on taking Richard there the following afternoon.
“Sabi kasi ni Fernando, may special event daw doon bukas. Nabanggit ko kasi sa kanya na darating ka at for sure, pupunta ka roon kasama nitong si Richard. Sabi ni Fernando, iko-cordon off iyong area hanggang tomorrow evening. Pero, baka naman sa Sunday, pwede na. Hapon pa naman iyong flight niyo pabalik. Richard, itong si Maya, favorite place niya iyon, iyon kasi ang lugar kung saan nag-propose ang tatay niya sa akin. She used to tell Cristina Rose na isang araw, madadala rin niya sa lugar na iyon ang prince charming niya. Hayon, alaskado siya sa ate niya parati.” Nanay Tessie narrated, laughing. “May pagka-romantic kasi itong bunso ko. Iyon namang panganay ko may pagka-pragmatic! Hay, nakaka-miss din ang ate mo Maya!”
Richard smiled and hid it behind the cup of coffee he was taking a sip from, upon hearing about the most romantic place. “Nabanggit nga po ni Maya ang place na iyon, Mukha naman pong it’s a very nice place and romantic since doon nag-propose ang husband ninyo. And yes, romantic po ang anak ninyo, which I like very much.” He added, gazing at Maya lovingly. maya flushed a bit.
Maya smiled at Richard, then touched his hand, affectionately. “Ganoon po ba, Nay! Di bale po, baka next time ko na lang ipasyal doon si Ricky kung may event pala roon. Madalas po bang may ganoon na doon sa ‘most romantic place, Nay? Parang dati, kami nga lang ni Ate Cris ang nandoon kapag namamasyal kami roon. Well, maliban sa ilan na nagde-date rin doon na nakikita namin!”
“Hindi. Actually, this is the first time na may narinig ako na may event doon! Nagtaka nga rin ako.” Nanay Tessie said. “Oh well, baka may nakakita ng potential ng place na iyon for an event. Maganda naman kasi, and relaxing.”
“Siguro nga Nay,” Maya replied, shrugging, then she remembered something. “Nay, pupunta nga po pala kami ni Ricky bukas ng umaga sa puntod ni Ate Cris, baka gusto ninyo pong sumama.”
“Sige nga, anak. After breakfast bukas, punta tayo sa kapatid mo. Medyo matagal na rin akong hindi nakakadalaw sa kanya.” Nanay Tessie said. “O kumusta nga pala ang work? Good thing also that you work with Richard also in certain days.”
“Naku, Tita Tessie, sobrang galing po na lawyer ng anak ninyo, and sobrang sipag. I’m saying that po as her client and not as her boyfriend.” Richard said smiling. “And as a boyfriend naman, I’m proud of her and what she had accomplished. Alam ko po na noon pa man pangarap na ni Maya na maging lawyer.” He added, looking at Maya with pride and love.
“Sweetheart naman eh.” Maya said softly, giddily, thrilled at Richard’s praise and his blatant show of love for her and pride in her achievement. “Thank you.”
Seeing this, Nanay Tessie felt giddy as well and really very happy for her daughter. “Thank you, Richard. When I went with Maya to her oathtaking, I felt very emotional kasi alam ko kung gaano katagal nang pangarap nitong si Maya na maging abugada, saka ang mga sacrifice at pinagdaanan niya para ma-achieve ito.”
“Nay, hayan naiiyak ka na naman.” Maya said. “Hala la, papangit ka,” she teased. “All behind us na po iyon. Dito na tayo sa present and sa future. Maayos na tayo, di ba?”
“Oo nga naman, anak.” Nanay Tessie said. “Pasensya ka na Richard at may halong drama itong pamilya ng girlfriend mo.”
Richard smiled. “Okay lang po iyon. I know what you meant. When Maya and I got together again, we had our share of heart to heart talk also.” He said, looking at Maya and both of them shared a smile of understanding.
The three of them continued enjoying their merienda until late in the afternoon. It was agreed also that they will have dinner at the restaurant with Maya’s cousins, Simon and Melinda and their Dad, also Doris’ father, Fernando, as all of them also wanted to meet Maya’s boyfriend and to welcome Maya back home. Maya and her mother updated each other on what had been happening to their lives the past weeks, while Richard mostly listened. He enjoyed listening to his girlfriend’s witty and animated kwentos. He joined in from time to time, especially when Maya told her mother about their trip to Tagaytay. Before the three of them knew it, several hours have passed!
“Nay, ako na po ang magliligpit nitong mga plate.” Maya said, when they realized that it was almost twilight. Richard stood up to help him. But both Maya and her mother objected. “Dito na lang, sweetheart, samahan mo si Nanay.” Maya was then off to the kitchen, like her mother did earlier, before her mother can object to that to!
“Mana, talaga sa akin itong anak ko!” Nanay Tessie said, seeing a repeat of what she did earlier, her gaze on her daughter. She turned, then looked closely at Richard and saw his serious expression. She also noticed that he seemed a bit nervous. She waited what he would say next.
Richard is indeed nervous, for he realized several minutes ago, that this is chance to talk to Maya’s mother alone. Knowing Maya, he knows she would wash the dishes herself instead of leaving it in the sink. He took a deep breath and then plunged in to what he wanted to say to Maya’s mother. “Tita Tessie, pwede ko po ba kayong makausap?” He started.
“Sure Richard.” Nanay Tessie said, puzzled as they have been chatting the past several hours, then her heart started to beat faster, realizing something, judging by Richard’s serious expression, she needed to be sure, though even if she has an inkling on what is this all about.” Tungkol ba sa saan iyon, anak?” She asked gently, and calmly after taking deep breaths too.
“I would like to ask for your permission po sana.” Richard said. “I would like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage. Gusto ko po sanang mag-propose kay Maya.” He finished looking at Maya’s mother, waiting for her reaction.
Nanay Tessie smiled broadly at Richard, then gets teary-eyed. “Sabi ko na nga ba, Richard, iyan ang sasabihin mo. Nung sinabi mo pa lang na gusto mo akong makausap, kumabog na ang dibdib ko. Of course, oo ang sagot ko diyan. Actually, you and Maya are old enough, hindi mo naman na talaga kailangan ang permiso ko, pero maraming salamat pa rin, anak, sa respeto at pagpapahalaga sa akin. Pasensya ka na at medyo naluluha ako. Masayang-masaya lang kasi ako para sa inyo ng anak ko.”
“Thank you very much po Tita Tessie! Kaya nga po gustong-gusto ko na kayong makilala at makapunta rito sa San Nicolas para po makapagpaalam sa inyo. Dito ko rin po sana gustong mag-propose kay Maya. Like ten years ago, when I was planning to follow her here in San Nicolas, kung hindi po nagkaproblema iyong family ko, to declare my feelings for her and court her. Siguro po, nabanggit ni Maya na biglaan kaming umalis pa-China ten years ago. Nakidnap po kasi ang Mama ko and kapatid and my father uprooted us abruptly after that. Pero noon pa lang po, mahal ko na talaga ang anak ninyo.” Richard said, and Nanay Tessie can see in his eyes, how much he loves her daughter.
“I know po that Maya and I just saw each other again and we just started our relationship, but I don’t want to waste time na po. We have waited long enough. And I have never been surer of something in my life than the fact that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. She is my forever.” He added, his voice ringing of complete sincerity and conviction. “Nasabi ko na rin po sa Mama at Papa ko ang tungkol sa amin ni Maya and my plan to propose to her. They told me that they are looking forward to meeting Maya again as their future daughter-in-law. They have met her na po kasi, ten years ago. Both my parents are happy for us. But if not naman po, Tita Tessie, I would have stood by Maya.”
“Richard, I’m sorry to hear about what happened to your family. Nabanggit lang ni Maya sa akin na biglaan kayong umalis. I didn’t know na nakidnap ang Mama mo and kapatid. It must have been a very traumatic experience for your family.” Nanay Tessie said, understanding more about what happened in the past, then she continued, “Thank you, for loving my daughter so much. Iyon lang naman ang mahihiling ng isang magulang na katulad ko. Ang makita na magiging maayos ang anak niya at may isang taong magmamahal sa kanya, gaya ng nakikita kong pagmamahal mo sa kanya. Masayang-masaya ako. Both of you have my blessings! You two deserve to be happy after what the two of you had been through!” Nanay Tessie said emotionally. “Saka, ang swerte ninyo ng anak ko, natagpuan ninyo ulit ang isa’t isa after all these years. Welcome to our family, anak. Now I will have a son. I’m happy to have you as my son!”
Richard was touched at Nanay Tessie said. “I would be honored po to be your son.” He said. “Maraming-maraming salamat po ulit sa pagtanggap sa akin ng buong-buo.”
“Halika nga ditong bata ka.” Nanay Tessie said, standing up. When Richard reached her side, she gave him a big hug.
“Kailan mo pala balak mag-propose kay Maya? Sabi mo dito? You mean, bukas? Or sa susunod ninyong balik?” Nanay Tessie asked as she and Richard settled back again into their seats.
“Tomorrow afternoon po.” Richard admitted, smiling. “I made an initial plan po with Doris. Pero sabi ko sa kanya magpapaalam po muna ako sa inyo, then I will call her pagkatapos para if ever, i-execute na our plan.”
“Really!” Nanay Tessie said, though, not that surprised anymore.
“Opo sana! And I also need your help din po sana kung okay lang.” Richard said with a big smile.
“So, what, exactly, is your plan?” Tita Tessie asked, her eyes twinkling. She felt that this weekend is really going to be exciting and interesting. Mukhang pinaghandaan ng husto ng magiging son-in-law niya ang proposal sa anak niya!
Richard smiled at Maya’s mother, then told her what he was planning for the following evening, saying that he would like to give Maya a proposal that they can tell their children and grandchildren, something they will remember until they are old and gray. He would to make her very happy. When he was finished, Nanay Tessie’s face was wreathed in smiles.
“You really know my daughter and what she would like, Richard! She would be very happy with what you will do. Sigurado ako, sasagutin ka ng yes ng anak ko with that plan!” Nanay Tessie remarked, smiling happily, liking Richard’s plan, very much. “Mabuti at libre iyang si Doris. So iyon pala ang sinasabing event ni Fernando? Alam din ba niya na may plano kang mag-propose sa anak ko?”
“Hindi po. Si Doris lang po ang nakakaalam. Iyung dad niya po, ang pagkakaalam, may photoshoot for Doris’ magazine. She asked his help para ma-secure iyong place kasi friend niya raw po iyong mayor ng San Nicolas.”
“Yes, kumpare nga niya si Mayor Villanueva.” Nanay Tessie said, nodding. “So what would be my part?”
Richard told her what he would like to request from her, and when he was finished, Nanay Tessie said, “Consider it done, Richard. O siya, tawagan mo na si Doris, para ma-finalize na niya iyang proposal mo.”
Richard did that. Maya returned when he was putting his phone in his pocket. All she saw was her mother and Richard sharing a smiles. They seemed to have gotten along very well while she was in the kitchen and in the restaurant.
“Sorry, natagalan ako, Nay, Ricky.” Maya said as she returned to her seat beside Richard. “Pagkatapos kong maghugas ng mga plato, bumaba ako sa restaurant to check on Mely. I realized na hindi umakyat si Mely like she promised. Nawala na sa isip nating lahat. Hayun kaya pala hindi nakaakyat, may dumating na isang coaster na tourists. They needed all the hands they can have.”
“Hmmmm, bakit kaya hindi ako tinawag ng batang iyon.” Nanay Tessie said distractedly, gazing at her daughter.
“Hindi ka na raw po niya tinawagan kasi kaya na naman nila nina Chona and since bumaba na rin naman si Manang Maring.” Maya explained. “So what did the two of you talk about while I was away?”
With thay question, Richard and Nanay Tessie automatically shared a look and a secret smile. “Wala naman anak, nagkwentuhan lang kami nitong si Richard.”
“Oo nga, sweetheart.” Richard hastily added.
“O paano, maiwan ko muna kayong dalawa rito.” Nanay Tessie said, standing up. “Ipahanda ko lang ang dinner natin. Maya why don’t you show Richard to his room first, para makapagpahinga bago tayo mag-dinner.”
“Sige po, Nay.” Maya said, standing up as well. However, she ws surprised when her mother hugged her tight and caressed her hair, before she went to the kitchen.
“I’m glad you are home, Maya. I’m so happy for you.” Nanay Tessie said enigmatically. She escaped to the kitchen before her daughter sees her getting teary-eyed. She does not want to ruin Richard’s wonderful plan for the following evening. She thought she had managed to compose herself before her daughter returned, but the seeing her and realizing that her daughter is about to embark into a new chapter of her life, made her emotional.
Maya was puzzled at mother’s action, but before she can think much of it, Richard asked her if she would like to rest as well, before dinner or they will just stay in the living room.
“Halika, pahinga ka na muna, sweetheart. Ang aga mo pa namang gumising kanina. I’ll show you to your room.” Maya said.
“How about you, sweetheart?” Richard asked. “Rest ka na rin. Actually, I’m not tired naman. I would rather spend the rest of the day with you.”
“Hmmm, sabagay. I’m not that tired nga rin. Saka, sayang ang moment natin dito, limited na nga ang time natin sa San Nicolas, itutulog pa natin.” Maya said, then she smiled broadly. “Alam ko na sweetheart! Doon tayo sa likod. May azotea itong house. Parang iyong veranda sa bahay mo! We can have coffee while relaxing.”
“That’ sounds great! Halika doon na lang tayo!” Richard said, taking hold of Maya’s hand and intertwining it with his. “Fresh air and beautiful company, sounds like a wonderful plan, sweetheart!”
Maya and Richard took a detour to the kitchen, made coffee and cup in hand, the two of them went to the azotea. The place was full of plants, mostly roses and sunflowers, and there is a coffee table by the corner, overlooking a beautiful garden.
“Now I know where you got your love for sunflowers!” Richard remarked. “Mahilig din pala ang nanay mo sa sunflowers!”
“Yes, mahilig siya diyan, also sa roses. Mahilig siyang mag-garden din. See that garden below, si Nanay ang nagku-cultivate niyan. Diyan galing ang herbs na ginagamit na pantimpla sa mga food sa restaurant. Lahat na yata ng klase, nakatanim diyan, basil, oregano, parsley, may tomatoes din, eggplants at kung ano-ano pa.”
“That’s great! I think people would really come to a restaurant which serves good, fresh food, not to mention the very nice ambiance. My first impression about your restaurant is that it is very homey and warmth.”
“Yes, I agree. And the ambiance, iyan ang gusto ni Nanay na ma-feel ng mga kumakain na para lang silang nasa bahay, eating delicious home cooked meal with their loved ones.” Maya said.
While sipping coffee, the two of them chatted about food and other specialty restaurants in San Nicolas. From there, the topic switched to Abby, and Richard’s promise to call her. Richard called her. He put the phone on speaker so he and Maya can talk to the little girl together. Abby was happy to hear from there and asked them to describe where they were, also what they ate. It was a nice chat. Maya and Richard stayed at the azotea until Manang Maring told them that they will have dinner in 15 minutes time.
Doris’s father was the first among the guests to arrive, followed by Maya’s Tito Rollie, Melinda and Simon’s father, and of course Simon who is Mely’s kuya. Everyone gathered at cordoned off area of Cristina’s and have a hearty dinner, punctuated by lively conversations, with all sorts of topics. Fernando and Rollie also drew Richard into a conversation about starting a new business, with Simon listening on as he would like to expand the family’s car parts stores. Maya, her mother and Mely also talked about the restaurant and additional food they can add on their new menu. After dinner, everyone moved upstairs and continued their chat over dessert and coffee. It was almost midnight when the impromptu party drew to a close.
“Maya, ihatid mo na si Richard sa room niya.” Nanay Tessie said as she and Maya took the plates, cups and saucer to the kitchen. “Iyong room na ginagamit ni Simon kapag nandito sa atin. Ipinaayos ko na iyon kay Maring kahapon. Check mo na lang if she missed something. Baka may kailangan pa si Richard. Tapos, anak, request ko naman na sa tabi kita matulog, please. Na-miss kita ng husto.” She added with a little lambing to her daughter. The truth is that she is also feeling sentimental, knowing that her daughter will get married soon.
“Sige po, Nay. I like that. Na-miss din kaya kita ng husto.” Maya said smiling. “Mauna na po kayo, linisin ko lang ang mga ito.”
“Naku, iwan mo na ang mga iyan. Maaga namang nagigising si Maring.” Nanay Tessie said. “Late na late na. Kayo nga ni Richard itong galing sa biyahe. Saka di ba dadalaw pa tayo sa puntod ng kapatid mo ng maaga.”
“Okay po. Balikan ko lang si Richard. Sunod na lang po ako sa inyo sa kwarto ninyo.” Maya went back to the living room. Richard gave her a loving smile when he saw her. “Sweetheart, halika na, I will show you to your room.”
Hand and hand, the two of them went to the room that Richard will be using while they are in San Nicolas. Maya opened the door to a room furnished in old wooden furniture, including the big bed with intricate carvings. Someone, she presumed Manang Maring, put his bag inside the room, except for the sling bag that Richard kept with him. Maya also checked the bathroom that adjoins the bedroom, being shared by another guest room, and saw that nothing Richard would need is lacking.
“Sweetheart, good night. Sweet dreams, my love.” Maya said with a big smile, then stood on tiptoes and gave Richard a light kiss on the lips. “I’m so happy that you are here with me, in the place where I grew up, meeting my mother and the rest of my family. This has been a wonderful day! I love you.”
“I love yoo too, very much, sweetheart. I’m very happy to be here with you. Finally, I got to meet your family. There’s no place I would rather be, than at this place, with you. Good night, sweetheart. More wonderful days, weeks, months and years waiting for us.” Richard placed his thumb on Maya’s chin, lowered his lips to hers and gave her a kiss that conveyed the intense emotion he was feeling at that moment. He stopped after a while as he knew that Maya’s mother is waiting for her.
The two of them shared a lingering look, a caress, another sweet ‘I love yous’, and another kiss before they parted for the night.
Maya instantly fell asleep after saying good night and I love you to her mother, more than 30 minutes after. However, Nanay Tessie on the other hand, was not able to do so. She looked at her beautiful daughter’s sleeping form with love. She took a trip down memory lane – from the time Maya was a little girl, so bubbly and sweet; to her teenage years, with her crushes and dreams; and to the grown-up Maya, so determined, beautiful and bright, and the sweetest daughter a mother could ask for. Now, she is about to embark on a new chapter of her life, a wonderful one, with the man she loves and who loves her very much. Nanay Tessie went to sleep happy, when she finally managed to do so. She kissed her daughter on the forehead and settled in beside her.
Richard also had a hard time falling asleep that evening. He was very happy. He smiled in the dark, excited and nervous! In several hours, he will be proposing to the woman he loves with all of him. When he managed to sleep, there was still a ghost of a smile on his handsome face.
Note: Have a blessed Sunday everyone! I can see that the sun is out and the weather is better from my place by the window, with a cup of coffee beside me, sitting cross-legged. Enjoying my quiet Sunday! I’ll write the next chapter in a while. I will post it as soon as I’m done, either this evening or tomorrow. ❤