“Wait, Manong Edwin! Sandali lang po.” Maya called their driver’s attention when she noticed that he took a right turn, instead of going left. “Parang mali po yata ang direksyon natin. Di po ba, sa kaliwa ang papunta sa La Casa Antigua? May iba pa po ba tayong dadaanan?”
“Ma’am Maya, wala naman po. Ito po ang direksyon na ibinigay sa akin. Bilin pa nga po sa akin nung boss ko, huwag akong mamamali ng direksyon.” Manong Edwin said, then continued driving in the direction he took.
By then, Maya had a pretty good idea on where they were going. Dead end ang daan na tinatahak nila, and isa lang ang nandoon sa dulo. “Sweetheart, we are going to where the ‘most romantic place’ is!” She remarked to Richard. “Di ba, sabi ni Nanay, may event doon this evening and sarado ang lugar? Baka maipit tayo roon! Besides gabi na. Medyo madilim ng kaunti roon kapag ganitong time. Pabalikin na kaya natin si Manong Edwin. Mali yata ang direction na ibinigay sa kanya ng mga taga-La Casa.”
“Relax lang, sweetheart,” was all Richard said, then continued holding Maya’s hand, caressing it, then seeing that Maya was still worried, he added, “Pabayaan mo lang si Manong Edwin dito sa direction that he took.”
Maya looked at Richard closely. She saw his calm visage. In fact, he looked happy and excited about something. Seeing this, Maya’s heart started galloping. She had an inkling by then that she was in for a big surprise that evening, gaya ng pakiramdam niya earlier. Kumakabog ang dibdib niya. She took a deep breath to calm her fast-beating heart, and as Richard said, kalma lang. For sure, she will see what is in store for her this evening in several minutes.
True enough, several minutes after, they stopped at the entrance of the ‘most romantic place’! Expecting the place to be in darkness, Maya was surprised to see that the place was brightly lit, with a big structure in the middle of the old clearing by a small lake, just under the very old mango tree where her parents’ names were carved more than 25 years ago.
Richard helped Maya out of the car and led her to the beautiful structure there, which on a closer look, and with her senses getting accustomed to the events unfolding before her, she realized resembled the ballroom of an English manor house! It is actually a replica of a ballroom in a manor house! At a corner, there was a small orchestra and the musicians were dressed in period costumes, like they were to provide entertainment to a ball or a soiree with lords and ladies, and other members of the nobility, in attendance. The whole place looked like a scene from the bodice ripper novels she is addicted to! But how? And why? Parang alam na niya, but ayaw naman niyang mag-assume! As Maya stared and took in the beautiful and magical surroundings before her, feeling like she was transported back in time, into the pages of the books she likes, Richard softly approached her.
“I believe it is our dance, my lady!” Richard said, looking at Maya with all the love he feels for her. He extended his hand. He looked like a dashing lord from her novels, about to ask the lady he would like to get betrothed to, to dance.
When Maya put her, by then, very cold hand into Richard’s, the opening strains of a waltz, floated into the beautiful night. Maya was quite sure then of what’s going to happen later, with voice that was not very steady, and with knees getting wobbly, she whispered to Richard, “Yes, I believe it is our dance, my lord.”
Richard then took her into his arms, glided on the makeshift ballroom, staring at her, full of love. Maya felt like she was floating and her being was just concentrated on Richard and the magic world he took her to. They danced, as close as two people could be for several minutes. As the music was fading, Richard bowed to Maya. He got something from his pocket, and knelt before her, as she waited breathlessly.
“Will you marry me, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa?” Richard said, his voice full of emotion, his face full of love for Maya as he offered her the diamond-encrusted engagement ring he had been carrying since the day before. “Be mine forever as I will be yours.”
Maya felt like her heart would burst from sheer happiness. She never expected that Richard will propose to her this early, that evening kahit malakas na malakas na ang kutob niya! Tears started to glisten from her very expressive eyes. She also knelt down before Richard, touched his beloved face, and whispered softly, “Yes, Ricky, I will marry you. I would like to be yours forever as you will be mine.”
Hearing that, Richard heaved a sigh of relief. He was actually very nervous. He gave Maya a brilliant, loving smile, then slowly put the beautiful ring on her finger, caressing it as he did so. “I love you very much, sweetheart.” Then he raised Maya’s hand to his lips and kissed it. He helped her up, gently. Richard lowered his lips to Maya’s and with the orchestra playing a beautiful classical music in the background, they shared their first kiss as a newly engaged couple. The kiss lasted for several long seconds, with both of them, pouring into that kiss the love they feel for each other. They broke apart, with big grins, and with their faces flushed. They were very happy. Engaged, finally!
“One more dance, my lady.” Richard asked, smiling charmingly.
“Yes, my lord.” Maya replied happily, interlacing her hands around Richard’s nape. “I love you very much.” She whispered to him as the two of them swayed to the music, lost in their own world. Both of them are looking forward to their future together. They shared another kiss when the music ended.
Maya looked again at her beautiful ring as Richard interlaced their fingers while they took a stroll near the lake, afterwards, while the musicians were packing their instrument. She was still having a hard time believing that she and Richard were now engaged! “I love you very much, sweetheart.” She said lovingly and sweetly, giving Richard a tremulous smile. Then she looked around again, and realizing the enormity and the efforts Richard did to give her a proposal she would never forget, she touched his face again. “Thank you for this , sweetheart. I’m simply overwhelmed with the effort you took to give me this!”
“So, did I get it right, sweetheart?” Richard asked, smiling. “Ganito ba ang mga nasa novel na paborito mo?”
“Yes, sweetheart. Paano mo ito na-accomplish?” Maya asked, amazement in her gaze and voice.
“That’s a long story, sweetheart. You will know later.” Richard said. “Come, let’s get going.”
“Ha, aalis na tayo, rito? Sayang naman itong grand set-up mo kung hindi natin ma-enjoy ng husto.” Maya protested.
“It will still be here, later, sweetheart if you want to come back and enjoy the rest of the night here. For now, we should get going.” Richard told his fiancée. He was looking forward to seeing her reaction, when she sees his next surprise.
“Saan tayo pupunta?” Maya asked, smiling. By then, she already knew that Richard has another surprise waiting for her.
Instead of answering, Richard kissed Maya again. “Mamaya na ang mga tanong my Mrs. Lim-to-be.”
“Okay, Mr. Lim.” Maya said happily, letting Richard led her back again to the entrance of the ‘most romantic place’.
The musicians followed them. After offering their congratulations, they walked to their service van. Richard, on the other hand, led Maya back to the vintage car where Manong Edwin was patiently waiting. Seeing their happy faces, the older guy offered his congratulations to them.
“Ikaw, Manong Edwin, ha. akala ko talaga, iniligaw mo kami?” Maya teasingly said. “Thank you po.”
“Kulit niya Manong Edwin, di ba po?” Richard teased. “Akala ko nga mapapaamin ka po ni Maya, hahahaha.”
“Oo nga, Sir Richard.” Manong Edwin said, smiling. “Congratulations po ulit, Ma’am Maya, Sr Richard.”
“Thank you Manong Edwin. Tayo na po.” Richard said. He then escorted Maya inside the vintage car and several minutes after, they were on their way.
From the ‘most romantic place’ Manong Edwin drove them towards the direction of La Casa Antigua. They arrived at the beautiful, regal and grand old mansion several minutes after. They were greeted by the manager of the restaurant.
“Good evening po, Ms. Dela Rosa, Mr. Lim, I’m Jeff Macavinta, welcome to La Casa Antigua.” The tall, handsome, and friendly manager greeted them with a big smile. “Congratulations on your engagement. This way po.”
“Sweetheart, I’m so touched naman talaga and overwhelmed, pinaghandaan mo talaga ng husto ang gabi na ito.” Maya whispered to Richard as they followed the manager to the second level of the house, up through the grand staircase adorned with a huge chandelier. “May dinner pa rin pala talaga tayo rito!”
Richard smiled broadly, stopped and gave her a quick kiss as a reply. He pressed her hand too, lacing it tighter with his as they followed up the manager to the main dining room of the mansion. Indeed, Maya was in for another wonderful surprise!
“CONGRATULATIONS!” Everyone inside shouted when Maya and Richard entered the dining room.
“Oh my God!!! Oh my God!!! Maya said, surprised, her voice choking as she looked around and saw who were there. With tears of happiness in her eyes, she looked at Richard with all the love she is feeling. She felt like her heart expanded a million times from the sheer happiness she was feeling at that moment.
“Yes, sweetheart, they are here to share this wonderful night with us. All the people we love.” Richard said softly, wiping Maya’s tears, gently with the thumb of his hand. “I love you and I want to offer you the world, everything that would make you happy.”
“Sweetheart, naman, hayan di ko na kayang pigilan.” Maya hugged Richard tight and with voice choking, and tears freely flowing from her expressive eyes, she thanked Richard once more. “I love you very much. Sobrang saya ko ngayon, wala na talagang pagsidlan. Thank you for all of these.”
“Tita Maya, Tita Maya, you will be my mommy na! Yehey! I’m so happy!” Abby suddenly said, lightening up the emotions-filled moment. She ran to Maya and all the grown-ups smiled. They too, felt teary-eyed, seeing how happy Maya and Richard were. They were both glowing with love.
Maya hugged the little girl. “Yes, Abby, I will be. I’m very, very happy that I will be your new mommy and that you will be my daughter.”
“Yes!!! Can I call you Mommy na, Tita Maya?” The little girl asked. “I know I had another mommy and she is in heaven. Daddy said, it will be okay with her if you will be my Mommy also.”
“Yes, Abby.” Maya replied emotionally.
“Yehey!” Abby gave Maya another hug and a kiss, then she turned to her father. “Daddy, thank you for giving me a new mommy. Thank you for giving me Mommy!” She added, hugging Maya again.
Richard smiled at his little girl, ruffled her hair, then gave her a quick kiss. He shared a look with Maya. With the little girl between them, they walked towards the special persons who were sharing this evening with them.
Richard took Nanay Tessie’s hand.”Tita Tessie, mano po.” He said simply.
“Richard, anak, please call me Nanay also.” Nanay Tessie said, still sniffling. “Kung hindi nga lang mabubuko ng anak ko ng wala sa oras ang plano mo, kasi baka madulas tayo pareho, noon pa mang nagpaalam ka, sasabihin ko sanang Nanay na ang itawag mo sa akin.” She added smiling, then she looked at her daughter. “Maya, anak.”
Maya went to her mother, and they hugged tight, with Nanay Tessie caressing her hair, whispering. “Anak, sobrang saya ko para sa iyo ngayon. Papasok ka na sa panibagong yugto ng buhay mo. I’m happy that you found yourself a wonderful guy na sobrang mahal na mahal ka! Sobrang saya ko na makita kung gaano ninyo kamahal ang isa’t isa. Kahit mawala na ako bukas, anak, masaya na ako dahil alam kong maayos ka na. Sana lang, nandito ang kapatid mo. Pero alam ko, nasaan man siya, gaya ko, masayang-masaya rin siya para sa iyo. I love you anak.”
“I love you very much po, Nanay.” Maya said emotionally. “You are the best mother in the whole world. Saka, Nay, huwag ka pong magsasalita ng ‘mawawala’. Di ko iyon kakayanin, Nay. Saka, ikaw din, di ba gusto mo pa ng apo.” She added, teasing her mother.
“Bakit, bibigyan ninyo ba ako kaagad ni Richard?” Nanay Tessie bantered back. “I hope you will. Dagdagan ninyo na ang apo kong si Abby!” She said, smiling and ruffling the little girl’s hair. She and Abby had bonded earlier while waiting for Maya and Richard.
It was Richard who replied to her. “Sure na sure po iyon, Nay.” He said grinning, then added, “Ilan po ba ang gusto niyo? Kaya po namin ni Maya kahit kalahating dosena pa!” Everyone laughed! Abby cheered upon hearing that they are planning to give her six brothers and sisters! Maya blushed and pinched Richard lovingly, who pretending to be hurt, wanting a kiss. Their guests took that as a cue to egg them to kiss. They obliged, and everyone clapped and teased them as it lasted longer than the usual!
Before they sat down for their dinner, all of their guests greeted them. Manang Fe was the first. Maya took her hand para magmano. Manang Fe on the other hand, hugged her, and her alaga, emotional too, wished them well and told them that she was very happy for the two of them and seeing that Richard is finally with the only woman he loves. She was followed by Maya’s Tito Rollie, her cousins, Mely and Simon, followed by Doris’s father, Fernando, Manang Maring, Sabel and Lea who were both kinikilig when they approached Maya and Richard, then Lance who said he is happy, as Abby will be his ‘honorary cousin’, and the last one was Doris.
“BFF, Richard, congratulations. Bilang saksing tunay sa inyong pagmamahalan, I’m so happy for you guys.” Doris said, sniffling pa rin. “Richard, ikaw na ang bahala dito sa BFF ko ha. Mahal na mahal ka nito.” She hugged Richard.
“BFF, alam kong dream come true ito for you. Makita lang kitang sobrang saya, masayang-masaya na rin ako.” The two friends hugged each other tight.
“Thank you very much, BFF. Alam mo naman na wish ko rin ito for you.”
“Thank you, Doris, for everything.” Richard said, then to Maya, he said, “Sweetheart, si Doris ang tumulong sa akin with my proposal to you, especially, iyong sa ‘most romantic place’. Then, si Nanay naman dito sa La Casa.”
“Really BFF, Nay! Paano?” Maya asked. “Kailan ka nagsabi kay Nanay, sweetheart?”
“Naku BFF, mahaba-habang usapan iyan. Kwento na lang ni Richard sa iyo. Kain na tayo at gutom na ang ating mga kiddos!” Doris said.
“Oo nga, Maya anak. Kwento namin sa iyo ni Richard pagbalik natin sa bahay,”
“Nay, BFF, thank you very much for this. Sobrang memorable for Richard and me.” Maya said happily.
“Para sa inyo ni Richard, anak, I was very happy to do my share.”
“Same here, BFF. Kahit tumulay pa sa alambre, gagawin ko para sa inyo ni Mr. Dreamboat!”
Everybody laughed as they sat down for their dinner. The restaurant staff started bringing in the mouth-watering dishes in which this restaurant is famous for. They enjoyed their sumptuous dinner while the orchestra who played at the most romantic place, serenaded them with the most romantic tunes from various Broadway musicals. It was a very happy dinner, marked with laughter and banter, especially between Doris and Simon as Tito Fernando told Simon na ligawan na si Doris. The group also teased Maya and Richard a lot. They were also asked by Tito Fernando and Tito Rollie how they met. Maya, Richard, and also Doris took turns in telling them how they all met more than 10 years ago!
When everyone was having dessert, Emman and his assistant started bringing in a huge LED television monitor, attached to it was a laptop. Maya was surprised to see Emman Castro in the party, but then, she put two and to together and realized that Doris might have asked for his help in setting this up as he has an events planning business in San Nicolas and Poblador. Manang Fe told her earlier that Richard chartered a plane for them so they can make it to the engagement party. Doris stood up and called everyone’s attention.
“Since busog na tayong lahat, may isa pa tayong treat sa ating newly engaged couple. Richard, BFF, please stand up and come here in front.” Doris said and when Maya and Richard were in front of the monitor, sitting on the two chairs that were placed there, she signaled to Emman. The monitor lit up. Don Roberto and Donya Esmeralda faces filled up the screen, much to Richard and Maya’s surprised, and delight. They were seated in the living room of Richard’s uncle’s house in San Francisco. This was not part of Richard’s plan! But he is happy that Doris thought of this as well as he very much wanted to share this wonderful moment with his parents as well. He intertwined his hand with Maya’s, sharing a loving look with her.
“Congratulations, son, and Maya!” Donya Esmeralda said with a big smile! “Finally! I’m so happy for the two of you. Maya, hija, we hope we can meet you in person soon, as Ricky’s fiancee, pati na rin ang family mo. Si Mrs. Dela Rosa, ang magiging balae namin ni Roberto, and your uncle and cousins. Welcome to our family, Maya! Heto pala ang Papa mo, Ricky.”
“Ricky, son, congratulations. Maya, welcome to our family, hija.” A smiling Don Roberto said. “Gaya ng sabi nitong Mama mo Ricky, Maya, we are looking forward to meeting you again as my son’s fiancée. Soon, hopefully!”
“Mama, Papa, thank you for this. Maya and I are very happy that you are sharing this moment with us, kahit po nandiyan kayo at the other side of the world.” Richard said happily. “Ma, here o.” Grinning, he showed his Mama the ring on Maya’s finger.
“Oh, oh, that’s so beautiful, son! Maya, hija, you are so beautiful, and I’m happy to see the love between you and my son. Kitang-kita ko iyan kahit dito sa screen ng laptop. Masayang-masaya kami para sa inyong dalawa! Kailan ba ang kasal?”
“Thank you po Tita Esmeralda, Mr. Lim, for sharing this wonderful evening with Ricky and me.” Maya said. “I’m also looking forward to meet you, again, as Ricky’s fiancee. Thank you po talaga, sa pagtanggap sa pamilya ninyo. Hindi pa po namin napag-uusapan ni Ricky iyong date.”
“Maya, hija, bakit ‘Tita Esmeralda’ and ‘Mr. Lim’, call us Mama and Papa. Magiging anak ka na rin namin, di ba, Roberto.”
“Yes, yes, Maya hija. Call me Papa.” Don Roberto said smiling.
“Thank you po, Mama, Papa.” Maya said, still getting used to calling Richard’s parents that.
“Thank you, Ma, Pa. You don’t know how happy you have made Maya and me. I was not expecting this. Kahit akong may pasimuno ng surprises na ito kay Maya, na-surprise din, hahahaha. Saka, we will let you know po kung kailan ang wedding.”
“Di ba, son! I’m happy also na naisipan ito ni Fe, with the help of Maya’s very nice friend, si Doris. I hope the wedding is soon. Sabik na kami ng Papa mo na magkaapo ulit!”
“Talaga po!” Richard and Maya both said, looking at Manang Fe and Doris, who waved at them, grinning broadly like co-conspirators.
“Kayo po at si Nanay Tessie, pareho ang sabi sa amin!” Richard added, grinning, then looked at Maya teasingly. She just smiled lovingly at him.
“Great son! The more, the merrier ha.” Donya Esmeralda said happily. “Since kausap na namin kayo, may we meet also Maya’s mom, nang kahit paano naman makilala namin ang magiging balae namin ni Roberto, and also we would like to say hello to our apo.”
Richard fetched Nanay Tessie and Abby. With Abby on her lap, and Maya and Richard behind them, Nanay Tessie met her balaes through the wonders of modern technology! The Lims and Nanay Tessie chatted for several minutes, hitting off instantly. They promised to have dinner, both families, as soon as the Lims are back in the Philippines. Abby also chatted with her grandparents and told them that her Daddy and her new Mommy will give her six brothers and sisters! The adults laughed, with Maya blushing anew, and Richard grinning broadly and naughtily at her.
Richard and Maya thanked Doris and Emman, also Manang Fe, for setting up this wonderful surprise after they ended the Skype session with the Lims. Doris told them that Grace was supposed to be included in that. However, she was on call at the hospital where she works as a surgeon and she had to do an emergency operation an hour before the Skype call they set up. She wanted to have it relayed to Maya and Richard her congratulations, and a promise that she will call later or the following day!
“Bago po tayo magtapos dito sa La Casa Antigua, ngayong gabi, how about a dance from our newly engaged couple, Ms. Maya Dela Rosa-soon-to-be Lim and her fiance, Mr. Richard Lim.” Doris said.
Richard and Maya looked at each other lovingly. They went to the center of the makeshift dance floor and much to their delight, the strains of the waltz they danced to earlier started filling the room.
“My lady, our dance!”
“Yes, indeed, my lord!”
They danced like it was just the two of them in the whole universe! When the music was ending, Richard and Maya shared another sweet kiss.
“I love you very much, Mrs. Lim-to-be!”
“I love very much too, my Mr. Lim!”
Maya and Richard whispered lovingly to each other before facing their loved ones, and executing a deep bow. They thanked them for sharing this wonderful moment with them. Everybody clapped and started humming a wedding march. Richard and Maya grinned, looked at each other with all the love and happiness they were feeling. Indeed, it was a night to tell, not only to their children and grandchildren, but to their great-grandchildren!
Note: ❤ ❤ ❤