“That was really good, Maya!” Ricky said happily after he had finished his second serving of Maya’s champorado. “The best champorado I tasted, swear! And the coffee is the best tasting too! If you are serving this brew in your cafe, then I definitely will have to go there everyday when I return to Manila and get my fix!”
“You’re welcome, Ricky. I’m glad you like it. I do hope you can check out the cafe when you return to Manila. I’ll be happy if you will drop by one day. Let me know lang ha, then I will personally give you a tour and play barista for you. Pero baka malayo sa office mo iyong cafe ko?” Maya said with a big smile, happy that Ricky loves the food she prepared. “Malapit pala sa Makati Avenue iyong cafe/gallery.”
“Oh, then I will definitely be there very often, kahit everyday! Two streets lang ang head office ng Lim Corporation from Makati Avenue. Saka even if malayo, I will go there, just to see you and taste your wonderful coffee!” Ricky said, giving Maya a charming smile, then he remembered something. “Wait, I think I know your cafe, or least I know which one it is! Is your cafe the one with floor to ceiling windows, with a big mural on the ground floor, and had a purplish decor, with pastel-colored chairs?”
“Yes, that’s the one! Nakapunta ka na sa Cafe Arts?” Maya asked, surprised. She can’t recall ever seeing Ricky there. If she had, she is one hundred percent sure that she will remember. But baka rin naman wala siya noong nagpunta sa cafe si Ricky. Hindi naman siya nasa cafe all the time. She and Emman take turns in manning the cafe. She has to divide her time between the cafe and the gallery on the second floor din.
“No, no, I haven’t been inside! Nadadaanan ko lang pauwi. I live in Rockwell kasi. Pero I have been meaning to check it out.” Ricky explained. “Mahilig din kasi ako sa coffee and I like trying out coffee shops na hindi part ng big chains, para kasing mas personal and mas less commercialized ang coffee. Saka parang your cafe looks very interesting from the outside.”
“I agree with you on that. Iyon din ang reason namin ni Emman, who is my business partner and a good friend from college, why we decided to put up the coffee shop. Lahat ng beans namin, we make sure na freshly ground, locally source, saka the best, and the food, personally taste-tested namin. Kasama rin sa menu namin ang best recipes namin na dati family and friends lang ang nakakatikim ng paulit-ulit at parating nire-request sa amin. Iyon ang mga bestseller namin. The two of us also enrolled in a barista school para mas alam namin ang ginagawa namin.” Maya said. “Then since art is my other passion, we combined it with that. Emman is into photoraphy naman so some of his works are also on display at the cafe and the gallery.”
“That’s great, Maya. I’m sure that cafe and gallery is a success. Every time I passes by, maraming tao. That’s one of the reasons why I was unable to check it out. Puno na also ang parking spaces ninyo pati.”
“Oh! Well, since we know each other na, please text me if you will be at the cafe, we can have coffee at my own private space there. There is actually a small garden at the back, away from the street which I uses, just to paint and take a break, enjoying my coffee in solitude” Maya said. “Tapos, there is a vacant parking space pa sa assigned slots ko kasi walang kotse si Emman. He lives nearby and just walks from his place to the cafe!”
“Okay, I will do that. I’m really looking forward to that.” Ricky said, then gave Maya, a lopsided smile that made her heart beat faster. “I’ll make sure na nandoon ka talaga.”
“I’m looking forward to that too, Ricky.” Maya smiled back at Ricky, then took a sip of her coffee, looked at the beautiful view before them, and sighed, content. “This is very nice! It is very nice here, like this. I’m glad I took the trip here to Ilocos.”
Ricky gazed at Maya intently as he sipped his coffee, then said softly. “I’m glad you did, Maya. I’m glad I did, too.”
The two of them gazed at each other without them intending to. It was Maya who broke the contact, getting self-conscious and feeling her face turning red from the look Ricky was giving her, not to mention the fast beating of her heart. Sa lakas ng kabog, feeling niya naririnig na ni Ricky. She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Plano mo ba talagang magbakasyon here, or like me, this is a spur-of-the-moment decision?”
Ricky was about to take another sip of coffee, but stopped for a while, and pondered Maya’s question. He stared at the view before him without really seeing anything. Then he looked at Maya again, and smiled. “I guess like you, this is a wonderful spur-of-the-moment decision, one that I seldom make. I’m not what you call a very impulsive person. I just needed to get away from everything for a while, then I suddenly thought about this place. So, one evening, I packed my bags, then drove straight to this place.”
“Wow, you drove all the way! It must have been very tiring! ” Maya said. “I flew to Laoag and then just traveled by land from the airport there. Hindi ko nga kabisado masyado. I just asked people for directions. Mababait naman ang mga napagtanungan ko. It was a good experience and a small adventure na rin.”
“It was. I only stopped for coffee and toilet break, then balik sa pagda-drive. Luckily, since gabi naman, traffic was light and mas mabilis akong nakarating, unlike kung daytime ako nagbiyahe. Pero, nevertheless, nakakapagod pa rin since I haven’t done that before. Kaya nga I was sleeping kahapon, nung napagkamalan mo akong multo.” Ricky grinned, remembering that incident. The loud crash of thunder and lightning woke him up, then Maya’s scream. When he checked and caught a glimpse of Maya standing in the living room, she literally took his breath away, she looked so lovely, standing in the living room like that.
“Hahahaha, I will not be able to live it down, do I? Sigurado na ako na you will not forget ever meeting me, hahahaha.” Maya said in return, laughing. “I must have looked very silly, and probably you thought, what is this crazy girl doing in my living room!”
“Maya, kahit naman hindi like that ang meeting natin, I don’t think I will ever forget meeting you.” Ricky said plainly, gazing at Maya again, with that look that makes her heart skipped a beat. “Really, I’m glad that we have met each other here, of all places. Pero, I think if not here, we will meet also, eventually, in your cafe. Baka we are fated to meet talaga.”
Maya suddenly took a sip of her coffee, getting flustered. She smiled at Ricky. “I’m glad to have met you too here, Ricky. And yes, we would have probably meet in my cafe, if not here. I usually chat with our regulars when I have time and they are not in a hurry!”
Richard was about to ask Maya what she was planning to do for the rest of the day, when his mobile phone rang, breaking the lovely moment between them. He had a pretty good idea on who was calling, but still, he stood up and checked, to be sure. Baka may emergency sa office niya. He confirmed who was calling, he was right so he let it his phone rang without answering the call. It rang again, and again.
“Ricky, hind mo ba sasagutin iyong call mo, baka importante.” Maya asked, unable to stop herself after the third time. She was very curious and at the same time wondering why Ricky was ignoring the phone call!
“The truth is, I can’t deal with it right now, Maya. One of the reasons why I am here. It is not an emergency call. Besides, I have told my personal assistant that I will take several days off and I am not to be disturbed unless it is a life and death situation. I have left the company in the very capable hands of my chief legal officer, who also happens to be a university friend.” Ricky finished. “I’m sorry, that is all I can say about the matter.”
“It’s okay, Ricky, I understand.” Maya nodded, then looked at Ricky, “But if you need someone to talk to, I’m just here, okay. We may not know each other that long and you don’t really know me, but you can trust on my discretion. Sometime it also helps when you share your burden with someone, kapag merong nakinig.”
“Thank you, Maya. I will, kapag medyo nakapag-isip na ako.” Ricky said. “I may not know you that long, in fact yesterday lang pala tayo nagkakilala! And yet, I feel like I have known you for a long, long time. For now, let us just enjoy Ilocos.”
Maya was startled at what Ricky said as she felt the same. “Pareho tayo, like I have said din yesterday. I guess partly because of our grandparents shared past. Saka I have read somewhere na may mga ganoon daw talaga na instances na parang matagal mo nang kilala ang isang tao, kahit you just meet each other. On the other hand, meron naman na kasa-kasama mo araw-araw, and yet at some point, you would realized that you don’t really know that person at all!” Maya finished her statement with a shrug. “I believe so.”
“I also believe that Maya.” Then changing the topic, Ricky asked Maya what he was supposed to ask her before Lorraine’s call. He had been avoiding her calls and has been deleting her text messages. Good thing, he didn’t tell anyone where he would be! “What is your plan, pala for the rest of the day? May gagawin ka ba?”
“Hmmmm, nothing important naman! I was just planning to walk around and sketch, look for inspiration for my painting.” Maya replied. “Bakit?”
“I was just thinking that we could drive around and explore the area. That way rin baka, may makuha kang inspiration. We can stop anytime na may makita kang interesting na pwede mong i-sketch. Then we can have lunch in Vigan or somewhere else na madaanan nating interesting. What do you think? Will you spend the day with me?” He asked beseechingly. He, very much wanted to spend the day with Maya. He wanted to get lost in her lovely company, instead of thinking about Lorraine and the issues he escaped from.
“Sure, Ricky, I would love to. Plan ko rin talaga to explore the area.” Maya said happily. “What time are we leaving? I need to get my sketch pad from the house, also my camera, and I need to change into more comfortable clothes for walking and exploring. Can we meet in an hour or so?”
Ricky smiled at Maya’s enthusiasm and he was really glad that she had agreed. He likes her company. “Well, we can leave anytime. I’ll just change and get ready din, then we can drive to your house and get your stuffs!”
“Okay!” Maya grinned, really looking forward to spending the whole day with Ricky.
Half an hour later, Maya and Ricky stopped at the Dela Paz beach house to drop off their breakfast basket and to get Maya’s things for their day trip.
“Ricky, this is Manang Miring, iyong caretaker namin dito, kasama nung anak niyang si Dorina.” Maya introduced Ricky to the old lady. “Manang Miring, si Ricky po iyong nakatira diyan sa bahay ng mga Lim. Bahala na po muna kayo sa kanya, magbibihis lang ako at kukunin ko ang mga gamit ko, mamamasyal kami ni Ricky. Ricky, sandali lang ha.”
“Sure, Maya. Take your time, we have the whole day.” Ricky said, then offered his hand to Manang Miring. “Kumusta po kayo, Manang?”
“Mabuti naman po, Sir Ricky. Apo po ba kayo ni Mr. Ricardo Lim?” Manang Miring asked curiously. “Kamukhang-kamukha ninyo po siya kasi.”
“Opo, Manang. Pero namatay po siya bago ako ipanganak, so hindi ko na rin siya inabutan.” Ricky replied. “Kilala ninyo po si Lolo Ricardo?”
“Tatang ko po si Berting Sotelo, iyong dati ninyong caretaker, na yumao na ilang taon na ang nakakalipas. Pinsan ko naman po si Kuya Tunying na kasalukuyang nagbabantay ng beach house ninyo.” The old lady explained. “Naalala ko po kasi ang lolo ninyo. Noong bata po kasi ako, ilang beses ko po siyang nakitang naglalakad sa beach, binigyan niya pa nga po ako ng chocolate one time. Pero pagkalipas po ng ilang araw mula noon, umalis na rin siya at hindi na nabalik dito.”
“Ganoon po ba. Natutuwa naman po ako na malaman.” Ricky said with a smile. The Sotelos have been taking care of their vacation home since it was built, according to his grandmother. “Madalang po kasi akong mapunta rito kaya hindi siguro tayo nagkakilala dati.”
“Sandali lang po pala, Sir Ricky. Ikukuha po kayo ng maiinom.” Manang Miring said. “Kape po? Masarap po iyong kape na ginawa ni Ma’am Maya.”
“Naku, huwag na po, Manang. Katatapos lang po naming mag-breakfast ni Maya. Two cups na nga po ng coffee ang nainom ko ng masarap na coffee ni Maya. Nagdala po siya kanina, kasama noong champorado and tuyo na the best sa lahat ng natikman ko. Thank you po. Saka paalis na rin po kami ni Maya. Hintayin ko na lang po si Maya rito.”
“O sige po, Sir. Kayo ang bahala. Ang aga nga pong nagising ng batang iyan. Sabi ko, ako na ang magluluto. Siya na raw po.” The old lady told Ricky. “Maiwan ko po muna kayo.”
Ricky looked around Maya’s house. It looks so much nicer and different from the Lim vacation house. The house feels familiar to him, as if he had been here before. He was still looking around, when Maya returned to the living room, wearing a white, sleeveless blouse and maong shorts that shows off her endless legs. Her hair was in pony tail and she was not wearing any make-up at all. She has a small backpack with her and her sketch pad in her hand.
“Ricky, sorry, natagalan ako. Ready na ako.” Maya said with a big smile, unaware of how lovely she looks and how Ricky’s heart lurched seeing her like this.
Ricky gulped, then took a deep breath, and gazed at Maya with admiration. “It’s okay, Maya. It was not that long and I liked looking at your beautiful house. And by the way, you look very lovely.” He finished with one of his lopsided smiles.
Maya blushed a bit. “Thank you, Ricky. This is my comfort clothes.” She then looked around the house. “I like this house very much as well. Pagpasok ko palang dito, pagdating ko, parang ang saya-saya ko. I fell in love with the house. Kung pwede nga lang, I woud live here all year round. Kaso nga lang kasi, ang layo sa Maynila. Someday, I will. Anyway, I can just come here very often.”
“The house feels familiar to me also. Baka rin naman sobra ko lang naisip ang laman ng diary ng grandparents natin. I remember reading the description of this place by Lolo Ricardo.”
“Oo nga, pala. Ilang beses din siyang nakapunta rito.” Maya replied. “Shall we get going. Ricky? Sandali lang magpapaalam lang ako kay Manang Miring.”
Several minutes after they said good-bye to Manang Miring, Ricky and Maya were on their way. They opted to travel towards the direction of the Santa Maria Church, their first stop, then traveling farther north towards Vigan and beyond.
Both Maya and Ricky felt an excitement that they can explain as they start their journey. From time to time, as if they can’t help themselves, they gazed at each other, and with smiles on their faces, look at the beautiful scenery before them, both felt their heart singing by just being in each other’s company.
Note: This used to be Chapter 4 before the revision I did. Please see the Richard and Maya folder index Library for the revised chapters! 🙂