Maya walked around the grounds of the majestic Sta. Maria Church, looking for Ricky. She thought he would still be inside the church where she had left him earlier to look for a toilet. But she can’t blame him if he decided to walk around while waiting for her as she was gone for a while! It took her a long time to return to him as an old lady chatted her up after she had used the toilet. When she asked, the old lady told her some very interesting and fascinating facts about the beautiful, centuries-old church that she and Ricky have been exploring for the past hour or so. She forgot the time.
Maya saw Richard sitting on the low outer fence of the church gazing at the magnificent view before him after she walked through the old archway to the left from the front door of the church. From where he was, Maya can see up to the vast mountain range and beyond, as the church was on a hill, overlooking the whole town at one side, and the mountains on this side. Ricky looks so handsome even in profile, and Maya was unable to help herself, she took out her camera and took a photo of him, itching to sketch him like this. She was about to take another one, when Ricky, as if sensing her presence, turned and upon seeing her, gave her a beautiful, bone-melting lopsided smile. Maya pressed the button of her camera at that instant. It was the perfect shot!
“Sorry, I just have to take a photo of you. Two now, actually! “ Maya smiled at Ricky, apologetic. “You looked so serene and at peace while you gazed at that wonderful view.”
“It is okay, Maya. I don’t mind.” Ricky said smiling, standing up, then taking hold of Maya’s hand and guided her towards where he was sat earlier, facing the church this time. “Are you done? Sorry, I went out of the church. My phone rang. Then I saw this place, walked here as I attended to my call. Work. But it is okay now. I shouldn’t be disturbed for the next couple of days. It is very beautiful and peaceful here. I lost my sense of time. Besides, I know you will be able to find me.”
“Yes, sorry, natagalan ako. Napakwento kasi ako sa isang taga-rito, a retired teacher, after kong mag-bathroom. Nakakatuwa and fascinating ang mga kwento niya. Hindi ko namalayan ang oras.”
“That’s okay, Maya. Basta laid back lang naman itong lakad natin. No hurry. Kung saan tayo makarating and ano ang ma-encounter natin sa adventure natin na ito. So, what would you like to do next? Have you taken enough pictures?” Ricky asked, reluctant to leave the place where they were, actually.
“Hmmm, it’s kinda nice here. Why don’t we sit for a while and chat! Since sabi mo nga, laid back lakad ang whatever strikes our fancy. But wait lang ha.” Maya took something from her backpack, and out came a slim thermos. She also took out two styro cups from her bag. “Here, I brought us coffee. Ito iyong inihabol ni Manang Miring noong paalis na tayo kanina.”
“Wow, nagkasya ang mga iyan sa bag mo!” Ricky smiled as Maya poured him a cup of steaming coffee, then poured herself one too. “But this is wonderful Maya, especially with this breathtaking view before us and most of all, the company I’m sharing this moment with.” He finished as he gazed at her intensely. “Thank you for this Maya.”
Maya felt her face flushing. She took a big gulp of her still scalding coffee. Her heart skipping a beat! She composed herself and smiled sweetly at Ricky. “You’re welcome, Ricky. Mabuti naalala ko kaninang paalis na tayo. “
Maya turned and looked at the beautiful view before her, sat cross-legged and sighed contentedly. This is the life, she thought. This beauty, and this guy who makes my heart beat faster by my side. She was very much at peace at that moment.
Ricky was thinking the same. After the upheaval in his life recently, he never thought that he would find this tranquility, this contentment, and this was mainly because of the beautiful and vibrant lady sharing this moment with him!
Ricky and Maya chatted about every topic they could think of while sitting on the fence. At times, they would share a hearty laughter at some anecdotes the other had told. To the onlookers, they looked so happy to be together. They also thought that they were two lovers having a wonderful time.
Their moment there ended when Maya’s tummy made a hungry sound.
“Uh, oh…” She said with a smile.
“Mine too, Maya.” Ricky said. He looked at the time and realized and that it was way past their lunch time. In fact, it was almost snack time. Time passed like a blur with Maya by his side.
“Oo nga, hindi natin namalayan ang oras!” Maya remarked. She felt very happy.
“Come, let’s go for a place to it. I wonder where we can eat!”
“Hmmmm, why don’t we look around at the small restaurants I noticed below, sa kabilang part ng road, and have some empanada. I only tasted the ones from a restaurant in Manila, and also at one of the stalls at the Sunday market I sometimes go to.” Maya suggested. “For sure, mas masarap iyong mga nandito.”
“Okay. Medyo ginugutom na nga rin ako. I haven’t empanada in a while nga rin.” Richard jumped out of the fence and extended his hand to Maya. He didn’t let go of her hand while they walked towards the direction of the more than 80 steps going down.
“Wait, Ricky. Sandali lang. Selfie tayo with the church and then the bell tower, and also the town in the background. It’s really very beautiful and unique church. Wala pa tayong photos together to document this part of our adventure.” Maya then took out her iPhone and with Ricky’s arm slung over her shoulder, she took their first photo together. They have huge grins on their faces, and she had captured it perfectly when she checked the shot.
For the second and third shots, a fellow tourist offered to take it for them. Unbeknown to them, the third one, where they found themselves looking at each other instead of their volunteer photographer, they had such a look of love on their faces. In fact, Cris, the guy who offered to take their photos, called their attention twice before they reacted and broke their gazes.
Ricky had to blink twice. It sounded like this thing happened before. Not the picture-taking, but the two of them, standing in front of the church, gazing at the view before them and as if a magnetic field was pulling them towards each other. In fact, it was so vivid that he felt they were about to kiss!
“Ricky, Ricky, uy Ricky Lim! Are you okay?” Maya asked, waving her hand on Ricky’s face, breaking into his bemused expression.
“Sorry, Maya! I just had another deja vu moment! It is really strange!” Ricky said, then shaking his head and shrugging off, he took hold of Maya’s hand, then thanked Cris, and he escorted her down the steep steps down.
Several minutes after, Ricky and Maya were sitting in a simple wooden table with and monobloc chairs, a far cry from the fancy restaurants that probably Ricky Lim is used to, eating the most delicious empanada they have ever tasted. Both of them opted to eat it with two cold cans of Coke. They were in food heaven. Thanking the owner of the place, an hour later, with tummies full, they journeyed on towards the direction of Vigan.
Maya and Ricky arrived in Vigan late afternoon after stopping several times along the way as there were a lot of places that caught Maya’s interest. One of their stops was at Quirino Bridge, where they took lots of pictures, walked a bit and marvelled at its beauty before journeying on again.
“Naku, hindi na tayo makakaabot ng Paoay nito, Ricky. Sayang. Medyo gabi na. Saka, sayang naman kung mamadaliin natin itong Vigan. Parang ang ganda-ganda pa namang libutin. But I guess, we can always take another trip back.” Maya said as Ricky parked the car in front of a beautiful old house converted into a hotel. There was a cafe inside which they would like to check before they walk around Calle Crisologo. She and Ricky need another coffee fix and according to the information they found online, this one has the best coffee and the ambience is old world, like you really had traveled back in time!
“Oo nga. Sana pala, we brought clothes na lang and planned a two-day road trip.” Ricky said offhand, then thought hard, and impulsively said, “But why not? Are you doing anything else? Damit lang naman and stuffs ang hindi natin dala. Madali namang solusyunan yon! What do you think?”
“Wala naman. Sabi ko naman sa iyo, laid back vacation time ko lang ito.” Maya said smiling, liking the impulsive idea as well. “What do you have in mind?”
“Well, I’m thinking. We can hit the nearest shop, let’s buy what we need for several days, then take a road trip, hanggang Pagudpud. We can stay here overnight. Then travel to Laoag and Paoay tomorrow, stay at Fort Ilocandia for the night, then to Pagudpud, for two days. What do you think?”
“Sounds like a great idea! I haven’t tried this before. Okay.” Maya said promptly. While she has not known Ricky that long, she found herself instinctively trusting him, kahit noong una pa lang. She just can’t explain it. “In fact, I like this place, before we have coffee, let’s check if they have rooms for us.”
“Okay. Great.” Ricky got out of the car, then opened Maya’s door. With his hand on her back, he escorted her inside the beautiful hotel.
“Good afternoon, Sir, Ma’am!” The staff at the reception greeted them when they approached.
“Good afternoon! We don’t have a reservation, but we would like two standard rooms please, for an overnight stay….Allen.” Ricky said, checking the guy’s nameplate.
“Oh, I’m sorry Sir. All our standard rooms are taken, pati na po ang iba naming rooms. Bukod po sa peak season ngayon dito sa Vigan, na-booked pa po for a regional conference ng isang company from Manila. But wait po….” Allen said, as he remembered something the staff he relieved told him. After double-checking, he said, “Kung gusto ninyo po, may isa pong family suite na naging available kasi nag-cancel iyong guest namin due to an emergency. Dalawa pong queen na bed ang nandoon.”
Ricky nodded, then looked at Maya and asked. “Maya…? He left the decision to her. “We can also look for rooms in another hotel.”
“Naku Sir, and sorry to butt in, pero kasi po baka po mahirapan kayo ni Mam. I heard from some of the others that they are also fully-booked. Pero baka rin po meron pa ang ibang inn, B & B na medyo malayo na rito sa center na may bakante pang rooms.” Allen said, trying to he helpful. “If you want po, I can make calls for you, if you want two separate rooms.”
Maya, who has not shared a room with a guy, well except Emman, but does not count as they are more like sisters, him being openly gay, thought for a moment, then nodded, coming to a decision. “No need, Allen. Thank you. Okay, Ricky, let’s take the room.” She must be crazy, but she does trust Ricky. In all the time she had been with him, he acted like a perfect gentleman. Besides, she can take care of herself, if the need arises. Her Lolo Jaime insisted that she took self-defense classes after one of his friend’s daughter almost got raped while going home late at night, when she took a cab. Besides, they are just sharing a room, not a bed!
Ricky booked the room under his name. When Allen asked if he can help them with their luggage, Ricky said, they will take care of it later. Instead, they asked to be directed to the cafe of the hotel.
Entering the cafe, Maya and Ricky felt like they have stepped back in time. The place is decorated in antique pieces, from the tables and chairs to the lamps adorning the place. The reviews were right. After their coffee and pastries were served, and they had their first few sips of their coffee, Ricky spoke what was in his mind. He wanted to reassure Maya.
“Maya, is our arrangement okay with you? I mean, us sharing a room? Just tell me please. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable with the set-up. We can always check the other hotels if they have vacancies. I’m sure marami namang ibang accommodation dito sa Vigan.” Ricky said, then looking earnestly at Maya, he said. “I just want you to know that I will not do anything that would make you uncomfortable.”
“Ricky, it is okay. Otherwise, I would have not said yes. Yes, I must admit, this is the first time I would be sharing a room with a guy, except for Emman, my partner in the cafe, but he does not count, as he is gay. But for some reason, and don’t ask me why, as I can’t explain either, I trust you, really. Sabi ko naman sa iyo before di ba, na pakiramdam ko matagal na tayong magkakilala.” Maya assured Ricky, then smiling, she teased him. “Besides, I can take care of myself. My Lolo Jaime insisted that I took some self-defense training.”
Ricky smiled at that, but turned serious as he looked at Maya. “Thank you for trusting me Maya. I will not violate that trust, I promise. Hindi mo na kailangang i-practice sa akin whatever you had learned in self-defense training.”
Maya grinned, then said softly, “I know, Ricky. I just know.”
Over the rims of their coffee cups, Maya and Ricky shared a gaze, a silent understanding between them. When they had their fill, they asked Allen for directions to the shopping complex where they could buy the clothes and supplies for their impromptu road trip/vacation.
Deciding not to take the car, they opted to walk towards the shops via Calle Crisologo. Both of them looking forward to the next chapter of their unplanned adventure. Both of them can’t explain the level of anticipation and happiness they were feeling at that moment.