Archive for December, 2015
Have a great celebration with your loved ones! I’m having a low-keyed, laid-back, wonderful celebration at home with my husband and daughter. Updates soon! Thank you so much for the love and support! Good vibes as always!
“Maya, would you like to go for a walk along the shoreline?” Ricky asked Maya while gesturing towards the lake, which by then was looking more splendid under the late afternoon sun. “Medyo malamig na, so I think okay nang bumaba sa may shoreline. Pagkatapos, we can travel na to Fort Ilocandia.”
Ricky and Maya had been sitting at the bench overlooking Paoay Lake for almost an hour by then. Mainly, they just talked about what would be their activities for the next day, and until they return to their beach places in two days time. As if by tacit agreement they didn’t discuss Lorraine anymore and the things she could possibly do. They refused to have her mar their precious moments together.
Maya also took the time to call Emman while they were at the lake. She had been meaning to give him a call, not to check on how things were, but rather to ask him if it was okay for her to stay a couple of days more in Ilocos, and to let him know that she can’t give him a date yet on when she will return to Manila. Emman assured Maya she does not have a thing to worry about and she can stay in Ilocos as long as she wanted. However, Maya noticed something different in Emman’s voice when she was about to say goodbye, like he was sick. Upon her prodding, he admitted that he had been having on and off fever for a day before she called. However, he assured her that he will be okay as he had taken a strong flu medicine already. Emman insisted to Maya that he will be okay, and that she knows naman that he does not really get sick for a long period of time. Maya was pacified, as it has been the case in the past few times that Emman was sick. However, she made Emman promised that if he gets worse, he will see a doctor and call her so she can return to Manila promptly. One of them is really needed to run the cafe and the gallery if it is going to be for several days. For a day or two, their assistant, Miranda can take over.
Ricky asked Maya if there was a problem after she had put down the phone. Maya assured him that everything was okay. She just made mentioned that Emman is a bit sick. But knowing Emman, Maya assured Ricky that he will be okay soon. He rarely gets sick and when he does, he recovers fast, she told Ricky. They returned to the topic they were discussing at that time, and that was whether they will try the ATV at the Paoay Sand Dunes, then to another one, not noticing the time really, until Ricky gazed at the lake and noticed that the sun was lower and it has gotten cooler.
“I would love to, Ricky! I want to take some pictures too. I think I know the best spots below to take those.” Maya said, smiling at Ricky.
Ricky offered his hand to her, which she took promptly. It became an automatic thing for them by then, as if their hands have a life of their own and are always seeing the other. Hand in hand, they walked back to the open hut, then descended to the open wooden platform below it. Ricky guided Maya all throughout by holding on tight to her hand and putting his other hand on her back or elbow. “Careful Maya, some of the wooden slats seemed to be a bit loose and rickety.”
“Okay. Thanks a lot, Ricky.” Maya gave Ricky a brilliant smile, then temporarily let go of his hand, walked slowly by the side of the platform and took several pictures. She then asked Ricky to pose of her. Ricky smiled at her, a bit self-conscious, as generally, he does not want having his picture taken, especially if he was going to pose for it alone. But for Maya, he did, a bit awkwardly in the beginning.
“Perfect, thanks a lot, Ricky.” Maya said happily after she has done clicking on her seemingly complicated camera several times. “You know, if you are not a CEO, you could make a living by doing commercial modelling, print ads, TV, and even the runway!”
“Oh no, not that! I’m happy where I am, Maya! I’m not really comfortable posing for a picture, much more being on display like that!” Ricky said with a laugh, then gazed at Maya thoughtfully. “But for you, sure I will, anytime. In any pose you want,” he teased.
Maya blushed at the way Ricky is looking at her. “Thank you, Ricky.” She managed to say breathlessly.
“Okay, it’s my turn. I want to take a photo of you, as well.” Ricky said.
Now it is Maya’s turn to get self-conscious. She fidgeted with her camera. She is not also into posing for a photo or for a painting. It is always the other way around. “Errrr…..”
“Come on, Maya.” Ricky cajoled, asking her to hand over the camera to him. Luckily, the model is similar to Miguel’s camera which he had borrowed before. “Fair is fair, you know.”
Maya smiled, handed over her camera, then asked Ricky softly, and a bit self-consciously where he wanted her. Hearing that, Ricky faltered, conjuring up another image, which he stamped out of his brain, as fast as the thought entered his consciousness. He gulped and with a voice a bit unsteady, he pointed to a spot with the lake in the background, near the flight of steps leading to the shore.
“Well, you can also make a living gracing the fashion magazines.” Ricky said. Maya would even be better than Lorraine in that. Maya has a loveliness in her that comes from within. It is in the way she moves and smiles, so full of life. Unlike Lorraine who looks like a mannequin most of the time. She is beautiful but in a cold kind of way and it was what got picked up by the cameras. For Maya, she has a face that the camera will love very much.
“Hahaha, I would rather work behind the camera, or behind a canvas, not in front of it.” Maya said demurely. The truth is she had been approach several times, in some instances through Emman, and asked if she would like to be a commercial model, but she declined.
“Okay, we are even then. No modelling career for the two of us!” Ricky said, smiling. “How about a picture of us, together, so I can have photos of us in my phone too.” He gave the camera back to Maya and took out his phone.
“Sure!” Maya said. The two of them posed for a selfie, and unlike in the Sta. Maria Church, there was no one who offered to take their photo. Aside from a group of Korean tourists who stopped by half an hour earlier, and the ladies manning the food kiosk, they had the whole lake to themselves, maybe it was because they were there on a weekday and that time of the year, not being the tourists season. “I will also make you a file of all our vacation photos when I return to Manila, save it on a flash drive and send it to your office.”
“Thanks a lot, Maya. But better, if I just drop by your cafe and take you up on your offer to have coffee there.” Ricky suggested, wanting to see Maya as often as he could.
“Great, then!” Maya smiled, happy with that thought that after Ilocos, Ricky and her will still see each other.
“Looking forwward to that.” He replied with a smile. “Come, let’s walk along the shoreline. Are your shoes good enough for walking there? Medyo kasi mabuhangin, unlike in other lakes’ shorelines na mabato. I don’t like to ruin a perfectly good pair of shoes, sayang naman.” Ricky asked Maya solicitously.
“Sure, Ricky. I’m sure my slip-on sneakers can take it.” Maya said, showing Ricky her sturdy and well-loved sneakers. “I would love to go there, and I’m sure it’s worth it.” She then pointed out the spots she wanted to explore.
Like earlier, Ricky escorted her down, holding her hand gently, and on her elbow, until he was sure that she was on firm grounds. Hands intertwined and with a companionable silence between them they walked the length of the shoreline, looking at the birds that gravitated towards the lake, then at the setting sun rays hitting the waters, and making it sparkle. When they had their fill, they returned to the car and traveled towards the direction of Fort Ilocandia, their next and final stop for the day. They have decided that they will just go to the sand dunes and Malacañang of the North the following day, even if those places are on their way to the resort.
In less than half na hour that they left the lake and after a lot of picture worthy scenery, Ricky took a left turn, at the road that says Fort Ilocandia is just four kilometres away from that turn-off.
Several minutes later, they were inside the hotel and resort complex. Ricky parked the car while Maya waited for him by the entrance. When he joined her, a beautiful lady, with a friendly smile, approached Ricky.
“Good to see you again, Mr. Lim.” Cristina Romero said. She had been watching out for him from the reception. He told her earlier the approximate time he and his companion would be there. Speaking of that, she was also very curious to see the special lady in Ricky Lim’s life. She looked at the lady standing beside him. Well, she is very lovely, and looks very graceful, she mused. She also has a smile that lit up her face. She must be lovely inside too. She has a kindness in her, and a confidence that bespoke of breeding and knowing her worth. There she goes again reading people, but in the hospitality business, it is a very useful skill. “Good afternoon, Ma’am. Welcome to Fort Ilocandia. I’m Cristina Romero.”
Maya offered her hand to Cristina. “Thank you, Ms. Romero. Nice to meet you, I’m Maya dela Rosa.”
Over the introductions, Ricky put his hand on Maya’s back. “Maya, Ms. Romero is the one I called up earlier to arrange for our stay here. She was the lady who arranged Lim Corporation’s last planning conference here, with my EA Liza.” Ricky explained. “She and Liza did a splendid job.”
Maya smiled and nodded in acknowledgement.
“Thank you Mr. Lim. We are happy to host Lim Corporation and count your company as one of our valued clients.” Cristina said. “Would you like something to drink, or go to your rooms? Marvin can assist you.”
“Maya?…” Ricky deferred to Maya.
“Oh the rooms please, Ricky. I want to freshen up first.” Maya said. She suddenly felt grubby after a whole day out in the sun.
“Okay, room it is.” Ricky said, then looked at Cristina while Maya was looking ahead, following Marvin who was helping them with their meager luggage.
Cristina smiled and made the thumb up signed. Ricky smiled back and mouthed a silent thank you, hastily checking if Maya noticed the exchange. He heaved a sigh if relief when he saw her chatting Marvin up. The guy looked smitten!
Marvin led them to a long courtyard with a beautiful landscaped garden, then to two adjoining rooms with a view of the beach. Marvin left them in the first room, after Ricky told him he can take it from there.
“I thought you might like your own room, Maya, since may mga bakante naman dito sa resort.” Ricky said, though he would really miss sharing a room with Maya. But there was no excuse for them to share one now and to assume that she would do so still. Technically, and in the scheme of things, they are just two friends, well more than friends on his part, sharing a wonderful time. Besides, he would like to court her properly. He respects her that much. “I’ll just be in the other room. Just knock if you need anything.”
“Sure, this is fine, Ricky.” Maya said, though at the back of her mind, she would have preferred to continue sharing a room with Ricky, for some reason. She will miss his presence on the other bed. She felt safe, knowing that he was just there. “I’m sure, you want your own room na rin.”
“Well, honestly, I’ll miss sharing a room with you.” Ricky said, gazing at Maya. “I’ll go to my room. Go rest and I’ll see you in hour. I’ll pick you up for dinner.” Then he was out of the room with a big smile before can Maya fully processed what he said.
Maya was still smiling, well feeling giddy actually as she took out her meager clothes from her shopping bag, half an hour later. She was unable to rest, feeling excited, for some unexplainable reason.
“Naku, what to wear kaya for dinner! Mukhang dressy pa naman ang kailangan sa place na ito.” She muttered while looking at the blouse and skirt she had bought in Vigan. A knock on the door, interrupted her. When she opened the door, she saw one of the hotel staff standing there.
“Good evening, Ma’am. For you po.” The girl proffered a big shopping bag with to Maya with her name on a white envelope attached to it.
Maya thanked the girl and carried the bag to her bed. She got the card, and she was right, the bag was from Ricky.
I thought we might dress up for dinner for a change. I hope I got your size right and the style is to your liking. I’ll see later. Someone will pick you up in an hour. I just needed to attend to something first. Looking forward to our special evening!
Maya felt her heart beating fast, reading the note, the feeling of anticipation of something momentous about to unfold getting stronger. She opened the shopping bag and in it, she saw a violet dress. She took it out completely, and gasped. It was so beautiful, and in the vintage style that she prefers. It has a sabrina neckline, made of lace, with a satin lining, a dainty bow cinching it at the waist, and adorned with beautiful beads!
“Oh my…..! Maya managed to say. Her first instinct was to call Ricky and tell him that the dress was too much. She had an inkling even without seeing the price tag that the dress cost a lot. But her inner self stopped her. She does want a special evening with him. She would just offer to pay for it later. He had already done so much for her!
Laying the beautiful dress on her bed, she went to the bathroom and got ready for her evening with Ricky. The feeling that something momentous was going to happen was too much in her mind, as she prepared for the special evening she was really looking forward to, in nervousness, in anticipation, and in giddiness. But whatever it is, she wouldn’t miss it for the world!
“Ricky, OMG! Sandali, stop, stop please!” Maya blurted out, touching Ricky’s arm and pressing it unconsciously in her excitement. “Wow!”
Ricky looked at Maya in surprise, and with a big smile, hearing the excitement in her voice, at the same time very curious at what set her off like that. Several seconds before that, they were just both humming a love song from the radio. He slowed down and parked the car by the side of the road. “Bakit, Maya? What is it?”
Maya grinned at him, very happy, and excitedly pointed to her right. “Look at that! It’s so beautiful! I never thought there is something like this here! Can we stop by for a while, please? Parang sayang naman kung hindi natin explore!”
Ricky looked closely at what Maya was pointing at. He grinned! Now, he understands why she got very excited. The lake is really beautiful, especially that afternoon as it shimmered under the intense afternoon sun! Oo nga pala, Paoay Lake is here, along this road! He quite forgot that in his excitement for his plan for that evening. He had been meaning to stop here and show the lake to Maya. “Sure, Maya! Let me just park the car properly!”
Ricky did that and several minutes after, they were at the open native hut overlooking the beautiful lake. There is an exposed wooden platform below that, then some steps leading to the white sandy shore with clumps of plants and grass on it. There were several boats with foot paddles that can sit two people, by the shoreline.
“So, beautiful! I can stare at it for hours!” Maya murmured, looking at the shimmering lake, seemingly mesmerized at its beauty. “Pwede pa yatang mag-boat! Nasaan kaya ang mga nagpapa-rent? Pero on the other hand, wala na tayong time for that, I think.”
“I agree, so very beautiful!” Ricky said softly, but instead of looking at the lake, he was looking at Maya. He was obviously not paying attention to the rest of what she had said. She glowed with excitement and happiness and she looked lovelier in his eyes.
Hearing the catch in his voice, Maya looked at Ricky. Instead of the lake she was admiring he was gazing at her intently. She blushed. “Ricky naman eh!” She managed to say.
“Maya, don’t be shy, you are beautiful and as serene as the lake before us. If the lake shimmer as it basks under the sun’s heat, you look so lovely and you glow, especially when you are happy and excited about something. Katulad na lang kanina sa Paoay Church. I like that about you, the way you joyfully embrace life and look at things with fresh eyes. It is infectious.” Ricky said gently. “And I’m just stating a fact ha.”
“Thank you, Ricky!” Maya said simply, unsure on how to take Ricky’s compliment. For a businessman, ha, he has a way with words, she mused. Sometimes, she feels everything is happening so fast, since she crossed path with Richard Lim III, just several days ago! She feels giddy and breathless most of the time, and somehow she needs a breather, like at that moment! Salvation came in the form of the board by the side of the hut that she spotted.
“Oh there is something there about the birds that has been sighted in the lake.” She blurted out, then moved towards it. “I’ll just check it out, pati na rin iyong nakasulat sa tabi noon na parang tungkol sa legend nitong lake yata.”
Ricky let her. He does not want Maya to feel uncomfortable. He followed her and read over her shoulder the legend of Paoay Lake. They stayed like that for several minutes, reading the tale. When Maya was finished, she smiled at Ricky. “Well, that was very interesting, and very biblical!”
“Yes, it is. But it makes for an interesting read talaga, and a lesson is in there.” Ricky said. “Would you like to go and sit by those benches there? It must be quite nice to just sit there for a while and enjoy the breeze coming from lake. Then kapag medyo malamig na, we can walk below, near the water’s edge. Don’t worry, we are not in a hurry. We have time. Malapit na lang naman dito ang Fort Ilocandia, ang last stop for the day natin. I have to make a phone call also. Bibili na rin ako ng water natin.”
“Okay. If you want to make that phone call now, I’ll buy the water and wait for you by the bench. That way, we can save time din. Baka kahapon ka pa rin hinihintay ng tatawagan mo.” She blurted out without meaning to, alluding to the calls he didn’t return or answer, then she tried to salvage her blunder, but made it worse! “I mean, errr, you did have missed calls yesterday, from Lorraine Tan ba iyon, baka importante rin katulad ng call ni Miguel! Oh sorry, Ricky didn’t mean to be such a busybody, but her name got stuck in my head kasi….” Maya stopped digging a grave for yourself, her rational self told her!
Ricky smiled and nodded. He just got confirmation that Maya is curious about his missed calls, but does not want to pry. He doesn’t know what made Maya blurt it out like that. But that is the opening he needed. Maybe, when they were resting at those inviting benches under the tree, he will finally be able to her about Lorraine.
“It is okay, Maya. No need to apologize. I’ll be along shortly.” Ricky said with smile, then moved to the side of the hut to make his phone call.
Maya, on the other hand, felt like wishing the earth will swallow her whole with her blunder. Maya naman kasi, baka akala ni Ricky tsismosa ka! She muttered. Ah, basta dedma na lang. This guy naman kasi, he is causing havoc to her equilibrium! Maya, kalma ka lang. Pero may kakaiba talaga kasi eh. What do I do? Bahala na nga si Batman, she muttered, then proceeded to the kiosk beside the hut to buy water. The lady manning the shop also told her they have halo-halo. Thinking that it would be a nice dessert to their big lunch earlier, she ordered two.
Ricky, still smiling, remembering a very flustered Maya, a couple of minutes ago, scrolled down on his phone directory and dialled his executive assistant’s number.
“Sir, so nice to hear from you! Akala ko ba incommunicado ka!” Liza greeted her boss with familiarity, as she had been his secretary, when he was the COO of the company. Sir Ricky brought her with him to the Office of the CEO when he was appointed to the position, and promoted her as his executive assistant. “Okay naman dito sa LC, Sir.”
“I know Liza, and I’m glad. I talked to Ryan the other day. Besides, I know I have left the office in his, and your, capable hands.” Ricky said. “The reason I called is I want to get the number of our contact at Fort Ilocandia. The one you coordinated with when you and Papa’s EA arranged our last planning session there.”
“Oh, si Cristina Romero, Sir.” Liza said, at the same time she was a bit puzzled, and yes, mighty curious why her boss is asking for the number after disappearing to parts unknown! He is in Ilocos, hmmmm. “Sandali lang Sir, I will check my phone directory. I’ll call you back in a minute.”
Liza hung up, looked for the number then sent the business card to her boss. “Natanggap mo Sir?” She asked when Ricky answered the phone again. “Nasa Ilocos ka pala, Sir?”
“Yes, got it. Thanks a lot, Liza.” Ricky said. “Oo, I’m in Ilocos. But not a word of my whereabouts to anyone, especially to Lorraine!” Ricky knows he can rely on Liza’s discretion and he does not want any confusion like what happened with Miguel.
“Sure, Sir, no worries!” Liza managed to say. So, all is not well in paradise! Kaya pala that spoiled princess, that’s what she calls Lorraine in her head, has been a pest lately, looking for her boss! She sometimes wonder what her boss sees in that spoiled princess, aside from her sexy body and beautiful face, but it is not for her to say anything about it. It is his life. And she will really be the last person to tell Lorraine where her boss is. “By the way, Sir, if you are going to Fort Ilocandia, I can handle the arrangement for you.” She offered last minute. It didn’t occur to her earlier.
“Oh, errrr, I will just do it myself.” Ricky managed to say. He was caught off guard with Liza’s offer. “I can handle it. Could you just tell Ms. Romero that I will be calling her in several minutes. Give my number also so she knows that it is me. Thanks a lot, Liza. I’ll let you know when I will be back.”
“Surely, Sir! I will do that.” Liza assured her boss, getting curious and more curious, but kept her counsel. She called her contact and aside from telling her that her boss will give her a call, she requested for her discretion in not disclosing to anyone where Ricky Lim is, as he would like some peace and quiet. Cris said, Liza does not have to request, but consider it done.
Several minutes after, Ricky called up Cristina Romero, and after some pleasantries, he requested two separate rooms for the evening, and a special request, which had Cristina smiling. Her romantic heart aflutter! Thinking that whoever the girl is, she is one very lucky lady. She had met the younger Lim before and found him very handsome.
Ricky pocketed his phone happily. Everything is going according to his plan! Well, except for the Lorraine issue. But Maya already gave him the opening to tell her about it. He really wanted to as he does not want any misunderstanding between them, especially if Lorraine cause trouble. He looked for Maya and saw her serenely looking at the lake.
“Maya, sorry, it took me a while.” Ricky greeted her as he sat beside her, instead of the bench across hers. “Wow, halo-halo! Something nice in this hot weather.”
Maya does not want to make much of Ricky sitting so close to her as where she was sitting offered at much better view of the lake, though it made her heart beat a little faster than usual. The bench is on the narrow side. But this, she also attributed to the fact, that Ricky’s nearness does that to her, every time!
“I thought you might like one as well!” Maya offered Ricky a long teaspoon, and then handed him his halo-halo! “They also have empanada, mukhang masarap. Would you like one?”
“Thank you, Maya. I’m still full from our heavy lunch earlier. This is more than enough. Ikaw, baka nagugutom ka. Ako na lang ang bibili for you.” Ricky offered.
“I’m good also. Thank you.” Maya smiled at Ricky, not sure, what to say next, so just dug into her halo-halo and stared at the lake.
“I’ve arranged our accommodation for this evening and tomorrow evening at Fort Ilocandia, Maya.” Ricky said, breaking the silence. “Iyon ang mga phone call na ginawa ko a while ago, and not to Lorraine.”
“Sorry, for that, Ricky! I didn’t mean to pry.” Maya said apologetically, looking up suddenly when he brought up the name she wished she hadn’t blurted out. Nakakahiya talaga!
“Like I have said, Maya, it is okay.” Ricky took hold of Maya’s hand, started caressing it absent-mindedly, gathering his thoughts and looking her in the eye. Better start at the beginning, he mused. “Remember, earlier, when I started telling you something, when we were at the garden at Paoay Church? It was actually about Lorraine. She is my ex-fiancee!….”
“Ex-fiancee….” Maya managed to say, at the same time, wondering why she kept calling Ricky if they have broken up already. She was almost sure that Lorraine was also the one calling Ricky while they were at the Lims’ beach place. Of all the things that Ricky will tell her, she was not expecting this. But she guessed, the fact that he is opening up to her like this is very important. She nodded, encouraging him to continue.
“Yes, we broke up three weeks ago. She is the reason why I am at the beach house. I just wanted to avoid her. She can’t quite accept the fact that we are done. She thought it was just like one of our fights before. You see, our relationship was a turbulent one. I was wrong to think that it can still be salvaged by our engagement. It was what our families had been angling for, and I guessed we went with the flow.”
Ricky took a sip of his water and continued.
“Lorraine and I grew up together. Our parents have been business partners and neighbors since we were kids. She was friends with my cousin Bettina, who was a year younger than me, and the cousin I was closest to. Bettina was the younger sister I didn’t have. Lorraine and I gotten closer when Bettina died at a very young age of drug overdose. We didn’t know she was taking drugs. The whole family was devastated! Lorraine said she didn’t know either. She took comfort from me, and I from her, until gradually, we became a couple. The two families were very happy with this development. We were together for five years. But looking back, I also wonder how we lasted that long considering we didn’t have much in common, except our love for Bettina. Lorraine told me that she had been in love with me since we were in our late teens. I thought I love her too. She can be sweet and caring, though looking back, it was a bit stifling at times. But still, there were our families to contend with. I thought with that we can make a life together. However, there was something missing which I can’t define even then.”
“Wala na talagang pag-asang magkabalikan kayo, Ricky. Sayang naman ang relationship ninyo. Baka after this trip, mas okay na kayong dalawa.” Maya said, though when she said that, she felt a pain in her heart.
“No, Maya. I’m quite sure of that. Otherwise, I would have not gone on this trip with you.” Ricky said frankly. “I would like to make that clear and hope that you will believe me.”
“I do believe you, Ricky. Wala ka namang ipinakita sa akin na iba maliban sa pagiging sobrang gentleman mo, and I think instinctively, I would know if I sense something off in you. Mahirap i-explain.” Maya said with a shrug.
“Thank you, Maya.” Ricky said gratefully. “You see, Maya, I’m sure now that I didn’t love her with a kind of love that we both deserve. It was not just because I caught her doing the unforgivable in my book. It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak!”
“What happened?” Maya asked gently.
“I caught her taking drugs while staying in my condo.” Ricky finally said, what he has not told another person. He was even unable to tell it to Miguel earlier. Only to Maya! “Prior to that, someone sent me a grainy photo of her snorting cocaine at a party. But when I confronted her, she denied it as she insisted it was just a photoshopped image of her. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, considering we both went through hell when Bettina died, I let it passed, though the gnawing thoughts that she might be taking drugs, lingered.
The night I found out that she was into recreational drugs, and fooling on me, I was supposed to be in a business trip, but it got cancelled last-minute as the guy I was supposed to meet in Bacolod had a heart attack. I took the return flight to Manila instead of staying the night in the city, and found her with one of the actors from her last play, snorting cocaine on our bed, I mean my bed. We don’t really live together, but she has been staying there most nights so we might as well had been.”
“Oh, God! It must have been very devastating for you to find out!” Maya said, pressing Ricky’s hand to offer comfort.
“To be honest, Maya. I didn’t feel any rage, just felt very numbed. At that time, aside from seeing her in bed with another guy, one of the first thoughts that entered my head after the initial shock was the question. how long has she been doing this and hiding it from me. I mean the drugs and cheating on me. She insisted that it was a new thing, just since she met that guy, Matt. She said it was just to take the edge of things – her parents wanting her to be perfect, her words, and also pressuring her to leave the theatre, especially now that she is about to become Mrs. Ricardo Lim III. They never like her doing it, but Lorraine she always get her way. Yes, maybe it was recent as I think I would have noticed if it has been going on for quite a period of time, the drugs, I mean. As for seeing the other guy, I didn’t even want to hear how they ended up together!
I told her the engagement is off and that she and me, we needed to part ways for good. She pleaded and pleaded as she was afraid of what her parents reaction would be. But Maya, I felt nothing for her. Maybe pity, not love anymore if there was even that, and it is not a foundation for a happily ever after. So, I ended up here and luckily, I met you.”
“Ricky, thank you for telling it to me. I hope everything will be okay in the end.” Maya touched Ricky’s distressed face.
“I hope so, Maya. I know so, actually. I want you to know rin, among other things, because there might be trouble, knowing Lorraine. But maybe not, since we are not going to Miguel’s place. Parang blessing in disguise na rin siguro na hindi tayo natuloy. You see, Maya, when Miguel called he told me that he accidentally met Lorraine in a bar in BGC last night. He thought she was with me, that it was her voice he heard over the phone when I was talking to him yesterday morning, so he accidentally asked her where I was as he had been trying to reach me to tell me about the problem at his parents’ place. He also assumed that Lorraine and I went back to Manila, aborting our trip. Sensing that he knows where I am, she cornered Miguel and managed to have him admit that I am in Ilocos. She does not know Miguel’s place, but knowing her, she’ll find it out from one of our friends. She might have a suspicion that I’m with someone, reading between the lines, kasi nga nadulas si Miguel.”
“Oh, she might follow you here, then! Do you think she really will do that and cause trouble?” Maya asked.
“I’m not sure. But with her frame of mind, she might. I would like to say sorry in advance, Maya, if ever you will get drag into something you didn’t bargain with.” Ricky told Maya apologetically. He does not really want her to be dragged into something ugly. Hindi pa nga siya nanliligaw ng formal, tapos Maya will experience something like that agad.
“It is okay, Ricky. I can take care of myself. I just hope that everything will be okay for you.” Maya said, wanting to assure Ricky that she will really be okay and that she is a big girl. She would like to be there for him. “I’ll just be here for you, no matter what.”
“Thank you, very much, Maya for listening, for understanding, and for being here. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have met you.”
Maya and Ricky smiled at each other, a silent understanding between them, as they both gazed at the beautiful, serene lake, hands intertwined.
“Manong, pwede pong paki-baba na lang po kami sa mismong bayan ng Talisay!”
This was my request to the driver of the Ceres bus we took from Bacolod’s North Terminal, Monday morning, the second day of my Negros trip with one of my best friends. We got to the terminal by taking the Mandalagan-bound jeepney along Lacson Street, Bacolod’s main road!
My friend and I really didn’t have any idea on how to go to Talisay, the nearest city north of Bacolod and before Silay City, and how to get to the places we want to see that day, the Balay ni Tana Dicang and The Ruins, two of Negros’ famous ancestral houses. We thought that the best way to do it would be to go the center of the town, ask around, and take it from there.
More than 10 minutes after we left the North Terminal, our bus stopped at a school along the highway, and the driver told us we are in Talisay! We got off and saw several tricycles parked at the curb side. We approached the first one in line, and asked the driver if he could take us to The Ruins. We agreed on a price, Php 100, to take us there, but since he was nice and there are other places we would like to see, we ended up renting his tricycle for the trip around Talisay, for Php 500.
Manong’s tricycle sits two people in the front side, and two in the backside (though it would really be a tight fit), and one can sit on the motorcycle itself behind the driver. It was okay. I have tried the habal-habal before in Bukidnon and Siargao Island, and that one, you had to hold on to dear life! With my friend on the front side, and me in the back as I wanted to take pictures along the way, we started our adventure. We went back to the direction we took on the way to Talisay from Bacolod, bore off leftward towards the direction of the sugar cane fields and a new subdivision development at the start of it, near the main road.
I have seen photos of The Ruins but I was not prepared for the view that I will see after passing through fields and fields of sugar cane for about 10 to 15 minutes. We turned left before that tall structure above and I caught a glimpse of my first Negros ancestral house! One word for it, amazing!
We paid the Php 95 each entrance fee, and just stared for a while at the beautiful sight before us. Even if the weather was a bit gloomy when we set off that morning, the first glimpse of the house was like a ray of sunshine to us!
The Ruins or the mansion built by the sugar baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson in loving memory of his wife, Maria Braga, maybe just a shell of its former self now, but looking at it you can still see traces of how beautiful and grand the house must have been. Still standing tall, proud and beautiful, overlooking the vast area around her, as she had done for about a century now, she is like a queen, very regal despite the ravages of war, and time!
Still in awe, we entered the house reverently through its, still, grand entrance, and started our journey to the past.
The garden of the house is also very beautiful and the grounds, extensive.
We left the place feeling happy. My friend mentioned that the place exuded positive vibes.
With our heads still full of the images of The Ruins, we boarded our tricycle again, and the driver took us back to the city for our next ancestral house, the Balay ni Tana Dicang, the house of the Alunan-Lizares family which was turned into a lifestyle museum. It was actually the first one we went to as it is nearer, but it was still closed when we arrived there. The museum is open from 10AM onwards.
We paid the Php 100 entrance fee for adults (Php 20 for kids) and we started touring the beautiful bahay na bato built in the latter part of the 19th century for Don Efigenio Lizares and Doña Enrica Alunan.
Being in this house, I really felt like I entered a time machine and arrived in Spanish-era Philippines.
The house looks unchanged through the passage of time. When you reach the top of the stairs, you’ll have the feeling that the lady of the house in her finest clothes will come forward, and welcome you to her magnificent home (similar to a scene in the classic movie ‘Oro, Plata, Mata’).
Of all the Philippine ancestral houses that I have been to, so far, this is the grandest and the most preserved one I have toured!
It was a wonderful experience walking around the magnificent home and getting glimpses of how the family had lived in their very interesting times.
We asked our driver to take us also to the Talisay Church, as aside from ancestral houses, I also make it a point to visit beautiful, old churches in the places that I have been to!
Our last stop was a restaurant so we can have lunch before we travel back to Bacolod. Our driver brought us to this place. We thanked him as we parted ways. It was a wonderful, and indeed, a very different experience touring Talisay in his tricycle!
These much delicious food, and drinks, cost us only around Php 500. We were even unable to finish everything! Too much for our tummies!
We crossed the street, and flagged a Bacolod-bound jeepney. As Talisay receded from our sight, the experience of having stepped back in time, lingered.
• Please find below scanned copies of the leaflets I got on both houses for additional information about these beautiful places. You can also click on this link for Balay ni Tana Dicang and this link for The Ruins.
• If you would like to know more about Philippine ancestral houses, you can get this book. It is a bit pricey at Php 1,500, but worth it. I bought the book at National Bookstore. Balay ni Tana Dicang was among the heritage houses featured in this beautiful book. It also has a list of Heritage House-Museums you can visit, at the back pages, with brief descriptions, opening hours, addresses, and phone numbers!
• For the Bacolod side of my trip, please click on this link. Next travel post, the ancestral houses of Silay City, Negros Occidental!
Maya happily walked back to where she had left Ricky earlier. She liked what she had sketched and the pictures she snapped. She was looking forward to transferring the images to a canvas, as well Ricky’s photos that she had taken while they were at the Sta. Maria Church two days ago! Just two days ago, amazing! It felt like it was longer than that, with all the things that she and Ricky did and share, as well as the unnamed and unlabeled emotions he was eliciting from her. Maya saw Ricky sitting comfortably on the bench under a beautiful trellis covered in vines with colorful flowers that they have found when they entered that beautiful garden hours ago.
When she got closer, she saw Ricky looking at her with an intense expression on his face, a look that made her heart beat faster. He was looking at her somewhat differently. Parang may iba! She was intuitive like that, sensing something more than the eyes can see, feelings, gut feel, the works, but she tends to curve it as she feels like she can’t trust it kahit ilang beses na siyang proven right. Saka not like this naman, especially with her feelings involved, in a romantic kind! She blocked it fast as she does not want to end up assuming. She is not exactly thinking straight at that moment.
Ricky’s gaze made her self-conscious with his meaningful gaze. He was looking at her, with something love in his eyes, but she could be wrong. She has never been in love before so how would she know and how would she be sure of what she is seeing! Para lang may iba kasi sa tingin ni Ricky! Ngayon pa lang siya na-in love! Yes, she admitted it to herself for the first time. She had fallen in love with the guy who was looking at her like, like she was the center of his world. Maya naman kasi, baka nasosobrahan ka na ng kababasa ng romance novels at kapapanood ng rom-com or naalala mo na naman ang love story ng lola at lolo ninyo ni Ricky! What does she know of the center-of-my-world look except what she reads and watches, the products of the imagination of the authors of those stories!
“Hi! Sorry it took me so long to finish my sketch and to take pictures.” Maya said, smiling, and a bit breathless. She felt heady, actually, and her heart was beating so fast, trying hard to calm down.
“It’s okay, Maya. Like I have said take your time. I’m glad that you are finding inspirations in the places we have been.” Ricky assured her with a smile. “I also made a phone call while waiting for you.”
“Thanks again, Ricky. Yes, I saw you on the phone nga earlier.” Maya replied. The first time she looked up from her sketch pad, Ricky had a serious expression while scrolling down his phone, but just before she went back to him, he was smiling, especially just before he pocketed his phone. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, things couldn’t be better. That was one of my best friends, Miguel, on the phone.” Ricky started, than explained. “He was the one I was talking to yesterday. Tungkol sana sa surprise ko sa iyo.”
So, it was not that Lorraine Tan, Maya thought! “Oh okay! I was wondering nga about that. Hindi mo na kasi nabanggit ulit. Ayaw ko namang mangulit. The truth is, I’m trying hard not to. I’m not good with waiting for surprises, gaya ng sa mga gift din. Gusto ko makita ko agad ang laman, hahahaha!”
“I understand that, Maya.” Ricky said with a smile.”May cousin ako na ganyan din.”
“So, bakit mo pala tinawagan ang friend mo. Something to do with the surprise?”
“Yes, going back to that! We need to modify our plans.” Ricky said. “I borrowed sana Miguel’s family vacation home in Pagudpud which I thought you might like a lot. Based on Mig’s description, it was built on a slope and offers an incredible view of the sea and beyond. Ramdam mo talaga na para kang nasa may bandang tuktok ka ng mapa ng Pilipinas! Kaya lang walang kuryente sa house at the moment, and Miguel said it would be better if we go there in two days pa. I told him we are on the road na. Kahapon niya pa pala ako tinatawagan! He found out from the caretaker na may problema doon sa house after our phone call kahapon ng umaga! I told him na next time na lang tayo pupunta roon.”
“Mabuti you managed to find out na hindi pala available before we arrive there.” Maya remarked. “But if ever naman na walang kuryente sa lugar, okay lang naman sa akin. I had a vacation naman sa lugar na walang kuryente before. As in, wala pa talagang instila ng kuryente. It was kind of a different experience. Hindi mo na rin maiisip iyong walang kuryente dahil sa ganda noong lugar. Saka, doon mo mare-realize na maganda rin pala paminsan-minsan iyon na sobrang tahimik lang. Parang nasa ibang panahon ka.”
“Really? Saan iyon?” Ricky asked, very much interested to know.
“Sa Batad! Lampas pa ng Banaue. Noong time na iyon, wala pang kuryente sa lugar na iyon. I don’t know lang ngayon kung meron na, kasi hindi ako nakabalik ulit doon. Emman and I went there on a lark, para raw sa photography niya. Ang layo pala! He fancied himself as a backpacker, katulad noong mga foreigner na pumupunta rito.” Maya said. “We had to hike more than two hours through a path in the mountain just to get there. Pero super worth it naman. Breathtaking talaga and sobrang amazing. Noong dumating kami roon, hindi pa harvest season so parang golden iyong rice terraces, saka parang giant amphitheater, carved from the side of this huge mountain. We stayed in a small place na may plumbing naman and such, faucet, and shower sa banyo, pero grabe ang lamig ng tubig kasi galing sa bundok. Sa gabi, sleeping by candlelight kami! Tahimik na tahimik ang lugar basta dumilim na.”
“Sounds like a very nice adventure, Maya.” Ricky said, then asked what he had been meaning to ask Maya. “Emman is your friend and business partner, di ba? College pa kayo nagkakilala?”
“Yes, since college pa! First year pa. Magkatabi kami ng seat sa classroom. Castro kasi ang last name niya. We just clicked! Honorary sister ko iyon kasi wala akong kapatid. Ganoon din naman siya, only kid din siya kasi.”
“Pare-pareho pala tayo na only child! Pero bakit sister?” Ricky asked curiously.
“Hmmm, kasi Emman is gay, which he does not hide naman.” Maya explained, matter of fact. “Anyway, you’ll get to meet him when you make it to our cafe. Most of the time, siya ang nasa labas, suits his personality. Ako mostly ang nasa background, attending to the little details of running the place. Talagang we complement each other when it comes to the business. Tapos magkasundo pa kami beyond that kahit opposites ang personality namin.”
With that, Ricky heaved a sigh of relief. He had been meaning to find out subtly who is Emman in Maya’s life, and now he knows. She may not have a boyfriend yet, but he would like to know who will be his ‘competitions’ in Maya’s heart. “Glad to know that you have someone like that in your life, Maya. Ako, I have Miguel, and a couple of other college friends. He is looking forward to meeting you rin!”
Maya looked at Ricky in surprise. She never thought that he would mention her name to his friend, considering how he seemed to be quite close-guarded about his personal life. And why would his friend looked forward to meeting her? Bago lang naman silang magkakilala ni Ricky? Ano na kaya ang sinabi niya kay Miguel tungkol sa akin? She felt giddy and breathless na naman all of a sudden. Ano ba naman itong si Ricky, malapit na siyang maubusan ng hininga sa pinaggagawa nito na hindi niya alam kung paano na talaga i-interpret. “You told him about me, really? What did you tell?” She asked curiously and very interestingly. She very much wanted to know!
Ricky then realized his slip! He felt his face reddening. Then he took hold of Maya’s hand, played with it a bit, gathering his thoughts, his heart hammering against his chest. This is it! He had meant to do this later, but maybe his slip is a sign he needed to come clean with Maya. “Errrr, he heard you in the background yesterday, when I was talking to him, so he knew I was not alone, then he….”
The loud grumbling of Maya’s stomach interrupted what else Ricky was about to say. “Sorry, about that, please continue….” She said sheepishly.
“Oh, gutom ka na! Let’s eat first. Kanina pa nga tayo huling kumain. One o’clock na pala!” Ricky stood up and held out his hand for Maya to take. He lost his courage. Maybe, that was not the right moment! “We can talk later. What I would like to say can wait.”
Despite the grumbling of her stomach, Maya very much wanted to hear the rest of what he was going to say. She had a feeling that he would tell her something momentous, but her grumbling stomach broke the moment. Oh well, she just need to live with it the next couple of hours kahit mahirap mag-concentrate. By the look of Ricky’s expression and his enigmatic look earlier, he had resolved on doing something! Hopefully, he will tell her about it soon, as the suspense will kill her!
The two of them walked with interwtined fingers towards the direction of Herencia Restaurant, in front of the Paoay Church, through the church grounds. The restaurant has a beautiful, homey decor, and aside from the interesting menu, offers mouth-watering pasalubong delicacies. Their waiter seated them in one of the table by the big glass windows of the restaurant that has the best view of the church.
Maya and Ricky decided to share a pinakbet pizza aside from the other lunch dishes that Ricky ordered, despite Maya’s protest that it was too much, like bagnet with KBL, and ashrimp dish for Maya. Their tummy felt so full, more than an hour later. Too much rich food in their system!
“Maya, as I was also about to say earlier….” Ricky started while taking his first sip of coffee that they ordered after they heavy lunch.
Maya took a big gulp of her coffee, in nervousness and in anticipation, and it scalded her a bit. She winced in pain. Ricky saw it. “Maya are you okay. Mainit pa masyado yata ang kape! Water!” Ricky said solicitously, offering Maya a glass of water.
“I’m okay, Ricky. Nabigla lang ako ng inom!” Maya assured him hastily. Hindi lang siya nabigla ng inom, nabigla rin siya sa opening statement ni Ricky. She thought he would bring it up again when they are on the road or later! “Please go ahead, you were saying?”
“Sure, you are okay?” Ricky asked again, and when Maya nodded, he continued, “Well, I was just going to say that since Miguel told me that hindi available iyong place, i-modify natin iyung itinerary natin, kung okay lang sa iyo? We can still continue pero hindi na hanggang Pagudpud, or if hanggang Pagudpud, we need to find another place to stay.”
“Hmmm, okay lang naman ako if we change our plans. As we have agreed on, laid back lang naman itong trip natin, kung saan makarating! So far, we are having a wonderful adventure sa strike anywhere nating trip.” Maya assured Ricky, with a big smile. “So, what do you think we should do? What do you have in mind?”
“I was thinking, we can give Pagudpud a miss muna hanggang maging available iyong bahay nina Miguel. I really want us to experience Pagudpud through that house. Ewan ko ba, hindi maalis sa isip! In the meantime, since we are on the road na, we continue na lang, we can stay at Fort Ilocandia for the rest of our road trip, then just explore the areas around it. We can go to the Paoay sand dunes, Malacanang of the North, then also go around Laoag, and other interesting places we can see along the way.
“Sounds like a plan, Ricky.” Maya said, agreeing, then suggested, “Afterwards, we can just return to our beach places. You know what, okay na rin na bumalik muna tayo roon, I would like to paint din, and for some reason, I’m kinda missing the place din and walking by the beach. That way, nasa beach place pa rin tayo. Hindi naman nating kailangang i-cover ng isang trip ang lahat ng places dito sa Ilocos. Para rin may babalikan pa tayo, di ba? We can stay at the beach places for several days, then after, we can travel again. Matagal-tagal pa naman ako rito. I don’t plan to go back to Manila yet. How about you? How many days pa you can spare?”
“That’s a good idea rin, Maya. Tama ka naman. We can always take another trip farther north. Hindi naman ganoon kalayo pala. I will talk to Miguel again in several days and kung okay na lahat and you would still like to, we can travel straight further north. Daanan na rin natin ang iba pang sights na banda roon like the Burgos lighthouse, Kapurpurawan rock formation, the wind mills, and of course, the Patapat viaduct!”. Ricky said, then gazing at Maya, he added, “I have decided to extend my stay here in Ilocos, until when I don’t know, depende.”
Maya looked at Ricky and felt again that breathlessness and anticipation, she had been feeling since that morning, when the first thing she caught sight of when she woke up from a very nice dream, dream of her and him, actually, in a beach, walking hand in hand, was his handsome face. She smiled at him, and the same time, the thought that his is the face she can never get tired of looking every morning, for the rest of her life. She almost blurted it out, and just stopped herself last-minute. She noticed his bemused expression too, and called his attention several times. Good thing, it looked like Ricky was also thinking about something that morning and didn’t notice her gaze.
She managed to say, “Okay, that sounds great!” Then waited for him to continue.
“That’s about it!” Ricky said, calling their server’s attention. “Shall we get going?”
“Okay. Shall we.” Maya was a bit disappointed that Ricky didn’t say anything more. But, she thought, that was all there is to it! Sabi nang huwag masyadong assuming Maya Dela Rosa!
They asked for their bill when the server reached them, and despite Maya’s insistence again that they share with the expenses for that travel, Ricky insisted on picking the tab. He just teased Maya about giving him free coffee and snack when he goes to Cafe Arts.
On their way to Fort Ilocandia, both of them were lost in thoughts the first several minutes of the trip, just listening to the music on the car’s radio. Maya was still wondering what was it that Ricky was suppoed to tell her earlier, the one he was about to say when her grumbling tummy ruined the moment! She really felt that he was supposed to tell her something more.
Ricky on the other hand, was formulating in his head, how he will set up the mood when he tells Maya everything, everything that he wanted to tell her earlier. He was really planning to, even if he was not sure on how to go about it, really. But Maya’s grumbling tummy interfered, and in hindsight, maybe that was a blessing in disguise, as he would like to do it, proper, in a night to remember, and he knows the perfect setting for it.
With the plan, worked out in his head, Ricky smiled, then as if he can’t help himself and the extreme happiness coupled with anticipation he was feeling at that moment, he told hold of Maya’s hand, and wrapped it in his, squeezed it gently. Maya, initially looked at him in surprised. Then seeing his intent gaze, she flushed, then squeezed Ricky’s hand back. Their hands stayed like that, as they journey on, and while they were not chatting much, they felt very much attuned to each other. Both of them have happy, dreamy smiles on their faces, their hearts and mind, not really into the beautiful scenery they passed by, but into their intense awareness of each other and what they are feeling!
“Would you like to get married here?” Ricky asked Maya suddenly while they were at the entrance of the magnificent Paoay Church, in Ilocos Norte, one of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1993.
“Ha…?” Maya, who was busy reading the National Historical Committee’s inscription at the entrance of the church, looked at Ricky in surprise. Where did that question come from? She just gaped at him, her brain not fully functioning, and her heart hammering against her chest for some reason.
Ricky realized that his question came out of nowhere, Maya got blindsided, so he clarified, “I mean in the future, when you found the man of your dreams. Is this a church you would like to get married in? I think it is a beautiful church to get married in, like the wedding we witnessed earlier. Is this a church you would like to get married in? Iyon yata ang mas tamang tanong? Sorry.” He added with a sheepish grin, babbling a bit. He asked it on impulse. He didn’t fully realize how it would sound. Masyadong personal yata. Bigla lang pumasok sa isip niya!
“Hmmm, yes, of course, I can get married here! I can imagine myself getting married here. This is such a beautiful, old church and I love centuries-old churches. I’m actually torn between this one, and the one in Sta. Maria! They are both very majestic and both has a lot of history in it. Pati, architecture and engineering nila, amazing! Sta. Maria, of course is more dramatic as it sits on a hill. But this one, is like the grand old dame of churches. My first impression of it, when I finally saw it earlier after pouring over pictures of it online while I was in college, is that it looked so regal, sitting here, in the middle of the town, so much part of the flow and ebb of the life here for centuries! Either of these two churches would be a very beautiful place to say my vows, and commit forever to the one and only person I would like to share my life with.” Maya finished with a dreamy expression on her face.
Ricky knew that Maya is speaking of no one in particular, as she had told him before that she does not have a boyfriend. But at that moment, he wished that it was him that Maya was envisioning to be with, when she had that lovely dreamy expression on her face.
“Me, too, I can imagine myself getting married here or in Sta. Maria,” Ricky said softly, looking at Maya with an enigmatic expression,“to the one person I would like to spend the rest of my life with. The one person I can’t live without! It would be a beautiful wedding, one to remember for the rest of our lives.” He didn’t clarify the ‘our’ that he said. He left it at that. “Someday”….
Maya blushed. She felt her heart hammering against her chest, double time, at that moment. She can’t seemed to breathe. It felt like, it really felt like Ricky is telling her something. Maya, don’t imagine that it is you. Malay mo iyong Lorraine Tan pala na iyon ang sinasabi niya! Hindi dahil super close na kayo, and you are falling for him, ikaw na iyon. Hello, you just met each other several days ago! She tried to tell herself that. Kalma, Maya. Kalma, kalma lang! Marami ka pang hindi alam sa kanya kahit pakiramdam mo matagal na kayong magkakilala.
“Tara, let’s go inside! Nagtatanggal na lang naman sila ng mga flower at iba pang decor sa loob.” Maya told Ricky the first thing that entered her head, trying to calm down her fast beating heart. The two of them was unable to tour the inside the church earlier as there was a wedding being held there.
They arrived at Paoay, two hours ago, from Vigan, through Batac. They just passed by that town. They were planning to go around Batac, instead, on the way back to Manila from whatever directions they would be coming from. They needed to travel farther north by the end of the day, Ricky said. They passed by the sprawling Don Mariano Marcos State University, then they reached Paoay. Maya was in awe when she finally saw the church.
Ricky found a place to park after several tries as there seemed to be a lot of vehicles in the area, and they entered the sprawling grounds where the church sits regally. The structures around it, cafe, restaurants and the others, while modern, blended well into the centuries-old church vibe.
There was a bridal car out front so they deduced that there was a wedding being held at that moment. They looked around and saw the beautiful cafe on the left side of the church. They passed the time there. When they had their fill, they walked around in grounds in front of the church, and took selfies until the newly weds came out, both wearing radiant expression, followed by their families, friends and other well-wishers. The bride looked so beautiful in her lace gown and the groom looked like he won the lottery, looking adoringly at his beautiful bride.
Maya smiled. She just felt happy for the newly weds! They waited until all the members of the bridal party had left before going towards the church entrance. She took pictures and then read the inscription there. She was almost finished with what she was reading when Ricky asked that question that blindsided her!
“Okay, after you, Maya.” Ricky said, his gaze following Maya’s departing back, then slowly following her.
They quietly walked around inside the beautiful church. While there are modern amenities like ceiling fans, it has that unchanged look in it, across the centuries, especially if you look at altar, the walls and the windows. They sat down on the front pew and looking at the altar, uttered their personal prayers. Ricky felt so much at peace. He couldn’t be happier than at that moment, with Maya by his side. They exited at the side door of the church to check on what is at the other side.
Maya and Ricky were delighted at what they saw at the other side of the church, a beautiful, serene garden. They went in, found a bench and sat there while admiring the beautiful place.
“Wow, it is so nice here!” Maya said, sighing. “Can we stay a while?”
“Sure, Maya! I was about to say that. We have time. We can eat lunch here in Paoay para mamaya dire-diretso na tayo sa next destination natin. There are some restaurants in front of the church and one of them, parang narinig ko na before. I think one of my friends mentioned that place before. They serve Ilocano pizza raw, maybe we should try a pinakbet pizza!”
“Okay, that sounds interesting! Thanks a lot, Ricky. I will just take pictures, then sketch those beautiful buttresses that support the walls of the church. Amazing architecture, feat of engineering talaga, considering that this church according to the inscription I have read was built centuries ago.” Maya said, her face glowing from happiness. “See, look at those, ang galing ng symmetry nila and the spiral design on each buttress. Really, really amazing! I wish I can capture it well. Thank you for taking me here!”
“Maya, you look beautiful. You glow when you are happy.” Ricky said, unable to help himself. He likes seeing her this happy.
Maya looked at Ricky, then blushed. “Thank you, Ricky.” She said shyly, then to regain her equilibrium, she fiddled with her camera and sketch pad. “Sige, I’ll just go around the place ha.”
Ricky gave her a lopsided smile, then said, “Enjoy, Maya. Take your time. Dito lang ako.”
Maya walked towards the left of the garden, looking closely at the buttresses that she wanted to sketch and photograph. Ricky watched her indulgently. They have been together for several days now and there have never been a dull moment with her. He likes everything he sees in her.
That morning, when he woke up ahead of Maya, he looked at her sleeping form at the other bed, and out of the blue, he thought that he can never get tired of looking at this beautiful girl, inside out, every morning of his life, for the rest of his life! Yes, they have known each other such a short time, but he believes that it is not really how long one knows another, but what one feels in such a short time, and how well you have come to know that person in that period.
He was falling in love with Maya, he admitted to himself, heart beating so fast, while he looked at her sleeping form, devoid of make-up and yet, the most beautiful sight for him. Doubly so, when she suddenly opened her eyes, saw him awake and looking at her. She smiled, then said a soft good morning to him, like she had been doing it for a long time, like she was saying good morning to him, as her husband! At that moment, Ricky corrected himself, he was not just falling, he had fallen in love with her, hard. It is a feeling way much different from what he felt for Lorraine!
Maya had to call his name several times, as he went through his wonderful realization before he reacted. She told him afterwards that like he was miles away all of a sudden, with a smiling bemused expression on his face. Smiling, she asked him if he is okay. He looked at her, and tried to convey what he was feeling at the moment, by gazing at her intently. Softly, he promised her that he will tell her about it soon, at the right time. He also needed to process the whole thing. He was not expecting to fall in love this soon after his break up with Lorraine, but he feels wonderful. He is looking forward to being in Pagudpud and spending more time with Maya and telling her everything, about his feelings and Lorraine.
Maya just gave him an understanding smile and asked if she could use the bathroom before him. She also asked if he needed help in packing his stuffs. She is really very sweet that way. He told her he could manage. While she was in the bathroom, he just stared on the ceiling with a big smile plastered on his face. He completely forgot something that he was supposed to do that morning.
With that, Ricky remembered what he has been meaning to do, he was going to call Miguel and double-check if everything is okay with the beach house he was borrowing. He just wanted to be sure that Maya will have the best stay in that place. And now that, he has an additional request to his very good friend. He needed the number of the caretaker there to execute his plan.
Ricky fished out his phone from his pant pocket. He turned it on, hoping that there would be no messages from Lorraine. As soon as the phone had fully booted, it emitted a lot of beeps. Ricky was surprised as it would mean a lot of text messages coming in. He scrolled down fast and checked. He saw that he has a slew of text messages from Miguel, and none from Lorraine, to his relief. He read them one by one, his expression, turning from curious, to frowning, to grim when he reached the last one. He pressed the call button and called Miguel, who was probably waiting for his call, as he answered just after the second ring.
“Pare, mabuti tumawag ka na!” Miguel greeted without preamble, relief in his voice. “Kahapon pa kasi kita tinatawagan. I presumed nabasa mo lahat ng messages ko? Bakit ba kasi nakasara iyang phone mo? Okay ka lang ba?”
“Hi Miguel! Yes kaya nga ako tumawag sa iyo. Sorry for that. I don’t normally shut it down.” Ricky said, then admitted to Miguel the reason why he turned off his phone. “Lorraine has been calling and texting me nonstop. It get to a point that I can’t take it anymore. I want some peace and quiet, pare.”
“Bakit Ricky, ano ba talagang nangyari sa inyo ni Lorraine?” Miguel asked. “Mukhang grabe ang away ninyo this time ah.”
“Mig, hindi lang kami nag-away ni Lorraine, wala na kami. We broke up three weeks ago.” Ricky explained. “Wala nang kasalang magaganap. That’s the reason why I went to Ilocos. I have been staying at my family’s beach place for several days na. Hindi ko nga alam kung bakit pa siya tawag ng tawag. I made it clear to her that we are finished and the wedding is off.”
“Ha! Bakit what happened? That is, if I may ask?” Miguel was surprised at what he heard, but maybe he should have not. “Sana, tinawagan mo ako. Nadamayan sana kita over several bottles of beer.”
“It’s a long story, Mig. Pero, it has been going for a while na hindi kami okay. Iyon nga lang we were supposed to marry na next year. Then she did something unforgivable. It was like the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. I’m sorry, I don’t want to talk about it at the moment. But I will tell you about it, I was really planning to, when I get back to Manila.” Ricky said, sighing deeply. It was good to get it out his chest, finally kahit hindi niya sinabi kay Miguel ang dahilan. He will tell him the gist of it, but there are things better left between him and Lorraine. No one knows about the broken engagement yet. He was planning to tell his parents about it when his head is clearer. He knew that Lorraine has not told it to her parents either, otherwise, the news would have spread by now all over the two families.
“Sad to know about that, Ricky. You have been together, for how long na ba, five years? But I know you, you will not do it without a very, very compelling reason.” Miguel managed to say. Now he understands why Lorraine sounded desperate when he saw her at the bar, then he remembered something. “Ricky, I don’t want to pry, and it’s not really my business, pero sino pala iyong babaeng narinig ko sa phone. I thought it was Lorraine kaya nga gulat na gulat ako when I saw her at BGC! Sorry talaga about that Ricky.”
Ricky, hearing his friend’s question, looked at where Maya was, sketching near the garden walls, seemingly in deep concentration. But as if she knew that he was looking at her, she looked up, waved and gave him a big smile, gesturing that she will be along shortly, raising her sketchbook. Ricky waved back and made the okay sign. Then pointed to his phone.
“Her name is Maya. I will tell you about her Miguel, when I see you. I just want to keep this to myself first, if it is okay with you.” Ricky said, and anticipating his friend was probably thinking at that moment, he added, “And no, this is not a rebound thing. I have never felt so happier in my life until this moment. And about what happened with Lorraine, okay lang pare. Hindi ko rin naman nabanggit pa sa iyo na wala na kami.”
“Pare, you know, I was not even thinking that this is a rebound thing. Sa tagal nating magkaibigan, kilala na kita. You don’t do things lightly. I had an inkling kasi may something na kakaiba sa boses mo noong kausap kita kahapon. You seemed happier, you know. Kaya ko rin sa iyo tinanong.” Miguel said, assuring Ricky that he understood completely. “Sige, hihintayin na lang kitang bumalik. I’m happy that you are happy. I hope I’ll get to meet the wonderful lady.”
“Thank you Mig. And you will.” Ricky said. “I’m sure you will like her a lot.”
“Pare, judging by the tone of your voice, I’m sure I will like her.” Miguel said, relieved that his friend is okay. “About the house, so okay lang na ba ipagpaliban ninyo ni Maya ang pagpunta doon ng two days pa. Our caretaker said na darating na iyong gagawa bukas noong nasirang electric posts and the electrical system of the house.”
“Hmmm, about that! We are on the road na kasi. But don’t worry, may naisip na ako na alternative.” Ricky said. “Saka, I know you told me that Lorraine didn’t ask you about the beach house’s location, and she stopped badgering me as well, but knowing her, I think she might be planning something.”
“Sa palagay mo, susundan ka niya sa beach house?” Miguel asked, then said, “Sabagay, hindi naman secret iyong place, among our friends.”
“Precisely! Maya is too important to me, and this is all too new to me. Ayokong masira. I’ll make other plans for the rest of our vacation na lang. Don’t worry, ako na ang bahala. Thanks for everything, Mig. Next time na lang namin hihiramin iyong place.”
“Sure, Ricky! Sa honeymoon niyo?” Miguel teased.
“Hahahaha, Mig, ikaw talaga, pare, incorrigible kahit kailan! Too early for that, and let’s see what is in store for us.” Ricky laughed.
“Basta, ako pa rin ang best man mo ha, at hindi si Ryan.” Miguel added.
“Sure, Mig, ikaw pa rin.” Ricky said, laughing. “O paano, papunta na rito si Maya. tapos na yata siya sa pag-sketch nitong simbahan. I’ll see you on when I get back to Manila.”
“Okay, pare. Text text tayo. Enjoy your vacation.”
Ricky put his phone back in his pocket. He decided to just keep it on. He waited for Maya to reach his side. He smiled at her. He needs to talk to her about everything. He has a bad feeling about Lorraine. He does not want any misunderstanding between him and Maya. He does not want their love story to have a sad ending like their grandparents’.
Maya and Ricky’s calesa driver, Manong Bernie, first took them to the bell tower, in the nearby Bantay town, passing through the Vigan archway, where he stopped for several minutes and took several photos of them in his calesa with the Vigan signage in the background. It was a good thing that there were not much vehicles passing by at that time of the morning. They climbed the bell tower, constructed in the 16th century, with their guide after posing for several pictures with it in the background. Their guide, probably, with all the tourists he had accompanied up, knew the best spots to pose them for photos! He even managed to cajoled them into having the ‘giant’ photo in front of the bell tower. Maya laughed when Ricky did it. She teased him by saying that she wished the employees of Lim Corporation can see their CEO at that moment. Ricky laughed heartily, and joked that they will probably love him all the more, seeing the very human side of him. But he told Maya, grinning, that she can blackmail him with it.
The view from the top of floor of the bell tower, which served as both a belfry and a watch tower of the town in the past, was amazing. At first, Maya refused to climb the wooden stairs to the platform where the different bells are, as she is a bit scared of heights, and she can see that there are slats in the sturdy wooden floors, and when she looks down, she can see the bottom. She felt dizzy, just imagining standing on that platform. Ricky talked her into it, and promised to hold her hand. He told her not to be afraid as he would be with her all throughout. Maya was glad that Ricky talked her into going up. It was incredible to be up there, and she was very happy to be sharing that moment with him. She was also very much aware of hers and Ricky’s intertwined hands and the intense gaze he was giving her. She even forgot her fear of the wooden platform, so conscious of him and what he was making her feel. He looked so happy also, and more, with just the two of them there. For a moment, they forgot that the guide was with them! They only returned back to that reality when their guide started telling the uses of the various bells in the tower.
From the bell tower, they went inside the San Augustine Parish Church and stayed there for several minutes in companionable silence, saying personal prayers. Both of them thanked God for the moment they were sharing and for making them meet, in a place that was unlikely for them to meet. Ricky took hold of Maya’s hand, while inside the church and pressed it, gently while looking at her with a big smile on his face. Before they left the church, they also toured the church grounds. They stayed there for a while as Maya sketched a bit. She also took a lot of photos.
Back in the calesa, amid the clap-clapping of the horse’s hooves, Maya was very much aware of Ricky and the seemingly little space between them in the calesa. They were jostled around a bit and ended up closer to each other as Manong Bernie avoided other calesas and navigated his way in between all the other vehicles and the pedestrians on Vigan’s now busy streets. He took them next to Hidden Garden of Vigan, where they walked through, rested amid the lush foliage, and looked at the different varieties of plants the owner of the place cultivate there. There are also a wide variety of plants and herbs, and also potteries, for sale. After the tour of the gardens, they sampled the coffee and the sweet banana in the garden’s restaurant. It was a very filling merienda. Too bad, it was too early for them to have lunch as the garden’s restaurant also offers delicious specialty Ilocano dishes.
Manong Bernie took them next to a weaving place, as per Maya’s request as she would like to buy some placemats and table runners for the house in Makati and inabel blankets for Manang Fe, and she said a giddy smile, she told Ricky, she would like to try her hand at weaving. She found out, is a long, laborious process, which made her admire the tiyaga and the concentration of the weavers, and appreciate every piece of the products she had bought at that place. In their next stop, which is a burnayan, it was Ricky who tried how to make a small jar at Maya’s dare. The two of them laughed at his dismal effort. His finished product does not resemble a jar at all! Ricky teased Maya that dumarami na ang pang-blackmail niya against him!
In the course of their day, they managed to tour the old provincial jail which has been converted into a regional museum, showcasing the history and artifacts of Ilocos, particularly, the Basi Revolt. The museum also contains President Elpidio Quirino’s memorabilia. He was born in that centuries-old jail as his father used to be the jail warden there. The nearby Burgos Museum, the house of the martyred priest, Father Jose Burgos was closed, they guessed, for renovations. Next in their tour was the ancestral house of the Crisologos, which was turned into a museum.
Their last stop before they had lunch was the Syquia Mansion, the family home of President Elpidio Quirino. The Syquia Mansion is a beautiful and grand old house. Maya was amazed at how big the house is. She could imagine all the sumptuous meals that must have been shared at the long dining table adorned with big cloth fans hanging from the ceiling, and the parties that must have been held there in the big sala of the house, with ladies dressed in their finery. Generations of children growing in that big, beautiful house, she mused. She always does that in all the old houses that she had come to visit, imagining it filled with life, love and laughter. Her favorite part of the house was the central azotea that joins all parts of the house. It was the first time she had seen one like that. Normally, the azotea is located at the back of the house, like a back veranda. This one joins the dining area, the space after the grand staircase and two other parts of the house, with some plants in it. She and Ricky posed for several pictures there and afterwards, left the place after thanking the caretaker.
Manong Bernie, dropped them off their at their favorite place, the restaurant at the ground floor of an inn to eat lunch. They told him to come back for them in three hours, in the coffee shop in Calle Crisologo, that they saw earlier, and would like to try. They decided to rent his calesa for the day as they would like to check the beach he told them about later in the afternoon, when it was not so hot. Yes, Vigan has a beach place nearby, he said. They invited him to eat in the same place but he refused. Ricky just gave him money for lunch. They had a leisurely lunch, chatting, very comfortable now with each other. They even ate from each other’s plate. To onlookers, they looked like a couple, very much in love out for lunch while vacationing on this beautiful place.
Hands intertwined, sort of getting automatic with them by then, they were about to leave the restaurant when someone called Ricky’s name. They saw a pretty lady about Ricky’s age, with a foreigner beside her, waving at them with a big smile from one of the tables by the door. Ricky grinned when he saw who it was. He hugged the lady and told her, she should have told him that she is in the country. Ricky put his hand on Maya’s back and introduced her to Susan and her husband Pierre. He told her, Susan is a friend. The couple also introduced their two kids, a boy and a girl, Marie and Marius.
They chatted with the Susan and Pierre while the kids play with their gadgets. During the course of the conversation, Maya realized that Susan and Pierre had assumed she is Ricky’s girlfriend. He didn’t correct their assumption. She also gathered that they know each other quite well as Susan mentioned that Ricky had stayed with her and Pierre in their house in Nice for several weeks. When they were saying goodbye, Pierre shook Ricky’s hand and told him in French that his girlfriend is beautiful and very charming. Susan joined the conversation and told Ricky that she is glad that Ricky found himself a very nice girl.
Ricky replied in French that yes, Maya is very beautiful and of course, he is a lucky guy. Unknown to him, Maya understood everything. French is one of the two foreign languages she can speak very well. The other one is Spanish. Spanish is her Lolo Jaime’s favorite language. He started teaching her the language since she was a little girl. Eventually, she got interested in French as well due to a guy she was crushing on in the village where they live, the son of a diplomat. It may have started like that, but she realized she likes learning languages and there is a joy in being able to speak several of them.
Susan, Ricky’s classmate saw her smiling, and blushing, and Maya knew that Susan realized that she understood their exchange. She winked at her, then mouthed a sorry. Maya smiled at her, assuring her that it was okay, and that she understood. Sometimes, people just lapsed into the language they are most comfortable with. Maya spoke to her and Pierre in French when they were saying goodbye. It was then that Ricky realized that Maya understood his and his friends conversation. He didn’t mean to leave her out of the conversation, it was just that when Pierre whose English is not very fluent spoke to him in French, he automatically replied in that language as well. He smiled at her and she smiled back, assuring him that everything is okay. Susan and Pierre were also very glad to know that she can speak the language and apologize for talking about her in French earlier. Maya assured them it was okay. They promised to see each other in Manila, before they fly back to France. They waved at the departing family, who were going back to Manila that afternoon, then walked hand in hand again towards the direction of the coffee shop.
While they were having coffee after exchanging pleasantries with the friendly barista, Ricky asked Maya how many languages does she speaks, and she told him, that aside from English and Filipino, she can speak okay French and fluent Spanish. She told him about her Lolo Jaime’s love of anything Spanish, as he was half-Spanish himself. His mother was born and raised in Madrid. Her great-grandmother Paquita, met her great-grandfather Luis while studying in Europe. Then, Maya told him with a sheepish smile that she decided to study French, initially because of a teenage crush. She realized she enjoyed learning another language. She even teased him that she is looking for another language to study. He suggested Mandarin, and Maya told him, it maybe be a very difficult language to learn, as you also need to learn how to write it. Ricky said, he can coach her aside from taking lessons. They can meet after each class and review. Maya thanked him for the offer and at the same time, her heart skipped several beats, as his statement means, they would be seeing each other on a regular basis in the future. The way he was looking at her, plus his statement to his friend’s husband, is making her feel giddy, very, very giddy!
Maya also asked Ricky what other languages he knows aside from French, and of course, English, Filipino and Mandarin. Ricky told her, that’s the sum of it. He learned French because for several years now Lim Corporation is in partnership with a French company in one of their businesses. He said, it is best to speak to their partners in the language they are comfortable with. It was while negotiating this partnership that he had stayed with Susan and Pierre.
The two of them chatted about travels abroad, enjoying their quiet afternoon in the normally busy historical street. But that day, there were not much tourists as it was a weekday, and probably because it was still considered as off-season for tourists. They laughed and enjoyed each other’s company very much, not noticing the passing of the hours. They were in their second cup of coffee when Manong Bernie returned. They said goodbye to Jean, their very nice barista, and thanked her. They promised to come back, later in the afternoon, and if not, the next time they found themselves in Vigan. She told them that she would be glad to see them again and that she wish she will have the kind of relationship they have, na parang enjoy na enjoy lang in each other company’s and so in love. Ricky and Maya, just shared a look and smiled at each other, silently agreeing not to correct Jean.
Ricky guided into the calesa once more, then he seated close to her. More than 30 minutes after, Manong Bernie dropped them off at the beach he was telling them about. He was right! It was very nice to be there, and worth the trip. They walked along the shores of the mostly black-sanded beach, watching the waves and the breathtaking view before them. They also watched the fishermen hauling their catch for the day. When the sun was about to set, they sat on a boulder that they found. Ricky felt very much contented at that time. He took hold of Maya’s hand. They stayed like that until the sun faded into the horizon. A silent understanding between them! They may have not said the words, but it was obvious to both of them that there was already something going on between them. Ricky has resolved then that he would talk to Maya about it, and so much more, when they get to Pagudpud. Maya, on the other hand, decided that wherever this wonderful feeling would lead her, she will go along. She has not felt this way ever in her whole life!
Manong Bernie waved at them when he saw them walking, holding hands, towards him. These two really look good together, he thought.
Ricky guided back Maya to the calesa. Maya assisted him as well, when it was his turn to hop in. They returned to Vigan with Maya sitting closer than they did that morning, and the two of them sharing smiles. Their happiness to be in other’s company was also evident when they were having dinner. They can’t seemed to help themselves. Then there’s that moment, a lovely quiet time, enjoying each other’s company, amid all these beautiful, centuries-old houses!
“You are smiling! Bakit?” Ricky asked softly, seeing that Maya had this big smile on her face while looking up.
Maya looked at him. “Ikaw din kaya.” She said softly.
“Well, naalala ko lang ang buong araw natin. I feel very happy. Sobrang saya lang.”
“Me too. Iyon din ang dahilan kung bakit ako naka-smile. This is the best vacation ever.”
“For me too, Maya, and that is thanks to you.”
“Thanks to you also, Ricky.”
Gusto mo na bang bumalik sa hotel?”
I guess, we should at baka wala na tayong maitulog pa nito, hahahaha! Hindi ba sabi mo maaga pa tayo bukas. Saan nga pala ang destination natin bukas?”
“Paoay, Laoag, Burgos and a surprise place for you. Basta pack na this evening kasi we will be traveling further North bukas.”
“Hmmm, a surprise!!! I’m intrigue and I’m looking forward to finding out what your surprise is!” Maya gave Ricky a smile that lit up her face. “Tara lets”…..
“Tara”…. ” Ricky said softly, gazing at Maya intently, and giving her one of his bone-melting lopsided smile.
Hand and hand, they returned to try to sleep for the night, both looking forward to continuing their adventure together the following day. Checking his phone was the farthest thing from Ricky’s mind that night. He completely forgot about it.