“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’.