Note: This is a continuation to The Art of Letting Go – part 35.5.
It was 5 in the morning. Mamang got out of bed and went outside, leaving a sleeping Teresita, Kute, and Maya behind. As she went on her way to the kitchen, she noticed the hard outpour of rain outside. She was a bit disappointed as the thought of being held up inside the mansion occurred to her.
A couple of seconds later, smile was slowly making its way up to her lips. She still vividly recalls how she used to prepare champorado with tuyo for her family whenever there is a downpour of rain back in San Nicholas. The good old days, she further thought. As this recollection invaded her memory, she decided to go to the kitchen and ask Manang Fe if they have the necessary ingredients needed for the preparation of the said meal she had in mind. Luckily, Manang Fe is already up and was already about to prepare breakfast for the whole Lim and dela Rosa clan.
“Magandang umaga Fe,” greeted Mamang as she sighted her immediately at the kitchen counter.
Surprised to see Mamang already up at an early hour, Manang Fe greeted her back with the same enthusiasm. “Magandang umaga din Conchita. Ang aga mo naman nagising? Nakatulog ka naman ba ng maigi?”
Mamang giggled softly as she immediately sensed Manang Fe’s concern. “Oo naman Fe. Ang sarap nga ng tulog ko eh. Bukod sa pagkalambot ng kama, ang lamig din sa loob ng kwarto. Sanay lang talaga ako na gumigising ng maaga. Alam mo naman pag nasa probinsya, sanay ang mga tao na agad agad gumigising sa unang pagtilaok ng manok,” explained Mamang.
Manang Fe smiled. “Kung sabagay. Tama naman nga ang mga sinabi mo.”
“Siya nga pala Fe, mayroon ba kayong pang-champorado dito?”
“Pang-champorado? Gusto mo bang kumain ng champorado?” asked Manang Fe.
“Gusto ko sanang ipagluto ang lahat ng champorado. Naalala ko lang kasi, madalas akong magluto ng champorado na may kasamang tuyo sa San Nicholas lalo na tuwing umuulan. Naku, gustong gusto nila Maya at Kute iyon. Eh matagal tagal ko naring hindi nagagawa para sa kanila yun. Gusto ko sanang gawin ulit. Napansin ko kasing umuulan sa labas ngayon.”
Manang Fe smiled at the sweet gesture and thoughtfulness of the old lady in front of her. There is no doubt that she truly is Maya’s grandmother. “Ang alam ko meron pa naman kaming cocoa pero wala kaming malagkit at tuyo. Kung gusto mo ay pwede naman akong magpabili kila Sabel at Joma. May malapit namang palengke dito kaya agad din naman silang makakabalik.”
Mamang immediately agreed with Manang Fe’s suggestions.
Manang Fe summoned Sabel and Joma and asked them to buy the ingredients needed for the chocolate rice porridge that Mamang plans to cook and salted dried fish as well.
While waiting, Mamang and Manang Fe shared stories to one another. Stories of their childhood, of their interests, and stories about Richard and Maya. Thirty minutes later, Sabel and Joma finally returned with the ingredients at hand, with that, Mamang started cooking.
As Mamang finished cooking, together with the help of Manang Fe, Joma, Sabel, & Doris, they set-up a table at the veranda and arranged breakfast there. As soon as everything is already set-up, Mamang went to her family and called them up for breakfast. She asked Manang Fe to call Richard & his parents so they can start with them.
As everyone gathered around the veranda, everyone exchanged good mornings and a couple of delighted exclaims were heard as they saw the meal prepared for them.
“Wow! Mamang ikaw ba ang nagluto ng lahat ng ito?” asked Maya in sheer delight.
“Oo apo. Maaga kasi akong nagising kanina at umuulan pa. Naalala ko lang nung mga panahong madalas ko kayong ipagluto nila Kute ng champorado at tuyo lalo na kapag umuulan,” said Mamang proudly.
“Tamang tama Mamang! Alam mo bang nai-kwento ko nga kay Richard ang tungkol jan kagabi? At alam mo ba Mamang, hindi kumakain si Richard ng tuyo,” said Maya almost inaudibly.
Registering a shocked reaction from what she just learned, she turned to Richard to confirm if it was true. “Totoo ba apo na hindi ka kumakain ng tuyo?” Mamang asked in almost an accusing tone.
Feeling guilty as charged, Richard bashfully nodded his head in confirmation.
“Ay nako mare!” butted Donya Esmeralda. “Alam mo kasi noong bata pa si Ricky, hindi niya nagustuhan ang amoy ng tuyo. Minsan kaming nagpaluto ng champorado at tuyo pero ng maamoy ang tuyo, ayun. Ayaw manlang tumikim. Kaya simula noon, hindi na namin tinangka pang magluto o pakainin pa siya ng champorado at tuyo.”
Richard gave his mom a baffled look as he cannot recall such incident to have ever occurred in the past. “When was that ma? How come I don’t have any recollection of that?”
“Well, you were only four at that time son. And it was really a torture for me and your papa cause we really love eating champorado with tuyo but since you hated the smell, we have to let go of our pleasures and think of your own,” explained Donya Esmeralda.
Richard felt guilty some more hearing her mom’s story.
“Naku Richard! Mukhang kailangan mo ng matutunang kumain ng tuyo dahil itong si Maya, isa sa mga talagang paborito niyang pagkain ang champorado at tuyo,” teased Kute.
“Kute talaga o!” replied Maya. “Hindi naman kailangan ni Richard pilitin yung sarili niya na kumain ng tuyo. Baka naman talagang ayaw niya. Ok lang naman.”
“No, no. I want to give it a try. Sabi naman ni Mama, I just didn’t like the smell back when I was a kid. Malay natin, I might actually like its taste,” smiled Richard.
“Sigurado ka? Gusto mo talagang subukan?”
“Of course!” answered Richard proudly.
Everyone gathered around the table and started eating their meal. Maya watched Richard intently to see his progress. She tried her best not to laugh at his cluelessness on how to start working on his tuyo. She saw how he tried to take out the fish’s flesh using his spoon instead of his fingers and how he failed miserably each time. Taking pity on him, Maya took the initiative of giving him the fish’s flesh for him to eat, placing them on his bowl.
“O ayan. Nakakaawa ka na kasi eh,” chuckled Maya.
Maya simply cut him off by raising a brow.
Richard shrugged his shoulders. Smiling at her, he muttered a thank you. As he scooped some porridge from his bowl with a fish on top, and started chewing it, he was surprised to learn how good it actually tasted.
With undeniable delight, he voiced out his pleasure over the meal. “Mmmm. This really is good!” he uttered.
“O di ba? Sabi ko naman sa’yo masarap siya eh!” grinned Maya.
Richard nodded in agreement. “Now I understand kung bakit gustong gusto mo itong champorado with tuyo.”
As they continued eating, Maya continued to place fish on his bowl as he continued to eat with much gusto.
Once done with their breakfast, Richard leaned back on his chair as he gently rub his belly. “I’m so full. Na-impacho yata ako.”
“Na-impacho ka Tito Richard?” asked Cho.
Shaking her head in amusement, Maya answered on his behalf. “Eh paano namang hindi maiimpacho ang Tito Richard mo Cho, eh naka-ilang bowl kaya siya ng Champorado. Kala mong bibitayin at hindi tinigilan.”
Richard answered her with a smirk. “I found it so good. If I’ve only known na ganyan pala siya kasarap, sana noon pa ako nagpaluto ng nagpaluto kila Manang niyan. Angel, once we’re married lagi mo akong ipagluluto niyan ha.”
“Oo na sige na,” chuckled Maya. “O ano? Ok lang ba ang pakiramdam mo? Kasi naman, pwede namang kumain ulit mamaya o magluto ulit.”
“I found it hard to resist not to take another serving! Tapos may tagahimay pa ako ng tuyo, so how can I possibly stop?” he reasoned out.
“Ah at sinisisi mo pa ako dahil pinaghimay kita ng tuyo ganon ba?” said Maya, raising a brow.
“No!” defied Richard immediately. “What I’m trying to say is mas lalong napasarap ang kain ko dahil may naghihimay para sa akin ng tuyo. Kung hindi mo nga ginawa yun I don’t think ma-e-enjoy ko yung kinakain ko.”
“But the meal really is good. Right Ma?”
“I couldn’t agree more. It really is good. Thank you mare,” said Donya Esmeralda.
“Naku walang ano man yun Mare,” replied Mamang.
As everyone was making their way back to the living room, Richard found it hard to even stand up. Maya immediately noticed his discomfort.
“O bakit? Hindi ka makatayo?” she asked with concern.
Richard shook his head.
“Naku ! Naimpacho ka nga yatang talaga! Teka lang ha. Tingin ako ng gamot na pwede sa’yo,” said Maya worriedly.
“Apo, wag ng gamot ang ibigay mo jan kay Richard. Ang mabuti pa, kumuha ka nalang ng sandok sa kusina at hagurin mo nalang ng sandok ang likod niya,” ordered Mamang.
“Sandok Mamang? Sigurado po ba kayo jan?”
“Oo apo. Ganyan ang ginagawa sa amin noon ni Nanay pag nasosobrahan kami ng pagkain. Maniwala ka apo, epektibo yun.”
Reluctantly, Maya obeyed Mamang and went to the kitchen to get a ladle, while the rest of the family went to the living room.
When Maya got back to the veranda, she started rubbing Richard’s back with the use of the ladle. As the ladle moved up and down his back, he found it surprisingly soothing and comfy which also made him sleepy.
“Honey ok ka na ba? Nakakatulong ba itong paghagod ng sandok sa likod mo?” asked Maya.
For a couple of minutes, Maya continued to rub Richard’s back with the ladle, making him forget his discomfort and eventually pulled him to sleep.
As afternoon came, so is the time of the dela Rosa clan’s return to San Nicholas. Richard and Maya drove them to the airport. As always, their partings were not completed without any unshed tears coming from the ladies.
“Nay, Maya, Mang, papaalala ko lang ha. Sa Biyernes, pupunta sila Maya at ang pamilya ni Richard sa San Nicholas para mamanhikan. Ilang araw lang tayo magkakahiwalay at magkikita-kita na ulit tayong lahat. Para namang ilang taon tayong mapapahiwalay kay Maya niyan eh. Maawa naman kayo sa ibang tao dito sa airport. Baka hindi pa marunong lumangoy yung iba eh malunod dahil sa pagbaha ng mga luha niyo,” teased Kute, earning a chuckle from Richard, Jeff and Cho.
“Ikaw talaga Cristina Rose! Minsan nalang kami mag-moment ng Nanay mo eh,” snapped Mamang.
“O sige na. Basta Maya nak, mag-iingat ka ha. At ikaw naman Richard anak, wag ka ng papa-impacho ulit,” smiled Nanay Teresita.
“Nanay naman,” replied Richard bashfully.
“O sige na Nay. Kayo din po mag-iingat. Tawagan niyo po ako pag nakauwi na kayo ha,” said Maya.
As the dela Rosa family entered the boarding area, only then did Richard and Maya leave. They went back to his mansion in time for dinner.
Shortly after dinner, Maya started packing her things up in preparation for her return to the condo.
“What are you doing?” asked Richard as he found Maya packing up her things inside the guest room where she stayed.
“Inaayos ko na yung mga gamit ko. Babalik na ako sa condo. Wala naman na sila nanay eh.”
“Sino ang may sabing babalik ka sa condo?”
“Huh? Eh nag-stay lang naman ako dito sa bahay mo dahil kila nanay eh. Para may kasama sila at hindi mailang. And since wala na sila, babalik narin ako sa tinutuluyan kong talaga.”
Maya resumed packing up her things with her back against him. Richard walked towards her and hugged her from behind.
“Angel, hindi mo na kailangan pang bumalik pa doon. Dito ka nalang. Bahay mo narin naman ito eh.”
Maya stilled and held the arms enveloping her. “Honey, hindi pwede. At isa pa, magiging bahay ko palang ito dahil hindi pa naman tayo kasal.”
“Eh ganon din naman yun eh. Ikakasal narin naman tayo kaya bahay mo na ito. Ayaw mo non? Even before the wedding, sanay ka na. Hindi ka na mamamahay pa.”
Surprised with his argument, Maya spun around and faced him. “At kelan naman ako namahay? Ikaw talaga honey ang mga palusot mo,” she said as she pinch his cheeks.
Richard simply grinned back at her. “Nasanay na kasi ako na nandito ka sa bahay. Kung ang iniisip mo ay wala kang makakasama dito sa kwarto, then doon ka nalang sa masters bedroom, katabi mo pa ako lagi.” A glint of naughtiness touched his eyes.
Maya felt her cheeks burning. “Ayun! Ikaw talaga honey ha! Kung anu-ano yang mga iniisip mo! Sige na at aayusin ko pa ang mga gamit ko.”
Richard held her tighter. “Angel, dito ka nalang. Behave naman ako eh.” Richard said with pleading eyes and pouting lips.
“Ay nako nako honey ha! Hindi mo ako madadaan sa mga ganyang pagpapa-cute mo.” Maya turned around to resume packing her things but her movements were restricted as Richard is still not letting her go. “Honey, hindi ako matatapos agad dito kung hindi mo ako bibitawan. Ang mabuti pa tulungan mo nalang ako dito sa ginagawa ko.”
“Ayaw ko nga. Ayaw ko ngang umalis ka tutulungan pa kita para mapadali ang pag-alis mo. Ayaw ko nga. Hindi kita pakakawalan.”
“Honey!” reprimanded Maya but Richard continued to hug her tight, teasing her more.
“Ricardo pag hindi mo pa talaga pinakawalan!” warned Maya.
Richard threw his head back in a full throaty laugh. “Ang cute mo talagang mapikon angel.”
“Eh ikaw kasi eh! Ayaw mo pa akong tigilan!” replied Maya irritably.
“Fine! Mukhang hindi na talaga magbabago pa ang isip mo eh. Pero may isang kondisyon.”
“Tignan mo to. Ikaw na nga ang nang-aasar ikaw pa may kondisyon??”
“Uh-huh. Kaya kung gusto mong matapos agad sa ginagawa mo, gagawin mo muna yung kondisyon ko or better yet, hindi ka na aalis dito,” grinned Richard.
Maya heaved out a sigh in defeat. Richard can really be playfully stubborn at times, she thought. “Ok sige na. Ano ba ang kondisyon mo?”
Richard gently turned her around to have her face him once more. “Kiss muna.”
Maya raised a brow.
Richard feigned a hurt look. “What? Hindi mo pa kaya ako binibigyan ng kiss ngayong araw na ito.” He pouted.
“Naku! Kung hindi lang talaga kita mahal!” she said as she pinched his cheeks once more then cupped his face and gave him a smack on his lips. “O ayan ha. Nagawa ko na ang kondisyon mo. Sige na at mag-aayos na ako ng gamit ko.”
She was about to turn around when Richard stopped her once again. “Hindi parin pwede.”
Maya eyed him with disbelief. “Anong hindi parin pwede? Ang daya mo ha! Sabi mo kiss? Eh binigay ko na ah!”
Richard shook his head. “Ayoko. Hindi enough yun! Ang bilis kaya! Hindi ko nga halos naramdaman. Iniisip ko pa nga lang na wala ka dito sa bahay natin ngayong gabi at malalayo ka ulit sa akin, nalulungkot na ako. Namimiss na nga kita ngayon palang eh tapos yan lang iiwan mo sa akin?”
Maya laughed at his silliness. “Ang corny mo talaga kahit kailan honey! Sobra! Eh dati naman doon ako nakatira kay Emman ah.”
“Eh dati yun. Nasanay na ako na nandito ka sa bahay. Ayaw mo pa kasing dito ka nalang, eh ganon din naman ang mangyayari pag kinasal na tayo –“
Maya cupped his face once more and claimed his lips, making sure their lips are pressed against each other a couple of seconds longer this time. She let him go with a smacking sound.
“O ayan ha! Mas matagal na yan. Baka magreklamo ka pa!”
Richard grinned at her. “Ok. Pero ako naman ang magbibigay ng pabaon sa’yo.”
Richard held her face and slanted his lips against hers and started giving her a coaxing kiss. Richard ran his tongue against her lower lip, urging her to open for him which she did. Taking in the invitation, Richard plunged his tongue inside her mouth and gave her deep luscious licks as he savoured her warmth and sweetness. Richard was about to break away when Maya caught up with him and started nibbling his lower lip.
Richard smiled. “Sabi ko naman kasi sa’yo wag ka ng umalis eh,” he said in between kisses.
As if brought out of trance, Maya reluctantly let go of his lips and immediately buried her flaming cheeks on his chest, trying to hide her fuming embarrassment. “Honey naman eh!” Maya tried to suppress a squeal.
Richard laughed at her discomfort. Amused by her sudden surge of shyness. He then hugged her giving her assurance and comfort. “Sabi ko naman kasi sa’yo dito ka nalang sa bahay natin para hindi mo na ako ma-miss,” grinned Richard naughtily, teasing her some more.
Maya stomped her feet in frustration. “Richard!!”
Richard laughed some more. “Ok, ok hindi na.” He placed a kiss on top of her head. “Do you need help in packing up your things?”
Maya simply nodded her head.
Everything went back to the usual routine when Maya’s family left Manila to go back to San Nicholas. Richard fetching Maya from the condo before going to his office and fetching her from work then driving straight to his mansion so they could spend time with his parents.
Thursday came and everyone’s pretty hyped with the impending pamamanhikan of Richard and his parents to the dela Rosas. Both parties are excited and nervous at the same time as both parties will be experiencing the said Filipino tradition for the very first time. Everyone’s unsure of what to do, what to bring, what to expect, or what to prepare.
Inside the mansion, Donya Esmeralda was restless about the whole thing. Coming from a Chinese family, she has very little knowledge of the Filipino traditions and practices. If not with the help of Manang Fe and the other house helps, who imparted their knowledge about how the whole thing is usually done, she might’ve spent the whole day pacing back and forth the living room in agitation.
As soon as she learnt the simplicity of the process, she immediately summoned for Joma and asked him to bring her to the mall so she could buy some gifts and pastries she could bring to San Nicholas. After purchasing ample amount of gifts for the dela Rosa clan and incredible amount of goods, Donya Esmeralda finally decided to head back home and prepare her things for their trip the next day.
If the excitement within the Lim family is contained within the confinements of the mansion, the excitement of the dela Rosa clan tells a different story as their excitement and preparation spread like wildfire in the whole local community. Richard’s pamamanhikan instantly became the talk of town, making Richard & Maya instant celebrities. Everyone within the community are all eager to help anyway they can.
6AM the next day, Richard is found knocking on the condo’s door to fetch Maya. After a couple of knocks, Maya opened the door.
“Good morning Angel!”
“Good morning Honey!”
Richard bent down and gave Maya a quick kiss on the lips. “Ready?”
“Yup! Sila Papa at Mama?” she asked.
“They’re in the car waiting for us. Let’s go?”
Maya bid Emman goodbye then, with hands entwined, she and Richard walked out of the condo and proceed to his waiting car.
All throughout their ride to the airport and their plane ride to San Nicholas, they talked about nothing but what went on in the mansion and in San Nicholas in preparation for the pamamanhikan. They were all laughing after learning that both parties were actually rattled up because of their cluelessness on how it should go.
When Don Roberto and Donya Esmeralda learned from Maya that not only her immediate family were preparing for the said event but the whole local community, they can’t help but be in awe with the display of bayanihan that the people are showing. There is no doubt in their hearts that the dela Rosa family is well loved in their community.
Finally, the plane had arrived San Nicholas. After checking out their baggage, Maya, together with Richard and his parents went outside the airport where Maya’s family are waiting to fetch them.
After a while, they all headed to the hotel where Richard and his parents were booked. They stayed at the hotel for a couple of hours before heading out to Tokanz to have their lunch.
Lunch is wonderfully spent with stories shared to one another and playful banters thrown at each other.
After having their lunch, Mamang encouraged Richard’s parents to have a tour around San Nicholas which the latter gladly agreed to. They went to several tourist spots in San Nicholas and finally, stopping at what Maya considers as the most romantic place in the whole San Nicholas.
As soon as they set foot on the very spot where Tatay Arturo proposed to Nanay Teresita, Maya immediately took over and narrated their story to Don Roberto and Donya Esmeralda.
Hearing the story of love of Maya’s parents and the undoubted enthusiasm and giddiness Maya feels as she shares their story, Don Roberto and Donya Esmeralda couldn’t help but feel warmth and tenderness wrap all over them as they try to picture out two couples thoroughly in love with one another.
Nanay Teresita, on the other hand, had mixed emotions hearing the story in her own daughter’s view. She suddenly felt melancholic as promises made by her husband resurfaced her mind once more.
Sensing her mother’s sudden somber mood, Kute took the initiative to distract them and led them to another place. As they were walking around, Richard took Maya’s hand, entwined it with his and lifted to his lips for a kiss.
“You really can’t get enough of your parent’s story, do you?” he asked.
“Everytime kasi na kinukwento mo ang love story nila nanay, lagi kang enthusiastic at lagi kang kinikilig.”
“Eh nakakakilig naman kasing talaga eh! Ang cute kaya ng love story nila pati ng proposal ni tatay kay nanay.”
Richard halted to a stop.
“O bakit?” asked Maya.
“Umm. Yung proposal ko ba sa’yo cute din para sa’yo? Nakakakilig din ba yun para sa’yo?”
Maya almost laughed at his question. “Ano ba namang tanong yan honey?!”
“I just want to know Angel. I just like to know if I did measure up to your standards.”
Sensing his need for an assurance, Maya stood in front of him and rested her hands on his shoulders. “Honey, yung proposal mo hindi nakakakilig.”
Richard’s face fell dramatically. He worked so hard and went out of his way to give her the best proposal ever only to find that it fell short of her standards and expectations.
Maya giggled at the sudden display of dismay on his face. Touching his face, she looked intently in his eyes. “Hindi siya nakakakilig honey, dahil kulang nalang ay himatayin ako sa sobra sobra sobrang kilig. Sobra kayang nakakakilig yung mga ginawa mo! Hindi ko nga alam pano ko nakayanan na tumayo at hindi hinimatay sa kilig! Ang sabihing nakakakilig siya is an understatement. Sobra sobra siyang nakakakilig at yun na ang the best proposal ever.” She smiled sweetly at him, giving him the assurance he has been looking for.
Hearing this from her, Richard’s face immediately brightened up and suddenly felt proud of what he did.
“So I can expect na whenever you tell other people of our love story, you’ll be thoroughly enthusiastic and overloaded with kilig as well?” grinned Richard.
“Yun ay kung matatapos ko ang pagkukwento ko sa kanila.”
“Eh kasi, baka hindi nga ako hinimatay nung actual, sa pag reminisce naman ako himatayin sa kilig.”
Richard laughed in amusement. “Silly!”
“Alam mo honey, hindi naman yun sa ganda ng pagkikita o pano tayo na-in love sa isa’t-isa or sa ganda ng proposal. It’s how two people maintain their love for one another despite the problems and challenges they face. Yun ang talagang nagpapaganda at nagpapakilig sa isang love story,” said Maya.
Richard collected her in his arms and hugged her tight. “Then I promise to give you the best love story ever.”
The cool morning breeze of Saturday came. Everyone’s hype doubled up as the day of the pamamanhikan had finally arrived. Everyone’s been busy more than ever helping out the dela Rosa family arrange their yard for the pamamanhikan. One neighbour after the other comes to the Chibugan, each one with a dish or good in hand. The Chibugan had been filled with a lot of food and goods that both Kute and Jeff were forced to bring some of them inside the house.
Outside, the men helped in arranging and setting up tables, chairs and different decorations. A pig as well is dressed to be roasted in a couple of hours on the side of the house. Everyone’s in a festive mood and excited with arrival of Richard and his parents to the dela Rosa residence. Everyone’s been busy that time went by swiftly for each and everyone.
7PM came. Maya paced back and forth inside her room, anxious and fidgety at the same time. The door creaked open and in came Nanay Teresita which Maya had not noticed right away if she had not made her presence known to the latter.
“Maya, nak. Ano ka ba? Kumalma ka lang,” soothed Nanay Teresita.
Maya clasped her hands together to control her fidgeting. “Kinakabahan kasi ako nay eh.”
Nanay Teresita smiled at her. “Ito talagang anak ko o. Bakit ka naman kakabahan? Kung tutuusin nga pormalidad lang ang lahat ng ito.”
Scratching her head, “Eh hindi ko lang mapigilan inay. Kinakabahan ako, na nae-excite, na..”
“Hmm. Kinikilig?” Nanay Teresita added for her.
Maya simply nodded her head and tried to supress a squeal.
Nanay Teresita moved closer to her and collected her in her arms. “Ito talagang anak ko o. Wag kang mag-alala anak. Kilala ko si Richard. At palagay ang loob ko na aalagaan ka niya at mamahalin ka niya ng buong buo.”
“Salamat po nay.”
Andito na sila! Aling Teresita! Conching! Maya! Kute! Andito na ang mga bisita!” shouted one of their neighbors from outside the house.
Nanay Teresita and Maya went towards the window and saw Richard and his parents making their way towards the stairs. They both went out to welcome the Lim family.
As Richard and his parents made their way up the stairs, Maya and her family welcomed them on top and ushered them towards the living room. As everyone gathered up and took their seats, Richard and Maya sat side by side at the head of the room.
Richard took Maya’s hand and clasped with his, taking courage and assurance from her. “Nay, Mamang, Kute, in front of my parents, I’d like to ask for Maya’s hand in marriage. I promise to love her and have her happiness be my first priority before mine. I also promise not to hurt her or make her cry, except for tears of joy of course. Makaaasa po kayo na hinding hindi ko po siya pababayaan.” Richard turned to Maya and looked tenderly in her eyes. He was rewarded with a warm smile from her.
Nanay Teresita saw the sincerity and tenderness in every word that Richard uttered. Right from the start, she didn’t doubt nor question his sincerity and the intentions that he has for her daughter. If there was something that she can be sure of, that is the fact that Richard will stay true to his promises to her daughter and that he really is the one that God made for her very own Maya.
As tears started to form in her eyes, “Richard, noong una palang, alam kong maganda at malinis ang hangarin at intensyon mo sa anak ko. Kailanman ay hindi ako nagduda sa’yo. Alam kong ikaw ang taong lubos na magmamahal at magpapalligaya sa kanya. Alam ko rin na ikaw ang tinakda ng Diyos para maging kabiyak at katuwang ng anak ko. Kaya anak, buong pagtitiwala kong ibinibigay sa’yo ang anak ko. Alam kong hindi mo siya pababayaan at alam kong mananatili kang totoo sa iyong mga pangako.”
Richard smiled at her. “Salamat po nay.”
With that, Richard stood up and gave Nanay Teresita a hug. He moved to Mamang and Kute and gave them a hug as well.
“So pano ba yan? Welcome to the family bro!” quipped Kute making everyone laugh.
“Aba eh tara na sa baba at ng maumpisahan na ang mga hinandang mumunting salo-salo. Pihadong marami na sa ating mga kapitbahay ang nagugutom,” said Mamang.
“Sus! Mamang talaga! Mga kapitbahay pa talaga inalala. Ang sabihin mo mang, ikaw ang nagugutom!” teased Kute earning a laugh from everyone.
“Eh ano ngayon kung ako’y gutom na? Halina nga kayo at ng maumpisahan na ang selebrasyon sa baba.”
Both families went their way out of the house and joined the rest of the community in the little festivity they prepared. Both families received unending congratulatory messages and well-wishes. Everyone were having a good time and are all enjoying the food prepared for each and everyone.
After dinner, Lino and Jeff set up a table on one side and invited Richard, Don Roberto, Kute, and Simon over. A couple of seconds later, coming from the Chibugan, Jeff had a 2L bottle of Lambanog at hand.
“At syempre, hindi matatapos ang gabing ito ng walang inumang magaganap,” announced Jeff.
“O teka lang pards. Baka hindi sanay itong bayaw ko at si tito jan sa lambanog,” said Kute.
“Pards, lambanog lang yan. Kayang kaya ni Pareng Richard yan,” butted Lino.
“Nako ha. Inaalala ko lang ang bayaw ko at itong si tito. Mamaya malagot pa tayo kila Nanay,” replied Kute.
Don Roberto held up his hand. “It’s ok Cristina Rose. Nung kabataan ko eh nakatikim narin ako niyan. As far as I can remember, hindi naman nalalayo sa brandy ang lasa niya. Kayang kaya namin ni Ricky yan. Right son?”
Feeling cornered and not wanting to give any unwanted impression on them, “If you say so Papa. Ang totoo kasi niyan hindi pa ako nakakatikim niyan eh but how bad can it be?”
“O yun naman pala eh! Kaya pards, relax ka lang jan at simulan na natin ang happy happy!” announced Jeff.
With that, the group started having their drinking spree.
As Richard got a shot of it, he felt his throat burn with the taste. He discreetly whispered to his father. “Pa, sabi mo parang brandy lang? Eh mas matapang pa ito sa brandy eh.”
Don Roberto whispered back, “ Eh yun ang naalala ko eh. Besides, noong kabataan ko pa ako huling nakainom niyan. Baka naiba na ang timpla ngayon.”
“Bro may problema ba?” asked Kute.
“Ah wala naman,” lied Richard and resumed with their session.
After a couple of rounds, Kute stood up and called everyone’s attention. “Ah mga mahal kong kapitbahay, kapamilya, kaibigan, Richard, Tito, Tita, gusto ko lang na batiin sila Richard at Maya at syempre hangad ko ang kaligayahan niyong dalawa. Richard bro, gaya nga ng sabi ni Nanay kanina, naniniwala at nagtitiwala akong hindi mo pababayaan ang kapatid ko at alam kong pakamamahalin mo siya ng buong puso. At Maya bunso, masayang masaya ako para sa’yo. Masaya ako na nakita mo na ang lalaking nakalaan para sa’yo. At para jan,” Kute raised her glass for a toast, “para kila Richard at Maya. Kampay!”
“Kampay!” shouted everyone.
“Syempre padadaig naman ba ako sa apo ko,” announced Mamang which earned a laugh from everyone. “Ang masasabi ko lang para sa apo kong sila Richard at Maya, unahin ninyo ang Panginoon sa lahat ng oras. Siya ang maging prayoridad niyo sa inyong relasyon at siguradong hinding hindi kayo magkakamali o magkakawalay man. At gusto kong gayahin ninyo ang pagsasama nila Roberto at Esmeralda. Tignan niyo naman, ilang taon na ang lumipas pero matatag parin ang kanilang pagsasama. Tularan niyo sila na kahit ano mang pagsubok ang dumaan, kahit ano mang problema, hindi sila sumusuko. Bagkus ay kapit-bisig nila itong hinaharap at hindi sila bumibitaw sa isa’t isa. Kaya para sa inyo mga apo, nawa ay maging masaya at maayos ang inyong magiging pagsasama. Kaya para jan,” Mamang this time raised her glass, “para sa magiging pagsasama nila Richard at Maya at sa patuloy na pagsasama nila Roberto at Esmeralda! Kampay!”
“Kampay!” shouted everyone.
One of the neighbours started playing a guitar and another started singing to it. Richard, gaining courage from alcohol, stood up and asked Maya for a dance. Roberto also stood up, went to Esmeralda and asked her for a dance.
Both couples went to the middle and started dancing to the music, much to everyone’s delight. Both Maya and Esmeralda are laughing at their partners as they sway mindlessly against the beat of the music. As the song came to end, Richard and Roberto went back to their table despite Maya’s and Esmeralda’s plea for them to stop.
“My goodness Roberto! What came up to you! Look at yourself! Lasing na lasing ka! Dinamay mo pa itong si Ricky! Nakakahiya kila Maya!” said an obviously irritated and frustrated Donya Esmeralda.
“Oh no-no-non-se-sense hick Esmeralda. We just hick had a good time.”
“Oh look at you! Sitting there grinning like a fool!”
“Ah ako Ma hik hi-hindi ako la-lasing. O-okay hik pa ako.” Richard tried to stand-up but because of drunkenness, lost balance and fell back on the chair.
Maya immediately rushed onto his side. “Honey, wag ka ng kumilos. Umupo ka nalang jan.”
“You you be-believe hik me Angel right? I’m not drunk,” Richard babbled some more as he grinned foolishly.
Maya heaved out a sigh. “Nay pano ba ito? Eh pati sila Kute at Jeff mga nalasing din ng husto. Kung bakit ba naman kasi hindi nakuntento doon sa isang bote ng lambanog at naglabas pa ng isa!”
“Oh Maya hija. Pasensya ka na ha. Nakisali pa itong dalawang ito,” said Donya Esmeralda apologetically.
“Naku Ma. Kami nga ang dapat humingi ng paumanhin sa inyo kasi pati sila Tito at itong si Richard nadamay pa sa kalokohan nila Kute. Pasensya na po kayo.”
“It’s ok hija. Ang mabuti pa siguro eh bumalik na kami sa hotel para makapagpahinga na tayong lahat,” said Donya Esmeralda. She then walked to Don Roberto and urged him to stand up to leave for the hotel.
Maya then nudged Richard to stand up. “Honey, tayo ka na. Aalis na kayo. Babalik na kayo sa hotel nila Mama para makapagpahinga na kayo.”
“Hotel? No no no angel. Hik. I’m not going hik to a hotel. I’m already home. Hik. Ayaw ni Nanay na hik sa hotel ako nag-stay di ba? Hik. Dalin mo na ako sa hik room mo para hik makapagpahinga na ako,” answered Richard.
“Ha?? Naku honey ha! Sa hotel kayo tutuloy ngayon. Nagpa-book kayo ng kwarto nila Mama doon. Tayo ka na jan at ng makabalik na kayo doon,” said Maya but Richard remained adamant and unmoving.
“Naku pano ba ito?” muttered Maya.
Donya Esmeralda, with the help of Mamang and Nanay Teresita brought Don Roberto to their rented car then went back inside to fetch Richard.
“Ricky hijo. It’s time for us to go,” said Donya Esmeralda.
“Where are we going Ma?” asked Richard.
“We’re going back to the hotel. Doon tayo matutulog remember? Halika na at ng makapagpahinga na tayong pare-pareho.”
“No Ma. I’m not going to hik the hotel. I’m staying here with Maya hik. Di ba Nay, ayaw mo na hik sa hotel ako tumutuloy hik kasi mas gusto mo na dito ako sa bahay niyo?”
“Richard, lasing ka lang. Sige na –“ Maya was urging him to stand up when a hand stopped her.
“Nak, hayaan mo na,” said Nanay Teresita.
“Ah balae, kung ayos lang sa’yo iwan niyo nalang si Richard dito. Mukhang hindi natin mapipilit ang isang yan. Lasing na lasing eh baka kung mapano pa siya,” suggested Nanay Teresita.
“Naku balae. Hindi naman kaya makaabala na kaming masyado sa inyo niyan? Anjan sila Jeff at Cristina Rose na aayusin niyo din. Makakadagdag pa sa aalalahanin niyo itong si Ricky.”
“Wala yun balae. Ayos lang. Wag mo kaming alalahanin. Mukhang hindi rin natin mapipilit yang si Richard na umalis eh.”
Donya Esmeralda heaved out an exasperated sigh. “Hay nako balae. Kung bakit ba naman kasi ngayon pa naisipan ng mag-amang yan na maglasing!”
Nanay Teresita smiled. “Hayaan mo na balae. Nagkatuwaan eh. Mabuti pa eh magpunta na kayo ni balaeng Roberto sa hotel at ng makapagpahinga na kayo.”
Donya Esmeralda knew that Nanay Teresita was right. Though she was reluctant to leave Richard behind, she was left with no other choice but to do so. She was just grateful that Teresita and her family were accommodating enough to let Richard stay, treating him already as part of their own family.
“Ano ba naman itong sila Cristina Rose at Jeff! Kung bakit ba naman kasi ngayon pa naisipang maglasing!” grumbled Mamang.
“Nay, hayaan mo na. Wala na tayong magagawa pa jan. Hayan na eh,” said Nanay Teresita.
“Naku eh ano pa nga ba. Teka eh paano ba ang gagawin natin sa kanila ngayon? Ito namang si Jeff eh hindi natin pwedeng pauwiin at baka maaksidente pa sa kalasingan. Saan ba natin sila patutulugin?”
Nanay Teresita thought of a possible workaround. As shewas in deep thoughts, Mamang thought of an idea.
“Pero Mang –“
“Wala ng pero pa apo. Alangan namang sa sala natin patutulugin yang si Richard,” replied Mamang.
“Eh Mamang, bakit hindi nalang sila ni Jeff ang magsama sa kwarto? Tutal pareho naman silang lalaki,” argued Maya.
“Apo, lasing silang pareho. Baka kung ano pang mangyari sa kanilang dalawa. Baka mamaya magising si Richard at may kailanganin. At least kung nasa tabi ka niya, madali mo siyang matutulungan. Sige na apo. Kawawa naman yang apo kong si Richard kung papabayaan lang natin. Sa amin na matutulog sila Kute at Jeff, kami na ni Teresita ang bahalang magbantay sa kanila at ikaw naman ang bahalang magbantay jan sa nobyo mo.”
“Eh may magagawa pa nga po ba ako,” sighed Maya. She then turned around and went to Richard who was still resting at the living room.
She walked up to him and helped him up and walk him towards her room and placed him on her bed. Maya went outside and got herself a basin filled with water and a face towel. She also took one of Kute’s shirt and shorts. As she got back to the room, she found Richard lying still on her bed. She started soaking the face towel, squeezed the water out of it and wiped it on his face, neck, and arms. She also managed to change his shirt. When she was already about to change his pants, she stopped, unsure of whether to pursue or not.
“Honey? Honey?” She tried to wake Richard up.
Richard simply answered with a grunt.
“Honey. Kailangan mo na munang bumangon para magpalit ng pantalon.”
Richard opened his eyes and smiled at the sight of Maya.
“Angel,” slurred Richard.
“Honey, bumangon ka na muna at magpalit ng pantalon.”
Richard grinned foolishly and obeyed her. He tried to stand up but swayed easily then chuckled like a fool.
“Nahihilo ako angel,” chuckled Richard then slumped back on bed.
Maya immediately went to his side and assisted him to sit up straight. “Naku pano ba ito? Hindi naman pwede na matulog ito ng naka pantalon. Hindi magiging komportable para sa kanya,” she thought. She then decided to assist him to stand up and see if he can change his pants from there.
She took his arm and placed it around her shoulders as she tried to support his frame. She then asked him to remove his pants. As Richard tried to remove his belt, Maya instinctively closed her eyes. She then felt Richard bending down, as if trying to reach something from his legs or ankles.
“Tanggal na angel,” he said.
Without opening her eyes, she reached out the shorts to him. Once again, she felt Richard bend down as he wore the shorts.
“Ok na angel,” chuckled Richard.
She then opened her eyes and saw him grinning down at her with eyes half-open. Carefully, she assisted him back on her bed. After placing him back on bed, Maya stood up and took the wet face towel and basin outside.
As she got back inside her room, she found Richard sleeping peacefully. She walked near him and sat on the side of the bed. As she watched him sleep, she tried to caress and brush his hair tenderly using her hands.
When she stopped and tried to stand up, Richard grabbed her wrist and pulled her back to bed causing her to stumble on top of him.
“Ayyy!!” exclaimed Maya.
“Angel don’t go. Just stay here with me.”
Maya tried to look at his face and saw that his eyes are still closed. When she tried to get up, he just tightened his hold on her.
“Honey, hindi ako aalis. Mahihiga lang ako sa tabi mo.”
She then felt his grip loosen. As she was momentarily freed from his grip, she moved from his top and lay down on his side. As she lay herself, she felt Richard move close to her and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her tight against him.
“I love you angel.”
Maya looked at his face, his eyes are still closed. She smiled at him.
“I love you too honey.”