A/N: This is a continuation to Foolish Hearts – part 8.
Chapter 9 – The courtship
“Good afternoon po. Mano po.” Richard greeted Maya’s grandmother. He was smiling. He noticed that the she was looking at him intently as if trying to recognize his face.
“Ina, si Ricky po ang kasama ko.” It was a short introduction from Maya.
The old lady was momentarily stunned evidenced by the widening of her eyes. Her eyes darted back and forth from Maya and Richard. When she opened her mouth, she called out names in strained voice as she began to cry.
“Isang! Conching! Isang! Conching!” She took a handkerchief from her chest to wipe away her tears. “Mag-parine kayo! Si Maya, nag-asawa na!”
“Ano po?” Maya and Richard exclaimed at the same time.
Two elder ladies came out from different parts of the house. One of them appeared from the eatery and she spoke out loud. “Kaka, ano bang ingay ‘yan?” She wiped the perspiration off her face with a towel. It was only after she placed her towel back inside her apron did she recognize Maya.
“Maya, umuwi ka? Di ba sa Pasko pa ang dating mo?” She looked at Maya and then Richard.
Maya took her 2nd elder lady’s hand. “Mano po Inang Isang.” Richard quickly followed suit.
Another grandmother came down from the stairs, “Kaka, sinong nag-asawa?” She looks youngest among the three.
Maya immediately met the 3rd grandmother who was now on the foot of the stairs. “Mano po, Mamang.” She also kissed this grandmother. Richard did the same form of greeting. Mamang seemed surprised by his gesture.
Inang Kosang cried louder after seeing her two sisters. “Ayan, ang magaling n’yong apo, nag-asawa na.”
“Naku, hindi po.” Maya replied in a loud voice. She was getting disturbed by the confusion Inang Kosang created.
It was Inang Isang who then pacified the situation. “Ay naku bakit dito tayo nag-uusap ng ganito. Umakyat muna kayong mag-asawa sa taas at duon kayo magpaliwanag.” She directed Richard and Maya to go up the house while she spoke to her sisters. “Kayo namang dalawa, ‘wag muna kayong mag-isip na kung anu-ano. Pakinggan muna natin sila. Hala, magsi-akyat tayo sa bahay.”
They all heeded the order of Inang Isang that they soon found themselves seated in the wooden sofa at the main house facing the three grandmothers. Maya was red faced with embarrassment while Richard had mixed emotions. His facial expression had both amusement and confusion with regards to their predicament.
But, he was still able to manage a whisper to Maya. “Okay din tong welcome natin,ha.” She whispered back. “Sorry ha, ako ng magpapaliwag.”
The whisperings didn’t escape Inang Isang’s attention. She first turned to her elder sister, “Kaka, una muna huminahon ka. Kung talagang nag-asawa na ‘tong apo natin. Anong magagawa natin?” Inang Isang rationalized to Inang Kosang who was still tearful.
It was Maya spoke in behalf of her and Richard. “Inang Kosang, Inang Isang, Mamang, hindi po ako nag-asawa. Ang sabi ko lang po kanina, eh, KASAMA ko si Richard.” She clarified the misunderstanding by slowly and emphatically saying every word.
“O, ganuon naman pala, Kaka. Hindi mo naman pala naintindihang mabuti. Hindi naman pala nag-asawa.” Inang Isang commented.
Inang Kosang seemed to have realized that she made the wrong assumption. “Ah, ganoon ba? Akala ko kasi ay nag-asawa si Maya ng hindi man lang nagpa-alam sa atin. Akala ko’y natulad na sya sa ibang kababaihan ngayon na bigla-bigla na lang nag-aasawa ng wala sa ayos. Iparis n’yo kay Cristina Rose.” Inang Kosang explained.
She then looked at Richard and Maya. “Eh di ibig sabihin, magkaibigan kayo nitong apo ko?” She asked Richard.
“Opo, Kaibigan ko po si Maya.” Richard responded as he glanced at Maya.
Inang Kosang eyed him carefully. “Sigurado kang mag-kaibigan lang kayo ni Maya? Wala ng iba?”
He just smiled and was contemplating on saying something when Maya interjected. “Inang, friends lang kami.”
Richard pretended to scratch his forehead at the same time secretly looked at Maya with a raised eyebrow. Maya’s expression told him to keep quiet.
Then, it was Mamang’s turn to join the discussion. She was still gazing at Richard seemingly fascinated by his looks. “Ay, maganda, magkaibigan pa lang naman pala.”
“Opo, Mamang. Inimbitahan po namin ni Ysabel si Richard dito sa fiestang munti natin para naman maka-experience s’ya ng fiesta dito sa barrio.” Maya provided the additional explanation.
“O ganun naman pala. So, maliwanag na. Ay naku! Maiwan ko na kayo rito at baka masunog ang sinusuman ko sa baba. Mag-hahalaya pa ako.” Inang Isang hurriedly left them.
Mamang also stood up, “Maya, Richard, magtanghalian muna kayo. Nagkagulo na tayo pero hindi pa kayo nakakain man lang. Dini tayo’y maghuntahan.” She went to the adjacent dining room to prepare.
Since Richard and Maya arrived at San Nicolas a day before the fiesta, some of dishes have already been cooked and ready to be served. Mamang let them try the dishes as she served food and drinks. She kept on looking at Richard’s face. It was during lunch that Richard learned that Inang Kosang was the eldest of the three, Inang Ising is the second and the youngest is Mamang, she is Conching. They were often referred to as the tres marias of their family. Mamang is the immediate grandmother of Maya.
While they were having lunch, Maya’s mother Nanay Teresita finally arrived.
“Maya… dumating ka na ba? Kaninong malaking sasakyan ang nasa trangkahan?” Nanay Teresita called out from the main door.
“Teresita, nandito kami sa komidor.” Mamang replied.
The moment Nanay Teresita entered the dining room, Maya stood up and hugged her mother. “Nanay, kumusta po kayo? Nay si Ricky po.” She gaily introduced Richard who took Nanay Teresita’s hand. “Mano po, Nay Teresita.”
Nanay Teresita stared at Richard for a moment but quickly recovered. “Ahh, mabuti naman nakasama ka dito sa amin Ricky. O sige, ituloy n’yo muna ang pagkain n’yo. Ilalagay ko lang sa kusina itong mga na-grocery ko. Ang daming tao sa grocery sa bayan kaya ngayon lang ako nakabalik.” She left them and went to the kitchen.
Mamang followed her daughter. “Teresita, wala ka bang napansin doon kay Ricky?” Mamang asked.
“Naku, Nay, parang alam ko na ang ibig nyong sabihin. May hawig si Ricky kay Tatay?” She smiled at her mother.
“Ayun, nasapul mo anak. May konting hawig. Hayyy, ano sa palagay mo? Talaga kayang magkaibigan lang ‘yang dalawang yan?” She continued asking her daughter.
“Nay, ang sabi ni Maya, friends lang sila. Wala namang sinabing iba.”
“Obserbahan mo at parang kakaiba. At saka, wala ka rito kanina. Naku, eh nagkagulo.”
“Bakit, Nay anong nangyari.” There was a tone of concern from Nanay Teresita.
“Napagkamalang nag-asawa na yang si Maya ng Kaka. Ay nagpanaghoy kanina si Kaka. Mabuti na lang nakapagpaliwanag ng mabuti ang anak mo. Pero alam mo naman si Kaka, malakas ang kutob n’yan. Ilan na ba ang napagkamalian nya dito sa atin na humantong din sa kasalan?” Mamang posed a question that Nanay Teresita got into thinking mode.
After lunch, Maya helped Mamang wash the dishes while Richard and Nanay Teresita returned to the living room. Coffee and leche flan was served to them. Since they were alone, Nanay Teresita took the opportunity to get to know more about Richard. She was very curious since it was the first time that Maya brought a male friend to their home. She knew Maya has many friends but there was something with the two that she could sense was more than friendship.
Richard, on the other hand, also took the chance to express his interest in Maya and asked her mother’s permission. After meeting her grandmothers and seeing San Nicolas, he realized that they are still very conservative and so he must follow certain traditional ways. After talking to Nanay Teresita, he had plans of telling Maya what he truly feels for her.
When Maya returned to the living room, Richard was nowhere to be found. She got worried that he might be bored and so she looked around for him by going downstairs. He wasn’t in the yard. She checked the eatery and discovered him at the backyard with her mother and Inang Ising. She was surprised by what she saw. Richard was in his undershirt holding a big ladle in front of large cauldron mixing the contents in it.
“Ricky…. Nay… ano ‘yan?” Maya approached them.
“Maya, itong si Ricardo, nag prisintang maghalo ng halaya. Ayan, pinagbigyan ko na. Mahirap din kasing maghalo n’yan. May mga nag-pagawa din kasi kaya medyo malaki ang kawa natin.” It was Inang Ising who responded.
“Oo nga Maya. Tingnan mo ang ganda ng pagkakahalo, pantay na pantay. Malapit na ‘tong maluto.” Nay Teresita added.
“Yes!” Richard was excited. “Inang, patikim ha, favorite ko po ‘tong dessert eh.”
“Ay syempre, anak. Ikaw ang unang titikim.” Inang Ising was smiling ear to ear. It looked like the two were getting along very well.
Instead of minding the ube jam, Maya noticed Richard’s muscles in his arms and chest as he did the stirring work. They were emphasized every time he moved and she wondered how would it feel to be held by those strong arms. He was perspiring with all the effort he was doing in front of the fire.
“Ricky, can you rest for a while? Naiinitan ka na kasi.” She gave him a handkerchief. She was concerned especially when she noticed his cheeks have turned pink due to the heat coming from the firewood burning under the cauldron. It didn’t help that it was mid-afternoon and temperature was quite high.
“This is almost done sabi ni Inang. Let me just finish this.” He assured her that it was okay.
Maya handed Richard a towel as soon as the cauldron was taken out of the fire and replaced by another big pot containing another batch of suman (sticky rice rolls).
“Ricky, punas ka muna. Pawis ka na eh. Buti pa kaya, magpalit ka ng damit bago tayo magpunta sa hotel.” Maya suggested.
“Sa hotel? Bakit kayo papunta sa hotel Maya?” Nanay Teresita asked.
“Doon po ako naka check-in. Nagbook po ako ng room doon for the two days that I’m here.” Richard explained.
“Ay hindi na anak. Dito ka na sa amin tumuloy. Hindi nga lang kasing ganda ng hotel ang bahay namin pero bisita ka namin. Gagastos ka pa eh, may kwarto sa taas. Pwede ka doon. Isa pa, hindi ka na paroo’t parito kung sakaling mamasyal kayong magkakaibigan.” Inang Ising volunteered.
Nanay Teresita also agreed and insisted that he stayed with them. She offered Cristina Rose’s room who was in Boracay on vacation with her son and her partner, Jeff. In the end, Richard agreed.
It was already late afternoon when Richard and Maya were able to leave the house to do sightseeing around San Nicolas. Maya decided to bring him to the park near the river. It is one of the more famous places in their town. It has breathtaking view of the river with lush green bushes and trees on the other side. The unpolluted green water flowed silently. The scenery was very relaxing, romantic and picturesque.They walked side by side. There were very few people around.
“Ricky, ito yung place na sinasabi ng mga Inang ko na most romantic place noong panahon nila. Dati, may mga bato pa dyan sa tabi ng puno na yan.”
Maya stopped at a century old tree with a bench beside it. “Noong panahon nila, dito sila nagsumpaan ng kanilang mga pag-ibig sa isat-isa. Sila nanay at tatay din daw dito nagsumpaan.” Maya shared further with a smile on her face.
Richard looked up the tree with interest. He smiled as he asked her. “So, what happened? Nasa’n ang mga lolo at tatay mo?” He was curious why they were all women in their house.
Maya paused for a while trying to construct her response. Then, she said.“Ah, to make the long story short, si Paquito na asawa ni Inang Kosang, sumakabilang bahay after the world war 2. Si Inang Ising naman yung boyfriend n’ya namatay sa gyera. Si Papang naman, sumakibilang bahay din. At ang tatay ko, ewan ko, nawalang parang bula.”
“What do you mean sumakabilang bahay?” Richard asked, not understanding what she meant.
“Hindi mo alam yung term na ‘yon?” She laughed. “It means napunta sa ibang bahay, sa ibang babae, ganuun.”
Richard fell silent for a while. Then, he pointed at another tree which seems to be younger than the tree beside them. “How about that tree, ‘yung medyo malayo na ‘yon, may history rin ba’yon?”
“Eh hindi ko alam. Malamang wala kasi walang kwento ang mga Inang ko tungkol doon.” She responded.
“Ah, Great! Let’s go there. Parang mas maganda doon.” Richard suggested. She gave him a strange look.
As they took a step towards the other tree, Richard took Maya’s hand and held it. She turned to him and saw him wink at her. She blushed but allowed him to intertwined their fingers . They continued walking. It was getting dark and fireflies started to come out. They stopped under the tree and was silent for a while; they were just enjoying the scenery.
“So, Ricky, bakit dito tayo lumipat eh pareho lang naman ang view dito at doon.” She turned to face him. She was smiling sweetly.
“Hmmm, let’s just say I’d like to have positive vibes this evening. May sasabihin kasi ako sa’yo.” He took her other hand such that he was already holding both her hands and facing her directly. He gazed at her in a way that caused the tiny hairs at her nape stand up. Her smile left her face as her heart thumped loudly. She knew her hands were as cold as her soles with nervousness. She couldn’t take her eyes off him as it was glued on his.
“Maya, I think you already what I’m going to tell you. I know you can feel it.” He started; his heart was also thumping. “I’m in love with you. I’ve been waiting for this day to tell you that I love you.” Richard finally declared his love for Maya.
“Ricky…” There was a lump on her throat. She was overwhelmed by her emotions that she couldn’t respond to him. She felt the same and yet no words came out from her lips.
“Maya, you don’t have to respond right now. I’m willing to wait. I just hope you allow me to show much you mean to me.” Richard gazed at her with tender eyes, full of love that Maya couldn’t help but be drawn to him.
“Richard…” She moved close to him and was about to say something when they got jolted by a loud sound of horn. It came from a car several meters away from them. When they turned, they saw Ysabel was waving at them.