Changed My Mind About Defying 40


I have changed my mind. I’m not throwing a concert-party when I turn forty, after all.

I posted twice about my grand plans for a showcase of talents here and my own playlist here. But since then, so many things have happened that have convinced me that I do not have the amount of energy for an event of such proportions that my wild imagination invented. It was easy to conceptualize when I was in Sydney; but being back in Manila, I had to face the reality of turning 40.

My friends are really busy. My health commands my attention. I can embrace the gift of life in solitude and in simplicity. There are things to do and I have to conserve resources for what are truly important in life.

I still want to defy 40, but I guess I’ll just limit it to not looking my age. I am grateful for my genes because this healthy, Asian skin is not prone to wrinkles. So I look maybe about 26. 🙂

Definitely, there will be some food, some drinks, my real friends, and my family. That should be enough.

All right, let’s do this, July!

 

Advertisements

Luha at Tamis (Huling Yugto ng Housewife Series)


Ang huling kabanata sa kwento nina Sheryl at Julius. Para sa nakaraan, pakibasa po lamang ang Kwentong Housewife (Daw) sa pamamagitan ng link sa itaas.

VI.  Luha at Tamis

Magandang umaga!” bati ni Julius kay Sheryl, sabay alok ng kape na siya mismo ang nag-brew. Tutulong sanang maghanda ng almusal si Sheryl pero nakahain na ang mga yaya ng mga anak ni Joanne paglabas niya sa kuwarto.  Maaga talaga nagigising ang household pag may bata.

Huwag kaya tayo dito mag-breakfast?” tanong ni Julius.

Puyat at hindi pa masyadong gising si Sheryl, pero sulit naman ang sakit ng ulong dinaranas niya ngayon. Napalapit siya nang husto sa mga kaibigan ni Julius, at natuwa rin siya sa mas malalim na pagkakakilala niya rito dahil sa kanila.

Saan tayo pupunta?” tanong ni Sheryl, sabay tanggap sa mug ng kape na inihanda ni Julius. Nag-kiss sa kanya si Julius sa noo. “At nasaan silang lahat?

Yung mga hindi talaga tagarito, alam mo namang unti-unting nagsiuwian na mula pagsikat ng araw. Sina Alex at Joanne, ipinasyal na ang mga bata. Nagtatatalo sila paglabas dito kung sa park o sa swimming o sa horseback riding o sa McDonald’s sila pupunta.”

Hirap talaga ng may anak,” sabi ni Sheryl. Kung siya, limang oras lang ang tulog na putol-putol pa dahil sa labas-masok ng mga roommates niya, malamang, yung mag-asawa, halos wala pa dahil sila ang hosts kagabi, pero kailangang pagbigyan ang lakad na talaga namang pinlano at inilaan para sa mga bata.

Ano, ready ka na bang umalis? O kung gusto mo light breakfast muna tayo dito, tapos magsimba tayo, tapos lunch sa Tagaytay?” Kanina pa gising si Julius at nagpaplano ng kanilang araw. Sa sala kasi nagsiksikan ang mga kalalakihan kaya walang may matinong tulog sa kanila. Ang mga misis at si Sheryl, nagkasya sa mga kwarto. Pero isa-isa na ring nagpaalam ang mga barkada dahil karamihan sa kanila, kagabi pa dapat umuwi.

Maganda yata yung almusal-simba-lunch na plano. Aabot tayo sa 10 a.m. mass, bibilisan ko lang mag-pack,” sagot ni Sheryl. Naka-shower naman na siya. Aba’y hindi siya magpapakita kay Julius ng bagong-gising look kaya siniguro niyang bago siya bumaba sa kusina ay ayos na siya.

Masarap ba ‘yung kape? Batangas brew ‘yan,” kwento ni Julius.

 

Actually parang matapang siya kesa sa usual na iniinom ko, pero tama lang ito para magising.”

Wala ka bang hangover? May Berocca rito, iniwan ni Ria para sa iyo.

Ayun, parang kailangan ko ‘yan…” bago pa makakuha ng basong may tubig si Sheryl para sa Berocca, nagawa na ito ni Julius. Pinanood nila ang tablet na mag-fizz sa tubig.

Ang thoughtful naman ni Ria. Actually, aside from Joanne, parang siya ang pinaka-makakasundo ko sa barkada mo. Although mabait naman lahat. Natuwa rin ako dun sa abogada, pinagtanggol ka.

Natuwa rin silang lahat sa iyo,” maingat na sabi ni Julius. Bigla lang siyang nag-flashback sa nangyari dati, nung nakasundo ng barkada ang dating girlfriend niyang doktora at makipag-break siya, hindi niya maintindihan bakit may opinion sila. Apektado lahat. Sana naman hindi mangyari iyon with Sheryl. Not that may  balak siyang makipag-break kay Sheryl. Ni hindi pa nga sila. Yata.

Sana nga makita ko sila ulit.” Na-conscious si Sheryl sa sagot niya kasi parang nagpapa-imbitang ewan siya sa lakad ng barkada. Pinansin na lang niya ang nakahain sa lamesa. “Grabe naman ito, parang hotel breakfast. May pancakes, may toast, may fruits, may yogurt. Pero ang pinakamasarap, yung kape!

Siyempre, guwapo ang nagtimpla eh. Pero gusto ko ng kanin. Di bale mamayang lunch na lang natin. With bulalo at tawilis!

Pag nagpupunta ang barkada ni Sheryl sa Tagaytay, palibhasa all girls dahil hindi usually isinasama ang mga asawa’t anak ng mga kaibigan niya, hindi sila sa bulalohan kumakain kundi sa mga out-of-the-way na restaurants na Western food ang inihahanda, o kaya sa mga bed-and-breakfast na may kasamang spa. Mahina siya sa kanin pero masarap sigurong panoorin kumain nang marami si Julius.

Unless gusto mo sa mga date places dito, yung may mga steak at kailangang magpa-reserve,” sabi ni Julius, na nabasa na naman ang iniisip ni Sheryl.

Hindi ah, ano’ng akala mo sakin, sosyal? Punta tayo sa bulalo restaurant na may view ng Taal volcano, na may kumakanta, ok sakin yun,” excited na sagot ni Sheryl. Kahit sa carinderia pa sila kumain ni Julius ngayong araw na ito, happy pa rin siya!

O sige, aayusin ko na ang kotse ha, ilabas mo na lang ang mga gamit mong ilo-load ko sa trunk.

What a difference a night with his friends makes. Nawala ang awkwardness, ang new-coupleness, nila. Natural lang na magplano ang isa, sumang-ayon ang isa, mag-suggest, mag-usap. Magaan at masaya ang umagang iyon.

Late sila nang konti dumating sa misa dahil dumaan pa sa park para magpaalam kina Alex at Joanne. Sa likod sila ng simbahan nakaupo. Naalala ni Sheryl na kagabi lang, nagdadrama siya sa kasal dahil sa pagsisikip ng dibdib niya sa pag-uusap nila ni Julius sa biyahe. Ngayon, wala na yung mga emote niya.

Nagsisimba si Julius. Yun na ang pogi points sa lahat ng pogi points. Ipinagdasal niya ang araw na iyon at lahat pang mga darating na araw. Hiniling niyang matuto siyang mag-dahan-dahan sa pakikipag-relate kay Julius.

Pagdating sa restaurant, nakakuha sila ng sariling kubong maganda ang view ng Taal Lake. Wala nang hiya-hiya si Sheryl, masarap nga ang bulalo at mainit na kanin at bagay sa tawilis na in-order ni Julius. Uminom pa sila ng buco juice. Kinantahan din sila ng roving singers ng restaurant. Aegis ang banat.

Mahal na Mahal Kita by Aegis

Hindi kita puwedeng iwanan

Hindi kita puwedeng pigilan

Ipaglalaban kita

Kahit hanggang kamatayan man

 

Kung mawawalaya sa iyo

Huwag kang mag-alala’t babalik ako

Para ipagpatuloy natin ang ating pag-ibig

Na aking iniwanan sa ‘yo

 

Chorus:

Mahal na mahal kita dito sa aking puso

Ikaw lang nag-iisa, o aking mahal

Mahal na mahal kita dito sa aking puso

Ikaw lang nag-iisa, o aking mahal

 

Mahalin mo lang ako nang tapat

Mamahalin din kita nang tapat

Kahit anong pagsubok dumating

Ipangako mo rin, ipaglalaban natin

Kilala mo ang Aegis?” amused na tanong ni Julius habang pinapanood si Sheryl na sumasabay sa banda.

Oo naman! May Pilipino bang hindi nakakakilala sa kanila? ‘Luha’ at ‘Basang-Basa sa Ulan,’ at oh my gosh, yung ‘Halik,’ sobrang winner yung kantang yun.

Pwede ba yung ‘Halik?’” tanong ni Julius sa lead singer ng munting bandang nakatapat sa mesa nila.

Ano?” patawang tanong ni Sheryl. Hmm sexy ang lead singer, at nakatingin si Julius, ano kaya kung buhusan nya ng mainit na sabaw ng bulalo….

Ibig kong sabihin, kung pwede nilang kantahin yung paborito mo,” sagot ni Julius na ibinaling kaagad ang tingin sabay hawak sa kamay ni Sheryl. Marunong siyang mag-shift ng eksena.

Hindi ko naman favourite yun, pang-sawi iyon eh. Wala akong ganung angst ngayon,” sabi ni Sheryl, na ayaw na bumitaw kay Julius. Kahit hindi na siya makakain at mag-sebo na ang bulalo.

Ay ano na lang po ang request niyo, ma’am?” tanong ng lead singer na naka-skinny jeans.

 

“O baka po may theme song kayo, ma’am, ser,” ang dagdag pa ng gitarista.

Isa ngang makabagbag-damdaming ‘Hawak Kamay’ diyan,” request ni Julius, sabay kindat kay Sheryl.

Hawak Kamay ni Yeng Constantino

Minsan madarama mo kay bigat ng problema

Minsan mahihirapan ka at masasabing “di ko makakaya”

Tumingin ka lang sa langit

Baka sakaling may masumpungan

Di kaya ako’y tawagin

Malalaman mong kahit kailan

 

Chorus

Hawak-kamay

Di kita iiwan sa paglakbay

Dito sa mundong walang katiyakan

Hawak-kamay

Di kita bibitawan sa paglalakbay

Sa mundo ng kawalan

 

Minsan madarama mo

Ang mundo’y gumuho sa ilalim ng iyong mga paa

At ang agos ng problema’y tinatangay ka

Tumingin ka lang sa langit

Baka sakaling may masumpungan

Di kaya ako’y tawagin

Malalaman mong kahit kailan

 

Sumabay pa si Sheryl sa chorus at sa bridge siya na ang kumanta:

 

Wag mong sabihin nag-iisa ka

Laging isipin meron kang kasama

Narito ako oh, Narito ako…

 

Natuwa pati mga katabing mesa sa performance. Palakpakan ang lahat. Matapos niyang abutan ng tip, nagpakuha ng picture nila ni Sheryl si Julius sa gitarista.

Bagay po kayo, ma’am, ser, parang in-love na in-love ang aura niyo” sabi nito. Nagpasalamat ang dalawa.

Pag-alis, sabi ni Sheryl, “Ooh, malay natin may powers pala si Kuya. Nakita niya ang aura natin eh!

“Hindi masyadong kuya si Kuya,” paliwanag ni Julius. “Napansin mo ang pilantik ng daliri?

At come to think of it, malagkit nga ang tingin sa iyo,” dagdag na puna ni Sheryl, na natatawa lang. Kailangang masanay na kung si Julius ang ka-date, maraming nakatingin dito. Pwes, hanggang tingin lang naman sila.

Julius…

Yes, Sheryl?”

Paano naging ‘Hawak Kamay’ ang theme song natin?

Di naman official iyon. Nagkataon lang. May alam akong mas bagay sa atin.”

Ano?”

“’Init sa Magdamag,’ alam mo yun ‘no?”

Nonoy Zuñiga at Sharon Cuneta! At hindi bagay sa atin ‘yon!”

Ano ka, sakto kaya ‘yun sa atin. Kantahin mo nga ang chorus.”

Kung langit sa atin ay ipagkait,

Dito sa piling mo’y muling makakamit.

Walang hanggang pag-ibig na may luha at tamis,

Nasa’n ka pagsaluhan natin ang init sa magdamag.…”

Sumabay si Julius sa pagkanta, at nag-blend kaagad ang mga boses nila. Parang pinraktis na nang maraming beses. Pero mahina lang ang kanta nila at baka marinig ng mga nasa kabilang kubo.

O diba, sa sandaling pagkakakilala natin, may luha at tamis na, pero may langit din…”

Loko. Gusto ko pang makarating sa totoong langit...”

Sheryl…”

Yes, Julius?”

E kung, next week na tayo umuwi?”

Nangangarap ka nang gising?” Sumandal siya kay Julius habang nakatanaw sa bulkang Taal.

Oo tingnan mo, naplano ko na. Ang dami nating pwedeng gawin. Tomorrow, gawin natin yung Taal Volcano trek. Sa Tuesday, magpapa-spa tayo maghapon, the works! Uuy, alam kong gusto mo yun. Kasi mapapagod tayo sa trek kaya kailangan ng massage pagkatapos….”

 

“Actually gusto ko rin ng foot spa at facial…” Sumali na rin sa pangangarap si Sheryl.  Julius was gently stroking her hair while talking dreamily and staring into the “Island within a Lake on an Island within a Lake on an Island.”

“Kita mo na? I’m starting to make sense diba. Then, sa Wednesday, rent tayo ng boat sa Taal Lake Yacht Club. Sa Thursday, maghahanap tayo ng kakilalang magpapapasok sa atin sa Tagaytay Highlands, kahit overnight na tayo doon. Sa Friday ng gabi, sakay tayo sa malaking ferris wheel aka ‘Sky Eye.’  Hindi ka mukhang nagca-casino so we can skip that. Sa Saturday pwede tayong mag-day of prayer o mini-retreat. Diba? Muntik na nating maaabot ang langit nun!!!”

Dami mo namang plano.”

Gano’n talaga. Nakakapagod kayang puro trabaho lang.”

Pero Julius, may pasok tayo bukas.”

Pwede namang mag-leave!”
Agad-agad? Hindi ka naman demanding. Kailangan sa amin months in advance ang paalam lalo na kung more than 3 days na VL.”

Karapatan ng manggagagawa ang VL.”

Iga-grant naman, pero di lang pwede short notice.”

Ayaw mo yata akong kasama eh.”

Hello! Ang drama. Gusto na nga kitang papirmahin ng kontrata e.”

Ay dapat kagabi pa, nung andito si Adora, at nang ma-review muna niya. Teka, anong kontrata?”

Huminga nang malalim si Sheryl.

Yung ex ko kasi.” Tiningnan niya si Julius. Hindi naman bumitaw sa kanya. “Punung-puno ng pangarap at plano iyon. Tatanda raw kami together. Iikutin daw namin ang mundo together. E hindi pa nga tapos ng college, hindi na kami together!”

Ano’ng nangyari, bakit kayo nag-break?”

Nag-cross enroll siya sa UP Baguio isang summer. Artist e. Pagbalik ng June, may ibang girlfriend na, pero di ko pa alam, so pinagsabay kami. By September, nabuntis na niya, so nalaman ko rin. By December kasal na sila.”

Parang may nagliwanag sa isip ni Julius. “Ahh, kaya pala ayaw mo na nang paliguy-ligoy, sigurista ka na ngayon. Kaya yung listahan mo diretso sa kung ano hinahanap mo sa asawa at sinasabi mo agad na pang-housewife ka.”

Tumango si Sheryl. “Ayoko na kasi ng bolahan. First love ko yun e, high school sweethearts kami. Sabi ng lahat, bagay kami, at nadaan ako sa lakas mambola, galing manligaw. Kahit maraming ibang kaklase kong umaaligid, siya sinagot ko. Ang tiyaga-tiyaga niya noong bago pa lang kami.”

Naka-ilang boyfriend ka pa after him?”

Wala, siya yung last. Traumatic for me, e.  It was so hard to trust men after that. It took me years to get over him.”

Whoa. Ang tagal na no’n a.”

Kaya nga Julius, I’m not wired for casual dating. Siguro naman by now, I’ve made that clear.”

Crystal clear.  Hindi nga lang ako makapaniwala. Sa ganda mong yan, as in wala talagang sumunod after college?”

Merong pailan-ilang dates, pero hindi nag-work out. May officemates na laging bumubuntot pero hanggang di nagsasabi nang intensiyon, friends lang sila for me. Meron doctor, best friend ng isang kuya ko, gusto ko na sana, nag-abroad naman para mag-further studies. Hanggang napagod na akong mag-date, naging busy na ako sa work, at nahirapan na rin ang friends ko hanapan ako ng ise-setup with kasi ang pili-pili ko na raw.”

E anong sabi mo sa friends mo nung na-meet mo ako?”

Alam mo, fishing ka!” Sabi ni Sheryl sabay tayo. “Punta muna akong restroom.”

Pagbalik niya, sabi ni Julius, “May missed calls ka ulit.”

Hay, ang Mom ko, at sina Pauline. You haven’t met my friends, we have to schedule that.”

Papuntahin mo sila rito sa Tagaytay, our kingdom for a week,” sabi ni Julius sabay akbay kay Sheryl.

Uuwi tayo tonight diba, Julius?”

Iisipin ko pa. Hindi ako takot sa Tatay mo, ha kala mo ba,” pabirong hirit ni Julius. Nothing could be further from the truth.

E sa mga kuya ko? Bullies ko sila nung maliliit pa kami pero nung lumaki na ako  bumait na sila sa akin.  They wanted to pay Darwin a visit, yung ex ko, after they found out what happened. Full force, and some of them are taekwondo black belters. Kaso pinigilan sila ng Daddy. Ang sabi, buntis na ang babae, hayaan na nilang pangatawanan ni Darwin ang ginawa niya, di na nga lang siya makakalapit o tawag sa akin ever.”

How did you take it?”

Hindi ko kinaya. Nagbakasyon ako sa Tita ko sa London that Christmas. Winter kung winter. Tinapos ko lang last year ko sa UP nang parang nanaginip, then balik sa London, this time with my parents. Natakot yata silang saktan ko sarili ko, kasi sobrang depressed ako nun e.”

Sana pala sa UP ako nag-aral, o kaya nakilala kita noon pa. I could have saved you from heartache.”

Mga hirit nito! Baka ikaw ang nag-cause ng heartache. Atsaka ang layo kaya ng Mapua, feeling ko lang hindi ka magtitiyagang dumalaw nang madalas.”

Uuy, nag-research, alam kung saan ako nag-college.”

TseAng feeling mo talaga!

Lipat tayo sa Bag of Beans, kape at masarap na bread.”

Sure. Hindi ko na lang iisipin bakit mo kabisado ang Tagaytay, kung ilang girls na ang inilibot mo rito.”

Madalas ako rito for work. Minsan, sinasama ko mga kapatid ko, parents ko, tsaka pamangkin ko.”

Paglipat nila sa Bag of Beans, mas intimate na ang ambience. Naisip ni Julius na mag-confess.

I think I have to tell you something.”

Ano? Don’t tell me you’re married. Or may anak ka na…” Huwag po, huwag po naman sana, panalangin ni Sheryl.

Wala pa, that’s just your trauma talking.”

E kasi naman mga intro mo nakakakaba.”

Here goes. Naalala mo ba yung first date natin?”

Sa tingin mo makakalimutan ko yun?” Makasaysayan kaya ‘yun. Napangiti si Sheryl.

Haha. Meron ka kasing text message…”

Hindi pa tapos si Julius, natigilan na si Sheryl. Napawi ang ngiti sa mukha niya. Text message. Isa lang ang sinend niya, sa place ni Julius yun. She texted her friends. Hindi yata’t…

Na-include mo ako sa recipients,” simpleng dagdag ni Julius.

Maraming four-letter words na nagsigawan sa kalooban ni Sheryl. Buti napigilan niyang sabihin ang mga ito out loud. Oh no!!!

Nakangiti si Julius. Lumipat sa tabi ni Sheryl. Tumalikod si Sheryl, burying her face in her hands. Gusto na niyang mamatay sa hiya.

Hey, I’m still here, diba?”

Tinanggal ni Sheryl ang mga kamay niya mula sa mukha at nakuha niyang maggalit-galitan para itago ang matinding kahihiyan.

Bakit ngayon mo lang sinabi? I made a fool of myself!”

Kakakilala pa lang natin nun, paano ko naman sasabihin. Naisip ko rin, first impression lang ‘yun, lilipas din.”

Sinabi ni Sheryl sa text na iyon na nahanap na niya ang The One. Kung nabasa ni Julius iyon, dapat nagpakalayu-layo na ito sa kanya. Pero hindi naglaho si Julius. Oo nga pala, mga isang linggo lang.

Kaya pala naghintay ka ng 1 week bago tumawag ulit. Pinalipas mo ang kagagagahan ko.”

Hindi naman. I checked myself also kung ano ba intensyon ko sa iyo. Klaro kasi na pangmatagalan ka, hindi lang pampamilya, pang-sports pa.” Ang mga jokes ng dalawang ito, pang ‘80s kids talaga.

Pwede ko bang tanungin ano intensyon mo sa akin? Don’t freak out, okay?” Marahang tanong ni Sheryl. Tuwing napupunta kasi sa seryoso ang usapan, parang luha at pait ang napapala niya.

Sher, right now, ito lang masasabi ko, I’m crazy over you. I want to get to know you more. Wala akong powers para malaman, o ma-assure ka, what tomorrow brings. Except na gusto ko talagang kasama pa rin kita bukas, at sa isang bukas, at sa isa pang bukas….”

Luha. Tutulo na ang luha ni Sheryl. Naalala niya ang acting workshop na pinasukan niya dati, sabi tumingala para bumalik ang luha, tapos pagbaba ng mata, sabay ngiti. So ginawa niya ito. Effective.

Julius, what are you saying?” Nagniningning ang mga mata ni Sheryl sa hindi tumulong tears of joy.

Kung may audition, mag-au-audition ako. Kung may pila pipila ako. Kung…

Shh…” sabi ni Sheryl. “Lika nga rito,”

Lumapit pa nang husto si Julius sa kanya. Inilagay naman ni Sheryl ang chin niya sa shoulder ni Julius sabay sabing, “Selfie muna tayo.”

Ha?” Gulat na gulat si Julius.

Gusto kong maalala ang moment na ito forever and ever. Smile!” Click. “And you bet I will upload this. Out na tayo.”

So Sheryl, kung out na tayo, ibig sabihin tayo na? We are official?”

Well, kung susundin ko ang rules ko, hanggang hindi ka nagsasabi ng I Love You, at hindi kita sinasagot, hindi pa tayo.

E kung hindi natin sundin ang rules mo?

Pwede rin naman, kung bigla mo akong i-kiss, malilimutan ko ang rules na ‘yon.”

Dito mo gusto ng halik, sa Bag of Beans? Sa harap ng maraming tao?”

Bakit, hindi ka na makapigil?” pilyang sagot ni Sheryl.

Kinuha ni Julius ang bill. Dahil matagal dumating, nagpunta na siya sa counter para bayaran ito. Nag-takeout si Sheryl ng bread para sa parents niya. Tatawag pa sana siya kay Francine nang bigla siyang hinatak ni Julius sa kotse, hindi na makapigil.

Nagawa naman nila lahat ng pinlano ni Julius sa Tagaytay, hindi nga lang noong linggong iyon. Hindi sila nagmadali. Pinlano nila bawat trip, para special, at inunti-unti sa loob ng iba’t ibang weekend.

Sa loob ng Ferris Wheel nag-propose si Julius kay Sheryl in less than a year. Umikot ang mundo ni Sher, literally.

Nakilala nina Pauline, Francine, (at Georgia at Larissa through Skype) si Julius. Sila rin ang mga bridesmaids sa kasal.  Umuwi lahat ng kuya ni Sheryl sa Pilipinas para rito. Ang mga pamangkin nila at inaanak ang ring bearers at flower girls.

Si Alex ang Best Man. Maiyak-iyak at tawang-tawa ang mga bisita sa speech at toast niya.

Ang barkadang The Tux ang reception singers. Rock, pop, Pinoy, at 80’s music naman ang kinanta nila sa wedding reception. Pinakamaraming YouTube hits ang duet ng bagong kasal ng “Init sa Magdamag.” May surprise number din si Julius para kay Sheryl (“Blaze of Glory”), at si Sheryl para kay Julius (“Bituing Walang Ningning”). Iyak-tawa ulit ang audience.

Nagpa-cater si Julius sa kaklase niyang may-ari ng restaurant kung saan sila nag-first date. Nag-message ang Head Waiter sa video para sa bagong kasal, sabi niya, na-predict niyang love-at-first-sight ang nangyari sa dalawa. Malaking tip na naman ang inilaan ni Julius para sa kanya.

Tumira muna sila sa condo ni Julius, at patuloy na nagtrabaho si Sheryl.  Ngunit nung manganak na siya, pinili niyang maging full-time mom. Housewife, pero part-time singer.

Sina Julius at Sheryl, simple lang ang pangarap, simple rin lang ang buhay na hinarap.

Nawa ang kwento nila ay nakapagdulot ng saya sa inyong lahat.

The End.

(Tapos na talaga, wala nang aapila.)

The Time Given to Us (Geek Series, Part V)


If it’s your first time to read this work, please visit “The Lord of the Geeks“, link provided above, for the first four chapters, before proceeding to chapter 5 below. Thanks! – E.

V.  The Time Given to Us

Kia ora!” Eddie warmly greeted Stella when they were both inside the car, while handing her various maps, brochures, and other travel guides to Auckland. “Take your pick, we have a week,” he added.

Stella suddenly felt warm but she didn’t want to remove Eddie’s jacket. He was honestly the best-looking guy she had ever spent time with. She stopped herself from gushing out loud and opted to simply thank him and look at the wealth of tourist information he had given her.

Eddie started to drive while Stella pretended to read about the hottest places in Auckland. She could not concentrate, as she was prone to motion sickness.

She was also becoming dizzy for other reasons. It suddenly struck her that what she was doing was something she had only read or written about in the past. She was running away with a stranger. Her instincts told her she should be running away from this strange foreign man, but she decided to do something crazy for the second time in her life (the first was running after Richard, and what a gamble that was). Well, technically, they were just staying put in one city, but still, the image of what she was trying to pull off stunned her.

She remembered her brother’s advice when she learned of Richard’s Reason (for not being with her), “The only way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” She laughed at Vince, for at that time she didn’t think she could ever want to be with anyone other than Richard.

Then just a few months later, she found herself in another country, with a man she barely even knew save for the information she had dug from his online profiles, and she had to stifle a giggle. Of course she was going to report this to Vince, who would be proud of his older sister.

She should be scared, really, but she wasn’t.

Eddie found a parking space outside Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. He and Stella spent hours exploring the Gallery’s collection of New Zealand historic, modern and contemporary art, as well as international painting, sculpture and print collections.

When they entered the Gallery’s Library upon Stella’s insistence, however, they received quite a surprise.

Stella saw her first: the Aquamarine Lady. She was standing behind the librarian’s desk, in a room that housed the Gallery’s extensive collections about the visual arts. From a distance, her hair took on a silvery shine, and then she looked up and saw them. Stella had a weird feeling that she had been expecting them.

“Well, look who’s here! Hello, young lovers! And welcome to the Auckland Art Gallery’s Research Library!”

Eddie guided her by the small of her back to the librarian’s desk, and they introduced themselves. He was so delighted to see Felise, but Stella was quiet, only smiling politely and extending her hand at the proper moments.

Stella was silently overcome with guilt and discomfort. Her first impression was wrong again. If Felise was a librarian, then she must have read The Lord of the Rings. Stella had no business imputing Tolkien ignorance on this great lady. Oh, she hoped Felise was not a mind-reader, because she was so embarrassed by how her caffeine- and sleep-deprived brain had treated Felise the day before.

The librarian said they could read any of the books on display, and showed them the coffee table book from the recent exhibition, Angels & Aristocrats, which they had missed by a few days. Eddie promised to buy the book at the museum shop, and told them both how fascinated he was by angels.

A geek who likes angels, Stella thought. Eddie on 3D was even more interesting than his travel photos on Instagram and his list of skills on LinkedIn. She wondered if he found her equally appealing.

“So, what are you up to after this? I’m surprised the art gallery is your first stop after Hobbiton!” Felise remarked. “Although, very pleased to see you. I’m proud of our collections, of course.”

“It’s because of me,” said Stella. “Aside from it being too cold for me for any outdoor activities, I really love libraries and museums and art galleries. Eddie here is being nice.”

“No, no, I am glad we’re doing this. If not for you, I would never have seen those outstanding works by Māori and Pacific Island artists,” Eddie was not replying to Felise, but looking at Stella. What a pair of geeks we are, she thought.

Felise, with eyes of wisdom and tenderness, said to the couple, “Yes, a familiar place can be seen under new eyes when you revisit it with someone special. You see gems that were always there, waiting to be discovered.”

Stella liked that. She wanted to hug Felise.

“I don’t mean to sound like your grandmother, but it’s going to be a rainy evening, and you’d better go if you want to see more of the city,” Felise said. “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

Stella was pretty sure that the last sentence was a paraphrase from Tolkien.

“I wanted to see the university’s old buildings, and Eddie wanted to have dinner somewhere near the Viaduct Harbour.” Felise nodded her approval at their simple plans.

“Parking could be a problem. We should probably leave the car here and come back for it before dinner.”

“How are you at map-reading, at dusk, in the rain?” Stella had to ask, before she realized she needed to put more trust in Eddie, as he was more familiar with the CBD than she was.

Before Eddie could reply, Felise blurted out, “Oh, don’t worry about that, it’s a pretty small city. Besides, you might like what you find along the way!”

Not all those who wander are lost,” Eddie, Stella, and Felise said at the same time. And they laughed.  They obviously had a shared love for “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, from which that line was taken.

Felise looked so encouraging and confident that Stella wanted to stay behind to pick her brain about her travels and books and holiday romances. Almost wanted to stay behind, she corrected herself, for she also wanted to spend every waking moment of the next week with Eddie.

“Drink a lot of wine, try our famous Whittaker’s chocolates, and watch the Wynyard Crossing bridge as it lifts to allow watercraft to pass through tonight,” suggested Felise.

Stella agreed and said, “I have been gloriously acquainted with your excellent white wines recently, and I am definitely going to try the Pinot Grigio for dinner.”

“That, my dear is a good plan,” Felise replied.

They walked from the Gallery to the University of Auckland. Being Asian, Stella could not resist buying an umbrella from the museum shop and using it against the rain. Eddie ended up having to carry it as he was the much taller one, although he appeared to Stella not to be an umbrella person.

Stella wanted to document everything, but restrained herself. Her camera could get wet, and some moments were best preserved in her heart’s memory, she realized. Especially since it was turning out to be a very special afternoon. So they just walked by the School of Music, the beautiful building for Political Studies, and the law school library.

“Tell me, Eddie, if you were to choose another career, what would it be?” Stella had no real answer herself to that question, as she knew she was going to be a writer by the time she received her first Annie journal when she was nine years old. She liked thinking about alternative careers whenever she was roaming a university campus, however. And she liked to discover more of Eddie.

“I wanted to be a pilot when I was a child,” came the reply. “But my eyesight turned out to be not good enough for it. I’m wearing contacts, by the way. I think it’s the closest I could ever be to actual flying,” and Eddie gave Stella his boyish grin that she found so endearing. “And you?”

“I’m boring, for I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” she replied. “But I sometimes daydream about being a figure skater, probably because of all the Disney on Ice shows I watched as a girl.”

“Do you know how to ice skate?”

“Oh no, of course not,” Stella laughed. “We don’t have ice in Manila, although there are good skating rinks inside a couple of malls.”

“We could do that tomorrow! I could teach you, or we could hire an instructor for an hour …” Eddie said as they sat on a wet bench in Albert Park.

Eddie used his jacket as a dry spot for him and Stella to sit on, so instead of using the entire length of the bench, they were squeezed on a tiny portion of it, connected on one side, from shoulder to feet. Stella was, once again, freezing, but inside, she was warm, as if a shot of brandy had travelled all throughout her body.

Stella wasn’t sure she wanted to stumble and fall on the ice in front of Eddie. At the same time, it sounded sweet.

All we have to do is to decide what to do with the time that is given to us.

As she leaned on Eddie’s shoulder, Stella replied, “Let’s think about tomorrow, tomorrow.”

“As you wish,” Eddie said.

They watched as the rain softly fell on the brown leaves on the ground, not bothering anymore to bring out an umbrella.

Stella’s hair was sticking to her face, her makeup had long been washed away, and yet she did not feel the need to fix anything at all.

“We are going to get soaked, and I don’t want you to catch a cold,” Eddie said. He was holding Stella’s hand and could feel her shivering. “We’d better head back to the hotel, change, and have a nice dinner.”

But Stella did not want to move. There was nowhere else she’d rather be than with this man who was making her feel cared for.

“Let’s stay for a few more minutes,” she pleaded into Eddie’s eyes. “I have a pretty strong immune system,” she assured him.

Her mobile phone, her camera, in fact her entire bag was in the rented car. Stella did not care. She was, however, remembering every second of that moment, as if to write about it someday.

How long had it been since she had sat this close to a man (other than Richard, who did not count)? She felt fragile yet strong. Anything was possible. Anything she said seemed to fascinate him. He seemed to want to be with her, and not anyone else.

True, she did not know him yet, but surely her heart would not betray her. Surely she could trust Eddie.

“Tell me, how did you get started liking angels? It seems, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, a little bit out of character. For a brainy guy like you.”

“Angels remind me of my late mother,” Eddie replied, while staring at something in the distance.

“I’m sorry to hear that, when did she pass away?”

“Just, just four years ago. I was an only son. She and dad had separated when I was in five, and dad has another family. Mum was all I had,” he said in a quiet voice.

Stella covered Eddie’s hands with both of hers, although they were small compared to his.

“We used to travel a lot together. Her family left her with a house in France, and we visited Europe every year.”

Stella was not familiar with such loss. Her parents and younger brother Vince were all still living in their family home in Manila.

“I have never been to Europe.” Out of all the things to say, she had to make it about her? Stella wanted to take it back, but it was too late.

Eddie looked at her and said, “I could take you there someday. Mum left me the house.”

“Oh, Eddie, let’s not make promises like that. It’s dangerous for my heart. I am bad at this!” The rain had stopped. Stella knew that Eddie merely replied to her suggestion, but she did not want to build an imaginary future just yet, as she was prone to do with men, evidenced by the fact of her recent failed relationship. Was she thinking about Richard in the past tense now? That was progress!

“I mean, I would love to say yes, but let’s not do that to my poor heart.” As a writer, Stella had learned that she tended to feel things more deeply: love, lust, loss, pain, disappointment, heartbreak. Her therapist back at Sydney, whom she had consulted after Richard’s Revelation, tried to train her to be aware of how passionate she could be, and to avoid situations that would lead to certain agony.

As it was, she knew she was already treading on dangerous ground.  But she thought that taking it one day at a time could lessen her tendency to feel too much.

She did not know that she was miscalculating again.

“Fair enough, I shouldn’t have made such a promise. I’m worse at this, believe me,” Eddie said. It was true. He had never figured out the right way of dealing with women. He always meant what he said at the time he said it, but that had gotten him in trouble more than once.

“To go back to mum’s angels, after the divorce, she took to buying art – paintings and sculptures – of angels and filled our house with it. She wanted to protect herself from further pain, I was told by my aunts later on. I always had angel pins and stickers in my school bag. She was not very religious, but just believed in angels, particularly the archangels.”

Coming from a Catholic country, Stella knew all the archangels, and in fact had received her Sacrament of Confirmation from the National Shrine of Saint Michael and the Archangels in Manila.  She had, since she began working, been an absentee Catholic. She wondered if Eddie went to church.

“After mum’s death, I talked to a priest. I just walked into the chapel in the hospital, as I refused to talk to anyone else. The priest was a good listener. He and I had become good friends. He keeps asking that I attend mass sometime. I have never taken up his offer.”

“Maybe we could visit this priest-friend of yours. Maybe we could go to mass,” Stella was making “future” plans, she knew. She had not felt this urge to attend mass before, not even during the time of heartbreak from Richard. All she wanted then was to change the situation, and she took matters into her own hands. See where that led: she refused to let go of her co-dependency on Richard, and vice versa. For, although he left her for Australia, Richard still wanted Stella in his life, to be an observer, absorber, and validator.

“Maybe,” Eddie replied. “I’ll call him tonight, but that means you’ll have to go with me to Sydney, where he is assigned.”

Knowing her time in Sydney was limited, Stella wondered if she should tell Eddie. But it felt too soon to talk about such things.

“I’m hungry,” was what came out of Stella’s mouth.

Eddie chuckled. “Let’s feed you then,” he said.

Back at the Hilton, Eddie took a shower while Stella unpacked. He was not exaggerating when he said he had a big room. She happily hung her few clothes and mentally noted that she needed to schedule shopping the next day. If Eddie wanted to, he could just sit and drink coffee somewhere while she picked what she needed.

She also appropriated the other bed for herself, and left her watch, jewellery, and her books for night reading on the table beside it. They were going to sleep on separate beds, she was sure of it, despite what Vince her brother advised her before on how to forget Richard. He must not have meant it literally.

Eddie stepped out of the bathroom – he finished more quickly than Richard, no surprise there – wearing his clothes already, to Stella’s relief. She did not want to seem prudish but she also did not know how to react had he appeared wearing only a towel.

“Your turn,” he said, not looking at her. He pretended to open the closet to look for something. Stella felt it was just for show, as he was already, as previously observed, fully clothed.

“Thanks,” she said, and carried her toolbox-sized toiletry bag and her change of clothes with her to the bathroom. The tub looked inviting but she was hungry for dinner, so she opted for a shower as well.

“I’m going to browse for a restaurant, what do you feel like eating?” Eddie asked through the door.

“Seafood maybe?” Richard is allergic to seafood, so Stella always ate them whenever she was out of his house. Or in this case, out of his life. Her therapist must be counting the number of times she had mentioned Richard in this trip. She decided to let the water wash all thoughts of Richard away, and down the drain with the soap and shampoo.

“I found a place that has a seafood platter, better for outdoor dining, but it may be cold tonight. I’ll call to reserve a seat inside,” Eddie again, at the door.

Stella could barely hear him through the shower and so she just shouted her assent, “Okay!”

This should be awkward, only it wasn’t. So she was taking a shower in a hotel room that really wasn’t hers and talking to a man through the bathroom door to whom it belonged and now that she started thinking about it, she became self-conscious as she carefully dressed for dinner.

She should have worn the Wicked dress tonight, she thought with regret. Instead she settled for skinny jeans and a girly top. She was hungry and was ready in 20 minutes, which was a record, considering the outcome. She was pleased at the face of the girl staring back at her in the mirror. She looked grown-up, sophisticated, and free.

When she opened the door, she caught Eddie munching on the cookies that were provided by the hotel. The poor guy must have been hungrily waiting for me, she realized with a tinge of guilt.

Eddie looked at her appreciatively. He said, “My lady, if you would permit me, I’d like to take you out to dinner.”

“Why, kind sir, I believe you have started with dinner already,” Stella replied with a mischievous grin. She took the cookie from Eddie’s hand and bit into it. “I thought I was the one who was hungry,” she said, crumbs ruining her lipstick and all.

Eddie said, “That was very unladylike, and would not do.” He took a tissue from the bathroom sink and wiped away the crumbs, the lipstick and all traces from Stella’s mouth.

And then he kissed Stella. Right there, slowly, as if asking permission, which she gave, and then deeply, as if hungry and waiting for her all his life.

Stella was not sure how long they stood like that, because she was now with her back against the wall, and Eddie was leaning so he could reach her, and he did not seem to show any signs of slowing down, and something stronger than brandy was now surging through her blood, and Stella thought she should do something before dinner, and her seafood, and her Pinot Grigio, was totally forgotten.

She pulled back, and Eddie let her, although the look of longing in his eyes gave him away.

“There’s plenty of time after dinner, but right now, I think we have a reservation at a restaurant? Or was that just a ruse to get me out of the shower quickly?” Stella was still thinking clearly, and was grateful for that. Eddie did not seem to be able to reply immediately. He was still holding her very close. Their faces were only inches apart, the only inches Stella could muster to create between them.

Eddie gave her lips a brief kiss and then said, “This is going to be a quick dinner, okay?”

Instinctual fear of the unknown and the (seemingly) perfect made Stella promise herself to prolong dinner as long as she could.

They walked to the restaurant hand in hand, not talking. When they got there, Stella wanted a beer. It was not what she had planned, but she wanted to start with a beer. It seemed to go well with the seafood platter that Eddie had ordered.

Eddie, surprised that she wanted a beer, got one for himself too, although he ordered for her an Amstel Light. He was not sure what Stella’s alcohol tolerance was, but he did not want to risk it. He did not want to get his date drunk that night, for he had other plans.

Before the food was served, Stella was already halfway through the Amstel Light, her new best friend. She clung to it and not to Eddie, who suddenly became a most desirable object she could not have. She did not want to risk him kissing her in public. And then a thought entered her, something she wanted to repeat to herself all throughout dinner: this was just, technically, their first dinner date. It was up to her to take things slow. But the memory of his kiss lingered, and all coherent, prudent thoughts threatened to dissipate through the seafood platter.

“I didn’t know you drank beer,” Eddie broke the electrifying silence. He was sitting across from her, and not beside her. He could sense Stella needed some space, and he gave it while he still could.

“Back home, I enjoyed the occasional light beer. Our famous beer is San Miguel, named after an archangel,” Stella managed to reply. She thought of St. Michael, and in a sudden surge of Catholic school memory, asked for his intercession, to protect her from any harm.

Not that she feared Eddie. She did not think Eddie had any intentions of hurting her. What she feared was her own capacity to hurt herself, which, in the past, she had enormously and repeatedly done.

At the mention of an angel, Eddie’s blood flow slowed down as well. He showed her the St. Michael’s medal protection necklace that his mum had given to him when he started going to big school, at the time when the other boys were bullying him for being a weakling at sports, which everyone else in Australia seemed to be good at. His mother used to say that sports were Australia’s religion.

Remembering his mother, Eddie also got reminded of her advice on how to treat women, and he made a mental promise to her that he would be a perfect gentleman to Stella. For as long as he could.

Image

— TO BE CONTINUED–

Pang-housewife Ako e, Bakit ba?


Part One ito ng nadagdagan ng kwento, matapos magreklamo ang mga nabiting mambabasa. Pakibasa ang updates sa link na Kwentong Housewife (Daw). –  Maraming salamat! E.

 

Gusto kong maging housewife,” sabi ni Sheryl. Muntik nang mabilaukan si Julius.  Hindi lang niya pinahalata. Pinatuloy niya ang pag-nguya sa Wagyu steak na in-order niya para ma-impress si Sheryl. Kaklase naman niya ang may-ari ng restawran kaya medyo may discount siya rito.

First date pa lang nila at todo pa ang pagpapapogi ni Julius. Ang sabi kasi ng common friend nilang nag-setup ng blind date, sosyal daw si Sheryl. At matalino. At maganda. “E bakit single pa?” tanong ni Julius sa kaibigan niyang si Alex noong pinaplano pa lang ang date. “Suplada ano?” dagdag pa niya. Medyo matagal bago sumagot ang Alex. “Hindi naman sa suplada…. Ano, mapili lang,” ang sagot nito sabay pakita sa kanya ng picture.

Hindi maikakailang maganda siya sa picture, pero naisip ni Julius, baka angle lang iyon. Hindi rin kapayatan, pero maganda na rin ang katawan, at least sa picture. Magaling ang kumuha, o alam lang ng babaeng ito kung paano i-highlight ang profile niya sa camera. Mahirap maniwala agad basta-basta sa picture lang sa panahon ngayon. Kailangan i-assess nang malapitan, yung walang filter o Photoshop na nakialam.

Nakuuu, pinapahamak mo ba ako?” urirat ni Julius sa kababata niyang officemate naman ni Sheryl.  “Maniwala ka sa akin, p’re, bagay kayo. Sa tingin ko, papasa ka sa standards nito,” tiniyak ni Alex. “Ikaw yata ang pinakagwapong electrical engineer sa Meralco,” sabi pa nito sabay inom ng malamig na Pale Pilsen na kinuha niya sa pridyider sa condo ni Julius.  Iniidolo ni Alex si Julius dahil hindi ito nakatapos ng pag-aaral. Maagang nag-asawa si Alex, nakabuntis kasi ng minamahal niyang girlfriend, at napilitang bumuhay ng pamilya kaagad, at sa sales siya napunta.

Si Julius naman, dahil may angking talino, katulad ng karamihan sa mga panganay sa mga lower middle class na Pilipino, ay nagsikhay para tumulong sa pagpapaaral ng lima niyang kapatid. Kaya naman lampas treinta na ay hindi pa rin siya lumalagay sa tahimik. Kinukulit na siya ngayon ng kanyang mga magulang, kapatid, at pamangkin upang mag-asawa. At si Alex, buong buhay nila ay naghahanap ng makakapareha ni Julius. Sa dami ng dine-date nito, walang tumatagal na girlfriend. Alam ni Alex kung sino ang dahilan – si Julius din naman. Tapos na ang mga responsibilidad nito at malamang, ang nananaig, ay ang takot sa commitment at buhay may-asawa, dahil sa mga nakikita niyang pinagdaaanang hirap nina Alex at iba pa nilang kabarkada.

Ito na nga ba ang babaeng katapat niya?  Marketing manager si Sheryl sa isa sa pinakamalalaking multinational corporations sa bansa. Mga limang brand na ang hawak niya sa ngayon. Dahil sa sipag at tiyaga sa pagtatrabaho, hindi masyadong naasikaso ang lovelife. Mas hilig niya pa raw ang mag-tour sa iba’t ibang bansa kasama ang mga kaibigan, ayon sa press release ni Sheryl. Ang totoo ay hindi lang siya basta-basta nagkakagusto sa lalaki. May listahan siya talaga at ayaw niyang bawasan ang mga katangiang hinahanap niya. Kahit nagsipag-asawa na ang halos lahat ng mga kaibigan niya at ninang na siya ng mga anak nila, sikat na si Sheryl sa pagiging mapili niya.

O, bakit parang hindi ka naniniwala?” nakangiting tanong ni Sheryl habang kumakain ng Caesar’s salad. Iyon lang ang in-order niya at parang walang ganang kumain, pansin ni Julius.  Hindi alam ni Julius, kasama ang linyang ito sa test ni Sheryl sa mga dine-date niya. Depende kung paano silang mag-react sa kanyang pangarap, oo, tunay na pangarap niya ito, na maging ganap na maybahay, ay nakikita niya kung bagay sila o kung gugustuhin pa niya ng pangalawang date.

Ha, ano, hindi. Iniisip ko parang sayang naman ang talino mo at ang career mo kung magiging housewife ka lang,” sagot agad ni Julius. Paano ba niya maipaliliwanag ang pagkagulat niya? Hindi niya maubos-maisip kung paanong si Sheryl, na naka-branded malamang mula ulo hanggang paa, na amoy French perfume (hula lang naman niya na French, ang bango kasi) at naka-manicure ang kamay (pati siguro sa paa, pedicure yata ang tawag doon, sabi ng mga kapatid niyang babae), na nangingislap ang alahas, na maganda ang makeup, kung paano ito mabubuhay bilang isang plain housewife. Parang kailangan bilyonaryong may-ari ng TV station ang asawa nito para mapasaya siya. Hindi niya sinabi lahat itong naisip niya dahil baka mag-walkout ang kausap niya. Tinanong na lang ulit niya si Sheryl, “Ayaw mo ba talaga ng pasta man lang? Baka hindi ka mabusog sa salad!”

Natawa na lang si Sheryl. Ano baaa? Naisip niya. Ang hirap naman amining hindi sya makakain pag nasa date, lalo na kapag guwapo ang ka-date niya at mahusay manamit.  Naalala niya noong may boyfriend pa siya noong college, ang payat-payat niya at ang sabi, para raw siyang ibon kung kumain. Wala lang talaga siyang gana kumain pag in-love.  Pero hindi pa siya in-lab kay Julius. Hinde! Masyado lang mabilis ang train of thought niya. Kailangan niyang habulin. Rewind, rewind. Tanggihan ang order. Ngumiti at manatiling maganda.

“Ok na ako dito, may chicken strips naman, atsaka sayang ang Zumba toning class ko kung ikakain ko lang. Sa gabi talaga, light meal ako,” sabi ni Sheryl habang pilit nagsubo ng croutons at bacon bits. Pero parang gusto niyang um-order ng wine. Bigla lang.

E wine, nakapili ka na ba?”  Kanina pa umiinom sa baso niya ng Merlot si Julius, pero nahirapang pumili si Sheryl. “Gusto mo tulungan kitang pumili ng masarap?”

Anong pagpapanggap ito, Sheryl? Tanong niya sa sarili. Napakadalas niyang uminom ng wine. Hindi lang talaga umaandar ang utak niya ngayon. At parang nabasa ni Julius ang utak niya! In sync nga ba sila? Shucks, kilig moment ito. Ang sarap i-message ang mga kaibigan niya, pero alam niyang bad manners iyon pag nasa dinner date.  Parang tama si Alex,  yung taga-Sales department na nag-match sa kanila ni Julius. May dating ang kaibigan niya. Balita ni Sheryl, marami nang babaeng lumuha sa paghihintay dito. Kinabahan siyang bigla. Ayaw niyang maghintay. Ayaw niyang lumuha. Kailangan niya ng wine.

“Sige nga, please choose for me,” sabi niya. Naisip niya rin, dahil hindi sya ang magbabayad, hahayaan na niyang si Julius ang magdesisyon. Tinawag ni Julius ang waiter at sinabi ang order. “One glass of Chardonnay for the lady, please.” Pag-alis ng waiter, sabi ni Julius, “Mas maganda pa ang bihis sa akin nung waiter kaya napa-Ingles ako.”  Natawa si Sheryl. Maganda ang tawa niya, hindi masyadong mahinhin, hindi masyadong malakas. Sakto lang. Ito ang hirap sa first date, napansin ni Julius. Lahat pinupuna niyo sa isa’t isa. Para kayong may checklist ni Santa Claus. At best behaviour kayo dapat.

Ang piniling brand ni Julius, hindi yung pinakamahal, pero full-bodied kaya bagay sa grilled chicken breast na nasa salad niya. Pogi points ito para kay Sheryl. Umandar ang mental calculator. Check sa list – importante sa kanya ang confidence mula sa isang lalaki.  Kung ano naman ang koneksyon ng kaalaman sa wine at confidence ay hindi nya maisip sa sandaling iyon. Malamang kinikilig lang siya kaya parang sumasang-ayon ang mga ipinapakita ni Julius sa listahan niya. Tumingin siya sa relo. Halos isang oras pa lang silang magkasama. Magaan na kaagad ang loob niya. Hmmm….

So, balita ko, mahilig kang mag-dive,” simula ni Sheryl. Ang sabi kasi ng lahat ng magazine at ng mga kaibigan niya, dapat, yung lalaki ang pagkwentuhin at makinig lang siya muna. Gusto raw nila ito.

A, oo. Lalo na nung mga single pa yung mga kabarkada namin ni Alex. Halos every weekend! O kung kelan sweldo, kasi mahal noon para sa amin eh. Ikaw, do you dive?”  Umasa si Julius na oo ang isasagot ni Sheryl. Pero ok lang kung hindi. E di siya ang magdadala kay Sheryl sa mga dive spots!  At tutulungan niya itong mag-enroll sa kilala niyang mahusay na diving school.

“Hmm, ang na-try ko pa lang, helmet diving sa Boracay,” sagot ni Sheryl. “And don’t tell me because I already know na old school o baka nga hindi totoong diving iyon. Pero noon pa lang parang umandar yung mild claustrophobia ko. Isa ako sa unang umahon sa grupo.”  Para sa iyo, susubukan ko ulit, ang naisip ni Sheryl pero itinigil na niya doon, at baka magmukha siyang overeager.  Parang katiwa-tiwala kasi ang hitsura ni Julius. Parang na-iimagine niyang pwede silang pumunta sa beach, tapos mag-hire ng bangka, dala ang dive equipment, tatalon sa gitna ng malalim na tubig,  kukuha ng shots mula sa underwater camera, habang safe ang pakiramdam niya, kasi si Julius ang bahala sa kanya. Ewan naman paano niya naisip iyon sa sandaling pagkakakilala nila. Naka-steroids yata ang imahinasyon niya ngayon. Mabuti dumating na ang Chardonnay at na-distract ang pagde-daydream ni Sheryl sa kalagitanaan ng kanilang date.

Natakot naman si Julius na pilitin si Sheryl kung ayaw nitong mag-dive. Pero sa tingin niya, kayang harapin ang mild claustrophobia.

Sabi sa akin ni Alex, sa isang bagay tayo magkakasundo. Mahilig kang mag-gitara, at mahilig akong kumanta,” hirit ni Sheryl, na may listahan talaga ng common interests nila.

Natuwa si Julius. “Ganoon ba, anong sabi sa iyo tungkol sa pag-gigitara ko?”

Expert ka raw. Kaya mo raw ang Guns ‘n Roses, Mr. Big, Sting…

Kilala mo ang music nila?” napahanga si Julius. Hindi mukhang fan ng rock music si Sheryl. Sa kasosyalan nito, parang classical at jazz music lang ang tumutugtog sa iPod niya. Mukhang magkakasundo nga yata sila.

“May apat akong kuya. Pinagdaanan ko ang Van Halen, Bon Jovi, pati Nirvana at Metallica.”

“So pag tinugtog ko, makakanta mo ang ‘Blaze of Glory’?” excited na tanong ni Julius.

Hindi ko pipiliin, pero pwede akong pilitin,” pa-cute na sagot ni Sheryl. E bakit ba, medyo nakainom na siya kaya nabawasan na ang hiya. Mahiyain pala siya! Sa mga may karapatan lang siya nahihiya.

Naku, hindi ako marunong mamilit. Gusto ko yung nadadaaan lang sa lambing,” humihirit na rin ang Julius. Sayang ang pagkakataon e. “Anong klaseng music ba ang pinapakinggan o kinakanta mo? Para naman ma-practice ko.”

“Huwag kang tatawa,” sabi ni Sheryl.  Ito na talaga ang test kung bagay sila, pag natanggap ni Julius ang taste niya sa music.

“Bakit naman kita pagtatawanan? Cute ka pala pag nakakainom. Medyo mamula-mula ka na,” patuloy na damoves ng Julius.  Lalong namula si Sheryl.

Ang pinapakinggan ko, araw-araw, ay OPM, Manila sound. Kung English man, 80s music lang,” ang sagot. Nakita ni Sheryl na nanlaki ang mata ni Julius.

Anong pagkakamali ito? Bakit ko siya hinusgahang sosyal? Naisip ni Julius na marami pa siguro siyang hindi alam tungkol kay Sheryl. At parang buong gabi niyang gustong makilala pa ito nang husto. “Ahhh. Kayang-kaya iyan. Sige, awitin mo at itutugtog ko.”  Proud siyang nagamit niya ang isang awitin ng VST & Co. para sa hirit na iyon.

May pagka-jologs pa nga ako e. Basta, iba kasi ang dating ng mga kantang Tagalog. Mas tagos sa puso. Kaya ako nakaka-100% lagi sa office videoke. Dahil sa repertoire kong Sharong Cuneta, The Company, Odette Quesada,” napansin ni Sheryl na dumadaldal na siya. Hindi tama ito. Ang sabi sa singles/dating websites, let the man talk. Ngunit hindi niya mapigilang magkwento na rin tungkol sa sarili. Masarap kausap si Julius. Iba ang vibes niya, di katulad nung mga ibang lalaki, sa hindi pa niya maipaliwanag na dahilan.

Tapos nang kumain si Julius. Parang ang bilis ng pangyayari. Gusto pa niyang pahabain ang gabi. “Gusto mo ng dessert?” alok niya.

Parang gusto ko pero di ko kayang umubos ng buo…”

Pwede namang hati tayo,” sagot ni Julius. Tumango si Sheryl. “Ikaw pumili.”

E baka ayaw mo, pero favorite ko ito e. Carrot cake.”

“Sige, carrot cake. Madali akong kausap.”

“Talaga? Hate yan ng mga kuya ko. Bakit daw dessert ang gulay. So pag nagbe-bake ako, dinadala ko lang sa school at sa office.”

“Mahilig kang mag-bake?” Sobrang nagalak si Julius. Mahilig kasi siyang kumain. Hindi lang halata kasi araw-araw siyang tumatakbo para hindi lumaki ang tiyan.

“Magaling akong magluto at mag-bake. Housewife material nga, sabi sa iyo e.”  Oops, medyo parang overkill, naisip ni Sheryl. Pero nasabi na niya. At totoo namang pinagkakaguluhan ang mga luto niya. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Kung totoo yon, dati pa dapat niyang nakuha ang lahat ng hearts ng lahat ng men. Hindi masyadong totoo yun.

Dumating na ang dessert. Nakangiti ang waiter sa kanila. “This one’s on the house, sir, according to our owner, Mr. Reyes. He had to leave to pick up his wife but he left instructions.”

Ang totoo, kilala ni Julius ang waiter, sa dalas siyang kumain ditong mag-isa, dahil nalalakad lang mula sa condo niya. Nagpasalamat siya at itinapat kay Sheryl ang platito ng cake. Dalawang tinidor ang ibinigay ng waiter. Bago umalis, kumindat ito kay Julius at pasimple pang sumenyas ng OK sign. Gustong batukan ni Julius ang pahamak na waiter.

That waiter is nice, kahit hindi sabihin, nagagawa niya ang trabaho niya at hindi siya intrusive. Ayaw na ayaw namin ng mga kaibigan ko yung nag-uusap-usap kami tapos sabat nang sabat o istorbo ang waiter. Ito, na-refill niya ang water goblet ko, natanggal niya ang used plates, at dinalhan pa tayo ng dalawang tinidor. At grabe siya makangiti, nakakatuwa,” banggit ni Sheryl.

Ngisi ang tawag diyan. Medyo kilala ako dito e, dahil kaklase ko yung boss nila at malapit lang ito sa condo ko. At nakangisi yung waiter kasi may ka-date ako. Masyado lang siyang natuwa.”

Malapit ka dito nakatira? E bakit mo pa ako sinundo sa kabilang ibayo ng Metro Manila?  Pwede naman akong nag-drive,” gulat na sagot ni Sheryl. Nasa Pasig sila, pero sinundo siya ni Julius sa Novaliches.

Ang gustong ihirit ni Julius, you’re worth the distance. Ang nasabi niya lang, “Hindi iyan ang turo ng nanay ko. At baka hindi ka ma-impress sa first date mo kung hindi ka sinundo,” ayun nagpahalata na si Julius na nagpapa-impress siya. Baka sakaling kumagat.

Actually, ang sabi ng dating books ni Sheryl, kung blind date dapat makipag-meet lang at hindi magpasundo sa bahay, at may backup na kaibigang naghihintay para mag-rescue kung sakaling disaster ang date. Hindi niya na sinunod iyon. Tamad siyang mag-drive e.

Tsaka lang napansin ni Sheryl na naitulak na pala nila (niya? Ni Julius?) sa gitna ng mesa ang platito, at kumukuha sila ng carrot cake mula sa isang hiwa, na parang dati na nilang ginagawang maghati ng pagkain. Sabi ng dating websites, ang pag-share ng plato at pag-usog sa space sa mesa ay indikasyon ng pag-unlad ng intimacy ng date. Pero parang patapos na… dessert na diba? Nalungkot yata siya.

O, parang natahimik ka. Hindi ka yata naniniwalang gentleman ako by training. Ano bang pinagsasasabi sa iyo ni Alex?”

Huwag kang mag-alala. Binenta ka sakin. Salesman ang kaibigan mo e. Sabi ko, hindi ako basta-bastang bumibili. Kailangan kilatisin ko munang maigi.”

Alam mo, para sa isang kolehiyala, ang lalim mo ring ma-nagalog minsan. Nakakagulat ka,” puna ni Julius. Talagang unti-unti siyang natutuwa kay Sheryl, at nag-iisip siya paano pa niya mapapahaba ang gabi.

Kolehiyala nga ako, pero laking-probinsiya. At tuwing bakasyon, umuuwi kami sa Zambales. Hindi rin kami mga Inglesero’t Inglesera sa bahay.” Pahiyang-pahiya na si Julius sa anumang image meron siya noong una tungkol kay Sheryl. Iba talaga kapag nakikilala mo na ang tao.

Atsaka lang nila napansin ang piped-in music sa restaurant. Nag-iba kasi. Kanina, parang puro instrumental lang, ngayon biglang tumugtog ang “I Will Always Stay In Love This Way.”  Duda  ni Julius, may kinalaman ang kaibigan niyang may-ari, o di kaya yung waiter na pahamak.

“OPM yan, kahit Ingles,” sabi ni Sheryl.

Oo, pero piano yan. Kaya ko sigurong kapain sa gitara… masubukan nga.”

“Kelan ko naman maririnig iyang pinagmamalaking pag-gigitara mo?” tanong ni Sheryl sabay tingin sa mga mata ni Julius. Agad niyang inalis. Parang napaso siya. Electric shock ang dating. Taga-Meralco pa naman ang kausap niya.

Ngayon, kung gusto mo. Andyan lang gitara ko, sa condo…” alam niyang medyo forward na ang tanong, pero nandoon na rin ang opening.  Sinubukan na ni Julius, tutal ang balak lang talaga niya, sa ngayon, ay magpaka-gentleman. Tugtugan ng gitara, pakinggan kumanta, alukin ng wine, tapos… bahala na!

Sige, sa isang kondisyon…”

“Ano?” kinabahan naman si Julius.  Baka bawal silang uminom, o gabihin, o umagahin….

“Titigilan natin ang kaka-best food foward. Ang mental checklists. Yes, I know you checked me out physically before asking me out, and we’re both weighing each other tonight. I came with a whole dating  book in my head, too. Pero please, mag-enjoy na lang tayo. Kuwentuhan, kantahan, game ako diyan. We’ll take it one step at a time.”  Napakatamis ng ngiti ni Sheryl. Sabay inubos ang Chardonnay niya.

Natigilan si Julius. Hindi makasagot.  Hindi niya alam paano sumagot. Bakit ibang mag-isip ang mga babae?  Bukas pa niya mare-realize na tama si Sheryl. Na may point si Sheryl. Pero bukas pa. Ngayong gabi, nagulat lang siya kung saan nanggaling iyon.

Tumayo si Sheryl para magpunta sa toilet. Nagbayad si Julius at binigyan pa rin ng malaking tip ang pahamak na waiter. Nakangisi pa rin ang loko.

Pagbalik ni Sheryl, nakatayo na si Julius. Hinawakan siya sa kamay, at naglakad na sila patawid ng kalye, paakyat sa condo, papasok sa bahay ni Julius.

Maganda pala talaga ang boses ni Sheryl. Napatulala si Julius. Hindi niya kailangan ng guitar accompaniment. Memorized pa ang lyrics, daig pa ang ilang volume ng 1,001 songs na meron siya.  Itinigil niya minsan ang pagtugtog. Si Sheryl, nakatayo sa bintana, malayo ang tingin. Kumanta lang ng “Bituing Walang Ningning.”

Itago mo ako sa lilim ng iyong pagmamahal
Limutin ang mapaglarong kinang ng tagumpay
Sa piling mo ngayon ako’y bituing walang ningning
Nagkukubli sa liwanag at kislap ng ating pag-ibig….

Tapos na pala ang kanta. Hindi nahalata ni Julius na nakatitig na sa kanya si Sheryl habang nakaupo siya sa sofá, hawak ang gitara, nakapikit ang matang nakikinig. Nang dumilat siya, tinanong ni Sheryl, “Alam mo ba kung bakit favorite ko ang kantang iyon?”

Sa pagkakataong ito, parang alam niya ang sagot. Nagbaka-sakali si Julius. “Gusto mo kasi talagang magpaalaga sa lalaking magmamahal sa iyo. Pagod ka nang magpanggap, gusto mong maging totoo, ng simpleng buhay. Hindi mahalaga sa iyo ang career mo o mga material na bagay.”

Napaluha si Sheryl. Nag-excuse siya, pumunta sa banyo, at nag-text sa lahat ng kaibigan niya. “Girls, I think I have found The One.  He gets me! He reads me! Kuwento later.  Still in his condo.”

Pagbalik niya sa sala,  nakatayo na si Julius. “Gabi na, ihahatid na kita.”

Ano raw?! Saan nanggaling iyon? Gulat na gulat si Sheryl. Kinuha niya ang bag niya at sumunod na lang kay Julius. Nakaakbay ito sa kanya, na parang natural lang.

Tahimik sila sa kotse. Kapwa malalim ang iniisip.  Pagdating sa bahay nila, hinalikan siya ni Julius sa pisngi at nagsabi ng good night.

Kinabukasan, hindi na nakatiis si Sheryl. Nag-text siya, umasang may makukuhang reaction kahit pabiro mula kay Julius,

You ask me if I’ve known love
And what it’s like to sing songs in the rain
Well, I’ve seen love come
And I’ve seen it shot down
I’ve seen it die in vain
Shot down in a blaze of glory… 

Ang sagot lang ni Julius, “I’m sorry, Sheryl. Masyado pang maaga para sa kantang iyan.”

Nasaktan si Sheryl. May double meaning ba iyon? Maaga pa dahil umaga pa lang, o maaga pa dahil kakakilala pa lang nila? Ang hirap mag-overanalyze nang lahat ng bagay! Nagbibiro lang naman siya. Bon Jovi iyon, paborito nilang pareho. May nangyayaring misteryo.

Makalipas nang isang linggo, tinanong na ni Sheryl kay Alex bakit hindi pa ulit nagpaparamdam sa kanya si Julius.

Hintayin mo lang. Natakot yun, ma’am,” sagot ni Alex.

Natakot? Alam ni Sheryl na masyado siyang naging honest kay Julius. Na baka nga nakakasakal ang kanyang Housewife Test. Na baka mas maraming magagandang babaeng nauna sa buhay ni Julius. Isang date lang naman sila. Siguro, makakalimutan niya rin ito.

Nagpakasipag na lang siya sa pagtatrabaho. Naisip niya na lang mag-retire nang maaga. Kaya naman siyang buhayin ng savings niya.

Si Julius, hanggang ngayon, ay nag-iisip pa rin.

(Bitin ba? Ganyan talaga ang buhay. Minsan, gusto mo pang dugtungan, pero tapos na talaga ang istorya. Nag-enjoy ka naman diba?)

WAKAS.

Image

Defying 40: Playlist


P1090527

After being put on hold during the holidays, my Defying 40 project is back on track, with my friends contributing creative ideas.

I wish to collaborate with as many artist-friends as possible. Any combination is more than welcome! Piano and guitar. Poetry and music. Dance and song. Video and music. Talk and humor. Photography and poetry. Paintings and calligraphy. Big band and singing voices. A capella and choir music.

I don’t have the money to finance this yet. I don’t have a venue, which has to have a stage, a space for a baby grand piano and (by the way) a band, and a dance floor. Obviously I only have big dreams at this point.  But that’s all right. I have seven months to pull this off. 🙂

I like the dream stage because right now, anything is possible! So I’m creating a playlist. The current mix is so Ella. Classical music, show tunes, movie soundtracks, Original Pilipino Music (OPM para tagos sa puso), choral music, ’80s music, Manila sound. Now how do I gather all the people I want to see and perform, and ask them to practice with me?

I’m still conflicted whether to open the night with “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” “Salamat Musika” or “Magandang Gabi,” or a piano piece that no one but me will understand. Or something else entirely. Like a dance number with my talented friends.

To have my friends – and family (ooh I have artists and musicians in the family) let their hair down, sing, dance, spin, twirl, jump, fly, and have a grand time is my goal. I wish this dream would come true!  But even now, I’m already having so much fun planning it.

Image

Next to Normal: The Gift That was 2013


This past year was not the easiest. Despite all my Facebook statuses, FourSquare checkins, Instagram selfies, and Twitter updates that seemed to focus only on the good things I was receiving, 2013 was, in real life, a roller coaster ride. There were times when I was so flattened that I could barely stand up. Yes, the travel opportunities were amazing, but there were unexpected challenges that really stretched me.  Several times, I wanted to give up and go home. I almost exploded.

What I realize now is that I have to accept myself and how I react to people and situations. I should not resist this anymore: my uniqueness, my gifting, the way God created and formed me. My brokenness is part of who I am. And I am not normal, although I’ve always pretended to be.  This year, I celebrated my craziness, my OC and bipolar tendencies, and my perfectionism, and embraced them, and called it a beautiful year. Next year (2014), I will use them to create beautiful things and share them with the world.

P1070935 What  allowed me to survive and even cherish the year was how I started it: I went on retreat last March in Tagaytay, Philippines. The bench on the left was my favorite, this was in Caleruega. I sat there for several hours, under sun, wind, and rain, to lift up to God my upcoming gap year, all the uncertainties (which I hated), all the waiting (which I was not fond of), and all the difficulties I knew I was going to face. At the same time, I thanked Him for the opportunity to take a break from a very stressful life and to be in touch with my inner self. I hoped to unleash my creative side as well, and to be healthier, overall. That retreat, although filled with noisy university students, helped me to pray and listen to God.

P1070983One of the people who was very instrumental in this leap of faith is my spiritual director, who deserves an award for listening to me and walking with me through my wounds, burdens, and struggles for several months, while I discerned whether I should indeed give up a good job as a court attorney to take a year off.  Fr. Jordan Orbe, SJ sat with me on my retreat for an hour a day, listening to my prayers, plans, and dreams, and giving me the freedom to face the questions, even without the answers.  I have had a few spiritual directors in life, and each one was perfect for what I was going through while I was with them. Thank you, Fr. Jordy, for the prayers and the help even across the miles.

First stop: Sydney, Australia

I landed on March 20 and my sister saw how exhausted I was. I slept, mostly, so exhausted by all the work I had to finish and all the get-togethers I attended as part of my send me off. In a few days’ time, however, my Sydney family went to Port Stephens, where I experienced an Aussie holiday, and admired some boats.

P1080012

Ahh Sydney, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

P1080156

I love you for the colorful birds that visit our garden every morning – lorikeets, cockatoos, kookaburras, and others I cannot name , although we have had to limit feeding them as they tend to show gratitude by leaving “bird memories” on the balcony and even the laundry (and everyone knows I am particular about doing the laundry right);

P1080260

for the sails that make up the Sydney Opera House, which building I never get tired of admiring from any distance, this year I saw Vivid Sydney, a light and sound show that attracted thousands of tourists to the city, had coffee at the Opera Bar after missing the tour; and watched a concert inside, featuring Idina Menzel, she who sang Defying Gravity, a song that could very well have been written about my gap year, for its message about soaring and flying;

P1080681

and I love Sydney for my niece, who is growing up to be a charming, creative, cute, and caring girl; I savored the times I could sing, dance, pray, and play with her, and tried as much as I could to teach her what I could about life and the world out there (tall order, I realized), this is her at the neighborhood park, looking stylish as usual.

There is so much more to love in Sydney. I enjoyed taking long walks, riding the bus and train, meeting the few Sydnesider friends I had in the city, having coffee with guests from Manila, playing tourist once in a while, joining the local library and borrowing as much books and DVDs as I can, tasting the best pizza on my birthday, taking over my sister’s new kitchen, oh, and doing a little consultancy work in Manila just to keep abreast of local news and updates in the legal profession.

I will let these images tell the rest of my story. My next stops were Randwick, the City, Canberra, Hunter Valley, Auckland, Hobbiton,  Melbourne, Flowerdale, Point Lonsdale, Fiji Islands, Auckland again, Melbourne again, Flowerdale again, Point Lonsdale again, Berrima, Bowral, and many other cities in Sydney. Last year, I went to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. This year, I visited Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. I am not writing a travelogue, but somehow there is something I should write after all this traveling that I did.

I believe these memories are the ingredients to create something from. I was given so much, shown so much, gifted with so much, so I can share them to others. I will remain open to the leading of the Spirit as to where I should go next, and what I should spend more time on next year. But one thing is for sure, I am going home  soon with a bigger heart.

To all those who made 2013 very beautiful and memorable, thank you. Click on the thumbnails to view full photo and to go to slideshow.

Defying Forty: A Showcase of Talents


A Piano

I launched an idea last weekend to some friends to see if they were in. I wanted to have a show where my friends and I could share the talents that God gave us, especially for those who had pursued different professions but were amazingly gifted. I wanted to defy aging and to show how talented every person is! I knew that those who would embark on this project with me would experience a greater connectedness with their own souls and find joy in expressing themselves through art.

In less than 24 hours, I got the following confirmed contributions:

  • A poem
  • Calligraphy for invites, souvenirs, etc.
  • A glass painting
  • Acrylic on canvas painting
  • A song/video collaboration
  • A standup comedy/ musical performance
  • Help with script and hosting
  • A dance number. Make that two dance numbers!
  • A TED-inspired talk
  • A piano solo

Others are still mulling about what to contribute to the project, and are warming up to the idea. Most of these friends need  just a little push to expose their hidden talents again.

I want to show that people in their 40s are cool and that they were not born grownups. This is me meeting my 40th birthday with a bang. Of course, friends have said that I was the only person they knew who could pull this off. I surely hope we pull it off!

I am still cooking up related ideas to this project, in terms of focus and purpose, but already I am excited and looking forward to working on it during my spare time. 😉

Watch this space.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: