“A LOVE PROJECT” Chapter 9 (Finale) | A Feb-ibig Series

CARLO

Patakbo akong pumunta sa garden. I stopped. My heart beats raised dahil sa pagtakbo, at dahil sa kaniya. Is she really here?

Tinitingnan niya ‘yong mga roses ni Mommy. There is a subtle smile in the corners of her lips.

“Hi!”

Lumingon siya. She smiled. “Sorry, I came in too late.”

Lumapit ako sa kaniya. “No, it’s okay. Nakabalik ka na pala.”

“Kanina lang.” She sighed. Pagod siguro. “While in Singapore, I met someone.”

“Okay, that hurts.” All my hopes died down. Siguro, we’re just destined to be friends.

She rolled her eyes at me.

I smirked.

“You know it wouldn’t hurt to listen to the whole story.”

“Okay, okay.”

Her gaze fell upon the roses again. “I met someone who met someone. She had to work with a guy, you can say out of whim. Alam niyang kailangan niya si guy to be what she always wanted to be and to show other people what she’s capable of. But just seeing the guy online, alam na niya na she may be in trouble. She believes that ‘prevention is better than cure’.

“Kasi, hindi naman talaga masungit ‘yong kaibigan ko. She’s nice to everyone kaya nga no’ng pinakilala siya no’ng guy sa mga friends nito, the friends were confused kung bakit ‘Sungit’ ang tawag ni guy kay girl. Sinusungitin ni girl si guy as a defense mechanism. Ayaw kasi ni ate girl na mahulog, alam naman kasi niyang hindi siya masasalo ni guy.”

She looked at me and I know, nakita niya ‘yong confusion sa mukha mo. “It’s hard to compete with a 3-year worth of memories, of love. And it’s so scary.” Binalik niya ‘yong tingin niya sa mga roses. “And then there’s the project, the project my friend’s was working hard to finish. Alam niya kasi ‘yon ‘yong key niya sa mga pangarap niya. Pero…” Tumingin siya ulit sa akin. This time, she turned her body towards me.

Humarap na siya sa akin. “Pero ano ba namang laban ng friend ko sa love? It hit her e, I’d say pretty badly. Kahit ano pang prevention ang ginawa niya, she fell, hard I’d say.” Umiling-iling siya habang nakangiti. “How stupid of her.”

Ngumiti ako. “It’s you, right? And not just a friend.”

Kumunot ‘yong noo niya. “Alam mo parang narinig ko na ‘yan or nabasa somewhere.”

Our first conversation. Nagpanggap ako no’n na kaibigan ako ng sender no’ng post sa XUSC. “Pa’no mo nga ba nalaman na ako ‘yong sender no’n?”

“Gut feeling.”

“Oh.” Tumangu-tango ako. Then, silence.

“Uhm, sige, I gotta go. Gabi na masyado.”

Tumalikod siya. I held her hand to stop her. “Pagkatapos mong mag-confess ng feelings mo, do you think hahayaan kitang umalis nang gano’n-gano’n lang, Sungit?”

Nakasimangot siyang humarap. “E wala ka kayang reaction diyan. Wala kang reply sa mga sinabi ko. Naiisip ko tuloy na na-realize mo nang hindi mo naman pala ako gusto.”

Hindi ko mapigilang mapangiti. “I just want to teach you a lesson para sa pag-iwas mo sa akin, sa pag-alis mo nang biglaan, at sa pagpapa-miss mo ng sobra. Alam mo bang plano kong sundan ka sa Singapore? Pumunta ako sa bahay n’yo one time and sabi ng ate mo na nasa Singapore ka na at ako naman itong si tanga, hindi man lang nagtanong. Nag-assume akong hindi ka na babalik. Mabuti na lang binabasa ko ‘yong blog mo.”

She smiled and laughed a little.

“Nakakatawa ba ‘yon? Ha, Mandy? Sobrang natakot ako sa thought na hindi na kita ulit makikita.”

Bigla na lang niya akong niyakap. “Silly,” she whispered.

I hugged her back. Hinigpitan ko pa. I don’t want to ever let her go.

“Don’t be scared,” sabi ko sa kaniya no’ng binitawan na namin ang isa’t isa. “Hindi naman sa tagal ng pagsasama nasusukat ‘yong pagmamahal e. Mandy, you taught me how to love again, how not to be scared to love and to give your all.”

Pinunasan ko ‘yong luhang tumulo sa pisngi niya.

Hindi ko na rin napigilang umiyak. “Grabe, ngayon pa lang nagsi-sink in ‘yong mga sinabi mo kanina. Ngayon pa lang nagsi-sink in na nandito ka na ulit.” I hugged her again.

“I won’t leave you again,” she said. Umiiyak din siya. “I’m sorry.”

“I love you,” I finally got to tell her.

“May ibabalik nga pala ako sa ‘yo.” Bumitaw siya. May kinuha siyang velvet box sa bulsa niya. “Carlo, ayokong maging best friend mo lang.”

Napakagat ako ng labi, nagpipigil ng kilig. Kinuha ko ‘yong singsing. Kinuha ko rin ‘yong kamay niya para isuot ‘yong singsing.

Binawi niya ‘yong kamay niya. “Ayoko ngang maging best friend mo lang e.”

Kinuha ko ulit ‘yong kamay niya at hinawakan ito ng mahigpit para hindi na siya makapalag. Habang sinusuot ‘yong singsing, I looked at her in her eyes. “Sabi sa description nitong singsing, you should give it to someone you cannot live without as a sign of your eternal love. It’s not a ‘best friend’ ring, my love.”

Sinamaan niya ako ng tingin. “You tricked me!”

“I’d do anything for love.”

Finally, ngumiti na siya. Tiningnan niya ‘yong singsing. “Thank you.”

I kissed her in her forehead and hugged her again. Bumitaw rin ako kasi may naalala ako. “Pa’no pala ‘yong book?”

“I’ll have a book but not your story. Ire-revise ko ‘yong manuscript ko dati. Sabi ni ate, may grasp na ako sa ‘realism’ kasi alam ko na ‘yong pakiramdam ng nagmamahal.” She smiled.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes?”

“Paano?”

“Ganito.” She stepped closer. Nilapit niya ‘yong mukha niya sa akin. She closed her eyes. Bago pa siya tuluyang makalapit, she paused. While still closing her eyes, she whispered, “I love you.”

Inunahan ko na siya. I kissed her, in her soft lips. She smiled. I did too.

**FIN**

Gamitin ang tag na “A Love Project” para maling basahin ang kwento dito sa blog (i-type mo siya sa Search box, bes). This story is purely fictional. Anumang pagkakatulad sa tunay na buhay ay coincidental lang. Maraming salamat sa pagbabasa!

“A LOVE PROJECT” Chapter 8 | A Feb-ibig Series

MANDY

Sobra akong napagod pero masaya ako ’cause finally, nakauwi na ako. I enjoyed my stay in Singapore with my kuya. I got time to think and unwind.

I was about to sleep no’ng may kumatok sa pintuan ng kwarto ko. Then came ate. She was carrying a cardboard box.

“Hey.”

“Ano ‘yan?” I asked.

“Carlo came the other day and gave this. Ito daw ‘yong mga binigay niya sa ex niya na ibinalik ng ex niya recently sa kaniya. These may help with your book, he said.”

Kinuha ko ‘yong box. “Thanks.”

Lumabas na si ate ng kwarto. I wanted to ignore the box that night. Gusto ko na sanang ipagpabukas ‘yong pagtingin ng laman ng box but then again, alam ko naman sa sarili kong hindi ako makakatulog hangga’t hindi ko siya binubuksan. So, I opened it.

I was greeted by letter, cards, three plastic roses, two teddy bears, a Baymax stuffed toy, a necklace with a letter C pendant and a heart, a heart pillow, and a velvet box. The last item took my attention the most. Kinuha ko siya.

“So where’s the ring?”

“What ring?”

“‘Yong engagement ring n’yo sana.”

“Binigay ko kay Mommy.”

Could this be it? I’m confused. Pagbukas ko sa box, may nahulog na papel. I looked at the ring, it’s definitely not the ring na ibibigay niya dapat kay Anne. I know that ring. Sinend sa akin ni Carlo ‘yong link kung sa’n niya ‘yon inorder online so I can describe it in the book.

I picked the paper. It said, “To Mandy”. Binuksan ko.

I’ll wait until you’re ready to accept me as a friend again. That ring is a “best friend” ring. Please be my best friend? -Carlo

Nabasa ‘yong papel. I cannot control my tears. Why did he have to do this, all of these?!

“Umiiyak ka na naman.”

Kaagad kong pinunasan ‘yong pisngi ko. I stood up from the floor.

Pumasok ulit sa kwarto si Ate Silvie. “I know, Mandy. I know that you love him too,” she said.

“I don’t,” mabilis kong sagot. “You know why I’m crying? I hate this complicated setup.”

“I don’t believe you. Kilala kita, Mands. You maybe confused right now. Siguro natatakot ka kung paano na ang mangyayari sa book mo, sa pangarap mo kapag in-entertain mo ang feelings mo para kay Carlo.”

There’s no point in denying now. “It’s not just that, ate.” Ito na, I was about to voice out my fears na. “I’m scared. What if he’s just making himself believe that he loves me para makalimot siya sa past niya? What if he’ll just use me as a rebound? What if hindi niya ako magawang mahalin ng buung-buo because of all the damages his ex caused him? What if masaktan lang ako? What if magkasakitan lang kami? Is it worth it, ate? Will it be worth it?”

“Hindi ba ang love parang pag-inom ng beer? You take risk. You have to try to drink it para malaman kung talaga bang mapait and then you drink some more para masiguro mong mawawala ang pait or ma-realize na hindi pala. I read the first draft of your story, Mands.”

“That’s the thing with people. We give advices because we don’t use them. Hindi ko alam, ate, kung kaya kong mag-take ng risk,” I told her honestly.

“Okay then.” Inangat niya ‘yong kanang kamay niya na parang may hinahawakan siya. “Here’s your bottled water, clean. It symbolizes your dream to be an author.” Inangat niya naman ‘yong left hand niya. “And here’s a can of beer. Sinisimbolo naman nito ang feelings mo para kay Carlo. Take them both.”

I sighed in frustration. “I can’t.”

“‘Yong story ni Carlo na sinulat mo, it has potentials. ‘Yong hinahanap kong realism, nandoon. By realism, I mean real feelings, Mandy. Naramdaman ko na rin finally ‘yong nararamdaman ng mga characters mo. I would love to publish it pero alam kong magiging awkward ‘yon kung magiging kayo ni Carlo. So, I’m publishing one of your old manuscripts instead. And that’s why I’m giving you this bottled water.”

“Ate…” Hindi ako makapaniwala sa sinabi niya. Finally, she’ll help me reach my dream.

“Now, I’m not asking you to pick one, Mandy. Parehas ko nang ibinibigay sa ‘yo. Still, the decision is yours. Tatanggapin mo ba silang dalawa?”

Naiyak na naman ako. Tears of joy, na-touched ako sa ginawa ni ate. Tumango ako and kinuha ko ‘yong kunwaring hawak niyang imaginary tubig at ininom ‘yon. I did the same with the imaginary beer. Then, I hugged Ate Silvie. “Thank you, ate. You’re the best.”

“So, ano pang hinihintay mo?” she asked pagkatapos naming magyakap.

I nodded. “Pupuntahan ko na siya. I’m taking a risk. He’s, after all, worth it.”

She smiled. “Good. Go na!”

Tumakbo na ko. Parang nawala ‘yong pagod ko. I was so excited to see him.

“Mandy!” Tinawag ako ni ate bago ako makalabas ng bahay. She put the “best friend” ring in my hand. “I think kailangan mong ibalik sa kaniya ‘yan.”

I smiled, nodded, and ran onto one of my realest dreams.

****

Gamitin ang tag na “A Love Project” para masundan ang kwento dito sa blog (i-type mo siya sa Search box, bes). This story is purely fictional. Anumang pagkakatulad sa tunay na buhay ay coincidental lamang. Abangan ang huling kabanata…

“A LOVE PROJECT” Chapter 7 | A Feb-ibig Series

CARLO

“Hay nako! Heto na naman tayo mga, brads! Inuman na naman dahil sa babae, ‘no, Carlo?”

“CJ, pre. CJ,” pagtatama ko kay Japs. Kina-Carlo na naman ako.

“Pre, hindi ka naman makaka-move on sa ganiyan e,” sabi naman ni Joshua.

Ang daming alam talaga ng mga ‘to. “Wala nang dada-dada. Inom na lang tayo, mga pre! Woohoo! Ang sarap ma-broken hearted! Grabe!”

“Walang hiya ka talaga, brads! Parang may mangyayari sa inom, ‘no?”

“Meron talaga! Mamaya lang ng onti, makakalimutan ko na silang lahat!”

Maya-maya…

Kukunin ko sana ‘yong phone ko kaya lang tinampal ni Joshua ‘yong kamay ko.

“Huwag mo nang tawagan, pare.”

Ngumiti ako. “Brads, I miss her.”

Napailing-iling na lang sila. Kinuha ko ‘yong phone at tumayo na ako. “O, sa’n ka pupunta?”

“Uwi na.”

“Ingat.”

“Sa bahay ang diretso ha, Carlo Jan!”

“Aye, aye!”

Pinahinto ko ‘yong taxi at nagbayad sa driver. Pagkatapos, bumaba na ko. Teka, hindi namin ‘to bahay a. Really, Carlo? 

Dinukot ko ‘yong phone ko mula sa bulsa at tinawagan siya. Gaya ng dati, hindi pa rin niya sinasagot. “Tang-”

“Don’t say bad words.”

“Agh!” Sinubukan ko ulit siyang tawagan, paulit-ulit gaya ng dati. Pero wala, wala talaga. I texted her.

Nasa labas ako ng bahay nyo. Hindi ako aalis dito hanggang di mo ko kinakausap.

Bumukas ‘yong gate nila. Finally. The same short, curly hair. Her irritated expression.

“What the hell, Carlo?!”

I smiled. That voice.

“Umuwi ka na.”

“Mag-usap naman tayo oh. I miss you, sobra.”

Napasimangot siya. “Are you drunk?”

“No. Nakainom lang but I’m not drunk.”

“Ba’t nandito ka? Did you drive?”

She’s concerned. “No, nag-taxi ako.”

“I’ll call you a cab, umuwi ka na.”

Hinawakan ko ‘yong kamay niya para pigilan siya. “I’ll do that later. For now, let’s talk please.”

Ngumisi siya. “Sige nga. Ano bang gusto mong pag-usapan natin?” Tumawa siya. “You ruining everything? No falling in love, that’s in the contract.”

“Kaya nga e. Kaya nga sana, bumalik na lang tayo sa dati. Handa naman akong maging kaibigan mo lang. A friend who’s always there for you. ‘Yong hindi ko kaya ‘yong ganito. ‘Yong ayaw mo na akong papasukin sa buhay mo.”

“Sino bang nauna?” pasigaw niyang tanong. “Sino bang unang umiwas? ‘Di ba you want to ignore me until you forget me? Then, stick with your plan, Carlo.”

I smirked. “Kung kaya ko lang e. Mandy, hindi ko pala kaya. I can’t live without you. I am not asking you to reciprocate my feelings, ang hinihiling ko lang is pumayag ka na maging magkaibigan tayo ulit. Please. Please, Mands.”

Umiling siya. “The thing, Carlo, is you can. Kaya mo. Kayanin mo. I have a dream, I have plans. Please, don’t ruin them. Good night.” Pumasok na siya sa loob ng bahay nila.

I smiled.

****

My Trip to SG

Hi, readers and onlookers! 🙂 I know it’s been a while since I last check on you. I’m in Singapore right now, visiting my brother. While spending good times with him, I’m also exploring the country a bit. There are some photos below that you may enjoy. Talk to you again soon. xx, Mandy.

****

Bro’s Engagement

I am super, super excited!! Another reason why I flew in Singapore was to help my brother with her proposal to her then, 5-year girlfriend and now, fiancée. I really could not contain my excitement, guys!! My smile’s from ear to ear.

I was in tears when Ate Ja said YES. All our hardwork in planning and organizing the proposal was worth it! Congratulations, Bro! Below are some photos and the details of the proposal.

I’ll be posting more about my trip in SG once I get back to the Philippines, that’ll be very soon. Take care, guys! xx, Mandy.

****

“Carlo, may bisita ka,” sabi ni Mommy. Dali-dali akong bumaba. Is she back?

“Carlo.”

“Anong ginagawa mo dito?” It’s not short, curly hair.

“Gusto ko lang ibigay sa ‘yo ‘to.” Tinuro niya ‘yong box sa tabi niya. “And gusto ko lang mag-sorry ulit. I’m really sorry, Carlo.”

Tumango ako.

****

Gamitin ang tag na “A Love Project” para masundan ang kwento dito sa blog (i-type mo siya sa Search box, bes). This story is purely fictional. Anumang pagkakatulad sa tunay na buhay ay coincidental lamang. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…

“A LOVE PROJECT” Chapter 6 | A Feb-ibig Series

MANDY

Kami na lang ni Carlo sa kotse. Nahatid na niya sina Joshua and Japs. Finally, nakarating din sa bahay.
“Thanks again,” sabi ko. Bababa na sana ako no’ng nagsalita siya.

“This might be the last time na magkikita tayo. May malaking project kasi kami niyan so for sure, busy lagi even weekends.” Tumingin siya sa akin and he smiled. “Feeling ko naman nakwento ko na halos lahat sa ‘yo. Kung may nakalimutan pa ako, ise-send ko na lang sa ‘yo via messenger or email.”

I smiled too. “Okay. Thank you for everything, Carlo. Just so you know, I really had fun doing this project with you. And I understand kung magiging busy ka na. You’ve allotted more than enough for my project and I’m more than grateful for that.”

“Thank you rin for everything, Mands.”

Tumango ako. “If you need a friend or anything, just call me.”

“Okay. So, pa’no ba ‘yan?”

“Uhm… Baba ka muna?”

“No, late na. Maybe some other time.”

“Sandali lang,” pamimilit ko. “Hindi naman kita papapasukin.” I smiled cheekily. “Pagbuksan mo naman ako ng pinto.”

He sighed. Pagod na siguro but he did as I told him.

Pagbaba ko, hinila ko ‘yong braso niya kasi pabalik na siya sa driver seat at niyakap ko siya. “Thank you.”

****

It’s been three days since I had last written something for Carlo’s story. Kasi naman, I feel stuck. May mga questions ako for Carlo. I pm’d them to him pati email pero hindi pa rin siya sumasagot. I tried calling him pero hindi rin niya sinasagot. Since today’s Sunday, I tried my luck. After two failed tries, he finally answered.

“Hey, so sorry. I know you’re busy but I really need the answers to my questions. I sent them on FB pati email.”

“Sorry, Mands. Busy lang talaga. I’ll try answering them asap. I got to go.”

In-end na niya ‘yong call. Akala ko ba may usapan kami na kung sinong tumawag, siyang mag-e-end ng call. He’s busy.

After another 3 days, wala pa ring reply si Carlo so I planned on going to their company. Since hindi ko ma-contact si Carlo, I pm’d Rob instead. Nakasayaw ko siya sa party ng company nila and in-add niya ako sa Facebook.

Mandy: Hi! Good evening! Can I ask you something?

Robin: Hi, Mands! 🙂 Musta? What is it?

Mandy: I’m OK. Do you know Carlo’s sched? Pwede ko ba syang puntahan sa company? I need to ask him something important eh.

Robin: Di mo alam? Nakaleave si Carlo for one week.

Mandy: Oh, no. Busy daw kasi sya. Hindi na kami nakakapag-usap tbh. So tapos na yung big project nyo?

Robin: Big project? Hindi nga kami masyadong busy this month eh.

Mandy: Talaga?

Robin: Oo. Sige, Mands. Out na ko. May lakad pa kasi. 😉

Mandy: Ok. Salamat ah. Hang out soon? 🙂

Medyo nanginginig ‘yong kamay ko habang tine-text si Carlo.

I’ll call you. Right now. Please answer. Please.

I dialed his number. Hindi siya sumasagot.

I texted him again.

Naka-leave ka pala.

After a few seconds, nag-ring ang phone ko. Bastard. I answered it but didn’t talk.

“Mands, I’m sorry.”

“So, bakit?”

Hindi siya kaagad nakasagot. “Sorry.”

“E bakit nga, Carlo? Ba’t mo ko iniiwasan? May nagawa ba ako or nasabi na hindi mo nagustuhan? Carlo, akala ko kasi magkaibigan tayo.” Damn tears. “Akala ko we both care for each other. Siguro naiinis ka na sa akin kasi kinukulit kita. Ano nga naman ba ‘yong mapapala mo sa librong ‘to? E pangarap ko lang naman ‘to, hindi naman iyo

“Sana lang, sana lang, naging honest ka na lang. Para kasi akong tangang naghihintay ng reply mo dito. If-if nagbago na ‘yong isip mo, sabihin mo lang sa akin. P’wede ko namang burahin ‘tong mga sinulat ko. Hindi mo naman kailangang magsinungaling.”

“Mandy, it’s not about you or the story.” His voice broke. “Ako ‘yong may problema.”

“Anong problema? I’m here, Carlo, magkaibigan tayo ‘di ba? Bumabalik na naman ba ‘yong pain? Nasasaktan ka na naman ba dahil kay Anne?”

“No, Mandy. It’s not Anne.”

“E ano? E sino?”

“I met a girl.” He paused. “Suplada siya. She’s definitely the opposite of my ideal girl. She looks so high maintenance. But she’s smart and she knows what she wants. Sobrang excited ako ‘pag alam kong makikita ko siya. I love getting to know her, personally and not only through his blogs. She loves carrot cake and she’s not fond of chocolate. Ang daming photos ng kape sa blog niya pero hindi naman pala siya nagkakape.

“She wants to be a pianist pero nahihirapan siyang mag-piano. She loves children and animals. She dreams of becoming a philanthropist someday. Na-realize ko na lang na attracted na ako sa kaniya when I saw her dance, when I saw her smiling and laughing and just enjoying herself. Mandy-”

“We only have one rule, Carlo. Your rule.” I ended the call.

Bago ako matulog, I read his text.

Answered your questions. Sorry, it took me awhile. “I remember the (girl) but I don’t remember the feeling anymore.”

Paggising ko, I had another text message from him.

Pwede bang bumalik na lang tayo sa dati, friends. Kalimutan mo na lang yung mga sinabi ko sayo. I miss you. Sorry for making things complicated. Let’s be friends again. Please.

“Bastard.”

****

Gamitin ang tag na “A Love Project” para masundan ang kwento dito sa blog (i-type mo siya sa Search box, bes). This story is purely fictional. Anumang pagkakatulad sa tunay na buhay ay coincidental lamang. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…

“A LOVE PROJECT” Chapter 5 | A Feb-ibig Series

MANDY

Tumingin ako sa salamin. I looked fine. May taste talaga si ate, bagay sa akin itong red velvet dress na suot ko. Regalo n’ya sa akin ‘to last Christmas. Sweetheart ‘yong neckline and strapless so I decided to throw in this black mesh vest. I put my hair in a messy bun. There’s a hack na natutunan ko from YouTube on how to tie your short hair in a bun.

“Mands, nandiyan na ‘yong sundo mo.”

I smiled to my reflection. “This night, I’ll be myself. Bahala na si Carlo,” I told myself.

Palabas na sana ako no’ng napansin kong bukas pa ang laptop ko. Bukas pa rin ang MS Word. Napangiti na naman ako kasi ‘yong huling scene na sinulat ko is inspired sa beer scene namin ni Carlo. Sinulat ko ‘yong mga sinabi ko sa kaniya sa kotse niya habang umiinom ako ng beer. Dialogue siya ni Carlo, kunwari ina-advice-san niya ‘yong kaibigan niyang broken hearted.

Aside from being a fictional addition to this creative nonfiction which is may clearance naman from Carlo, the scene kind of acts as a sign or anticipation for the upcoming turn of events-Anne cheating on him. So, I’m very pleased with myself.

“Mandy? Naghihintay na si Carlo sa labas.”

Black tux, red tie. I smiled at him. I was his date sa Founding Celebration ng company nila.

“Hi, sungit! You look devine.”

Natawa ako. “Wow! Devine, talaga? Well, and so are you.”

Pinagbuksan niya ako ng kotse. First time.  “Thank you.”

“No. Thank you, sa pagpayag na maging date ko tonight.”

The venue was in a nice garden, which is a part of a hotel. Ipinakilala ako ni Carlo sa mga kaibigan niya. May maikling program and then, everyone started eating. May mga servers ng wine. Gusto ko sana but Carlo kept on saying, “We gotta keep it clean, sungit.”

Nagtataka ‘yong mga kaibigan niya kung bakit tinatawag akong sungit ni Carlo, e hindi naman ako masungit. I was honestly enjoying myself. It had been awhile since I attended a party.

Then, music and dancing. Napapa-tap ako ng fingers ko habang nakikipagkwentuhan kina Carlo.

“Tara, sayaw tayo?”

Finally. Akala ko hindi niya ako aayain. Ako na sanang mang-aaya sa kaniya e.

I was not sure kung anong position namin. He decided. Kinuha niya ‘yong dalawang kamay ko and interlaced them at the back of his neck. Hinawakan naman niya ako sa magkabilang bewang. I smiled.

“Nag-eenjoy ka ba?” tanong niya.

Tumango ako. “Thanks for inviting me here.”

“The pleasure is mine.”

I smiled and scooted a little bit closer to him. I rested my chin on his shoulder. He stiffined but just for awhile. I just want to enjoy the moment and the soft melody.

No’ng nagpalit ng kanta, humiwalay ako sa kaniya. I held his right hand and rested my left on his left shoulder. His left hand touched my waist again. I looked at him and smiled.

Maya-maya, may lumapit na kasama niya sa work. “Hey, CJ, baka naman p’wede kong makasayaw ang date mo?” the guy asked.

Bumitaw si Carlo. “Sure, Rob.” He smiled to me bago bumalik sa table.

“Hi! I’m Rob.”

“Mandy.” Nag-shake hands kami.

****

CARLO

“Pare, ang sweet n’yo ni Mandy do’n ah,” nakangising sabi ni Joshua pagbalik ko sa table namin.

Ang weird ng pakiramdam ko. Inabot ko ‘yong beer sa mesa na wala pang bawas. Iinumin ko na sana kaso inagaw ni Joshua.

“Bawal kang uminom, pare. Ikaw driver namin.”

“Ang sakit ng ulo ko, brads,” sabi ko.

“Uwi na tayo maya-maya,” sabi naman ni Japs.

‘Yong music, naging upbeat. Akala ko babalik na si Mandy sa table, pagtingin ko, sumasayaw pa rin sila ni Rob.

“Wow! Magaling pa lang sumayaw si Mandy.”

Napangiti ako. It was my first time seeing her that happy, that alive. May konti, as in konting-konting, panghihinayang in my part kasi hindi ako ‘yong nagpa-smile sa kaniya ng gano’n. But that’s okay, as long as she’s happy.

“Pre, ‘yang ngiti mong ‘yan, parang kilala ko ‘yan.”

Napatingin ako kay Japs. “Ano na namang trip mo, pre?”

“Hoy, oo nga, Carlo!” singit ni Joshua. “Umamin ka, may gusto ka na kay Mandy, no?”

Parang uminit ‘yong pakiramdam ko. Hindi ako nakasagot. Napatingin ulit ako kay Mandy. Ngumiti ulit ako. “Mga pre, lasing na yata kayo e. Alam n’yo namang magkaibigan lang kami at bawal kaming ma-inlove sa isa’t isa. ‘Di ba nga may kontrata kami?”

“Oy, Carlo. Habang maaga pa, kung may feelings ka para kay Mandy, i-pause mo muna. Isip muna brads, bago puso. Baka mamaya iiyak-iyak ka na naman.”

“Mga loko talaga ‘tong mga ‘to.” Napalunok ako. Parang kinabahan ako e. Isip muna, Carlo.

****

Gamitin ang tag na “A Love Project” para masundan ang kwento dito sa blog (i-type mo siya sa Search box, bes). This story is purely fictional. Anumang pagkakatulad sa tunay na buhay ay coincidental lamang. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata… 3-4 chapters left!

“A LOVE PROJECT” Chapter 4 | A Feb-ibig Series

CARLO

“Tara, p’re, shot?” aya sa akin nina Joshua pagkatapos ng work.
“Sorry, men. May lakad kami ni Mandy e.”

“Oy, pare, baka iba na ‘yan ha,” singit ni Japs. “Parang ang dalas n’yo nang magkita ni Mandy. Mamamaya niyan nagkaka-develope-an na kayo.”

“Oo nga, CJ-”

“Carlo, p’re, Carlo,” pagtatama ko kay Joshua.

“See? Dati gusto mo si Anne lang ang tumatawag sa ‘yo ng Carlo. Sinabi lang ni Mandy na magpatawag ka na na Carlo sa iba, ginagawa mo na.”

“Akala ko ba, wala kayong taluhan ni Mandy?”

“Mga siraulo! Magkaibigan lang kami ni Mandy. Ginagawan n’yo agad kami ng issue. Iwan ko na nga kayo diyan.” Umalis ako nang natatawa at naiiling. Ang imaginative talaga ng mga kaibigan ko.

Bago ko istart ang kotse, tinawagan ko muna si Mandy. Mahirap na, baka makalimutan na naman niyang may lakad kami. The second to the last meeting namin, 30 minutes na kong naghihintay sa restaurant no’ng nag-text siya na nakalimutan niyang may lakad kami. Madalas kasing lutang si sungit.

“Oh?”

“Sungit talaga.”

“Inaano ka? Bakit ba?”

Tumawa ako. “Check ko lang kung ready ka na. I’m on my way.”

“Yup, I’m ready. I’ll see you later.”

“Good. Akala ko kasi nakalimutan mo na naman.”

“Don’t worry, nagre-reminder na ako. Sige na, bye na. Bye!” Pagkasabi niya no’n, binabaan na ako ng phone. Ibang klase talaga. Siya ba ang tumawag?

“I’m so sleep,” reklamo niya pagdating namin sa coffee shop.

“Tamang-tama, mag-order ka ng kape.”

“I don’t drink coffee.”

“Talaga?”

Nilabas niya ‘yong laptop niya. Ngumiti siya sa akin. “Yup, tea lang. Ikaw nang umorder. Green tea sa akin. Nothing else.” Kinuha niya ‘yong wallet niya.
“Ako nang magbabayad.” Tiningnan niya ako. “Ngayon lang naman.”

“Fine.” One of her favorite words.

Pagbalik ko sa table, nagta-type na siya. “Naumpisahan mo na?”

“Yes,” nakangiti niyang sagot.

“Pwedeng mabasa?”

“Nope, not yet.”

“Soon then?” Tumango siya. “‘Yan na ‘yong tea. Binilhan din kita ng carrot cake.” Nabasa ko sa blog niya na favorite niya ‘yon.

Sumimangot siya. “Sabi ko tea lang e.” Then ngumiti. “But thanks!” She took a bite. “Hmm.”

Natawa ako. Nakakatuwang kaya ko nang pangitiin si sungit. “Hey, paano nga pala kung hindi nagustuhan ng ate mo ‘yang sinusulat mo?”

“Tinanong mo na ‘yan ah.”

“Pero hindi mo sinagot.”

She looked at me in the eyes. “Don’t worry I’ll make sure she’ll like it, if not love it.”

“Naks! Confident. Oh, ito hindi ko pa naitatanong. Why do you, so badly, wanted to be an author even with the discouragement that you’ve been receiving? Hindi mo ba naisip na baka hindi ‘yan para sa ‘yo?”

“I’ll tell you a secret. Since kinukwento mo naman sa akin basically your life story, siguro p’wede rin akong mag-share sa ‘yo.” Uminom muna siya ng tea.

“Go ahead.”

“I’m an idealist and my ideal life is me writing books, people reading them and giving me funds to fulfill what I want to be my mission in this world. I want to help the needy. Gusto kong maging philanthropist or magtayo ng sarili kong foundation.”

“Wow!” ‘Yon lang ‘yong nasabi ko.

Ngumiti siya. “Your story might be my key to my ideal life kaya don’t ask negative questions from now on. Just support me or go.”

“I’ll support you. I got your back, sungit.”

She rolled her eyes. My favorite gesture.

“Oh, do’n na tayo sa first major fight ninyo. Kwento na.”

“Aye, aye! Well…” Inisip ko ulit ‘yong time na ‘yob. “It starts with a siomai.”

Natawa siya. “What? How petty.”

Tumawa rin ako. “Start palang, judgmental ka, bes.”

Natawa ulit siya. “Whatever.” Another favorite word.

****

Gamitin ang tag na “A Love Project” para masundan ang kwento dito sa blog (i-type mo siya sa Search box, bes). This story is purely fictional. Anumang pagkakatulad sa tunay na buhay ay coincidental lamang. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…

“A LOVE PROJECT” Chapter 3 | A Feb-ibig Series

MANDY

Habang nagsusulat ako ng blog post, may itching thought sa utak ko to check my Facebook account. I did pero wala namang notification. I went back to my blog and finished the post, pinublish ko na rin. Pagbalik ko sa Facebook, napa- damn ako.

Carlo Jan Rodriguez: Psst.

       Sungit!

       Miss Sungit, pwede ako today.

       Tara?

       Hey?

       See you?

       Ms. Sungit? Address mo? Sunduin kita.

       I’ll wait for your reply. Car keys at hand. R2G- ready to go. 😉

Mandy: Was busy. Let’s meet at Seven Convenient Store malapit sa mall.

Carlo: Got it, Ms. Sungit. I’m omw. Ingat!

Pagdating ko sa convenient store, bumili muna ako ng bottled water. Ang init na naman kasi. Nakita ko siya do’n. Parang namimili ng iinumin. White shirt, Khaki shorts. What a coincidence!

“If I were you, I’d choose something clean,” sabi ko while reaching for a trustee bottle of water.

“Okay lang ba if I choose this?” sabi niya as he held a can of beer.

“Ang aga pa.” I took another bottled water. “Let’s go.”

Narinig kong tumawa siya nang mahina.

“Samahan mo naman ako,” sabi niya habang nagbabayad ako.

“Saan?”

“Kay ex, magmamakaawa lang ako na bumalik siya sa akin.”

Hindi ko na pinasupot ‘yong binili ko. I threw one at him. “Huwag tanga, Kuya.” Tumawa na naman ang loko.

Lumabas na kami. Nauuna akong maglakad. “Hey!” sabi niya bigla.

“What?” Lumingon ako. Baka kasi may nakalimutan.

He was grinning while looking at me. “Naka-uniform pala tayo.”

That’s true. The only difference is that my shirt is V-neck. Pareho pa pala kaming may chest pocket.

“Sa’n tayo?” tanong ko habang nasa kotse na kami.

“Just enjoy the ride, Sungit,” he replied.

Napailing na lang ako.

Pumunta kami sa isang Korean restaurant. Pagdating ng order namin, he started to talk. I listened.

“She basically taught me how to love, as in ‘yong totoong love… One time, may sakit ako. Na-surprise na lang ako na dumalaw siya sa bahay. Sabi ko, akala ko ba nahihiya ka kina Mommy. Mas matimbang naman daw ‘yong love and care niya kaysa sa hiya…

“Nakakainis. Everyone’s looking at her. Iniisip ko nga baka imagination ko lang pero hindi e. I regret buying that dress, I really did…

“May friend siya, chinat ako. Sinabi na ang swerte daw ni Anne sa akin. Thank you lang ako. Tapos napansin ko parang nagfi-flirt siya. Sinend ko kay Anne ‘yong screenshot. Tawa nang tawa siya no’n. Sabi ko sa kaniya, ba’t parang hindi man lang siya nagselos or nagalit. Confident daw siya na sa kaniya lang ako. Tang-”

“Hey, no bad words.”

“Sorry. CR lang ako.”

Tumango ako. He could smile but his eyes could not fake his real feelings.

“Ikaw naman,” sabi niya pagbalik niya.

“Anong ako naman?”

“Kwento ka rin tungkol sa love life mo para fair.” Ngumiti na naman siya.

“What’s with peoole thinking that concealing their emotions through a smile is a sign of brevity?”

“Baka naman hindi gano’n ‘yon, Mandy.”

Tinaasan ko siya ng kilay.

“Baka naman they’re not faking their smile. Baka naman they’re just doing their best to smile, to be OK in the outside kahit sirang-sira na sila inside.” His voice broke.

“Go home. Kung hindi mo malabas sa akin ‘yan, ilabas mo sa bahay n’yo. Or go to a friend, go to someone you trust. You don’t need that pain, Carlo. You don’t need to keep it inside and let it ruin you.”

Ngumisi siya. “Tapos ka na bang kumain? Tara, hatid na kita.” Nauna siyang tumayo. Nauna siyang lumabas.

Sa totoo lang, I could barely keep up. Ang bilis kasi niyang maglakad.

Pagsakay ko sa kotse, nakatingin lang siya sa harapan niya. Hindi niya pa naistart ‘yong kotse. Wala pa ‘yong key sa ignition.

“It’s not that easy,” he said in an almost whisper.

Ngayon na lang ulit ako nakakita ng lalaking umiiyak.

“Sawang-sawa na ‘yong mga kaibigan ko sa paulit-ulit kong pagku-kwento, paulit-ulit kong paglalabas ng sama ng loob. Siguro ‘yon nga ‘yong reason kaya pumayag ako na maging tauhan ng kwento mo. Gusto kong ilabas lahat ‘to, Mandy. Kung p’wede lang sana. Kasi sobrang sakit e, sobrang sakit! Pu- ahh!” He punched the steering wheel.

Hinayaan ko lang siya. I sat beside him in silence while he released his emotions. No’ng natapos na siya, I told him to go back to the convenient store.

“Diyan ka lang,” I told him bago ako bumaba ng kotse.

I went back with a bottled water and a can of beer. “Drink this,” sabi ko pagkabukas ko ng tubig. “Baka ma-dehydrate ka pa diyan.”

He took it and drank some water. “Thank you. E ‘yang beer?”

“This is mine.” Binuksan ko ‘yong beer. “I read somewhere na ‘yong pagiging heartbroken, parang pag-inom ng beer.” Uminom ako at napasimangot sa lasa. “Kapag first time na mangyari sa ‘yo, sobrang pait. Parang ayaw mo na ulit subukang magmahal. Pero sasabihan ka nila nang hindi, huwag kang matatakot kasi sasarap din ‘yan. Hahanap-hanapin mo rin.”

Uminom ulit ako. “Second sip, it becomes a bit tolerable.” Another sip. “Third, parang kaya mo na ‘yong lasa… Fourth, nawawala na sa panlasa mo ‘yong pait… Fifth, hmm… Sixth, you’ll know you’re ready for a second can. Seventh… Eight… Ninth… Tenth… Mamamalayan mo na lang wala na pala ‘yong pait, wala na pala ‘yong sakit.” I smiled. “I think that’s what love is, Carlo.”

****

Gamitin ang tag na “A Love Project” para masundan ang kwento dito sa blog (i-type mo siya sa Search box, bes). This story is purely fictional. Anumang pagkakatulad sa tunay na buhay ay coincidental lamang. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…