I thought I would never experience love again when I broke up with Tricia.
We entered the same university, and it was hard to forget her after what he did. Kahit na pakiramdam ko ay binalewala niya ang nararamdaman ko para sa kanya ay pilit ko pa ring kinukuha ang atensyon niya. I tried causing trouble, and even tried to make her jealous, but everything was all for naught.
But everything also changed when I met her.
Tiffany Damian was an interesting character. She did not fall for my looks. In fact, it seemed like she hated my whole existence. It was childish, but I enjoyed teasing her. She looked cute when she was annoyed. Gumaganti rin siya sa akin kaya na-e-excite ako sa mga susunod niyang balak.
My attention had always been directed to Tricia, but it unknowingly shifted to her the longer I spent time with her. Hanggang sa maging ako ay nalilito na rin sa sarili kong pakiramdam. Akala ko ay distracted lang ako sa kanya dahil siya ang madalas kong makasama pero noong makipagkita ako kay Tricia sa akin ay doon ko na-realize na iba na ang nararamdaman ko.
She told me she broke up with me because her parents set her up with the son of their family friend.
“I already have a fiancé,” she said when we met at the back of CAL building.
“Are you serious?”
“I am, so I hope you can sort out your feelings, too. After all, mukhang may iba ka na rin namang nagugustuhan.”
I could not believe she was aware of my dilemma, but Tricia was Tricia. She had always been perceptive and smart. Hindi na rin ako magtataka kung mas mauuna niya pang malaman ang nararamdaman ko kaysa sa akin.
I wanted to confirm my feelings for Steff, but before I could, she said she didn’t want to associate herself with me anymore. At iyon ay dahil nakita niya akong nakikipag-usap kay Tricia. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang dapat maramdaman pagkatapos no’n. I had blown my chances before I could even use them.
Akala ko ay hindi ko na siya makikita o makakausap pa dahil patapos na rin ang sem noong nangyari ‘yon kaya laking gulat ko nang i-invite ako ni Jessica sa bakasyon nila. Of course, I accepted the invitation, but I was surprised when I learned that Tricia was also there.
It turned out she was already leaving for good. She wanted to have a closure, and to explain what really transpired between us. Nang yakapin niya ako ay doon ko tuluyang napagtanto na wala na talaga akong nararamdaman para sa kanya. Maybe all I was waiting for was our closure, and she had given that to me before she left.
“Did you finally realize your feelings?” tanong niya matapos niya akong yakapin.
Napangiti naman ako dahil doon. “You’re really something, aren’t you? Mas nauna mo pang na-realize kaysa sa akin.”
“Because you’re slow when it comes to things like this,” she returned. “Don’t hurt her, okay? Kahit recently ko lang siya nakausap ay alam kong genuine siyang tao.”
“And you better move fast because you’re not the only one who likes her.”
I knitted my eyebrows. “What do you mean—”
“Oh, and please, don’t let your friend ruin your relationship again.”
Natahimik ako nang banggitin niya ‘yon. I knew she was talking about Andrea, and I only learned recently how she suffered during high school because of her.
Nang matapos kaming mag-usap ay pinilit kong mapalapit kay Steff. Now that I know how I feel about her, I wanted to spend more time with her. She seemed less annoyed with me, too, so I thought that was already a significant improvement.
May mga sandali rin na napapansin kong conscious siya sa akin pero ayaw ko namang mag-assume. I wanted her to feel more comfortable with me even if it meant taking things slower.
I thought everything was already smoothly, but it all went off course when Andrea suddenly showed up during her birthday.
“Anong ginagawa mo rito?” tanong ko matapos niya akong i-text kanina na nasa dean’s office siya.
She pouted at me. “Grabe, mahigit one year tayong hindi nagkita tapos ganyan ang bungad mo sa akin?”
“I’m sorry, I was just surprised. I thought you were already enrolled in a prestigious university in Macau?”
Nang maging kami ni Tricia ay lumipad siya papuntang Macau dahil nandoon ang parents niya. Akala ko ay doon na niya tatapusin ang college kaya laking gulat ko nang sabihin niyang nag-apply siya for transfer.
“Puwede bang mag-transfer kahit second semester na?”
“Sister university naman ng Kingdom University ang current school ko so we can always arrange the transfer. And if not, I can ask dad for help.”
I sighed after hearing her reason. As always, she would do anything to make her wish come true.
Andrea Marie Salazar was my childhood friend. Simula pre-school ay magkaklase na kami at naging close din ang pamilya namin noong nandito pa sila. I had always felt that she had some kind of feelings for me, but I only saw her as a friend and a little sister. No more than that.
She liked hanging out with me because I was her only friend, and sometimes, she would get jealous of the girls who wanted to be friends with me. Hindi ko rin naman siya maiwan noong high school dahil nag-migrate na ang parents at kuya niya sa Macau para sa family business nila kaya siya na lang ang mag-isang naiwan dito.
But she left when I chose Tricia over her. I thought that was for the best. Hindi rin kasi sila nagkakasundo at mas mabuti nang kasama niya ang pamilya niya kaysa mag-isa siya rito. But she had returned after more than a year, and I had a bad feeling about it.
“I heard Tricia left for good,” she said. “And you’re seeing a new girl, too?”
Sometimes, I’m amazed at how fast she was when it comes to news about me. Paano niya nalalaman ang mga ‘yon kahit wala naman siya rito?
Ipinaliwanag ko naman sa kanya ang nangyari pero nagulat ako nang tanungin niya ako kung gusto ko ba si Steff. She misunderstood what I said, so I explained what I truly meant.
“To call it like was too shallow,” I said. “I can’t even put it into words because even I can’t fully understand my feelings. Akala ko wala lang noong una. I thought it was just a silly attraction because we were playing as a couple, but as I spend more time with her, I realize how I’m helplessly falling for her. What’s funny is that Tricia realized that before me.”
“W-what? But . . .”
“I have fallen in love before, but this time, it’s different. My feelings for her runs deep that it scares me.”
Matapos kong sabihin ‘yon ay nag-walkout siya pero hindi ko na siya hinabol. Instead, I searched for Steff. Today was her birthday and I wanted to spend more time with her. Besides, nagsisisi rin ako sa binalak kong surprise dahil hindi niya iyon nagustuhan. Kasalanan ko rin naman. Her friends warned me about it, but I was too stubborn to listen.
That day, nakita ko siyang palabas ng clinic kaya nag-alala ako. Pero bago ko pa matanong kung ano ang nangyari ay inunahan na niya ako.
“Please stop doing things like this. It’s making me uncomfortable, and it’s creating more rumors. We don’t even like each other,” she said, her cold and sharp gaze boring into my eyes. “Do me a favor and stay away from me.”
She left me without any chance to speak, and I realized how futile I was. Akala ko may pag-asa pang mapalapit ako sa kanya. Akala ko may pag-asa pang magugustuhan niya rin ako.
Akala ko lang pala. The truth was, she wanted me out of her life.
Buong linggo ay iniisip ko ang sinabi niya. Gusto ko sana siyang makausap pero hindi ko siya mahagilap. She must have been purposely avoiding me, too. Hanggang sa mag-Christmas break na ay hindi ko siya nakausap.
Wala ako sa mood umalis sa bahay buong break pero noong linggo ay kinulit ako nang kinulit ni Andrea para kumain sa labas. Dahil hindi niya ako tinigilan ay nag-give in na rin ako total wala rin naman akong ginagawa. Pero nagulat ako nang makita kong magkasama sina Steff at Patrick sa restaurant na pinuntahan namin.
Why were they together? Why was she holding his arm? Were they dating?
Lalo lang akong nawala sa mood nang makita ko ‘yon kaya nang lumabas sila sa restaurant ay tumingin ako kay Andrea.
“Sorry, I’m going home,” sabi ko sa kanya.
“I don’t feel well. Sorry.”
I thought that was the last time I would saw her this year, so imagine my surprise when I saw her during the mass. Mukhang nakikiayon naman sa akin ang tadhana dahil napagdesisyunan nina Mom na sabay mag-attend ng Simbang gabi at doon din kami sa kanila magc-Christmas.
Fortunately, mukhang hindi naman na siya galit sa akin. She was still ignoring me, but that was better than resenting me.
During Christmas Eve, Venice, her sister, showed me a scrapbook. Nagkulong kami sa kuwarto niya dahil mukhang ayaw ni Steff na makita ko ito.
“Magagalit sa akin si ate pero I think tama ang decision ko,” she said.
Tiningnan ko naman ang laman ng scrapbook. I was surprised to see photos of me, and some were taken during the first semester. Were these stolen shots?
Naka-summarize din sa bawat page ang ilang memorable moments namin at hindi ko maiwasang hindi mapangiti. There were also song lyrics written on other pages, and most of them sounded like a confession. Wait, was she . . .
“Do you like her?” tanong ni Venice kaya nagulat ako at hindi agad nakasagot. “She’s been sulking for days, and I think it’s because of you.”
I wasn’t sure how to react. All this time, I thought it was a one-sided love. But after reading everything she had written on the scrapbook, I realized Tricia was right. I was slow on the uptake when it comes to things like this.
Pumunta ako sa kuwarto niya mula sa veranda. I played some of the songs written on the scrapbook using the guitar that I gifted her during her birthday. I thought it was the right time to confess, too, but I was interrupted by a call from Andrea.
Wala akong nagawa kung hindi ang sagutin ‘yon. Gusto kong magalit pero agad din ‘yong napawi nang marinig ko ang pag-iyak niya sa kabilang linya.
“I-Ian, please come here,” she sobbed.
Nag-alala naman ako dahil sa tono niya kaya kahit ayaw kong iwan si Steff ay pumunta ako sa bahay ni Andrea. It turned out she had a really bad nightmare. On top of that, sinabihan din siya ng parents niya na magsisimula na siyang um-attend ng engagement appointments next year.
“Can’t it be you instead?” she desperately asked after telling me the story.
I sighed. “No, Andrea. I don’t like you that way. You know that already.”
Lalo naman siyang naiyak nang sabihin ko ‘yon. Kasabay no’n ay nag-ring ang phone ko. I had to do a double take when I saw Steff’s name displayed on the screen. Was she really calling me? Totoo ba ‘to?
Agad kong sinagot ang tawag.
“Uhm, m-matagal ka pa ba? Hinahanap ka na nila rito.”
My heart skipped a beat when I heard her trembling voice, but before I could answer, Andrea spoke.
“Sino ‘yan?” she asked between her sobs. Agad naman akong tumayo para lumayo saglit. “Wait, Ian!”
“Sorry, Steff, mukhang matatagalan pa ako,” I replied. Ayaw ko namang iwan si Andrea sa ganitong kalagayan. But I could return before that if I could console her faster. “Pakisabi kina dad na baka past midnight pa ako makabalik.”
“Oh, gano’n ba?”
“Sorry, I have to go.”
Hindi ko naman agad binaba ang tawag. Gusto kong sabihin na babalik ako agad pero ayaw ko rin namang mangako dahil baka hindi ko magawa.
“. . . but I want to spend time with you, too,” she suddenly said. “Please, bumalik ka na rito.”
For a second, I thought I was just hearing things. But before I could call her name again, she had already ended the call.
Nang matapos ang break ay hindi ko alam kung paano haharapin si Steff. Tulog na kasi siya nang makabalik ako at umuwi na rin agad kami pagkatapos no’n. Buong January ay iniiwasan niya ako at hindi ko rin naman siya masisisi.
Hindi na rin ako nagtaka nang umamin siya tungkol sa pagkukunwari namin. Even if she felt the same way as me, Andrea was making it hard for the both of us. Nakita ko rin siya noong araw na ‘yon na hinatak ang buhok ni Steff pero hindi ko siya napagsabihan dahil iniyakan niya lang ako.
I thought I had no way to fix everything between me and Steff, but when the USC assigned our batch’s campus princes and princesses as the organizers of the feb fair, I thought of a plan to finally confess. I wanted to clear the misunderstandings between us, but we were too busy to even talk. So, I told my plan to her friends, as well as my fellow campus elites.
But first thing first. I needed to talk to Andrea.
Isang araw bago ang feb fair ay sinabi ko sa kanya na dapat kaming mag-usap. She said she was in the cafeteria, so I walked toward there, but I saw Steff leaving from there, and her shirt sleeve was soaked with water.
I gestured at Andrea when I saw her, and she followed me. Pumasok kami sa isang empty classroom at doon ko siya hinarap.
“Did you throw water at her?” I asked in a controlled tone.
She looked surprised that I knew, and she frowned in response. “I-it’s her fault!”
“Please, Andrea, stop tormenting her. Wala naman siyang ginagawang masama sa ‘yo.”
Doon na tumulo ang mga luha niya. “But she’s stealing you from me! I want you to stay by my side, Ian. Is that hard for you?”
Maybe everything was my fault after all. I was too lenient and tolerant with her because I thought she’d feel alone if I disappear from her life, too.
“Hindi mo ako pagmamay-ari, Andrea. And I have told you before, I don’t feel the same way. I chose to stay with you even if you have hurt the people I love because I don’t want you to be alone. But if you’re hellbent on doing this, then you leave me with no choice.”
“Wait, Ian, what are you . . .”
Lumuhod ako sa harapan niya. “If you choose to walk away now, then that means you’re letting me go. I promise I will still honor our friendship. But if you don’t, I will be the one walking away from you. And that means I will disappear from your life.”
“Please, let me go.”
Naririnig ko ang paghikbi niya pero nanatili akong nakayuko. It was a hard decision for me, too, but this was the only way I could think of.
Naramdaman ko naman ang pagyakap niya sa ulo ko. “I’m so sorry, Ian,” she sobbed. “I love you, but I can’t bear losing you, too. Even if it hurts, I’m letting you go.”
She hugged me tight for a few seconds, and after that, she started walking away. “I’m sorry, Andrea,” I said. “This was the only way.”
Tumayo ako nang tuluyan na siyang mawala sa paningin ko at agad na napabuntonghininga. Okay, one problem solved. Now, I needed to resolve my biggest one.
The feb fair was the biggest festival in the university. Siguro dahil natapat din doon ang Valentine’s Day. Maraming couples ang present ngayon at crowded na rin sa field.
Today was also my birthday, but that wasn’t important. Ang mahalaga ngayon ay kung magiging successful ba ang plano ko.
I wanted to tell the world how I feel for her through a song, but I was surprised when she suddenly greeted me before they performed.
“Also, happy birthday, Darryl,” she said, her cheeks getting flushed right after. “This song is for you.”
She started singing Don’t Know What to Say by Ric Segreto, and I remembered the lyrics written on the scrapbook. Her sweet and crystal voice, along with the heartfelt lyrics, made a mess out of my system. I was teary-eyed as I listened to her sincerely singing every word.
Part of me was wondering if I deserved that, and other part was grateful that I was the person she had feelings for. Habang kumakanta siya ay nakatitig lang ako sa kanya. I wanted to cherish this moment forever, preserve it in my memory.
I was lost in her voice and beauty that I had almost forgotten my plan. Inabot sa akin ng isang staff ang mic at tumapat sa akin ang spotlight. My plan deviated a little, but who cares? Steff was right here, and she bravely revealed her feelings. I must do the same.
With the song I prepared, I walked toward her direction, my eyes only at her. She looked surprised and emotional, too, and honestly, that was all I wanted to see.
After confessing to her and in front of the crowd, she finally accepted my heart. That night, I became the happiest guy.
Finally, Steff and I became a real couple. And that was all that mattered.
It had been a week since we became a couple, yet a lot of articles were still written about us. Madalas na rin akong bumisita sa portal dahil ‘yon ang naging Gawain ko noong mga panahong hindi kami nagpapansinan ni Steff dahil doon ako nakakakuha ng news tungkol sa kanya. A lot were congratulating us, and some even dubbed us as the “campus royalties” because we were from the same pool of campus elites.
Steff was still not used to the rocketing attention we were getting, but she was getting by.
Sometimes, I still could not believe that we were already together. Madalas kong hawakan ang kamay niya dahil pakiramdam ko panaginip lang ang lahat. But she would always remind me that everything was real. That she loved me, and it would only get deeper over time.
“You really have a way with words, don’t you, bebe girl?” I teased.
Sumimangot naman siya sa akin. “Eww, stop calling me that.”
I chuckled at her reaction. “Bakit? Ikaw kaya nagsimula no’n.”
“That’s why I’m asking you to stop,” she muttered. “I wanna smack my past self for that embarrassment.”
I squeezed her hand lightly as we walked toward the campus. “So, anong gusto mong endearment?”
“Do we need one?”
“Ikaw ang bahala.”
“Then let’s not have one.”
Napatingin ako sa kanya at nakita kong namumula ang pisngi niya. “Alright. Your choice.”
“Date tayo mamaya?”
“I discovered a new pastry shop. Masarap daw ang chocolate cake nila.”
Her eyes twinkled the moment I mentioned chocolate cake. I suppressed a grin as I told her about the shop. Automatic na gumaganda ang mood niya kapag chocolate cake at strawberries ang usapan.
Now that I think about it, ano kaya ang rank ko laban sa kanilang dalawa? I wanted to ask, but that would be for later.
We were just starting as a real couple, and right now, I wanted to enjoy our time together. Be it in the limelight or away from it, I wanted to spend those times with the person I love.
And I hope we’d last for a long, long time.
--- the end ---