The challenge was something I did not expect. It was such a simple game, but most of them seemed excited.
May ilan na pinili na lang manahimik para hindi makapagsalita ng English words, pero ang iba, feel na feel ang pagiging makata.
“Binibini,” a guy from the white team said. “Nais kong magbanghay ng naaayong taktika ukol dito.”
Natawa naman ang babaeng teammate niya dahil nakatungo at nakatindig ito. “Para kang tanga.”
Wala pang isang oras ay ang dami nang deductions na naka-display sa screen. Meron na rin kaming isa dahil nagsabi si Roi ng “shit” noong muntik na siyang matapilok habang paakyat sa cabin. Sinamaan tuloy siya ng tingin ni Zion kanina.
Arin was having a hard time, too. Natatakot daw siya kasi baka bigla siyang makapagsabi ng English word lalo na at hindi siya tumitigil magsalita kapag excited. I, too, decided to shut up. My default language is Taglish kaya naman siguradong mami-minus-an kami kapag nagsimula akong magsalita, although tahimik naman ako madalas.
“Ang hirap naman nito!” sigaw ni Wannie mula sa labas ng cabin nila. Since wala pang ibang challenge na sinasabi ay naka-focus ang lahat sa Filipino time, which was harder because everyone was conscious of how and what they would speak.
I guess may advantage ang mga tahimik since sa isip lang naman kami madalas magsalita.
I decided to stay on the porch to watch the enjoyment and struggles of the other challengers. Tumabi naman sa akin si Zion at pinagpatuloy niya ang pagbabasa ng libro. My gaze shifted on the book. Hindi ba siya mahihirapang mag-adjust kung English book ang binabasa niya?
Come to think of it, siya ang madalas magsalita sa Ingles sa aming apat. Huh. This challenge must be a torture for him.
“Hoy, Zion h’wag ka magsasalita, ha!” ingit ni Roi. “Ikaw mahilig mag-eng—” Halos manlaki ang mga mata namin nang marinig iyon mula sa kanya pero agad namang natama ni Roi ang sarili niya. “—Ingles d’yan!”
“Muntik ka na!” sabay tawa naman ni Arin. “Muntik ka nang patayin sa tingin nina Zion at Elix!”
“Sabi ko nga tatahimik na rin ako!”
Bigla namang tumayo si Zion at kinuha ang tablet niya sa cabin kaya napatingin lang kami sa kanya. Akala namin ay magsusulat na siya ng story pero nagulat kami nang ipakita niya sa amin ang screen. I have an idea, he typed.
Naaligaga naman si Roi at tumingin sa paligid. He thought we would be caught since Zion was talking to us—typing—in English.
“Ibang klase talaga utak mo, ano?” Arin commented.
Zion replied with a smug face. Nakakairita, nagyayabang na naman. Technically, this isn’t talking, so there won’t be any deductions, he replied on the tablet. “Pwede rin nating subukang bawasan ang puntos ng iba.”
Arin gave him a suspicious look. “Paano? At bakit parang masama ‘yang binabalak mo?”
Sakto namang nasa porch din ng kabilang cabin ang green team. Suddenly, Zion called the attention of Brian, which surprised everyone in our respective teams.
“Kumusta?” tanong niya.
Brian, who seemed confused at the sudden greeting, nodded. “Okay naman—!”
Pare-pareho kaming napasinghap nang marinig iyon at agad na tinuro ni Lan si Zion.
“Hoy, napakaduga mo, Zion!” he complained.
Meanwhile, Zion shrugged as a smirk grew on his face. “Nagtanong lang naman ako.”
Natawa naman si Brian at napahawak sa noo niya. “Nadali ako, ah. Pasensya na, mababawasan tayo ng puntos.”
Some of the challengers who heard that exchange used Zion’s tactic. They kept on baiting anyone on speaking English, and some succeeded. Halos umulan ng minus points sa monitor pagkatapos no’n at mukhang proud na proud naman ang may pasimuno. Samantala, ang iba, nagro-roleplay na bilang mga ninuno at gumagamit ng malamim na Tagalog.
I was actually impressed with Cenon from blue team because he was speaking the language with such dignity that he sounded like a gentleman from the past. Kahit ang ilang babae ay gusto siyang kausapin kaso ang tanging kayang makipagsabayan sa kanya ay si Lessy.
Yup. Lessy was such a surprise that even Zion was stumped, since he was targeting the green team to lessen their points. Lessy looked shy and reserved when speaking normally but switching to old Tagalog made her feel like a precolonial princess. Her words carry pressure and pride that one would immediately feel intimidated.
It was interesting to see how people’s demeanor could change into something else once they speak another language.
Around 5PM ay nag-announce ang PD na end na ng challenge at pagtingin namin sa monitor ay mayroon kaming -27 points. The highest deduction was -81 points, given to red team. Siguro dahil dalawang member nila ay medyo conyo kaya hirap silang magsalita nang hindi naco-conscious.
“Grabe, ang hirap no’n! Buti na lang tapos na,” Roi said as he plopped down on the couch.
“True! Parang every time na magsasalita ako, kailangan complete na agad ‘yung sentence, sa utak ko pa lang,” dagdag ni Arin. “Sana naman hindi ‘to parang finding balls na repetitive kasi ang hirap!”
Napangiti naman ako sa pagrereklamo nila. True enough, they were struggling the whole day at halatang strained ang interactions nila sa amin at sa ibang tao.
“At least, medyo mababa ang points na nabawas sa atin,” I remarked.
“She’s right,” Zion chimed in. “Look.”
He pointed at the monitor and the new ranking was shown. From fifth place ay umakyat kami sa third. Green team was demoted to second because Lan and Brian had spoken a lot of English words, hence they were given -35 points. Ang nag-top na team ngayon ay ang orange team dahil -9 points lang sila.
“Now, we just need to win the next challenge, so we can snatch the top spot,” dagdag ni Zion habang nakatingin sa white board na sinulatan niya kahapon ng pangalan ng teams.
We spent the rest of the night writing our own stories. Dahil ako ang gumamit ng keyboard kaninang hapon ay turn naman ni Arin at Roi. As usual, Zion was more concerned with his strategies more than his story.
I wanted to write, too, but my eyes were already getting heavy around 7 PM. No wonder. I hadn’t slept a wink since yesterday. Maybe it was time to rest.
I stifled a gasp as my body bolted awake from a terrifying nightmare. Agad akong tumakbo para buksan ang ilaw sa kwarto at sinubukang kumalma habang nakahawak sa dibdib ko.
Pagtingin ko sa orasan sa table ay 11:27 PM na. Dreaming about ghosts and monsters and waking up at this time was just fueling my imagination.
Lumabas ako mula sa kwarto at naabutan kong nasa sala pa ang tatlo. Roi and Arin were busy writing, while Zion was reading. Their attention shifted to me when my stomach suddenly grumbled.
“O, Elix, gising ka na pala,” bati ni Arin. She glanced at me for a second but returned her gaze on the tablet afterwards.
Roi snickered as he continued typing on the keyboard. “Hindi ka na namin ginising kanina kasi ang sarap ng tulog mo, pero mukhang nagrereklamo na ‘yang tiyan mo.”
I was blushing from embarrassment. I was so scared of my dreams that I had forgotten how hungry I was. “Y-yeah.”
Saglit naman akong sumilip sa bintana at wala nang tao sa labas. I cursed in my head. Bakit ba sa lahat ng pwedeng setting sa panaginip ay katulad pa nitong nasa camp? Now, I’m imagining ghosts roaming around the camp. Medyo nasa dulo pa naman ang camp store.
“Uhm, pwedeng pasama?” mahina kong tanong pero mukhang hindi nila narinig. They were so focused on what they were doing.
I sighed in dejection. Well, writers were all the same, weren’t they? It’s hard to get into the zone, so once you’re in it, you wouldn’t want any distractions.
Gathering the little courage left in me, I steeled myself and stepped outside, but I almost screamed when something tapped my shoulder.
“Tara,” Zion said, and my expression must have been so terrified because he was giving me a confused look.
Isang malalim na buntonghininga ang pinakawalan ko habang pababa kami sa porch. Akala ko may multong nagparamdam. Buti na lang totoong tao.
“Thanks,” mahina kong sabi habang naglalakad.
“Yeah. I almost forgot. Matatakutin ka nga pala,” he teased.
Parang gusto kong bawiin agad ang pag-thank you ko sa kanya. Learning about my weakness made him think he was superior, which was irritating. Pero hinayaan ko na lang dahil sinamahan naman niya ako. Walking with him lessen the fear I was feeling, after all.
Buti na lang ay nandoon pa ang nagbibigay ng dinner dahil balak kong mag-cup noodles na lang. Ininit ko na lang ang kanin at sinigang at umupo sa isa sa mga bakanteng table.
Mabilis lang akong kumain dahil ayaw kong paghintayin si Zion, although he was quite busy with reading. Hindi ko nga napansin kanina na dala niya pala ‘yong librong binabasa niya at medyo nagulat ako nang ma-realize kong romance book iyon.
“So, you’re reading a romance book,” I remarked after finishing my meal, earning his attention.
“Ah. Yeah.” He suddenly smiled at me. “Was it surprising?”
“Kind of,” sagot ko. “Sabi mo hindi ka nagbabasa ng ganyang genre.”
“I don’t, pero balak ko sanang subukang magsulat ng romance para sa ipapasang story. They said we should challenge ourselves, so . . .”
Oh. So, he was interested, too. Akala ko ay wala siyang balak magpasa ng story.
Muli akong napatingin sa book na hawak niya. It was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I heard about that book, but I had yet to read it. Ang problema kasi sa akin ay madalas kong nakakalimutan agad ang stories kapag teen fiction o romance compared sa speculative genre na madalas ay kahit minor details naaalala ko.
“Sa ‘yo ‘yang libro?”
“No,” he replied. “Kay Arin. Pinahiram niya lang sa akin. I asked her some advice since she writes stories under this genre, and she said I should read some books first.”
“Ikaw?” he returned.
“What’s the genre of the story you are writing?”
Agad akong napaiwas ng tingin dahil bigla akong nahiya. I had been writing speculative fiction since the start, so I thought I’d try something like a slice of life story. Gusto ko rin sanang lagyan ng romance kaso hindi ko sure kung mapu-pull off ko. I sucked at that genre.
“Secret,” I murmured.
“What? Ang duga,” reklamo niya. “I told you mine.”
“I didn’t say I’d tell mine, though?”
Bigla naman siyang tumayo at nagsimulang maglakad. “Well then, good night.”
Without thinking, I reached for the bottom hem of his shirt. Mag-12AM na kaya mas nakakatakot maglakad mag-isa. He turned to my direction, and I realized what I just did. Agad ko namang binitiwan iyon.
Nagulat naman ako noong yumuko siya, but I could see him snickering. “I was just joking.”
Muli siyang umupo sa harapan ko at nakangisi na naman ang loko. “You don’t need to tell me. Mas interesting kung gano’n.” He rested his chin on his right hand as he flashed a contemptuous smile. “So, you really are a scaredy-cat.”
I glared at him in return. “I-I am not.”
He nodded at me mockingly. “Uh-huh. If you say so.”
Wala akong maisip na argument kaya tumayo na lang ako at mabilis na hinugasan ang pinagkainan ko. After that, we walked back together to our cabin.
But a romantic story, huh?
I hope I could get some inspiration here. And maybe one day, write one.
The next day, we were summoned to the main pavilion, and Ms. Hanna Jung announced the next challenge.
I didn’t know my wish would come this fast because the next challenge was called Race My Heartbeat.