An unfamiliar sound blared from the speakers inside our cabin. I tried covering my ears with my pillow, but the music was so annoying that I had no choice but to get up. Pareho kaming nakasimangot ni Arin pagbangon namin.
We went outside of our room and the two guys were walking with their eyes half-closed. Mukhang pugad din ng ibon ang buhok nila.
After a few seconds, huminto na rin ang tunog at pag-check namin sa orasan ay 7 A.M. pa lang. Grabe, hindi ko akalaing gigising ako nang ganito kaaga. Kapag bakasyon pa naman, madalas tanghali o hapon na ako nagigising.
"Good morning, losers," Zion greeted and we all glared at him. Nagising ang diwa naming tatlo.
"Sinuwerte ka lang," Arin grumbled as she combed her hair with her fingers.
"Well, it's a game of luck," he retorted.
Hindi ako nakatulog nang maayos dahil hindi ko rin matanggap na nanalo siya kagabi. Ang hirap pa namang matulog kapag masama ang loob mo. Isa pa, late din ako kadalasang natutulog kaya hirap na hirap ako kagabi.
Nagsimula namang mag-exercise sa labas sina Arin at Roi, at pinanood ko sila mula sa porch. Nagg-gym pala kasi si Roi at gusto niyang maging fit pa rin habang nandito. Ganoon din si Arin. I had lived a sedentary lifestyle and exercising was just too tiring for me.
Nakaupo ako sa bench na nasa bandang bintana at dumungaw naman mula ro’n si Zion.
“Hindi ka nag-e-exercise?” tanong niya.
“No,” sagot ko. “I like brain exercises more than the physical ones.”
Lumabas din siya at akala ko ay sasabayan niya sina Arin at Roi pero nagsimula siyang maglakad. I almost snickered after remembering him almost getting lost yesterday. For sure, maliligaw siya.
The cabin on our right, the green team, went out and joined the others who were exercising. Tulad ko ay nasa porch lang din si Yena at nagngitian ulit kami. I wanted to talk to her, but I couldn’t.
Bigla namang may nag-announce kaya natigilan ang lahat. I thought it was about a challenge but instead she explained the uses of the coins we just collected.
Basically, this would be our money. Starting today, we would use these coins to pay for our food, to acquire hints or for other services.
“Every morning, there will be a coin hunt, and it will end at 8:00 A.M. That is all. Good luck, Challengers! All the best!”
Napatayo ako at agad na tumakbo para maghanap ng coins. This time, I’d make sure to find at least one.
Napunta ulit ako sa gazebo at nagsimulang maghanap doon pero pagdating ko ay nandoon na ang ilang members ng ibang team: si Dean ng yellow team, Brian ng green team, at Wannie ng red team.
I tried looking for the coins in the pillars and benches but to no avail. Napunta naman sa side ko si Brian at naghanap siya sa tabi ko.
He was wearing a simple white shirt and jogging pants. Halos kasintangkad niya siguro si Roi. Despite his quite intimidating physique, he looked kinda shy.
“I’m a fan of your works,” he suddenly said, prompting me to look at him.
He continued looking between the woods of the bench’s back rest as if he didn’t say anything. I wondered if I just misheard what he said and was about to ignore it, but he suddenly turned his head on my direction.
“You’re a good writer,” he added.
For a second, I was flustered. Oo, nakakatanggap ako ng compliments from readers pero through messages and comments. Roi was the first one who told me in person that he was a fan and then . . . this guy.
Hindi ko siya fina-follow sa site but I think friends kami sa fb . . . or not. Though I know him since nakikita ko rin ang posts niya dahil sa readers.
“Oh. Thank you,” I mumbled, trying not to sound tensed.
Halos mapakunot naman ang noo ko nang may makita siyang silver coin sa arm rest ng bench? What the? Kanina pa ako nagtitingin doon pero hindi ko ‘yon napansin. Wait, did he say those to distract me?
“Lucky,” he hummed. “Wala akong nahanap na balls kahapon. Buti ngayon, meron.”
He smiled at me, but I glared in return. Kung hindi siya pumunta rito ay sa akin dapat mapupunta ang coin na ‘yon.
“Maybe you’re lucky,” he said and somehow, I felt insulted.
Lucky, my foot. I couldn’t even find a single ball yesterday, and now, he found one in the area I was searching before.
“Just like Friesha,” he continued.
My annoyance slightly dissipated when he mentioned one of my characters in my ongoing fantasy novel. Huh. So, he was telling the truth. He was my reader.
Napalingon naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ni Arin. Agad na umalis si Brian at pumunta sa kabilang side ng gazebo kung nasaan sina Dean at Wannie habang lumapit naman sa akin si Arin.
“May nahanap ka na?” tanong niya.
I averted her gaze and grumbled. She chuckled in return and handed me two bronze coins. Napahinga na lang ako nang malalim. Paano at saan nila nakikita ang mga ‘to? Bakit ako walang makita?
“Ikaw na lang muna maghawak. Wala akong bulsa, eh,” sabi niya.
“Saan ka maghahanap?” tanong ko bago siya makaalis.
“Hmm . . . baka sa playground,” sagot niya. “Si Roi nasa obstacle course, ewan ko kung saan na nagsusuot ‘yong si Zion. Try mo malapit sa hanging bridge, parang wala pa gaanong pumupunta ro’n.”
Sabay kaming naglakad paalis sa gazebo at agad naman akong tumakbo papunta sa hanging bridge. It was situated several meters beyond the stone bridge. Nasa “central park” kasi ang cabins, gazebo, playground at obstacle courses. Kapag nilakad pa ang lugar ay may makikita kang hanging bridge na nagco-connect sa central park at isang plateau. Sabi ng crew, part daw iyon ng pwede naming libutin pero dini-discourage nilang pumunta sa kabila dahil mataas ang hanging bridge at nakakatakot tumawid.
Nang makarating ako ro’n ay wala ngang tao. I was about to approach the bridge when someone emerged from the trees.
It was Zion.
He looked around and when our eyes met, I almost laughed. That guy . . . he probably got lost. Ah. No. I’m sure of it. He got lost.
He walked toward me as he cleared his throat. Patingin-tingin pa siya sa lupa na parang may hinahanap kahit obvious naman na naligaw siya rito.
“Nakahanap ka na?” tanong niya. Ng naliligaw? Yup, I wanted to say but held it back. Ipinakita ko sa kanya ang binigay ni Arin pero wala akong sinabi. Huh. I’d just let you assume.
Tumingin siya sa hanging bridge na nasa harapan namin at tumango.
“I guess baka meron nga rito,” he muttered.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m here.”
Nagsimula akong maglakad papunta roon. It was quite windy, so the bridge was swaying but that didn’t stop me from walking on it. Halos nakakadalawang steps pa lang ako nang tawagin ako ni Zion. Paglingon ko, nakatayo siya mula sa pwesto ko kanina. Ah. I thought he was just behind me. I looked at him with questioning eyes.
“That looks dangerous,” he said, making me raise my eyebrows.
“It’s not,” I retorted. “And I think there’s a coin in the middle part.”
“Don’t worry, I can handle myself.”
Nagpatuloy ako sa paglalakad habang nakahawak sa lubid. Mukhang matibay naman ang pagkakagawa sa bridge kaya ewan ko kung ano ang ikinababahala niya.
The bridge was swaying much more when I was getting closer halfway. Mas malakas din ang hangin at makikita mo rin ang bangin sa ilalim. Dahan-dahan akong umupo nang may makita ako sa pagitan ng mga kahoy.
“Huwag mong bitiwan ‘yong lubid,” rinig kong sigaw ni Zion mula sa kalayuan pero hindi ko na lang siya pinansin.
Halos mapanganga naman ako nang makita ko kung ano ang makinang sa pagitan ng mga kahoy na nasa harapan ko at napalingon ako sa direksyon niya.
“What? What happened?” he asked.
“There’s something here!” pasigaw kong sagot.
I carefully pulled out the four gold coins, worried that I might drop them. Nang makuha ko ‘yon ay agad akong tumayo at halos patakbo akong bumalik. Zion looked distressed and I found that a bit funny. Nang makarating ako sa kinatatayuan niya ay napabuntung-hininga na lang siya.
“I got four gold coins,” I beamed as I showed him the coins on my palm.
He sighed again. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s go back.”
Nauna naman siyang maglakad kaya napataas ang kilay ko.
“You’re leading the way?” Napahinto siya at agad naman akong naglakad sa unahan niya. “Can’t let you lead; we may get lost.”
I could hear him grumbling behind me, but he didn’t retaliate.