For the first time, ako ang unang nagising sa aming apat, although, technically, hindi lang talaga ako nakatulog nang maayos.
For some strange reason, I kept thinking about what happened yesterday.
Zion said his concept of love for his story was the one that blooms quietly. Hindi ko alam kung naiinggit ba ako o namamangha sa kanya. Or maybe both.
Since my story was loosely based on this program, the trope I used was forced proximity. My leads started off on a wrong foot and kind of disliked one another, but they were forced to cooperate with each other since they would often end up in the same team. It was kind of cliché but I wasn’t really good at writing romantic novels anyway, so the setup was okay for me.
Minsan din iniisip ko kung paano nakakapagsulat ang romance writers ng scenes nang hindi nagc-cringe dahil hindi ko siya ma-imagine in real life.
Saglit naman akong na-distract nang gumalaw si Arin. Fortunately, hindi naman siya nagising.
Tuluyan na akong bumangon at dahan-dahang naglakad papunta sa porch para hindi ko sila magising. I settled on the chair and quietly watched the sun as it peeked through the morning clouds. Being a participant in this program forced me to wake up early, but at least I got to see the beautiful sunrise every time.
“Ah, hi Elix.”
Turning around, I saw Yena and Lessy stepping onto their cabin’s porch. Ngumiti ako sa kanila at kumaway. “Good morning.”
I couldn’t help but get a bit envious as they looked good in the morning. Sabagay, pareho naman pala silang morning person. Samantalang ako, mukhang pugad pa ng ibon ang buhok ko at halos hindi ko pa mamulat nang maayos ang mga mata ko.
“Kukuha kami ng kape, sama ka?” tanong ni Yena at agad naman akong tumango.
Sumabay ako sa kanila sa paglalakad at naabutan naming lumalabas na rin sa kani-kanilang cabins ang ibang writers. Marami pala talaga sa kanila ang morning person, o baka tulad ko ring hindi pa masyadong nakakatulog.
Nang makarating kami sa camp store ay nagtimpla kami ng tig-iisang baso ng kape at agad ding naglakad pabalik sa cabins namin pero saglit kaming napatigil nang makita naming naglalakad ang ilang staff papunta sa main pavilion.
“Ano kaya ang challenge ngayon?” tanong ni Lessy.
“Iniisip ko pa lang, napapagod na ako,” komento naman ni Yena.
Dahil sa nangyari sa kanya kahapon ay for sure ayaw niyang taxing ang challenge ngayong araw. I felt the same, too. Doing physically demanding tasks was too much for a weakling like me.
Pagbalik namin sa cabin ay nasa labas na sina Roi at Arin. They were preparing for their morning run.
Yena could only shake her head as she watched the two do some warm-ups. “I could never.”
“Grabe si Roi, kahit sina Brian at Lan, na-encourage niyang mag-exercise tuwing umaga,” remarked Lessy.
Pansin ko nga na dumarami ang nag-e-exercise at tumatakbo sa umaga noong inaraw-araw nilang dalawa ang paggawa no’n. Arin would always ask me to join her in her morning run, but I would always refuse because my body couldn’t handle that kind of exhaustion. Mas gusto ko pang dagdagan ang oras ng tulog ko kaysa magpapawis.
“Akala ko nawawala ka,” greeted Arin while chuckling. “Hindi ako sanay na mas una kang nagising sa akin.”
“Hindi lang ako nakatulog nang maayos.”
I shrugged nonchalantly and placed my coffee on the table at the porch. “Matutulog na lang ako nang maaga mamaya.”
Dahil lumabas na rin sina Brian at Lan sa cabin nila ay nagsimula nang tumakbo ang apat. The morning was finally quiet again.
“You’re up early.”
Turning around, I saw Zion walking toward me. He sat right across my seat and groggily stretched his arms. Strangely, I started remembering what happened here yesterday and the reason why I couldn’t sleep last night.
For some reason, I became curious about the story he was writing. I wanted to read it.
Since I wasn’t a fan of romantic novels, I seldom write plot that revolves around love. Marami sa speculative novels na nababasa ko sa site ay centered pa rin sa concept ng romance o destiny dahil iyon ang patok. Truth is, isa ‘yon sa mga dahilan kung bakit ako nagsimulang magsulat doon. I wanted to read something that delved more into the world that the author created—the laws of their own universe, the lore and magic, and the abilities of the characters without focusing much into their love stories. Mas gusto ko pang malaman ang dynamics ng family nila o ‘di kaya ng circle of friends ng protagonist.
I also knew most of my readers weren’t satisfied with my leads’ ending. Since I could only give the littlest romantic interactions between my protagonists, they would crave for more…but I just couldn’t do it. Bukod sa hindi naman iyon ang focus ng story, hindi rin talaga ako magaling sa pagsusulat ng romantic scenes at nagc-cringe ako kapag binabasa ko iyon.
I thought Zion would be the same, but he seemed to be enjoying whatever he was writing. For some strange reason, it felt like he was already a step ahead of me.
My thoughts dissipated when he suddenly chuckled. “Ang aga pa but you’re already glaring at me.” It was already too late when I realized I was indeed frowning at him. Napainom tuloy ako bigla ng kape dahil sa hiya.
“I was just thinking of something,” I muttered in defense.
“’Yung challenge ba ngayon?”
“Yeah,” mabilis kong sagot.
“I wonder what it is.” His gaze shifted back to me and I could already see the plan forming in his head. “Want to make another bet—”
Just as expected, he already had a smug look on his face before I could utter another word.
“Heh. Is it—”
His words were cut off by the blaring sound of the speakers.
“Good morning, Challengers! Today’s theme is humor so you better ready your stomachs!”
This time, ako naman ang ngumiti sa kanya. “See? Hindi na kailangan ng bet kasi alam kong i-a-announce na nila.”
Dahil nakita namin kanina ang staff noong kumuha kami ng kape ay alam kong within the hour ay sasabihin na nila ang challenge.
“But humor, huh? That’s worrisome.”
I silently agreed. Roi and Arin could easily say silly and witty jokes. Meanwhile, the two of us didn’t have any funny bone in our body.
Sana lang ay hindi ko kailangang magpatawa ng tao sa challenge na ‘to dahil paniguradong ako ang magiging dahilan ng pagkatalo namin. Bukod sa dry ang humor ko ay hindi ko rin kayang humarap sa audience lalo na kung nag-e-expect silang matawa. Oh, I could already imagine the horror.
Napailing na lang ako. “Don’t expect our team to earn points.”
“Well…I can be funny.”
Hindi ko napigilan ang facial expression ko. I must have grimaced at his remark because he looked offended. But seriously. The only funny thing about him was his non-existence sense of direction.
He cleared his throat after realizing his audacity. “Okay, I admit. Wala akong sense of humor.”
“Buti at inamin mo,” I retorted. “Umasa na lang tayo sa dalawa.”
As if on cue, Roi and Arin arrived after their morning run.
“Hoy, humor daw ‘yung challenge? Ako na ang bahala basta h’wag ka lang magsasalita, Zion,” said Roi.
“Ikaw rin, Elix,” sabay turo sa akin ni Arin. “Pareho lang kayo.
Hindi ko tuloy alam kung ma-o-offend din ako o ano. Although, alam ko naman sa sarili ko na wala talaga akong sense of humor, I thought I was a bit better than Zion. Bakit parang feeling ko ay nilagay nila kami sa same level?
Anyway, pagkatapos mag-shower nina Arin at Roi ay dumiretso kami sa main pavilion. There were chairs provided for everyone, but the strange thing was the absence of a stage. Ano kayang klaseng challenge ‘to?
While frazzled by the nature of the challenge, several staff started bringing a bunch of drawing pads and markers. Kasabay no’n ay ang entrance ni Ms. Hanna.
“Good morning, Challengers,” she greeted. “As I have said earlier, today’s challenge will fall under humor, and I’m sure you already have an idea after seeing these stuff,” sabay turo niya sa dinala ng staff.
Isang malaking ngiti ang ibinigay niya sa amin. “Today’s challenge is Drawing Relay.”
“Hoy France, utang na loob, ayusin mo ‘yung drawing ha!”
“Maayos ako mag-drawing! ‘Yung mga kasunod ko ‘yung hindi!”
Laughter erupted as purple team argued during their turn.
The challenge was easy. The staff would give a word, and the first challenger had to draw it within ten seconds. Tatapikin niya ang sunod at ipapakita ang drawing, tapos gagayahin. Gano’n din ang gagawin ng pangatlo. The last one had to guess what was drawn on the paper. Paramihan lang ng mahuhulaan within two minutes. Hence, the name drawing relay.
The only problem was the challenger’s skill.
Sa totoo lang, ang sakit na ng tiyan ko kakatawa dahil hindi talaga pinagpala sa pagd-drawing ang iba. Take purple team for example. Ang arrangement nila ay si France ang unang magd-drawing, tapos sunod sina Imari at Art. Anikka would be the one guessing. Kaso kay France pa lang ay hindi na mahuhulaan kung ano man iyon.
Every time she taps Imari’s back, the latter’s expression would either be confusion or defeat.
“Shuta ka France, ano ‘to?” sabi niya habang natatawang ginagaya ang nasa drawing pad ng teammate.
“Madali lang ‘yan!” reklamo ni France.
“Ayusin ‘yo, hoy!” sigaw naman ni Art na kinakabahan na dahil sa sketch na haharapin niya maya-maya lang.
The word was French fries, but honestly, nobody could guess that because France just drew a square with spikes.
Natatawang tinapik ni Art si Anikka nang matapos ang pagd-drawing niya at halos hindi maipinta ang mukha nito. “What the hell? Ano ‘yan?”
“Ewan ko rin.”
“Stove? Kalan?” Anikka answered and the rest of the writers burst in laughter.
“French fries ‘yan!” depensa ni France.
“Takte, paanong naging French fries ‘yan?! Saan banda?!”
“French fries ‘to?!” Imari exclaimed as she stared at her own drawing.
“Okay, purple team, zero points! Next, pink team!”
Agad naman kaming tumayo at mabilis na pinag-usapan ang arrangement.
“Sinong manghuhula?” tanong ko.
“Sinong hindi marunong mag-drawing?” dagdag ni Arin pero walang sumagot. “Hoy, seryoso kayo ha? Kasi if kaya n’yo, eh ‘di ako na lang ang manghuhula.”
“Marunong naman ako kahit papaano,” Roi said.
Napatingin naman kami kay Zion. “Ako rin.”
There was a hint of hesitation in his voice and that was quite suspicious, given that personality of his.
“Sure ka?” tanong ko.
“Okay, that’s it. Ikaw na lang unang mag-drawing, Elix.”
Dahil hobby ko ang drawing at painting ay ako ang inilagay nila sa unahan, pero nakaka-pressure pala. After what happened with purple team, the first member’s skill was very crucial.
Sumunod sa akin ay si Zion at last si Roi. Nang ibinigay sa amin ang drawing pad ay tumalikod na silang dalawa sa akin.
“Are you guys ready?” tanong ng staff at tumango naman kami. “Okay, timer starts now!”
The staff in front of me showed our first word, and I immediately thought that we were doomed.
My hands moved despite the panic, but I knew they would never guess it because I didn’t draw any of its distinct features. Masyadong specific ang word at wala na akong time para isipin kung paano ko siya made-describe sa drawing nang maayos.
“Time’s up! Next!”
Tinapik ko si Zion at ipinakita ang drawing ko. “Oh, I see.” He started drawing what I had drawn and that was the moment I realized we were getting zero points. Narinig ko ang malakas na pagtawa ng writers na nakakita rin ng drawing niya at napapikit na lang ako dahil for sure ay hindi na mahuhulaan ni Arin ang word namin.
After ten seconds, he tapped Roi’s shoulder and the first thing he blurted out was a curse. “Tangina ka, ano ‘yan?!” Roi drew whatever abomination was on Zion’s paper while admonishing him for lying about his skill. Nang matapos ang time ay ipinakita niya kay Arin ang nagawa niya at gaya ni Anikka kanina ay hindi rin maipinta ang mukha niya. After all, my sketch changed so much.
“What? Uhm…penguin?” “Wrong! The correct answer is parrot. Next!” “Wait, wait, palit tayo ng position—” We had to shuffle our positions, but the thing is, our problem wasn’t the arrangement, but one of the people who had to draw. Dahil umaandar ang time ay wala na kaming nagawa. Worse, Zion was the first sketcher habang ako naman ang last. Iniisip ko pa lang kung ano ang makikita ko ay gusto ko nang mag-give up. Naririnig ko ang pagtawa ng writers nang magsimulang mag-drawing si Zion at isang malutong na mura na naman ang binitiwan ni Roi nang turn na niya. When he tapped my shoulder, I knew I had to prepare myself. “Sorry, Elix, hindi ko rin alam kung bakit ganito ‘yung drawing niya,” Roi said while chuckling in defeat. Ini-sketch ko na lang kung ano ang nandoon, although para siyang combination ng dalawang prutas. What the heck is this?
Gusto ko na lang lumubog sa kahihiyan nang tapikin ko si Arin. I was never embarrassed by my drawing skill, but this time, I was. And it was because I didn’t even know what I was creating. Confusion crossed her face once again. “Strawberry ba ‘yan?” “Wrong! It’s squash!” And that was Arin’s last straw. “Bwisit ka Zion, ikaw nga rito!” She dragged Zion toward the back and repositioned me in front. Nahihiya na ako dahil halos maiyak na kakatawa ang iba. I hope we could redeem ourselves now that the black hole was out. Fortunately, the next word was easy. Wala pang ten seconds ay tinapik ko na si Arin at mukhang nakuha naman niya agad. Roi seemed to get it, too. Kapag hindi niya ‘to nakuha ay for sure, makakatikim siya sa dalawa.
“Your answer?” tanong ng staff. “Toothbrush.” “Correct!” Huh. Now, look at him proudly raising his shoulders as if he hadn’t drawn such sacrilegious artworks a while ago. “Next—! Oh, times up already! Alright, pink team got one point!” Nang matapos ang turn namin ay agad na sinugod ng dalawa si Zion. “What?” he nonchalantly asked despite knowing full well what they were about to do. “Sige nga, Zion, explain mo nga sa akin, paano ‘to naging parrot? Gusto ko lang malaman kung paano ka mag-isip.” “At alam mo ba ang itsura ng kalabasa? Sure ka bang nakakita ka na no’n?” I was honestly frustrated, too, but it was refreshing to see him getting scolded by the two. Hindi rin siya makasagot this time dahil alam niyang siya ang may kasalanan. Lumapit na rin ako sa kanila. This time, I was the one giving a smug look, much to his embarrassment. “May future ka sa arts,” I remarked and his ears immediately turned red. Hindi ko napigilan ang pagngiti. Well, I guess he had a funny side, too.