Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW): The Game Of Life

 

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Chapter 1: The Dreamer

It all started because of Marc.

Marc is Marco Fernando, twenty two years old, Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), married, and a dreamer.

The story of the dreamer began in the...Thirtieth day of December 1985, Monday, Manila International Airport, Departure Lounge, Philippines: “Calling all passengers bound to Dubai, you have twenty minutes left to board the plane, Thank you!”  The announcement nailed in my ears with excitement, hope and fear.

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It was in the...

Year 1976 – 1980, Bacolod City, in the island of Negros Occidental, Philippines:

I met Ayah Isabel Gonzales in college of Chemistry Department at San Agustin College, Bacolod City, in the province of Negros Occidental.  Bacolod City is the capital city of Negros Occidental, one of the islands of the Philippine archipelago struggling for development at that time, where students from different towns used to study their college degree and find their destiny.  Different people with different characters met and trade for their wares; a place for newcomers to discover what this place meant for their lives.

          Ayah and I were on the same academic course, that each day, we had time to discover ourselves together.  I have had taken this Chemistry course just pleasing my father.  I was not interested in taking this course, in fact, I hated Chemistry subjects.  It did not give me an interesting value with my whole being.  It was natural for me to be there inside the classroom, only for the sake of going to school and finished my course.  I was too young to comprehend things into proper perspectives.  I fall in love with Ayah Isabel, which triggered my inner feeling and thoughts to continue studying.  She was the one driving my motivational force to finish my course.  Ayah propelled my existence for the life I was treading on and my future.  She was a woman with simple outlook in life, but with courage to face the world with dignity.  She was brave to confront things that had substance on her life.  Ayah’s personality made me as a weakling in terms of finding a better life for myself and for her.  A strength that I cannot find on my personality, almost, with our lives in Bacolod City, I relied upon her.

          My ambitions in life and loving Ayah formed a doubt inside of me.  In which, I have undecided feeling which way to move forward; dug deeper with my love for her or find my own course after graduation. 

            Financial incapability entangled my parents and ensuing to extend my college education faltered.  I gathered enough courage to think for the solution that could give me a positive action with my present situation.  Ayah helped me with every undertaking I made, even aiding with my day-to-day living.  She lied to her parents about the whereabouts of the money she was always asking for her schooling.  To augment with my insubstantial entity, we lived together in the same roof without the sanctity of marriage.  Our parents did not have knowledge of what was going on with our lives on this stead.  We continued schooling with this kind of set up.  We wanted to be together always.

          I strived hard to find a job to alleviate our situation, and could help with my studies, but in vain. Ayah Isabel can withstand the poverty, but I cannot.  I wanted life that was comfortable enough for me, my ambitions and love.

           I used to sit in the public plaza when I am worn out in finding job.  One day, as I was  sitting alone thinking of my dilapidated situation, looking in a far distance of the seashore at  Bacolod Seawall, suddenly a guy sat beside me which made me think negatively about him. He smiled at me and introduced himself, “Hi, my name is Edward,” extending his hand to me. I accepted his right hand but I was adamant with my actuation. I wryly smiled at him and answered, “Hello, I am Marco…. Marco Fernando….”

           “I saw you sitting here in the public plaza when I passed by heading for my job these past few days. And, I think you need some help or, friend maybe? I worked in a restaurant as a waiter, just across the main street,” as he pointed his finger westward feeling agitated.  He looked at me squarely and said, “How are you?  How about you? Are you studying? Working?  Do you have a job?” His action was more of a brother to me.

           And I answered, “No, I’ve been searching for two months now, but…” my words was not formed into a sentence but I looked and sized him up.

          “Do you want to work in the restaurant?” Edward asked with a smile on his face.  “There’s a vacancy right now,” as he moved towards me.

          “I don’t know any job in the restaurant, but I’ll try…. I really need a job to support my studies. You know, Edward, I am studying in college right now… maybe I can ask the manager for the schedule of my work?  Is that possible?” I asked him with constant confident that deep into my heart I needed a job very badly.

          “Yes, I’ll recommend you.  Come with me, I’ll introduce you to my manager.”

           As we were heading to the restaurant, the sparkling light inside of me multiplied a billion times, hoping something beautiful will come along the way. Those crumpled thoughts that bothered me for some time, disappeared as quickly as the bubbles in the air. Never in my imagination had I felt so close to my feelings and thoughts. What I was hoping for, really on this moment for me to move upward even though I knew, how hard to pushed those negative things to be materialized.

           Working in the restaurant with a salary to depend upon, built my ever changing confident, that helped sustain the rigors of my daily endurance and continuing my college studies. I have done so much of my learning system, wherein I developed my personality to acquire freedom to do the things that I could learn somehow. The negative thoughts inside my head blown into a multiple rays of hope for my goals in life; adding some motivated aspects  of my ambition triggered my inner sanctum to prolong the basic human emotions.

          I resumed my schooling through the help of Ayah Isabel who supported me from A to Z. Even with my deepest soul I knew too well that all of these were just a stairs to heaven. The most important things that I could revive with my weaknesses were the ones destroying my dependent personality. But even though I experienced hardships on my existence, I was still aiming for whatever hopes inside of me. Battling through poverty was not my forte, and I didn’t have the inkling of eluding them. I had such an amazing way of defying myself with what I’ve learned to fake things that came into my life.

            I began to discover things the hard way.  I worked as a server in a restaurant near my boarding house.  Some customers wanted to know me personally. Others befriended with me.  At first, I thought that these people wanted to uplift my well-being and to extend some wonderful things that I wanted in life. I considered my situation and emotion to be cultivated by what I valued as new adventure to me. They explored me high enough as mountain climbers reached the mountain tops. It was such a feeling of developing your inner self to the people who liked to dig deeper and deeper until you cannot fathom the deepest evil in you.

         After my duty hours, I was with them, daily as what they wanted me to, as what they molded towards the new day; drinking spree, parties and drugs.  Nightlife seemed to be the breathing element of my soul. I discovered it, I wanted it, now, but deep inside my heart, I knew what this meant to be with them. Nevertheless, I continued schooling but my soul and energy cannot withstand the rigors of every day event. Even though how hard I tried to run away, still, I kept on coming back and wanting for more.

Earthly things captured me like prisoner, like a virus eating my flesh, and released the ecstasy within me. Believing that I could extend the wondrous feelings that I discovered, explored and tasted; my discovery made me a fool, until I found myself doing the craziness of humanity; money, drugs and sex.

            The more I valued my vices, the more I succumbed to its essence that I could not faltered to taste it; every minute of it. The happiness that I felt gives the real meaning to what I wanted in my whole life. But, little by little, it destroyed my self-esteem and even my whole personality. It changes the core of my soul, my being, even my heart, resulting to my downfall. The decreasing energy within me continued negatively. The goals that I cherished most were lost over time. I found myself lamed, weak, sad and alone.

            I cannot coped up with my life in the city, alone, and it’s Ayah Isabel who cared for me, came to the rescue. Even my friend Edward Ramirez helped me without any boundaries. I released the very core of my existence to the people who loved me. Edward and Ayah were the two human beings that always lifted me-up for whatever problems I am entangled with my vices.

          Edward and Ayah nursed my soul to be back again. Knowing that I can revive my spirit and resumed the ambition I have had.  They stayed for a while and encouraged me all the way.

            “Best friend, are you alright now? I’m very happy for the changes…I mean, the changes in you. Glad to know that you can work again. I’ll tell our manager about your comeback... You know, he’s asking about you and I lied, knowing that I want you to work there again. Yes my friend?” Edward asked me one day.

            “Yes my friend, now I realized… how foolish I was…how weak,” I answered crying.

         I started to concentrate with my studies for two consecutive years through which I gave a real meaning to it. The vital things that matters most to me were the ones that triggered my motivation to grow. The development that I almost conquered was reeling to be mine; for I excelled for all my subjects, extra-curricular activities and friends. It’s nonetheless a revival!

             I joined the college publication to explore the possibilities of motivating my inner self to reveal what’s inside of me. A written form of expressing my thoughts and feelings;

poetry, short stories and drama guild, healed it gradually. Most of my time, I spent with these activities, not knowing that I am changing the values of my life. My life now was a reverse of what I experienced during my first year in the city.

The first free verse poem that I constructed was entitled: "Closer to Me."

Your beauty captures my heart; your soul surrounds me wherever I am.

Perhaps, you are Goddess of beauty? I feel you are endless.

I feast my vision to you, urn towards the light Perhaps by chance but definite in direction.

I am drawn by the deepest awareness of you which wane my heart to think of you

And feel your soul throughout my life.

 I know so very little yet feel so much, Oh, it’s a great feeling to see your soul!

Unable to gaze to your beauty, my soul provides to my heart, a vision…Unable to touch you

Our soul’s touch which sends us to pleasure and our bodies shiver with ecstasy in oneness of perfection

I am amazed by you, as you are, you are not far…you are close

And I held you so tenderly,

closer each moment,

closer to you

 

 

 

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D.L. Calligan

Hi! I wanted to say thanks for the follow. I love the idea of your book. I hope to one day write a novel based in the Philippines. Anyway, I'll be checking in to read the rest when I find time.

More power to us writers! :)

Chapter 2: The Changes

The changes took its toll, when I met someone who can turn the tide. I was on my fourth year in college when I met Danielle Gustilo in another university.  She was beautiful; business- minded kind of person, classy type and came from a well-to-do family.  My flamboyant character attracted her when we were together.  She did not know that I am only baiting her for a refuge; investment and money. I courted her for three months.  She was totally in love with me.  I learned to love her the way she wanted it to be.  I am a person who can play things with perfection if I wanted to.  I was incorporating myself to her dreams.  She knew my meager standing and offered to helped me; with my college tuition fees, for my daily undertaking and even sex. I accepted her offer that I even asked for more. I tasted her beauty to the fullest.

           She gave me what I wanted for her, the satisfaction, the heaven…but, let me set the scene, just for your total information.

          Imagine.... the night's cool, brisk, quiet, and heavy with the fresh rain. A small breeze swayed through the bottom of the slightly open windows, bringing in the scent of the sweet fresh rain. It mingled scantily with the fragrance of fruity-sweet-apple emanating from the several candles strategically placed around the room that flicker slowly in the breeze. The pale blue curtains danced and tickled in the skimming breeze. The cool breeze touched over the thick blue carpet, mingling the scent of the beautiful rain with the fragrance already laced into the weaves. A candle sits nestled in one corner of the room on a black wrought iron glass top table, illuminating the pale blue behind it. A candle sits on the two windows across the room from each other, the flames dancing tightly in time and in tune with one another, but never going out. Two more candles sit on the center of two end tables snuggled close to either side of the bed. The faintest music of wind chimed that hang in the last window behind me can be heard over the sweet tinker and echo of the rain. Our king sized bed sits in the center of the room, draped in glassy red satin sheets, topped with a thick red feather blanket, with several plush feather pillows lining the cherry wood headboard. The light was so very dim, but even so I can see everything clearly in the muted glow.

          I can see Danielle’s form sitting on the bed, head resting comfortably on the lush pillows. She’s wearing a red silk nightgown with her body curve drawn from inside. Her feet are crossed and propped up on the folded down blanket. Her arms are crossed over her soft breasts pulling tightly against the taut fabric.

          I was standing naked in front of the bed looking at her.

          I wore the crooked sexy smile that she had always found so dreamy on me and it always made her weak at the knees. I stretched my muscular body, arms raised over my head and her feet reaching towards me. My body relaxed again and scooted down a little, still looking at her.

          Her eyes slowly slide down my body, then even more leisurely back up. Again, her gaze lingered on my muscular body.

          I stepped up towards the high bed and put one leg up on the blanket and painstakingly slowly I raised myself up from the floor to stand before her on the bed. I slowly rocked side to side; grinding my hips down slowly towards the bed until my knees were touching the feather blanket, then leaned down forward on my hands until I was on all fours before her. I came forward a little, and with my one hand, I began to untie the little satin ribbon that was holding the top of her nightgown. I let my greedy eyes get even hungrier at the sight of her supple breasts. “Do you like what you see?” She said in a husky whisper.

          Just the sight of licking my dry lips makes her know that I do.

          The music slows down a little to another song, and now I know what I want to do. Somehow it was there inside me all along; I just didn’t know how to get it out. That animal passion that I wanted to use when teasing her all night long was finally coming out in me.

          With the beat of the music, I explored her body with ardent pleasure, starting from her collarbone, gently nipping and biting her as I slowly began to kiss her body.

          The music changes again and I can’t hold on any longer. I reached her head pulling close to me and kiss her while in kneeling position. I gently bite her lip as I kiss her and feel the passionate searing pain of her nails in my back. I draw in a sharp breath, not from the pain but exploring. She arched her back up into my hands, feeling her nails lingering at my lower back. I looked at her and she barely nod back to me, but it is enough for her to know I’ll finally let us into this dance.

          Her arms are around my shoulders now as she feels my move more on top of her, feeling every curve of her body welding with mine. Our breaths get shallow and quickened, but neither of those things matter right now. All that matters in this one moment is Danielle and me. She began to close her eyes when I begin to enter her lovely heaven. I whisper to her to open her eyes and look into my eyes, and my first blow made her totally energized.

          We rock back and forth in this sensual dance.  I hugged her so tight and kissed her so hard. We collapsed together, our passions spent, and gave her silver ring as an engagement. She rested into my arms breathing slowly and contentedly.

          We soon fall asleep in each other’s arms, knowing to myself that I captured her, like a prisoner in a cage!

          We enjoyed every moment of our lives without any recourse for anybody, anywhere, anything that could stopped from becoming lovers. We have done so many nights together, exploring our most precious gift from heaven. The remnants of our past didn’t hinder an inch for which Danielle played her part so well. And, even my soul didn’t bother to collide with my greedy ambition from wanting it. Both of us developed something beautiful within our hearts, according to the dictate of our minds. For each of us, there’s some kind of understanding which we wouldn’t have to be spoken, only our actions were the prime movers of our future.

              We were together all the time and found ourselves enjoying at the bar of the hotel. She held my hands, squeezed it tightly on the table and said, “Marc, I like this moment so much, with you, having dinner in the skylight. It reminds me, when I first saw you, for the first time I felt very different from myself. I knew too well, deep inside my heart that it’s you.”

          I looked at her face releasing my hands while solemnly sipping my liquor, then, put it slowly on the table. I pretend to be surprised for what she said, suddenly held Danielle’s soft hands at once and kissed. “I love you dear so much, you’re so beautiful.”

I edged a little towards Danielle’s seat and whisper, “Can I dance with you sweet?”

Danielle’s looked at me with love on her eyes. She loved the way I treated her as a woman, “Yes my love, yes I am yours.”

          We clutched each other hands, kissed and danced to the tune of the sweet music. I held her tightly to my body without much ado, moved our bodies in unison with feelings of contentment.

             “Love, your parents know about this matter? I mean between the two of us?” I whispered to her ear, while I clasped her body to mine.

         “Yes my love, they approved everything I wanted in my own life. Actually, they’re very understanding; opened my own bank accounts, provide my own condominium, and…well I mean everything, okay?”

              I nodded slowly and started to kiss her again, but now on her lips, for a few minutes, which she’s responding positively. She’s happy all throughout the night with me. I am glad that my actions magnetized her heart and mind. So, I played along because she’s my investment for sure!

              Around three in the morning, we left the Skylight Bar, and proceeded to my new fully furnished apartment which Danielle gave to me last week. I was happy with my clandestine motives that resulted positively. I am doing more than what I could muster to make her loved me totally. I knew my worth, and I will do it correctly this time. Unlike in the past, I totally damaged myself for my ambitions without applying a strategy; a continuous way of using my brain for the good of my goals in life. Now, I need another one, a luxury car.

          I said, “Good night my love,” while kissing her. She left thinking that everything’s true, not a scene in the movie. For me, it’s just a drama of my life, also a scene, in my dream.

              I fingered my apartment keys in my bag; open the steel gate, the front door and put on the light. I spotted Ayah sleeping on a sofa. I hurriedly woke her up and kissed her. I noticed the wetness of her face and eyes. “What happened to you? Why are you crying? Something’s wrong?” I asked.

            “Nothing’s wrong Marc,” Ayah said trying to hide her feelings.

            “Okay, wipe your face and tell me why you are here,” I pretended that I was not alarmed.

            “I observed that your grade’s totally going down because you’re not attending classes these past few days. How’s your....I mean Danielle?” She said while looking through my eyes.

            “Ayah, we agreed not to talk about this matter. All you have to do is to trust me with this. I know what I am doing. Okay starting tomorrow I’ll attend my classes. Are you alright?”

            “Yes, love…I’m okay. Around six in the morning, I will be back in my boarding house because my cousin visited me yesterday. My co-boarders were watching about my activities. I hated them for that… and I thought that this is the best time that I could spend a night with you. Marc I love you as always, I want your dream to be fulfilled…without any problems on your side.”

             What I heard from Ayah triggered my emotions to respond, to caress her, kissed her with passion. Still kissing her, I carried her in my arms going to the bathroom, opened the door, switched the faucet and continue exploring her body. The water continued to cool our bodies. I undressed her completely lying on the bathroom floor. I stood up, took off my shirt and pants...everything. I closed the shower’s faucet. She’s looking at me while I am doing this and glanced at her.

            The night was washed away by my passion to explore her.

          I kissed her coming from my heart. “Happy love?” I asked her. She looked at me, nodded and said while still holding my face. “Very...very much... Marco.”

          After a few minutes, I told Ayah Isabel to get dressed. It’s nearly six in the morning, time for her to go home. I asked her to go with her outside the apartment but she refused.

         “Keep the extra keys of my apartment and don’t bother yourself, that we’re separated right now. I am only doing what I think is right for me and for you. I know your situation, but, as of now, do not divulge this to anybody, even Edward. And please, don’t give much attention to my relationship with Danielle,” I said.

         “Yes Marc, I know that and I promise to you my love, you’re the only one in my heart.”

          Ayah left me; took a taxi cab going to her boarding house. As she was leaving, I looked at her walking outside. I walked towards my bed and slept.

 

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At the college hallway, lots of students were clamoring about the tuition fee increased by the school administration. Almost everyone I saw got disgusted of what was happening to this private school. I heard them giving their own version and ways on how to make a move against the management. Our school was a private one, ran by Catholic Missionaries. The teaching’s superb and with quality, as some alumni told the newcomers. It didn’t bother me at all because of the fact, that I had no right to asked and know what it was like, to be the brightest student on our department. I hated Chemistry, but since I started taking up Chemistry, it was fine for me, that’s it. For extracurricular activities, I extended my extra effort to be with my colleagues. My academic grades suffered a lot and I had to be with the school’s system for the development of my studies.

Ayah Isabel helped me with my assignments, projects and other school’s requirements. She knew my situation with Danielle, and really bothered about it. I couldn’t manage my time as a student, got bored easily and tired. Even though how much I tried to concentrate with my studies, I’ve got hooked with my school activities and my relationships.

          One day, Ayah sent a note to me that we have to meet at the canteen for some important matter. I readily went to her at the canteen, but I wondered what will be this meeting’s all about. When I arrived, I saw here seating alone, I grabbed a chair and looked at her in a serious face.

          “Marc how are you?” Ayah started to talk first studying my face.

          “I’m fine, thank you. What this important thing we have to discuss?” I asked with her in a whisper tone.

          “Marc, last night, I think it over a hundred times about our situation; you, Danielle and me. I’m afraid that it gives you some bad karma in the future. You know, instead of aiming something good and big, it’ll turn too bad as what you expected?” I hesitated for a while and said angrily, “Don’t bother about it, okay? Trust me, don’t bother with this matter!”

           Even she knew about my agitation, she’s determined to tell me something, “Marc, last night, Edward called me about your rendezvous with Danielle. He said that it’s not proper to lie about your situation with me. And, he’s not approved of what you’re doing with Danielle and me. Please Marc it’s only a friendly advice.”

          “Okay, it’s okay. What more…what he said to you?” I asked her in a higher tone.

          “Edward said; try to visit him at the Riviera Café & Restaurant.”

          I lowered my voice, “Okay Ayah, thank you. How’s your life in the boarding house? How’s your family?”

         “In my boarding house... it’s quite problematic but I can manage. And my family...they’re fine.”

         “Take care always Ayah.” I started to leave when I remembered something inside my pocket, “By the way, take these drugs and read the prescription first before taking the pill, I think you knew this....” Ayah looked at me squarely, smile and said, “Okay love, bye!”

          The next day I visited Edward at the restaurant where he’s working. He excused himself from his duty asking his Manager to have a day off instead. We got a taxi cab going to Goldenfield Complex, a beautiful night spot outside the city. We played bowling for about an hour, seated ourselves to a restaurant in the open place. I ordered a case of beer, sliced cucumber and a bowl of “kinilaw,” – an Ilonggo appetizer; marinated raw fish with vinegar, and lots of spices. I consumed a bottle of beer, get another and started the conversation with Edward.

          “Ayah told me about you, about what you said to her.” I stopped suddenly.

          “Marc, we’ve known each other for a long time now. I knew that you’re good and kindhearted man. I can understand your situation from the very start we met. I wanted you to open your mind about these two women. You’re switching them like your polo shirts! Be reasonable for their feelings as women, how can you handle both of them in the future?”

          “Edward, you know, I have to keep living, and these two women helped me more than I could imagine.  Moreover, I am sure you knew it already why I am keeping them.  Read my lips buddy, I-need-their-help-to-finish-my-college-education! Got it buddy?” I answered back angrily.

         “But, you know Marco, it’s a sin to do all that stuff!  Eventually, bad karma will plague on you.  Remember that.”

          “Buddy, shut up, okay!  Who told you that?” And I stood up angrily.

          “Just some people….,” he answered in a low voice.

          “Forget them!  They’re nothing!  They’re only watching other people’s back! I left Edward and went home alone.

              I resumed my daily survival as if I was acting in a stage, where I am the protagonist, who managed to subdued the antagonist, anytime, anywhere, and sometimes even outside the script, I’ll do it for the sake of my baleful whims.

              I acted differently when I am with Danielle, it gave me a high esteem more than when I am with Ayah. More than what I wanted to change my lifestyle, I wanted too, to be generous with other people in need. I kept my secret to Danielle for a year which gave financial freedom on my part. The last wished that I asked for her, a sports car which I am using now.

          I used my new status and influence to finish my course. I had the money to buy what I wanted to buy, and earthly things that I needed most. My bank accounts doubled every week through the courtesy of Danielle. She was a year to go before her graduation from Bachelor of Science in Commerce, major in Management.

              Ayah lived remotely from my view, and didn’t bother to visit me in my apartment. Even in school, she hid herself from my view. Edward on the other hand, continued to work in a restaurant without bothering me at all. With my new status, I managed to follow them secretly, including Danielle. I hired an investigator for the three of them. To know them secretly, and to easily identify what my recourse when problem arises. One thing I discovered about Danielle; had a big house in Bacolod City, her parents got a vast wealth and estate from their forefather. They’re public figures in their hometown that made Danielle the sole and legal heiress of their wealth.

              But fate’s so unkind for me, Danielle found out about Ayah Isabel and the war began between the three of us.  I tried my best to control the situation, but Danielle was very aggressive to confront things with her own way.  A possessive woman with nothing can stop whatever she liked.  Danielle came inside our school and met me.  She wanted to talk with Ayah Isabel about the love triangle.

          “Danielle, please listen, don’t make a scene.  This is a Catholic school and this thing’s against their code of ethics.  Please be cool, okay,” I pleaded for her.

          “I don’t’ care!  I want to talk to Ayah Isabel, right now!” She answered while walking in the hallway.

          “Everybody is watching you….” I said to her while pulling her right hand. She halted, faced me and asked, “Who is everybody?”

         “Danielle, cool, please listen….” I asked her in a low voice.

        “Okay, I’ll listen, go on Marco?”

         “Okay, how about, tomorrow, lunch time, in Golden Dragon Restaurant?” Ayah will come along with me. I promise.  It’s okay for you?”

         “Good Marco Fernando, great, see you there tomorrow, lunch time.” Danielle left me in the school hallway with a heavy heart, and my hope’s falling apart.

          The darkness falls and seemed lonely when I met Ayah at the Riviera Café & Restaurant. When I entered the place, I saw her sitting at the table alone, while Edward’s busy serving for another customer. The restaurant ambience’s really awesome compared to other food establishments along Mandalagan Street in Bacolod City. It catered to a nearby hospital, schools, banks and other business institutions. A place to unwind after a hard day’s work, some people believed. But for me; it’s a place where my best friend toiled, a place where I started to know the rigors of city life and a place where I found Ayah Isabel Gonzales.

          I seated myself beside Ayah and greeted her with a kiss, “How are you? Sorry, quite traffic…you know….”

          She looked at me with soulful eyes and nodded slightly. I looked around for Edward, my eyes met his questioning gesture which meant asking me if there’s a problem while approaching me at the table. I mimicked him for a cup of Americano coffee, got my order and left.

          I began the conversation seriously to Ayah Isabel about the situation and convinced her to come with me in our meeting tomorrow. Ayah Isabel did not argue with me at all.  She understood my well-being, that even she was hurt, still, she preferred to keep quiet. I instructed Ayah Isabel not to give up what she feels right, if confronted by Danielle tomorrow.

         “I know that you’re hurt with all my caprices to survive. You fully knew that I am doing this because of my ambition in life.  I am not rich enough to support my college education at first. You know that, do you?  This is all about surviving from my standard of living. We’re graduating for a few months’ time and my only hope to land on a good job, with good salary.  Because I have an affinity with Danielle, doesn’t mean that I don’t love you?  Ayah, I love you from the start, and even until now.  My heart belongs to you alone, not for Danielle.”

          “Marc, you’re the only one I love, you’re my first love, and I don’t want to lose you.  Our hearts connects each other until death.  Truly, I love you so much that I’ll sacrifice my whole life to you only.  Please respect my love for you. The only thing is you’ve a relationship which you can’t elude instantly. We could live a life with our own, isn’t it Marco?”

          “Okay, then, tomorrow, open-up your feelings to Danielle and we can completely decide this matter.”

          “Yes Marco, I’m with you always.”

           We approached Edward together, and bid goodbye, “Edward, we’re going ahead. Can we talk this coming week? Sorry, last time my friend, I was quite agitated.”

          “Okay best friend, no problem for me, I’m here always for you…bye!”

           It’s around eight in the morning; the light rays of the sun still lingered on my face. I perspired a thousand gallons more than what I did last week. My weekly program of exercising physically through the natural method gave me a thousand energies too. Running gave me the balance of creating my endurance of what’s life ahead of me. I was on my way to Ayah’s place, thinking about the final countdown which could prove to be my downfall for Danielle or Ayah Isabel. The most memorable moment of my life! I thought smiling alone.

           Ayah’s outside the gate when I fetched her. As what I expected, her co-boarders were reeling around to witness the coming of the great King, Marco Fernando. I halfway smiled at them while opening the car door for Ayah Isabel.

           We arrived early at the Golden Dragon Restaurant.  It’s located at the heart of the city, five minutes ride from our place.  The ambience totally Chinese; the intricate golden dragon motif with red background, the music, the waitress uniform, and the lantern hangs beautifully in each partition with silk curtains as a facade.  The aroma of Chinese food triggered my voracious appetite.  I composed myself and gazed at Ayah walking separately with me.  She’s nervous, I thought, but she’s calm, calmer than me.  I ordered two soft drinks for a start and we waited. Danielle came ten minutes past eleven in the morning.  She’s wearing a sleeveless red dress that suits to her milky white skin, a red leather clutch bag that blends with our environment.  She looked at me, shifted to Ayah, then sit down in front of us.  Her face was serious.  I started the conversation.

         “Danielle what would you like to have, soft drink or mineral water?”

          She did not speak at first.  Then in a minute, “Just water for me please.”

          I called the server and ordered for mineral water.  I asked Danielle and Ayah for their food.  Both women refused to eat.  I said, “Okay I’ll order for take out.”  Minute had passed; still, both of them did not say a word.  Only, they were looking at me while I am ordering for food.

         “Waitress, please, this is for takeout.  Give me one order of Honey chicken with ginger shoots, one order of pork pickled mustard green noodles, and one order of won ton noodles.  Have it ready, please.”

         “Okay sir, anything else, sir?”

         “That’s it thank you.”

          The waitress served our drinks and water for Danielle.  I observed each of them while I was sipping my drinks.  I made a move and started the conversation.

         “Danielle, I’ll tell you the truth about our relationship.... even before the two of us... before we met…. Ayah and I were living together.... while we’re attending school. She helped me a lot with my tuition and everything. Both of you loved and helped me for what I am right now. Despite the fact, that each of you, wanted me to finish my course. I’m thanking you both for that matter. The problem right now concerns about the three of us...,” my words trailing into the air with nothing to add...my mind turned tumbling down.

         “I think you knew that Marco, I love you from the very start when I saw you.  I promised to myself... that only you could own my heart, nobody else, forever.  I wanted to be with you, always, every second of my life.  I love you more than my life.  Say, what I’m going to do, say it Marco!  I’ll do it for you!” Danielle started to cry hysterically.

         “Danielle, you know me, and…I love you! But I loved Ayah Isabel too!”

          I noticed Ayah’s looking at me intently, drained, I sensed her feeling. I looked at her.  I signaled to her, only Ayah knows what to do.  She’s nervous and afraid.  I had to back her up to talk, to disrupt the conversation, to erase the tension, because I had no courage to melt my feeling, in front of these two women who loved me. At last, I heard Ayah talk.

         “Danielle, I understand your feeling and situation towards Marco.  Not only you who loved Marc truly, I loved him ever since,” Ayah Isabel started to cry. I saw her tears falling down her cheeks.

         “Marco!  You’re a liar!  You fooled me!” Danielle shouted at me while throwing the red leather clutch bag and glass of water at my face.     

          The blood spurted and oozed continuously from my forehead; that Ayah Isabel panicked while calling for aid. Restaurant workers carried me to the ambulance and brought to a hospital nearby. A few stitches, two-inch long, from my forehead were carefully bound up.  I stayed from the hospital for three days. Ayah Isabel took good care of me and watched me closely.

          A day before I was discharged from Doctor’s Hospital; Danielle appeared in my room together with Ayah Isabel. I was expecting her, I knew, but my ego as a man broiled inside of me, especially when Ayah was around.  Ayah went outside the room, as what I expected from Ayah’s character, to give space for us to clear things.

          “Marco, how are you?  I’m so sorry for what happened.  It’s not my intention, believed me...I was disturbed with what...,” as Danielle held my hand tightly.

         “Don’t’ worry, it’s done, and I’m sorry too,” I said in a low voice.

         “I missed you darling...I can’t sleep thinking of you...”Danielle pleaded. 

          “Don’t touched me please...and leave.  It’s over, for the two of us, please leave.” I commanded Danielle. She’s crying, not moving at all, glared her eyes with rage.

         “No, Marco!!! It’s not over yet! I love you! Marco...Marc...!!!” Danielle shouted continuously like a crazy lioness in distressed. She slapped my face, but I didn’t move on my bed, only looked at her with fire.

         Ayah called the hospital guard to pacify the situation. They held Danielle in both arms, dragging her outside, but still she’s shouting to me.

        “I am with you wherever you go!!! I will avenge my love for you!  Marco!  I love you! Marco...!!!”

         Ayah Isabel saw everything what happened, she’s crying, she’s hurt, but felt the pain of Danielle, I knew...I knew her more than any woman in this world.  She had a heart of gold!

        On graduation day, I met Ayah’s parents who attended the rites. I was happy that my parents came too, for this memorable day. I knew my father was quite ashamed, but I assured him that everything will be alright, and they can depend on me for my brother’s schooling. The thing that parents wanted their children to do after graduation – a Filipino tradition.

 

        Ayah Isabel went home to her place for a legal matter to be settled down. She wanted to stay a little longer to help her parents with their business. I stopped her but she’s determined to proceed with her plans. She assured me of her love, her trust and devotion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 3: The Crossroad

I continued living my life in Bacolod City, in which I have had more courage and experiences to depend upon. Other thing that I wanted to do was to help my brothers and sisters. Now, as a graduated person I had responsibility for my parents to aid whatever I could extend to them. I tried my very best to find a job, but economic recession of our country continued to slow down steadily. Negros Occidental’s sugar industry was in the verged of collapsed due to some other problems in importation.  

          My bank account continued to decrease as time went by, trying to find a job that could help me survive, and could help my family in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental, my hometown. I sold all my possessions that Danielle provided for me. It’s very hard for me to find a good job with the best remuneration in Bacolod City.

          Let me tell you what I worked for…where I started my first job…for the past months after my graduation. An amazing story indeed!

          I am a Chemistry graduate, right? But I was accepted as an extra news reporter of the newly founded TV station. At the end of my shift one Monday morning, Arthur Jimenez, the sports director at News TV 717, said, “Marco, this Friday night there’s a boxing championship fight in the Pagla-um Astrodome. You’ve been bugging me for a break, so here’s your chance. Today, around noon, I need you to get me a three-minute interview with Billy the Kid. If you do a good job, that interview will be fed to all TV stations locally and nationwide. Getting to be heard countrywide amounts to decent exposure, wouldn’t you agree?”

          How could I not? Man, talk about excited! After sometime, I had finally landed a weekends only, graveyard-shift job at what, with great payment check. Hopefully, this job would provide opportunities to climb further up the ladder. Arthur made sure I understood a deadline existed. “To have enough time to edit and distribute it, we need the interview tape back by one. Are you up to that challenge, Marco Fernando?”          

         “Marco Fernando is your man Mr. Jimenez,” I answered back with laurel on my head.

          Having closely followed Billy the Kid’s career when I was in college, I knew a few things about him. His stats: undefeated after 20 professional fights with 18 KOs. His reputation: one of the fastest, strongest Ilonggo fighters in the Philippine history, liked to chase women and punch annoying reporters. If you wanted an interview, and expected to walk away unscathed, you had to abide by his rules: catch him before the workout started, or when he reemerged from his dressing room after his rubdown. Arriving at the makeshift training camp in the Pagla-um Astrodome exhibition hall, a number of prominent boxers scheduled to be on the upcoming fight card were working out. Noticing a crowd of people watching Billy the Kid jumping rope, I gulped. Without notifying the media, he had begun his workout early, meaning only one chance remained to get an interview. To make matters worse, the post-workout interview period might not start in time for me to get the cassette tape back to the station by one.

          Billy the Kid finished jumping rope and moved to the light bag, designed to improve a fighter’s ability to keep throwing punches and keep his hands and arms raised, even when tired and sore. After that, he punished the heavy bag; each thunderous, potentially bone-crushing punch, sprayed beads of sweats in all directions. The sand-filled bag jerked and jangled at the end of its chain like a condemned prisoner gangling from a hangman’s rope.

          Finally, he climbed up onto the canvas apron of the ring and ducked through the ropes to spar. At the end of each three-minute round, a new, leather-helmeted patsy would climb into the ring, as his predecessor was being helped out. Rather than trying to beat Billy the Kid, these men were simply being paid to simulate the style of Billy the Kid’s upcoming opponent, the top contender, Flash Robotic.

          When the fourth sparring partner collapsed in the corner nearest to where I stood, Billy the Kid announced, “That’s enough head busting for today!” He slipped into his yellow satin robe, and blew kisses of appreciation to his cheering fans. His ego sufficiently massaged, he stepped through the ropes and headed for his private dressing room with me in hot pursuit. I knocked on the already locked door to Billy the Kid’s retreat less than 30 seconds after it closed behind him.

          From inside came angry words and the sound of the door’s latch being undone. Billy’s corner man, fifty-year-old Manuel Duran, poked his graying, crew-cut head out. “What you want boy?” he demanded.

          Trying to remain confident, I replied, “I’m Marco Fernando, TV News 717. I’ve been sent to get an interview.” Billy the Kid started his workout ahead of schedule, so I missed getting to talk to him. I’ll probably have to leave to get back to the station before he comes back out to conduct his post-workout interviews, so I need to see him now, for just about three to four minutes.

          Annoyed, Manuel Duran shouted, “Billy won’t go to see you.” He stared at me like I’d lost my mind. “He doesn’t see anybody until after he gets dressed. That’s the rule!” the door slammed in my face.

          Frustrated, but unwilling to give up, I did a little boxing of my own, pounding the door until it opened again.

          Duran’s poked his head back out. “Listen,” he said, sounding even more annoyed, “Billy wouldn’t talk to reporter today!

         “Come on,” I pleaded, undaunted by the declaration of discrimination, Pretend I’m not a reporter for a minute. If I don’t get this interview, it could cost me my job. There must be some way….

         “You got a woman with you?” Manuel Duran asked. A lecherous smirk spread across his face. “Billy would let you in if you had a pretty woman with you.”

          Sexist issue aside, my chance to get this interview was about to be TKOed. How could I possibly find a woman on such short notice? “How long is Billy going to be in there?” I asked.

         “About thirty minutes, or so,” Duran shrugged, “depending on how he feels.”

          Thinking faster than Billy’s celebrated fists moved, I calculated the time it would take to reach the station, grab Myra, the new receptionist who was a knockout, and drag her back here to act as my ticket to get in that dressing room. With luck, it might only take twenty-five minutes. I turned and ran for the parking lot.

          Myra Montes sat at the receptionist’s desk when I burst through the station’s front door. In front of her lay the station’s appointment book, her black-leather Bible and a bottle of cotton candy nail polish. Playboy pulchritude with a puritan persona, she was wearing a V-necked, cashmere sweater, revealing a less-than-innocent amount of cleavage.

              “Come with me,” I panted.

              “Why, where are we going?” She asked, her mascara-coated eyelashes fluttering in bewilderment.

              “We’re going to go to interview Billy the Kid.”

              “I can’t go,” she protested, “I have to ___”

              “You have to help me get this interview,” I interrupted. “If anyone says anything, tell them I made you do this. Now, come on.”

          Grabbing her arm, I dragged her to the elevator. Thank goodness she wore flats. Fashionable, five-inch heels would have slowed the mad dash we made from the station to the car, and then, with her complaining the entire way, from the car to Billy’s dressing room.

          Resuming my assault on the dressing room door, I prayed that Billy hadn’t left. Standing next to me, Myra fluffed her newly-dyed Blonde hair with one hand as she stared into her compact mirror to be sure she looked presentable.

          When Billy’s corner-man peered out, he didn’t exactly welcome me back with open arms. “I thought I told you….” Noticing Myra, his gruff words hated abruptly and changed to “My, my my__.” as he performed a head to toe, and back up again, inspection of the angelic vision beside me. Myra’s sparkling brown eyes projected a “what-am-I-doing-here” kind of uncertainty and the overall aura of someone who usually had less on her mind than yours truly had in his overdrawn checking account.

       Eager to get my interview and return to the station, I reminded Manuel Duran, “You said, if I brought a woman….” I added. “She qualifies, don’t you think?” He nodded, and stepped aside.  

          Contrasting with the bright lights and noise of the exhibition hall, the small dressing room was dark and quiet. The sounds of training fighters vanished: The clang of heavy, free weights, the whoosh of jump-ropes cutting through the air and clicking rhythmically against the concrete floor, the grunts and groans accompanying thrown punches and the smack of gloved hands against human flesh, or heavy leather bags.

          Sweat and liniment lingered in the still air. One dim light with a dark green, metal shade hung from the ceiling, providing just enough illumination to get around. Stretched out on a seven-foot-long, flat table was the thirty-year-old, Billy the Kid. Other than the white, modesty towel draped over his hindquarters, the well-chiseled champion wore nothing. A Chinese gentleman kneaded Billy’s massive hamstrings, while Bruno Bautista, Billy’s trainer, rested on a metal chair in the corner, sipping a can of diet soda. Lying on his rock-hard stomach, Billy appeared as lifeless as a stiff in the morgue. His face turned away from the door, his arms lay against his sides. His hands, which reached just beyond the point on his thigh where the white towel stopped, were relaxed and open, rather than tightly clenched into the fists that had earned him millions of pesos.

             “Billy,” Duran spoke softly, “Champ, you got someone here to see you.”

          Without moving a muscle, Billy replied, “Billy the Kid, the Champ doesn’t ever see anybody during his rubdown. Duran, you know that.”

          Manny Duran cast a nervous glance at Myra and said, “I know you doesn’t normally see anybody, Champ, but you want to see this body, trust me.”

          My gaze shifted from Billy the Kid to Myra Montes, whose owl-like eyes were riveted on Billy; her expression, one of shock or embarrassment.

          At last, Billy moved. Without rolling over, he raised his head, and turned it towards us. He began to undress Myra with his eyes. That had been inevitable, but I felt bad, anyway. Even in the dim light I could see her face turning red. The more his eyes moved up and down, the length of her body, the redder her face became. Intending to start the interview and stop the torture, I pressed record on my cassette player. Prepared to ask my first question, I held the Sony out in front of me, but Billy beat me to the punch.

         “Are you a boxing fan?” The Champ asked me.

           If Billy wanted to ask a few questions, no problem, as long as it helped move things along. “Sure am, Champ.” I replied. “I’m Marco Fernando, TV News 717. Followed your career since you won the Gold medal in the Olympics….”

           Billy interrupted, saying, “I am not talking to you, Sonny.” An amused snort came from the corner of the room, where Duran stood.

           Determined to take control, I said, “We’ve got a hundred TV stations nationwide and a thousand radio stations nationwide too, waiting to hear what you’ve got to say….”

            “Then shut up and listen.”

          “But, what about the interview we were supposed to….”

         “Don’t make me get up from this table, kid, I said, shut up and listen,” He sounded serious.

          “I, uh, yes sir. I apologize.” Like an injured fighter, leaning against the ropes, I fought to regain my wits.

           “Alright,” Billy nodded. “Now then, young lady, I asked a question. Are you a boxing fan?” Myra glanced at me, seeming unsure as to whether she should answer, or what to say if she did.

              “Go ahead, Myra,” I encouraged her. “Answer the Champ.

              “Well…” she squeaked. If she had been auditioning for the role of a tiny mouse in an animated film she’d have won the part, for sure.

              “Well?” Billy asked again. “Are you"

              “Not really,” Myra admitted. “I don’t like violence.”

           Hanging my head in dismay, I hit stop on the recorder and thought, “Thanks Myra. If you’d said you were a fight fan, we could possibly get this interview back, but no.”

           From the metal chair where he still sat, Billy’s trainer said, “Bet she never seen a knockout, Champ.”

          “You know what, Bruno, I bet you’re right. Is that true, little lady?” Billy asked.

            I sensed something fishy going on, but didn’t know what until Billy got up and let the towel fall to the floor.

          “Well, now you have,” Billy leered. “Isn’t that a knockout?” Billy planted his hands on his hips and stretched way over to his left, from the waist. Then he repeated the motion, towards his right. As he stretched from side to side, something began swinging and swaying, back and forth.

            Billy’s exhibition could have been a scene for a sleazy film, The Pit and the Organic Pendulum, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic horror story. The bizarre sight inspired feelings of awe and inadequacy, conjuring memories of being a young boy at the zoo with a peanut in my little hand, reaching through the metal bars towards the extended trunks of the giant elephants. However, in this case, I didn’t have a peanut to offer, and I didn’t want to be anywhere nears that trunk. My boss’s words earlier that morning about decent exposure flashed into my mind. “Decent exposure?”

           As Bruno Bautista, Manuel Duran, the Chinese man, and Billy laughed. I cringed. I was a dead man, for sure. The way Myra looked reminded me of a cartoon where the blood rose in a character’s face, resembling a thermometer about to burst. Her eyes threatened to pop out of her skull. She made little choking noises for a moment and then cut loose with a blood-curdling scream. While Billy the Kid and his entourage howled with delight, she wrestled with the locked door, fumbled desperately with the latch, got it open, and ran from the dressing room.

               Over the chuckles and snorts, I said, “Oh, thanks. Thanks very much.” Pointing towards the opened door, I made sure they knew what they had done. “I have to work with her, you know.”

              “Maybe not anymore,” Manuel Duran quipped, generating a new outburst of guffaws.

              “Guess who has to drive her back to the station? She’s going to kill me!” I exclaimed.

              “Oooooh,” Billy shook his head. “You’re in trouble than Flash Robotic.” Wiping laughter induced tears from his eyes, he said, “I guess I owe you a good interview.”

           A quick glance at my watch showed the time to be twenty-thirty-five. Once again thrusting my trusty Sony towards The Champ, I said, “Let’s do it.”

           During our interview, Billy opened up to me in a way he hadn’t with any other reporter. Calls came in from everywhere, praising me for eliciting such candid responses from such a tough guy. The interview floored my boss. That Friday, Billy did the same to Flash Robotic, KO him in less than two minutes of the second round. I got promoted to a full-time position on the day shift and received a fat bonus, to boot. Myra got a well-deserved bonus too. After all, Billy never would have seen me if she hadn’t been such a knockout.

          I resumed working as a reporter, knew some beautiful women around, and got hooked with drugs. Edward was there to remind me always, extending his time for whatever ways he could gave to me. Even Lydia Leynes, a beautiful lady from the north of Negros Occidental became my lived-in partner, which gave terrible problems with my job. I was out-of-the-job instantly; I was totally broke when things got better which brought hope onto my life.

          Edward was the one I enjoyed being with, for it gave me freedom to revealed something deep down in my heart. He was there for me to listen whatever I wanted to say, whatever I wanted to do with my life at the moment. He suggested working again in the restaurant. I hesitated at first, but my hopeless situation told me to accept the job. I felt down and out, I missed her.

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Chapter 4: The Money

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