Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Long Weekend Part II


The styrofoam cup felt warm on my hand, but the coffee was still scalding hot. I stirred it some more, careful not to spill its contents on my lap.

It is 7am in the morning, and I am sitting at the pre-departure area at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban. I had called my best friend the previous night, and the conversation went like this:

“Tatat! I’ll be in Manila tomorrow!”

“Bitch! Why didn’t you inform me sooner so I could have arranged a schedule swap. I have work tomorrow.”

“That’s ok, no need to pick me up. I know my way around town, thank you. So where’s your new apartment?”

“Near Shaw.”

“Can you just meet me at the MRT Station at around 10am?”

“Alright, twinnie.”

“See ya.”

It was a sunny morning, and Cancabato Bay was visible through the glass windows of the airport. Seemingly hypnotized by the glistening waves, my mind drifted to the events that happened the past two years- my leaving the company, returning to the province to study, and of course, Eric.

Two years of self-exile hadn’t erased a single bit of memory of him. Yeah, I still see him if I close my eyes: neat, sharply dressed in long sleeves and slacks, and that sexy grin he has when he’s telling a joke.

I last saw him during the trip to Sagada. I took a sip of my coffee, and set down my glass. I wonder where he is now? Does he still work for Info? I had yet to catch up on the goings-on of my previous office.

The speaker sounded. “PR 175 bound for Manila, now boarding.”

I shook out of my reverie, collected my bags, and made my way to the gate.


A blast of warm air hit my face as I left the Centennial Airport. Damn! I remembered Manila was like this- warm, crowded, and utterly polluted. As if on queue, a bus drove by, spewing a cloud of soot from its exhaust pipe. I gritted my teeth and kept walking.
“Taxi!” I waved frantically with my left hand.


The driver shakes his head. My bag was getting heavy, I was eager to just pay extra just so I could get to my destination without the hassle.

“Or you could just drop me off at the Pasay MRT Station.” I said, getting desperate by the second. He agreed.

The air conditioning hardly calmed my impatience as the car made it’s way through the traffic. I was relieved when I finally saw the huge Pasay MRT Station.

“One ticket for Shaw Station please.” I handed the amount to the cashier.

It was strangely comforting to be at the crowded station waiting for the train. How many days have I gone to catch the early morning train after my shift? I notice a couple of yuppies joking talking amongst themselves near a bench. I almost forgot how cute most of the guys were in Manila. I ruffled my hair self-consciously.

Ding! The train’s sliding doors open and out came the passengers. The crowd parted and lo and behold! A tall guy emerges, and he is no other than the guy who broke my heart.

“Hey Eric.” I said.


He wore his hair the same way the last time I saw him- spiky, and fashionably styled. I had always been a fool for men with nice hair. He looked at me, mouth agape, for a moment.

“Gabby?! Hey, how have you been?” His eyes showed his surprise, and possibly, delight.

“I’m good. I just arrived from the airport.”

People had started to board the train, so we moved away from the crowd. He gestured at the nearby bench.

“That explains the traveling bag then.”

I laughed. “Yeah, I’ve been lugging around this heavy thing since early morning.”

“Where do you work now?”

“I’m not employed, actually.” I said. I was suddenly aware of my rumpled shirt. “Ah, after I resigned I decided to study again full time in the province.”


“How about you, still with Info?”

“Yeah. Six years and going strong.” He sat next to me on the bench.

“Up for another promotion?” I asked.

“Nah, not really. The teams I handle have not been doing well. Besides, I doubt if they have openings at this point.”

We were silent after we discussed work-related things. I smiled awkwardly.

“I guess I’d better be going. Tatat is waiting for me at Shaw Station.”

“No kidding. She left months after you did. Without much dramatic flair though…” He teased, referring to how I left the company years ago.

“Forget about that. I was a little crazy.”

“So you’d join us again at Info?” He smiled.

“Unlikely. I’m done with that industry.” I said, standing up.

“Hey, want to go out sometime, while you’re still in town?”

“Sure Eric.”

“Your number?”

I gave it to him.

“It was great to see you. I’ll call you sometime.” Standing up, he towered over me. He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed.

My heart gave an involuntary leap. “Alright.”

I walked towards the train, turning around and giving him a wave just as the doors started to close.

As the train started moving, I was once again lost in my thoughts. Seeing Eric today, on my first day in Manila made me realize how much I had missed him. I’ve always wondered if I had made a mistake, leaving Info. I would have just settled to being one of his friends just so I could see him everyday.

You’ve already made the decision, I told myself, so stick to it!

In the distance, I saw the morning rays cast a glow to the city skyline.



Uh oh. I know that voice. I turned to face my best friend, honorary twin sister, and partner in crime, Tatat.

Hug, hug. Kiss, kiss.

“You look fat!”

She pouted. “Bitchy as always.”

“Are you still with CVG?”

“Old news Gabby dear.” She scoffs.

“I’m training with Dell right now.” She removes a pack of Marboro Lights and offers me a cigarette.

“Still a chain smoker, I see. Honey, your nasty habit is wrecking havoc on your skin!” I said, pretending to examine her face.

“That’s a load of bull.”

“Seriously! Anyway, guess who I bumped into earlier.”

“Who.” She said disinterestedly.

I paused to take a breath. She looks into my eyes, reading my thoughts.


“Yes!” I said, “I bumped into him by accident.

She grabs my phone.

“Hey! Give that back!”

“I don’t like this.”

“If you are looking for his text messages there’s none.”

She looks at me. “You erased them?”

“No. Because I don’t even have his number.”

“Somebody’s going to get hurt.”

I looked at her seriously. “I promised myself I’d never again be in a situation like that. I’m not stupid Tat.”
“Just make sure you don’t see him again, because I already know how this is going to end.”

Bzzz! My cellphone vibrated. 1 New Message.

“Hi Gab, it’s Eric. Remember that place at Eastwood where we had Chiqui’s birthday dinner? I’m craving pasta right now. Want to meet me there? My shift ends at in about an hour.”

“Who is it?” Tatat asked.

I look her in the eye. “My mom checking on me if I’ve arrived safely.”

“I brought some binagol, by the way. Give some to Cricket.” I showed her the delicacies I had brought from Tacloban.


That’s Tatat, she loves her food and loves her boys.

“C’mon, I need to leave this bag at your place. I need to leave right away.”

“Got somewhere to go?”

“To Megamall. I need to buy some toiletries.” I lied.


I had been waiting at the table for twenty minutes. I changed into a polo shirt and jeans and practically bathed in my favorite scent.

I saw Eric outside through the window. I wave at him.

“Sorry I’m a little late.”

“That’s ok. I just arrived a few minutes ago.” I smiled.

“Somebody smells nice.”

I laughed nervously.

“I needed to get the airplane smell out.”

The waiter came with the menus and took our order.

“So Eric, do you still travel?”

“Yeah. Went to El Nido last summer.”

“Was it expensive?”
“Not if you stay at the town instead of the resort. You?”

“Just around Leyte. We have great beaches there.

“Who’d you go with?”


“Your trip to El Nido. Your girlfriend? Jen?”

Eric laughs. I have no girlfriend right now, and Jen got married last year.”


“To Royce, of all people.”

I giggled. “No way! How did that happen?”

“They met on a company team building and started going out.”

The food had arrived.

“Smells nice.” I said, having a wonderful time.

“Try my seafood pasta.”

I took a bite.


“Better than sex.” I laughed.

“I’m taking a trip to Galera tomorrow. Wanna go?”

“Hmm I have some things to take care of, and I don’t think I’d have enough money.”

“I’ll take care of the accommodations.”

“Talaga? Who else are going?”

“Just us.”

I knew I was breaking my own rules.

“What time do we meet tomorrow?” I asked.


The wind was chilly and I felt it sting my cheeks.

“You’re late.”

Eric was waiting at the bus station.

“Sorry, traffic.”

“At Four Am?”

“Tatat and I had a little argument.”

“About what?”

“Forget it, we do these things.” I said dismissively as I boarded the bus. I was quiet on the way to Batangas Pier.

Tatat did have a point, Eric was like a bad habit I have. This time, I hope she isn’t right about the ending.

The sun was rising in the horizon as the boat drifted in the water. I looked at the man beside me and smiled. He was a little older, and I notice new lines on his face I haven’t seen before.

He had a few freckles on the bridge of his nose, and a laugh line that would show itself now and then.

“All aboard!” Eric said, with anticipation in his eyes.


I was massaging my slightly sunburned neck as we walked on the sand. We had joined a group of Korean students snorkeling at high noon. Bad idea- even with sunblock lotion, Eric and I were as red as beets because of sunburn. The sun was now setting, and we were on the way to the bars.


Eric laughed. “Who’s idea was it to join those Korean kids?”

“Better than just stay in the room. There was nothing else to do earlier.”

“Then stop complaining.”

We settled at a popular hangout called Peter’s. After dinner, we started a round of cocktails.


“I’ve always been curious. How did you react when you found my letter that night?”

He looks me in the eye.

“A little sad.”

“Just a little?”

“I was sad because I lost a friend.”

We were silent for a while. The sound of the waves drowned my thoughts. My Margarita tasted bitter.

I asked him quietly. “Why did you invite me here?”

“I missed you.”


Early the next day, we had to return to Manila because of a 911 situation at work and Eric was expected later in the day. I myself needed to get back to Tacloban the following day. We were walking along the shore, waiting for the boat to take us back to Batangas.

“So, how do you like the shift in career so far?”

I make a face. “Sucks.”

“But you don’t want to go back to the Customer Service Industry either.”

“I told you, I’m done with that already.”

I nudge him on the stomach.

“Aren’t you tired of the night shift?”

“It’s alright.”

“Ah, what a great ACCM you are. Six years and still going”

“What time is your flight tomorrow?”

“I’ll have to check my ticket. I left it in Tatat’s apartment.”

“Gab, I appreciate your coming with me.”

I laugh.

“Ang pormal mo naman.”

“It’s hard for me to say it sometimes.”

“Say what?”


“In my book, I always get to decide the ending.”

He looks at me. His hair blown by the wind, his face tan, and that little laugh line showing itself again.

“And how does this end?”

“The good guy gets the guy.”

He gives me a wide smile that was almost a laugh of delight. He grabs my hand and pulls me in the direction of the boat that was now moored to the shore.

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