Island of Fire – Simula

November 19, 2016 By In Island of Fire 1 Comment

Simula

Halos sumabog sa init ang mukha ko habang mabilis na binabasa ang sulat sa aking harapan. I couldn’t hold the piece of paper properly because of my shaking hand. Seething with anger and frustration, pinunit ko ang piraso ng papel at nilingon si Roman na siyang nag-abot sa akin niyon.

“How dare him reply in that fucking way!” sigaw ko, nanginginig.

I cannot believe it! Ang kapal-kapal naman talaga ng mukha niya para sulatan lang ako sa pamamagitan ng kanyang sekretarya!

“I wrote as the Chairman of THE Vista Grande, Inc.!” Nanginginig ang balikat ko sa galit.

My father, Geoffrey Leviste, is going to jail after multiple counts of Estafa due to false accussations from our clients and some of our investors!

Fuck them, actually! That’s how it all goes here in this business! Once you’re on top, everyone drags you down para lang mapalitan ka! How many times should I experience that thing? At ni isa sa mga na experience ko, hindi ako kailanman nahila pababa.

Greetings, Miss Leviste!

We are sorry to inform you that the letter you gave us won’t be entertained by our Chairman. I was advised that only letters with importance shall be given to his office. I was also advised to inform you of his decision through this reply.

Thank you very much!

Hinilot ko ang aking sentido habang iniikot ang aking swivel chair. Sa aking harap ay nag-aantay si Roman at Edgar, ang aking mga all around bodyguard.

Matinding katahimikan ang iginawad nila sa akin. Salungat sa paniguradong ingay na naririnig sa baba nitong building.

Sa iritasyon ko’y napatayo ako. Humakbang ako ng tatlong beses at tanging ang matulis kong takong ang umingay. I stopped mid step. Bumaling ako sa salungat na direksyon at naglakad ulit ng ilang hakbang pagkatapos ay bumalik ulit.

Nanggigigil ako sa iritasyon. Sa inis. Gustong gusto kong tirisin ang kahit anong makapag iirita sa akin sa ngayon. Lalo na siyempre ang sumulat ng sulat na iyon!

Isang tikhim ang pinakawalan nI Roman. He moved a bit. His obviously steroid-enhanced biceps moved.

“Ano?” nilingon ko siya sa iritasyon.

You better have a good idea or damn it!

“Alin ba roon, Ma’am, ang ikinagagalit ninyo? Ang sagot o ang hindi pagsang-ayon?”

Ready na akong bugahan siya ng apoy. Pasalamat siya’t tumunog ang lintek na telepono. Ilang beses ko bang sinabi kay Maricel na h’wag tumanggap ng tawag dahil baka mga rallyista lamang iyan!

“Hello!?” sigaw ko sa walang kamalay malay na receiver.
“M-Ma’am, sorry po. Si Sir Ethan po kasi gustong makausap ka-”

Pumikit ako at pinigilan ang sariling ibato ang buong telepono kay Roman. What is it now?

“Fine. Connect him!”

Humalukipkip ako at frustrated na nag-antay sa kay Ethan sa kabilang linya. My cousin really knows when to call, huh? At pinipili niya talaga palaging tumawag sa akin sa ganitong panahon?

“Hello, cousin…” mapanuyang tinig niya.

I want so bad to raise my middle finger at him. Pinigilan ko ang sarili ko at binagsak ang balikat.

“Hindi mo pa ba napag-iisipan ang gusto kong mangyari?” dagdag niya.
“Which one, Ethan? If it’s about me giving up this damn company so I’d start all over again in your company, then no!” dire diretso kong sinabi.
He laughed.

Pasalamat ka’t ‘di kita abot kamay at matagal na kitang nasuntok.

“I have two options, right? It’s either you’d do that so you can pay whatever loans your father has or sell your damned luxury island. This is not the time to have that-”
“Anong pakealam mo sa mga gusto ko?”
“Look, Zari. I care for Vista Grande, too. That is where my father started. You know that. I learned so many things in your father’s company. The reason why we have Le Viste now. I am very willing to put you in one of the high ranking positions here if you’re also willing to-”
“Shut up, Ethan! We don’t need your company because we have our own! I have my own! I can do it! I am the heiress of this company and I am sure I can handle whatever’s going on-”
“You can’t, alright? Zari, tanggapin mo na lang. Nagkamali si Tito! When your mother died, he got so addicted with the casino and the result is in your eyes now! I have no doubts that you’ll make a good leader but this shouldn’t be your first experience! This is too much for you!”

Gusto ko nang maiyak. Punong puno ng concern ang boses ng pinsan ko pero marami na ang naglalaro sa aking utak.

Vista Grande was the largest pioneering real estate company here in the Philippines. It was established long before the rise of other companies. It provides low cost housing to the marginalized and the poor. I loved its mission and vision. I live for it. In fact, it’s the reason why I pursued architecture!

“Anong alam mo sa kakayahan ko, Ethan? I know how this all goes! I don’t need the help!”

Binagsakan ko siya ng telepono. Pagkatapos kong maibagsak iyon ay naramdaman ko ang panlulumo.

If he knew what I just did, he’d probably drag my ass out of my office and force me to do whatever he wants.

“Baka naman may ibang paraan, Ma’am?” si Roman sa isang takot na boses.

Natawa ako sabay tingin sa kanya. He knows I’m sarcastic this time.

“Like?”
“Ang sabi kasi ng nag-abot ng sulat na ‘yan sa akin ay may ibibigay pang sulat ang RHI. Imbitasyon daw ‘yon, Ma’am, e, mukhang engagement party iyon…”

Namilog ang mga mata ko at mabilis na nilapitan si Roman. Muntik na siyang umatras. Siguro’y akala niya’y sasapakin ko na siya sa iritasyon.

I’m tall but he towered over me like Hulk. Pero sa takot niya sa akin ay tila kuting siyang nanliliit.

“Engagement party nino? Niya?” halos may bahid na pandidiri ang tinig na umalingawngaw galing sa akin.

I pursued Architecture in Spain. I was aiming for masters when I left because of this problem in the company.

“H’wag mo nga akong lokohin, Roman!” sigaw ko sa iritasyon.
“Totoo, Ma’am. Hihintayin ko sana pero noong sinabing imbitasyon lang iyon sa party, alam kong magagalit ka lang kaya tumulak na ako para ibigay sa’yo ‘yong sulat.”

Kinagat ko ang labi ko. Wow! Magbibigay na ba ako ng slow clap para sa kanya?

“You’ve got to be kidding me! A man like him wouldn’t-” Nanginig ang balikat ko sa katatawanan. “Oh, right. I forgot that he has the money and the company. A muchacha would take that opportunity.”

Putangina. Am I left with no choice?

“Ano na ngayon, Ma’am?” tanong ni Roman.

Huminahon ako at umupo sa aking swivel chair. I’m trying to calm myself. I’m trying to think straight. I’m trying to be considerate of others…

My father, at this moment, is probably on his way to prison. My last resort is a gamble. If this won’t work… no… This should work! This will work! There’s no way for this to fail. I can’t afford it to fail!

“Edgar, bumalik ka sa kompanya nila at kunin mo ang imbitasyon na dapat ay ibinigay kay Roman,” utos ko.

Tumango si Edgar. He’s a bit leaner than Roman but would still pass for a malnourished Hulk.

Tumalikod siya at umalis para sundin ang utos ko. Ngayon, si Roman at ako na lang ang narito sa opisina.

“Position the chopper near the golf course. Buy me a smuggled vehicle,” marahan kong sinabi.

He nodded. I know he knows what my last resort is. I am just left with no choice. I need this. I need this so fucking much and I would do everything to get it.

“Alert all the possible involved people. What’s the agency of his body guards?” nagtaas ako ng kilay.
“Ma’am, wala siyang bodyguard.”

Ngayon lang yata ako natuwa sa ibinalita nitong si Roman sa akin. He smiled when he saw me smile. Tuwang tuwa rin ang isang ito.

“I don’t believe it…” nanliit ang mga mata ko.

Hindi ako tanga para paniwalaan iyon. Napawi ang ngiti niya.

“Totoo, Ma’am. Madalas naming makita ‘yan ni Sir Geoffrey kapag may mga launching at mga meeting, talagang walang bodyguard iyan.”
“A man on top of the food chain can’t be that reckless! At sa lahat, siya pa talaga ang walang bodyguard. How the hell would he stop people who will probably harrass him? What about his desperate employees-”
Natatawang umiling si Roman. “Baka walang ganoon sa kanila, Ma’am. Mukhang maayos naman palakad nila-”
Natigil siya nang nakita ang pagngiwi ko.

Well, if it’s true. That’s great! Eitherway, we have to prepare for the worst.

“Dadalo ako sa party na iyon,” desisyon ko.
“Ma’am? Paano ‘yon? E ‘di mahihirapan tayo?”
“If I don’t go to that party, they might accuse me. You have to carry on with the plan while I’m there. We’ll just contact each other bago ako didiretso sa golf course at bago tayo umalis.”
“Hindi mo po ba susubukan, Ma’am, sa party?”

Umirap ako.

“If it’s true that this is an engagement party, do you think I can make this all different in just an hour? Or worst, thirty minutes? No. Kaya hindi ko na kailangang subukan pa roon. We are executing the plan the minute I leave the house!” pinal kong sinabi.

Pinagmasan kong mabuti ang kulay puting imbitasyon sa ‘di umano’y engagement party. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. With the embossed golden letters of their names in front of the invitation, tanga ko kung iisipin mong birthday party iyon.

The guests are requested to wear golds and silver dresses. Punong puno ng poot ang mga mata ko habang paulit ulit na tinitingnan ang pangalan nila roon.

I love gold and silver things. I grew up in the peak years of the Vista Grande the reason why I could have anything that I want. And in my journey with those extravagance, I found a strange fascination for glitters.

I determine the value of things through their cost. Pero alam ko rin na mahalaga ang mga bagay na may sentimental value tulad na lang ng aming kompanya.

I travel wearing only the best designer brands and sleep only in a five star hotel. I like only car brands that are made west because they’re just better and more costly.

Hindi ko matanggap na ngayon ay narito ako sa kalagitnaan ng pagbagsak. My father is a great man! He was tricked and this is the result! I can definitely do this on my own… to save my father and to save my beloved company.

I made sure that my father’s in good hands before finally leaving the house. Inayos ko ang aking diamond earrings at muling pinasadahan ng tingin ang aking damit bago tumulak na palabas ng bahay.

Wearing my straight strapless pencil cut gold dress, a gold platform shoes, and my clutch, I stepped on the gas of my BMW.

Nakarating ako sa basement ng hotel. Immediately, I messaged one of my men to inform them that I am already there.

Mga salamin ang dinaanan ko nang nasa unang palapag na ako ng building. Without even looking at it, I can see my look at the corner of my eye. My natural brown hair is in a french twist. My high cheekbones were properly highlighted with a medium brown contour. My pointed nose brought all the sophistication that my face needed.

Ngumiti ako sa mga nakasalubong na media. Their jaw dropped when they saw me. Dire-diretso ang lakad ko, ayaw magbigay ng panahon para tuluyan nila akong mainterview but if they want it so much that they’d almost die running after me, I’d stop and turn to them.

“Miss Leviste! You’re here!” sabi ng isang matabang may I.D. ng isang sikat na magazine.

Ngumiti ako. Photographers flocked to me. I smiled more.

Because the damn host invited me in this event. I can’t believe he has the guts to do that!

“I just got here from Madrid for a vacation…” I smiled.
“Wow! Saan ka naman magbabakasyon, Miss Leviste? You’re not staying here for good?” tanong ng isa pang taga media.

Why is common sense is not so common anymore? It’s a vacation! Natural, hindi ako magtatagal dito sa Pinas!

“No. I have to go back for my masters-”
“But what about your company? We heard your father is sued-”
“My cousin, Ethan, will take care of that, I’m sure. Will this all become about my father or are you going to ask me what I’m wearing?”

Nagtawanan kami pero nagtaas ako ng kilay at nagseryoso agad.

“Sure! I have always admired your fashion. I saw your posts on Instagram and they’re very high end!” sabi naman noong mas interesanteng babae sa gilid ko.

I proudly smiled. When she started asking me about my dress, I told her all the details. How I got it and how I got the invitation very late that this is a fast pick.

“Ilang taon ka nga uling hindi nakauwi, Miss Leviste? We thought you’d never come back here anymore.”
“I have short visits here. I just don’t show up much in events because I have important matters to attend to.”
“Oh! That explains it…”

Hindi maubos-ubos ang paulit ulit na tanong. A magazine editor-in-chief even approached me and asked me if I could cover their magazine. I gave her my calling card and then went inside the venue.

Sa lagay ko ngayon, hindi ko alam kung may panahon pa ako sa mga social gatherings.

I went inside and saw in shades of lavender and violent. Green ferns were everywhere, too. Nagtiim bagang ako habang pinagmamasdan ang golden tables and chairs.

I want to shout at how distasteful all of these are but damn it… I must admit… it isn’t!

“Hi, Miss Leviste!” said a familiar girl.

I waved. A group of girls even asked me where my friends were and why am I alone. Of course, I should be. Damn it!

Kumuha ako ng isang champagne at agad na sumimsim sa wine flute. Hinagod ko ng tingin ang mga guests na puro naglalakihang tao sa industriya. I even saw some of my schoolmates back then. They look old now. Well, that’s what marriage can give you.

The chattering got more defined when an old woman entered along with her husband and a girl. The girl’s long gold gown told me that she might be his fiancee.

Umiling ako at nilapag ang wine glass para kumuha ng isa pa. Very good predictions, Zari. Ang galing mo talaga!

Halos ilagok ko ng isang inuman ang sumunod na champagne. With her porcelain skin, jet black hair, and graceful moves, I can’t help but curse.

“Ang galing mo rin talaga, ‘no? Sa bagay…” nagkibit ako ng balikat.

Pinagmasdan ko muli ng tingin ang babae. I am taller than her. She’s probably around five or five two. And the way she gracefully smiles at the guests who give her utmost importance, I could tell that she’s all so girly girl!

My phone beeped interrupting my thoughts. Buti na lang.

Roman:
Ma’am, ready.

Tinapos ko ng buong lagok ang aking inumin bago nakihalo pa sa iilang mga panauhin. I greeted them and allowed them to ask me how I’m doing. I have to put it in their minds that I was here so I couldn’t be accused of anything.

Another beep, I didn’t have to read it. I was sure that he’s already in the building.

The Master of Ceremonies was already on stage and saying his greetings to everyone. Kumuha akong muli ng wine glass para inumin habang nakikinig at nabibigo ang lahat kung paano… walang soon to be groom na dumating.

Inunti-unti ko ang champagne habang pinapanood ko ang babaeng nasa tabi ng kanyang ama’t-ina. She is texting, maybe trying to get a hold of him. After a while, she started calling. Her mom asked something, she shook her head.

I licked my lower lip as I watch them closely. My phone beeped and I smiled.

Kinuha ko iyon at unti-unting tiningnan.

Roman:
Nakuha na namin, Ma’am.

Nang nag-angat muli ako ng tingin sa babae ay nakita ko siyang sinasalubong ng isang security. Umiling ang security kaya nilingon noong babae ang Master of Ceremonies. Tumango ito at ngumiti sa audience.

“We’ll start late, ladies and gentlemen…” deklara niya.

Very good. That was with no trail, I guess. If the security didn’t know where he is, then I should give Roman and Edgar some bonus!

“Where’s the powder room?” tanong ko sa isang guest kahit na alam ko naman talaga kung saan.
“Straight and left, Miss…” sagot niya.
“Thank you!” marahan kong sinabi at sinunod na ang payo.

Nang nakarating malapit sa pintuan ng powder room ay lumiko ako patungong pintuan para makalabas. With gracious moves, I went to the elevator and then to the basement. I told the Valet to reserve a parking for me since I have an emergency. He nodded and then I went out.

Hindi ko mapigilan ang pagngiti habang umaalis na roon sa hotel. Isa pang beep at nakita ko ang mensahe ni Roman.

Roman:
Complete.

I stepped on the gas making the BMW reach a hundred and twenty bago ako tuluyang nakaliko sa isang village kung nasaan ang mansyong pag-aari ng aking Lolo.

Habang dire-diretso ang takbo ng aking sasakyan, kita sa gilid ng aking mga mata ang mansyong madalas kong pinapasyalan noon. It’s my first time, in a long time, to see that mansion again. Pero hindi ako magtatagal ngayon. I have to do my work.

Hindi kalayuan ay ang private chopper namin. I stopped the car and got my clutch. Pagkalabas ko’y hinagis ko sa isa pang bodyguard ang susi at pagkatapos ay dire-diretso nang naglakad patungo sa itim na chopper na ngayon ay nabubuhay na ang makina.

Hinigit ko ang pin na nag-aayos sa aking buhok para bumuhayhay ito. Naglahad ng kamay si Roman para makapasok na ako sa front seat ng chopper bago tuluyang inayos ang mga belt sa sarili. Behind me is more of my bodyguards, Belinda, and of course… our special guest… blindfolded and helpless.

Poor Rad, couldn’t make it on his own engagement party.

Tumabi si Roman sa akin dahil isa siya sa magpipiloto nitong chopper. Hindi kalauanan ay nakikipagsabayan na kami sa hangin sa himpapawid.

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