Tinder Tailor Soldier Spy (Part 4)

5 Apr

Chapter 6: Stuffed Bears and Sign Board

 

“Why is this man not texting me today? He texted me yesterday, he texted me the other day. I’m pretty certain he is in Manila right now… so WHY THE HELL IS HE NOT TEXTING ME TODAY?!”

I thought it was so foul that of all the days he could pick, he particularly – and probably intentionally – chose this day to go missing on me again. I looked at my phone one more time. There was nothing. I probably looked at it a hundred times more until I finally released a heavy, disappointed sigh, accepted defeat, put my phone back in my bag, and went on walking along Greenbelt 1 where storefronts were all decorated with hearts and cupids and too much red, and side stalls and kiosks were teeming with unreasonably expensive teddy bears and roses.

Tomorrow is Valentines day. And this man I am supposedly seeing doesn’t care. Sure we’ve only been going out short of two months, but come on now —– Tomorrow. Is. Valentines. Day.

Pissed-off was an understatement for what I was feeling that night. In my mind, I was already ready to “break up” with this guy I was not even in an official relationship with.

And then my phone rang.

Hello babe… how are you?
I’m good. Just strolling in the mall. What’s up?
Nothing really. I’m just finishing up with dinner.
I see.
So I was wondering if you wanna go out with me tomorrow? I’d like to spend my Valentines Day with you if you don’t mind.

I took back all the hateful words I had already told him in my head. All the angst in me was instantly taken over by so much unconcealable delight that I was sure he could see me smiling from ear to ear even though we were just on the phone that time.

Yes, Of course! I thought you’d never ask!
You panicked, didn’t you? Wish I could see your face right now haha!

Jayson loved petty games.

Do you wanna go anywhere specific? I asked.

I would really like to see a place with some historical and cultural significance. No more malls for me, unless that’s where you wanna go.

Alright well there’s only one place like that in Metro Manila — I think you’re gonna love Intramuros!

———–

February 14 came sooner than I anticipated.

Jayson and I have agreed to meet first in a coffee shop in Makati before heading to Intramuros together. At exactly 8 am, he was at Starbucks waiting for me. I endeavored to beat him at it but I ended up being 20 minutes late. In my defense though, it had taken me a while trying to look like the finest lady in town. As early as 6am, I’d been trying on one outfit after another until finally I pieced together the perfect ensemble that I thought he’d find attractive, while at the same time would look chic and “un-stereotype-able” to the prying eyes of the public.

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Makati was rather accepting of pinay-and-foreigner couples, but now we were about to exit the bubble that is CBD and I wasn’t sure how the ordinary people of the outside world would perceive me to be. It has always been my issue, you know. I never wanted to look like I was dating this foreign guy for his money. Sometimes I would even wish I could hang a massive sign board on my neck saying “Excuse me. I make my own money and I have a law degree!”

 

Chapter 7: Cannons and Cobblestones

 

I was expected to be the tour guide of Jayson in Intramuros, all rehearsed to deliver the story behind every monument and every old building we were about to visit. I had even thought of giving him some cool trivia on Philippine History. Well I tried. But on our third stop, we both realized that he was better off just reading the historical markers of the sites because well, i clearly sucked at being a tour guide and all the more so as a historian. I would keep inventing stuff when I didn’t know what to say anymore and he would always catch each one of my wonderful concoctions about the happenings of the past – not because he knew the real deal – but because I couldn’t hide my hysterically cunning grin.

We walked atop the famous Intramuros stone wall. We walked and walked and talked, and we kissed every now and then, and then we’d walk again. A few more minutes of treading that 20-feet-high brick-laid pathway, he suddenly turned to face me, and he halted me to a still position. He grabbed both my hands with both his hands and then he gave me orders.

Look up! Look up in the sky !
And I quickly looked up in the sky as instructed.

What now? I asked out of confusion because there was nothing up there really but the sun that was starting to blind me.

Let’s play a game!
Ok?!
What is the year engraved on the bricks of the pavement we’re walking on?
There’s actually a year engraved on the pavement?
Yes! On almost every brick actually! So what’s the answer?

Having no clue at all, I just responded with the year of my birth which is 1989.

Ah close! It’s 1981… or 1861… depending on your orientation.

I looked down to see the answer for myself, and true enough there were 1981 engravings – or 1861 if you read them upside down – on most of the red bricks on the floor.

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Jayson was quick to throw me a smile filled with teasing condescension. 1-0, in his favor. Ugh. I’ve been to this place a number of times. How come I’ve never noticed this before?!

After savoring his quick moment of victory, Jayson suddenly changed mood and uttered something on a more serious note:

You’ve got to be more observant of your surroundings, Janica. Mindlessness can kill you.

———–

A few more steps along the muralla and we finally reached a wide rectangular open ground with cemented triangular planes here and there, and some uneven elevations. There we found the iconic 12 Spanish cannons strategically positioned against the indented parapets of the Old Manila fortress. Boy, did Jayson get excited upon laying eyes on these ancient toys! He speedily headed towards one of them with me in tow. As we got close to his cannon of choice, Jayson eagerly decided to give me a crash course on this particular artillery:

He talked about the engineering behind this weapon, as well as its assembly line. He explained to me how it works using principles of Physics I did not understand. He identified its various parts like the bore, the muzzle, and the reinforce whatever. He then blabbered about its history, its development throughout centuries, its various kinds and its more modern versions. I’m quite certain he told me more but I honestly had a hard time imbibing all the information. I gave up on him as early as when he started spewing Engineering jargons but I guess my acting prowess ( read: consistent nodding with occasional jaw drops, followed up with lines like  “Is that so?”, “Oh, really?”, “Wow, that is nice”) encouraged him to go on and on and on.

As he wrapped up his first lecture for the day, all I could ask him was:

How did you know all these stuff? You use cannons and cannon balls in your water-filtration job?

Oh yes. We use them as pipelines that’s why we are one of a kind,  He said in jest and I took it as a cue to playfully roll my eyes. Haha no babe, I just read a lot.

——–

Our next destination was the Bahay Tsinoy.

Jayson had particularly requested to visit a museum. Luckily for me, one of my friends had randomly told me a couple of months back about this Chinese museum which she really loved, located in the heart of the Walled City. And so I decided to take Jayson there. I thought it was the closest and most convenient to go to anyway. We braved the scorching heat of the day and walked the streets of Intramuros in search of it, only to find it still closed the moment we got there.

Since it was almost noon and we were getting hungry, we decided to go eat first and then just come back later.

I thought it would be interesting for Jayson and I to try Ristorante delle Mitre. I was convinced he’d love the cultural underpinnings of this holy diner.

The food on the menu of Ristorante delle Mitre were named after bishops and priests. And statues of saints and other sacred icons and representations were the primary decor. Those life-size religious figures were literally in every corner of the room, making you think that they were perpetually watching your every move. If you ask me, this made eating there very uncomfortable. And this made kissing there really awkward as hell.

Right after lunch, we decided to stroll aimlessly and see more of Old Manila for a while. Then we agreed that it was time to return to Bahay Tsinoy.

Well, after having walked along similar-looking cobbled streets, I found myself ultimately unable to remember our way back. I looked behind me, and side, and behind me again hoping to recall where we’ve been this morning and he patiently waited for me to figure it out.

Let’s go that way. 

I don’t think that’s the right way. 

It is. It is.

And so he quietly followed me to what I would soon realize was indeed the wrong direction.

Ok. You’re right. We’re lost now. Wait. Let me open Google Maps on my phone.

No need. He said rather softly.

And just before I could take my phone out my bag, he reached for my hand and took the lead. First, he quickly gave me a rundown of the NAMES of all the streets we must turn at and pass through. Then he wasted no time correctly navigating the place until finally, we were standing at the front door of Bahay Tsinoy again.

Have you been here before, Jayson?

No! it’s my first time.

So why do you know the place so well?

Just good with directions, ma’am.

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(TO BE CONTINUED)

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