EpilogueIgniting a Heartbeat
"Hi, Doc Riego! Gusto mo sumama sa'min? Magka-kape lang kami sa labas."
I fixed my eyeglasses as I looked at my fellow female doctors. Saktong out ko na kasi sa duty. Medyo pagod na din dahil kagagaling ko lang sa isang mahaba-habang operasyon. Plus, sinabayan pa ng tatlong minor surgeries pagkatapos.
I mentally heaved a sigh. Haha, ginusto mo 'to, Leafy. Kaya panindigan mo. Oh well, mawawala din naman ang pagod na'to the moment I went home.
"I'm sorry, Doctors. But I'm gonna have to decline the offer. Late na din eh." I smiled politely as I took off my white coat and continued fixing my things, not minding the disappointed expression on their faces.
Hindi naman bago sa'kin 'to simula pa 'nung tumuntong ako sa hospital. Even back then when I was just taking up my Pre-Med course which was Nursing, ang dami na talagang nagpapa-pansin sa'kin. Mapa-school man or duty. Nakaka-inis na nga minsan eh. Ang sarap kuhanan ng blood pressure sa leeg, eme!
Pero may pambakod naman ako haha.
My surname and my wedding ring.
Yup! You heard it right. I am happily married now.
Grabe, parang kamakailan lang 'no? But to be honest, it's been what? Eleven years since Karina and I finally tied the knot. I was twenty-five– which was a perfect age to get married in my opinion– back then and was just starting my first year in medical school.
Now, I was thirty-seven years old. So imagine kung gaano na kami katagal na nagmamahalan ni Karina.
Hindi naman ito naging alintana sa'kin because I get to marry my main motivation in life, causing me to strive even harder in my journey.
Inaamin ko, taking up pre-med course is already hard enough, what's more ang medical course pa kaya no? Plus the residencies and the speciality of your choice. Talagang papangarapin mo nalang na maging pasyente instead.
But with my Karina, who never fails to show her never-ending support on me, by my side, those hardships immediately turned into dusts. Na para bang nagiging basic nalang sa'akin ang lahat. Kaya here I am now, isang ganap na doctor at surgeon na.
On behalf of that, I really made sure that my wife got the grandest wedding ever. Malaki-laking pera din kasi ang nakuha ko mula sa mga Sy's at kay Sunmi bilang crime compensations. Kaya 'yun ang ginamit ko bilang pang-gastos sa lahat. Idagdag mo na rin hindi ko na kina-kailangan pa na kumayod ng malala. Ayaw din naman ng asawa ko eh.
Hehe asawa ko. Ang sarap-sarap pakinggan! At hanggang ngayon, kinikilig pa din talaga ako sa tuwing nariring ko 'yan.
"Awe. Kahit one time lang, Doc? You'll be gone for almost a month rin eh." Pagpi-pilit nila but I still stand with my answer, no. Hayna'ko, alam na nga nilang may asawa na ang tao, lalandiin pa. And where's the sense of professionalism ha? Tsk.
"I'll get going now, Doctors. See you next month." Pagpapa-alam ko, disregarding their plead atsaka nauna nang lumabas. I then glanced at my wrist watch and smiled at myself when I arrived just in time at the parking lot. May naghihintay kasi sa'kin.
"Dada!" My smile widened when I saw my three little bundle of happiness running towards me.
"My Darlings! Be careful!" Narinig ko namang saway ng asawa ko as I bent down and opened my arms, readying for their attack.
Ito. Ito ang sinasabi ko kung bakit madali lang din mawala ang pagod ko. It's not only because of my gorgeous wife, but also of my three beautiful kids. My happy pills in life.
"Dada! We missed you!" Pinugpog nila ako ng mga halik the moment they got into my arms. Kamuntikan pa nga ako matumba pero wala namang kaso sa'kin 'yun as I was too engrossed with my children's healing warmth.
I closed my eyes in contentment. Sighed, this is the life. This is my dream come true.
"Dada misses my three little angels too." Isa-isa kong kinurot ng mahina ang mga matatangos na ilong nila which made them scrunched it up– an adorable habit they got from their mother.
I then got up to greet my lovely wife as I embraced her tightly, kissing her lips and of course, her hand. "At syempre, I miss Mommy too, so much."
"Hi, Mahal." She greeted back with the same intensity. "I miss our hardworking Daddy too." She continued na may halong slight na panlalandi kaya mahinang kinurot ko naman siya sa tagiliran. May mga bata. Jusko, Karina Ellyse Riego.
Narinig ko na lamang ang mahinang pagtawa niya. Hindi na talaga nagbago ang asawa ko. Mas lalo lang gumanda at mas naging playful haha.
"Dada," Pagtawag sa'kin ng panganay namin na si Skyzzar Canary Belle Riego– a beautiful name, I tell you. She was eleven years old. Meanwhile, the other two are twins and is currently seven years old.
"Yes, ate?" I answered her. Grabe, nakuka niya talaga ang kagandahan ng Mommy niya. The sophistication she exudes at sa tindig palang, mala-Karina Ellyse Riego talaga eh.
Samantalang 'yung dalawang bunso ko naman ay sa'akin nagmana. Kamukhang-kamukha ko pa nga daw na matagal ding kinatampuhan ni Karina sa'kin.
Aniya, siya nagdala sa sinapupunan ng siyam na buwan pero ni-isa, wala man lang may nakuhang features mula sakanya. Hehe, sorry siya. Malakas ang genes ni Dada eh. Eme!
"I-I'm sorry po." She pouted while looking away kaya tinignan ko naman ang Mommy namin who only smiled lightly while mouthing 'test scores' sa'kin. My mouth formed an 'o'. Napag-usapan namin to kagabi. Apparently, umiyak din to kagabi sa Mommy niya about the same thing.
"Why? My love?" Malambing kong panayam sakanya while tucking her hair behind her ears, waiting for her to continue. Dahil as much as possible, we let them open up to us at their own pace to avoid emotional pressure.
"I-I failed my quiz po." Napayuko siya, tears already forming in her eyes. Oh no, my baby. "I-I'm so sorry, Dada. I promised pa naman."
Mabilis ko namang pinahid ang luha niya. "Hey, My love. Don't cry na." Niyakap ko siya, lightly chuckling when the twins also copied me and held her inside their tiny arms. Nagka-reverse pa yata ang roles nila haha. 'Yung ate pa yung mas prino-protektahan.
"You know, failure is just a part of life, My Canary. It will serve as a life lesson to us. Hmm, parang pang-character development kumbaga. It would also make us do better in the future and helps us avoid doing the same mistakes again kasi we now know where we went wrong." I explained.
"Kaya don't worry, okay? Dada's not mad that you failed your quiz. You're still my perfect little princess after all, no matter how many times you failed."
"R-Really? You still love me, Dada?" Ginulo ko ang buhok niya as I gently kiss her forehead.
"Oo naman. It won't make me love you any less." Yumakap na siya pabalik sa'kin.
"Thank you, Dada. I felt like nabunutan na ako ng tinik sa throat." I laughed. Ganon ba talaga siya katakot?
"You're always welcome, My love." I replied. "You know, you can always open up to me ha. Especially to these kind matters. Hindi naman ako magagalit as I'm even more willing to understand you, Anak."
"You can also take your time. I'm willing to wait." She nodded, comprehending kaya napa-ngiti naman ako. My babies, for their age, they are quite mature. Siguro dahil sa parenting skills na'min 'to.
Nagpapasalamat nalang talaga ako dahil hindi sila nagiging spoiled no matter how much we shower them with their wants. Sila pa nga ang uma-ayaw minsan.
"I will po, Dada. Thank you so much po. I love you." She kissed my cheeks tas sumunod din ang twins, even saying I love you kahit nabubulol pa. Haha, I love my life talaga.
"Regarding sa promise. I will still give it to you, Nak. As a reward for your hardwork and efforts." I compensated pero umiling lamang siya.
"As much as I want it Dada, but it's unfair. Pero don't worry po. Kasi next time, I will definitely ace the quiz and get that reward." I smiled widely. Eto na nga'ba 'yung sinasabi ko.
"Okay then, My love. It's a promise." I held my pinky finger and she shook it with hers.
"Now let's go na?" Pag-aaya ko. "By the way, who wants Mcdo?"
Sabay-sabay naman silang nagsitaasan ng kamay, excited. "Me!"
Napatawa ako atsaka kinarga ang dalawang bunso sa magkabilaang kamay at nagsimula nang lumakad papuntang sasakyan with my wife and first born on my side.
"Mcdo it is then!"
"Did your one month vacation already got approved na, Mahal?" My wife asked me as she maneuvered through the drive-thru Mcdo. Sa bahay nalang kasi kami kakain.
"Yes po, Mahal. Kaya gora na gora na talaga sa dagat." I replied as I looked at my babies at the backseat, feeling my heart swole when I saw how my twins hugged their older sister close and vice versa.
"Great timing then! Kakatapos lang din naman ng bahay sa isla." Napag-planohan na kasi talaga namin na once my one-month vacation finally got approved, magbabakasyon kami agad sa Isla Del Montezor– my long time request– along with our friends.
Nagpagawa din kasi kami ng rest house don so that whenever we feel like taking a vacation there, may matitirahan kami. Mahal din kasi ang mag-stay sa hotel at sobrang inconvenient na knowing that we have our kids now with us.
"You heard that kids? We're taking a vacation!" Sinakto ko talaga na summer vacation na para sa mga bata ang bakasyong hiningi ko para hindi sagabal sa school nila.
"Really, parents!?" Excited na litanya ni Canary.
"Yup! We'll be going to your Tita Pogi's place."
"Yes! Then that means I'll get to see my best friend Nautica again!"
"Palagi mo namang nakikita siya, Nak, ah? You're classmates diba?"
"Dada, that's different kaya! OMG, I need to call her later to tell the good news!"
I just shook my head, smiling. Hayna'ko. Hindi rin naman nagtagal ang byahe namin papuntang bahay since all throughout the ride, it was only filled with enjoyable moments. Kaya nakarating kami kaagad ng hindi namamalayan.
After our dinner, sinabihan ko na din ang panganay namin to pack her things already dahil aalis na kami agad kinabukasan, much to her excitement. Like I said, everything was already planned.
"Mahal, tapos ko na i-pack ang mga gamit nila Moon and Rainier. Do you need help pa ba?" I asked my wife nang maabutan ko siya sa loob ng kwarto namin habang nag-aayos ng mga gamit pang-bakasyon naming dalawa.
"No need na, Mahal. I'm done na rin naman. Just need to bring these extra underwears for you and me." She winked kaya napatawa ako atsaka umupo sa swivel chair.
"Come here nga. I miss my wife." I pouted as I opened my arms. Marahang kumandong naman siya sa'kin atsaka pinalibot ang kamay sa batok ko while burying her head onto the crook of my neck.
"I missed you too, Mahal." She muffled habang pinapasadahan ko ng kamay ko ang buhok niya.
"How's your day? Hmm?"
"Tiring, dahil sa dami ng meetings that I have to attend to, but all in all, it's bearable naman." She answered atsaka kumalas sa yakap namin to look closely at my face.
"What about you, Doctor? Look oh, mukha ka nang eyebags na tinubuan ng mukha." She teased me and I lightly chuckled. I won't deny that though. Dahil ikaw ba naman magforty-eight hours straight duty buong buwan.
"Daming operation na need gawin sa duty ko, Mahal. I think I only slept for about an hour or two."
"Kawawa naman pala ang asawa ko." She baby-talked, a habit we developed throughout these years.
"Yes talaga. Deprived na deprived na nga ako sa family time at syempre, sa asawa time." She laughed when I returned her baby-talk.
"We really do need this vacation, no?" I nodded as I snuggled into her even more.
"We really do. Hindi ka naman ba pinapahirapan ng mga bata, Mahal?" I asked. Actually, hindi naman palagi forty-eight hours ang duty ko. Sadyang nitong mga nakaraang buwan lang kasi essential siya para ma-approve ang one-month vacation leave ko.
"No, they're very behave, My Leafy. Pero 'yun nga'lang, they constantly look for you whenever you need to overtime." I pouted.
"Bawi ako, Mahal." I promised and she only pinched my nose before giving it a gentle kiss.
"I know you would, Mahal." Sandale pa ay merong kumatok sa pintuan namin and I think I have an idea kung sino ang mga ito. Kumalas muna kami mula sa yakapan namin as I went to our bedroom's door.
"Speaking of, our clingy girls are here na." Natatawa kong binuksan ang pintuan and my hunch is right when I saw my adorable little girls waiting outside and they look so cute with their matching Pokemon pajamas. Meron pa silang mga sari-sariling bitbit na stuff toy sa kamay.
Canary with Jigglypuff while the oldest twin, Moon, was holding Minun and the youngest, Rainier, was holding Plusle.
Diyan silang lahat nagmana sa'kin haha.
"They really got your love for pokemon, Mahal." Narinig kong sambit ng asawa ko sa gilid.
"Love mo din naman ang Pikachu ko ah." Tukso ko sakanya na inikutan lamang niya ng mata.
"Mommy, Dada. Can we sleep here po?" Canary, my kids' spokesperson asked. I looked at my wife and she immediately nodded.
"Of course naman. Come inside, my loves." I opened the door even more para makapasok sila ng maayos.
"Mga anak, done na kayo sa skin care niyo?" Tanong ng asawa ko as we fixed our bed para komportable kami mamaya sa pagtulog.
"I'm done na po, Mommy." Sabat ng panganay.
"Mommy, me not pa po!" Sabay na taas kamay ng dalawang bunso. Nagkatinginan naman kami ng asawa ko, lightly chuckling.
"Okay, okay." My wife said, giggling. Then, she took Moon in her arms and as a routine, I took Rainier with me.
"Ate, can you get your baby sisters' skincare kit, love?" Malambing na request ni Rina kay Canary.
"Yes po, Mom. Wait lang po." Magalang na sagot nito pabalik, kissing both of her little sisters' cheeks first before going out. Ang sweet talaga nilang tatlo sa totoo lang.
Mabilis lang na nakabalik si Canary dala-dala ang mga need sa skincare ng dalawang kapatid. Kaya heto kaming lahat ngayon, nasa loob ng bathroom namin. Mabuti nalang talaga at malapad dito.
Natutuwa nga ako dahil behave na behave lang ang dalawang bunso namin habang nilalagyan ng mga anek-anek sa mukha haha. Suitable for their age lang naman ang nilalagay namin. Mga gentle cleanser and gentle toners lang.
Tinuturan na din namin kung paano sila mag-apply on their own for their independency. Pati sa pagto-toothbrush at pag-aayos ng sarili. We also let them pick their own styles when it comes to outfits.
Kung si Canary ay manang-mana manamit kay Mommy niya, si Rainier naman ay sumusunod sa'kin. Samantalang si Moon ay in-between.
Once we're done with everything, we settled on our bed na. Napapagitnaan namin ang tatlo kaya medyo magkalayo kami ng asawa ko sa isa't-isa. Napa-pout pa nga ako sa sarili ko and it seems like my wife noticed it when she just gave me a teasing smile 'nung nagkatinginan kaming dalawa.
Hayaan mo, sa isla na.
We let ate Canary take the wheel on story-telling as requested by Rainier. Magiliw namang bumasa ang panganay namin hangga't sa makatulog na nga ang dalawang bunso and eventually, the big sister herself.
When they're all sound asleep, umalis muna ako sa side ng bed ko atsaka pumunta sa kung nasaan si Karina.
"Goodnight, asawa ko." I bid while kissing her forehead, then lips. "I love you."
"Goodnight din, Mahal ko." She replied, smiling as we pulled apart. "I love you too, always."
Maaga kaming nagising lahat dahil nga maaga din 'yung alis namin. Pero hindi naman kami nagmamadali since we'll be using a private jet daw na pagmamay-ari ng kaibigan nila Ate Giselle at Ningning. Mas lalong naging bigtime na rin pala ang mga kaibigan ko.
Sila Ryujin, Yuna at Chae, may sariling Engineering Construction Company na. Tas doon din nakatoka si Lia na isa ring on-demand na architect. Meanwhile, si Ningning naman ang nagha-handle ng sariling Law firm nila.
"You guys ready na? Wala na kayong may mga nakalimutan na gamit or anything, mga anak?" I asked my kids habang inaalalayan sila papasok sa loob ng sasakyan. Si BGC ngayon ang nakatoka sa pagda-drive samin pahatid sa private airport.
"Complete ko na po things ko, Dada. I also double checked Moon and Rainier's gamit– especially their toys." Responsableng sabat ng anak ko. I smiled proudly.
"Very good ka talaga, anak." Ginulo ko ang buhok nito.
"Sus, ako pa ba, Dada? Baka Skyzzar Canary Belle 'to." Pagyayabang niya. Karinang-Karina talaga oh.
I laughed. "What about y