Love, Scandal etc. by Ate Nora
Sixth in a series
“I’ve been praying for your Dad’s soul,” said Ofelia to Francisco and his siblings Samson, Elena, Sara and Jose. “As you know, your Dad was not a saint and he was unfaithful many times over. I’m hoping that whatever good deeds he did for the people of Diliman City will overshadow his weaknesses of the flesh.”
Ofelia suddenly realized there was someone else with her children. “Who are you?” was Ofelia’s question to Maria. “What are you doing here with my family in our moment of grief? How dare you intrude?”
“I’m sorry ma’am… I was just…. ” Maria’s voice tapered off as she tried to hold back her emotions but the tears came streaming down her face and Maria started sobbing.
“Mom, this is Maria, my fiancée,” said Francisco. “I wanted to introduce you earlier but you’ve been traveling back and forth to Singapore and Taiwan. I’m so sorry that you’re meeting her for the first time under these circumstances.”
Maria was shocked at Francisco’s words but she knew she should not say a word… and she was too afraid to even look at any of the Mendoza family.
“I’m not happy to hear of this during this time,” said Ofelia. “But now is not the time to discuss this as we need to tend to your father’s remains and to make sure the people of Diliman City honor his memory with the grandest funeral services ever—fit for a would-be president.”
And with that, Ofelia quickly walked past Maria and exited the chapel with her children following her, leaving Maria all alone in the chapel, not knowing what to do. Francisco quickly glanced at her and mouthed “I’ll call you” before he too joined the family.
Maria, still in shock, sat down, sobbing and at times, gasping for air. The devout Catholic she was, she knelt and began praying. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Jesus, forgive me for my sins. Please lead me to the path of righteousness. I don’t know what is happening to my life. I know I am being punished for my sins but I know you are loving and merciful and I need your forgiveness.”
“Maria, are you okay? I just blessed Junior’s body and I was looking for you. I thought you would be here.” Monsignor Jose Cadabana wrapped his arms around a sobbing Maria. “My dear Maria, you are a beautiful soul and God loves you and will always protect you. We are all sinners and all of us will someday need to atone for our sins. But until our judgment day, we must continue to be faithful to His word and believe in him. For our sins will be forgiven… but only if we believe.”
“I know Father. It’s just so hard to believe that Junior is gone. He was so good to me… in so many ways that you can’t imagine. Without him, I would not be studying at the De La Salle Health Sciences Institute. Now, I’m not sure what’s going to happen to my scholarship. I can’t afford to pay for the tuition and my family is depending on me. And there’s so many other things that I can’t talk about right now. I don’t know what to do, Father.”
“As long as you believe in His love and mercy, my child,” Monsignor Cadabana said. “Take it one day at a time. God is merciful and understands our frail humanity.”
At that moment, the door to the chapel burst wide open and a furious Ofelia stormed in and began screaming at the top of her voice.
“Just who do you think you are? You think you can trap my son by sleeping with him and claim you are with child? You’re such a disgraceful girl from the barrios… you’re lucky my husband took pity on you and helped you get in to this school… but to sleep with my son Francisco and become pregnant?”
Moments earlier, Francisco had told Ofelia that his fiancée Maria was pregnant. The normally reserved Ofelia could not believe what was happening and decided to give Maria a piece of her mind.
“Is that true, Maria?” asked Monsignor Cadabana. “Are you with child from Francisco?”
Before Maria could say a word, an exasperated Francisco burst through the door. “Maria, I know you wanted both of us to tell them together but I thought the good news would help ease the pain of my Dad’s death. I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. Mom, forgive us for our carelessness and for adding to your problems on this day. I know we should be concerned with preparing for Dad’s funeral but I just could not keep it a secret any longer. Maria and I we want to get married soon—not because of the baby—but because we really are in love. I know that if you get to know her more, you will be able to give us your blessing. That’s all I want. That’s all we want.”
“Francisco, anak,” a much calmer Ofelia began. “You know we have always trusted you and hoped that someday you would take over for your Father. Despite our failing marriage, your late Father and I had plans for you and each of your siblings. Our plans for you were to someday become president of our country. Now that she’s pregnant… all those plans are for naught. And I’m really missing your Dad right now. That bastard had to die today of all days.”
“But Ma’am,” Maria softly said. “I’m not pregnant.”