Pssst….Can You Keep a Secret?

Maria cries tears for her late lover and sponsor, Junior Mendoza. At the very last moment, she decides to share her feelings behind the podium at the funeral—but whoah, are those tears for real?

Love, Scandal etc. by Ate Nora

Seventh in a series

Editor’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

My Dad was a great leader for Diliman City. He accomplished so many things during his service as Mayor of our beloved city. He was a devoted father and loving husband to my Mom, Madame Ofelia Mendoza. We all will miss him,” said Francisco, who had been selected by Ofelia to give Junior’s eulogy. Francisco had followed Monsignor Cadabana who spoke of their love of De La Salle and of creating opportunities for De La Salle’s students.

Maria, who was sitting in St. Mary’s Cathedral with her fellow nursing students from De La Salle, listened intently to Francisco. It had been a crazy two weeks since Junior’s death. Actually, crazy was an understatement—with Junior’s death, Francisco’s surprise announcement they were engaged, and Ofelia’s rage, ending with Maria’s proclamation she was not pregnant.

Immediately after Maria announced her non-pregnancy, she ran away, not wanting to face the Mendoza family and Monsignor Cadabana. As usual, she sought refuge in St. Mary’s Cathedral and was so tempted to give a full confession but she was not yet ready. Later that evening, she met with her bestie Elena at Joe’s.

After a few drinks and some inihaw, Maria told Elena everything. Maria was not ready for Elena’s response: “Girlfriend, I know everything. It’s okay. God did not make only perfect people. Dad had already told me about your situation and Dad thought I should talk with you to make sure you would be able to handle it.” Maria was confused. “Your dad?” she asked Elena. “Oh Maria, you don’t think I know that Monsignor Cadabana is my real dad? I’ve known for about three years now but I didn’t know how to tell you. I know you’re not the judgmental type and you’ve been my best friend since we were ten years old but it took me a while to understand everything and how life is. And it’s a very sensitive subject for my dad because the Vatican is investigating.”

Maria felt a sense of relief and confessed that she had known for quite a long time when she overheard the nuns complaining. Elena, being the oh so cool bestie she was, was not upset. “Thanks for not telling me Maria. I don’t think at that time I would have understood how Life is. You know, after I learned about my real dad, I didn’t speak to my mom for almost six months… but she had a minor breast cancer scare and now we’re good. The only thing is I want to find my other siblings but my dad has been hesitant to tell me all of that stuff… but I know sooner or later, he will tell me.”

“So what are you going to do? Are you in love with Francisco? Do you think his mom knows about you and Junior?” The questions kept coming from Elena. Maria didn’t know the answers then but Maria and Elena made a pact to meet every night at Joe’s until they had a clearer idea as to what Maria should do.

Meanwhile, Francisco had tried to text Maria daily but could not reach her. Maria was puzzled that Francisco had not called and forgot that she had purposely blocked him after she ran out of Francisco’s apartment. Francisco had sent over a note and flowers, asking to meet him late one night after the evening prayers. But Maria had not shown up as she had not yet decided what to do.

When Maria learned of the details of Junior’s funeral, she purposely decided she would sit with the rest of her schoolmates from De La Salle. Elena came by to sit with her and held her hand. Maria needed Elena’s support for what she would do next.

After Francisco ended his eulogy, the funeral director asked if anyone else wanted to say a few words. The Mayor of San Francisco—the sister city of Diliman—was first. Rick Chin, who looked to be in his early 40s spoke of the first time he hosted Junior in San Francisco and how they were teamed up during a Karaoke contest and sang “I left my heart in San Francisco” together.

Evidently the Mayor, who was a transexual, sang the soprano part while Junior sang baritone. The audience nervously laughed when the Mayor emphasized his trans-gender status but politely applauded at the end.

After the Mayor, the funeral director asked if anyone else wanted to share. Maria squeezed Elena’s hand and made her way up to the podium—walking past the Mendoza family, including Francisco and Ofelia.

“Good evening. My name is Maria. I am a nursing student at De La Salle University and Mayor Mendoza was a major influence in my life. I come from a very poor family in Davao and only after meeting Mayor Mendoza was I able to get accepted at De La Salle University. When I came to Diliman to attend St. Mary’s School, I didn’t know anyone but became best friends with Elena. We became hostesses for San Miguel Company, met Monsignor Cadabana and eventually Mayor Mendoza, who hired me to be his Special Assistant for Special Activities.”

“I’ve learned a lot from Mayor Mendoza. He encouraged me to be the strongest person I could ever be. He encouraged and supported me in my dream of becoming a nurse. He knew I could not afford the tuition and he and Monsignor Cadabana developed a work study program for nursing students like me.”

Monsignor Cadabana was shocked to hear those words because he had nothing to do with the work study program. He and Junior were very close, had some secret business dealings which Junior had to purposely hide because Junior had not disclosed them as required by law but the work study program was not something Cadabana had any knowledge of.

“But Mayor Mendoza did more than that,” continued Maria. “He established a scholarship for nursing students to study abroad. And I want to publicly thank the Mendoza family for their offer for me to be the first recipient of the Mayor Mendoza scholarship to study at the University of San Francisco. Mayor Chin, I hope to see you there next week when school starts. I hope I can sing a better “I left my heart in San Francisco” than Mayor Mendoza.”