Author’s Note: This was one of the last scenes I wrote for the novel as I wanted to get it right: Dari (Diwa’s mom) chooses not to have a highly visible role at the estate like her husband, instead working behind the scenes. Her role in the family is just as important, however, as she provides emotional stability. This is also a scene with a lot of Taglish, inspired by the conversations I’d hear from my Filipina coworkers over the years; they’d slip effortlessly between English and Tagalog, often midsentence, especially when the subject was personal or emotional. Most of the time it was talk about family stuff, and I wanted to ensure that came across in this scene, that the language wasn’t there for no reason. Diwa and Maricel’s (and Aldrine’s) habit of slipping into Taglish during emotional moments comes from their mother. Again, thanks to Armie Tabios and Mike Batista for translation help!
Something was going on between Samuel and Graymar, and Diwa couldn’t quite place what it was. His father had been in a particularly sour mood before the two headed out on their Panooria run, barely talking to his family and hiding in the back office for the entire evening on multiple days. Diwa had stopped in briefly just to check on him, and though Samuel had put on a brave face, he could tell he was hiding something. And come the morning of their trip, he’d overheard them arguing over something ridiculous and petty. Samuel and Graymar frequently and playfully bickered like old friends over the years, but this felt different. They talked quietly enough to avoid being overheard, but Diwa had heard enough to notice the tension.
His mother Dari had noticed as well, and she was clearly bothered by it. She said nothing to him or to anyone else however and distracted herself with her various ongoing projects at the community center. That had always been her outlet; she never raised her voice to anyone, she would just immerse herself in errands and baking sessions to calm herself down instead. This particular morning, Diwa had come with her; his shift at the front desk wasn’t about to start for another hour, but he was determined to make sense of all this.
He caught up with her in the large kitchen. She’d started working a large mound of dough she’d left to prove, pulling and rolling it out, kicking up clouds of dry flour. She grabbed a board scraper and chopped the elongated roll in half, and then into thirds. She said nothing, but Diwa could sense her irritation.
Diwa pulled up his sleeves and joined in the breadmaking. He hadn’t worked with her in the kitchens for quite some time, having focused mostly on estate work. In fact, he hadn’t spent all that much time with her lately, and that bothered him as well.
“Ina,” he said. “Can we talk?”
“Hmm,” she said quickly, still shaping the dough. “As long as we work at the same time. I want to get these loaves finished before the committee dinner tonight. With everything going on lately, I’d forgotten to make them the other day.”
“Certainly,” he said. He took three of the dough segments and started working them out into longer rolls. “I’m…well, I guess I’m just worried about ama.”
“Nag-aalala din ako, Diwa,” she sighed. “But he’ll get through this. He always does.”
Diwa hummed. “He’s been like this for a while now, ina. He’ll be in a fine mood for days, then something sets him off. I don’t know what it is, and he certainly won’t tell me.”
Dari slowed her movements and let out a slow breath, pushing a few stray hairs from her forehead with the back of her arm. “Ah, Diwa…nakakapagod na ito. Maaring maging malakas si Sam, pero…he keeps forgetting to let himself be weak. It comes back to him every time. The most we can do is wait for it to settle again.”
“It’s not anything to do with Graymar, is it?”
“No, no…” she said, giving him a warm smile. She continued rolling out the ropes of dough and began braiding them. “This is all him. He’s always been like this, ever since we met. I suppose that was part of what drew me to him…he might be satisfied with his life, but he’s always worried there might be more he’s missing. That restlessness keeps him moving. Just like I’m always moving here. I’m not running the estate like him. Hindi ko kailanman ninais ang kanyang trabaho. But I’m happy enough being part of the working community. Sam? He doesn’t rest. Patuloy lang siya sa kanyang ginagawa, yeah?”
Diwa slowed to a halt. This was his father she was talking about? “What changed?”
Dari laughed quietly. “Wala, anak. Nothing at all. He’s gone through this cycle before, and I’m sure he’ll go through it again. Here – finish that bread and I’ll hand you some more. We have six more loaves to make before tonight.”
Diwa nodded and continued braiding again. “I hate to say this, ina, but sometimes it feels like he didn’t want his job in the first place. Like he took it out of necessity or something.”
“That could be,” his mother said, pulling out another mound of proven dough for dividing up. “When we met all those years ago, he was living in the city, trying to find his future. Daniel had given him two years to work it all out. At the end of those two years, he would either come back to this estate and start his internship or stay in the city to start a new career.”
Diwa had heard some of this story before. “He knew Gray by this time, right?”
“Of course. They met when Graymar’s family moved in, but they didn’t grow this close until their final school years.”
“What made him choose the estate?”
Dari laughed and waved her hands in the air, bits of flour flying everywhere. “Graymar, of course! He was interested in taking Akkree’s position, but he couldn’t really do that without being a part of Sam’s plans.”
Diwa blinked. “I never knew that.”
“Ah, well…you need to ask your ama about all that. That’s his story. But I do know that Graymar had always been drawn to Sam, just as I was. Just as you and Kaffi are. Don’t tell me otherwise, I can see the link between you, just like I saw it between them. Don’t be embarrassed about it, anak…tanggapin mo ito ng buong puso mo at kayanin mo.”
Diwa laughed, masking his own mortification by grabbing the next ropes of dough to work and braid. “I’ll try, ina,” he said. “I’ll ask Pop when he comes back. So Graymar talked him into staying…”
“…and I decided to tag along. I wasn’t much of a city girl myself and I really enjoyed talking and working with Daniel and Akkree.”
“I can’t help but wonder if he keeps questioning that decision. Maybe not regretting it, but, I don’t know…maybe he wonders if it was the right decision.”
“I’m almost certain he does,” she said. “But I will say one thing – your decision to start the internship has definitely made him feel better about it. I have no idea what set him off this time out, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, working with him, and learning from him. I can tell he enjoys it, and it makes him happy.”
“I will,” he said, finishing up his second loaf and starting in on a third. “And let me know when you need help too, ina, okay?”
“Of course, anak!” she laughed, giving him a warm smile. “Mahal kita, Diwa, you’re always a big help to me.”
ina — (Tagalog) mother
ama — (Tagalog) father
“Nag-aalala din ako, Diwa…” — (Tagalog) “I’m worried too, Diwa…”
“Ah, Diwa…nakakapagod na ito. Maaring maging malakas si Sam, pero…” — (Tagalog) “Ah, Diwa…it’s so exhausting. Sam can be so strong, but…”
“Hindi ko kailanman ninais ang kanyang trabaho.” — (Tagalog) “I never wanted his job at all.”
“Patuloy lang siya sa kanyang ginagawa, yeah?” — (Tagalog) “He just keeps on moving, yeah?”
“Wala, anak.” — (Tagalog) “Nothing, son.”
“Tanggapin mo ito ng buong puso mo at kayanin mo.” — (Tagalog) “Embrace it as fully as you can.”
“Mahal kita, Diwa…” — (Tagalog) “I love you, Diwa…”