Mama Maria arranged for us to meet Mr. Rodriguez in a local restaurant the next afternoon, outside of the normal trading time. I was apprehensive about meeting him thinking of a possibility that he was connected with my mother’s disappearance.
His European look was unmistakable. Tall and elegant, he was wearing the traditional Baron Tagalog, the silky shirt fashionable with the local businessmen.
He was in his sixties, but still looked handsome and that explained why so many young ladies were looking for his company.
He recognized Danny and raised his hand to attract our attention. Then politely he asked us to sit down.
He turned to me, “You must be Miriam. You are your mother’s portrait. Only recently I came to know you were living in Cebu.”
“Thank you Mr. Rodriguez to have mentioned about my mother. That’s the reason why I wanted to meet with you and talk about her last days. Apparently you have been one of the last persons who saw her alive. They made me believe she died in Australia when I was very young but obviously that isn’t true.”
“Miriam, I honestly cannot tell you anything new from what has been written on the newspapers of those days. As everybody else, I was surprised to hear that she disappeared during a boat party, and since then nobody has seen her.”
He looked at me, studying me thoughtfully, then with an open smile said,
“Obviously there are many things that you still don’t know about your mother, but those are information that I can only exchange in a more private conversation between you and me. I hope you will understand.”
I arranged to meet him again on the following evening in his office. Danny decided to go home to retrieve my father’s diary from where I had hidden it.
I was hoping that with Mr. Rodriguez’s confidentialities and with what it was written on my father’s diary, we would revive the last days in my mother’s life.
Mr. Rodriguez’s office was in downtown. It was huge with elegant mahogany furniture.
I received a friendly welcome and ingratiated me with a large smile while he invited me to sit into a comfortable velvet chair. It was evident that he had a refined European education, even if behind this benevolent appearance, he was a capable and astute businessman, and getting out the best for him.
He quickly came to the point of our meeting.
“My dear Miriam, you may know already that your mother and I were very good friends and I can tell you that always valued her good ideas. She was a remarkable young beautiful lady and I can’t deny that she drove me insane in no time. I felt soon in love with her.”
He paused thoughtfully, and then continued, “Even today, after twenty years since I first met her, I remember her in a special way. We have been bonded together and I can say that with her I had the most pleasurable physical experience.”
I was listening attentively to his confessions, analyzing his sincerity.
“Unfortunately we have been subjected to people judgment because of my prominent position. So I did have to hide our relationship to save my prestige.
“Nevertheless it was impossible to stop the gossiping moving around the university circle, where both of us were employed, and compelled me to act differently from what my heart wished.
“Your mother acted foolishly after a stupid incident and for revenge married a stranger, a man that hardly knew, and opted to return to Australia in revenge of some words I said in a public place. I blamed myself after what happened that night but I couldn’t avoid the bitter consequences in her life. I never forgave myself for such a mistake. I should have listened to my heart then, but unfortunately, and that often happens, I realized it when it was too late.”
Painfully he paused remembering the past, then after a sigh,
“When she came back I met her only for a few minutes. She asked me to marry her. She told me about you. She emphasized on the point that wasn’t fair to you, to live with, and call someone else father. That was the time I found to be your natural father.
Returning to Australia in the family she needed a husband to justify her imminent motherhood. That night, she told me that was the only reason why she married.”
This revelation left me speechless. But my heart didn’t felt any emotion or love for that man in front of me. It was still a stranger that I met only yesterday for the first time.
“Your mother always was a hot tempered lady, acting instinctively, without thinking. That night, I told her that I would take care of you in the best way I could, but under the circumstances, I couldn’t marry her at such short notice.
“She became hysterical and screamed ‘You only think of yourself, you had never loved or cared for me. You have completely destroyed my life. I will make you feel guilty, for the rest of your life, for what is going to happen to me tonight.”
“Those were her last words to me and it was the last time I saw her. She was hysterical and out of control ran out of the cabin swearing and slamming the door. That’s how I still remember our last time together. Since then nobody has seen or heard of her.”
Mr. Rodriguez concluded, “Miriam you have to believe me, I always cared for your mother. I’m glad that we have established this first contact. I know what you mean and I can read that in your eyes, it’s difficult to accept such fact and more I don’t know how much you can accept me as your father. I confess this isn’t an easy thing for me either. We have to get used of one another. It will take time to feel those connections of love and understanding that should exist between father and daughter. That is why I want to suggest that we have to meet on a regular basis to create this family’s connection. Unfortunately it would be impossible to live under the same roof, but I want to provide you with the financial support that you need to complete your education, ether in this country or in Australia, where you can have a better result.
“I am proud of you Miriam, and love you, and I like to help you to build a future and a career.”
I gained something from this meeting. A new father and his promises he would care for my immediate problems. But nothing new came about the tragic disappearance of my mother. Hopefully Danny would be able to find something in the diary, written by the man, I thought it was my real father.
Danny returned that evening, and he had my father’s diary with him. It was written in a clear and uniform handwriting. He had entered the facts of his life with many details. Danny’s read from my father’s minute handwriting which confirmed what we knew already. Danny finally reached the paragraphs we needed,
“…On the Monday, at one-thirty in the morning, the telephone rang, waking me. I replied in a sleepy voice, and immediately I recognized Katy’s voice on the other end of the line. She sounded distressed and tired. I asked her if everything was all right in Cebu. She told me she wasn’t in the Philippines, but at Sydney airport. I asked her to wait and I will be able to pick her within half an hour. In a depressed and tired voice told me, ‘It’s not need for you to come. Our paths take us to different directions. Had never been love between us and therefore, is not need to stick together. This is a good bye.’
She concluded saying, ‘Don’t try to find me. I only ask that you take good care of Miriam and tell her that Mama always loves her…’
She hung up the phone before I couldn’t reply. In vain I rushed to the airport, hoping to find her, but she wasn’t there.
It was at the weekend that the news reported a woman’s body had been washed out to the shore, and it had been mauled by the shark. The head and parts of the limbs were missing and was impossible any recognition. The police was seeking support of the public for her identification.
“Reading it I immediately knew than it was Katy, and prayed God to have mercy on her soul.
Suddenly all the ties holding me to Australia were severed. I wrote home asking forgiveness to my family for the past, and told them of my wish to return to the Philippines. ”
Last week I celebrated my eighteenth birthday. On this special occasion Mr. Rodriguez, (I’m not able to call him father yet,) had arranged things for me. With his help I will complete my education at the University of N.S.W. in Sydney, where I intend to become a lawyer, specializing in international law.
Over the past few months, many things had happened and in the best interest for me. I’m now a pretty wealthy young lady. From Smith and Williams, solicitors in Sydney, I received notification that on my eighteenth birthday, my grand parents’ estate has been registered on my name, as for the wish expressed in my grandparents’ will. This property at the present time is managed on my behalf, by Jason, the man that in the past my grandparents choose as my possible mother’s husband. The solicitors have informed me, that I have an option to sell the property to Jason, to the best price valued by an independent party.
I also inherited half shares in the supermarket that my dad Juan and Danny opened over ten years ago in Cebu. Danny has agreed to manage my share of the business. Finally Mr. Rodriguez has given me an handsome monthly allowance. I cannot deny he has been quite generous with me. He tries to win back my love. He told me I’m his only daughter and that I remember him of Katy that was his greatest love.
Tomorrow, after eleven years of residence in the Philippines I will return to Australia, to complete my education. This is the country I call home and to which I belong.