The Besh

Oh God source source and origin of all light, accept this candle as a symbol of my love. Inflame my heart with your grace that I may walk on the road of virtues and glorify you all my life please help me in my needs….

Malcolm read the prayer written in a white wooden signboard. He murmured his wishes, his head bowed, the flame of the white candle flickered as a light breeze whiffed through the candle station. There were a few pilgrims at the Shrine of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague.

Built in 1969 by the wife of the city mayor, the shrine is located atop a hill which bisects the southern suburbs of Davao City. Being its major landmark, the limestone high ground has been called as shrine hills ever since.

A wide green lawn carpets much of the shrine broken by old stands of large fruit trees, the area is a home to several small white painted chapels and altars dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Child Jesus. These chapels are connected by pathways shaded by trees.

Much of the year the shrine is solemn and tranquil, but on special Christian holidays such as the Holy Week and the Feast of the Santo Nino, multitude of followers takes on a pilgrimage to the shrine.

From the candle station Malcolm made his way past the chapel, proceeding to the altar of the holy infant Jesus of Prague to pay his respects. The tall mango trees inside the shrine have shielded him from the afternoon sun. After saying a small prayer to the Santo Nino, he went to the white benches facing the altar flanked by Mango trees, he sat in the shaded portion, his eyes fixated at the image of the Holy Infant.


A small tap in the head broke Malcolm’s meditative silence.

It was Vera.

Malcolm quickly got up from the bench and hugged his old pal.

“I am sorry Mal, the meeting with the Davao Tourism Association got extended by lunchtime. I had to represent Nanay since she’s still in Shanghai.” Vera offered her sincere excuse for the after-lunch rendezvous.

“Ok lang Ver, I should be the one asking for apologies, I might be disturbing you on your busy schedule.”

Ey no worries, the office can run by itself for a day without me. It’s just that the meeting was very important.”

“So what was the meeting about?” Malcolm observed his friend, she was wearing a bright orange floral dress,  still the cute pretty mestiza he had known in high school.

“ Well it’s about the Mindanao Tourism Expo which the City will be hosting this July. We divided ourselves into committees and I’m part of marketing and promotions, we’ll be quite busy these coming months.”

Vera had noticed Malcolm’s usual fashionable preppy look, white v-necked shirt tucked into his khaki shorts. He had his usual boat shoes. Malcolm wasn’t one of those good- looking guys in school but to her he was always one of the most fashionable, he looked smart and dapper.

“Had you taken your lunch Mal?”

“Yeah. And you?”

“We had lunch at the meeting.”

“So where do we go from here Ver?”

“Ikaw na mag decide Mal” (you decide)

“You know Ver since I’ve been here in Davao, I was not eating durian that much.”

“Ok. let's get some durian, if that’s what you want.”

The two buddies decided to go to Magsaysay Park for durian. They were addicted to the fruit, back then they would regularly haunt the stalls outside Magsaysay or the mobile stands along Torres Street for a taste of the spiky, pungent-smelling fruit.

“Mind if I ride with you Ver? The Fortuner is currently in the casa, mom and dad are using their cars, I just hitched a ride with Tito Mike. I just had lunch with him at his bar.”

“Sure Mal, ikaw pa. Uy haven’t you heard about that story with Mike Mueller’s daughter? She was reported missing for many days, it was all over the news.” Vera asked Malcolm being a family friend of the Muellers.

“Yeah I was in Manila at that time when mom told me the story. I was really worried about Angela.” Malcolm said.

“Yeah  Nanay was worried nuts, we thought she was really kidnapped. Imagine the daughter of a former PBA import kidnapped in Davao City that news doesn’t appeal to tourists and Nanay was organizing this big national convention, she was worried that the news of the kidnapping will spread… then she suddenly reappeared. Do you know what really happened?”

“ Uncle Mike told me she ran away from home. He scolded the kid and apparently Angela didn’t take it well.” Malcolm answered Vera’s query.

“Was that it?” Vera asked

“That’s what he told me.” Malcolm replied.

“Well I heard some creepy stories.”

A few steps down from the Sto Nino altar, Malcolm noticed a sleek yellow Volkswagen beetle in the parking lot, he excitedly walked towards it.

 “Wow Vera. This is way so cool.” Malcolm admired the Volkswagen beetle in front of him.

“Nanay was planning to buy the second-hand Lancer of her amiga for me. Then Ren-ren took me to their auto shop, I saw this 1975 beetle, I fell in love.”

The yellow beetle was repainted into a sleek glossy finish, it had  a mean looking set of rims and had aircondition unlike the usual beetles which had none.

“I’m planning to sell this volks.”

“Oh?  but why?”

“It reminds me of Ren-Ren. I just want to forget him completely Mal.”

“Is that so? This is such a nice car.”

“Well he comes to the house to check on Marky. There was one time, two weeks after our breakup and I really didn’t want to see him, he went to the house and persisted because he wants to check the engine. The nerve, he’s such a thick-faced asshole,  ”

“Who’s Marky?”

“This beetle, I named him Marky.” Vera laughed at her answer.

“You still had this habit of naming your cars Ver” Malcolm seemed amused.

“Yep. Diba I named your car as Jonas…Well I was planning to get a brand-new car perhaps a Picanto. If I will get my tour package commission, that will be the downpayment for the car.”

The Magsaysay Park was built in 1959 to honor the late President Ramon Magsaysay. It sits in the eastern edge of the Chinatown district. Outside the walls of the park is a line of fruit stalls selling different varieties of durian.

Malcolm and Vera sat on the tables in front of their suki, the stall directly faces the gaily-decorated Chinatown arch. They had ordered a pair of arancillos a preferred durian variety among many Dabawenyos known for its thick flesh and delectable flavor.

“So what really happened between you and Renren?” Malcolm asked his high school buddy

“ Well it seemed he and his ex were trying to get back together. Ganito yun His ex and I had a common friend, that friend told me about what was happening. She had warned the girl that we were still a couple and this girl didn’t listen. Without me knowing they were seeing each other.”

“So how did you discover his cheating?” Malcolm asked while munching the  durian pulp.

“Hmmm, I was at his car shop, in their office there was this desktop, out of curiosity I checked on the PC. He was still logged on his Facebook account. And decided to check. And behold they were exchanging messages, they were going to a beach in Samal that Saturday. We were supposed to have lunch that Saturday but he told me he can’t make it because he was taking potential buyers of their property in Samal. Yun pala, it was with her.”

So what did you do? Malcolm asked while busy munching the fruit.

“So that Saturday without him knowing I went there. Caught them two together and confronted them, three days after, we broke up, I guess he was still into that girl…  Mal is it too difficult for Men to become faithful?” Vera was holding her durian but was barely eating, engrossed in recounting her story.

“There are some Men who are also faithful naman Ver.”

 “Mal, I gave him a choice when I caught him red-handed. Me or her. he chose her.” Tears flowed from Vera’s eyes, Malcolm hurriedly wiped his hands with tissue, he sat beside her and gave a tight hug.

“Chill Ver, you will just forget him soon.”

“Yeah besh. I’ll do.” Vera addressed him how she called Malcolm way back in high school.

The two proceeded to the Davao Cinematheque, a small movie theater in the middle of downtown Davao. 

The government-owned cinematheque was showing a South Korean comedy. The funny film somehow brought back Vera’s zest. After watching they decided to while away the rest of the afternoon at the nearby Peoples Park.

The four-hectare park was formerly a decrepit sports complex. Within the park thousands of plant species from all over the world can be found interspersed with indigenous-themed sculptures from renowned Dabawenyo artist Kublai Millan.

The two erstwhile best buddies whiled the time sitting at the benches under the shade of African Tulip trees.

Vera Mae Pantaleon is the eldest of the two children of businessman Claudio and his wife Rosita. When Vera was 5, her parents died in a plane crash in Misamis. The orphaned Vera was raised by Claudio’s sister, a spinster while Vera’s sister Charity was adopted by her mother’s brother who now lives in Australia. Vera helps run the travel agency of her Nanay Elena, the sister of her late father.

Malcolm Juanito is the second child of Crispin Juanito, a lawyer and his wife Patricia de Lara, a scion of a rich landed Spanish mestizo family in Bukidnon. He was named after George Malcolm, a pre-eminent Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court during the American colonial era.

Vera and Malcolm’s friendship began when they were seatmates in their second year high school class in Ateneo de Davao. Malcolm was a natural muy simpatico while Vera was affable. The two seatmates gravitated to each other and  became close friends.

Patricia de Lara liked to have a say on her husband’s fashion sense. As Malcolm became a teen, Patricia was also obsessed with transforming his son’s sartorial style. Malcolm’s penchant to dress up like an emo rocker was nipped in the bud.

During those years under Malcolm’s eyes Vera blossomed into a lovely teener. Gone were her tomboyish ways. She had a big crush on Vince, the school’s basketball star. But the varsity star player had set his eyes on the school’s It girl. They were a perfect high school couple much to the chagrin of Ms. Pantaleon. She knew she had to become a “lady.”

“I used to have a big crush on you when were in fourth year.” Malcolm told Vera, her eyes widened.

“Is that a joke? Ikaw ba, you keep fooling me around.” Vera said.

“I was not joking.”

Eh ba’t di ka nagparamdam.” (You didn’t give a hint.)

Malcolm was taken aback by Vera’ reply

“If I tried to make a move, would it matter? Malcolm asked.

Vera stared at him and laughed.

ewan (I do not know)”

Vince the basketball star along with much of the high school males noticed Vera’s transformation, in their senior year, Vince had broken up with his girlfriend and pursued Vera. They were in a relationship for three years.

In college, Vera stayed in Davao and pursued business management course in the Ateneo while Malcolm took up legal management in Ateneo de Manila, he was dead-set on being a lawyer like his dad.

“You know we kinda drifted apart after high school Mal.” Vera said.

“You were the one who drifted.” Malcolm replied.

“Huh? Me?”

“Yeah you barely messaged, you barely reply to my texts.” Malcolm said.

“You were the one who went to Manila, we could have been in the same school."

“Yeah but dad wanted me to take legal management, only Ateneo de Manila offered that course.”

"I understand Mal, At first I felt really bad about it. You leaving to study college in Manila."

" That explains the cold treatment from you during my first few months away from Davao."

"I'm sorry about being suplada Mal. I was just childish. I know its your dream to become a great lawyer like your dad."

" Then we kinda got busy with our college studies. And Lianne was kinda a jealous girlfriend. She would make selos (jealous) everytime I had these female friends. We really did drift apart Ver, I miss those times we had in high school."

“You know what, you’ve been away for too long,  I really miss my besh.” Vera stared into Malcolm’s eyes.

“Me too Ver, I miss my besh.” Malcolm held Vera’s hand.

It was early evening at the People’s Park, the screams of children running and playing had dominated the ambient noise at the park. Families strolled across the parkground to enjoy the balmy evening.

Malcolm and Vera decided to dine at FCF, a restaurant located in Damosa in the city’s northern suburb, the restaurant is located in a dining row inside the I.T. park, FCF or Filipino Comfort Food is known for its all-familiar Filipino meals.

Dinner was Nilagang baka or beef braised soup and Laing, a Bicolano vegetable dish cooked in coconut milk.

“You would be leaving me again Mal.” Vera again stared at Malcom’s eyes.

Hindi naman. You can always chat me up, or try visiting me in Manila.” Malcolm held Vera’s delicate hands.

Malcolm remembered very well, it was prom night at Ateneo de Davao high, six years ago.

Malcolm was standing at a nook, watching as his batchmates and classmates in their nice suits, tuxedos, gowns and dresses arrived, they were giddy and frenetic, admiring and making fun of their more dapper and glammed up selves.

Huy, Mal I’ve been looking for you.” Malcolm saw Vera in a black off-shoulder dress, her coiffed hair accentuated her fair-complexion.

“You look beautiful tonight Vera.” Malcolm stared into Vera, her make-up defined her pear-shaped eyes and high cheekbones.

 She smiled hearing the compliment, Vera’s smile accentuated by her facial dimples put a glow in the young man’s eyes.

“You too, you look like those guys in GQ.” Vera noticed Malcolm’s black designer suit. He was perfect in his ensemble.

“Is there something wrong Mal?”


“I can sense it.” Vera stared at Malcolm’s eyes.

“I’ll be studying in Manila. My mom and dad decided, it would be better for me there.”

Ganun? (is that so?)” Vera heaved a sigh of frustration and her eyes stared off to space.
Malcolm put his hand in Vera’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry besh.” Malcolm affectionately calls Vera, besh, a slang for someone’s best buddy.

Vera took off Malcolm’s hand and begrudgingly walked out. She rejoined her boyfriend Vince. Malcolm tried to socialize with Vera during the prom, but she ignored him.

“Bai, why don’t you just be honest with her. Tell her what you feel.” Nick told his barkada Malcolm during their talk after the prom.

“She’s just a friend, Nick.”

“Nah, that’s bullshit and I know it Mal. And Vera she has a thing for you too. It could have been you with her and not Vince.”

“I just don’t want to risk our friendship. What if…” Malcolm reasoned out.

“You’re one pile of crap, Mal, friendship my ass.” Tony another of their clique, seconded Nick.

Huy, what’s bothering you?” Vera snapped Malcolm back from his thought.

“Nothing, I was thinking of something.”

“Is that a behavior common with law students?” Vera asked jokingly.

After his breakup with college girlfriend Lianne, the two high school friends reconnected mostly through chats and text messages. Slowly Malcolm rediscovered his erstwhile besh and his feelings, will he try to brush it off just like in High School?

After dinner, Malcolm and Vera walked out to the parking lot, the stars illuminated the clear evening skies over Damosa, Malcolm held Vera’s hand. She reciprocated by holding his hand, their fingers interconnecting into a clasp.

As they stood beside the passenger-side door of the yellow beetle.

Vera faced and stared into Malcolm, her two hands gently cupped Malcolm’s face.

“I will miss you besh” She said.

Malcolm held her hand which was cupping his face.

“I will miss you too.” He said.

It was Malcolm’s turn to drive the beetle. He had asked a favor if she could drive him home. He volunteered to drive the volks which Vera agreed.

During the short drive, Vera’s gaze was fixed into her driver. Malcolm noticed Vera’s gaze and when he’s not switching the gears he held her hand.

Brrrgggg, shhhhhh

Suddenly the engine of the Volkswagen died, but Malcolm had enabled the car to swerve into the road shoulder. Vera went back to the driver seat and tried to restart the engine, it won’t. She decided to check the engine at the back of the car.

“What happened Ver?” Malcolm asked.

“There must be a problem with the fuel pump. I’m so sorry Mal,  I’ll call Renren. I’ll pay for your taxi.” Vera said.

Malcolm heard Renren’s name being mentioned.

“No, I’ll stay with you here and wait for Renren.” Malcolm reassured his besh.

“Ok. I’ll call him, his talyer has a standby mechanic.”

Vera called up Renren, she told him that the gasoline is not being pumped into the engine, maybe a malfunctioning fuel pump. The car won’t start and they’re currently stuck in the roadside.

An hour later Renren showed up in his pick-up he was in the company of his two mechanics.

Ren-ren was tall and brawny, tattoos covered his arm, his tough solid features betrayed a charismatic and mild-mannered persona.

He hugged Vera and put his arm around her.

“Are you ok?” Renren asked his ex.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Vera appeared thankful but the tone of her voice was somewhat distant and cold.
Renren noticed Malcolm standing in one corner and approached him.

“Sorry attorney ha, are you ok?”

“I’m fine. I’m not yet a lawyer haha.”

“A few years from now you’ll soon be. I am really sorry for the inconvenience.”

Dong, we’ll try to clean up the fuel pump. The fuel filter looks okay.” One of the mechanic said.

Renren proceeded to watch the engine being repaired by the mechanics. Vera follows him. Seeing Vera standing beside him, Renren put his hands around his ex-girlfriend’s waist. Malcolm witnesses the scene. He stood at a far distant corner.

“We haven’t talk Ver.” Renren addressed his ex-girlfriend in a low voice.

“If this is about the two of us, there’s nothing more to talk about Ren.”

“I am sorry. I really am.”

“I forgive you, but that’s just it.”

“Give me a second chance please babe. Mahal pa rin kita (I still love you)” Renren whispered to Vera’s ears.

“This is not the right time to talk about it.” Vera stared hard into Renren’s eyes.

“Then just give me time, let’s talk about it, just don’t ignore me Ver.”

"Renato, I just gone through a lot, And this, this is not easy for me."

" Look I made a mistake, I was confused at that time. I thought we and Sofia can work it out, but it didnt.. I was so wrong about what I did, I was a fool. Please understand. I know deep inside you still love me Vera, Give me this last chance to make it up to you."

Vera, looked up to her six footer ex-boyfriend, she stared hard into his eyes for a few seconds, then shifted her gaze into the mechanic working at the engine. The other mechanic had tried to restart the beetle's 1300 engine.

Brrrrggggg, chugchugchug. It was the familiar sound of the beetle’s engine.

“The engine is ok but we need to check it at the shop.” The mechanic told Renren and Vera.

“You impressed me again manong.” Renren praised the veteran mechanic whom he had fetched at his house in Agdao to attend to his ex-girlfriend’s car.

“Ver, I promised you that this engine will be fixed tomorrow.”

“I am selling the volkswagen Ren, can it just stay at the shop, until you find a buyer?”

“Huh, you’re not using it anymore? Marky’s still good to go.”

“I’ll try to borrow the other car of nanay until I’ll get myself a new car. I just made the reservation at the Kia dealership already. I can’t gamble on an old car anymore Ren.”

“Ok, wanna ride with me, you and attorney? Manong will just take the volks into the shop” Renren asked Vera.

“No, it’s ok I will just ride a taxi Ren.” Malcolm told Renren.

“No, attorney, I’ll drive you home. You’ve been inconvenienced a lot.”

Malcolm and Vera hopped into Renren’s pickup and they proceeded to a posh exclusive village in Lanang, the Juanito’s family home.

“Really big house, you got there attorney.” Renren awed at the palatial Juanito residence. The house and lot a gift of  Malcolm’s maternal grandfather Don Pedro de Lara, a Spanish mestizo, who owns large tracts of land in Bukidnon and Davao Oriental to Malcolm’s parents.

“It was actually my lolo’s Davao house Ren. It was built in the 1970s, Lolo, the dad of my mother, he gave it to my mom as a gift when she got married. It has become our home ever since.” Malcolm recalled the brief history of the old family house in Insular Village.

Malcolm disembarked from the vehicle, Vera asked for a few minutes to talk to Malcolm, she got out of the pickup.

The two high school friends stood each other face-to-face.

“I will miss you Mal.” Vera stared into Malcolm’s eyes.

For all these years, Malcolm had hidden to her what was true. This was his chance.

Malcolm reached out to Vera’s hand. He leaned towards her and kissed her on the cheeks then on the lips. A quick smack, he could feel Vera’s soft lips. He kissed again. Then again a smack, Vera reciprocated, the two erstwhile friends saw themselves locked in a passionate kiss.

Renren saw and was shocked at the spectacle unfolding. He froze.

Vera noticed his ex-boyfriend watching her kissing Malcolm, she turned and saw that  the pickup’s front passenger side window was lowered. She could see Renren’s shocked face.

Malcolm noticed it, his head bowed, he felt awkward at the unfolding scene.

“I am sorry Ren.” Vera told her ex.

Renren as if by instinct handed Vera’s small pouch bag she had left in the vehicle.

“Ren, we’ll talk in the right time.” Vera received the bag. She had noticed her ex-boyfriend’s eyes in near tears.

Kasabot nako (I understand.)” Ren-ren replied, the pick-up’s passenger side windows rolled up and the pickup sped away.

Malcolm saw the pickup disappearing into the street corner.

 “I’ll take you home.” Malcolm told Vera.

“When?” Vera asked in her sweet, gentle voice.

“I don’t know.” And the two friends proceeded to kiss  again.



Popular Posts