Pagtingin ko sa oras, 4 A.M. na. I was tired the whole day and spent the night lying in my bed but I couldn’t sleep at all so I decided to read the portfolio that Dad gave to me earlier. I just started taking major subjects last sem like BA 101 (Introduction to Business Management), BA 114 (Accounting Theory and Practice) and BA 140 (Business Finance) and thanks to those, I could understand some of the papers but I had to search and read about concepts like risk parity, capitalization weighting and different investment approaches, as well as the current conditions of the GDP, market capitalization and market share.
My head was spinning from all the numbers and figures but somehow, it was fun, unlike in Calculus or lower Math subjects wherein all I did was to find the unknown values without any reasons or arguments behind them. At least here, the data were real and because of that, I could understand the company more.
Mabuti na nga lang at tumalab ‘yong kape na ininom ko at nakatulong din ang pangungulit ng bwisit na ‘yon pero mukhang tulog na siya ngayon.
Ewan ko ba sa Jazer na ‘yon at mukhang wala talaga siyang alam sa internet at applications. We exchanged emails and actually, it was kind of refreshing. I mean, I only use my email for professional and academic purposes yet that guy flooded my inbox with casual messages, as if we he was texting.
Humiga ako sa kama at doon lang ako tinamaan ng antok pero bigla naming pumasok sa isip ko si Mom dahil sa folder na nasa ibabaw ng unan ko. Kasabay kasi ng pagbigay niya ng mga binasa ko kanina ay ang medical records ni Mom pati na rin ang ilang scratch papers.
Written on the papers were Dad’s and her children’s names but looking at the strokes, it seemed like she had a hard time writing and remembering them. I felt a lump in my throat after looking at a sketch of my face. It resembled me yet it felt like she wasn’t sure with the little details. I didn’t even know that she could draw.
Hindi ko pa rin matanggap na may gano’ng klase siya ng sakit. I hated her but I was willing to give her one more chance, even though I thought she only went home because of my siblings. However, after knowing her condition, I realized the reasons behind her uncertain and inexcusable actions and I suddenly felt guilty. But could you blame me? Yes, I was ignorant but I was hurt because of her.
Bumangon naman ako at nag-search tungkol sa dementia. The more I read about it, the heavier I felt. It’s a progressive disease and there are no available treatments to stop or slow its progression. Bigla na lang tumulo ang luha ko dahil natakot ako sa pwedeng mangyari. Would she live like a blank canvas? Would she forget everything that she loves? Would she forget me?
It was cruel. And I don’t know what was more agonizing: gradually forgetting the people and things you treasure or being slowly forgotten by someone you hold dear?
Ngayong alam ko na ang sitwasyon niya, hindi ko naman alam ang gagawin ko kapag umuwi ako. She wouldn’t want to be pitied, for sure, but I also couldn’t approach her easily. Things were still awkward between us.
Ni hindi ko na napansin ang oras dahil sa mga iniisip ko. Balak kong huwag na lang matulog dahil susunduin ako ni Greg dito ng 8 A.M at 5:30 A.M. na. Nagpadala na lang ako ng breakfast sa room ko at habang naghihintay ay nag-shower muna ako. Pagkatapos ko ay pumunta ako sa veranda at pinanood ang sunrise. The view from my room was breathtaking and I remembered Jazer since he loves this kind of scene. I grew up in a city so I really didn’t have the chance to see nature’s beauty but because of him, I started to appreciate it. Dahil nga sa mga pinagsasabi niya ay gusto kong makapunta sa probinsya o kahit saang hindi pa masyadong modernized.
Dumating naman ang hotel staff at inihanda ang breakfast doon mismo sa veranda. Kinuha ko rin ang phone ko sa kama at may na-receive akong bagong email.
From: Jazer John Zurbano <email@example.com>
Good morning! Kumusta? Nag-usap ba kayo ng Dad mo?
Nagsimula naman akong kumain at kahit papaano ay gumaan ang loob ko dahil masarap ang food at sa message niya. Siya lang ang napagsasabihan ko, scratch that, nangingialam pala, sa sitwasyon ng pamilya namin. Pero kahit gano’n ay ilang beses na niya rin akong natulungan kaya thankful pa rin ako sa kanya.
To: Jazer John Zurbano <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Yeah. It was weird. Is everything fine there?
I was tempted to ask about Mom but he might sense something. Ayoko pang pag-usapan ang tungkol kay Mom dahil baka kung ano pa ang matanong niya at masabi ko.
Nakita ko naman ang notification kaya binuksan ko kaagad ang reply niya.
From: Jazer John Zurbano <email@example.com>
Miss ka na raw niya.
Tiningnan ko naman ang attachment at bumungad sa akin ang picture ni Czanelle na nakaupo sa garden habang naka-pout kaya napangiti ako.
To: Jazer John Zurbano <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Her face is swollen. Bakit ang aga ninyong nagising? Anyway, good morning from Singapore.
In-attach ko naman ang picture ng sunrise na kinuha ko kanina at pagkatapos no’n ay nag-prepare na ako dahil mukhang parating na rin si Greg.
While I was researching and studying a while ago, I managed to prepare a presentation to better understand the portfolio of the company and its subsidiaries. Habang chinecheck ko ‘yon ay hindi ako makapaniwala na nagawa ko ‘yon sa loob lang ng ilang oras. I couldn’t even do that kind of productivity last semester.
Makalipas ang isang oras ay nag-message si Greg at paakyat na raw siya. Kinuha ko ang bag ko at nang may kumatok ay agad na akong lumabas. He greeted me with a timid smile and insisted on carrying my stuff. Since I had no strength to argue after pulling an all-nighter, I gave him my things and followed him to the parking lot.
Tahimik lang ako habang papunta kami sa company building dahil una, ngayon ako tinamaan ng antok at pangalawa, kinakabahan ako. Dad said I just need to read and understand the papers he gave to me but after what happened in the meeting room yesterday, I doubt the board members would let this chance to humiliate Dad pass. He brought me as a substitute to Mom but for sure, they wouldn’t treat me seriously.
Sinundan ko si Greg hanggang sa makarating kami sa corridor kung nasaan ang mga executive office at naalala ko ang nangyari kahapon. Sana lang ay hindi ko makita ang lalaking ‘yon, kung sino man siya, dahil isang malaking kahihiyan at katangahan ang nagawa ko sa harapan niya.
Greg knocked on Dad’s office and when I heard his voice, my heart pounded louder against my chest. We entered his room and there were three guys inside. Mukhang katatapos lang nilang mag-usap at palabas na sila nang napatigil ako sa paglalakad. The guy with a pretty boy hairstyle locked eyes with me and I almost cursed when I realized he was the guy who saw me crying yesterday.
“Oh. You,” he said while pointing at me and it looked like he remembered me.
“You know each other?” tanong naman ni Dad kaya pareho kaming napatingin sa kanya.
I gave the guy a threatening look, hoping that he wouldn’t say anything because that would be really embarrassing. Nagulat naman ako nang bigla siyang ngumiti.
“Not really, Sir,” sagot niya at nakahinga ako nang maluwag. “But I’m looking forward to your presentation, Miss . . .”
I took a deep breath to hide the panic building up in my chest and gave him a quick smile. “Chloe,” I introduced. “Chloe Esguerra.”
“Shang Zuan,” pakilala naman niya at saka siya nakipagkamay. “Good luck, Ms. Chloe Esguerra.”
Pagkasabi niya no’n ay sumunod siya sa dalawa niya pang kasama at tuluyan nang lumabas sa office ni Dad. Napahawak naman ako sa ulo ko dahil hindi ko inakala na siya ang una kong makikita rito. Damn it. Naalala ko na naman ang nangyari kahapon. Bakit ba kasi hindi ko chineck ang kwartong pinasukan ko?!
May ibinigay lang si Greg kay Dad at pagkatapos no’n ay lumabas na rin siya kaya kaming dalawa na lang ang naiwan dito. Umupo ako sa couch kung saan iniwan ni Greg ang mga gamit ko. Dad sat on the opposite site and it still felt awkward after what happened yesterday.
“Shang wasn’t in the meeting yesterday,” he started. “How did you know him?” he asked and I could hear a hint of interest in his voice.
“I bumped into him,” I lied. No way I would tell him that I mistook that guy’s room as his.
“He’s the youngest board members,” he continued. “He’s also smart and already a successful man at twenty three.”
“Not interested,” I flatly said but I was taken aback when I saw his lips curved, as if suppressing a smile.
It was really weird. This was the first time I talked to him without getting resentful and that feeling was unfamiliar to me. He was the typical businessman father—cold, unrelenting and distant—yet here he was, indirectly recommending some guy and he found reaction my reaction amusing.
Nag-focus na lang ako sa presentation at nauna na siya sa meeting room habang ako ay nahihilo na sa antok at kaba. Makalipas ang ilang minuto, sinundo ako ng lalaking nandito kanina at sumunod naman ako sa kanya. Pagbukas niya ng pinto ay para akong pumasok sa ibang mundo. Several pairs of eyes stared at me with expectation but majority gave me looks of disdain and uncertainty. Standing in front of around thirty board members made my knees weak but I met them with a strong façade.
I can do this, I told myself as I breathed deeply. Geezers, watch me and be surprised.
“Therefore, I think we should push it through. Yes, the risk would be higher but the reward would boost our profits. The highest probability of loss is also lower than the minimum gain so we need to maximize this kind of investment. That’s all, thank you.”
After I presented my take on Mom’s proposal, I heard several applause and saw some heads nodding at me. Nakahinga ako nang maluwag dahil akala ko ay walang sasang-ayon sa akin pero halos kalahati pa rin sa kanila ay nakasimangot sa akin.
“Don’t you think that’s a reckless move?” tanong ng lalaki sa dulo.
“The risk is still too high,” dagdag pa ng isa.
Napataas naman ang kilay ko. Were these geezers listening to me a while ago? Or they just couldn’t accept my explanation?
“Yes, the risk is higher than the previous engagement but the maximum theoretical loss would still be lower than the minimum expected profit,” I explained even though I just said that minutes ago.
The fox-looking geezer scowled. “What would a teenager know about this kind of setup?”
Huminga naman ako nang malalim para kalmahin ang sarili ko. I didn’t want to play dirty but these guys were too full of themselves. I wouldn’t back down from a fight that I could win, especially if I could gain something from it.
“I may be a teenager and still inexperienced when it comes to these stuff but for a company to thrive, it has to take risks, that’s the basic rule. I’ve read what happened three years ago,” I said and some of them shifted in their seats uncomfortably. “You chose to sell one of our smaller companies because it was on the verge of getting bankrupt but the buyer just changed something in their products and their sales skyrocketed, benefiting their mother company. So now it’s my turn to ask: what would you know about this kind of setup, Sir?”
Some board members looked at him, waiting for an answer while some tried to hide their smiles. He glared at me but I stood firm and smirked at him, knowing that he already lost this battle.
“I think she’s right.” Napatingin naman ako sa direksyon kung saan nanggaling ang boses na ‘yon at nakita ko ang lalaking ‘yon na nakangiti sa akin. What was his name again? Shang? “Thank you for your presentation, Ms. Chloe. We will review it.”
Matapos no’n ay tumayo si Dad at saka niya tinapos ang meeting. Isa-isang nagsilabasan ang board members kaya naman napasandal na lang ako sa pader dahil kahit papaano ay nairaos ko ang presentation. I glanced at Dad’s direction and met his eyes. He gave me a quick smile but what surprised me was the way he looked at me—he was satisfied and proud of what I did. I averted his gaze and had to choke back that overwhelming feeling or I’d cry again. Not in this place. Not in front of him.
“Hey.” Pagtingin ko sa gilid, nakatayo na ro’n si Shang. He smiled and congratulated me. “Good presentation. For an eighteen-year old lady, you’re amazing.”
“Thank you,” sagot ko naman.
“See you around,” dagdag niya at saka siya tuluyang lumabas.
Nang kaming dalawa na lang ni Dad ang naiwan ay huminga ako nang malalim at nagsimulang magligpit ng gamit pero nagulat ako nang tulungan niya ako. Pagkatapos no’n ay humarap siya sa akin.
“I’ll tell Greg to escort you back to the hotel. You need to sleep,” he said and I flinched when he tapped my shoulder. “You did really well, Chloe.”
Pagkasabi niya no’n ay naglakad siya palayo sa akin. With his personality, those words rarely come out of his mouth and hearing them was enough for me but what triggered my tears was what he said before leaving the room.
“Thank you for saving this pathetic father of yours. Thank you, anak.”
And with his words, he made me cry again.