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By Joel P. Salud
This is a story that sounds too scary to be true. But, according to the source, it did happen…
Ronie (not his real name), an OFWcivil engineer that worked for an American company in Thailand, had just received his first pay check and was excited to tell his wife about it. To earn a fat sum of American dollars was a dream-come-true for the couple who’d been married for almost six years. It was 1990, the height of Filipino overseas workers migration, when the couple thought of trying their luck abroad.
They loaned from a bank and from close relatives who were just too thrilled to see the couple make something of their lives. Both came from very modest, lower -middle-class families and had been childhood sweethearts since they were 15. When Christia gave birth to her only son Paolo, the husband Ronnie thought of earning more money so that the couple could prepare sending Paolo to a good private school when the time comes.
The first trip Ronnie made was in Dubai, where he worked for a very appreciate Arab boss, who gave him extra cash incentives just so he could send more to his family back home. After two years, he was recommended to a Thai-entrepreneur who needed a civil engineer for a specific project in Bangkok, Thailand. Coming highly recommended, the Thai entrepreneur even doubled his salary. Ronnie could not pass up an opportunity to earn more cash, hence, he accepted the job.
The couple and their son Paolo, who was then about five years old and studying in a Quezon City elementary school, celebrated the eve of Ronnie’s departure by going to the movies and having dinner at home. Christia herself prepared all there was to prepare to make the despedida party worthwhile. After going to the movies, the family arrived home and had dinner as planned.
It was a wonderful night for the couple, as well as Paolo who spent most of his time on his father’s lap. After Paolo went to bed, Ronnie and Christia talked for almost five hours until finally they both went to rest. “Promise me you will come back to us…. “Christia said as if having a foreboding inkling of what was to come.
“Chrissi, babe, of course,” Ronnie replied with more than the usual tenderness while softly caressing his wife’s cheecks. “I will miss you…”
Christia, out of the blue, made a promise: “On the day you come back to us, I promise a bonquet of roses, the same white ones I gave you during your birthday, will be waiting for you on the table…”
It has been a flattering gesture of Christia to give Ronnie flowers during special occasions. They kissed and made love that evening. For almost two years, Ronnie worked hard to provide more than enough of his salary to his family. He wrote and mailed Letters to Chritia and his son Paolo almost every other day. Christia, on the other hand, never missed an opportunity to give her reply or send pictures through email.
However, during the first week of the last three months before his furlough, Ronnie noticed that Christia had missed writing back. He was too busy to notice at first since he was in the thick of finishing a multi-million-dollar project in Bangkok. A friend and co-worker who was also a Filipino told him the company’s email server had been down and offline due to repairs for the past so many days. However, Christia should have written and sent her letters through regular mail, Ronnie thought. He hasn’t received a letter or email for almost four days.
When the server was finally fixed, Ronnie received an email from his neighbour in Quezon City, saying that his wife and kid met a tragic accident a few days ago. Their housed burned down due to faulty electric wiring, killing Christia and Paolo who were trapped within. He almost fainted; the news was more than he could bear. However, he saw another email in his inbox- from his wife Christia-sent a day after the aforementioned tragedy.
The email message read:<Ronnie, please come home…I miss you so much… Christia>. A blurred photo of Chistia and Paolo smiling while sitting on the couch in the living room was attached to the message.
The next day, Ronnie filed for an early vacation leave so he could go back to the Philippines. When his boss ask why, he kept mum about it, and instead whispered that his mother was gravely ill. The boss, without second thought, granted him permission and even took care of the travel requirements and expenses.
The only available flight was the late evening flight back to the Philippines, but he did not mind. Ronnie was just too glad to come back home and make sense of what has happened. He arrived at the airport at around 11:30 in the evening and went straight to the subvidivision by taxi.
Since it was a Saturday, it took him more than two hours to reach his house. When he finally arrived, his house was there, not burned down as was told him, and the lights were all open. He rang the doorbell and out came Paolo and Christia, looking delighted that the man of the house had finally arrived. Ronnie hugged them both tightly as they walked into his home.
Nothing seemed to have changed. Paolo went to bed at eight in the evening, the usual time. Christia and Ronnie had a long conversation about what had happened in Thailand, his projects and his work. Christia listened attentively. Ronnie however, was having misgivings about telling her the bad news he received. It was probably a bad prank, but why would his neighbour do something like that? He never mentioned a word.
The only thing Ronnie noticed was that there was a bouquet of white roses on the dinner table, and the very faint scent of burning wood, which he thought was coming from outside. “How did you know I was coming today?” asked the puzzled Ronnie. “I just knew…” Christia smiled. “Why don’t we celebrate ?”blurted Christia. “Tomorrow , let’s invite out neighbors to party for your safe return. I want to do this, baby. Please go invite Roxanne, the Barangay Captain. But she’s probably at home at the moment; let’s not bother her anymore. Just do it tomorrow morning…”
Tired and exhausted from worry and jet lag, Ronnie asked Christia not to clean up the dishes that night and just go with him to bed…
Christia was still asleep beside him when Ronnie woke up and took a walk outside the house. He recalled what Christia said that night and proceeded toward the Barangay Hall, which was just a few blocks away. When he reached the Hall, he knocked on the door and Roxanne, the Barangay Captain, opened it. When Roxanne saw Ronnie, her face fell.” When did you arrive?” Roxanne blurted out uncontrollably. “Last night…” said Ronnie with a puzzled look on his face. “Were you told about what had happened?” the Barangay captain could not contain her tears.
She’s been a family friend ever since the couple moved in the house down the street. Ronnie asked, “What about?” Didn’t Christia’s family tell you? Come with me!” Roxanne said while she dragged Ronnie out of the Hall to walk back to his house. When they reached the street where the couple lived, Ronnie saw nothing but piles of burned wood and collapsed cement walls.
Everything from furniture to clothes was gutted to a crisp. He could make out their bed among the ruins, black now because of the soot. Ronnie fell on his knees and cried aloud, not knowing what to say or think. He saw his travel bags placed in front of the burnt gates of the house, unopened and intact. When Ronnie got back his composure after about an hour, he went inside the gate to look through the rubble.
After a while, he noticed something sticking out of the smoking ruins- a small white rose petal, fresh and untouched by the apparent wreckage. It was only then when it dawned on Ronnie that Christia kept her promise. According to the story, the white rose petal, withered now, still remains with Ronnie to this day.