Ice Cold Heir | Prelude



Francheska Celestial

I love colors. There’s a certain appeal when I experiment with various shades and mixes, a certain magic when I create something out of nothing.

If you’d ask me how I fell in love with art, I wouldn’t have anything to tell you. Sa totoo lang, hindi ko din alam. I just woke up one day and realized it is what I want.

And why wouldn’t I?

It’s amazing how colors can represent every detail in our world. Say for example, life and death, love and lust, and everything in between. One little change in the hue would drastically change the color representation. One minor shift can alter the meaning of the art.

Just like life.

A single detail changes the story altogether. A single detail changes the whole picture.

It’s this very reason why I paint: to capture these minor details. Bata pa ako simula noong matuto akong gumuhit at magpinta. I take special interest in photography and designing, but painting; painting, I love the most for many reasons.

I paint to express. To make an impression. To make a point. To be me.

Ayaw na ayaw ko kasing iniisa isa pa ang mga saloobin ko. If you can’t follow my intricate thoughts with my plain words, then I won’t bother to explain at all. I’m that kind of person. And most people don’t really get me, so what’s the point?

So to spare myself from having to explain myself all the time; and to give myself a way to free my mind, I use the brush and canvas. Like a free kid, I play with colors. Here I get to express without getting questioned.

Here, I get to love and hate without any limitations.

“What’s the title of this one?”

My childhood friend, Arlo Miguel, asked from behind me. I could feel his eyes watching me; observing me.

I let out a small smile, running my brush along the sides to finish the details of the trees.

I met Arlo Miguel in college. Ahead sya sa akin ng dalawang taon at graduate din ng Ignatio katulad ko. I met him through his youngest sister na kasama ko noon sa Art Extreme, isang art organization sa Ignatio. They’re a family of art lovers; at least, all of them except him. The guy has no sense of art at all.

“Infidélité,” I replied in French tongue.

He stepped up to my side and glanced at the piece closely, leaning closer for a better view. He adjusted his spectacles. “How is it infidelity?” he asked as he scratched his cheek. His brown eyes flashed confusion.

“Guess,” I said to tease him, although I knew he wouldn’t be able to.

“Fran, I’m an architect. Not an analyst,” he grumbled, straightening up to frown at me.

“Then that’s for me to know and for you to find out,” I said, laughing. “Seriously, Miguel. Wala kang creative bone. Whatever happened to, ‘Art Evaluation’? To ‘analyze the meaning behind every art’?”

“Art evaluation, my foot,” he scoffed. “Not my best subject. It’s dreadful, alam mo ‘yon? Whenever my teacher asked me why the artist painted his piece blue, I always wanted to say, ‘Cause he wanted to.’ ‘Di ba pwedeng dahil blue lang ang bagay, ang trip nya? But no. Apparently, in English class, everything has a meaning. Hindi pala pwedeng blue ‘yon kasi mahilig lang sya sa blue?”

I laughed again, this time at his annoyed face. Arlo Miguel actually looked good, especially with those spectacles. Hindi sya ganong maputi pero makinis ang balat nya at matangkad sya. He looked like a boy-next-door, if you asked me, except his behavior usually betrays him. He’s actually more spontaneous, more aggressive than he looked.

I shrugged lightly, returning to painting. I grabbed a different brush and dabbed it to the canvas in light strokes. “Well. Some painters put hidden codes talaga. It’s why art is so interesting.”

“Do you?” he asked in a while, curiosity underlying his tone.

“Do I what?”

“Put hidden codes.”

I smiled secretively. “Maybe. Pero minsan, it’s as simple as it looks. Sometimes, it’s blue just because.”

There was a pause and then a shuffle. Tossing a brief glance, I saw Arlo Miguel walking around my work room to view the other pieces I finished. Dinaanan nya ang A City Dance at The Pianist bago sya lumingon at tinuro ang Infidélité.

“So what’s the message behind that one? Bakit infidelity? The couple is clearly in love.” Ang tinutukoy nya ay ‘yong dalawang tao na nasa gitna ng canvas. Iyong babaeng naka dress na pula at lalaking tumutugtog ng violin para sa kanya.

Napangiti ako habang pinagmamasdan ang malapit nang matapos na painting.

This was of a couple set in the victorian era. The lovers were in the park, sitting on a bench. The lady was holding yellow roses, the golden band around her ring finger glinting, as the lord played music for her. To the right were trees and squirrels playing on its branches and beyond them was a bridge hanging over a lake.

This piece were artfully done with soft strokes and light colors, purposely made to be easy in the eyes to emit a romantic aura. But there are hidden symbolisms spread out. Kaya ito Infidélité at hindi Amour.

“If I tell you, then that defeats the purpose,” I said, damping my brush along the white hem of the lady’s dress. “That’s hardly fun. Art’s supposed to make you think.”

He snorted. “Yeah, right. Anyway, that’s not the reason why I’m here.” He finished looking at A City Dance and went back to my side. “Pinapunta ako ni Ate Karla. Napag-isipan mo na daw ba?”

Karla Alfonso, his older sister. Katulad ko ay painter din sya. Kasama ang mga kaibigan nyang pintor din, magse-set up sila ng art exhibit sa susunod na buwan para i-promote ang ibang local artists at makatulong na din sa mga biktima ng bagyo. Maganda ang intention pero nagdadalawang-isip ako.

I don’t sell my art. Iyong unang dalawang nagawa ko nga ay matagal ng binibili sa akin pero ayaw ko. I could’ve earned handsomely off it, but I still refused every deals. This exhibit would surely attract plenty of buyers.

“I’m not sure. I don’t sell my pieces.”

“C’mon, Fran. Ang dami nito,” Arlo Miguel coaxed. “I’m sure selling one or two won’t hurt. They need you. It will help attract more buyers if you join.”

“I really don’t know, Mig. Mahirap tumanggi sa buyers once they talk. Ayoko sana. Baka magdonate nalang ako. Kung promotion lang din, I can ask some of my friends to go.”

“That’s different and you know it. Bakit ang Saturn at Star of Louis naman, pinakawalan mo? C’mon. Ate will kill me kapag hindi kita napapayag.”

“Iba ‘yon. I didn’t sell them. The museum asked me if they can feature them kaya ko binigay. But I didn’t sell them.”

“I don’t get this,” Arlo Miguel said and sighed. “You set up your paintings in exhibits but you don’t even sell them. Imagine their disappointment when they see those not for sale signs.”

“Some pieces are hard to let go, you know.”

“Tease. Shit. It’s like you foreplay them but refuse to sex.”

I almost shook my head at the reference.

“Maybe someday, I can consider. Wag ngayon.”

“No, think about it. Okay? After three days, babalik ako para sa sagot mo. I won’t take no for an answer,” he said with finality.

I turned to meet his gaze. For a while, we kept the eye contact, neither willing to back down.

In the end, I relented and sighed. “Fine. Pag-iisipan ko. “

He raised his hands in frustration. “Jesus. You’re so difficult,” he groaned, running his thumb through his coffee brown hair. “Dammit, Francheska.”

Hindi ako nagpapahabol, like what others would seem to suggest. It’s just, I don’t do this to get a living. We have a business and it’s doing really well. Painting is just my passion. When I paint, I give it a piece of me. It’s hard to let go of something intimate. I’m not ready yet.

Even after Arlo Miguel left, I stayed in my room and continued painting. I could do this all day if it was up to me but I had somewhere to be in a short while.

Maya maya pa ay bumukas na ang pinto at tinawag na ako ni Nanay Rosa.

“Fran, tawag ka na ng Daddy mo. Aalis na kayo.”

“Five minutes, Nay.”

I wrapped everything up. Pagkatapos kong ilagay ang signature ko sa downside ng canvas, Fran Celle, ay itinabi ko na ang mga materials ko sa table at nilugay ang buhok ko mula sa pagkakatali. Tapos, bumaba na ako para salubungin si Daddy.

He was already by the door when I found him. Nakatingin sya sa kanyang phone at nagtitipa ng sagot.

“I’m ready,” I announced.

Nag-angat sya ng tingin at lumingon sa akin. A chuckle escaped his lips.

“You were painting?”

I nodded.

“You got some brown on your cheek, anak. Go wash it muna before we go.”

My eyes widened slight. I pulled out my mirror and he was right. Mayroon ngang smudge sa mukha ko. Maliit lang ‘yon pero halata. Chuckling as well, I went over to the sink to clean it off.

Narinig ko na sumunod si Daddy sa akin.

“Hilig mo talagang magpinta.”

“Of course. There’s magic in making something beautiful out of nothing,” I replied, wiping my face with a towel.

“Why do you love it so much? Your mom is a pianist. I’m a business man. I don’t remember bringing you to museums. Hindi ko talaga alam kung bakit mo ito nagustuhan.”

I turned to him and said simply, “You don’t need a reason to like something, Daddy. Sometimes you just do. Minsan biglaan na lang. I like to think it’s a calling from God.” I shrugged. “Besides, only when I’m holding a brush do I feel alive; really alive.”

Painting has been my outlet for a very long time. I use it to bring colors to my bland life. At gusto ko ang pakiramdam na kontrolado ko ang lahat sa ginagawa ko. The world inside the canvas belongs to me. It depends on me. I love the control I hold over it.

Doon lang kasi pwede. Kasi sa buhay ko, wala akong ibang gagawin kundi sundin ang gusto ni Daddy. He lets me do whatever I want. But I love him enough to follow his footsteps which is business. Alam kong iyon ang gusto nya para sa akin. He never said so. I just knew.

“If you like it so much, maybe you should’ve just taken fine arts or something. Not business ad.”

I shook my head. “Business is good. At isa pa, ako lang ang successor mo, di ba?”

He smiled, his eyes lighting up. I could tell whatever I said made him happy.

“That’s true. But art is your passion.”

“It’s just my way of expression, Daddy. Don’t worry.” I didn’t keep a diary but my artworks may very well be considered as one. Kaya natatakot akong ipamigay ang mga gawa ko. Bawat piece ko ay may parte ko. Paano kung hindi nila ito alagaan kagaya ng pagmamahal ko sa mga ito?

Daddy nodded, and along with him, we shuffled our way to the parking where the car waited for us. I actually didn’t want to go to this event. Kung ako lang ay mas gugustuhin ko pang igugol ang oras ko sa ibang bagay kaysa magpunta sa isang party na katulad nito.

Daddy and I were going to a charity event. It’s more of a party with the elites in the society than anything else. Ang mismong fund raising at donation drive kasi ay naganap noong nakaraang linggo. Ito ay formality lang para pasalamatan ang mga nakilahok doon.

I personally didn’t have anything against it. It’s for the good of the children with special needs; I just didn’t like social gatherings in general. As an artist, I prefer to see the real face of people, the person behind the mask. You don’t see that in parties, much less social gatherings like this. Here, everything is complex and carefully woven. Everyone is hiding behind well-composed facades.

“I was talking to your mother earlier,” Dad began after some time. We’re already on our way to the hotel. “She wants to see you.”

I turned to look at him.

“She’s inviting us to her piano concert.”

“Kailan daw?”

“A month from now.”

My mother, Felicity Celestial is a world renowned pianist. Madalas syang nasa ibang bansa para tumugtog at mag record ng albums. I hadn’t seen her in a year ever since I left for France after graduation. Nang umuwi naman ako dito sa Pilipinas ay saka naman sya nagpunta ng Japan para sa kanyang Asia tour.

Napangiti ako sa ideya na malapit na kaming magkita ulit. Living independently for a year made me miss her so much; them. I’m twenty one but I’m still a mama’s girl. Sino ba ang hindi?

“I’ll be there. Did you tell her that I missed her?”

“Oo naman. We both do,” Daddy answered, smiling lovingly. My heart swelled with happiness and pride. Even after years of marriage, he’s still in love with her.

Patrick Celestial is my father and the current head of Celes chains of hospitals. Dati syang surgeon at dahil doon kaya nagkakilala sila ni Mommy. Madalas kasi si Mommy sa ospital dahil na-confine ang tita ko noon. There they met and the rest was history.

The charity event was held in a hotel in Makati. Naroon na ang mga kilalang pamilya nang makarating kami. Dinala ako ni Daddy sa isang round table at agaran kong nakilala ang isang lalaking nakaupo doon, sa gitna ng dalawa pang lalaki na ka-edad ni Daddy. Joseff Serano. Best friend ni Arlo Miguel at kababata ko.

Nanlaki ang mga mata ni Joseff nang makita ako. “Fran!”

Ngumiti ako. “Sef.”

Nakipagkamay pa si Daddy sa mga taong nandoon bago kami umupo sa tapat nina Joseff.

“Wow. How long has it been? Kailan ka pa umuwi?”

“Last week lang,” nakangiti kong sinagot.

“Gano ka katagal don? Sa France ka galing, di ba?”

Tumango ako. “France. I went to Italy for a month and stayed in Greece for two months. One year din akong nawala sa bansa.”

“You’ve been busy. I saw your photos,” sagot nya. “Nagpunta nga ako ng France last year. I was supposed to message you kaso naisip kong baka abala ka.”

“Medyo. I’ve been busy with the murals. Marami din kasing nagpagawa sa’kin.”

“Nakita ko nga.” He smiled, his dark locks falling over his eyes. Hindi pa din nagbabago si Joseff. He’s still the same good-natured man I remembered him to be. Iyon lang ay mas nagmature sya ngayon. His features were more defined now and he’s definitely more filled in the right places.

Soon after, the program started. They were the usual. Ipinakilala ang foundation at ipinakita ang mga proyekto at mga batang natulungan at matutulungan pa ng mga donasyon. Tapos non ay isa isang binanggit ang mga pamilyang nagbigay ng tulong.

I mostly tuned out the program. Inabala ko ang sarili ko sa pakikipag-usap sa katabi kong babae na business partner din ni Daddy. She’s with her son and I found out she’s also a board member in Celes group.

“You’re the daughter of Felicity. Do you also play the piano like your mother?” Mrs. Castillo asked in her British accent, her grey eyes fixed on me in a gentle smile. Nakatingin na din sa akin ang anak nya na tahimik lang sa tabi nya. Parehas silang grey ang kulay ng mata at halos ash blonde ang buhok. The Filipino blood in them is weak, I thought, if there is at all.

“I used to play but I already stopped po,” sagot ko.

“Why don’t you play right now?” Joseff interrupted from across us. Lumingon sya kay Mrs. Castillo. “Tita, she’s great. You should hear her.”

Mrs. Castillo and his son turned to me expectantly.

“Not as good as my mom,” I quickly said. “Maybe next time.”

Natapos doon ang usapan. Buti nalang at may lumapit na babae sa kanila kaya nalipat na doon ang atensyon nila. Nag-angat ng kilay sa akin si Joseff. Umiling ako. It’s not that I didn’t want to play for them; I just didn’t want to play in general.

Hindi totoo na magaling ako sa pagtugtog ng piano. I actually sucked at it kahit na expert dito si Mommy. She’s a music genius and unfortunately, hindi ko ‘yon namana.

I actually avoid playing piano when I can. Sawa na akong marinig na hindi ako katulad ni Mommy; na baka disappointed ito at hindi ako naging tulad nya.

To steer those thoughts away, I shifted my focus to Daddy and Mr. Sy instead. Malalim na ang kwentuhan nila at nagtatawanan sila.

“Nga pala, kumpare. Hindi ko yata nakikita ang mga De Villa ngayon. Hindi ba sila nagdonate din?”

“They did. Sabay nga kami ni Jaime. But if I’m not mistaken, the family’s in Cebu.”

“I heard you’re investing in their new business?”

Daddy chuckled. “Ang bilis ng balita. Yes, I’m funding their new wine project in Ilocos. Kilala ko kasi ‘yang si Jaime. Wala pa sinimulan ang magkakapatid na ‘yan na hindi naging successful. I’m funding them under my daughter’s name.” Daddy passed me a brief glance, smiled, and turned to Mr. Sy again.

“New wine, you say?” Mr. Sy said, raising his brows in obvious curiosity.

“Yeah. This time, a wine cultivated locally. You got to hand it to them. Hindi biro ang wine-making dito sa Pilipinas. When I saw the proposal, I immediately grabbed the opportunity. It has potential.”

“Ever the workaholic, Patrick.” Umiling si Mr. Sy at tumingin sa akin. “Kaya ikaw, hija, wag kang gagaya sa Daddy mo. Bata pa lang ‘yan, ganyan na ‘yan.”

Tumawa ako. Totoo nga iyon. Pero parehas sila ni Mommy kaya wala naman akong problema doon.

“By the way, Francheska. Hija. Saan ka na ba nagtatrabaho ngayon?”

“Fran just came back from France. Sa ngayon, wala pa,” si Daddy ang sumagot sa tanong.

“Sa France? Nag-aral ka ba doon?”

Naramdaman ko ang tingin sa akin ni Joseff na hinihintay ang sagot ko.

“Hindi po. But I had a job there. Mural painting.”

“Painting? But didn’t you graduate with a Business degree?” Tumawa si Mr. Sy. “Nagmana ka kay Felicity kung ganon. Parehas kayong mahilig sa arts ng Mommy mo. Sya sa musika. Ikaw sa pagpipinta.”

Ngumiti ako. Sana ang lahat ay katulad mo mag-isip, Mr. Sy.

“Now that it’s mentioned, anak, I think it’s about time you learn the ropes of our company,” Dad told me.

“You want me to join the company?” I asked in surprise.

He cocked his brows, confused. “You dont want to?”

“Hindi naman. I just think it’s too sudden. Besides, akala ko ba ‘yung hacienda natin sa Baler ang i-ma-manage ko?”

“Do you want that better? Pwede naman,” he said thoughtfully then added, “How about you go and oversee that wine project? That’ll help you learn how to manage farms.”

“If that’s what you want. But is that even allowed? Hindi ba magugulo ang operation nila don?”

“I can always ask kumpare for a slight favor. Ang alam ko, anak nya ang namamahala dun ngayon.”

I nodded and hummed my approval. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I actually thought it was something my dad just threw out in passing.

Later on, he would surprise me by taking me there personally.

I would tell you now.

Upon seeing the patches of greens and crops, I had fallen in love with Chateau De Villa at first sight.

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