• Iloilo City, Philippines, 2016

    Karen took one last look at the pictures of the greatest student reporters of their university; a large part of the mass communication department museum was devoted to their excellence – with their pictures and titles of their greatest documentaries in their senior years. These achievers were considered the reigning monarchs of their time. And they really were the kings and queens of TV! Most of them landed on great positions in many large broadcasting outfits. And Karen was one of those aspiring young journalists who were vying for the same spot in history.

    They were already given the rules and criteria for the current competitions, making many of them crowd the libraries and archive centers to look for great stories of many different men and women. With only her scholarship as her support, Karen was pessimistic she could be the next senior to fill the blank frame in the series. She knew she was good but good stories also cost a big sum, and she didn’t have the abundance of finances.

    There were already rumors of stories about the war Mindanao, the plaguing disease in Africa… Those seemed to be great topics and she envied the proponents. Many of them were children of prominent TV personalities also, and their source of money was very much sufficient for their production. With only a few thousand pesos in her bank account, and the scholarship she was given, Karen decided to settle on a local story, consoling herself about the beauty of their culture and the uniqueness of their country. But no matter how she made herself believe that she could make a good story even without going abroad, she still felt a tinge of jealousy.
    They were given only a month to research and make their story. Next month, they would be presenting their finished story to the panel of judges who would decide the nominees out of the 90 aspiring seniors.

    With a limited time to plan, Karen decided to go into their library and dig from the archives interesting stories of the past. After depositing her other things in her locker, she went inside the archives section and sat comfortably before a computer terminal. A long list of stories according to date and newspaper appeared on her screen. She had scanned a total of six years of newspapers but she did not find anything interesting – at least for her. While scanning through headlines and titles, she found an interesting title, a story that shook almost the whole teen-age population six years ago. A story that nearly brought GMA’s premier and most sought-after leading man’s career into a halt: “Steven Silva Lost in The Sea”.

    The whole series of events came rushing in her mind. The frenzy of the fans, the mourning and the crying of the country. Even the others who at first disliked Steven because of their love for another aspiring artist were affected by his loss. Four weeks later, the whole Philippines were focused on the discovery of Steven in a desolate paradise on one of the islands of world renowned Maldives with the niece of the first and only Asian woman billionaire Nina Sy.
    She read the whole article about his discovery. Only a small fraction of the news was focused on the woman who was with him. The picture accompanying the headline was so vivid but nobody before noticed a strange connection between the two, or maybe it was only her malicious thoughts that made her speculate that the two could have developed an intimate relationship while they were on the island. Four weeks was a long one, especially on a deserted island.

    Intrigued by her hypothesis, she searched for a video copy of the rescue and watched it. To her dismay, she failed to see any physical indication each mattered to the other. They were both whisked away by their respective camps the moment they were released by the Maldivian authorities.

    While Steven made an official statement after five days of recovery, the Sy’s never made any and soon after, the whole story was forgotten and was never revisited. The management of Steven made that experience as a mere misfortune and dismissed any talk related to that matter.

    After thirty minutes of watching the videos over and over again, Karen was about to give up, when she saw something strange on Steven’s neck. She saved the video in her disk and decided to go to her bestfriend who was studying Film Editing. She was unsure of her hunch but she felt a strong urge to validate it. And only her friend could help her with that without jeopardizing her project. If that one evidence could convince her regarding her guess, she would immediately pack her things and fly to the capital and look for Nina Sy.
    “I guess this is a…” Josh paused and slowly turned to her. “A hickey?” Josh went on hesitantly.

    “Exactly!” she exclaimed after hearing her friend’s opinion.
    “And why do you sound so happy to know he’s got a hickey? Many girls will mourn crazily if they saw one on any part of this guy,” Josh wondered.

    “Thank you, Josh. You’re really my angel!” she said and kissed him on the cheek. She was fast enough to head to the door she didn’t hear Josh’s call for her to come back.
    That night, she thought hard about her decision. Although she was excited about what she discovered, her assumption based on a mere spot of bruise on Steven’s neck was quite foolish and downright pathetic. Just speculating the two had sex while on the island did not mean they were intimate. What could be the significance with that? Nobody cared about their relationship. It was six years ago. Now, Steven is happy with his model-turned-actress girlfriend and seemed contented with it. What happened six years ago might not be important to him, especially that what they had was only a fling.

    She sighed deeply and abandoned her idea of pursuing her hunch. After all, that issue was entertainment rather than public affairs. It had no great impact to the judges. Worst, she might be scolded for her lack of artistry and dedication to her craft. She wanted to dismiss that idea but a new speculation, which was far crazier than the sex story, came to her mind.

    “What if they had a son or daughter after that,” she whispered to herself. “Ohhhh. I’m going crazy already. I just can’t find a reasonable topic. I’m doomed. I’m doomed,” she said and covered her face with her pillow.
    The next morning, she went back to her computer and searched the web about Marcy Sy. She could be the best shot for a chance of knowing more about Nina, her niece. Many searches yielded nothing. Only about the great things Marcy did and how she accomplished all her achievements and wealth by being a single woman, having relied on no man. But Karen remained persistent, searching for more available results of her search. After about 50 pages of searches, she encountered a news article about Marcy’s grand dedication party for her grandson. Because Marcy had no children of her own, Karen knew the child was not really her immediate grandson but through a niece or nephew.

    The article and accompanying pictures almost sent Karen off her seat. It was Nina’s son! And he looked exactly chinito! Karen suddenly felt her heart thumping fast as she realized her great discovery. Could it be that this boy in the picture was actually Steven’s son?

    Determined to make her story, which was now becoming humanitarian rather than a pure gossip material, Karen looked for a way to communicate with Nina, hoping fervently that she would agree for an interview.

    Fortunately, she found a number and immediately called it sacrificing her phone bill. It took quite some time before a voice came through the other line.

    “How did you know about me?” Nina asked when Karen told her about her plans.

    “I researched about you, Ms. Sy…”

    “Please call me Nina,” she replied curtly.

    “N….Nina, I’m so sorry to bother you right now. It’s just I’m currently working on a project for my graduation. I am begging for your permission,” Karen begged while she nervously walked back and forth.

    Karen heard a sigh. “Please, Nina,” she pleaded again.

    “Is this a joke or something?”

    “Oh, no! I am serious, Nina. I completely understand your situation and I will respect your decision but I beg you. I can’t find any good story anymore. You are my last hope.”

    “You sure sound desperate, don’t you?” Nina remarked with a chuckle. “If you can answer me how you came up with this ludicrous idea of me having a child with Shiruba, I might reconsider.”

    “I will tell you honestly but please don’t be mad. This might really sound preposterous and rude of me to think this way… I saw a hickey on Steven’s neck on the video when you were found. I’m so sorry I just based…” she stopped when she felt the other line became silent. “Nina…”

    There was a moment of silence and then suddenly…

    “You sure are an incredible journalist, Karen. A great potential,” Nina’s voice was already mellow. “What are you waiting for? My driver will be waiting for you in the airport,” she said and cut the line.

    Karen was stunned by what she heard. For a moment, she was speechless but her silence didn’t last long. A loud yell came out of her lips as she jumped around, striking the air with her fists. “I am making a hit!”

    End of Chapter One