Ten years ago

Ten years ago today, the heavens smiled upon Manila. Literally, because there was a planetary conjunction involving Venus and Jupiter, that conspired with a crescent moon to form what we would call a smiley, in the night sky. It wasn’t spectacular in the way other astronomical events like eclipses are, but it sure was an amusing sight.

Whenever I remember that night, I’d also think of a high school batchmate, one of those who never became my classmate. But I knew her since freshman year, because it was 2005, The Day You Said Goodnight filled the airwaves, and we shared a love for Hale; I remember her raving about Kung Wala Ka and the high drama of its string instrumentals. Also, our birthdays were only a few days apart. On balance though, we probably talked more on Yahoo! Messenger than in person, and most personal things I learned about her, I only read on her Blogspot. (Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but the Internet really felt like a less angrier place then, and teenagers like us could share things without worrying about likes and other viral things.)

I never felt like I really knew her enough, and it would always be that way now, because on the same night the planets and moon aligned, she died from an accident on the expressway. We all thought, of course, that that was her in the skies, smiling peacefully from beyond.

Sunset over Quezon City showing the orange-to-blue color gradient of the sky.
A different sunset, a normal evening with a lonely planet. No smiles on this night.

Even if, or perhaps precisely because, we were never close, I was devastated. It was in fact, as far as I remember, the first death that truly crushed me, that filled me with the dread of the end of things. That’s when I learned what denial really is like in grief; I kept thinking, is this really it, is this the end for her? I found myself leaning heavily on what my faith teaches, that there is an afterlife, and that there is another world for her.

I guess it was a startling reminder of mortality because she was a peer, a teenager who like me had been promised a long, bright future, and now things suddenly had to end. For months afterwards, I would think of all the things she missed out on. She passed away a few months before our batch’s graduation, but not after we had taken the U.P. College Admission Test. On January we would learn that she passed (of course; she was a bright student) and could’ve studied chemical engineering. I’d remember her occasionally over the years as I studied industrial engineering myself in U.P., thinking how her college life could’ve been. Would she have also joined an org, and participated in the competitive wilderness of Engineering’s extra-curricular world? Even today, I’m thinking, she could’ve enjoyed the Fighting Maroons’ return to relevance in college basketball, after all those dark years of the team that coincided with our time as undergrads.

Incidentally, it is not just the passing of a decade that reminded me of her. My younger brother is attending the same high school I did, and just last week, a similar tragedy befell their senior-year batch. It was another girl, and it was by suicide this time. I am not sure actually what I want or should say about this, I’m only thinking that it’s a tragic repetition of things, ten years apart. Some things have changed; high school is now a six-year program, versus our four years then, and I feel like it makes it all the harder for them, because this is someone their batch have known for longer by the time they lost her. But some things, I imagine, would be the same: the grief, the devastation, the painful reminder of the ultimate destiny of things.

I typically take great pains to formulate the endings to my writings, to make it flow, tie things up nicely, and summarize themes, but I have no grand plans today. (What do I do with that last paragraph? It might be out of place!) There is only the urge to write, to mark a remembrance, and to share personal things the same way we did a decade ago—on a blog.

I remember you. Kamusta ka na? Anong tingin mo sa latest album ng Hale?

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Author: DJ

Scribbles about films and other fabrications.

7 thoughts on “Ten years ago”

  1. damn…thank you so much for sharing your story man. I’m so, so sorry for what you and your brother have experienced. i could never imagine the the grief and the pain. keeping you in my thoughts tonight

  2. I’m so sorry for your losses. Lately, I’ve been thinking about grief too. I just had a patient die recently. Made me think about my grandmother, because I never got to see her in her final days. A year on and I still don’t understand how I feel about it. Grief is complicated.

    1. Thank you. And sorry about that too. Patient mo ‘to as a nursing student, tama ba?

      I agree. That’s another curious thing about my batchmate’s passing; when my grandmother passed away it wasn’t as devastating, even if of course I had spent a lot more time with my lola. I guess it doesn’t need explaining. Kung anuman ang maramdaman natin, ganon talaga.

      1. Yeah, as a nursing student. I knew death is part of the job, and I thought it wouldn’t bother me as much. But, I’m glad it did. That means I’m human.

        You’re right, sometimes our feelings don’t need explaining; and, that’s fine too.

  3. Tragedies are always terrible and none as debilitating as death. We’ve been having senior friends returning to dust, some have earned bonus points (which did not make it so hard for the bereaved) but a few whose lives were exemplary because of their charity and generosity left huge lumps in the throat. One such loss is Kuya Ogie, a brilliant orthopedic surgeon whose musicality is sorely missed. I severed myself from his choir ages ago but I was jolted by his cancer of the esophagus. Even stranger was his serenity when he decided not to be intubated because (it turned out soon enough) he felt accepting the fact was a nobler act. He had courage, no hysterics, and God must have been sorry He could not unwrite it. Dr. Frez’ miracle was his unwavering faith even at a most difficult time reassuring not himself.
    I felt your ending, DJ. Right where home is.

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