Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not Goodbye, But Til We Meet Again

I’ve never been good with my emotions. That I know for certain. But I have always had a knack for words. Sometimes I use them to the best of my ability to preserve a memory, to encapsulate a moment, and to honor a wonderful person. And this is why tonight, I have chosen to write about you; because the world needs to know about you. They need to know how brilliant and stupendously great you were and that it was awfully tragic that they have not been given the privilege of knowing you in this lifetime. I still vividly remember everything so well, you know. They might as well be forever embedded on my mind.

I can still recall, it was a Thursday when I first met you. To you and your friends, it was what you know as Trivia Night. You and your best buddies would gather at this local place every Thursday night to join a weekly Trivia Quiz where you formed a team which was named after your own barkada. I remembered that you were grinning from ear to ear when you met me. You had this warm smile that made me feel so welcome. After the event, you and your friends would eat at your diner to either celebrate your victory or console and laugh together when you would mess up the answers during the event. It was my first time to join back then and you made me feel so at ease, as if I was already part of the team for such a long time. I remember that you really went out of your way to talk to me because you obviously did not want me to feel out of place. And I was very grateful to you for that. At that instant, I knew that you were one genuinely great guy. The weeks passed and I found myself looking forward to joining you guys every Thursday Night. To me, it served as my weekly respite from the horrors of school. I remember that I would be so ashamed if I couldn't contribute a single answer to the team. Not that it really mattered because it seemed as if you were our one-man team. From Geography to Sports and even Stock Exchange, you seemed to have answers to the questions from out of nowhere. Back then, the closest that we've gotten to was only Third Place. But it didn't really matter because we were all having a grand time as we were exhausting our brain cells and draining our wits out even if we didn't win. It was the hope that we had a fighting chance that always kept us going. And this went on for a good two years. You and your friends managed to keep in touch and meet up every Thursday until the local place decided to do away with the Trivia Night.

During those few times that I was able to join you, I have come to know how smart you were. Your bestfriend would always go on to tell me that you have always been a league of your own. He would tell me that way back during your high school days, you used to sleep your way off in class but still manage to ace all your exams. Even my sister who was your batchmate in College, had nothing but good words for you because you were really a force to reckon with - one brilliant mind. And yet despite your excellence, you kept your feet on the ground. You were always so kind to everyone and at some point, I've always thought that you were one of those very rare few who didn't have a bad bone. You reminded me so much of a good friend who was once very close to me back in the days. It was weird because I saw so much of him in you in many ways and yet you were so unlike him too in more ways than one. I would say that you both were equally amazing individuals. Like you, his name was placed on big tarpaulins displayed on our school numerous times as he won several competitions representing our Alma Mater. And just like you, our professors would be so baffled as he always managed to make it to the honor's list even without trying. I've always told my friends that you were so much like him, only that you were a kinder and better version of him. The similarity ended there I guess. To me, you both were two of the most incredibly intelligent men that I've ever come to know. But you weren't even half the monster of a man that he once was to me. In summary, therein lies the great distinction.

I remember that you joined us in a few of our study sessions. Your bestfriend and I were living in a tight budget at that time and being the sensitive person that you always were, you must have figured that out even without us mentioning it because you treated us with pizza. You brought with you your Med Books and studied with us until the wee hours of the night. I remember we were studying Banking Laws and much to my amazement, you knew the difference between commercial banks from universal banks better than I did even without you batting an eyelash. That was indeed a moment of self-defeat for a Junior Law Student like me.

Not only were you an excellent student, you were endowed with exemplary leadership skills as well as you were the President of your Fraternity in the School of Medicine. I remember we were having lunch with you one time where you excitedly told us your plans for your administration and asked for our suggestions although when we knew you would manage well even without our ideas. And even in your own barkada, you were the unsung leader of the group. You would always be the contact person and organizer for all events. You were the bond that made them all stick together, even up to now.

You were a wonderful brother too and you loved your family more than anything. I know this because in our conversations, you spoke so highly about your Mom and Dad. And you would always talk about endearing memories that you've shared with Ate En and Bling. And you dearly loved and adored Nica. To you, she meant the world. I remember looking at you both and thinking how great a couple you were. It seemed as if you were really made for each other.

Most of all, you were the greatest friend anyone could ever ask for. When your bestfriend needed you the most, you were there for him. You moved heaven and earth just to be able help him. When he transferred to another school, I remember that you would call him every single day to check on him and how you would even call me as well when you couldn't reach his line just so you'd know how he was. You never stopped checking on him until you were certain that he was doing fine. As an outsider looking in, I knew just how much you both meant to each other. You always had each other's backs and the two of you were not just the best of friends. You were brothers.

The night you left, I really wished I'd called you. I have been meaning to at that time and to this day, I wished I'd told you that your bestfriend needed you again. That same week, his dad was diagnosed with cancer. I did not know how to console him back then and I knew that you were the only person who could talk some sense into him. Most of all, I knew that you were the only one who could make him listen. If only for that, I would have hoped that you'd find a reason to stay - maybe not for long, but if only for one more day. To him, for the both of us, that would have made a big difference. We haven't had enough of you, Pao. We would give anything to have you back because we are missing you so much and it's never been the same.

The day you left was the day that the heavens welcomed an angel into their kingdom and the day that the earth cried and mourned with much grief. The world lost a budding entreprenuer, a brilliant doctor, a loving son and an amazing friend. It felt as if my heart was ripped open and cut into half. I remember crying so hard from a long bus ride because I just couldn't believe that I will never get to see you smile again. I've always marveled at clouds but I swear I've never looked up the skies in the same way now that you're not around anymore. I comfort myself with the thought that you're probably just lurking somewhere up there, happily looking down and watching over us.

During your birthday last year, you friends and I were at your place and we celebrated the life that you lived. We contented ourselves with the pictures around us. Seeing you smile through the photos gives us the strength to forge on, knowing that you are in a happier and better place now. It will never be the same you know but with time, we will all heal.

With your passing, I have come to realize that life is so short and things can change in a blink of an eye. To those who hold you dear in their hearts and who have had the chance to marvel at the life that you lived, I know they will all agree with me in saying that we would give anything if only we could spend a few more years and have more memories with you. And even if you had already told me when I dreamt of you once that it was indeed your time to go, still we wish with all our hearts that we had so much more. Because the world has not had enough of one great man.

And I think I never got the chance to thank you enough. And that is what I regret the most. Thank you for being all that you are to us. Thank you for being his bestfriend. He would not have been half the man that he is now, had he not been your friend. And although he and I are no longer together, I have not become bitter and remorseful. If anything, I still feel blessed because that relationship had caused me to have been given the opportunity to become your friend. And that is more than enough reason for me to still be grateful. Most importantly, Pao, Thank you for being brave - for yourself and for all of us. Only God knows the kind of battle that you've been treading on for the longest time and yet you put up a real good fight. And with your passing, there was only one thing that you took away and nothing more - our hearts. And that's why our love for you will never go away. Thank you for teaching us the value of life and love. I will always be grateful that I have had the privilege of knowing you. I thank the Lord for Divine Intervention that he had allowed us to meet. You are sui generis. And I am lucky enough to have been given the chance to marvel at your greatness.

It was indeed a pleasure meeting you. So long and til we meet again.

"Lost love is still love, Eddie. It just takes a different form, that's all. You can't hold their hand... You can't tousle their hair... But when those senses weaken another one comes to life... Memory... Memory becomes your partner. You hold it... you dance with it... Life has to end, Eddie... Love doesn't." - The Five People You Meet In Heaven, Mitch Albom

"Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die,we can't remember who we are or why we're here.” - The Secret Life of the Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

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