A Summer of Death, and a Life Remembered
This is an essay one of my students wrote about her summer. It wasn't for an assignment or project. She just really wanted to write about it and I thought it would be a good idea to share it to a lot of people. She was glad when I told her I would be posting it online, so here it goes:
Have you ever had the feeling that would go wrong? It was like a reunion, except we never planned it. I was confused. My mind was in chaos. Words popped up in my head, but I just couldn't explain my emotions. Until that day came.
My father planned on going back to his hometown. It wasn't a well-known place, but to him - it was everything: a small place called Mangagoy located in Bislig City. He had planned on visiting his parents there during the Holy Week.
We woke up early in the morning (and consequently fell asleep in the car) for the long trip to Bislig. When we arrived, I hardly recognized my cousins. I hadn't seen them for a long time. They were already so grown up that we didn't even talk much until the third day of our stay.
On April 21, 2011, my cousin AJ was turning 10, so my relatives decided to go somewhere special to celebrate. It was a long drive to a place called "Tinuyu-an Falls". During the trip, however, my aunt lost her bag and an argument ensued so the other kids and I had to bear the trip in silence.
When we arrived, a majestic sight greeted us. Having lived and grown up in the city, I wasn't used to the sight of rapid falls that seem to go on forever. It was tantalizing, and in a few minutes, I was slowly making my way to what seemed like a bubbling lake, the water from the falls creating such noise and enthusiasm among the other swimmers. I held my breath and took a plunge. I could never compare what I felt then and there.
In a few minutes' time, the argument about the lost bag faded into lost memory and everyone had a grand time. My cousins and I, who seemed such strangers to one another, instantly became buddies. The magic of Tinuyu-an Falls made it all happen.
The following day, we all gathered at the house to relax. The adults were talking in the dining room, among them were my parents, my grandfather (whom I call Daddy), my aunts, and uncles. My cousins and I were playing the mind-boggling Hangaroo when something weird came flying at us. Was it a bird? A plane? No! It was a beetle! We shrieked, running downstairs. We all dashed away, save for one boy whose heroic efforts drove the beetle to its demise. When we learned that the (tiny) beast was dead, we laughed it off. My cousins and I were definitely closer now. In the afternoon, we got our pictures taken, knowing that would be our last day with my grandfather, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
The sun itself was hardly awake when my mother shook me awake. I wanted to sleep some more, but I couldn't block out her loud voice so I woke up. I went downstairs and realized I was the only one who hadn't packed yet. I went into a frenzy packing my things hurriedly.
When we finally got our things in the car, the scene became a blur of people hugging and kissing one another. As I was buckling up in the back seat, I saw my grandfather waving and smiling at us, and I thought that I would definitely look forward to coming back to this place next time.
August 24, 2011 - my cousin AJ's christening. It was also the birthday of one of my closest friends, Bea. I greeted Bea, sending her a text. But the most unforgettable event on that day was when my mother told me that my grandfather whom I call Daddy - was dead.
I didn't even believe her at first. I even said, "*Sure oi!" But I saw my mother's somber face and I knew - she wasn't lying. I remember endless tears falling on my face. My grandfather wasn't my biological grandparent, but he loved me just the same. I couldn't believe it. How could he be dead? It seemed just like a few minutes ago that we had spent a few days together.
The following day, we prepared again to go back to Bislig for my grandfather's vigil. But this time, we weren't going back for a vacation. We were going back to pay our respects for the dead and at the same time to commemorate a life.
*a colloquial phrase equivalent to "Yeah right!"