Do you remember when I first met you?
Frankly, I myself don’t. Maybe it was at the summer acquaintance party for the underclassmen. Maybe it was at the yearbook office. Maybe it was one of those times when I looked for Ian at your room. (Eventually, I too became your roommate.) Yet I still don’t remember how I met you.
You were the typical funny guy. You teased every one, had names for them which you used to their faces. You horsed around, especially with Del. Once, you two were pushing each other around so much that he ended up pushing you out of the room—and only in your underwear! If that wasn’t bad enough, the dean’s wife saw you from the end of the hall. Never knew if the two of you were called for that.
Don’t know whose radio that was in our room. Or was it a Discman connected to speakers? Was it yours, Ian’s, or AJ’s? Another thing I can’t remember. What I do remember is that your surprised me with your choice of music. Del sang you the Eraserheads’ “Hey Jay,” though I think it was just to annoy you. Along with the OST of American Pie and Eraserheads songs, you played Andrew E. Still cool. And Salbakuta? Frankly, the first time I heard it, it caught me off guard. I may even have been dumbfounded. But you and the guys were rapping like it wasn’t anybody’s business and having fun. Who was I to ruin it? And because you kept playing that CD, I became accustomed to listening to it.
There was also this one other song I inexplicably remember. It’s from the soundtrack of the Filipino movie, “Trip.” The song is “Trip Mo Ba?” by Freshmen. That was one song I really came to like, even until now.
Hands down, there was one sound from you none of us could really abide with. And you know what that was. No need to tell. I wasn’t yet your roommate when I learned about it. And boy, did the other guys make a fuss over it! I could still see Ian getting up from his bed just to wake you up so you’d stop. And if he wasn’t there, JP—who was on the third bunk—would throw his own pillow at you, startling you awake. That scenario ended in one of two ways: you’d grow quiet or start a riot.
I don’t know you being much of a fighter. But I knew you didn’t let anyone step on you. If anyone was talking crap about you, you’d talk back. And when things were getting really bad, you’d find ways to solve it. Like that incident with Elvis, which was the only time that you guys kept me out of the room. When that was over, you explained what happened, along with apologies. I got it. It was good of you to keep me out of that mess.
Although I am certain that you knew well how to get yourself in trouble. Well, all of us in that room were guilty of the same charges: not attending morning and evening worship, skipping midweek (and vesper) services, and sleeping at the dorm while there was a chapel period. That bonded us.
Plus the times that we ate at the cafeteria, always a great place to display camaraderie. And although it was a pain to wake up at 6 AM, you’d rather have breakfast then than miss it. Sometimes, you do miss it. Thank goodness for the nearby kiosk, where you guys taught me to eat pancit canton and terin-terin as the first meal of the day.
Oh, and we just had to watch movies. I remember the movies but not if you rented them from Moises or borrowed them from whoever or bought them from somewhere. We saw stuff like “Brotherhood of the Wolf” and “Ever After” to “Slackers” and “Liar Liar.” We could tell you liked a movie if, by the end, you were impersonating a character or repeating a memorable line. Speaking of movies, do you have my copy of the “Count of Monte Cristo”? If you do, keep it. I think you really liked that one.
Can’t tell if anyone else noticed this but you hated being at the dorm on Fridays. I knew you’d be gone for home by Thursday. I would too if I had your schedule, which really mystified me. Guess you packed all those classes for the first four days so you’d be free by the fifth day. That also explained why we often had to rendezvous with you at the mall if we roommates were to hang out before we separated ways. And hanging out always meant that you’d have a big glass of Zagu. Don’t remember what flavor you kept ordering but I believe it was chocolate. Was it? Well, anyway, the guys at Target mall love you for that.
Sometimes, you left early with Ian and Del so you could play Counterstrike. From what I heard, you were really good at it. You were practically a legend—and even a mystery—at that internet café. All that were missing was the “Hail, Silv3rfox!” and a trophy for the amazing number of wins. Strangely, though I know how hardcore gamers like you could really get engrossed with a game and forget stuff, you still remembered to keep your appointments. Albeit a tad late at times, you weren’t forgetful.
You remembered certain stuff. And when you do, you wanted to talk about them. Like your ex girlfriends and things that maybe even your parents don’t know until now. That’s normal. What struck me was that you entrusted me with secrets. And I was just new in your social circle.
Knowing your secrets is one thing, remembering them is another. Like the identity of your exes from college. And that one crush you really wanted to pursue but stopped short because another guy got ahead of you. Or did I confuse that for someone else’s? Do I have it right that there was a girl they were setting you up but you declined since she looked like a relative of yours?
Did I ever tell you that one of your exes, when she was your GF then, befriended me on Friendster? Not just that, she also texted me something. I believe it was a question. How she knew of my relation to you and thought that I was the right person to ask that question perplexes me. Girls are the eternal mystery, aren’t they?
By the way, what possessed you to come up with that Beam Song challenge of yours? Every time I hear it, I remember you singing the whole song expressionless and would only break into a toothy grin upon the mention of the word “smile.” Anyone who took up that challenge with you around to watch couldn’t do it. I myself was only able to do it when I was alone. I think you were doing something to break the challenger’s concentration.
Guess a great number of your friends know you to not be the serious type. Unless you commit to it. Like when you had to wake up really early, not to have breakfast or attend worship but to hang decorations for Kurt’s birthday. And that story that you were working on! You had already had a plot of some sort and were working on it. All thanks to being inspired by fantasy books you bought from NBS, beginning with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I recall you even asking for permission to borrow a term I discovered for myself. Sciopticon. Do you still remember what that word meant?
Anyone else knows that you wrote a poem for the school paper? Did you ever show it to your parents and your siblings, especially Irene? I know Ian made fun of your piece but I’m really glad that you took up my challenge. Not the first time that you became part of the student publication right? You were an encoder for the college yearbook.
There was this one incident that has me asking. What happened on July 8, 2002? All that was in the entry was the suspension of classes, for whatever reason. Was it like a super typhoon or just really bad weather, like today? I doubt anyone of us would really remember it but when I came across the entry, it made laugh despite not recalling much. That was a really strange morning. It started at 8 AM and we called everyone from our room to listen to a reading of the morning devotional—and this from the same guys who would sleep through it when the dorm would hold it for everyone else. We even included the guys from the next room. So that was you, me, Ian, AJ, Kurt, Ren, Mike, and Jerry. I think JP was there but decided to stay in bed. After reading the devotional, we broke the ice by a series of games. “Bakit? Kasi!” (“Why? Because!”) didn’t register much with me but at seeing “Who? What? Where?” that inexplicably broke me into fits of laughter. I don’t recall any of the answers but I just know I saw everyone’s faces during that time. We were all having a riot with the participants’ responses. After a few rounds of Dum-Dum-Da, I think we had lunch at the cafeteria with the same guys. And I think it was around this time that the term “neighborhood” was coined for our ragtag group, which would eventually include Moises and his roommates Raymond, Don, and all the other new guys who would come along.
We never stayed as roommates. I still can’t recall how you broke the news to us. I just remember you and Ian cleaning your lockers. While packing your stuff, you told us that we could visit you two at the townhouse. And before you stepped out, you left us with mementos. You gave me a few things: the FHM calendar that Alvin kept looking at, a light saber hilt sharpener (from KFC, I believe), a brown Lee shirt that is now in the province, and a Timex Reef Gear watch. The watch is still with me, although the original strap broke and was replaced by a new one while the ring indicator got detached and fell somewhere in a LRT station. Sorry about that.
Did your then pair of headphones make it to your new place? Never noticed it whenever we dropped by. And neither were the black Nike shoes that I used to borrow.
In spite of not seeing much of each other after that move, you still went out of the way to make dinner for us left at the dorm. With a help of the girls Love, Wyeth, and Tin, you prepared a meal for us. Well, yeah, you had time since you and your current GF then weren’t seeing each at that day, which happened to be Valentine’s Day. We were always up for free food anyway.
Food has been one trigger for us to remember people, isn’t it? And that’s why I have this fries’ box from McDonald’s with a letter from you. It was written on the paper thing they used to cover trays with. Then again, it’s not unusual for you to give me notes about stuff, like asking me to wake you up at certain times. But this one was really different. You underlined the word “jelly ace” twice. You wrote there that just you remembered me.
Never told you but you were the only other roommate I had who was audacious enough to ask for pasalubong. And really expected one from me. I never bothered to ask you why it always had to be jelly ace—not the brand itself but just the gelatin snack which came in small cups. I knew you could buy it for yourself and that it was available at your place. I never got to ask because every time I wondered, you’d be giving me some.
You’ve always been really nice and thoughtful, even when your own friends aren’t as much.
Sorry I never got to see you off. Although I retrieved your address from one of the yearbooks, I didn’t know how to get there, much less be sure if it was still where you lived.
My regret is that I never helped you get that wish of yours. I could never apologize enough for that.
One of biggest lies that life and youth tell people: YOU will ALWAYS have TIME.
The truth of the matter is you don’t. You won’t.
So when there is an opportunity to say something kind, to do some good, or to just be with the people that matter in your life—take it!
You have no idea if there will be another time for any of them again.
This has become one of the toughest lessons I learned this year. And it took you and that incident to teach me. And while I do realize the truth, whenever I see your Facebook account, I find myself doubting all of it. I even expect that you’d post something saying that it was all just epic trolling and you took great pains for accomplices and details.
But I know that not everything in this life is funny and that no matter how you laugh at it, it’s not going to be any less sad than it is.
You hate making people sad. You love making your friends and family smile. You may not be here to do that anymore, but our mementos and memories of you will keep us recalling the things we did together and the things you’ve done for us.
Ian Jay, this magical light—this sciopticon of yours—it will neither fade nor burn away. It will always shine brightly, warmly. It will live on. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us. It was an honor to know you and a privilege to have been friends with you.
See you in the resurrection.