I was surfing the net, looking for a much-admired acquaintance back in highschool when I came across a blog about her, apparently made by her brother. T’was titled, “Remembering My Sister.”
My heart skipped. Oh, wait, this was some sort of a eulogy. I could see a photo of a long-haired lady smiling faintly. I zoomed it out. Surely, it couldn’t be her?
The lady in photo, sans any make-up, is a beauty. Seated infront of a keyboard, she sports a sweet, albeit shy smile. Dark-haired and fair-skinned, she is a picture of life. Those eyes… they seem to penetrate as I look at her. Though there are faint circles underneath those eyes, they do not in any way mar her loveliness. Thoughts swirled in my mind. The gal I knew was a beauty. And fair-skinned. And had long flowing mane like hers. I scrolled the blog and there before me was a pre-teen photo of the same gal with the exact facial features of the teener I knew then.
The year was 1988. It was the third week of February, to be exact. I was on board one of the Philtranco buses leaving Legaspi City for Malaybalay, Bukidnon. I was 16, a third year high school student, and one of the representatives of Region V competing in the National Secondary Schools Press Conference for Editorial Writing in English. Three busloads of “oragons” consisting of us, regional winners, plucked from different public highschools in the six provinces of the typhoon-prone region, our mentors and advisers, to include the principals of winning schools, were off for a three-day road (and sea) trip covering the three major islands — starting from the tail end of Luzon to Visayas then Mindanao where Bukidnon State College awaited us.
I met her inside that bus. We were on the same seat. If I were a boy, I would get smitten right away. She was quite a package. Her eyes smiled as she acknowledged me. Her legs, covered by a pair of blue denim pants seemed to stretch forever. Her Chinese-mestiza features were unmistakable. Flawless face, long, straight and shiny hair. She was wearing a hooded sweater, her arms folded close to her chest as though fighting the cold inside the air-conditioned bus. “This girl is a hundred times lovelier than I am,” I thought to myself. And probably, way smarter, too. After all, she would be participating too in a national competition. We chatted a bit. “Just call me Chat. Chat Banzagales,” she smiled sweetly. I learned she was from Polangui, Albay, just a 15-minute drive from Legaspi City. When she stood up, envy sank in. Oh, she would pass for a beauty queen. Tall and lithe, she sashayed gracefully along the aisle. Why hadn’t she joined the 1988 Miss Regional Secondary Schools Press Conference (RSSPC)? On the other hand, if she had, I was hundred percent sure I would have been out of the top five. (I was third-runner up and Miss “outrageous” Talent).
When I was young, I wallowed in the pool of discontent. I felt so… inadequate and flawed. Didn’t like my frizzy hair, my dusky skin, my “bombay” features, my thin frame and unqueenly poise. I wanted a different “me” — statuesque, alabaster-skinned, curvy and “tisay” (mestiza), capped with Lucy Torres’s Lux-smooth mane so I could mesmerize my own Richard. Thus, when I set eyes on my seatmate who had the external qualities I secretly wished I had, I took notice. I remembered. Her name and my brief acquaintance with her has occasionally popped in my head since meeting her 24 years ago.
Save for that bus ride, our friendship did not bloom. Guess we were too busy. Once the conference was over (nope, I didn’t win in Editorial writing, but I clinched the topmost award during the special talent night competition with my crazy monologue, besting other talents from across the archipelago), we were back to our respective stuff, making our marks in our respective alma mater. When I entered my senior year in highschool, I moved to a new school in Naga City, where I met a classmate who also knew Chat. I had to ask this classmate of mine to send my regards to lovely Chat. Whether she did so, I would never know. My lovely bus seatmate died two years ago of Cancer.
I felt a sense of loss upon reading her brother’s blog. I expected an FB account with photos of a lovely family frolicking in the beach, riding a roller coaster or smiling with Mickey Mouse, posts of career milestones and toothy grins of kids with medals draped around their necks. Instead, I read of sadness, of sorrow, of pain inexplicable. Aaah… the realities of a fallen world, the opposing forces that either make or break man. There is one realization from it all: Whether we like it or not, we will all face the inevitable. In what manner, we do not know. But over which we have no control, let us remember that our Heavenly Father long made the provision –his very own son Jesus, who faced death squarely, so we can be redeemed and made new from the corruption of our fallen nature (one result of which is physical death). All we have to do is to humbly accept his gift of salvation.
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11: 25-26)
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death, he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives have been held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Sleep well, Chat You will rise again — beautiful as ever. And incorruptibly so.