ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/ 31 Jan) – Death came like a thief in the night up north.
And don’t we all wish that? – That, when we die, we die in our sleep?
But surely not halfway down the long road, in a place uncharted in our cognitive map. Not in some out of the way stop the overnight bus takes from the chaotic seat of power where bad things we know about happen to somewhere in the far, far fringes where some bad things we rarely come to know about are still happening. Public transport commuters sleep through those. They’re just a geographical point that gets us from where we come to where we are going. No matter how ever so often we pass that way, we retain very little memory of places like this because at 2 a.m. we’d rather be asleep.
We leave our safety to the bus drivers who in turn have been known to rely on shabu to keep alert. As soon as the driver sets the bus in motion, his passengers doze off to slumberland.
Aritao in Nueva Vizcaya. Where is that?
That was Randy’s last unceremonious stop. It was probably not a rude awakening for him. A cold-blooded murderer boarded the bus he was sleeping in and ushered him to the door of unending slumber.
Pasa bilis in the age of digital messaging. I suspect there’s a real-time picture of him sleeping on that bus, most likely relayed by particle accelerator to his killer’s phone. Instant messaging. Oh, they knew where exactly he was seated on that bus, and they got away clean as soon as the dastardly deed was done. The bastards probably filmed it, too.
Hours later and hundreds of miles away in the middle islands, my daughter Sage would light a candle and send the image to us on viber. That circle of light from the candles looked fragile, threatened by the ocean of darkness crowding it in from all around.
There, where my young self had lit many a candle for those among us who unceremoniously fell by evil hands, my daughter lit a light to defy the gathering gloom. Her smallness had abandoned chemistry exam review to be there, just as her dad and I used to abandon study allnighters to light a candle. She probably, as we had, wished the light to guide home a kindred soul unceremoniously taken from the light.
We would never know then exactly how, why and who, though we’d know for certain they took from us.
Down south, I now know sorrow again. This dark, cold, heavy winter of the soul that makes me run to my husband’s arms. Urging me it was time to find shelter, the skies agreed. It too was dreary and downcast; the clouds heavy with impending rain, as heavy as the heart that lost the ability to decide whether to spill or to hold grief in.
At the airport, on the plane, on the bus, the waterworks started leaking unbidden. There ambled among the crowd a lone, shell-shocked public transport commuter silently crying. I wanted to assure curious strangers who glanced at my dejected ghost in puzzled sympathy:
I’ll be okay. Somebody died, is all.
Someone always dies every day.
It’ll happen to you, too.
But, no words would do. No other arms would do.
I feel keenly Sage’s sorrow. She whom we raise to believe we do our part to shape a better world where her generation can speak what’s on their minds; better, because ours was a generation that had a lot to say but was not allowed to speak out, else we’ll end up dead. We survived that dark history and lived to fight for the future we wanted our children to live today.
Sage was barely a child the first time I was desperately seeking Randy. I heard he’d been abducted. Later, I’d find out that what actually happened to him was that he was abducted, blindfolded, and tortured for days. He was surfaced a few days after my article came out. I was told they then jailed him up north.
We sent him books so he could open a library for his fellow inmates. To read is to learn, he once said. Thirty years ago, he had helped me set up a reading corner in my office for his fellow students. Where ever he was, for him it was “Ang sigaw ng kabataan: Edukasyon, edukasyon!”
Finally meeting him years later, Sage understood why Randy was our soul brother.
Randy Felix Malayao was a true child of UP Visayas. He chose to live his life fighting for that better world for the next generation. We lit candles together, but now Randy is no more.
Obviously, his death tells us we lied to Sage and her generation. People still end up dead for speaking out.
Oh, yes, obviously, again.
There’s the greater sorrow.
(“Wayward and Fanciful” is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. llagan is the chair of the Psychology Department at the Ateneo de Davao University. She heads the Peace and Development Committee of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division Multisectoral Advisory and Action Group.)