Day 3: Tenancy

Prologue; out of sheer unretentiveness, I left Kea’s copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in the chapel this last night of the Simbang Gabi. Just when I started reading again, I lost what I wanted to read. Sorry for that, Koo! If I won’t be able to retrieve it tomorrow night, Christmas Midnight Mass, I’d just get you another copy. And, and, and I will be working on my epic fail memory—it is officially in my resolutions. Sorry, friend!

Four things comprise my 3rd day of Soul Searching.

One: my Mom telling me about how she misses Dad’s sweet nothings (but it’s not like he isn’t sweet; he can practically give me and Mom the “sissy feeling” whenever he unleashes his cheesiness). I don’t really understand why this stood out among today’s jar of memories. Maybe because it is about change, ever-flowing change, and how we can adapt to it, no matter what level of difficulty is present.

Two: Coffee Jelly is the best present one can give to my digestive system this Christmas (or even all year round). I’m not really an expensive-food-is-good person, so I rarely go to Starbuck’s and the like. But, but, but the Coffee Jelly I tasted today made me change my mind—I need to spend for my stomach too. (By the way, the Coffee Jelly was one of the goodies I devoured during the reception of Nathan’s Baptism; Nathan is a baby cousin of mine. Welcome to the Christian World, Baby! And thanks for the Coffee Jelly! Om nom nom.)

Three: as we were passing by Fairlane, I saw a family of Natives (I’m guessing they’re Badjao, because I see them a lot in Manila; wait, is that even logical?) waving goodbye to a woman with happy smiles painted on their faces. Everything was simple, typical yet striking. I assume the woman extended her generosity to the family by whatever means she can accommodate. With a full heart, I smiled and thought to myself, This is why I love Christmas. This is why I don’t want to lose my hope on humanity. Because despite huge differences, people can still extend their hands to help others. That brief moment of indiscrimination, of selflessness, of love.

Four (Note: This is the focus of Day 3): during Simbang Gabi, the chapel we go to holds out donations for patients with cancer of the blood. Only tonight did Father mention what institute the patients are under: Philippine General Hospital Cancer Institute. No, this is not about UP Manila. This is about the memory of a dear friend, and the memory of the kids who glanced from the high windows of the said institute during my campus tour last May.

My dear friend, Kate Claudine Guevarra, left this world because of Leukemia last year. And I can’t begin to put into words how painful it is to watch someone you love contort in pain and be able to do nothing about it. That powerless moment, while futility slowly eats your heart away—it never leaves. It continues to stalk the present, unable to rest or even give rest. But that is nothing compared to Kate’s one stabbing question: Why me? The world is exploding with human beings, yet she was chosen to acquire the cancer among billions. I don’t know the answer myself; all I know is that she changed many lives when she got that cancer, and mine is one of them. (Wherever you are, Sis, I terribly miss and badly love you.)

The kids, sporting shaved heads—a sign that one is undergoing Chemotherapy, glance from the windows and wave at the people passing by. It hurts to be one of the people who pass by the Cancer Institute, to be one of the people who still have their mane intact. To be free from IV Drops and Hospitals, while those patients patiently wait for their time. I feel I’m being unfair, guilty of stealing their futures away from them by merely walking by and sending them pain, even if it is never in my intentions to do so. I can’t even imagine how they answer ‘Why me?’ while I whine about things as trivial as hair fall or skin discoloration.

But thank God for them, because they can change lives a whole lot differently.

This is me, searching for myself, and finding out that a part of me would always belong to hospital tenants.

(Author’s note: I’d like to share with you Kate’s struggle, by which she will always be remembered. She was a very strong girl, and throughout my life, I know I’ll always be in pursuit of a strength like hers. This is a fraction of her wonderful story, told in her very words and artworks.)

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