Since there are lots of places I have lived my entire life, I naturally have a lot of friends. Friends that over the years have remained my buddies, my brother, my sister.
I am so lucky to have found them, and I thank them all.
I am not trying to be optimistic here about friendship. In fact, I am a bit depressed writing this article. I am in this mood because earlier I was thinking of my friends who I wanted to talk to and realized…. that four of my best friends are now dead.
My first best buddy was my cousin Buboy. I think I was eight then when we found out he had diabetes. The doctors had to cut his leg off. A year after that, my elder sister told me he was dead. They probably thought I was just a kid who wouldn’t mind losing a playmate. They never knew. We were like brothers. When the news hit me, I went out of the house and walked. I just walked.
When I got tired, I settled in front of a small Chinese sari-sari store and wept.
I was already settled in Los Angeles when my best buddy from Olongapo died. Tino was my best buddy when I was working in Olongapo in the Philippines. Even before I left for the states, we made plans to set up a foundation of some sort to help out comrades both in the media and people’s organizations. So when he died, whatever plans we made were permanently shelved. I was deeply shattered.
But life must go on. I have a lot of best friends in store.
Two years ago, my other buddy, a nephew who is almost the same age as I am, was in a Philippine hospital for ear infections and complications. I was able to send whatever money I have to help with the bills. I was also lucky enough to talk to him on the phone. Paralyzed, I could hear he was struggling. He was adamant on apologizing for the inconvenience he had caused me. Damn, I don’t care. If only I could send more money I would. I asked him to hang in there and that I will come home to the Philippines and I wanted him to be there. So I went.
I arrived in Manila late at night so I checked myself in at a hotel to rest. The next day, I planned to go to the Cavite hospital where he was admitted. When I was having breakfast the following morning, my sister in Los Angeles called. She said that she and my mom would be leaving for the Philippines as well. I asked why. She said that my nephew, and buddy, Rommel… just died the night before, just as soon as my plane landed.
I flew for a homecoming. I arrived for a funeral.
A couple of months after I came back to LA, another sad terrible news. My childhood buddy from Mindoro was dead. Unarmed, he was shot several times in the head, cold-bloodedly murdered in his own home. The gunman was wearing a black bonnet on his head so nobody could identify the sonofabitch.
When two of my older brothers and my dad passed away in 2001, just months after the other, I knew from then on that life is short. Very short.
Now when I saw my best buddies dying one by one, it made me think that not only life is short, it also sucks. That however way we try to make it simple, it is always going to be complicated. No matter how much we learn, we keep on becoming ignorant in more ways than one. And that however we try to be cautious, and however fit and clean we live our lives, it could be cut short in an instant.
No wonder, even if we keep on breathing, we all are just surviving, not living. And however we try to survive, or live, we will all end up, just like my buddies…. dead. We all are going to die.
The sad part is, we don’t even have the privilege to choose how.