Seven years, Jang. It’s been 7 years since I last saw you. Seven long years. A lot has happened since then. I’ve graduated. Worked at a BPO company. Trained as a volunteer nurse. Trained by MMC. Hired. Underwent regularization. Received several trainings and seminars. Promoted. Took numerous exams. Trained personnel. And I’m still a nurse. I say that I won’t last long as a nurse, and I still believe that you’d have been a better nurse than me, and we both know it.
Seven years. I remember it still, though some details may be fuzzy but I still remember it. Morning of the day, we had our finals in a non-nursing subject. Before class started, Nicole was crying and we, despite being socially awkward tried cheering her up. Our favorite drink back then was Chuckie and Mogu Mogu and Soya Milk. While waiting for the start of the exam, we bought ourselves some drinks. Exam started and I finished earlier than you. That was our only schedule for the day so I waited for you and while others went somewhere to review for the following day’s exam, we went to Glorietta. We even walked the distance and memorized the streets. We were tired and hungry so we ate at Chowking and then played at Timezone. We went down and saw Penny, Karla, Maine, Joie, Kai, Lianne, Abi and Pao at Food Choices. We joined them while they had lunch. Then Kai was complaining of severe dysmenorrhea, we brought her back to MMC-ED and we left her with her then boyfriend, King, after making sure that she’ll be okay.
Us girls decided to go home then, while the rest of them took cabs and jeepney rides, we opted to go for the FX van. It was just the two of us again and we were back to our comfortable silence. We got to Glorietta and said our goodbyes and “Ingat” and that was when everything went wrong.
Everything’s still so vivid. We separated ways, I was able to cross the pedestrian lane to go to Park Square where I’ll be catching the bus home. I just passed by the salon by the entrance when I heard the explosion. I walked briskly to take cover at one pillar/foundation, and when I looked back, the glass had already shattered where I had been walking past. My heart raced and I looked around, I never noticed the entrance of Glorietta as I was too terrified of the event that just transpired. I ran to the terminal and climbed the bus, I saw Lovejoy and relayed to her the events. As I was talking to her, I started calling you. Your phone had a problem and I couldn’t contact you. I sent a text blast to our classmates, asking them to try and contact you as well. I never thought of going back to Glorietta, I was too afraid… And I was hoping that you weren’t affected; as per my POV, it was Park Square which was blasted.
I informed my parents of the events from my POV and when I got home I still couldn’t contact you but I’ve heard from pretty much everyone. I was home when Papa called, I told him what happened. Mama went home early and we still couldn’t call you. I asked Rizza to see if your parents have heard from you… I was sleepless that night as we watched the news and waited for any news from our friends. I was crying, I couldn’t sleep inside my room. They couldn’t find you at hospitals, they then tried morgues. It was maybe past midnight when Rizza found you, I can’t remember if she was with your parents but we finally learned what had happened to you. I was distraught.
Saturday morning, the batch still had it’s PMSD exam. The counsellor asked the class if we can take the exam, I said no. I was crying, most of the class still couldn’t believe it. We were all just together Friday morning, I was the last one to see you alive. I stepped out of the room and talked to the counsellor. I had moved past denial and was into anger and bargaining phase. I was saying what I could’ve done, what I should’ve done, what we could’ve done. We could have rode the jeepney, we could have walked again… But we chose to ride the FX, and I chose to say goodbye instead of coming with you. I made my choice and little did I know that I was saying “Ingat” for the last time.
Sunday, I did not attend church. I kept crying. I still couldn’t sleep. I asked my mom to sleep with me, years long after I had grown out of childhood. I slept on the couch because I didn’t want to be alone in the dark room. I never really had nightmares then, at least not that I could recall when I woke up.
Monday. Final exam. After the exam we went to your parents house, we saw you for the first time. I saw how your house was almost finished with the construction, I saw your room. Your parents talked about you, how you would stay up to review while drinking energy drinks. I couldn’t eat much, I couldn’t stomach anything. I was crying and your mom was holding me.
A few days pass and it was the last night of your wake. A couple of our classmates stayed over and prayed and recalled stories. It was then time for mass and eulogies. I talked but I couldn’t speak without crying. I was surrounded by your family and our friends. I remember the fragrant flowers. How one of your older brothers laid a bouquet of roses saying that you never even experienced receiving flowers from a suitor. I also recall how one of your classmates from high school said that he had a huge crush on you but was too afraid to be rejected by you. You were gone too young, too soon… You had your whole life ahead of you.
Sunday, your interment at Heritage Park. A number of our batch mates attended. We wore white and released balloons and we said good bye for a final time. Most of us gave you the Super Mario Life (mushroom). Your favorite color was red, I gave you the red mushroom and it was good bye.
I was sad… What they called the depression stage. It was your 18th birthday on Dec 15 when I finally started to accept the events and what surrounded that October. A year after, on Oct 19, 2008, I had accepted and moved on.
I will always miss you, Janine. You were a dear friend. Somehow, I felt like we were two peas in a pod because we were similar. I was just more liberated and outgoing. You were more reserved and conservative. I love you, Jang, my angel, my friend.