What shook me awake
I used to believe that there was no point in trying to stop Death. No matter how young, rich, smart, or religious you are, it will come to you. I accepted it as a nearing yet unpredictable fate, and something from which I could never run away. Because of what I believed, I lived a very reckless life. I put myself at risk so many times that I cannot remember them all. I behaved in this way because I always had in my mind that sooner or later, I’d die anyway, so why prolong the agony? “What will be will be,” I used to say.
However, it was because of my acceptance of death that I forgot about living. I never enjoyed my life to the utmost, not even whenever I achieved something big, or perhaps something little but worth celebrating. “What for? After all, I’ll not take these with me when I die,” said I.
One typical night in Surigao City, I was awakened by a jolting motion that made my heartbeat race like a stallion. The neurons in my brain were in an orchestra of complete disarray as the shaking continued and got even stronger. As I got out of bed and stood on the floor, my double-decker moved toward me and pinned me against the wall. No matter how hard I tried, I could not push the bed away because the quake just kept pushing it back even harder. I saw the wall at the other side of the room leaning toward me, groaning like an old man about to collapse. Nevertheless, I was still able to keep my composure.
That was last Feb. 10.
In July last year, my colleagues in the Filmmaking Club and I were brainstorming on our storyline for our entry in the then upcoming video-making contest in the province of Surigao del Norte. The competition was in line with the National Disaster Consciousness Month, and the entries were intended to raise public awareness about certain disasters and calamities. In the end, we came up with a short film titled “Uy-og” (Shake): It is about a catastrophic earthquake that hits Surigao City and the resilience and selflessness of its men and women even in a time of chaos.
Ironic, if I were to describe the crossroads where the past and present met. Who would have thought that the subject of the film we were shooting at that time would actually happen in the real world? And to top everything, the last line in the film script was: “It’s about to happen.” For so many times I heard the line, but I didn’t care much to put it in consideration. Now it has clearly taken its toll.
When the earthquake was actually happening, I was convinced that I was about to die. I just closed my eyes and prayed. I imagined my family and my friends, and recalled memories I didn’t know I still had. Then, to my surprise, my body shook together with the earth.
I had thought I was never afraid of death. I had even considered death as a longtime friend who was about to pay me a visit anytime soon. But after seeing all those precious fragments inside my head, fear began to creep over me. I feared that I would not see my parents again. I feared that I would be unable to say “sorry” to my siblings, or to tell them that I do love them even more than chocolates and animé. I feared that I would not be able to graduate with my friends, to shed tears with them after the ceremony, and to take hundreds of “groufies” to include in our crowded Facebook albums.
I feared I would not meet this one person for whom I was made, and share the beauty of life that God created for both of us. I feared that I would not make it to heaven because I had not done enough to earn God’s approval. And for the first time since I could remember, I feared death.
When the earth stopped moving, I came to the realization that my life does not belong to me alone anymore, and that it also belongs to my family, my friends, my future lover, and God.
Oscar Wilde said it well: “To live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people exist, and that’s all.” Therefore, I will stop merely existing. I will dare to do the rarest thing in the world—to live—and try to be a bit selfish from this moment on and ask Death for a little more time before he comes to visit. And until then, I will make much of my time and make the most of the moments that I will have with the people I value most and who value me in turn.
We all have that one moment that makes us realize what we have been missing. It has happened to me, it has happened to others. If you think it still has to happen to you, don’t wait for a 6.7-magnitude earthquake. Just let that moment happen. Let it be now.
Niell O. Figuron, 19, is in his fourth year in secondary education, major in English, at Surigao State College of Technology.
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