A life well lived
Dear Mhai (Kristel Mae Padasas),
As I write this, millions of people are rejoicing at Rizal Park in Manila after the papal Mass. They are waiting for His Holiness to pass by in his popemobile. Tears are unrecognizable in the rain. And just like them in the previous day, when Pope Francis visited Tacloban City, you were looking forward to an opportunity of meeting him at the airport after the Mass. I wouldn’t know now how you felt at that moment. Before you could tell me about your experience, you were gone. Forever.
Flashback to 2008. You were fresh out of college and employed in the company where I also found my first job (I was hired five months ahead of you). We were teammates and became really close. And even if I left the company to pursue a career in development work five months after we met, we kept in touch.
We often chatted through Yahoo! Messenger like we used to (even we were just a few work stations apart). We talked about our work, our love life, and our dreams and aspirations. You told me that you wanted to teach and to travel to different places. And while your priority was your family, you also loved doing community service. But you had to save up first to support your goals.
You were the happiest when you visited your mom in Hong Kong and eventually traveled to other countries. Then you discovered the joy of trekking, to be on top of mountains. You finally explored the world by leaving your comfort zone.
You resigned from the company after working there for five years to be a full-time volunteer. I remember how excited and at the same time worried you were that you would be based in Bohol for several months and would leave your dad behind. I teased you that you would meet “the one” over there. But it was your being with the Bohol folk and working with them that made your stay memorable. And even after your stint you continued to serve them, especially after their lives were changed by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake. You joined your former fellow volunteers to raise funds for them, and I understood how dedicated you were.
In one of our chat sessions, you told me that you went couch surfing with a few friends in one of your trips abroad. You were that brave and thrilled to try it out and meet new people. You even went on some trips alone.
And soon after going back to the corporate world, you quit again and accepted instead a job posting in Eastern Samar, to work with the survivors of Typhoon “Yolanda.” It would also mean a longer time away from home. You said you would just have to take a number of days off from work to either visit your dad in Manila or make some side trips to other Philippine destinations.
You traveled all the way from Eastern Samar to Tacloban just to volunteer for the Mass that the Pope would celebrate. It was no longer surprising to know that, aside from meeting the Pope, you also wanted to be with the Yolanda survivors.
On the night before that fateful day, we discussed the round-trip ticket that you got from a previously cancelled flight. You were thinking of using it for a weekend getaway to Cebu. And you had yet to finalize the dates of your travel so I could book the ticket for you immediately, because you were in Tacloban at that time and the ticket was about to expire.
That was our last conversation.
I was excited to ask you about your experience during the papal visit when I heard the sad news of your passing. I couldn’t help but cry. You were young, you still had so much to offer. You had yet to climb Mt. Pulag. You were planning to go back to Batanes in June. You were also looking forward to continued growth and more opportunities in development work.
You really had a burning passion to help others. And even the last moments of your life were spent in the service of the people and of God. You did not die in vain.
Now you are all over the news. Now your family, friends and other loved ones are shedding copious tears. For sure you wouldn’t want to leave us devastated and heartbroken because you were always that one person who made others smile and feel better. You were so sweet and thoughtful, and I was told that before you left Manila, you were actually pushing for another Kapatiran (our “organization,” composed of current and former officemates) reunion. I had never attended such a reunion as I was based in Mindoro for a time, for work.
Words are not enough to express how thankful we are for your love, Mhai. You brought so much positivity into many people’s lives. Things just won’t be the same without you. But we’ll carry on. Your memory will always remain in our hearts.
Your life was cut too short, but it was a life well lived.
Marian Rica O. Lodripas, 29, is a project officer of Integrated Pastoral Development Initiative Inc.
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