Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A reminder from someone
I’ve never met

NIKKI CASTRO, our former batch president, passed away Sunday, September 3. He was 21.

I never met the guy—didn’t even vote for him in the Sanggunian election a couple years ago. But I knew of him.

Disease is what we have in common. We both battled cancer in high school. We both went to college cancer-free. We went along with our lives. I remained low key, preferring to keep to my fine arts colleagues, while Nikki’s face was seen in many a poster all throughout campus as he ran for and eventually got elected as batch president.

It was a bit of a surprise when Nikki had to step down from his post. He took a leave of absence from school during our sophomore year. He had a relapse. The cancer came back.

It was something like four in the afternoon on Sunday—just as I was getting ready to go to mass—when I received a text message from Gin: “Guys, nikki castro passed away… Please, let us all pray 4 d eternal rep0se of hs soul…” Time seemed to stop.

We both had cancer. We both were cured. His went back. Now he’s gone. And I’m still here.

God, it’s amazing the kind of menial bullshit I let bother me considering what could be my reality. Nikki and I never met, but his passing hits a little too close to home.

Spent an hour on Monday before class at the college chapel where Nikki lay in state. It was surreal. The “that could be me” feeling crept in. Am I taking my health for granted? There’s a difference between moving on and denying the past. That could’ve been my body resting in that chapel. Japs later admitted to thinking about me when she had heard about Nikki. Shit. Frightening.

To add salt to the wound, Aeli (news editor ko sa KATIPUNAN) asked me to write something short about Nikki’s wake and funeral for the next issue. To reduce one’s life to the details of his wake and his funeral…how utterly sad, disrespectful, and pathetic. There was no way I—cancer survivor—was going to ask the family of someone who passed away because of cancer for such menial details. Thankfully, Japs was willing to ask around the Sanngu for me.

Two days after this cancer survivor received a Palanca, another former survivor unfortunately succumbed to the disease. I wrote extensively in an essay once about how some people just can’t afford to live. Many are gravely ill and can’t pay for treatment. Nikki and I were blessed to be able to afford to fight. He lost his fight on Sunday, mine continues.

I’m an ambitious person. I have a lot on my mind. I have a lot I want to do. I’m entering my sixth year of remission from cancer. Often it’s the least thing on my mind. Nikki just reminded me how I might’ve taken survival for granted.

Thanks for the wisdom, man. Rest in peace, Nikki. Rest in peace.


Anderson Cooper of CNN gained worldwide fame and recognition for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina. He was once asked in an interview by a late night talk show host if it was hard to know that his career had benefited from what had been a tragedy for others.

The interviewer was obviously joking. But there's something there to think about.


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