A Tribute to Taba

He was my guy best friend. And I’d like to believe I was his (girl best friend). We were already at the level of friendship that we could talk about anything. He could say mean things to me and I won’t feel offended ’cause I know we share something deeper than that.

We met during our college years in UST. He was my classmate in PRE-Commerce. We clicked instantly because he was as crazy as I was. We love to goof around, tell jokes, bully each other. We share something in common, being funny in a sarcastic way. We’d make a good team, together with our another good friend, Ubeng, in delivering jokes and punch lines. We’d play pusoy dos during our breaks. It was pure fun. We parted ways in 3rd year when we took different major, I in Accountancy, and he in Business Administration. But we still kept our communication open.

Early this year, I got a message from him telling that he was sick. Ok, nothing serious. He just said he has a bone problem and needed a surgery. I thought it was only a minor injury he got from playing basketball. In February 2015, his messages became more serious, still I didn’t think it was something major. He couldn’t walk anymore. But he told me that he’ll be okay and will be fully recovered by the time I go to Philippines for my annual vacation. So I shrugged the thought.

It was in May 2015, his birthday, that I saw a tagged photo of him in Facebook. He lost a lot of weight. And that’s the time I realized, it was nothing close to something trivial as I thought. So I messaged him and demanded the truth. That’s the time I found out that he has stage 4 spinal cancer. Still, I could not comprehend how serious it was. We are still young, I know he’d come out strong from this. Fearing for his life, I shared God’s plan of salvation, ‘coz I still want to see him someday in heaven.

He initially told me that the doctor gave him a month to live. That was in February. It was already May, so yeah boohoo Doc, don’t play God. HE’s the only one who knows how long we’ll live our lives on earth.

I was given an opportunity to see my dear beloved friend for one last time. Last September 2015, my husband and I went home to Philippines for our annual leave. Two days before our departure back to Bahrain, I insisted on visiting him. Good thing Ubeng made herself available. At first he kept on giving me lame excuses. That he was in Laguna and could not meet me. I told him, then I’d go to Laguna. Another was, he’d just have his hair cut and would let me know once done, then we could visit him. In the end, he gave in to our request. We went to visit him at their house in Valenzuela.

23 September 2015. As we entered his room, tears fell from his eyes. I fought the urge to cry because I didn’t want to make him feel any more worse. I flashed him my biggest (and probably the fakest) smile, because deep inside my heart was crushing. That’s when I fully understood the gravity of his situation, he was already very very sick. He was no longer the chubby Irven I first met. He was no longer the lean guy I was with couple of years ago chanting ‘Go USTE’ during a UAAP game. Physically I could not recognize him anymore.

His mom told us about their whole ordeal, from the time they first found out to that very moment. Were there any symptoms at first? He told us he was having back pain on and off, but his several X-rays did not reveal the problem. He was erroneously diagnosed in January of Liver Cirrhosis, so the steroids he initially took turned out to cause his cancer tumor to grow more. One of the tumors on his spine caused the loss of sensation to the lower part of his body. They opted not to undergo chemotherapy because his body was too weak already. He was no longer taking any synthetic medication, they were heavily relying on natural and organic supplements, even tried cannabis. As we were about to leave, I made a small request. “Pwede bang mahug ka namin? Ok lang ba?” And he nodded. When we went close for a hug, his tears fell again. I gave a smirk laugh and said “Wag ka umiyak, ano ba yan.” But I just want to break down at that very moment. We also had our last picture taken together. Atleast I have that something to keep for myself.

It was last 5 November 2015, as I was preparing myself for our music fest in Church when I learned of the terrible news. My heart crushed again. I lost a number of people close to me already, but this was the most painful yet. Cried myself to sleep that night. The next morning while I was having a shower, found myself sobbing. Indeed, death leaves a heartache no one can heal. I read on his timeline, the day he passed away was also the day his brother got married. Typical him. Even on his last breath, he chose to stay strong.. I’m proud of you, Irven.

So long. I will miss you everyday. Thank you for the wonderful memories.

We understand death only after it has placed its hands on someone we love. — Anne L. de Stael


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