Saturday, February 08, 2014

When I might have been better off a survivor than saved

About three weeks ago, I received an invite from my dear friend Cams to go to Kalinga, trek and get inked by the last tattoo artist of the Kalinga tribe, an old woman by the name of Whang-Od. We were supposed to go with some of our companions during our Mt. Apo hike last year, but I turned the invite down. Yesterday morning, I received the news that the Florida bus they were riding to Kalinga fell down a ravine in Bontoc, Mountain Province and that along with local comedian Tado Jimenez, two of our Apo mates passed away, one of whom was the husband of a colleague who was also with them and is now in Intensive Care for brain hemorrhage. My dear friend Cams is one of the injured, and so are four of our other Apo mates and a former colleague. The devastation I'm feeling now is beyond describing.

I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that two persons I actually know are now dead, and not due to the dangerous hobby of mountaineering which we share. They didn't die because they missed a step while hiking and fell off a cliff, or got carried down a very high waterfall by the current from a river they were crossing on foot. They passed away due to a bus accident. A FRICKIN' BUS ACCIDENT. And I just found out that the bus wasn't even supposed to be operational as it didn't have a permit. So don't anyone dare say it was due to my friends' love of mountaineering and their decision to push through with that trip. It could have happened to anyone, to both eager adventurer and city worker homesick for Kalinga. (I deigned to go on a date last night to take my mind off things and a comment I got from my date about the tragedy was, "It was God's will that it happened." Fuck. When you start mentioning God in such conversations, nobody wins. Three years from now it might actually make sense, but it was just plain wrong to say to someone grieving at the time.)

Another thing I've been mulling over is how if I had joined them I might have altered the flow of events surrounding the whole tragedy. I might have arrived late and made my friends miss that bus or my addition to the headcount might have made us all opt for another trip altogether. At the very least I could have shared in the injuries of the others and maybe gotten a quarter of what was supposed to be my two friends' deaths, making the three of us critically injured but thankfully still alive.

Most of the members of our Mt. Apo team after breaking camp, day 2 of 4. From L to R: David Sicam, Madz Oriondo, me, Andrew Magana, Jessie Delos Reyes, Agung Sicam (David's son), Gerard Baja, Jitesh Goswami, Jun Sollestre, Jun Sollestre's niece, Charley Sta. Maria and Paeng Gordovez.

This kind of news normally doesn't even faze me, but having it happen to people in my circle is a different story. Two weeks ago a close friend at work underwent surgery to remove his gall bladder stones. Last week my paternal grandma passed away due to a heart attack. I haven't even finished the draft of my blog entry regarding my nostalgic trip to Lucban where we buried my grandma, and now two acquaintances die due to a tragic accident while nine others are badly injured. I'm starting to think I'm a magnet for death, danger and sickness, only they don't have any effect on me, just my friends and loved ones.

2 dead and 6 injured out of the 10 in this photo. We had such a great time back then. And now this. Who knew. (Photo taken by my friend Andrew Magana)

My condolences to the families and friends of David Sicam and Gerard Baja. Still praying for the quick recovery of my friends Cams Osorio, Ayen Sicam and her two children Amian and Agung, Michal Negrito, Charley Sta. Maria and Paeng Gordovez.

2 comment(s):

Rah said...

:( sad to hear this. I'm praying recovery or the survivors. Hiram lang talaga ang buhay. :( So sad. Ingat.

leeflailmarch said...

Thank you. Ingat din.