365.

So much has been written about and for you, Sei. I reckon there will be a lot more in the coming days, weeks, months, even years! I know I’ve written quite a number but there’s still so much I want to say to and about you – this is one of those.

525,600 minutes.

365 days.

That’s how long it’s been since you’ve been gone at least in the physical sense, Sei.

I’m referencing Rent’s Seasons of Love because I was reminded quite recently of the times we used to sing this song for our yearly Christmas carol fundraiser and of that time we sang this to and for you during the memorial service in school. Man, we were such a sight to see – I can’t help but think that you were probably shaking your head and laughing at our failed attempts of keeping our tears at bay while trying to sing the notes.

Somehow, I can’t believe it’s been a year.

I still remember the exact moment I learned about the tragic news. I was in a lecture in a museum, right smack in front of the speaker when a good friend texted me to ask if I had “heard”. The moment she broke the news, I had to excuse myself from the lecture and wound up walking around the mall in dire search for an outlet because my phone so conveniently ran out of battery. I ended up in a coffee shop, shamelessly asked to be seated in an occupied table next to the outlet and started calling friends to confirm the news. Everyone was in shock and in a state of disbelief and especially, denial.

I still remember the physical and emotional ache that reverberated through my body as I approached our group of friends who were gathered in a circle crying together in the middle of the Red Brick Road.

Even now I still cannot find it in me to comprehend what happened to you and your family. But I guess I would have to echo this: sometimes it’s okay not to know and understand things. It’s okay to be in the dark when it comes to certain things. It’s okay. We’ll be okay.

Sei, you may not know it and I regret never having the chance to tell you this but you’ve taught me a lot about embracing the unknown. You still continue to teach me that. During Kythe Kamp 2, the last one we’d both experience, we had this final group activity where we were asked to anonymously write down our biggest fears. We gathered those little notes and we’d each take turns drawing a note, reading it out loud for the whole group to hear and then publicly giving advice, words of wisdom and what-not to whoever wrote that note. It was a rather big group then and I remember that you were one of the last few to pick a note. Coincidentally, you picked mine. I remember writing then that my biggest fear is never figuring out who I’m supposed to be or what I’m supposed to do. I remember how you stayed silent for quite a while after reading my note and how you said that you felt the same way before proceeding to say something along the lines of how the process of figuring things out will take time and how it’s better to just be patient with ourselves.

Today, the fear of never figuring myself out still lingers quite a lot in my mind. It’s something I have to battle with on the daily but it’s a fear that I’m slowly trying to get over. I’m slowly realizing how it is this exact fear that paralyzes me from ever realizing what potential I have in me, what dreams I have that I can chase after. I have you to thank for that, Sei. You may not have known it then but your words really stuck with me. Just the thought that someone was in the same boat was a very comforting one as this is the kind of fear that makes you feel isolated. I wish I was able to talk to you more about this. I wish I was able to share more of these apprehensions, regrets and what-not with you.

Today, I’m in med school – chasing after one of the multitude of dreams that I have for myself. I’m still not sure if this is it for me. I’m still not sure if this is the dream that I should be chasing. I’m still not sure if this is all worth giving up all those other visions I have for myself. But I’m going to take comfort in the fact that this is part of that process you reassured me about.

The day before you were gone, I remember walking up the stairs to Cervini Rec Room with you. I remember you sharing your excitement over an internship opportunity and how you proceeded to ask me how my med school apps were going. I remember telling you how I just got word of my interview slot and how you teasingly called me Doc and wished me luck. Right now, I can’t help but be sad over the fact that I should have been returning the favor to you around this time. You were so  excited about med school. You were so passionate about so many things. You were just so full of life. But as Joyce said, I refuse to say sayang – I’m realizing that you weren’t cheated of a chance to live life fully because you always did just that – you gave so much of yourself, you really put yourself out there. It may been a short journey for you but it was a pretty good one.

I miss you, Sei! 365 days of carrying you and our wonderful memories of you in our minds and in our hearts.

Please, please continue to guide us.

Advertisements

So we’re now two weeks into the new year. It hasn’t been that long but so much has happened and it’s making me giddy.

The first few days were spent resting at home after the holidays as well as savoring the last few moments I had with my family before I had to go back to Manila for another semester. I went back a bit earlier than usual, though, because my friends and I were going on a trip.

See, last year, my high school friends and I booked a trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Yes – the land of all those Angkor temples, some of which may be familiar because of films like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones. It was a trip I was genuinely excited about because it was my first out-of-country trip with a large group of high school friends (some of us did go to Seoul, South Korea two years ago but there were just four of us then – this time, we were a larger group of seven). Aside from that, though, I was very interested in the sights we were about to visit. Siem Reap and the Angkor temples reek of so much history and I was just so thrilled! The promise of seeing remnants of a once-great civilization and hearing many stories behind them awakened the history geek in me that had become, unfortunately, largely ignored as I was swimming through my first semester in medical school.

So, anyway, we spent three lovely days exploring Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’ll probably talk more about those three days in a later post but suffice it is to say that it was an enriching trip. I was invigorated by the stories I’ve heard about the people, the places and just about everything in Siem Reap. Though, to me, it’s been quite disconcerting to see that so many people are  still struggling in their country. Memories of the war are still evident – especially from the occasional landmine victims we’ve crossed paths with, and you can just see how people are fighting to thrive in a competitive market targeted to tourists. I have so many thoughts to share regarding this but I’ll probably gather them first and share them later on.

Right after getting back from Siem Reap, I went on to attend the Newton Fund Researchers’ Link Workshop which was organized by my university. It was a four-day workshop where researchers from both the Philippines and the UK gathered to pore over the most recent papers tackling the state of Universal Health Care in the country. It was my first foray into the field of public health. See, though, I’ve been part of an organization that caters to chronically-ill pediatric patients, I haven’t been able to do much or contribute even to the macro side of the issue of health in this country. I realized that I’m very interested in public health. I wanted to learn more about it and that’s why  I joined this workshop as a volunteer rapporteur – basically we were going to be observers and transcribers during the workshop sessions.

The first day was admittedly difficult. I was running on two hours of sleep because our flight got in very early in the morning. I was also having a hard time trying to catch up with the lingo of health systems and what-not because I, admittedly, hadn’t been able to do the recommended readings prior to the conference (my bad!), but, thankfully, things got better. It was so inspiring to hear respected lecturers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Oxford University and many other UK universities. It was also equally inspiring to see researchers and lecturers from my own university, Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, as well as other universities and institutions here.  It was just great to hear and see them talk so passionately about their fields

Ultimately, though, what the workshop helped me realize is that the future of the health system in the Philippines is full of hope. Yes, there may be so many problems right now but I’ve seen and heard so many people who are willing to help change what we currently have. There are so many who are  willing to risk and hope for a better state of our health system – and that makes me want to dream with them. It’s going to be a long, long journey for me and for this whole country but I do genuinely believe it will be a worthwhile one. As to how I can concretely contribute to this, that’s for me to find out in the coming months.

So, that’s it. That’s how the first two weeks of the year have been for me.

In two days, I’m going back to med school for my second semester. I know it’s going to be a tough one but I do hope I’ll be able to swim through it.

This year, my only resolution is that I wouldn’t be too tough on myself and that includes, not pressuring myself to figure things out asap because really, has anyone even succeeded in speeding up that process? I sometimes wish I can but I’ve come to terms that I can’t and so…. Wish me luck?