Reporter. Journalist. Friend.
I didn’t cry when I found out Dan Campilan had been killed in a car crash just a few hours after we saw each other. My housemate woke me up to break the news; I was shocked beyond comprehension, yes, but no tears fell from my eyes. I still found it hard to believe that someone I had just been with for dinner and coffee can be… gone, just like that. I called up the other people we were with and they confirmed what I hoped was just a really, really bad joke. I sat on my bed for a full hour going over in my mind the events of the previous night. He couldn’t possibly be dead, I thought; we had just kidded him about his less-than-stellar driving skills the night before. There was no way he was involved in that crash.
I didn’t cry when, a few hours after the crash, I saw for myself his lifeless body down in the basement of the funeral home, the embalmer fussing over him, getting him ready to face his final audience. There was a lump in my throat at the sight of him lying there, his face unrecognizable because of the injuries he sustained in the crash. Even then I still couldn’t believe this was my friend we all good-naturedly kept teasing about his Bisaya accent and corny jokes that were so often off-the-mark. And yet, even then, the tears didn’t come.
No, I didn’t cry during the four days we mourned at Funeraria Nacional. I heard from his closest friends, co-workers and family during the two necrological services we organized for him, and listened to unending anecdotes about people’s encounters with him. There was a tremendous outpouring of love for him; practically identical testimonials from the people closest to him of his kindness, generosity and dedication to his family. But except for a few sniffles during mass, I still didn’t cry. I thought that was a bit strange. Dan and I weren’t what I would call close, but I would’ve thought I would feel emotional enough about his death to warrant a tear or two. Heck, I cried when the Pope died, and I didn’t even know him.
I flew to Cebu with common friends to attend his funeral. That was the least I could do for him, I thought; to say goodbye one final time to a person I was only starting to get to know. When the time came to transfer the casket from the chapel to the Church for the funeral mass, I found myself becoming an instant pallbearer. It was surreal–the image of myself carrying a friend in a casket to take him to his grave. I started thinking about the good memories I had with Danâ€“-the endless laughs we shared with our other friends at a coffee shop a just couple of weeks before the crash, when we all found out a very special secret about one of us; the trips to Tagaytay, where we had dinner and wine and more laughs (often at other people’s expense); his easygoing and carefree demeanor that masked the difficulties he had to endure (and was still enduring) to help his family in Cebu. And on and on and on. And it was then, right after I helped placed his casket inside the funeral vehicle, the tears finally came. And boy did they come.
All throughout the mass, while we were marching from the church to the funeral and then right at the gravesite itself, as he was being lowered to his final resting place, it was like the floodgates had been opened and I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I was bawling my eyes out, unashamedly, along with almost everyone else there that day. I had never really lost anyone significant in my life since I was a kid, and if my emotions at Dan’s funeral are any indication, I’m probably going to lose it if and when that happens. I am scared out of my mind. So much for my self-perceived cynicism.
If we are going to judge purely by socio-economic indicators, Dan lived an unfortunate life. I’d like to think though that Dan is a very, very lucky guy. To the very end, he was surrounded by people who cared about him, who knew who he was and loved him for it. The song goes that people get what they give; the people who knew him best gave Dan the love and respect he so richly deserved, but Dan gave so much more of himself to his friends and family. How many of us can say that about ourselves? We should all be so lucky if we get even half of that amount of love when we leave this earth.
Thank you for the memories Dan. We will miss you.
PJ, 26, was with GMA Network before he joined the political and economic section of a foreign embassy. You may read his blog at http://manontheside.blogspot.com.