I promised myself to go to Karla’s grave first thing when I arrive from Mindanao but I didn’t. Maybe I was unconsciously putting it off because I don’t know where cemetery she lies or how to react or what to say to a grieving family. One day, I pushed my luck and sent a message to Karole asking if she was still in the country and if ever she still is, could I tag along if they visit her.
She replied and the date was set, the first of December, 7:30 AM at Pandacan Church. When I arrived, I easily spotted and approached them. I saw that Tita was teary eyed. I thank God for her courage to take back the tears because if she wept, I would have surely wept with her.
The church was walking distance from where they lived and when they asked where I currently reside, a sense of guilt washed through me even if I know the question was purely out of curiosity. You see, I live one tricycle ride away from Pandacan Church, one tricycle ride from where my dudee lived for the past 22 years. I moved in last April and realized I was near her sometime in August when I saw the familiar fountain when my father took me to Binondo on a different route. During those days, I always thought of surprising her but with the idea that she was recovering, never had the sense of urgency to do it. When I learned about her worsened condition in November, I told myself I’d come visit regularly when she is discharged. But she never would be back home. I feel guilty and irritated with myself because all those times during my bum months when I just stayed at home and surfed the internet could have been times spent with her. I guess I’d just subsist on the memories we’ve shared, tiny in quantity but overwhelming in quality.
During our walk to their house, I was hand in hand with Karol and I felt the need to start a conversation because the silence was making me uncomfortable (even though I love it on other circumstances). I desperately searched my brain for the right words to say and the right questions to ask and it came up with the lamest thing possible, “Kumusta ka naman?” to which Karole replied with a sad note “Okay naman” followed by more uncomfortable silence.
In the living room while waiting for their other relatives to get ready, I again tried but it was really hard because I have only met Karol twice or thrice, the last time almost 2 or 3 years ago and Karla is the only connection we have. She was like the glue that held us together and I could not bring myself to talk about her. Finally, it was Karol who went first and just like that, we were back on our first meeting where the two of us instantly ‘clicked’. The conversation stirred from copyright infringement to the Big Bang Theory to her life in the states to the rules of being a TV show audience.
We were interrupted by her five year old cousin Marian singing “Happy birthday ate Karol”. Yeah, it was her 19th birthday and we were going to visit her 22 year old only sister’s grave. Sometimes, life could be so wickedly funny, or not funny at all.
Dudee was laid to rest at Manila South Cemetery. We brought her candles and flowers and a pack of Oreo from Karol. Tita talked to her baby telling her not to worry if she still cried. All I could do was listen to her monologue — wishing you lived until Christmas, sorry for not being able to prolong your life, thank you for being so sweet — and feel the pain of a mother who lost her child. After a while, we offered our prayers and left.
It was sad because it’s been barely a month but just like what I read once, time would soon turn the wounds into scars, still there but dull instead of painful.
When Tita joked about Karla living in her own condominium, I knew she’d get through.
After we parted ways, Karole sent me a message saying I was always welcome to come with them or hang out at their place. You know what, this time I actually would.