“Fev, nagralaway kag nagwaras tana.” (Fev, she salivated uncontrollably and ran amuck) It was my best friend describing in a text message our college batch mate who recently died because of acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) due to rabies. Her very colorful description how that batch mate of ours died seemed to be too poetic a description for a death as prosaic as dying from a bite of a deranged dog.
She was bitten by a stray dog in the neighborhood early January. It took three months for the virus of the Lyssa genus to travel from the bite wound and reach her central nervous system. By mid-March she was already experiencing malaise, headache and fever. According to my best friend this batch mate of ours showed uncontrolled excitement, depression, and in her last days, hydrophobia, mania, lethargy that finally led to coma. They were classmates in a public high school in Antique and eventually in all their Literature classes at UP Visayas, as they took the same major in college.
She was interred for a day in their house and was immediately buried, without being embalmed, for fear of the spread of the virus. My best friend and their high school classmates were discouraged from seeing her body to contain the contagion. Her entire family is placed on quarantine until this time.
She is survived by her seven-month old baby.
She was one of those very quiet people of generic appearance and personality one meets in college, becomes a classmate, spends a few times with, and as is always the case, forgotten easily after graduation.
My only recollection of her was how she ruined the afternoon of our professor when she read entirely from a book her report about the Babaylans of Panay in a History class we were both enrolled during our first year in college. Although I couldn’t remember her talking much, not even about literature, there were times I think I remember about her few moments of unconscious abandonment when she laughed in class at jokes I didn’t find funny or just did not comprehend.
She also had this unforgettably long her that reached down to her waist. Never did I see her long black hair unkempt; it’s always combed, shiny, freshly washed.
Because of poverty and inability to continue college, she applied for a leave of absence in our junior years, and I did not see her since then except for one time when I bumped into her at the office of the university registrar falling in line for her transcript. I was already teaching then. She only showered praises for me, which I did not take seriously. I wanted to ask question about her and her new life outside the university, but I held back and shelved the idea thinking we were never that close for me to ask sensitive personal queries.
Since then, I heard vignettes about her: she having a new boyfriend, being pregnant, breaking up with her boyfriend, finding a new one, and taking odd jobs in the city. But these stories were often shallow, almost always taken out of context. Simplistically unreal stories that I refused to believe about a former classmate whose life is as uniquely complex and interesting as anyone’s. I did not believe in their truth not because they were lies but because they were bare.
But probably I never really cared because they were insignificant stories related to me by my best friend about somebody who was ephemeral and insignificant a character that would never figure in my universe.
As a token, I wrote this post, and to remind me one day, in the event my memory fails, of a girl who was seated in the front row of our classroom in my History class who one drizzly July afternoon, to the consternation of our veteran professor, just read in front of the class while seated on the teacher’s table the whole report assigned to her verbatim from Renato Constantino’s book.
And her hair that reached down to her waist, only that on her last day, that long, black hair, might have been unwashed, disheveled, unkempt because she spent her last day on Earth fearing water.