First to the finish line

As young sixth graders, my friends and I would spend afternoons after classes at the library corridor chatting and doing our homework together. I distinctly remember that we would share over Mia’s packed lunch of rice and Spam that she didn’t touch. We would always be scolded by the librarian because of our noisy giggles and banter. On other occasions we would just sit on the stairs near the grade school canteen and the ballet room and tell stories till our sundo arrives.

Mia was my classmate for two years, sixth grade and freshman year. We were in the same group of friends when I first experienced going out with friends without the supervision of any grown-up. As twelve year olds we would play at the old Glico’s in Glorietta or at Whimsy Land at Shang all wearing Giordano Classics.

Mia would never forget special occasions. She has substantially contributed to my Zashikibuta collection because she would gift me with Zashi items not limited to stationery. She always brings goodies she baked and let everyone have a piece. In highschool, she was known as Mia Q. (as her last name is Quijano) since there were other Mia’s in the batch. We had different sets of friends when we reached highschool but I would always remember her as one of my Grade 6 barkada.

Mia was an excellent student and a math whiz who finished Statistics in UP. Three years ago, while working for a multinational business solutions firm, we learned that she was diagnosed with nasal cancer. She was able to beat the big C and even managed to get back to work. In the past months however, it recurred and affected the different systems of her body.

Last Friday, she was rushed to the hospital since she was having a hard time breathing. That entire weekend her whole family was said to be crying and she was the brave soul reassuring them. Come Sunday night everyone fell asleep as Mia herself rested. Upon waking up the following morning Mia was gone. She left them early Monday morning without them noticing, peacefully and calmly.

The wake last night was trademark Mia. All of her friends were there from STC to UP to Accenture. The ribbons on her coffin were beautifully lettered and she was the only fashionista. There were framed pictures of her with family and friends and albums with our grade six class party pictures in them. Her sister jokingly told us to be sure to put the pictures back fearing that we might snatch one which was what we initially planned.

We later learned that she had everything planned. Did I also mention she was a great artist, redoing art projects when she is not satisfied? The diligent person that she is, she personally wrote the names of her family members in the ribbons for her coffin and specified how exactly she would look from the blouse to the bracelet that she wore.

Mourning for a childhood friend’s death was just surreal. Last week I just attended another highschool friend’s wedding and now we’re putting a friend to rest. As we gathered last night for Mia’s wake, I realized that we are all twenty-somethings who are just starting to make something of our lives. Some of us are about to graduate from med school, one just gave birth last month and I have been working on some major changes I want in my career. Mia Q. on the other hand, the youngest in a brood of six, decided to take a bow when the show is just starting, only eight years after we parted ways and left the comfortable walls of high school.

As I work my ass off everyday, worrying about bills that never-end and figuring out what I really want in life, Mia will be sitting pretty at the side of her God, happy and contented for her brief but full life on earth. I’m hoping that by the time we meet again, we’ll be both twelve year olds and not the unfortunate event that she’s a beautiful 25 year old and I’m an 80 year old hag.