The Philippine Collegian carried a similar editorial title seven years ago. That was the week my friend passed away days after being hit by a careening BMW car driven by a drunk student.
Precious, called Freak by a lot of her college friends, was one of the organizers of an open house event at Kamia Residence Hall in UP Diliman. She was at the entrance booth when the incident happened. There were also other Kamia residents injured, including my roommate, Meryl Antonio, who was head of that night's Death to Pop: Battle of the Bands.
Looking back at what happened always brings pain. For four days, Freak’s family and friends watched over her at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. I was at the corridor outside the ICU when she passed away.
But it was also the time which made me realize how much she was loved by many. We saw how people – family, friends, even strangers – can work together as a community in times of sorrow. Artists and musicians volunteered to hold several concerts in memory of Freak and to help her family. The UP Office of Legal Aid, through Atty. Theodore Te, handled the case against the drunk driver.
The outpour of help was overwhelming. I remember going to the UP Shopping Center to buy food and utensils for the people attending the wake at the nearby chapel. When the stall owner learned that it was for the wake, he told me not to pay anymore and not to mention his name, but to express condolences to Freak's family.
A lot of articles were written about the mishap, including a news article about BMW complaining about having its name used in a bad light. The car company’s move struck a lot of us as insensitive, especially because it was expressed in the midst of the mourning.
I guess it was characteristic of BMW, as a car company, to worry about sales while the families and friends of the victims were grieving about a life that was destroyed. But some degree of subtlety was called for. The issue highlighted on the factual reports was not even about any defect on the car. The cause of the mishap was the drunk driver’s recklessness and disregard for other people’s lives.
Several proposed legislation were also submitted to the Congress on measures regarding road safety but were not passed into law. These include Senator Richard Gordon’s proposed Drunk Driving Prevention and Punishment Act of 2007, which mentioned the Kamia incident and Freak’s death on its explanatory note. I share Ray Butch Gamboa’s sentiments in Motoring Today.
I met Freak in a basketball class. Her P.E. shirt carried the number 10 and mine had the number 9, so we sometimes told people we were really meant to be good friends. The following year, she transferred from Kalayaan Dorm to Kamia, where I was already a resident since first year.
There aren’t many tangible things left to remind me about one of the best friends I had in UP. I have the painting above (a birthday gift), note crafted on a pack of a favorite cigarette, a blank book she wanted me to fill with writings, some photos and a copy of The Celestine Prophecy that I failed to return. For years, I refused to fold the colorful plastic boxes we bought at Megamall and Freak assembled for me in my room.
Freak will always be one of the reasons why college days were among the best parts of my life. After my first UP Fair night, Freak and I, with some other friends, slept in front of the Main Library as we waited for Kamia to open doors at six in the morning. She was the person to ask whenever I wanted to see a new place or to watch a gig and forget about the curfew.
Days before the incident, we were talking about our plans of teaching and taking up law. She had just shifted from chemistry to philosophy. I was already staying in an apartment at Katipunan Avenue that semester. During our last conversation, I told her that we should try a new restaurant and celebrate because she was a university scholar. Since we were both busy that time, we agreed to do that after the Kamia Open House.
I can never really fully write about the loss. But friends understand why walking down the Engineering side of the academic oval takes me back to one Sunday afternoon Freak and I shouted each other’s name and listened to the echoes from Melchor Hall. And why my idea of soul searching is going to Benguet (Freak’s home province) or, to borrow another friend’s words, “finding my own north”.
Friends understand, too, why I always remind them not to drink and drive, or to just have someone sober drive for them when they’re drunk. We all know how a single act of recklessness can cause great damage and destroy lives. Seven years ago, one drunk driver already took away a great part of mine.