When I learned about the brutal death of a former student in Eng 2, I cried. I remember her.
Yesterday I just finished work, reading on World Economic Crisis, flooding in Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand pledging scheme, bloating world population and food scarcity, Anti-Wall Street campaigns against Capitalism and all that news that could really desensitize you because of long exposure to negative vibes, when I saw former student Tin’s FB status that the “woman” dumped near IRRI (where I stayed a few weeks ago) was none other than Given Grace Cebanico.
I cried because she’s my former student, a part of our UPLB community, a fellow woman, and most of all, a human being. If I could cry nonstop watching a tragic film, how much more in the face of this pointless violence.
I imagined meeting the criminals. I shall sit them in a classroom, tell them the story of humanity, how from savagery we have supposedly progressed because we have realized the beauty of life despite the challenges of living, how from decade after decade we have witnessed the worst crimes against humanity dwindle because we are thinking creatures, we are not plants, we have senses, we could be hurt but we can assess pain and get over it and live on. And then maybe, still with a sober mood, I would usher in Given, introduce her to them, and say, this is Given Grace, I know she has a really weird name, right Given? (and like on our first day of class, she’d laugh again and say, Ma’am naman e, hahaha), I offered to call her Grace because I don’t want to call her in a boring past participle, but she insisted because that’s how persistent she is, sobrang kulit na bata, like when she presented her topic to me, something Biblical, my eyes rolled and asked, Given, where will you get your sources? You know what she did? She presented other topics such as the History of the Creation in Bible less the metaphysical aspects of the Holy Spirit, scouted for sources from different libraries and consulted with me almost every time the 7/8am class ends, because her faith is unwavering, do you know what unwavering means, Mr Criminal/s? It means firm. Determined. Dedicated (and then of course, shy Given would giggle). Our class is very early so most of her classmates would stare at me like a zombie, but Given would always look at me with a Hermione Granger attention and recite and ask and comment and answer my questions even if I’m tired calling her, and she’d speak in broken English so she’d switch to Filipino but I’d cut her, English, Given! Speak in English! then she would pause, then struggle to communicate her ideas because at the start of the sem, I had oriented them that the English language should not intimidate them since we can conquer English and turn it to our advantage: Filipino English.
Then I imagine looking straight into the eyes of the criminals, while holding the lady’s hand. This is Given Grace. She’s a given grace to her family. She’s my former student, one of the best, she got an uno for the research paper; she’s from UPLB, she has the makings of a successful UPLB alumnae, because like other teachers, I made it a point that I share with them all the skills and insights I learned from UP and from the harsh “outside world” because I wanted them, each. one. of them. to succeed; I made it a point to meet her, like what I did with other diligent students, for consultations because they are sacred investments for a better Philippines. Because I know, my time spent with her will NOT be wasted, my time reading and improving her writing will NOT be wasted.
Finally, this is Given Grace. She’s a human being, like you, who’s given a chance to experience life if only for a moment. She’s not just some nameless, unidentified “woman” that you’d toy with and throw in a canal, for the media to photograph. No. no. no. no. She’s destined to have a name, with a death more dignified than what you planned for her.
With such short life, she managed to enjoy it, this happy happy child. I remember her face when I was giving them this out-of-syllabus talk on existentialism blues, about how else do you enjoy your short life full of routines, but explore it and live a life of adventure and happiness, and live everyday as if it’s the last. You don’t waste your time in this planet hurting people, treating human beings like objects, taking a life that you didn’t even give, taking a future that you didn’t even work on… unless of course you are a moron, or to use a friend’s term, savage.
Anyway, I now wipe my tears which wouldn’t stop flowing as I write this. I would like to believe she’s in a happier state now. I don’t believe in the supernatural but last night, when my sister and I were talking about this incident, her laptop went black and on again to show something like this, without the clouds:
I believe in the laws and justice of the universe. Whatever happens, you criminals will get what you deserve, here or afterlife. That’s a given.