1995 AD. In our Grade 1 class my best friend and I were miraculously placed at the back rows (where mischiefs are rarely spotted) despite our reputation as runners of teks, holens, lastiko and takyan. Seated away from our teacher’s eyes gave us greater freedom to practice our mischief but most of all it we have a full view of everybody doings and even answers during exams. One day after recess while counting trading cards I noticed some of the mischievous boys of the middle rows were having a good time teasing one of the girls. Out of all the kids in the class they chose the most vulnerable; someone pretty, civilized and silent who cannot fight back. That girl was for me the embodiment of every boy’s childhood fantasy to become a hero that will save the earth from ugly aliens and rescue the princess from old witches. I thought I can protect her from every harm. But I could only watch her endure those dogs. She never said a thing. I never did a thing.
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15 years later I was on board inside a ship in one of Cebu’s busiest piers. Christmas was in the air and I was all set and ready to go back to my hometown in Southern Leyte. Minutes before sailing, I observed the vast water wondering about the direction to South America where my best bud was sailing. Then I heard my phone rang. I received a text message from someone outside my phonebook. I replied “Kinsa diay ni?”
The next reply made me jump off my deck and pulled back my bag and stuffs. I told the ship crew I will miss my voyage with them. “Today I’m going to become a hero,” I wanted to tell them.
Inside the taxi my mind raced with a decade worth of questions. How is she doing all these years? How were her studies? How tall is she now? What are the places she has been too? Who is she going out with? It was like inside the set of a television game show where I found myself the contestant attempting answer those never-ending questions.
I arrive at our meeting place and it only took a reciprocated glance from her melancholic eyes that satisfied my curiosity.
I flashed my turbo-charger smile at her and she smiled back. It’s been years seen I talked to her. We’ve taken different high schools and pursued different career paths. Friendster and later Facebook serve as the only connection I have with her. I don’t even have her real number because my best friend supplied me a bunch of bogus numbers all these years.
I’m glad she’s now a fine young lady who also shares the same passion I have for books, movies and writing. She’ll be practicing her chosen profession pretty soon. And man, she is beautiful. I half expected to see another guy beside her but there was none. I chatted with her mom and teased her little sister.
I met her in a hospital ward that December day.
She was ill. The text message I received was a distress call, mayday, S.O.S or whatever they call it. She could barely talk and didn’t have much strength to stand. Her platelets dropped to potentially fatal level. Damn those mosquitoes. The doctors advised her to immediately have blood transfusion via Apheresis . I was probably her biggest hope as a donor. I relished at the thought that I could finally help her.
But the blissful idea quickly tuned into nightmare when the doctor declared my veins were too small for the medical procedure. I wanted to argue with him that he must be wrong. Here please take a second look Doc, I’ve done regular blood donations the last five years. But I did not, knowing too well the procedure will require a thicker vein for a bigger and thicker needle. It was a very disheartening moment to know that my very veins finally failed me when it matter the most. For the second time in my life I could only watch helplessly a princess in distress.
There were other people who responded her call hoping to qualify for apheresis only to share the same fate I experienced that day. It was very frustrating to see people come and go with their hopes turned into disappointments. We all wanted to help a common friend but the doctors mercilessly kept turning people down one by one. I can’t help but question their competence.
But through prayers and moral support my friend was able to recover only a few days later – in another hospital. We were able to spend our Christmases with our families in the province. And much to my surprise she granted my wish for us to attend the grand alumni homecoming of our elementary school before the New Year.
That scary encounter with a princess reminded me how wonderful it is to worry about other people and not for myself. I was a part of the rat race in the corporate world, a sinkhole where people have to push others to stay ahead of competition. I was tired and restless all the time with no time for princesses, fairytales and commitments. But it was a day for me where I have the chance to slow down, take a breather, care for a friend and grab an apple bite. I was very glad to be there by her side though I wasn’t able to help her at all but at least it’s the thought and presence that count. I’m sure its not something heroic. I felt happy but worried that day and I have to admit being a professional, hunting for a job and raising a career looked so small and meaningless compared to the gift of a healthy life and sweet friendships.
At the end of the day it was the princess who saved the hero.