Remembering Cecil A

Cecil A, to distinguish him from Cecile R who was also our classmate, was from Dipolog and was the first of three from our batch in the seminary to pass away. We have been told that he drowned on an Easter Sunday while trying to save his girlfriend when their boat capsized during an outing. His girlfriend survived. He did not. A true hero.

Cecil was an original classmate from first year high school. Thus, we were together with him during those growing years of our life.

I remember him to be a fine, friendly, good-looking and intelligent person. If I may recall he was a consistent honor student from first year to fourth year high school.

Cecil was not only good in academics. He was also into sports and music. He played ping pong and represented the school in the provincial meet. Likewise, he could play the guitar and was known for his plucking ability. His favorite singers were Simon and Garfunkel.

As the class monitor, I could easily remember him because his name was first in the list. As such he would always be first when it comes to assignments of study table, lockers or bed. He would also be first when we were asked to make a report in class.

Even if he came from a prominent family (his father was the provincial engineer who became the vice-governor of Zamboanga del Norte), he never used his status and political privilege to demand special treatment from us, his peers and classmates.

In the seminary community, Cecil was called “Walwal”. It was because he was fond of saying “Walwal sad ninyo oy!”. He did not like the name at first. But he became used to it and tolerated it.

When we were in third year high school, Cecil’s mother died. I know it was a very painful and devastating episode in his life, yet he handled it with grit and courage, a sign of his strong inner character.

In fourth year high school, Cecil was the first platoon leader of Alpha Company in our CAT class. (The other platoon leaders were Loel, myself, and another one.) Although lean in stature, he surely could demand respect from his fellow cadets.

After high school, Cecil, together with Rene, went off to San Jose Seminary in Ateneo de Manila. But after a year in San Jose he must have found out that priesthood was not his vocation. He left the seminary and took up engineering in Cebu. Since then we never heard much from him.

The last time I saw Cecil was in 1989 at the tarmac of Davao International Airport on my way for a holy retreat. He was working then as ground personnel of Philippine Airlines. We did not have much time to talk since he was on duty and I was only passing by.

The next time I heard of him was the news of his tragic death. He was supposed to return to Davao from a long holy week vacation in Dipolog when he met his untimely death.

Cecil is most remembered for the startling brevity of his life. He was just starting to build his career path when he died at a very young and tender age of 26. He could have been one of those from our batch who would climbed the ladder of success had he survived. But his destiny did not allow it. He had to die in order for his girlfriend to live.

Cecil literally lived up to the saying, “He died so that others may live.” Ironically, however, he did it on an Easter Sunday. (soc)