She had her face mask on when she stood near me during the wake for my good friend Emmanuel Mongaya at the St. Peter’s funeral home weeks ago. I tried listening to her talk while I struggled to identify her from my acquaintances who were there that night. Until she talked about her “ate” who is based in Palawan. This must be Gigi, I told myself.

Gigi was among the Theresians that I got to know when I was a Chemical Engineering student in the late seventies. But I knew her older sister, who was the more intellectual of the two, better. Gigi was into acting, which was never my line.

We joined the rallies that were held in Cebu against the Marcos dictatorship, and those women in white and blue uniforms were a source of inspiration. Gigi was the emotional type while her sister was the calm type. The older sister became a lawyer while Gigi worked with a non-government organization. I organized peasants in the countryside.

Gigi eventually married Rolly, a former seminarian. During former Superbalita managing editor Anol Mongaya’s wake, we talked about the challenges her older sister faced as an environmental lawyer and about the health concerns we were dealing with at that time. I was recovering from a mild stroke that had left my right hand numb. She talked about her cardiovascular problem and how she tried to overcome it.

She promised to email me an article about cardiovascular health and advised me to visit a Lapu-Lapu-based doctor. I appreciated the concern, something that we former activists have for each other. I had tried to stray far from Gigi because I thought she had suspicions after I was arrested twice in the past. That conversation told me I really had to know her better.

We were both older and had gotten more mature as we attended to our families. Our children had grown and her daughter, who approached her, during the wake, was pursuing a medical course. Gigi had been a Facebook friend, but I rarely communicated with her and Rolly.

Thus, reports of her passing away came as a surprise. She died weeks after another good friend and colleague, photojournalist Tonee Despojo, passed away. Both Gigi and Tonee died peacefully in their sleep. Which reminded me of a message former SunStar editor Paul Taneo sent me. That Tonee’s passing meant that another member of our batch had gone to the great beyond.

That, I should say, is the price of having reached this age. I retired from my work in SunStar Cebu in 2019 and since then have struggled financially. Gigi was also in her twilight years before she died. And in this country, growing old is not something to crow about. The years spent in retirement are struggles that have to be faced.

I have written short fiction in the past, some of which I submitted for consideration to the Palanca Awards. One concern in these endeavors is always the ending. What is the ending reserved for my batch? Have we given enough to our country, or do we need to give more?

Gigi was one of those who had given enough for her country. It’s just that we are too puny to make a difference. But for me, that is alright. Godspeed, Gi.