Amante: A final rest, gracefully

THE story can begin with a formula any journalist knows.

SunStar Cebu news editor Olga Marie Aledo-Campaña died Thursday morning surrounded by her family, a week after she collapsed from a ruptured aneurysm. Filmmaker Roy Ho was buried in Guimaras on the same day, a week after friends found him dead in the home he rented in Mandaluyong. They were 46.

That day’s passage in “The Daily Stoic” began with an excerpt from Marcus Aurelius: “Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.”

I know that lush imagery—the end of life as a kind of ripening—is supposed to comfort. But it’s a little soon for that. Language, too, is inadequate. Some of the things we say in the face of loss are banal or exaggerated. We write: I will never forget you. But we will. Give it time.

Still, memory is a balm. On my mind are pictures of GingGing and Roy within a tiny circle of communication majors in the University of the Philippines in Cebu. She was always more GingGing than Olga; him I called Ho for the chance to call out, “Hey, Ho!” In 1990 and 1991, we hoped for power cuts to interrupt our broadcast production classes in a studio that smelled like a damp carpet. When that happened, we would sit outside, eat fried bananas, and hope the power cut would outlast our class schedule.

GingGing was shy and often quiet in class, but dependable. Probably the most aggressive thing she did was whack the space beside the record turntable, because that was the only way that antique would start spinning. Ho was the class storyteller, on the days he showed up instead of shooting pool in El Garaje or watching a movie in Belvic. He usually had a joke or a one-liner. I remember him dismissing the campus heartthrob as someone who was “one cheerleader short of a squad.”

After college, GingGing and I chose different outlets and lost touch for about four years. I knew she had a popular program, on which she played the old songs she loved. Ho lugged his backpack to The Freeman and joined them as a copy editor. Which meant that when he and I had the chance to catch up, the topic would inevitably shift from books to the latest jokes from his other friends (including one that involved a cliff and some sheep), to industry and newsroom gossip.

By the time GingGing and I met again, she was already building the circle of news sources and reserves of patience that enabled her to write important stories. It was GingGing who first wrote that the payments for the South Road Properties loan would amount to more than P1 million a day. A source gave her grief for that, but while he could question her angle, he couldn’t fault her accuracy. GingGing spent days going after public documents and stayed long after her peers had given up.

In the last 10 years, after she left the field for an editing desk, GingGing grew more assertive, until only traces of the shy teenager remained. I will miss GingGing’s probing questions for the reporters she mothered, almost as much as her banter with the rest of the newsroom. Her irreverent laughter. Grief is a little easier to bear knowing that in the weeks before her death, she had celebrated with us and other peers, received an award at work, and played in the snow.

I have many memories of them both, but this space allows for only two. Once, I ran into Ho outside the hospital where my father lay dying, and he offered to walk with me to another hospital two blocks away where I could buy some supplies. I’ve forgotten what we talked about, but not how much better I felt simply because he listened. As for GingGing, it’ll take a long time to forget that, on the most trying day I’ve had at work, she was one of those who consoled me.

Almost anyone can write a story about death. But those of us who knew the departed can fill in the details of their “brief patch of time,” which is what we all get in the end.
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