for the living

I’ve been collecting them for some time.

I spoke to a friend about the inanity of eulogies at funerals, and we both grieved over all the unheard messages for the departed. This lead me to send random notes to all kinds of people in my life: strangers, acquaintances, friends, relatives. The initial reaction is almost always a shock in the form of, “ano meron?”. It’s sad and weird how unusual appreciation has become that it bewilders us whenever we receive a compliment from someone. The ambitious part of me wanted to break that.

When I started to ask “eulogies” from others, it was on another level of shock, other times followed by a rebuke especially from my family. But there were also some who completely understood the purpose behind my request. It’s just much more convenient if we all say what we want now, I tell them.

May this stir you into action. Speak the beauty you see in others. Do not withhold compliments. Do not withhold appreciation, whether you are or not certain if they deserve it. They always do.

[For future personal use]

Below are the messages I have collected so far. Some of these change over time as senders revise their previously sent eulogies, or they send completely different ones as new memories are built. I am grateful that I get to hear (or read) these things while I still can.

I’m thankful for her existence. For she was one of the few who lent a hand to a wallflower like me. What I will remember the most about her was the silence. Not the uncomfortable silence that has to be intervened by noise, but the silence which carries serenity. Even without a word between us sometimes, I still found solace from the purity of silence that I had with her. As if we were slowly engraving certain moments in our lives, even the mundane ones. ¬†// Genessi

It’s very hard for me to write this. I feel destroyed, empty. A lot of people who were close to her probably feel the same.
It was just so sudden, you know? I recently suffered the loss of my grandmother, but she’s been sick for more than a year, so I was already prepared for when the day she passed away might come. But Sheresh… We were talking and laughing one day, and the next, she was just… gone.
Sheresh Cortes was a simple girl with a rare soul. Quiet and unassuming, she always had her head in the clouds, as if she always wanted to be somewhere else. In her brilliance, she’d turn to you after a while, and say beautifully strange out-of-context things. She was low-maintenance, and wanted nothing more than to lie down, watch a movie, and write some poetic piece that she’d post on her Facebook timeline if she was confident enough. Sheresh was also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She cared about everyone, and treated anybody she came across with the same respect. She always looked kind of melancholy to me, but every time I’d try to make her laugh, she’d flash the most beautiful smile, and my mind would just go blank.
She was like sunshine. Especially to me. But unlike sunshine, she’s not coming back tomorrow.
It’s not fair that someone like Sheresh was taken from us this early. Heaven has enough angels, don’t you think? I don’t even believe in that stuff, but… She didn’t feel like someone I could reach, but I tried anyway, and it paid off. The time I spent with her feels so… far away and ephemeral. I wish I didn’t leave anything unsaid just because I was afraid. I know that eventually, I will get over it. Eventually, remembering her will only make me smile. Even the love I have for Sheresh, eventually, will burn out and be replaced. However, the halcyon days that she gave me will stay. They’re a part of me now, and for that, I will never forget her. Bye Sherry. // Patrick

Nice, I really don’t know how to make eulogy!! I can’t think of you as a dead person. So, i’m writing this letter just for you to read. ūüôā
Si nice, bago ko pa man ma meet in person, naki-kwento na siya sakin ni jason. How close they are, how intelligent she is, how “emo” back then. Takot ako ma meet siya kasi baka englisera! Hahaha! So when i actually met them, luckily, wala naman siyang paki non kasi bata pa siya/kami.. fast forward noong almost 3yrs ko narin siyang kakilala, I was still so hesitant to talk to them kasi mas close nila yung ex ni jason and in my mind hindi naman ako people pleaser. I don’t care kahit pinsan siya ni jason. (Pride!) and.. beh! Had to be real on this….. distant ako sa inyo ni hannah and shiella kasi before i saw how you treat/talk about Jason’s ex. Natatawa ako kapag in front of her you’re close with her pero ‘pag tayo tayo nalang, you talk and laugh about the things you hate about her which made me think na baka ganun lang din kayo sakin so why bother talking with you. Pero, i understand naman na you respect her kaya syempre behind her back nalang yung ayaw niyo sknya. Time goes by nakilala ko pa kayo through overnights. I love seeing the real you in front of the people who matters.. kung paanong makulit ka, maingay, clingy. It changed my way of thinking and wanted to be close sa inyong lahat not just because pinsan kayo ni jason but because i want to be a part of that genuine happiness pag magkakasama lahat.
The usual me tahimik parin pag sa inyo but i am very observant. I got to know you more on social media din. I am a fan of what you post. your beautiful mind says a lot!! How you view things, your perspective. Ang ganda, nice!! Lalo na noong nakasama kita sa jomalig, i experienced there how to be with you dreaming, thinking, reflecting, appreciating mother nature. When we talked, you made me think like this “grabe siya mag-isip, ang lawak, ang lalim” “oo nga noh” “Bakit hindi ko naisip yun?” Nalunod ako sa thoughts mo and i really thank God that you were there because i learned a lot! Hindi lang halata. Hmm… I told you before that even you’re not the same age sakin, i know that you can be trusted, there comes this scenario na hindi ko naman talaga gustong mag open up pero when you and the rest na andon where asking how i was eh hndi ko na napigilan mag open up at maiyak. I am this kind of person na full of herself, ayaw mag open up sa iba, gusto kinakaya lahat on her own but your character which i know makes me want to open up to you. I know mahehelp niyo ko and hindi naman ako nagkamali. Thank you kasi nandoon ka when i least expected you! ūüôā¬†Instead of eulogy that is supposed to be a letter for you when you die, can’t think of it talaga so in this letter i ask you to pls live! Chase your dreams, live the life you dream of, be more passionate about things, grow your love for the Lord and seek His will for your life. For me, your existence make this world a better place! ‚̧¬†i love you! // Ate Jona

Hi, si Nice ay nakilala ko sa former church na ina-attendan namin before and where naging bandmates kami, nagkkeyboard siya hehe wow diba, at kumakanta rin siya! At maganda ang boses niya at magaling siyang kumanta. For me sayang na parang hindi niya masyadong ginagamit.
Naging close talaga kami sa isa’t isa. Actually naging crush ko nga rin siya eh hahaha. Napaka saya niya kausap at hindi mo mapapansin sa kanya sa unang tingin na ang funny niya hahaha sobra kong gusto yung humor niya. For me sobrang nakakapagtaka rin na parang karamihan sa ugali at mga hilig namin talagang magkaiba kami at naging close kami at super comfortable to one another. OR maybe ako lang yun? Haha
I really consider her as a very good and true friend of mine. I-isa siya sa iilan ko lang na nakakausap ng mga deeps spiritual talks. Sobrang dami kong natutunan sa kanya na hindi ko ginagawa or nagagawa. Siguro yung talaga ang perks kapag magkalayo ang hilig niyo ano? Marami akong moment sa life ko na parang “kundi dahil kay Nice hindi ko matututunan at malalaman ang mga bagay na ito”.
Tapos may mga times na bigla nalang siyang magppm or magtetext out of the blue and it really makes me happy of course, na there’s someone na may gustong ishare sa akin na it’s either hilig niya or hilig ko or maybe parehas naming hindi pa alam. Nakakatuwa siya sobra kasi ang dami niyang mga gustong gawin at ma-try in life haha kahit medyo rebellious na yung iba tsk. Hahaha
Sobrang dami kong natutunan kay Nice as in.
I-appreciate ang nature, ang different kind of arts, books, films at sobrang dami pa. Pati na rin ang pagappreciate ng time alone.
Sana mas na-experience niya pa ang life at nagawa ang mga gusto niyang gawin. Pero kahit sa maiiksing panahon ang laki ng impact niya sa buhay ko. Thank you. // Rain

My dearest cousin Nice,
First, I just want u to know that I miss you so much. I can’t imagine living my life without u. You were my “best friend” kahit di mo alam at kahit wala akong best friend. Sobrang saya ng life with u and it’s hard for me to accept the fact that you’re not here with us anymore :'((( since we were kids, magkasama na tayo and ang dami na nating napagsamahan and dreams na na-share sa isa’t isa. You’re the coolest person na kilala ko, I know you’re not into sports or whatever but I think your creativity is what makes you the coolest one and the same time yung pagiging baliw mo. I admire every piece that u make (alam mo yan) lagi kong sinasabi sayo na I’m your number one fan. Anddd I know na magiging isang batikang director ka and u were kung ano man ang narating mo (yung mga nasa isip mo palang na i-direct, alam kong maganda na yun) at ganda ng mga films na nagawa mo (in your mind). Marami pa tayong dreams together na tutuparin pero iniwan mo ko how dare u (hahaha) I used to see your pretty face every weekend and your kabaliwan and I will surely miss your gorgeous face and everything about u, kung paano mo ko inisin sa pangungulit mo at yung moma natin at mga selfish lakad natin together. At oo nga pala, dami mong friends, btw. Daming nagmamahal sayo. This one’s really tough for me bro, for all of us. I miss you soooo much Pogs, I will miss you every single day. I love you so much, I know you’re happy right now with God. I’ll see you there someday. Love you. // Ate Hannah

First of all, I would like to say Hi to all of you.
Resh, as we fondly called her, my friend, your friend, your niece, your daughter.. an angel sent from above. This girl, I really don’t know what to say… She’s very incredible… AS IN. A very good friend of mine… Well, it fits naman sa face, maganda na, eheeeem wala ka pang masasabi sa ugali. One of the coolest, wittiest, prettiest.. lahat na ata ng “iest” nakuha na niya. Sobrang, idol ko tong kaibigan kong to, yung standards niya sa film kakaiba, sa music ay napaka! Wala akong masabi.. Ito lang talaga, kahit napaka-kalog mo na alam nating hindi ikinabawas ng kagandahan mo na sa katunayan nga eh kinaganda mo dahil tatandaan ang pagiging totoo ay isa sa pinakamaganda at humuhubog sa isang tao. Mahal na mahal kita, friend. Maraming Salamat sa alaala, sa tiwala, sa pagmamahal sa pag-eexist mo sa mundong to, labyu tohl. labyu. ‚̧ // Polly

I’ve never done this before.
My first eulogy for my beloved friend, sheresh cortes.
Hi nice, gneiss, the special metamorphic rock. I miss you already bro. You’re one of the people who i can truly count on or trust. From my first impression na ang sungit mo hanggang sa you are not masungit at all (bawal lang manggulo pag nanonood siya) everything about you is perfect. Yes, lahat.¬† I really admire how you see things, how you add value or appreciation sa things na other people won’t notice at all. One thing i love about us ay ang ating talks, i love it na when may mag pop-out sa utak kong thought or something i can just say it to you na walang keme. Our adventures, syempre konti lang pero ang saya. Our momas na tinutulugan lang ni hannah. And gusto mo yung star wars :((( sana napanood natin yung episode 7 together diba? Naalala mo ba yung mga moment natin sa garden sa labas ng ccf pati yung sa may mainit na part sa tapat ng bhotel sa likod. Naiiyak ako tuwing naalala ko yun, wala lang ang ganda lang nung nga moment na yun (kung naalala mo pa sana naalala mo kasi super laking part nun sakin) kasi ang perfect non. Sana naman nagamit mo yung magnetic poetry at napanood mo lahat yung pnadownload mo sakin joke.
everyone will love the people who died but not everytime they’ll remember them time will come that they’ll not even think of them. But in your case, I won’t. I promise. You’ll always be here in my heart, not every feb or nov but everytime. You are one of the best person i’ve ever known and i will never forget you just like that.Thank you for everything, you’ve contributed so much for RJ’s existence and sana ako din sayo. I love you so much, believe me i really do. // RJ

See you. // Renzo

 

stellar stories from memory

img_8403

December, a long time ago/ General Santos City

We were traveling to my grandparents’ home from the airport. I was riding in the back of the pickup truck. I looked up and saw big, bright stars. So big and bright I thought I could reach them if only I held out my arms. I remember the inner child in me wondering if our province was in an elevated position above the rest of the world, or if the heavens drew closer to the ground in that area. Or, with¬†the rest of the ones in the back of the pickup truck talking with one another, I wondered if the heavens extended its hands downward to reach me and me alone.

April 26, 2014 / Summer camp (Rizal)

I was walking back to our cabin when I happened to look up at the sky. My feet came to a slow halt. Above me hung what seemed like thousands of stars. I just recently read a book about how the past, in some bizarre way, could be preserved, fossilized in the stars. Surrounded with trees and mountains, and with what limited energy the campsite had, I thought, somewhere on the other end of time, a hundred light-years from then, someone else, some distant future creature, might be looking back at the preserved image of a girl, who stood alone in the middle of the darkness, awestruck with the stories the universe holds. 

November 16, 2014 / Bedroom

I lay awake in bed until the earliest hours just staring at the night sky from my window. There wasn’t much to see, only a few stars here and there. I wrote in my journal, “I am staring at a faint-lit star. I wonder whether I am staring at a journeying light or staring back into a fading history. I wish to let her know I have noticed her.

June 12, 2015 / Batangas

I stood a short distance away from the shore. It was dark. I remember there were sources of light here and there, but insufficient to illuminate¬†most of the area. I looked into the distant night sky where a dance of lightning was displayed. Despite the cloudy skies, a number of faint-lit stars still scattered in close proximity. That night, I saw a shooting star. And then another. My heart was filled with wonder. I’ve seen shooting stars before, but not on the same night sky with lightning.

December 2015 / South Cotabato

  • My cousin and I walked outside from a birthday party and ran into the field across the house. We held each other hand in hand, turned ’round and ’round and laughed like crazies. Later, we climbed the roof of my grandfather’s tricycle and lay there to stargaze, although there wasn’t anything to gaze on. It was a starless night. But this moment just felt so stellar.
  • We had been in the province for a couple of weeks and it had mostly been starless nights. But there was one evening when my brother called me out as I was taking a bath, urging me to see the night sky. At last, hundreds of bright stars. Together with my brother and 5 other cousins, we went at the back of my grandparents’ house and laid out carton papers on the ground. One of us put the lights off, and we all just lay there – silent, amazed – until the wind blew the clouds back.

March 7, 2016 / Bedroom 

The stars in the night sky slowly faded as the sun appeared in the horizon. I posted in my social account, ¬†I’ve¬†always loved night stars but today I have come to love the day star ‚ÄĒ sun ‚ÄĒ in an extra special way. It’s fascinating how there are so many stars in space which are millions of times brighter than her. But to earth, to us, no other star compares to her splendor. She outshines¬†all the others (even those which are millions of times more brilliant than her in space).¬†I thought about that for the rest of the day, and about the people who are under the impression that they are dull, irrelevant but are just like the sun to others’ secret worlds. I suppose they are as many as a night sky full of stars.

April 2016 / Marinduque

It was a quiet town with too little electricity supply. I went to bed as early as 8:00 PM. I felt far from the world that night, felt lonely although it was exactly what I came there for in the first place. To be detached from everything. But perhaps that night I was lonely for a different reason РI felt detached from everyone. I got up later to use the comfort room that was located outside the house. Outside, there was only darkness and the echoing sound of crickets in the distance. I looked up at the night sky and there hung countless of tiny sparkling dots. In that instant, I felt comforted in some strange way. You are not alone, said the One who held the stars together.

October 2016/ Jomalig, Quezon 

I was in an island that was 5-hour bus ride, 6-hour boat ride away from home. An island that seemed isolated from the rest of the world. Limited electricity supply, just like most of the provinces I’ve visited. I was in the rooftop with a friend, our backs against the bench. A number of fireflies in the air, like scintillating stars in motion. The universe looked down on us, as if telling us in a majestic voice, behold! We stared, of course, the ardent spectators that we were. It was almost impossible to find an empty spot in the skies. It was the first time I saw the milky way in such clarity. I kept exclaiming, ang ganda,¬†never satisfied enough to say it just once, as if I needed to get the words out again and again, or else I’d explode. Eventually, there was none left, only silence. An overwhelming sense of wonder, and peace, and belonging engulfed me.¬†For the longest time, I did not wish to be elsewhere. I wanted so badly to be there, in that moment, and to just stay. Under the stars, I thought, what a strange thing¬†to be infinitesimal in the entirety of the universe, and yet be the greatest¬†in all creations of the universe-Maker.¬†If people are so fascinated with the stars, or with anything beautiful in the world,¬†then there is no reason for them to doubt their own beauty and worth. Living, breathing souls are much more wondrous than these.

(note: this post is constantly subject to revision. revisit this page for new memories.)

share your stellar stories to cortes.sheresh@gmail.com

the greatest unrequited love

There is a Man I know whose love remains a baffling mystery to me.

IMG_7077.jpg

In the past months, I have been kept awake until the earliest hours of day by a single question – why do I wander away from this? This love that has pursued me since time immemorial, this love that has chosen to rescue me even when I was undeserving, this love that has constantly stayed even after I strayed. One could only dream of such love; how dare do I reject this?

The answer came to me one cold evening of March. It was nothing intricate, nothing difficult to understand. It was as simple as anything could be. So the months of staying up late have been reduced to a single, 6-word answer: I did not love Him enough.

Tears started to form. Of course, I love Him!,  a part of me attempted to justify itself.

I spend my quiet moments with Him, I talk to Him on a regular basis, I read His Word, I participate in the ministry. Of course, I love Him.

Of course. Of course, you do, I told myself. Just not enough for you stay. Confronted by this truth, my heart broke. How many times have I told Him, I love You, when what I truly meant was I love the pieces of You. I love that He is forgiving, that He is merciful and gracious, that He loves me. But when it came to the part that asks for the evidence of my affection for Him, that which requires obedience, I take a step back. And then another, until I look back and realize a great distance has already separated us. It’s like being in a relationship only for the pleasure, without any commitment.

Sure, He was my greatest love. He used to be, once upon a time, during the earliest days of our relationship. But as time passed, trivial things have started to settle in my heart until He lost His place. But this is another story.

I was reminded of what He said in John 14:24,

He who does not love Me does not keep My words.

That night, I went through my previous journals and found this entry dated November 18, 2015:

When we wrangle over doing what God says, that isn’t an obedience problem but a love problem.

A train of thought. So what happened? I asked myself. Why have I grown cold? Why have I loved this Man less than I did before?¬†What factors could have played part that lead me to this love problem with the Man I gave my “yes” to?¬†

And, as if He was just right there with me, I was pointed back to my recent journal. The last entry had been written months ago. The last ones were short-length ones, with one-liner notes under verses.

Of course, it did not happen in an instant. It was a gradual process of falling away, He told me.

Those times when I would hurry through the day, opening my Bible just to console myself that I did my duty. Those times when I would choose to write about trivial musings rather than fill my thoughts with the knowledge of Him. Those times when I would choose to just slumber because I needed rest (only to wake up still exhausted the day after). All these played part in increasing the distance between us.

The truth is I don’t love Him enough because I have lost track of who He is. The mind forgets and is in constant need for reminder. And I deliberately chose to forget.

So why does this Man still perseveres in pursuing me despite all these? I do not know. Why does His love still stay even after I have strayed countless of times? I do not know. The human mind could only comprehend so much.

I have slowly found my way back to Him, spending more and more time re-discovering who He is, and knowing new truths about Him. I am slowly re-learning to truly mean the words when I tell Him I love You. 

There is a Man I know whose love remains a baffling mystery to me. I could spend my lifetime trying to love Him with all my heart and yet I could never, even once, tell Him I love You more, not even,¬†I love You too. But it doesn’t matter, does it? All He asks for is my obedience.

Such love that asks nothing but for you to remain. Remind me again why have I wandered away from this?