In 2001, my dear friend Rebecca was traveling in Bicol with her band mates doing acoustic type performances in college campuses, town squares and bars — anywhere they could earn P2000 each plus enough gas money to get to the next province in her rickety maroon pickup.
That trip ended in disaster when the four-wheeler that the 22-year-old musician had been driving came to a halt in a southbound lane in Nabua, Camarines Sur and was rear-ended by a huge delivery truck. The five members of the band were taken to a nearby hospital, where Rebecca was pronounced dead shortly after the 3:30 a.m. crash.
Three weeks before she died, I was fortunate enough to have brunch with Becky and her cousin Ray. We watched Pulp Fiction on VHS, talked about music and ate lasagna at her parents' house. A few hours after her death, Ray called me on the phone. Ray, as tough a man as you'll ever meet, was crying. I knew instantly what that meant, but I had no idea how to respond.
Becky was born in San Pedro, Laguna and graduated from Colegio San Agustin (Biñan) in high school. She attended St. Paul College in Manila, and then transferred to the University of Santo Tomas, from which she graduated in 1999 with a degree in Sociology. She was a visionary, a force of nature, vibrant, and full of passion; nothing would interfere with her love for life, her buddies and her guitar. She also had a quiet, calming presence. She believed in family as passionately as she believed in music and art. And if she was your friend, she was really your friend. And, boy, she was lovely.
After school ended in the summer of 1998, Becky, Ray and I decided to spend our vacation driving up north, camping along the way. We drove across Pampanga, visited her relatives in Tarlac, my cousin in Baguio, and her uncle in La Union. Sometimes we would party at Ray's place, play music, sip coke and rum, cheap vodka, or whatever beverage we can afford. We were good kids who just liked to hang out.
When she died, fourteen years ago, some light seemed to go out in many lives and around many pleasures. I miss her smile. I miss the hour-long conversations about parrots and Sinatra. I miss her funky rendition of Ray of Light by Madonna. Today, I not only remember Rebecca, but I also celebrate what would have been his 36th birthday.
Rest in peace, Becky. Happiest of birthdays to you!