When I was informed that Gerry Guiseppe Gatungay was dead, I was shocked! I had to hear it again from the bearer and confirm its veracity. Yes, dead! As in gone.. lost.. no more.. lifeless.. passed away.. extinct.. departed.. launched into eternity. I had difficulty in digesting the news. It was so sudden and surprising. The last time I saw him was about six months ago. We had a little chat at the corridor during the first semester enrolment. I could still see the guy in my mind’s eye – medium built and his eyes would sparkle when he smiled. Did he have a dimple in his cheek? I forgot. But I have no way to know now. He’s dead and he’s only 19. That’s a young age to die! I would think it normal if he were 60 or 70. But to die at 19 — that’s ridiculous!
More pathetic was the way he died. He was on his way home past midnight when a group of intoxicated young men looking for some adventure gang up on him. His only mistake was being in the wrong place and in a wrong time. He met them as they were going the opposite direction on Ganciang Street. For no apparent reason, they stabbed him to death just for the “trip” of it. Gerry died like a helpless animal pursued by cruel hunters screaming for his life. His desperate cry was not strong enough to pierce the hardened hearts of his attackers. Even his agonizing plea for survival did not inflict any small amount of pity in their callous consciences. Gerry was a victim of these young people’s strong propensity for violence. What a waste of life. What a senseless death!
Last August, a dispatcher was shot dead in Punta Princesa at the corner of Sabellano Street and F. Llamas Street. Many call him by the name Toto or Val but his real name was Nino Michael. Since he was not known or famous who cares if he lives or dies? But he was my friend. In his younger days, he used to frequent the Youth Center at Lourdes Parish and played basketball. He was a good player; a dependable ball handler and play maker. He also used to play as a varsity when he was in high school, I was told. But then he dropped out of college because of vices. Finally he landed on the streets. As a dispatcher many drivers disliked him because he was extorting too much from them. And on a fateful Sunday afternoon a young guy out of vengeance shot him on the head. His life ended tragically on the street where he wanted to be. Some young people, it would seem, have nothing worthwhile to live for. Can we blame them for it if that is what they see from their elders’ examples?
We hear and read other sensational stories of young people’s death in the news. Who could forget the gruesome murder of the chop-chop victims Eva Mae Peligro and her cousin Gwendolyn Balasta in Talisay City? Their deaths has been, for some time, the talk of the town for being so hideous and frightening like those we only see in crime movies. The death of nursing graduate Rachelle Mae Palang would also leave a deep sense of regret and dismay. She was accused of being an NPA and was killed during an encounter with the military in Negros Oriental.
The stories of these kind will continue. Their death is a stark reminder that life is precarious. At the same time it makes us realize how human life has become so cheap! Life is no longer precious. It is given small importance and little value. The late John Paul II was right when he pointed out that we live in a world that promotes the “culture of death.” We need to make our family, our homes and our surrounding more life-giving. I guess we have to start with our own attitude that encourages compassion, kindness and goodness.
We are witnessing history in the making in America in their change of leadership by voting into office a new African-American president. Barack Obama has motivated his countrymen to believe in him and believe in their power to change themselves and change the world. I admire America in their sensitivity to issues pertaining the good of their country. For all our colonial mentality, this is something we have not acquired. Our threshold of pain is so high that we can simply suffer in silence and wait for saturation point. It is only when we can’t bear it anymore that we finally muster the courage to say enough is enough; ‘tama na, sobra na!” When will we ever learn that the time to change is now. Tomorrow another Gerry Gatungay will die for our lack of will to make change happen today.