THE SOLEMN Investitures of the UST College of Education turned into a tear-jerker, as one faculty member put it, when the mother and sister of a Food Technology graduate went up to the stage on her behalf. They were carrying the framed graduation photo of Charlotte Denise Santiago, who died on May 11 after suffering from heart failure.

Mariella Czes Fajardo, Santiago’s batchmate and close friend, felt a mix of relief and longingness during that moment.

“We were happy kasi finally done na pero the feeling of not being able to be with your friends since iba-iba ng paths ‘yung tatahakin niyo, ang hirap tanggapin,” Fajardo told the Varsitarian. “What more payung friend mo na ‘di mo na makikita ever.”

Santiago, 22, “left a legacy of love, compassion and unwavering strength,” the Philippine Association of Food Technologists – Epsilon Chapter wrote on Facebook on May 20. 

She was one of the 441 Education seniors who graduated on June 9 at the Quadricentennial Pavillion.

Her family declined to be interviewed for this story.

For Shiela San Diego, another Food Technology graduate who became friends with Santiago because their last names were near each other, the Solemn Investitures brought back the feeling of first knowing about her friend’s demise.

Buhay na buhay pa rin talaga si Charlotte para sa amin kaya may feeling sa loob ko na parang babalik pa siya,” San Diego told the Varsitarian. Pero nung time na ‘yun, [during] grad, ‘dun nag-sink in wala na pala talaga si Charlotte.”

Santiago was quiet and reserved, Fajardo said, but later showed her bubbly side when they caught up with each other’s similarities: Their fondness for video games and fangirling for the science-fiction franchise “Star Trek” and the biographical musical “Hamilton.”

Four years of staying in the same block taught them much about Santiago. She was “chill” with her academics but still managed to get good grades.

“One time, she shotgunned an exam and still received a perfect mark,” Fajardo said.

While Santiago would complain at times about their requirements, San Diego remembered, “[M]agugulat ka magpapasa pa rin [siya] on time.”

Santiago’s death came as a shock to Fajardo and San Diego, especially since they only learned about her condition a week before their final examinations.

“The evening before her death, she even reassured us na she’ll go to school na to take our exams and even shared a meme on Facebook kaya talagang akala namin recovered na siya,” Fajardo said.

Santiago’s brother, Charles, delivered the bad news via phone call on the afternoon of May 11.

The class of 4F1 left the classroom to vent and cry about her death. Some asked for a private moment.

Ang sakit sa puso at para kang nanlalamig kasi ayaw talaga maniwala ng utak namin,” San Diego said.

No one gave an indication that Santiago’s condition was already critical. “I felt bad kasi I didn’t know na ganon na pala pinagdadaanan niya tapos ‘di man lang namin siya na-visit sa hospital,” Fajardo said. “Too late na.”


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