ALLIAH Reolada had a specific goal in mind: enter medical school and specialize in hematology, a field dedicated to examining blood-related disorders.

One reason was her doctor’s revelation in 2019 that she was suffering from hemolytic anemia. The disorder, according to the Cleveland Clinic, “makes your red blood cells break down or die faster than your body can replace them with new blood cells.”

In the coming years, her doctor found that her liver had been battling with autoimmune hepatitis, which could cause inflammation and liver damage in the long run.

But the diagnoses were not cast in stone, after all. Alliah’s mother, Cherry, said the doctor never identified her daughter’s real condition, which made treatment even more difficult.

On January 30, Alliah succumbed at the age of 21.

At the Solemn Investitures of the College of Science, Cherry walked on stage with her eyes soaked in tears and a framed photo of her daughter. Finishing with a degree in medical biology, Alliah was one of the 650 students who graduated at the Quadricentennial Pavilion on June 15.

The previous year, at the Solemn Investitures of the College of Education, 22-year-old Charlotte Denise Santiago posthumously graduated from the food technology program, succumbing to heart failure nearly a month prior.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Cherry was proud of her daughter’s accomplishment even in death.

Ito talaga ‘yong pinaka-pangarap niya, maka-graduate sa kaniyang dream school, and natupad niya na,” she said. “Sayang nga lang, hindi niya na matutuloy ‘yong gusto niya. Hindi na matutuloy sa pagdo-doktor niya.

Cherry and her two daughters developed a strong bond as the patriarch of the family has been working in Dubai since 2009. Despite working in Antipolo City – eating up four hours of her day driving from her home in Calamba, Laguna, to her workplace and vice-versa – Cherry made sure to keep up with her eldest even about the mundane things.

’Yong mga kuwento niya sa mga kaklase niya, ‘yong mga blooper niya, nakikinig lang ako,” she recalled. “Minsan, may time na nagkukuwento siya nang nagkukuwento [na] parang nawawala ako sa focus.”

Alliah’s dreams began to blur in November 2023 when symptoms of her disease worsened. She was frail but chose to endure the burden of continuing schooling.

Nagga-Grab ‘yan [papunta] sa school para lang makapasok,” her mother said. “Minsan, sinasamahan ko papuntang laboratory.”

Binibigyan naman siya ng medical certificate. Nage-elevator siya para lang makapasok; binigyan siya ng access. Pinipilit niya kahit hirap na hirap na siya.”

Her blockmates learned of her deteriorating condition in the middle of their thesis work. Alliah assured them that everything was going to be fine.

“[W]e knew how Alliah could be so strong, determined and hardworking that there really wasn’t stopping her too,” Raphael Sandoval, one of her thesis groupmates, told the Varsitarian. “So, we proceeded with our gruesome research work and academics, but we always looked out for Alliah.”

The friendships that Alliah cultivated during her four-year stay at UST shocked neighbors in her wake.

Nagulat nga ako kasi dito sa compound namin, papaalam lang ‘yan, lalabas, pero wala siyang […] kaibigan doon sa amin sa compound kasi puro mga kamag-anak ‘yong iba doon. Sabi ng mga kapitbahay namin, si Alliah aakalain mong walang kaibigan, andami pala,” her mother said.

After the Solemn Investitures, Cherry was understandably not in a celebratory mood. A part of her was still longing for her daughter to come home from Manila after class.

[H]indi pa rin nagsi-sink in sa’kin na wala na siya,” she said. “Pero at least, ‘yong isa sa mga pangarap niya, natupad niya kasi […] gusto niya may maiwan siyang alaala para man lang maging proud ako sa kaniya.” With reports from Janica Kate J. Buan


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