THE NEWS that a certain Jonah Ortiz from the College of Science—where I am taking BS Biology—had fallen off the top floor of the Main Building had sent shock waves in and out of the University.

It happened during a sun-beaten midafternoon. My classmates and I were waiting for our professor to arrive when our class president received a text message that someone had fallen off the Main Building. We were having our class in the first floor. Hurriedly, my classmates made their way outside and found a busy crowd huddled over a sprawled body. There was a collective gasp. Hands covered mouths gaping in horror. He was apparently still alive, his body curled and aching terribly from the fall. Hours later, we got the news that he had died from internal hemorrhage.

Ortiz was a third-year Biology student and member of our college glee club. He had a happy disposition, according to some of my classmates in the glee club, where he was an officer. He was a go-to person in times of problems. The group would sing during our college’s thanksgiving Mass or for whatever occasion that would need entertainment. But I had never seen him. It was rather Orphic that the glee club would end up singing at the funeral of a member.

There have been speculations about his death, which remains shrouded in mystery: Whatever led to the unfortunate demise of a fellow Thomasian?

I think I am not in the right position to speak of death, but all I know is that it’s a reminder of man’s mortality. It’s a trope that ironically a young man like me is fond of talking about. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, in his poem “Nothing But Death,” said death sweeps us like broomsticks at night, when we are asleep and most defenseless. And it will collect us all, one by one, or maybe in bulks, packaged and perfected.

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Now I have to bring up American poet Sylvia Plath here, having talked about “perfection in death.” Plath, who committed suicide by lodging herself into the oven and ultimately killing herself by carbon monoxide poisoning, had said “the woman is perfected” by the time she meets death, having been shaped by the rigors of time and stress, the woman shall only be complete and perfect through death, the final respite of man.

Likewise, my professor in physiology, in an interesting topic on homeostasis—the ultimate equilibrium of the body’s internal system—said in order to achieve the perfect state of homeostasis, our body should first reach the right amount of balance, first with our cells and our conditions like breathing and sleeping, but these are all not possible with the environment in its most taxing level. To this, making a flighty remark of course, our professor said that perfect homeostasis is only achieved in the perfect resting state: death.

In the olden times, to speak of death was a taboo, never to be talked about. Only writers, scientists, and poets dared to touch this subject matter. People were dying of disease and depression, but many attributed this to natural causes.

Having mulled over it, having read countless accounts of death, some of which have stirred my bones for the accounts’ harrowing nature, and having read elegies (I recommend Czech poet Jirí Orten’s “A Small Elegy”), I have sought to find the meaning of death and its warrant of the final respite; but I am yet to learn more about it.

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I am in no position to pass judgment on anyone; I don’t know people like Jonah Ortiz who have died in suspicious circumstances. But in our most singular and different of ways, there is always a bridge that links us to one another, and I believe this can only be attained through helping hands. No bridge is built with just stones and cement; it needs a strong internal foundation that will make it sturdy.

We cannot control the fate of another, no matter how much we try to reach out to them. Their fate will be decided by their choice, and the why’s and wherefore’s of the inscrutability of God. But I believe our simple gestures of helping out would be greatly remembered, even in the other world.

For Jonah Ortiz, and those who have come before us, may they see the light at the end of the tunnel.


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