In memory of Dennis Sabangan

Too soon, Dennis.
Too soon, Dennis.

Today, a very good friend passed away, though ‘sudden’ is not a strong enough word. We were just talking on Facebook last night, making plans for next week when I returned, making future plans for when he would take time out of his busy schedule to detour to Europe, talking about my research and his health and why he was in the ICU in the first place. I didn’t get to respond to his last message, a long, angry one about how the European Press Agency had the gall to send him a notice of suspension while in the ICU— something that may have pushed his already weakened heart to the edge. It is odd to me now, to see him celebrated as EPA’s Chief Photographer in the Philippines, considering how he was treated by the EPA during his last few moments. Sadness, and anger, and loss.

Dennis was the crazy one in our group of already crazy mermaids. He was the drunken one, the one who would make off-colour jokes, the one who would share intrigue and come to gossip with a pitcher of Sir Dick’s homemade mojito. To this day, mojitos make me happy above and beyond the normal power of alcohol. He was the one who, while diving, would sneakily swim up from above to borrow air from us as he was always running low. He was the one who always had a camera, of course, he was a photographer, and he’d take photos that captured more than memories. He was the one who nearly shot a friend because of a too-early alarm, though to be fair he has been shot himself several times while in the field.

I can’t believe he is gone. I can’t believe I didn’t get to reply to his last message. I can’t believe that friends are passing away so soon. Aren’t our twenties supposed to be fun and carefree? Aren’t we supposed to be doing stupid things, and then stay friends the rest of our lives because no one can out the other? For the latter part, I suppose we were.

Questions keep running through my head. How can someone just be gone, so suddenly? What if I had just took the time to check my messages, and replied? Would he still be here? What if people continue to disappear without warning? … Isn’t that exactly what life is?

Dennis, I thought you’d outlive us all. Kidnapped by the Taliban, you’ve been through wars and natural disasters and so, so many angry women, how could your heart give up now?

Dennis, you’re missing out on a lot. You were supposed to be at every wedding, consuming half the alcohol while warning significant others to treat us right. You were supposed to be the uncle we’d keep an eye on, lest the kids absorb your vocabulary. We were all supposed to get together in a year, in five, seeing our little group of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and academics grow and thrive. We are one short now. Too soon.

Watch over us, from wherever you are, and when I’m underwater and feel a tug on my octopus, I’ll know it’s you. I’m coming home in time to hang out one last time, wait for me.

DSCN5388
2008.
IMG_1867
2009.
Filipino students of the University of the Philippines - Diliman manuever the reefs  off Anilao, Batangas province,  south of Manila, Philippines on 05 July 2009.  A recent World Bank study revealed that barely 1 percent of the Philippines’ 25,000 sq. m. of coral reefs remain pristine and more than 50 percent are unhealthy. The Philippine reefs are the most unique in the Pacific Ocean and home to over 2000 species of fish alone.
Dennis’ caption: Filipino students of the University of the Philippines – Diliman maneuver the reefs off Anilao, Batangas province, south of Manila, Philippines on 05 July 2009. A recent World Bank study revealed that barely 1 percent of the Philippines’ 25,000 sq. m. of coral reefs remain pristine and more than 50 percent are unhealthy. The Philippine reefs are the most unique in the Pacific Ocean and home to over 2000 species of fish alone.
IMG_1883
One of my favourite photos of myself, courtesy of Dennis. Thank you for everything.
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