One of the greatest, and most important things about childhood, is the formation of the value of friendship. And as I grew up, there were two people who taught me this value, my dear friends Marie and Camille.
Marie and Camille were my best friends. We shared tons of memories as we grew up together learning the same things at the same time. We practically lived together since we were also neighbors. Our ages differ only with months but I was the youngest of us three. We also had older cousins whom we looked up to, Din-din and Let-let. Both are a year older than the three of us and they somewhat became the leaders of this girl group the five of us had formed.
But Din-din and Let-let aside, it was mainly Marie and Camille whom I played dress up games with along with other silly games little girls used to play such as faking photoshoots in our bedrooms, picking leaves, roots, and mud for our lutu-lutuan, acting as a mother or even as a father in bahay-bahayan, or as a doctor in doctor-doctoran, or as a teacher in titser-titseran. It was them whom I sang the songs of Spice Girls with. And together, we tried to save the world from evil people by posing as Sailor soldiers from Sailor Moon.
I was Sailor Mercury, Marie was Sailor Jupiter, and Camille was Sailor Venus.
I was Baby spice, Marie was Scary spice, and Camille was Sporty spice.
There may be things that the three of us liked similarly but I can remember how different we were from each other. I was the fat kid who always cry and who always run slow and finish last, Marie was the kind, hardworking and bright girl, while Camille was the brave, strong clever girl.
Whenever the three of us cat fight about things (yes we used to pull hair strands and shout at each other when fighting), I was the one who always cry first, Marie was the wise one to pull out from the fight and tell the adults, and Camille was the one left standing, brave as a lion, victory claimed as if it’s her birthright.
I wasn’t a quiet child but not a loud child either. I was the kid who just loved drawing cartoon characters and watching TV. And when we’re playing with other kids, I was always the first one who loses the game and goes home early.
Marie was the cliche’d girl among us three. Her hair is long and beautiful and it was always either braided or tied up prettily. When we’re not playing games outside with our other playmates, Marie was at home helping with their house chores. She’s the first one among us three who learned how to cook rice.
Camille was boyish, and lively, and funny. She was always running around and ‘energy’ seemed to be her middle name. She was always winning games and she’s always ready to fight. Oh yes, she was always seen in fights. Even fights with boys. Hinding hindi siya patatalo.
Camille was annoying too as far as I can remember. Between the two, I was able to tolerate Marie more than Camille. Marie was the kindest among the three of us while Camille can be really irritating. To put it simply, Camille and I were fighting as much as we were playing.
But Camille knew, although perhaps innocently, what her place in my life was. Because no matter how frequent we fought about petty things, when other children come to take me on a fight, Camille will always be there standing right in front of me, protecting me, kicking ass and scaring the hell out of those wannabe bullies. She does the same for Marie too.
At school, we had different circles of friends but when we’re back at home, we play together like sisters. Yes, maybe that’s the right word for us I guess, sisters.
The three of us even had crushes at school at the same time. I can still remember the names of our boy crushes, mine was Andrei, Camille’s crush was Ian and Marie’s crush was Rossini.
At school, Marie and Camille were among the topnotchers. Marie was always at the top five and Camille was just right behind her, and vice versa. Honestly, I couldn’t really remember which one of them is smarter in class but all I know is that both of them were really good with their schoolwork. Camille was amazing in our math class while Marie was awesome in English and Filipino. Marie was the school’s bet on interschool declamation contests. I, however, was more concerned with my pencil, crayons and paper and making lots of drawings.
Whenever I think of our memories together as children, I just couldn’t help but laugh at all the silliness the three of us did. And there are lots of those silly things we did.
But our fun childhood memories remained as childhood memories.
The two of them, Marie and Camille, had gone away from my life a little too soon.
Camille died when we were in the 3rd grade of our elementary years. She was 9 years old.
What happened then is still clear to me until now. It’s a preserved memory in my brain. She was absent from school for many days already. But I wasn’t aware of her sickness then. I just knew she was absent from school and she’s not present during playtime as well. Until one day when during class, Ms. Mendoza, our school’s guidance counsellor came inside the classroom and looked at Ms. Ordoñez, our class adviser who was currently standing at the front of the class teaching us something. Ms. Mendoza only looked at Ms. Ordoñez and mouthed a single word. And then right after, Ms. Ordoñez broke into sobs, and then she cried uncontrollably. Back then, I never knew why my teacher cried. Until the day came when I just had to come home from school to come inside Camille’s house where I found this big white wooden box. And there she was, lying inside, as if she was just sleeping.
We all wept for her. My classmates wept for her. Marie wept for her. I wept for her. All of us in class wrote her a letter and these letters were placed inside an envelope which they buried with her body.
Then after a few weeks, just before the school year ended, Marie left me.
Marie and her family went back to province where she continued her studies. I learned about her family’s decision to leave when there’s only a few days to spend time with Marie. And then the day came when she had to leave. And I remembered that day to be just like an ordinary, simple day. Except that Marie was leaving for good. I did not wept. But I can still remember the exact moment when I last saw her. I was walking down the street with my Mommy and when we arrived at the street corner along the main road, I saw her.
I saw Marie standing at the side of the road. And I can remember myself asking her,
“Aalis ka na?”
Marie nodded. “Oo, inaantay ko lang si Mama”
And then we just said our goodbyes to each other like it’s an ordinary thing. But after I said my goodbye, I began to wonder that with Camille and Marie gone, I wouldn’t be able to feel the same kind of fun when I play those games the three of us used to play before. It won’t be the same. Everything’s just changed.
Marie finished studies in the province and she’s now working. I remembered the first time I visited her in her house in the province, I was so excited to see her. I think that was four years after she left Manila. And then I went back and years has passed and so many things has happened. Sometimes she comes here in Manila but her visit were always so short (always less than a day).
Yesterday, September 8th, was Camille’s 14th death anniversary.
Camille might had been taken away at an early age and I and Marie might had grown apart physically but what we had together, the three of us, is something that no one cannot ever steal from me.
Our friendship is dug deep within my being and I will cherish my memories with them forever. I am blessed to had been with them.