I met Carlo in the summer of '99 while vacationing at my lola's place in Quezon. I thought it was just one of those fleeting summer attractions, but I was wrong. After a week of getting to know each other, we exchanged rings and kept in touch over the phone and by meeting up whenever he was in town. I wrote him weekly letters and we saw each other during holidays.
Carlo moved to Manila in 2001. I was ecstatic 'cause that meant we'd get to hang out more often. On July 10, he asked me to be his girl over the phone. I didn't really want to be in a relationship yet, but something about him made me say yes. We agreed to meet the next day. When I went to bed that night, I had a huge smile on my face.
I was nervous about how to act around him, but when we met up, everything fell into place. We spent the whole afternoon laughing and hanging out. As we parted ways, he held my hand and said, "Wait for my call tonight, okay?" And just like in the movies, we had a hard time letting go of each other's hand as we walked in opposite directions.
The next day, I received the most shocking news. It was almost dismissal time when my best friend Madz ran into our classroom shouting, "Haze! Wala na daw si Carlo!" I asked, "What do you mean 'wala na?' As in he left for the States?" She answered, "No. He died yesterday." Some classmates told Madz it wasn't a funny prank, but I froze on the spot.
We called Carlo's house five times to make sure what Madz heard was true. Every time someone answered the phone, the person on that end would say that Carlo passed away the previous night. On our fifth try, my best friend said, "Quit teasing and let us talk to Carlo." His brother replied, "Do you think I'd joke about something as serious as this?"
After hearing that, I cried my heart out. I kept asking God, "Why so soon?" I found it hard to accept that just when I had fallen in love, I encountered a tragedy that would change my life. Later, I found out that Carlo had a heart attack moments after we parted. I suppose he felt it but just didn't want to say farewell. They rushed him to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was only 14.
For days, I couldn't eat or sleep. When I finally gathered the courage to visit his remains, I met his mom for the first time. She said, "Here's the ring he was wearing when he died. I promised myself I'd return it to the person who owned it." I'd cry whenever someone asked me about him, and it took me about two years to get over him. My baby nephew's arrival helped divert my attention and end my depression. I might have been too young to experience such a misfortune, but I'm glad I survived and learned from it. His death gave me a wider perspective on love, pain, and relationships, and made me value my life even more.
I've moved on—I'm sure that's what Carlo would have wanted me to do—but to this day, I still wear the ring he gave me. It reminds me of how blessed I am to have met someone who loved me as much as I loved him, and who wanted to be with me.