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Given

16.October.2011

Given Grace.

When I first heard her name, I knew I wouldn’t forget it. She’s the only Given I know.

When I first heard of the news Wednesday afternoon, I was taken aback: a 19-year-old, female UPLB student taking up BS Computer Science—who was lodging at 5th of September Mansion—was found dead near IRRI after being robbed, beaten, and, apparently, raped. I sat frozen in front of my laptop screen, stunned silent. I had stayed at 5th of September Mansion for most of my college life, so my mind was racing through the possibilities. Do I know the victim? If not, do I know someone who does? How did this awful event come to pass? The questions answered themselves as more details became available.

And when I found out that the victim’s name is (I refuse to use was because it still is her name, even though she is no longer with us) Given Grace Cebanico, my mind went numb as my heart skipped a beat and almost stopped beating.

Later, I realized that Given was just outside of my social circle, barely out of my reach. She was a friend of a friend (a lot of my friends, in fact), and to have lost the chance to get to know her is a loss I won’t be able to let go anytime soon. And so, the news of her untimely death—and how her life was snuffed like that—hit me pretty bad, even if I didn’t know her all that well.

I hardly knew her, but I know enough—enough to care, enough to feel the pain, the loathing of what transpired on that fateful night. Enough to feel outrage, bloodlust even, for those responsible. Images of roasting the culprits alive and conscious on a spit ran through my mind as I heard the accounts of the crime on the evening news, and as I read gruesome detail after gruesome detail on the Net. I found myself incredibly saddened as I heard and read, with these horrible accounts, their total opposite—stories of what Given was like when she was still alive: her kindheartedness, her charm, her giggly persona, and her indomitable cheerfulness in life. Her parents, cousins, classmates, and friends all recalled how she shared the flame of her faith with everyone around her. It’s plain to see that her faith was what made her special.

As the reality sunk in, I realized that Given and I had a lot of similarities: we both lived in Rizal Province (she in Binangonan, yours truly in Morong), we both decided to go to UPLB for our college education, we both decided to stay at 5th of September Mansion while at Los Baños, and we are both the eldest child of a clergyman. All these drive home the point that even though we’ve never met, we have so many things in common that I feel like I do know her.

When I had enough of the accounts of her final moments, I took a moment to reflect on Given and everything I found out about her through the news. And all I could think about was that she fought. Despite being threatened with a gun, she fought. She didn’t go out without a fight. That would explain why her hands were tied behind her back, the bruises all over her body, and the two gunshot wounds she sustained.

First, they took her freedom. Then they took her possessions. After that, they took her dignity. And, as if they haven’t done enough, they decided to take her life, too.

The first is forgivable; the second, punishable; the third, deplorable to no end; the fourth and final one, that’s the one that hurts the most and is the hardest to accept. Even if all those responsible for Given’s suffering and demise were to die a more gruesome death than she did, it still wouldn’t be equal to what Given meant to her family, friends, and loved ones (and it certainly wouldn’t completely ease the pain and sorrow they all feel).

And yet, in this darkness, there is a flicker of light shining through—undeniable, unmistakable, unrelenting. Given, after all the agony she endured, is now with our Lord—free of pain, suffering, and death. They dare take her freedom? She now has it eternal. They dare take her possessions? She now has everything she will ever need and more. They dare take her dignity? God has restored her and lifted her soul to befit His glorious standard. They dare take her life? God has given her life everlasting.

As I pray for Given and everyone mourning her death, my closed eyes can see it: Given smiling from ear to ear—knowing that the worst is over, and that from now on, she’ll have nothing else to do but harvest the fruits of her faith and the irreproachable life she led here on earth.

When I first heard her name, I knew I wouldn’t forget it. And now, I never will.

– – –

Must-read posts about Given Grace Cebanico:

A letter addressed to Given — from one of her orgmates (written in Filipino)

A tribute to Given — from her ENG 2 instructor, Ms. Aileen Macalintal (written in English)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rorie permalink
    17.October.2011 10:25 am

    This blog post is beautiful. I hope her family and friends get to read this. There is so much comfort in this:

    “And yet, in this darkness, there is a flicker of light shining through—undeniable, unmistakable, unrelenting. Given, after all the agony she endured, is now with our Lord—free of pain, suffering, and death. They dare take her freedom? She now has it eternal. They dare take her possessions? She now has everything she will ever need and more. They dare take her dignity? God has restored her and lifted her soul to befit His glorious standard. They dare take her life? God has given her life everlasting.

    As I pray for Given and everyone mourning her death, my closed eyes can see it: Given smiling from ear to ear—knowing that the worst is over, and that from now on, she’ll have nothing else to do but harvest the fruits of her faith and the irreproachable life she led here on earth.”

  2. 18.October.2011 9:07 am

    hi jedo, im thankful that a lot of people wrote about her. and somehow contemplated about their faith or life in this world. she IS a strong child. fighting whenever she needs to.

    and it strikes me how her name was given to be remembered for a long time, if not forever by many people.

  3. 28.October.2011 11:07 pm

    Hi, Jedo! I am so glad to see a new post from you, but so sad about the topic! I am so sorry to hear this news! It seems that she is loved and cherished by many, many people, and there is no greater evidence of a life well-lived than that.

  4. 10.November.2011 6:44 pm

    When I first heard about this news, I felt terrible. Days went on and I learned more of the grisly details relating to the murder, I felt my blood curdling.

    This is one of those events that make you go, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Evil people abound in this world; why are they still alive?”

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