RB takes on One Direction. Photo by Elliot Robles.
I didn’t know RB Raymundo.
Scratch that; I did know him, but it was the casual sort of knowing that comes with a shared experience. RB was my castmate in last year’s ViARE opening production, LOLZ. He was one of my friend Luis “Cheeze” Mendez’s “children,” acting under his direction in If Men Played Cards as Women Do, alongside my friends Jedi Maigue and Phillip Oñate. I knew him mostly as “guy with cardigan”–a freshman ViARE actor upon whom hinged one of the critical gags of Cheeze’s play. We participated in the same group “warm ups,” bumped into each other (quite literally) while setting up for TDRs a couple of times, and, one time, I think I helped do his stage makeup. That was the extent of our “intimate” interaction backstage. Offstage, it was limited to mere nods and polite waves of recognition as we passed each other in school corridors.
We were definitely not friends, maybe not even much by way of casual acquaintances, and yet when news broke of his death, I felt a lump in my throat that was definitely not the vocal nodes I’d been worrying about for weeks.
RB died at 12:15 this morning. Specifically, he was murdered–stabbed to death by robbers who were, some reports say, actually his friends, as he tried to defend his family and his home against them. Mere hours before, he’d been celebrating with fellow Dragons at the closing festivities of Hatchweek, our yearly freshman “initiation” week where freshies “hatch” as full-blown Dragons. RB was actually a sophomore, but as there was no Hatchweek last year, he was one among this year’s batch of eggs who “hatched” last night.
RB made good on his status as a full-blown Dragon.
Unlike me, many of my friends knew RB well. Several of my ViARE and Reverb org-mates posted Facebook stats registering their disbelief: “I was just with him last night.” Later, there were long, grief-stricken messages posted on official school and org pages. One, posted by the official student org of the School of Management–RB, like me, was in SMN; he was an Entrepreneurial Management major–explicitly mentioned his cause of death.
To die young is one thing. To be murdered is quite another.
This isn’t the first time someone I’ve worked with in ViARE has died. A few years ago–a year ago? Sluttish time erodes all proper memory–one of ViARE’s resident legends, former org president Grant Delfin, lost his battle with cancer. I knew Grant: he was a sempai, a friend, a mentor, a high-pitched chibi voice calling out my name from behind in an attempt to freak me out as I tottered up stairs in my stupidly high heels. While I wasn’t as close to him as many others of my friends were, I have personal memories of Grant: fragments of conversations, a photograph or two. Mourning him felt justifiable, because we’d personally interacted. It felt right to grieve, because knew him well enough to miss him.
To mourn RB’s loss, on the other hand, feels awkward, almost disrespectful, because who am I to commiserate with those who are grieving? I was neither friend nor close castmate. I doubt he even really knew who I was, beyond a vague idea of “I’ve seen this girl before, somewhere.” To pour out words of support and sorrow feels almost like a publicity stunt, an act of trying to fit in rather than genuine sadness. And yet, I do feel genuine sadness, at least by association. He was the friend of my friends, the cast of one of my best friends, and when they tell me they’re shaken and devastated how can I not feel somewhat shaken too?
Most of all, how can I not be affected? RB was young. He was brave. This combination is a rarity in my generation, where risking our necks for something other than ourselves doesn’t seem to be a common occurrence. RB died protecting his family, something I’m not sure I would have the guts to do, though I love my family very much. More painfully, he may have died at the hands of his friends, people that by rights he should have trusted.
He hadn’t provoked them. This wasn’t the result of some seedy gang war or drunken altercation. He was simply resting, at home, after a long night partying with fellow Dragons, celebrating his newly-hatched status. Maybe he was checking Facebook. Maybe he was trying to get some sleep. What’s important is he was somewhere where he was supposed to be safe.
Unlike the other recent passing making Facebook headlines–one that I also mourned–RB bore no responsibility for his death. Instead, RB died doing something I could never have thought anyone our age would dare to do–defending his home and family, taking responsibility for their security. He may have been younger than me, a boy in my two-years-out-of-adulthood eyes, but he died as a man.
RB’s memory makes me proud to be a Dragon, to count myself one of his number. I am affected because his story did not deserve to end the way it did, and because of solemn respect for a person who, honestly, deserves it.
I did not know RB Raymundo, but what I do know is, the world needs more people like him.