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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 May) — It’s official: Randy Felix P. Malayao, 39, had been arrested for the murder of an ex-military-man-turned-Governor.

I’m moving back nineteen years ago, imagining myself crossing the hall to the Ang Mangingisda newsroom and announcing that to a lanky kid who had a poet’s eyes. Or maybe I’d find that lanky kid with the eyes of a poet in the LFS office two doors down. That was Randy then.

I would tell him that it really wasn’t an arrest. If it were, Randy should have been taken to jail and allowed to call his lawyer within the hour. Instead, nobody heard from him until the 5th Infantry Division announced four agonizing days later that they would present him to the media.

I could imagine Randy listening to that with wide eyes. And he would have said, “Ay, ano ba ‘yan?”

Randy’s signature “Ay, ano ba ‘yan?!” was so catchy that even Vic Sotto was soon dropping it all over the place.

If you were among the first batch of students of the UP system that was consigned to the Miag-ao Campus the year it was opened, you couldn’t have missed Randy. He was not flamboyant or colorful, but he had a quiet presence. He was always polite, cheerful, and well-spoken. He was a gentleman – perhaps the most difficult thing to be at nineteen.

He was a student leader who was always at the forefront of issues that touched the lives of the UPV constituency and the student sector. No issue was too small for Randy Malayao and his cohorts. Dorm issues, tuition fee increase, US Bases Out Now, Oil Price Rollback, student rights, or Let’s Lampoon the VCA… you name it, they’ll give you the rundown on that one. The position papers they put out – and they never tired of putting them out – were informed, well-argued, and of course, very biased.

Under Randy’s editorship, the official student organ of the College of Fisheries, Ang Mangingisda, regularly put out such well-written issues that told just how vibrant the intellectual life in Mig-ao was and how, despite the campus being in the boondocks in the pre-SMS, pre-wifi era, the UPV studentry was kept abreast of national concerns. In fact, it was like that Vic Sotto and the “Ay, ano ba ‘yan?!” thing. Those guys were soon sitting in the CEGP hierarchy and creating the driving force to push student issues of the day.

It would have been so easy for me to be at odds with Randy. I was the liaison for the Office of Student Personnel Service. The school rules said that postings should bear my office’s stamp before they could be put up. So everyday that God made, I would find a 4-inch stack of position papers for stamping on my desk. Issues that wouldn’t die down had to be provided the venue for expression. Oh, they never ran out of issues. I just about ran myself ragged setting up fora and dialogues, documenting the proceedings, and following through on agreements arrived at between the students and the administrators.

Things got a lot more hectic for me when Chancellor Dodong Nemenzo chose to take up residence in the Miag-ao Campus. He liked talking to the students. In fact, even when the students weren’t agitating for an audience with him, he’d want to get them together anyway to improve their education on, for example, why there was a call to boycott the elections.

The students came to hear Dodong, but they never cozied up to him. Tribal lines divide. By virtue of my employment, I was on the other side, too – a representative of the oppressive administration bent on suppressing the voice of the students and denying them their right to oh, just about everything they should have.

Still, Randy and I were friends who sometimes took a stroll together under the moonlight. We laughed a lot. How Randy laughed. It looked like he were dying.

We talked about issues and I came to respect the depths of his passion. He, I’d like to think, came to respect my endless capacity to understand. We did each other the utmost respect of never trying to force our views on the other. He was that quiet presence that was there for me as I tried to work out frat tensions, disciplinary sanctions, problematic love affairs, and girls going on a bad trip.

Every morning, the dorm residents got informed of my impending arrival at my office because the loudspeaker they used for rallies would blare out Sheryl Cruz’ Mr. Dreamboy the minute I stepped out of the dining hall and crossed the green to the other building. Five minutes after I would have entered my office, a 4-inch batch of postings would be delivered along with coffee just the way I liked it.

I stamped away all day with nary a whimper and I allowed them their say whenever, wherever. In return, they’d follow me to the slopes to plant as many trees as we could on weekends. This despite the fact that they loudly criticized my idea that planting trees there could help solve the global ecological crisis. I didn’t mind their complaining because they did it while pulling their weight. At the end of the day, Randy’s group would have planted the most number of trees.

They were a very young bunch of idealists, yes. They were also a hardworking bunch of individualists who knew how to channel their talents. While they were at it, they honed their writing and power of argumentation. The organization and division of labor were most effective at getting things done. They ably handled regular critique sessions without expert help, which says how good they were at managing their ranks.

I still see some of them today. We’ve drifted apart somewhat, but I’m glad to be proven right on my observation. Nineteen years ago in boondocks of Miag-ao, those guys were making their destiny.

And planting trees? Well, I heard they’re all coming back to Miag-ao for the centennial celebration and they’re going to mark the reunion by planting trees. Randy had plans to be there.

I last saw Randy days after I gave birth to my firstborn. I never knew then that I would miss seeing him again this much. I wish I could just cross the hall and burst in on him and everything would be alright again. He was a lanky kid with the eyes of a poet. I love him like a brother. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail.ilagan@gmail.com.”Send at the risk of a reply,” she says)

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