Kate’s Blog: The Treasure Hunt


By Kate Alvarez
December 16, 2012

I found myself searching through Anton’s personal possessions in his bedroom and family attic every week since his passing on October 5. I browsed through every box, photo album, bag, luggage, drawer, and closet. I organized his clothes into piles—stuff to keep for myself, stuff to give away to friends and relatives, and stuff to donate to charity. I threw away his junk and cleaned his bedroom. I organized boxes upon boxes of souvenirs of his schooldays, childhood, family life, work, travels, and our relationship. From brochures of our trips to ticket stubs of concerts we watched—you name it, I kept it.

Perhaps it served as some sort of therapy for me. It’s like I was getting to know Anton more through the things he left behind. It’s like I was reliving the wonderful memories we had as a couple. It’s like I was doing his unfinished business by keeping his things in order and making sure that nothing important gets discarded.

I searched for mementos of him in every corner of his house. His Tita Lisa sent me boxes of Anton’s personal things that he left in her house in Angeles City, where Anton earned his hours as a flight instructor in Omni Aviation. I even visited PAREF Southridge, where Anton spent his happy grade school and high school days.

Mission Possible

There was always something I needed to do for Anton, such as attending special masses and get-togethers, looking for important documents for his family, and taking his place as best man in his brother Mon’s wedding.

To be honest, I don’t want my missions and treasure hunts to end. I want to keep discovering new things about Anton for as long as I can. I want to keep hearing happy stories about him from friends and relatives. I want to keep meeting his friends and loved ones. I want to keep writing about him and to him. I want to keep telling stories about the good times in his life. I don’t want Anton to fade into a distant memory or just a small chapter of my life.

Circa 2011, when Anton took me on my first Cessna ride to Caticlan and Cebu

Call me loony, but it’s what keeps me going. The death of my beloved Anton has given me the most profound loss and pain I’ve ever known—a pain that no matter how much you try to relate to it, you will never understand unless you, too, have lost someone to suicide. These little treasure hunts keep me connected to him. They allow me to express my love for him, something that I feel I am forever robbed off.

The Elusive Yearbook

One particular “mission” that pushed my patience to the limit involves Anton’s college yearbook. His uncle Mike and I were posting clippings of Anton in his tribute website in November when I realized that I couldn’t find Anton’s Aegis (the title of every Atenean’s yearbook).

Then I remembered Anton mentioned before that he never bothered to claim his yearbook after graduating from Ateneo de Manila University in 2005. He was too busy (or lazy) to go back.

And as if by fate, I was looking through Anton’s email (yes, he entrusted his password to me) when I read a message from the student council telling Ateneo graduates that they are given one last chance to claim their yearbooks this December.

Ateneo’s OUDAR (Office of University Development and Alumni Relations) needed to make space in their office by getting rid of unclaimed yearbooks, so they scheduled Dec. 7-8 as the final weekend to claim their yearbooks. Unclaimed ones will be thrown away.

I sent a letter to the alumni director who allowed me to claim Anton’s yearbook, provided that I bring a letter of authorization from his mom, Cherry, and photocopies of all our IDs.

Hello, Ateneo.

After bracing four whopping hours of traffic from Cavite City to Katipunan on Dec. 7, I found myself still on the road by the cut-off time of 6 p.m. I frantically called up the office and begged Liza, the officer in charge, to wait for me since I had already come this far. She agreed.

I arrived in Ateneo at 6:45 p.m., just in time before Liza left the office. I told her that I wasn’t sure which yearbook Anton was part of. He was originally part of the 2004 batch, but graduated in 2005 after spending time in Japan for a scholarship program. She said she double-checked his records and it said that he’s part of the 2005 batch.

I took her word for it. I claimed the yearbook set, which had two hard-bound books in a bookcase wrapped in brown paper, and carried it out of the office.

Down From The Hill

I was feeling nostalgic that night, so I decided to walk around the campus (with the 10-pound package in tow) to reminisce. At first I felt like a stranger in my own campus. New buildings have replaced the old ones I knew. Except for the Rizal Library, the structures’ names eluded me.

After a while, the familiar smell of Ateneo’s high hills and fresh trees made me feel like I was home again. I teared up at the sight of the classrooms and hallways I frequented. He enrolled in Ateneo one year after me, in 2000, but I remember seeing Anton only a few times in my four years in Ateneo. I would always remember him as the longhaired conyo-looking guy who had a prominent nose. I wondered why we never really crossed paths despite going to the same university and living in the same condo building.

Ateneo’s Snake Pit next to the Conyo Bench

When I spotted his old hangout, the “conyo bench” outside the cafeteria, I found my answer. We were two completely different people back then. We were young, naïve souls still finding ourselves—he the budding businessman who belonged to a group of affluent kids, and I the eccentric loner still torn between the arts and law school.

Our more mature and experienced selves finally crossed paths years later, in 2010. That was the year I met my soulmate. The timing was perfect.

Table for One

To avoid the hellish traffic back home, I explored the new spots in Katipunan across Ateneo. It was a bittersweet experience as I walked alone, smiling to myself as memories of my young college days came in waves. How I wish Anton were with me as I recalled the silly things I did back in the day. How I wish Anton were there to tell me of his crazy days living a few floors above my unit, in the same condominium where we barely crossed paths.

New Year 2011

But I’m alone now—and I need to get used to that.

I tried my best not to burst into tears when I ate at a new café that I knew Anton would’ve loved. In my head, I could picture what he would’ve ordered and the conversations we would’ve had. I still saved him a seat.

The Disaster

When I arrived home, I excitedly rushed to open the yearbook. Lo and behold, I couldn’t find Anton in the list of BS Management graduates! I searched every page and could find neither the photo nor name of Anton. Talk about an anti-climactic moment!

The next day I asked his sister-in-law, Jella, to help me look through it again, since she’s also part of Ateneo 2005. When she, too, couldn’t find him, we concluded that perhaps Anton joined his original batch 2004’s yearbook.

I spent that Sunday morning calling the OUDAR office. My contact, Liza, was not at her desk, as she was busy distributing the yearbooks. The person who kept answering the phone kept telling me to call back.

I wanted to cry in frustration. I could hear Anton’s voice in my head—that classic line he would tell me whenever I get into mishaps: “You’re such a disaster!”

I decided to send Liza a friendly email letting her know of the mix-up. I told her that I’d be driving back to Ateneo before closing time. My gut told me that they wouldn’t extend the yearbook distribution for just one person, so I drove to Ateneo before even getting a reply from Liza.

Last Chance

After a two-hour traffic jam from Alabang to Katipunan, I was back in the OUDAR office. I exchanged the 2005 yearbook with the 2004 version, this time weighing 15 pounds with five hardbound volumes in one bookcase.

“I hope you don’t mind if I open this here, just to be sure I finally got the right one,” I told Liza.

I was flipping through the pages of volume three when I finally spotted that handsome longhaired guy I fell in love with in 2010.

AO’s yearbook page, with a write-up that tells me it was done by his crazy Burgundy roommies.

“Thank God!” I screamed.

As I tucked the 15-lb. package safely on the front seat of my car, I sighed and said out loud, “See, babe? I finally got your yearbook.” In tears, I drove out of Ateneo.