My fondest memory of Ronald (RJ or Nald to his friends) was when he was wearing shorts - pambahay shorts.
He was wearing a cap, a big white shirt (it looked like one of those corporate giveaway shirts), and his shorts that was with animal (leopard) prints (it wasn't manly for sure).
Nald came to my aid one Sunday in U.P., some two years ago, as I asked him to buy me a cheap pair of slippers since my rubber shoes gave up on me in my first attempt to jog.
When I saw him approaching, carrying a plastic with a pair of black and red combo slippers (it was cute, the guy had a taste) he bought from the Philcoa overpass hawkers (if I remember it right), I was laughing and profusely apologizing to him. It only took a phone call (and he called me back) for him to never mind he was in his pambahay attire (which he kept repeating to me that day, to paraphrase him, "ikaw pa lang Lynda nakapagpaunta sa akin dito sa U.P. ng nakapambahay ako."
The adventures in U.P. didn't end there. Since I had classes that time, we sometimes met and just walked around the campus (with him complaining of the long walks). We would raid the quaint bookstores in the Shopping Center (and that corner bookstore near the post office); we would buy fruit shakes; and he accompanied me (after my years of studying in U.P.) for my first time isaw and barbeque trip.
One time we met with our former professor and chatted a bit. When that professor asked, "kayo ba?" Sure Nald had a quick rebuttal, something like, "hindi ko papatulan `yang si Lynda." To which I replied the same. And our professor just laughed at us.
Once, after I jogged, we met for a sisig dinner somewhere in Katipunan (through his influence I instantly gained back the calories I tried to shed that day) and off we went for a coffee chat over shows like Fringe and House M.D., among other things that matter to him (further studies in film, having a girlfriend, landing a more secured job, saving for the future).
One time, while walking past the Sunken Garden, he saw a lonely P50.00 lying on the ground, and he exclaimed with child-like glee, "Lynds, 50 pesos, oh!" We funnily debated whether to pick it up or what - in the end, he picked it up (think we spent that buying isaw or fruit shake), while he had this monologue, appealing to my conscience, saying that P50.00 might be a lunch meal of pancit canton and monay of the poor owner who lost that money. It was just funny that day.
At times, he would call unexpectedly - like after he read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (that I haven't started reading at that time). Or we would get to chat via Yahoo or exchange posts in Plurk.
Such recent times with him were a lot to recall. To think we met back in 2005 and became colleagues - the first time I saw him (when I was still applying with the company), I thought he was that old (coming from the main door, his cubicle was first before what became my cubicle) because he was too tall sitting there in that cube, lines forming on his forehead (might be busy finishing an article), and he was wearing his long-sleeves, rolled up.
He turned out to become a friend - whom we bonded over sisig of Rada St.;
which another friend of us reminded that Monday night that sisig lunches was her fond memory of Nald (at times he would go for sinigang with patis);
for MRT rides going home (and how he cleverly stole that Biogesic mock-up in one of those safety handles there at the train, and the next day showed it to another officemate, and it was such a source of fun);
how would I beg to him to accompany me home during the few times I spent late night with him and other friends;
how we didn't talk for days because he was so makulit, trying to get a peek over my pay slip;
how he was quick to find a photo of then singer Timmy Cruz and posted it in his blog entry about our celebrity look-alikes (eehh);
how we improvised that skit for the Christmas party presentation (he sang then I think, ha ha) just for the hell of it, we didn't win, and the humiliation was lighter because it was fun "performing" with him.
Fun cut short
I shared with Nald some of the lightest, funniest moments I had in recent years. Sure did he share a lot to those who knew him longer than I did (I could imagine his mother and brother living with his kakulitan and kakornihan)."
Life is short. Wear pants. "It was one of his lasts Facebook wall posts sometime before 2009 ended. Now the fun is cut short because we lost Nald.
It was unbelievable. I still couldn't believe it even another friend of ours was telling me over the phone, breaking in sobs, that Sunday afternoon of January 1, "na wala na si Nald."
He was calling me days after my 29th b-day (he never failed to call on my birthday, only last year, and when he probably realized it, he was calling me). But I didn't answer his call (I don't know what I was doing then, perhaps I didn't feel like having some catching up). Our latest communication was SMS exchanges during Christmas and New Year, and he also was reacting to my Plurk posts. Who ever thought that last Sunday (incidentally my late father's 62nd b-day), that he would bid good bye to this world?
I am filled with regrets for not answering that belated birthday call. But when I saw him Monday night, in his wake (as his remains were at the, how ironically, Eternal Life chapel), he seemed smiling. He looked serene. He was like assuring us, his crying friends, that it was OK, that he did his mission on his 29 years in this world: to make us all laugh especially during our lowest times.
And sure it was mission accomplished. And I'll never forget him in his pambahay shorts.
Ronald James Panis, maraming salamat sa tawanan at kulitan. Maraming salamat at naging kaibigan ka naming lahat.