During our Victory Small Group (aka Cell Group) Meeting this afternoon, our group leader Rhia Frio told us about the sad fate of our churchmate, Given Grace Cebanico (she attends our youth services but her mother church is in Rizal). According to Rhia, Given’s lifeless body was found near the International Rice Research Institute on Tuesday at 6.30 a.m. Her legs were bruised (thus the speculation that she was raped) and she was shot. Rhia told us that Given was last seen by at 2 a.m. after joining a group study (this is Finals Week for UPLB students) held at a classmate’s house in Umali Subdivision to return to her dorm which was not very far. Rhia added that Given was the daughter of a pastor.
From what I’ve heard and read so far, Given Grace was indeed a given grace to her parents. I’m sure she has brought her parents so much joy, what with being a UP honor student, a DOST scholar, and a God-fearing girl. Up to the last day of her life, she was trying to make her parents proud by diligently studying up to the wee hours. She wasn’t even like me or other students who walk on the dim streets of LB after a night of partying–she was walking home after a group study session. Truth be told, I had a moment of weakness earlier when someone in our group said: “Dapat talaga ipag-pray natin ang mga anak natin lagi”, because I remembered that Given Grace’s dad is a pastor. I even said: “E di ba I’m sure ipinagpe-pray naman siya ng parents niya kasi nga pastor ang tatay niya?” For a brief moment, I wanted to tell God that He was being unfair—Why a promising child of His? Why the “given grace” of a God-fearing man? But we have to remember that 1.) God has plans for every one of us–we may not see His purpose right now but we eventually will (Jeremiah 29:11); 2.) If my thoughts about Given Grace and her family are correct, she is definitely in a better place now; and 3.) Whatever may happen, we have to remember that God wants us to pray and seek Him.
I guess I speak for everyone in the meeting when I say that we were shocked, saddened, and enraged upon hearing it. For the first time in a long time, I felt mildly grateful that my child is a boy, as girls are more vulnerable to predators.
I have never met this girl; in fact I haven’t even heard of her before today, but the news of her senseless death has shaken me because of the following:
- As a UPLB alumna and Victory Los Banos member, I feel a certain kinship towards the girl.
- As a mom, I can’t help but grieve with her parents. It used to be that I thought I know how painful it is to lose a child, but now that I actually do have a child, the theoretical-losing-of-a-child pain has magnified a thousandfold. Right now, I’m quite certain that I’d lose my marbles if I lose my child. Just last night, I was trying to Ferberize (aka let-baby-cry-until-he-sleeps-on-his-own) my baby. It was difficult for me to hear him cry, begging me to cradle him in my arms. I was trying to tell myself to be strong, but upon seeing him rise from his crib and raise his arms towards me, I gave in and cradled him. I even teared up a bit. What more when you learn that your child suffered before she died? Suffer, as in “Police said the victim had a bullet wound on her forehead and bruises all over her body. Both her hands were tied and masking tape covered her mouth. The victim also did not have any underwear, leading police to suspect that she was raped before she was killed.” To learn that your child suffered is already too much. To learn that you’ve lost your child is almost unbearable. But Given’s parents have to keep on hearing how their child suffered first and then died.
- As someone who lived on Mt. Halcon St. in Umali Subd. in college, I cringed at the thought that she could’ve been I or any of my dorm mates. When I was in college, I was so carefree and confident that nothing would happen to me even as I walk through the dim streets of Umali Subd. There were times when I walked alone from our dorm to a not-so-near restaurant late at night. I also remember myself and a dorm mate getting ourselves drunk and then walking ourselves back to our dorm. We laugh at that memory, true, but I realize now how stupid it was. I realize that my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s (who was ten years my senior and was in college during the Aileen Sarmenta-Allan Gomez murder) paranoia of my college lifestyle was well-founded. He was right to follow me and fetch me from my night outs. I used to tell him that students walking at night was normal for UPLB students these days (and even on those days), but it was stupid. I can’t help but utter a prayer of thanks: Lord, thank you for protecting me when I was being a stupid college girl.