Within 23 days of Ariel’s unfortunate demise, we were in the STRAA when we got word that a sophomore in the U-15 team by the name of Archie Perez was also killed in another bizarre vehicular accident in his hometown of Tanauan.
I have not really written about this accident because my recollection of it is not based on first-hand experience. My team and I passed by the family residence on our way home from the STRAA to pay our respects; and, of course, I would have heard from the family exactly what happened.
In my previous nine years of coaching high school boys, I had not up to that point had anything worse than a sprain to worry about. All of a sudden, I was having to deal with the trauma of losing two young boys to vehicular accidents all within the span of 23 days.
All I recall is that Archie had gone with some friends to visit another friend in the neighbouring town of Sto. Tomas. On the way home, the jeep that they were in flipped over and Archie along with another friend were killed.
Late in the nineties, I reported to school in the middle of a storm because the HRD had not cancelled an orientation for newly-hired employees. Since I was then Director for External Affairs, I was required to give an overview of the functions of my office.
One of the new employees, I immediately noticed, was more attentive than the rest. I also remember that he looked at me as though he already knew who I was even before the introductions were made. This was strange because I certainly did not have a clue who he was or what planet he had come from.
Since the school was still relatively small then, I eventually got to know that his name was Erick Martinez and that he was hired to work in the college as guidance counsellor.
This was how I eventually got to know him better and we became friends and smoke-mates. I think it was during one smoking session when I remembered to ask him about that orientation and why he looked like he knew beforehand who I was.
He admitted that, indeed, he had heard of me before. He told me that he was from Sto. Tomas and that he knew Batoy – Ramses Mabilangan – who had played for me in the nineties.
That explained a lot. So he was not an assassin hired to do a contract on me, after all. I thought no more of the matter.
Of course, I did!
I was surprised that he even knew Archie. They were friends, he told me. So we talked about the accident and what a waste it seemed for somebody so young to be called to sit with the angels.
“He came from my place when the accident happened,” he told me.
I looked at him. And my jaw dropped.
I did not really get to know Archie very well. The U-15 team to which he belonged was very much my training team of young boys who I was preparing for later. Still – and because football teams are like extended families – I silently grieved his demise as much as I did Ariel’s.
Who would have thought that two decades later, I would work closely and become friends with the very same friend whose house he had visited just before that fateful accident early in February of 1991?
A Nasty Habit
Football Is Life; and Life Is Hard