A Walk to Remember
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A Walk to Remember

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Gracias, Grasya!

THANK YOU. Just thank you. If I am only allowed two words to tell my bestfriend Grace Nobleza, it would have to be these. I seriously don’t know how I am going to start and end this blog post because the emotions are running high. I have long been wanting to start my travel  blog but I just can’t seem to get the drive to finally publish it. I never imagined that this upset will be the one to push me to take that leap of faith. Grace, lead me as I write this one. Thank you for being my pep squad in times that I would doubt my strengths. We promise that we will definitely continue to #JoinTheJourney and we will always remember you in all of our travels. This is for you and for all the hopes and dreams our barkada has planned for the future.

I would not have started this blog if it weren’t for this incident. :'(

To describe Grace as amazing person is an understatement. She is a success story. From being a working student during our college days, she worked her way up to bigger opportunities to reach for her dreams. It is hard to perfectly describe her character but one thing is for sure, she is loved by many. Grace is LOVE. If you read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and replace the word “LOVE” with the name “GRACE”, it would fit like a glove. You are one-of-a-kind, Grasya.

I will try to come up with a timeline of the significant events in Grace’s life.

January 10, 2016 : Malalison Island, Antique

Travel junkies as we are, our barkada planned on a trip to Malalison Island, famed for its resemblance to Batanes. We were shooting the prenup photos of Vincent and Grace. The couple have been planning to get married this September 10 (birthdate of Grace). However, Vince made it appear that there’d be no engagement anymore. Little did Grace know that Vincent is going to propose on site! We started rolling and the sunset was our cue that Vince would pop the big question. I played One Call Away by Charlie Puth on my speakers as everyone got ready for the main event. Vince proposed to Grace. I got emotional because I have never seen a couple so perfectly-matched from heaven and seeing two of my great friends about to start a new life together is overwhelming.

When she heard him say those words…

The photos may seem dramatic but the actual scene was funny as heck. Hahaha! It had the usual flare of Grace; comedy!

As travel photo and videographer, Ashley and I suggested to the couple that we do a photoshoot everytime we travel. They are excited with the idea of having a destination prenup video and we did just that. A lot has happened after this engagement session. The crew traveled and shared more awesome memories together. The life of the party will always be Grace herself. Never a dull moment. Never.

#JoinTheJourneyPH : Nogas Island




 

I will fast forward to the most tragic day the crew has ever faced. I wished I wouldn’t be writing this one out. It’s hard.

July 27, 2016

I dropped by the office of Grace at the USLS because I was just around the area and brought them some food. I had no clue that she was already sick. By the afternoon, her close friend, Yrika, accompanied her to take her laboratory tests. She’d have to wait until the following day for the results to be explained to her. Erika, however, sent a photo of the results to her brother in the USA who’s also a doctor. We still managed to joke about the situation. This is how Grace would normally approach life; just pure fun.

By the evening of that same day, Vince picked Grace up at her house and admitted her to the hospital. Grace initially resisted because she was not sick at all, but Erika’s brother said otherwise.

#JoinTheJourneyPH : Pan de Azucar Island

July 28, 2016




Vince called me up and told me that Grace was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia. A medical finding that blew us all away. Speechless and numbed, I didn’t how to react. I prayed and rebuked the illness of our friend. We were all in denial. All of the fun memories we shared with Grace flashed before me. I hurried my way to the hospital. I was welcomed by her in tears while I kept all my emotions. I assured her we were all in this together and that our God is bigger than that big C. Let me tell you that Grace DID NOT look or feel sick at all. No signs, whatever. She was active and normal. Then came her mother. She prayed over Grace and I saw how strong-willed she was to keep her daughter. I broke down crying, seeing a mother’s love. There is no comparison to that. Everyone started crying too.

July 29, 2016

I made it a daily habit to be there for Grace. For all the things she has selflessly done for me, it was the least that I could do; make her feel my presence in good times and in bad. She had massive blood discharge and had a few bruises on her skin. However, she was active and energetic and didn’t feel sick. She even joked that she can join us jog at the open field if we invite her to. Again we were dismissing the notion of Leukemia.

July 30, 2016

Another bomb dropped when Grace sent a text message to her friends that her condition was already in stage 4. I felt at that point that we only have a few days left of her. Cancer is deceptive. Fuck cancer. We saw how the news greatly affected Grace. Little by little, she lost her energy and appetite. Her self-esteem reached the bottom of it. She lost it all. Then there was a time that she cried telling us how she was so worried for Vince. She asked us to promise her that we’d look after Vince and never leave him when she’d be gone. It was heart-wrenching. We cried a river.

While we thought that Grace was asleep, we talked to Vince. We told her the message of Grace and assured him that the crew will stay the same. Nothing will change. Could you even imagine how hard this must be for the fiance? The idea of losing the love of your life and partner for almost a decade is a huge battle. Since day 1, he never revealed to Grace his achilles’ heel. He wanted to be strong for her. Vince let his heart out and we started crying again. Grace, on the other hand, was actually listening. I saw her cry silently in her bed. It was cinematic, overly depressing and was too heavy to witness. We pretended as if she didn’t hear anything. There was just no acceptance from us regarding Grace’s fate.

#JoinTheJourneyPH: South Cebu

A lot of people said that this photo was so telling.

July 31, 2016

We never saw Grace in such a terrible state than this day. She looked helpless and tired in her bed. She couldn’t keep a conversation with us. All she ever did was struggle herself to sleep. It was awful. She totally lost her appetite. She then started to puke and it occurred several times. It had some hint of blood and I knew something was wrong. Moments after, her gums started bleeding and she became weaker and weaker.

I don’t have any idea of how Leukemia affects the body except for what I see in movies. When Grace started blurting that her head was in pain, I thought that was it. I just prayed that she manages to endure the pain and not suffer terribly. Her pain increased gradually. We asked her to rate it from 1-10 with 10 being the most painful. It started with 4 and reached its most painful state at around 6pm. Grace cried for help.




We left the room to let the nurses do what they had to do. We grabbed some quick dinner downstairs. A few minutes later, Ana informed us that Grace was already in emergency situation. We never saw Grace the same way again. Life-saving apparatus was attached to her body. There were a lot. Blood was all over. And you can’t help but cry seeing your friend in such a terrible state and there was nothing you can do to help her. The doctors informed her mom that there might be some bleeding already inside her head. We were told that if the blood drowns her brain, Grace will lose the battle. She was already in coma during that time. None of us was prepared for this. Everything happened so fast!

August 1, 2016

Grace was declared brain dead. The only thing that’s sustaining her was the respirator and the meds. The family was praying and hoping that she fights until her sister arrives from the USA on Saturday. Everyone was pleading to God for a miracle.

We had lunch with Vince. He started drafting his wedding vow for Grace. There’d be times when there’d be awkward silence and we will just unwittingly cry. It was that heavy. I believe that what made this situation worse is the fact that their wedding is all set next month. All ever Grace did this year was to prepare for her dream grande wedding and we were in full support on this. Every woman dreams and deserves a wedding of a lifetime. Later that night, Vince read his wedding vow to Grace. It was the real-life A Walk to Remember.

Grace’s bff and wedding planner, Tin-tin, told the wedding suppliers about her condition. God bless these people (Amelvin’s Touch, SKT Digital, Mr. Cyrus Alcala, Midori Moon, Kat Padilla Atelier, L’ Fisher Hotels, Tintin of Simply Special Weddings & Events and Carlos Durana Makeup Studio) for they offered a full-refund to assist the family during these trying times. That evening, the wedding gown designer of Grace made her a sweet surprise. Kat Padilla, who also happened to be a nurse, went to deliver her dress. It was a simplified and modified version of her dream gown. They placed it on top of Grace and Kat told her that she has to keep fighting and that everyone wants to see her walk down the aisle. They saw tears falling from her unresponsive, half-shut eyes. It was so surreal. I couldn’t seem to understand how a brain-dead patient was still able to process her emotions. It was already a miracle. THANK YOU, Lord!

She was able to wear her wedding gown during her final moments.

August 2, 2016

The doctors said that Grace was already in full and deep coma. She is not responding to medications anymore. Her heart started to show signs of failing. The family was asked to sign a waiver whether or not they will opt to revive Grace if she is on the verge of death already. It was the toughest decision her family had to make. In as much as they wanted to keep her, they just had to let go and surrender to God’s plan.

Around lunch time, the billing office called Vince up to inform about their running balance. There was a discussion inside the room about the bill. Grace’s officemate, Miss Joycel, noticed that the monitor shows that her condition was deteriorating. Her heart rate was declining. Moments after, the resident doctor uttered what everyone fears to hear. Grace is gone. </3

We prepared ourselves for this; trying to be strong. Vince talked to her deceased fiance. He joked how Grace left us upon hearing about the huge hospital bill. We would inject humor in horrible situations; something Grace is so good at. When it started sinking in, Vince broke down and so did everyone. It was also tough to see a mother losing a huge part of her life too. I wouldn’t even wish for this to happen to my enemy.




#JoinTheJourneyPH: Dumaguete City (Photos by Quincy Tampo of Midori Moon)

Almost was never enough.

Before I end this post for my bestfriend Grace, let me share to you how she made us feel her presence the same day she left this world. Sharon, Ana, Vince and I went to the memorial chapel to process everything. As I was driving, Runaway by The Corrs played over the radio. It was her song choice to be played while she’d be walking down the aisle. We then started crying tears of joy for it was like an affirmation that Grace was still with us. I spoke to her saying that we acknowledged her presence. We all had shivers. It was a great moment. Then Vince said that One Call Away will play before that day ends.

After dinner, we transferred to a fastfood chain to iron out our plans for Grace’s interment. We wanted it to be a celebration of LIFE and not death; a message of inspiration and gratitude and not of goodbyes. We want to stay true to how Grace would plan it herself. Moments later, One Call Away played over the radio. We want to believe that it was not a coincidence but rather Grace’s approval. One Call Away was their engagement song as I mentioned earlier.:) The peculiarities did not stop there. Sorry by Justin Bieber played next. This is the group’s favorite song! In fact, we were supposed to do a production number of this song during their wedding.:) But wait, there’s more! Love Yourself capped the night off. This is the ringtone of Grace on her phone. Coincidence? I want to believe that it was not.

Her life may be short but it was well-lived.

Grace, THANK YOU so much for sharing your life to us. This will not be easy now that you are not around. You know you are the person I am most comfortable with. I will miss exchanging non-sense messages with you. I will miss laughing with you till our abdomens start aching. I will miss picking you up at Bong-bong’s on weekends and driving til where our craziness will lead us. If there is a female version of the person that I am, it is you Grace.  I have planned my future with you, Vince and the rest of the crew around and it’s difficult to start now that you’re gone. I just can’t imagine how it is for the group to travel without your loud mouth and boisterous laughter. You know how I wanted to travel to Europe and there’d be no better people I would want to be with than you guys. I told you how much I wanted to fulfill my dream, as a travel photographer, of seeing the Aurora Borealis. I remember the first time I started taking photos of the night skies and the stars, I was with you, too. It was one of the most amazing times of my life. Traveling to a remote island, pitching a tent and sleeping under a sky full of stars and just laughing our way to sleep. Thank you for a decade of amazingggggg friendship Grace!!! And for the awesome group of friends you crafted. I am more than blessed to call you my bestfriend and my sister.:)

I’m happy to have given you this Milkyway shot for once in your life. <3

Lights will guide you home. Everytime I go out and see the stars shining so bright, I will definitely cry happy tears as I keep thoughts of you. We love you and please tell our Papa how much we miss and love him too. The heaven must be rejoicing now that you are home as I am a mess crying, trying to finish this post. I miss you already. Keep your STAR shining for always, Gah!

Speak to me whenever I go out to see the stars, Grace! 🙂 Thank you!

“I am sorry she didn’t get her miracle.”

“She did. It was YOU.” – A Walk To Remember movie

  • I am officially dedicating this website to Grace Nobleza (September 10, 1986 – August 2, 2016).

Spread the love and good news!
Share this to someone you care about.

#gotmarked #jointhejourneyph

08 Comments

  1. Dona Presley Vaughn

    Mark, this was beautiful. Grace is laughing and sending you and the gang love from far above!! She sounded like such a wonderful and genuine friend to you and all who knew her. I hope you’ll do as she asked and take care of Vince. He needs y’all and your strength to help him through this. Your blog was great and through your words and pictures I could see each place where you were. Please take care of yourself and the gang and know that you are such a great friend. Grace is an angel now waiting for her “Angel Gang”! She’s smiling bright!

    August 12, 2016 Reply
    • Mark Roa

      Wow! Thank you so much Dona! I never thought my post would bring you here. This is so nice of you. And yeah we are going to continue what she left of us, as promised. We will continue to celebrate her life. 🙂 I pray that the good Lord will bless you and keep you, Dona. Be blessed.

      August 14, 2016 Reply
  2. Rochell

    I’m so in love with the movie and this post made me love it even more. I’m sure Grace is smiling up there knowing she has a friend like you, Sir Mark. 🙂 Must share! Such an inspiration ❤

    August 15, 2016 Reply
    • Mark Roa

      Thanks a lot Rochell. We are more blessed to have her for over a decade. May her story inspire everyone to live more and LOVE more. God bless you po. 🙂

      August 15, 2016 Reply
  3. Mark Roa

    Hello there! Sad to hear about what happened to your comment tho. hehe Hhhmm. I started this blog out of my promise to a dear friend. When I did this, I didn’t have a concrete plan as to who do I target or what content do I come up with. I just knew that I had to focus more on my travel content. Overnight success came when my tribute blog post (A Walk to Remember) went viral. I was blown away like I never saw it coming. So maybe my answer to your question is, bring in good and inspiring content to your readers. I will be keeping my posts as raw as possible in terms of writing, just like how you would share a story to friends. 🙂 And also try to engage with your readers. I hope this helps! Sorry, I am also new to this one. Haha! Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

    August 16, 2016 Reply
  4. carina

    Why good people always take the first flight to heaven?? I never imagine that there are great love story like this of grace and vince exist.Maybe God has a reason why it happened. But we should be happy that she is now with Lord God. And it is admirable that Grace have great and true friends around her. And for her fiancee who never get tired of loving his girl and never surrender up to her last breath, you really are a true man.

    August 22, 2016 Reply
    • Mark Roa

      I asked myself the same question too. Why bad things happen to good people? I don’t have the answer to that yet but I just know that God will always have better plans. We also thought that their love story is pretty much like in the movies. Surreal. I hope you were inspired by her story Carina. 🙂 God bless you.

      August 22, 2016 Reply

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