I had a near death experience. Although not as elaborate as any plot plucked from a Wes Craven or Stephen King movie, the experience was a close call nonetheless.

It happened over the weekend when I spent an overnight get-together with friends (one of those must-attend, meet-and-catch-up kind in my short furlough-slash-vacation of sorts) in the outskirts of Manila. No, the near death experience didn’t occur then — horror flicks with a climax transpiring at night in the countryside are sooo overrated (although we did watch Sixth Sense by midnight just for kicks).

It did happen the day after, and in broad daylight.

Before I hit the expressway and head back home, I had to make a stopover (an errand, if you will) at this dairy farm the province is famous for to buy cottage cheese and fresh milk for my mom who wanted to take a break from her daily consumption of the usual preservatives-packed, urban supermarket kind of produce. Thinking the purchase would not take much time, I hesitated to park at an open designated spot and thought it best to just pull over at the curb I’m on where old trees provide a generous shade over my already weary but reliable 10-year old Toyota. I was about to switch off the engine when my friends had that look of disapproval and coaxed me to park at the open spot instead. Not wanting to be the odd ball among (obviously) law-abiding friends, I moved my car into the sunny spot and lightly tapped the dashboard, subconsciously saying It’s gonna be okay! like a kid consoling his sick dog.

And then, a wild crack and a loud thud followed.

A large branch, the size of a log, disjointed and fell from what appeared to be a century-old tree onto the exact same curb I mulled over to park. The branch tore itself on impact; sunlight pierced onto the debris from where the branch once canopied, and; leaves rustled from a sudden blow of afternoon wind — as if in grief, as if to mourn.

For me and my friends, shock and disbelief slowly seeped in; and in silence, what-ifs were entertained and prayers were spoken.

It was Sunday. Perfect day to reflect. And in reflection, I took a couple of lessons to heart: One, enjoy the company of family and friends; life is short, carpe diem! And two, park the Goddamn car right!