When news came out about the gruesome death of 24-year-old John Matthew Salilig, an alleged victim of hazing, many were shocked and heartbroken. After he was laid to rest at his hometown in Zamboanga Saturday, tribute videos and messages for the Adamson University student poured in from family, friends, and teachers.
One friend, Zainal Lawi Emam, spoke to ANCX about the huge impact Matthew had in his life, saying he was his shoulder to cry on, a trusted confidant. “Matt was there for me para pagaanin ang loob ko at tulungan akong magpakatatag noong panahong may mga pinagdadaanan ako,” said Zainal. Matt, he added, always had a positive outlook in life.
The young men knew each other since they were children. They were neighbors in Zamboanga City. But it was during their teens that Matt and Zainal became really close. They are both part of a barkada called AMG or “Auntie Marinela Gang”— after a store they often hung out in. “Kabaliktaran ko siya: ako introvert, siya extrovert,” said Zainal.
Even after Matt moved to Manila to study at AdU, the boys would keep in touch via group chat. Zainal remembers his friend as a happy presence. “Sobrang bait na tao, very genuine, masarap maging kaibigan, masayahin, matulungin, God-fearing, at palabiro. Ngiti pa lang niya, alam mo nang may random siyang sasabihin na nakakatawa.”
Razina Arasal, a friend since high school, echoed Zailan’s description of Matthew. “Si Matmat, isang masayahin na tao. Never a dull moment talaga with him. Siya yung maituturing namin smiling sunshine ng group kasi never yan di tumawa, laging nakangiti. Positive vibes lang talaga dala niya sa grupo. Sasakit tiyan mo sa kakatawa pag yan nakasama mo.”
Razina said she will remember Matthew as someone caring, thoughtful, and generous. “He never failed to check up on his friends kahit na malayo siya. Siya yung tipong kaibigan na magdadala ‘yan ng coffee or milktea sa bahay niyo malaman niya lang na sad or stressed ka.”
“[Matthew] will always be remembered as the cool and hilarious person full of happy and interesting stories,” said Daniel Bernardo, Matthew’s professor in “Life and Works of Rizal” at AdU. “Matthew Salilig was a very bubbly, outgoing and family-oriented person…the sunshine of the Salilig family.” According to Mr. Bernardo, the young man had loved his mother very much. “His mother is his life and he always thought of what’s best for her.”
Matthew was the youngest of seven siblings. Eldest brother, John Michael, in an interview with the Inquirer, referred to Matthew as the “brainiest” in the Salilig brood. He initially took up Petroleum Engineering before he shifted to Chemical Engineering. He hoped to improve the country’s oil refining capacity, said John Michael, “so Filipinos can enjoy better and affordable fuel.”
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Salilig’s girlfriend of five years describes Matthew as patient and kind. “As a boyfriend, the best talaga kasi mahaba ang pasensiya niya. Lagi niya akong iniintindi. Lagi siyang willing mag-adjust for me,” she said.
As family and friends continue to grieve, Jeoffrey Salilig could only hope that what happened to his son serve as an eye-opener. “Hopefully what happened to my son becomes a lesson to everyone and will put a stop to hazing. Wala tayong makukuha sa ganitong evil and cruel act,” he said.