Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Just start writing.

Put symbols through finger movements and spread an idea out for everyone to see all over the world.

The body of Julia Campbell, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer and close friend, has just been found near the village of Batad in Ifugao province. As the official and unofficial media have reported, she went missing on April 8th while on vacation in the central cordillera mountains of central Luzon island, the Philipines.

A google search for info about her disappearance

But those are the facts and facts are, by their nature, devoid of emotion.

Julia was a damn good cook. I would invite myself over for dinner on a regular basis, partially because I am lazy and didn't want to go through the motions of learning to cook, but mostly because she made a mean ginataan (A dish prepared in fresh coconut milk).

Julia and I were sitemates in Legazpi City, Albay (Bikol region) and were very close friends. In the Peace Corps time spent with other volunteers is prized; we all need support and can't find it when we are alone and without any kind of familiarity. The bond formed between volunteers is a very deep one formed in an environment of constant traumatic stress.

The counselor from the Peace Corps head office told us that any volunteer who goes to a therapist and tells his/her story gets the same reaction. All American therapists brand Peace Corps volunteers as "Shell Shocked" (or, for the more politically correct among you, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

She had her stresses and would spout off to me at every chance she got about the trials and tribulations of work and school and her arrangements to go home. She had already been accepted to NYU and to say she was excited about going home understates it drastically. She had been planning a post-Peace Corps trip back through southeast asia. Her Peace Corps service was wrapping up and her mind had already begun to shift gears back to the NYC mindset.

Then she disappeared. Then her body reappeared.

I don't know how I am supposed to write about something like this.

How can I do a human life justice? As my mom once said, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then an experience is worth a million pictures; I would add that to describe the complete truth of any human life is beyond pictures or experience and that only sharing the moment with that other soul can give a glimpse of an understanding.

So far I have stuck with the facts as I understand them, so I guess I will continue:

Nothing is permanent. Sorrow comes from attachment to things assumed to be permanent (people, ideas, etc). There is no why in this instance. Her life was not "good" or "bad," "virtuous" or "evil." She was.

You can rationalize and discuss the hows and whys and shoulds of this situation, but there are countless emotions that will boil to the surface. These emotions cannot and should not be controlled; let them come. As much as attachment hurts when it is taken away, you cannot feel alive as a human being without those harsh, visceral emotions. It is better to have an emotional rollercoaster of a life than one that remains flat and constant. Embrace impermanence in all things including emotions.

About 50 of the volunteers from Peace Corps Philippines were sitting in the same room listening to information regarding the search for her when the news came in that her body had been found in a ravine near a trail. Until that instant, we were all tortured by uncertainty and kept happy only through the hope that this was a kidnapping and that she was still alive. Now we have certainty and, although we are not happy, we can begin the healing process. I wept for her and I will certainly cry again; she had a great deal of close friends, about whom I can say the same.

Rest in Peace, Julia Campbell.


Louis said...

Oh my god.
It seems so unreal, but when you are not just touched, but graced by someone's presence, it is impossible to think that they will ever permanently leave your life. This is so tragic and I am deeply sorry for her, you, her friends, and her family.
Kate's father died a couple of days ago, so I have had similar thoughts going through my mind.
This memorial writing is very beautiful, and it seems to honor her fully.
My love and consolations,

Anonymous said...

We are all part of one substance, from a common origin, differentiated by our unique lives. As we bump together and apart, we sometimes recognize that connectedness, the familiarity of being parts of a whole. Love is the gift that allows us to experience this singularity we all share, the point at which the "me" or "you" of us disappears. Cross the boundaries of one small self, into the energy that embraces us all. Be glad you were friends. Cry but also laugh telling stories. Perhaps she will visit in a dream. The Beatles' White Album has a lovely song called "Julia" which seems apt - find and listen.
We are with you.
Love, Mom

Dunc said...

Meaningful & poignant. A prolific life ended as news chapters in her wonderful life's journey were opening.

Goodbye, Cousin Julia. You'll forever live on in my memories.

--Dunc in Pensacola

John Cutter said...

I knew Julia for a few years in the mid-1990s, when she worked for a bit at the St. Pete Times, before returning to New York, a city she loved in a way that I, a native, never did. My mind's eye still sees her smiling face, like the one in the photo. I hang onto that memory and others, including the ones you share here. They help balance some of the sadness we fell today.

Goodbye, Julia. You were a good friend.

Frich said...

It is really sad to know about the lost of Jullia. After hearing the news and the things she has done for others especially for the Filipinos… So “Selfless and So Generous”. Thank You Jullia you will always be remembered! - Frich Policarpio

Courtney said...

Oh, Page, thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to my cousin Julia. I know it means a lot to my aunt Linda and uncle Ron. I'm so glad Julia had you as a friend in Bikol. I hope you are doing o.k. This must be really hard for you. I hope I get to meet you some day, I'd love to hear more about your adventures with Julia.
Take care of yourself.
Courtney Quaintance

Jules said...

i've been reading yours and julia's entries since last year and I am as shocked as you are that the one im reading about has been found dead. it's sad to think that the only thing she has left in the world for all to read is her blog, like a footprint that will never fade away.

anyways, condolence to you for losing a close friend.

i strongly suggest you get a copy of Thorton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and you'll might understand that her death is not so tragic after all.

newyorquina said...

Hi Page,

I´m a PCV in Ecuador, yes I realize my page bears a spooky resemblance to Julia´s. I´m sending condolences to all of your cohort, I can only imagine how we would be feeling here if something similar were happening. Take good care of yourselves and know that our thoughts are with you.

Claudia Calhoon
PCV Ecuador 06-08

Christina said...

Hi Page. I met Julia briefly in Donsol while volunteering with Hands on, and then ran into her by chance in Sagada, where we all hung out for a couple days.

Would you or anyone reading this know of a memorial service for her in New York City? Or could anyone put me in touch with anyone who would know? My email:

I had the chance to have a good conversation with Julia the night before she disappeared, in Sagada. I wrote about it on my blog here:

because she talked that night A LOT about her life in New York and her friends, and I hope they will be able to read how much they meant to her.

To her family: you nurtured and brought into the world such a wonderful individual. Julia was clearly someone aware of the connections she had to other people. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope her spirit and her memory will continue to be a source of strength and love for you.

Gerald said...

I extend my deepest condolences from my heart. Seeing her pictures, explains a thousand words. We will miss you Ms. Julia. Although, I never got the chance to read some of your blog entries, I saw on the local news some of your entries and it gives us an inspiration to help out our fellowmen. And I just watched on the local news an interview of you in a small community. I'm really impressed that you spoke our (Tagalog) language. I really wanted to thank you for your showing your devotion, time, effort, knowledge, charity, and love to us Filipino people. We will miss you and we love you very much. God Bless!

Fritz Gerald
Lucena City, Quezon, Philippines

Christina said...

Hi Page,

You know, I'm wondering if we met on St. Patrick's Day, I think I might have been sitting across from you at dinner, if you wear glasses and have a goatee.

Anonymous said...

All your friends and your family have been much
moved by the eloquent words you have written and
the tributes to a young woman I would have liked
to know. When my father died ( your great grand-dad) a couple of days later I felt his presence in the
room as I lay sleeping. He asked me to take care
of my mother, and I promised to do that. No one can explain it; it doesn't need a reason. Julia will be
with you in spirit.
Love, Grandma B

Marion said...

My daughter , Kelly,is a PCV in the Philippines . She was a friend of Julia. I am sick inside over this tragedy.I can't even imagine the pain her family is feeling. If anyone knows about a Memorial service in Va. I would appreciate learning about it.
Marion OBrien

Christina said...

Hi Marion,

A friend of Julia's sent me the details for Julia's memorial in VA. I don't want to post it in the public sphere, so email me at

Anonymous said...

As a Filipino, I am very very sad and also deeply embarrassed it has to happen to someone, a foreigner, like Julia. This is why the Philippines is having a hard time attracting tourists and for this to happen in a relatively safe place like Northen Luzon, it's so hard to imagine...

May Julia rest in peace, I am sure she is happier where she's at now and all her help and contributions to the Filipino people will live on in our hearts forever.

I hope you guys are not discouraged by this, our country needs every help it could get.

ISHS 1954 said...

Hello Page,
I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for giving us an insight on Julia and the work you do, and giving your time to help. Ingat ka.

Cebu Love said...

Hi Page,

Just got hold of your blog post while I was reading updates about Julia's untimely demise... I feel sorry for her and I want to extend condolences to her family and her PCV colleagues and friends. As a Filipino-American, this tragedy is a blemish on the friendly relations between the 2 countries. I hope that that PCV volunteers (and not only the PCV programme in the Phils) are staying.

I kept reading through your blogs' accounts about the typhoon that ravaged Legazpi city. Imagine my surprise when I read about how you and Page "evacuated" to Page's landlady's relatives' 3-story building next door. My aunts did mention about Lola Naty's PCV tenant who took refuge in their 3-story concrete house. Thank goodness my aunts had the foresight to rebuild that house. Believe it or not, I spent summer vacations in my grandparents' old house right on that very spot where the 3-story house now stands...

In the aftermath of Durian, I remembered asking my aunts who corresponded with the Legazpi aunts about the PCV volunteers... that my aunt there and my cousins (the Clamar's) took care of you guys, and I was relieved at that. Meanwhile, I thought last December to contact the 2 PCV refugees, but never acted on it.

I browsed through the local Phil SAKSI news re updates in Julia's case, and a news clip featured Lola Naty, Julia's landlady. At first I wasn't sure it was my aunt-grandma - Lola Naty is my paternal grandma's sister - but after reading your account, I became convinced it was you and Julia that sought refuge at my aunt's and cousins' 3-story house, where my dad's mom still lives.

I've checked out Julia's blogspot as well and she did mention her apt being on Marquez st. When I saw your typhoon pic of Julia's apt from across the street, I thought that was very eerily familiar.

My blog about the typhoon with a brief mention of the 2 PCVs:

This post was supposed to be part of tribute to Julia, but I never realized that tracking down her activities in Albay proved closer to "home", literally. How I wish I followed up on my instinct to contact Lola Naty's PCV tenants, at least I would have gotten to know Julia even via her blogs. Her short life is an inspiration to many, especially with the selfless volunteer work that she did.

I hope you have productive time the rest of your stay there, esp with the BioSands project. As a Filipino-American, I can only be thankful for the help that the PCV has done for my country.

I'll treat you to a round of beer when I get to visit Legazpi City & the Philippines sometime this year. Or if you're ever around my environs here in California... Let us know via your blog about your progress. And give my regards to my relatives across the street.

Marahay na aldao & Ingat lagi.


ISHS 1954 said...

Thank you for the tribute. Do visit, Asipulo, Ifugao's own tribute to this great soul.