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I spotted this treasure in the mall over the weekend. I've been a Michael Jackson fan ever since I was introduced to his music by my father when I was around 10 or 11 years old. Funny how I call it a treasure, when in fact it is a memento of a loss of someone I just started to admire.

My admiration of Michael Jackson all started with the original copy of the HIStory album someone lent my father. After playing it on our own CD player and see all these music videos from the package, I knew I'd became a fan. From there I tried my very best "to get to know the man". A newbie fan that I was, I scourged through materials that will make me know more about him. I remember he's one of my subject searches back when I was still starting to learn how to use computer and the internet. I dirtied my hands spending my hour-long vacant time from school to turn pages and scourge old and new magazines from the library over playing with my classmates in the schools oval court. I will have the articles machine-copied, take it home and keep it to one dedicated box for all my MJ-related cut-outs. I even joined online forums and tried to search for other MJ fans online. There were so many MJ forums back then, I think I joined at least five of them and participated in picture and worthy discussion of the man. I found a couple of Filipino and foreign MJ fans who would later become my "virtual friends", never have met them still, but some have kept in touch until now.

My fascination continued when I reached college. I even followed the unfortunate and disgraceful child molestation trial. To be honest I did not know about his scandals. I knew the man as a performer, an absolute entertainer, but not as someone whose career has been tainted with sexual abuse accusations. I'd spent money to buy newspapers from my uncle's newspaper business whenever I spot an article about the trial, sometimes I'll just ask for that particular page for free if I did not have the money. It was the hot news during circa 2004-2005, not his songs, short films or awards, but his demise. I'd cut all articles out, watch the evening local news, cable and late night programs just to see if he would be mentioned. I can't afford to buy his CDs (nor are they available in the CD stands), and I don't own any MJ collectibles at that time. I was a fan by heart, not by material possessions, so the mere mention or even show of him on TV for me is all I could have. 

I am one of those people who felt elated to wake up by the news that he was acquitted of the charges. I am not the type to jump and yell "whooo!" about a good news, after all I think I am the only MJ fan among the people around me at that time. And then there I was again, collecting articles piece by piece about the news of his vindication in every newspaper or magazine I could afford to buy. I was (and still am) the kind of "in the closet fan", I don't even know if my parents know that I collect MJ-related stuff. All I know that they know is that I like him. 

In college, I got to go to the mall often, as there was one near my university. Just like today, I often just strolled and looked at displays. Mall stuff are expensive for a poor-borne like me. During that time, CD stores were still much in fashion. They are still active and plenty. I frequent the CD section of the mall, not to buy, but to see if Michael Jackson's records are still in the racks, displayed and sold. I wished that his records do not get removed in stores, and I promised myself to get a copy once I can afford to buy it already. 

The year was 2009. Ask an MJ fan and what value that year has for them, and it will be a non-positive response. It was a sad year. Michael Jackson had just announced a comeback tour early in the year, and even though it was just at the O2 Arena and not a worldwide tour, I feel like I was one of the to-be audience due to the excitement. But come June 25, the news of his death broke out. It was a shocking news that was reported internationally, given MJ's global appeal. News coverage was intense just as like how it was when they followed his criminal trial in 2005. I was in my third year in college at that time, was busy with school work, but a part of me was kind of distracted by the news of his death.

To me, he was a phenomenon, someone that interested me and I chose to study and see if I could look up to and learn things from. I could not recall an instance when I told myself that anybody else "is my idol, my inspiration, my guide to success", but him. It broke my heart as a fan, who had just started a couple of years to know him and growing admiration for him, that a chance to see him at his present will no longer be possible. 

What made it worse is that there was a memorial scheduled in his honor, and it was scheduled on the late evening of my 18th birthday. While everybody at home was about to sleep, I was there; with the room light turned off, in the upper deck of a bunk bed I shared with my brother, hiding under a blanket, and through the cheap TV phone that I had, watched the memorial, in unison with all the guests and other fans around the world. I was there under the blanket with muffled cries as I watched artists sang Michael Jackson songs (Gone Too Soon is not a fave MJ song of mine, but dang it was so apt for this occasion!), showed his pictures throughout his 40-year career and pan shots on his golden casket. Mind you he was not a relative nor a close friend of mine, but damn this guy has touched my heart, and I can't help but cry because of his death. I woke up the next day with just two or three hours of sleep (I finished the memorial until the dawn of the next morning) with puffy eyes as a result of too much crying. My parents saw it, but they are not as fanatic as me, so it was not a big deal. 

From his death up to the memorial and onwards was the second time there was a surge of news about Michael Jackson in the front pages of newspapers. Commemorative magazines were also published. I tried my very best to get a copy of whatever is available in my country and faithfully read them. Unfortunately, I was not able to take all these articles and magazine collection when I ran away from home in 2013. So I literally don't have any Michael Jackson stuff with me, except the tribute photo book pictured above that I found recently in one thrift bookstores.

June 25th is coming again and will mark his eighth year of passing. Eight years have passed and I would not get to see him perform anymore, not even in videos at the very least. New documentaries and films for TV may be released every year, and new stories about him to be told by the closest people to him, but the man is gone. Gone too soon. 

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