When I was 9 years old, and had just got out of the hospital because of a bad virus, and I was pissed. My family had watched the biggest movie of the summer without me. My brother kept making out of context quotes like “Puny god!”, stomping around like the green giant he saw in the cinema. My dad and his siblings were high on the feeling of seeing comic book superheroes they grew up with now on the big screen, in an incredible movie. Even my grandfather, the person who bought them their old comic books, was sold. He would shake his head and mutter, “Ang galing. Ang galing,” every time someone brought it up.  Since I grew up in a family of comic book nerds, The Avengers was a movie I certainly could not miss. And my very first Marvel movie, which I eventually got to watch thanks to my awesome aunt, was the best beginning to a huge part of the rest of my life.

Three times a year, my family and friends would find ourselves staring at a movie screen, captivated. There would be laughter, shock, anger, suspense, and more laughter, until finally, the end credit scene would roll, and we would go back home, analyzing and raving and breaking the movie down to bits.

Family gatherings would always be more fun after a Marvel movie. My cousins and I would listen intently for hours as my dad and his brothers would give us a rich Marvel education, explaining to us what the movie got right and wrong in comparison to the original comic books, and how these stories relate to real life. They would patiently answer our questions and blow our minds late into the night, where one question about Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir (I proudly know how to pronounce it) can lead to a discussion about different mythologies and cultures around the world. I sometimes felt like I learned more during those late-night talks than in school.

Not everyone in our family has continued to participate in those talks, though. After Iron Man 3 came out, my grandfather passed away; the same Lolo who bought my dad and his brothers their first comics all those years ago. My uncle was really looking forward to Captain America: Civil War, but he died right before the movie hit theatres. Lining up for that movie with the rest of my dad’s siblings felt weird; someone was missing, and it wasn’t the same. It was a family experience that was always better if we were all together, if he were there, and he wasn’t. He would’ve really liked that movie, too.

Their passing didn’t completely ruin the Marvel experience for me, though. As I grew up, it became a way to break the ice and make new friends. Birthdays were spent inviting friends to watch Spider-man: Homecoming. Friendly debates were triggered by arguing whether or not Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or Black Panther were good movies. Girlfriends sighed and pined for Tom Holland and Chadwick Boseman at get togethers. “Were you already able to see [insert Marvel movie here]?” was, and still is, a very effective conversation starter. Friendships and families are portrayed in such meaningful and loving ways in Marvel movies that I can’t help but feel that maybe that’s why they’re so great; they bring friends and families together, to see the movies but also to notice and discuss how the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy love and treat each other. Watching their movies is an experience you never want to go through on your own; you have to take the people you love with you.

Avengers Endgame is in theatres now, and probably by the time you’re reading this, you’ve already seen it. But as someone who at the time of writing this has NOT, the anticipation has made me think a lot about my pre-Endgame life. Avengers Endgame is said to be the epic conclusion to the most incredible 10 years in cinematic history. The legendary original cast, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannsson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Chris Hemsworth, are rumored to be saying goodbye to Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Thor for good, their final farewell to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In interviews, they said they’ve gone through so much during the past 10 years of the MCU, both their characters and themselves. Their characters have grown, struggled, fallen, and gotten back up again time and time again, and so have they. And so have I.

Watching them say goodbye to their now beloved and timeless characters is all the more painful due to the fact that I might have to say goodbye to them too. But things change. People grow and struggle. People fail but work harder. People die and move on. People say goodbye and start new chapters of their lives. But the memories are there. Memories of my family, memories of my friends, memories of the heroes that have captured the world’s heart, and memories of this experience that unites millions of fans around the world, something that will probably never happen again.

In the words of the late Stan Lee, “Excelsior!” Thanks for the memories, guys. See you on the other side.

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