I was overjoyed when I received you for my birthday – a red Siamese fighting fish given by two very good friends who wanted to make a homesick Filipino happy. We had a lot in common as two natives of the tropical Orient who found themselves in Europe. I knew we would have a lot of good times together.

We in the flat named you Fermin, for your red color reminiscent of the red sashes the Pamplonans wear during the Sanfermines festival.

You gave me endless delight whenever you flared your gills every time I held up a mirror in front of you, whenever you made bubble nests. I loved how excitedly you would swim whenever I approached your bowl for feeding time, and I was thrilled during the occasions you leapt at my finger. Most of all, I loved simply seeing you swimming around, contented at the world.

True to your name, you were a fighter. Despite being a cold-blooded animal (and hence could not adapt easily to temperature changes) from Southeast Asia, you survived the cold Pamplona autumn and winter. You survived a temporary change of caretaker during Christmas season, and bouts of swim bladder disorder. You put up with my leaving the light on at night whenever I had to work late.

It’s now summer. The weather is now more similar to what both of us are accustomed to. We are nearing the feast day of your name saint, and I have already arranged for someone to take care of you during my planned vacation with my brother.

Alas, you would not celebrate your name day with us. Usually, whenever you have swim bladder disorder, you stay at the surface of the water. During the last bout, though, you could not swim to the surface and had to stay at the bottom. The swim bladder disease itself, according to the websites I consulted on how to take care of you, would heal on itself (and usually it did). However, as you could not swim to the surface, you could not get gulps of air the way your species needs to. Neither could you easily snatch bits of food. I tried lowering the water level so you won’t have to travel far to the surface, but even the low water level was too far for you. Still, you fought for your life, making a few difficult attempts to go to the surface and snatching all the morsels of food as they fell to the bottom of the bowl.

Today, you left us to go to wherever good fish go after they die. Although I could easily buy another fish to keep me company during the remaining months of my stay in Pamplona, it will never be like you, Fermin. It was truly a blessing from God to have lived with such a beautiful creature, even for just a short time.