Event marks death, celebrates life of student

Northern Michigan University’s Biology Department invited the public to join in remembering student Guiancarlo “Carlo” Bayot Estupigan during a commemoration Saturday.

Estupigan passed away on Jan. 27 from exposure after getting caught in a snowstorm near the Yellow Dog River, just south of Big Bay.

“We are all here for a tragic reason,” biology professor Alec Lindsay said. “We all have an incredible loss to work through.”

Estupigan was majoring in fish and wildlife management. He was a self-taught photographer, who loved capturing birds and an avid outdoorsman.

“He was willing to take advantage of all the opportunities that were offered to him and he was just such a great student to have around,” Lindsay remembered. “I enjoyed all my interactions with him.”

Friends, family, NMU staff, student peers and those inspired by Estupigan’s life came together to share their stories, photographs and memories of the wildlife photographer. The Biology Department opened the Zoological Museum and the Lindsay Lab, two labs that Estupigan worked in during his time at NMU, so that his friends and family who traveled from downstate could experience what his life was like at the university.

Estupigan’s brother Guian Estupigan commented on how touched he was to learn about his brother through the memories of his friends and classmates, as well as being able to see some of the work he did while attending NMU.

The event was organized by students and Estupigan’s friend and roommate Brandon Stone, who wanted to put something together for the community.

“He was an integral part of our lab. This is a big loss for us,” said Steph Szarmach, Estupigan’s lab mate and event organizer.

“Thank you all so much for loving my son,” Ermina Estupigan, Guiancarlo’s mother, told the crowd after reading a Nicholas Evans poem called “If I be the First of us to Die.” “We really appreciate the support, help and prayers that you’ve given us and continue to do so. Although it’s very hard for us to come back here, we had to. It’s hard to go back to the Yellow Dog River, remembering what happened way back in January, but again we had to have some closure. For all the people that he touched your lives, you guys touched his too; again, thank you so much for caring for my son.”

Students from the NMU Biology Department encourage those who have been inspired by Estupigan’s story to keep posting their wildlife photographs with the hashtag #captureforcarlo to continue the tribute.

When his classmates study in Zambia this summer — a trip Estupigan had planned to be on — they plan to post images that remind them of the wildlife photographer whose life briefly, but significantly, touched their own.

While the loss of this young man is profoundly tragic, it’s very heartwarming to see the community come together to celebrate his life.

We hope the family was able to find some sense of healing through this event, and see just how many people Guiancarlo had an influence on.