October 7th was a day when Destiny turned on its wheels. Hope sprung anew for many hearts and souls. For my friend and I, it was an extraordinary blessed day filled with signs and synchronicities. We cried in joy and gratitude, mixed with a little fear. For me it was the first time in a long while I was struck speechless by the guiding hand of the Divine. I can feel the rumblings of deep change bursting to be set free. It’s like a dragon kept in chains inside a cold crypt all these years, it might as well be blind. It’s had enough of the darkness and yearns to feel the warmth of the light again, to see colors exploding like fireworks before its very eyes. One day it will claw its way into freedom. Today is merely the start of an uphill battle. We all have our parts to play, like queens and pawns in a war room. We cannot shout victory yet until all the pieces are in play and every player has dealt their hand. But for now, we claim the victory of a first step–a new cycle of casting fears and differences aside, of finding our voices again and waking up our sleeping strength. We accept the challenge to fight for a common cause–to fight for love and with love. Because that’s the only war that matters–to fight for the ones we love. We look forward to joining hands and claiming checkmate for a better Philippines.
There was a night like this after Cine Europa years ago, when I went home on a taxi and knew I was in love. But before all that we were trying to keep a straight face, avoiding each other’s personal space with a love scene playing out on the screen. But ended up arms brushing against each other, locked in a starry-eyed gaze that lasted an eternity, an extended heartbeat, it didn’t matter. It happened. And suddenly, it was the closest we have ever been.
And if you had taken my hand in the dark, it would’ve been different. You knew it. I knew it. Maybe we would’ve talked more after Kimono Ken. But it never happened. All you left me was a napkin with an I O U.
We didn’t talk about feelings because we were too scared, we were too young. We didn’t know what we wanted. And after, all I could say was how cruel it was to feel something close to love, only for it to be snatched from you. I spent years searching for that spark again in others and found something infinitely better. I found love in me that was always there all along– a love in flames that will never die. Love that will continue to burn long after all traces of me are gone.
Thank you for being the first to teach me to be true to myself– to not keep my love under lock and key, to be brave to love big and open, to do all that and not be ashamed, no matter what happens. I wish you the same.
5th post in the series: Music / Film + Writing Heals 💖
I didn’t take nap time seriously when I was a kid. I pretended to nap as I planned my escape with my eyes closed. When the coast was clear, I’d get up as quietly as a movie spy and make my way to my Legos or continue my adventures with the current book I was reading. When I was at Nanang’s, I’d check if any other cousin was awake who I could turn into my partner in crime. Since we knew Nanang was in nap mode and couldn’t hear well, and we had no one else at home to answer to, we’d sneak out the kitchen door (always careful to cushion it back into place to avoid alerting anyone of our escape) and into freedom, off exploring secret short cuts, picking siniguelas from the tree, knocking on Auntie Emmy’s door to buy ice candy or halo-halo and see if cousin Jam is up for playing taguan.
I grew up hearing jokes about how I didn’t grow tall because “hindi matakaw sa tulog” or “kulang sa siesta”. But I never consciously thought of being limited by my size. If anything, it only fired me up to be larger than life, to go beyond people telling me that I’m too small–I couldn’t be this, I couldn’t do that–and just think of solutions to get what I wanted to reach both literally and figuratively. When I needed to get something from a shelf that was out of my reach, no biggie. I’d just pull out the humble wooden bangko dad made especially for me, or any chair I could stand on, and go for it. I wasn’t afraid to climb solid furniture and countertops either when no one else was around. When my mom caught me standing on my tiptoes on the kitchen counter one time, about to grab something from the cupboard even she couldn’t get to, she freaked out and shouted at me, “Ay, bumaba ka diyan!” Dangerous yes, but I was a stubbornly independent kid who insisted on doing things for herself. A tall friend needs a hug? Sure–I’d just get on my tippy-toes, hold it, and stretch my arms out to them. Height was never an issue when things seemingly out of my reach became challenges both tempting and fascinating for me.
When teachers would ask us to line up shortest to tallest, I automatically assumed the front of the line. In class and photos, I was always in the front row. There was a comfort in knowing I had a fixed spot like a star–something I could rely on that I was always sure of–and embracing it. From that constant spot, I reached for the stars in my own way.
Now, I’m what’s considered as petite. It’s a nicer way of saying tiny. And it’s just a label. It doesn’t define me nor diminish my worth. I’ve learned along the way the joys and surprises of being open to discovering a person’s infinite beauty–of going beyond the externals to see who they are inside once you get to know them, and the depths they can achieve. When overcoming doubts and perceived limitations, I summon the courage to go back to that fixed spot where I have always known and felt that I love with a huge heart and a larger than life spirit that continues to shine amongst the stars.
There was a time when I was a lost follower to the point that I got comfortable drowning in a sea of expectations and voices other than my own. Those expectations, wants, and desires were like separate pieces of Play-Doh figures I mashed up all together into a single round of marbled clay–I couldn’t point out anymore which bits came from me, from parents, from friends and peers, from society. I wanted to do things that impress and be someone accepted and welcomed by everyone.
Finding myself again and reclaiming my wholeness meant unfollowing some and withdrawing from participating, and I would do it all over again even if it means I won’t be looked at and treated the same way again, even if it means some spaces will be awkward and unwelcoming indefinitely. Being true to myself also means honoring the need to remove myself from spaces where I don’t feel respected and safe. Boundaries work to shield you from taking in more of anything that’s harmful to your health. Setting boundaries is a necessary act of love. I don’t need to try to immerse myself in an environment where fitting in means stifling my light and packing my fairy wings away in a dustbag. I don’t need to stay amongst those who don’t honor my authenticity. I am treading paths not everyone would dare stray into, exploring detours meant only for me even if I wanted a bit of company. I do not expect everyone around me to understand, to exchange the same courtesy of respect I hold for them despite the differences. Some people fear what it is they don’t understand, anything that doesn’t fit into their scope of rationality. And if they don’t consciously make the effort to go beyond the walls of fear, how would they know to treat the unknown with kindness and compassion? It’s not my job to make people understand. But it is my responsibility to continue to honor my authenticity, to be intimate with my shadows to understand how I can continue to cultivate my light. To explore my own answers to questions and sometimes, to let the questions unravel on their own.✨
Ultimately, it is also my responsibility to love myself unconditionally, radically, through my journey with all of its detours and discoveries, triumphs and challenges. 💖
The crickets and the clock and the humming of the fan cannot compete with the crashing waves. I appeal instead to bleeding guitars, hoping to ease my distress. I feel like dancing under a babaylan moon, going back to my ancient roots. I am Eve who took the apple and finally knew. 🍎