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.