I Am Not an Accident

I can finally write about it.

This is something I wrestled with for years; each attempt a roller coaster, the highs beating the lows and vice versa. I’ve attended several workshops and therapy sessions, every single one ending with a validation, a trip down memory lane, and a colorful series of expressions.

But some days I find myself haunted by those words and I go back to square one.

Seven

My family setup is different from what our society is used to, but in no way do I consider it broken. I grew up seeing just one parent and the only time I learned about my story was when I was in second grade. It didn’t make a lot of sense back then, but life has its way of unfolding mysteries with each birthday candle blown. It also has its way of hurting you, and that came in the words “you are an accident” uttered by a relative I looked up to. A person I loved and admired deeply called me an accident. I was seven years old.

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Thesis, 2009 | (c) Aliya Agbon

Twenty-one

The Bible was quoted, and I was forced to look at Ecclesiastes. I argued, I am not an accident. This went on for years. At 21, I talked to her again to tell her that she’s wrong, that I’ve read every single book in the Bible but none of it says that I am an accident,  that I’ve worked so hard to be visible, and that I have every right to claim my space on this planet. More painful words came, and I began to realize I won’t be receiving an apology from this person anytime soon. I found comfort in writing the words “to my mom, who turned the world’s worst accident into the world’s best blessing” on the dedication page of my thesis. That was my truth, and that truth felt good.

Soul Work

For years, her words shaped my reality. I wanted to be a celebrity. I wanted to make it big and have people know my name. I can sing, dance, act, host, I’m a Jill of all trades. I reflected on this and I realized, I was not really into the limelight. There were several opportunities in the past and I did get my feet wet when I hosted a kiddie show, but what happens behind the camera did not appeal to me. After several backward reviews and scribbles on my life chart, I came face-to-face with the reality that I wanted to be seen. The neglect made me want to be more visible and that’s when I realized what my real intentions were. It was one tough pill to swallow.

The questions are more important than the answers, they say. My soul yearned for healing and it lead me to people who understood what I was going through. Colors, movement, gestures, speech, and tone revealed memories I tried to so hard to hide, forcing me to meet them once again. Some memories were pleasant, some made my stomach churn, but every single one made me understand myself at a deeper level. Removing an event in the past does have an effect on the present, and it takes a lot of inner work to accept the good and the bad.

Full Circle

The seven-year cycle comes in full circle as I’m now on my 7th year of soul work. I have come to realize that the wisdom of the soul is something we should never underestimate. Watching everything unfold before my very eyes still gives me chills and I just feel honored that I get to witness  and experience it in this lifetime. This healing is something I owe to my past and future self. It’s a tall order, but someone has to do the dirty work.

It’s quite interesting to note as well, that I received the greatest affirmation from two doctors just some weeks ago. One told me while exchanging goodbyes: “I’ve been meaning to tell you that in embryology, it’s the egg that allows the sperm to enter which is why it’s impossible that you are an accident”. The other one told me “see, you are not an accident, I’ll hit you with a book the next time you say that you are” when I showed him the line “the egg descends to meet its destiny” from Dennis Klocek’s book, Esoteric Physiology.

My memories are important to me, and those moments of affirmation have been playing in my head for weeks now. My mom has been working hard for years just to let me feel that I’m not an accident and I can finally embrace that now. I can finally end the story that started when I was seven. Call on the Bible or any Science book and both will agree that I am not accident. I never was. I never will be.

I’m now ready to remove my boxing gloves. The wrestling match is over. With one last bell, what has been twenty-three years of non-stop punching has finally come to an end.  I wear my battle scars with pride. I may be tired, but my soul is happy. Very happy.

It’s time to bury her story six feet below the ground. It has to die so my story, the real one, can finally blossom and meet the beautiful chapters of its destiny.

I can now say in full confidence that I have every right to be here, and it feels hella awesome.

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05.23.18

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Suli, a Creating Sinag Within volunteer, shows a young survivor how to do the cortices. (c) Aliya Agbon, 2017 | Canon 550D

“Are you coming back?” asked a little girl when she saw me gather the volunteers of Creating Sinag Within. “I don’t know”, I told her. It was a hot afternoon in October, and we were on our last day for the second mission of the Waldorf-inspired initiative. I’ve learned long before that it’s best to be honest with children. Never make any promises, and be courageous enough to tell them that you may no longer see each other in the future.

She hugged me. “You’re so fluffy… like a pillow”, she said.

I’m all for hugs. I love receiving hugs and I can distinguish the happy “hey-it’s-nice-to-meet-you” ones from the “please-don’t-leave-me” kind. It is heart-wrenching and I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye. But we had to. I kneeled down and told her “I don’t know if we’ll see each other again, but I do know that you are strong, courageous and beautiful”. She beamed and gave me one more hug before joining her friends.

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The need to be found. (c) Aliya Agbon, 2017 | Canon 550D

It’s always the same. When you go to an evacuation center, kids will scrutinize you. Can they trust you? Are you there to genuinely help them? Then, once the activities begin, the kids warm up to you and even if you don’t want them to, they will start caring for you. They will run towards you whenever you arrive and cry when it’s time to go. Eighteen years in this kind of work and nothing has changed. It’s always that heartbreak at the end of each mission, you flash your biggest smile in the hopes that the kids won’t feel your pain (they will) and cry your eyes out once you’re inside the van. But you’ll do it again anyway because you know that you can’t just sit there when you are capable of doing something.

Post-mission, you begin to wonder what life will be like for them. Will their parents continue to hurt them? Can they move forward and learn from this experience? What were they supposed to learn anyway? What does the future hold for them? Do they already have “sinag” within them? You may never know the answer.

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Tutubing Bakal (c) Aliya Agbon, 2017 | Canon 550D

Time as of writing: 10:26 and in less than two hours, Marawi siege will end it’s first run around the sun. Some anniversaries are worth celebrating, but this one I’m not so sure. All I know is in less than two hours, it will be one year since the siege and the residents are still in the process of rebuilding the city, themselves, and their community.

My thoughts right now are with the siege survivors I met before, during, and after the Creating Sinag Within mission. The lone Islamic city in the Philippines will always have a special place in my heart. If you’re reading this and are aware of what 05.23.18 means, please send healing thoughts to the people and the place they all call home, Marawi.

New Year, New Header

Each new year comes with the promise to change for the better. I was not prepared to dive into the first few chapters of this year, and several times I found myself speechless. In an attempt to cope, I found myself scouring through storage boxes of planners and sketchpads filled with poems, songs, illustrations and paintings I worked on since I was a kid.

Yes, I still keep them.

These are imprints of my soul, and as I looked through each one I found myself asking what stories are behind each body of work. Some I still remember, some I no longer do. My trip down the colorful memory lane led me to a painting I did back in 2011. At that moment I decided it was time to tweak my old header and add portions of the painting.

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While I love the simple, classy, and elegant feel of my old black and white header, I feel like this new one is a much better representation of why this blog exists. It may look simple, but behind each stroke and color is a healing story. There’s depth to the painting, and it takes openness and a keen eye to see that.

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I preserved all the elements. The girl on the right is lifted from a sketch I did before classes back in 2006. I call her “Aliya”. Wahine Wanderlust is about a woman who loves to surf and wander about this wonderful life while she still can.

While I still can.

 

 

 

 

I Am Not My Weight

I gained weight. Big time. A whopping additional 30 pounds is distributed all over my body. My cheeks are fuller, my arms jiggle, and most of my clothes don’t fit anymore.

 

See, the past months I’ve been dealing with people who take it upon themselves to comment on my body weight. “Mataba ka”, “healthy ka”, “chin up, all of it”, “girl papayat ka ha?”, “ang taba taba taba mo na”, bla bla bla. It’s supposed to be okay. I’m supposed to be fine with all the snide remarks but the thing is, it hurts. It takes me back to my elementary days when some of my classmates would call me names just because I was not as slim as most of them.

What most people fail to realize is the numbers on the weighing scale do not reflect who I am as a person. I’m still the same Aliya and it’s just funny (sometimes pathetic) that a lot of people are obsessed with what I look like.

Have I thought about losing weight? Yes, because I miss wearing some of my clothes. I’m working on it, but in no way am I doing it for other people.

I used to be so obsessed with losing weight just so that people will like me. I’d skip meals, work out until I pass out, and avail of services that speed up the weight loss. While it got the job done, I ended up with a body that had zero curves and worse, people still had something to say.

I’m so over that now. Yes, the words hurt sometimes but I know better now. I bleed, but I’m very much aware that talk is cheap, and at the end of the day I still have a say on how those words will affect me.

Maybe we need to learn how to look beyond someone’s physique. Underneath all the layers of “fat” is an actual human being who has every right to live in this world. We also need to be sensitive enough and think about how voicing out our unsolicited thoughts will affect that person.

I mean seriously, do we really need to point out that a person is fat, or are we doing it so we can feel good about ourselves?

 

Sinag Stories: My Thirteenth Birthday

Each year, I patiently wait for the clock to strike 12 so I can sing a birthday song to myself. Of course, there were times when I’d wish for people to surprise me at 12 midnight with songs, flowers, balloons, and a cake, but reality taught me to manage my expectations.

When I found out that I’ll be celebrating my birthday in an evacuation center this year, I was quite happy about it. For once, I’ll be spending it with the kids I’ve grown close to, along with the volunteers of Creating Sinag Within. People say thirty is just a number, but for me thirty means three decades of existence, loaded with challenges to help me become the person I’m destined to be. I was planning on cooking something for the team so we can have a mini celebration, but little did I know that they already had their own plans.

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Got me some candy and I saw this. What are the odds? (c) Aliya Agbon | Canon 550D

A Few Hours Before Midnight

End-of-the-day meetings are part of our rhythm. The backward review gives us the space to run through the events that happened during the day, to note areas that need to be improved, and to acknowledge situations that are significant to us. I distinctly remember voicing out that we really need to sleep at 9 that night because we didn’t have enough sleep the night before. I was itching for the meeting to finish because I could no longer keep my eyes open. The moment we finished the meeting, I rushed to my bed to sleep. Before closing my eyes, I told Dayang ” I turn a day older tomorrow, isn’t that interesting?”

Lights off.

Yakosinilado Banaha

I was nearing the end of the bridge, the part where I can say I’ve finally fallen asleep, when I heard voices from afar. “Si, si, si, sidolada, yakosinilado banaha!” The voices were muffled at first, like they were from a hundred miles away. I figured, maybe the EP team is still rehearsing for the activities the next day but why? We already agreed that we need to sleep. The voices grew louder and it dawned on me that they were not rehearsing for any activity. I peeked through my malong and I noticed that candle lights danced with the darkness in the room, and that there were people standing near my bed.

I cried.

The Birthday Surprise

It took a while for me to get up because I couldn’t stop crying. When I finally decided to get up, I saw the Courageous Marawi 12 and the Creating Sinag Within volunteers armed with cakes, balloons, flowers, and a cake. They sang their birthday song and I walked around the room to thank each one for taking the time and effort to make my birthday special.

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Love you, Courageous Marawi 12! (c) Louise Far, 2017

I received three black balloons, thirteen long stemmed roses, one birthday cake, and love from all of the volunteers that night.

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Thirteen going on thirty! (c) Louise Far, 2017

I then learned about how they planned the whole thing, and the things that they had to do in order for the surprise to be successful. I was just staring at them while they were talking because at that moment, my heart just wanted to explode with all the love it received that night.

Now, you’re probably wondering why the title says “thirteenth birthday”. Well, here’s why:

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Happy 13th to me! (c) Audi Ibrahim, 2017

This was all Imad’s idea. Haha. Anyway, my heartfelt thanks to all those who remembered my birthday. Special shoutout to the Courageous Marawi 12 for planning the surprise. I definitely felt loved. Thank you! 🙂

Sinag Stories: No Matter the Package

“Whatever happened to humanity?” – I’ve been asking myself this question lately. There are so many painful things happening in different parts of the world, I can literally hear my heart break while watching the news or reading the articles. What happened to us? Why are we hurting other beings? I can go on, really, but I know that it’ll take some time before I can find all the answers to these questions.

See, the downside to being an empath is that you feel the weight of the world and it takes an awful lot of conscious effort to remind yourself that the weight is not yours to bear. You have 99 problems and 89 of those problems aren’t yours to begin with. I’ve been struggling with that and for months, I have been wanting to rant and add to the noise but what for?

Nothing. I’ll just be another negative person sharing negative stuff on Facebook and that’s not what I want to be. I want to be someone who sees the light amidst the darkness and that does not mean turning my back on the issues that we have today. I will acknowledge them yes, but I will also acknowledge that there is a positive side to everything.

That’s why I’m writing this blog today. This is an attempt to update this teeny tiny space I have in the worldwide web. I will focus on the happier, more positive things because that is the most I can do for now. That is the most I can do for you, as well, in case you’re looking for a happy nugget that you can munch on amidst the dark and cold that the world is slowly starting to become.

This will be a series of stories, mostly from our Creating Sinag Within activities.

Here’s the first one:

When I learned about the Marawi siege last May, one of the immediate thoughts I had was “how can we help?” Kids for Peace Foundation (KIDS) wanted to rush to Iligan and help in any way possible but we had to assess the situation first. We then started asking friends about the possibility of organizing emergency pedagogy with the survivors of the siege to help them deal with and move on from the traumatic experience. We were thinking of the materials needed for the activities when my mom suggested that we tap Craft MNL and Gantsilyo Guru to ask for help in making the call for donations of crocheted balls.

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Colorful crocheted balls from Waldorf School of Batangas.

Crocheted balls are made of yarn and are warm to touch, unlike the plastic or rubber balls that can easily be purchased off the rack. The details on the balls tell a story – how many times the yarns moved back and forth to create mesmerizing patterns, hours spent to form the sphere, and the struggles in following the instructions. The crocheted balls are full of love, care, and warmth that our eyes teared up when we received the boxes from Craft MNL and Gantsilyo Guru!

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Some balls came with heartwarming notes, too!

Inside the box were paper bags, plastic bags, newspaper,  and bags made of cloth, each containing crocheted balls. What’s interesting is that some even included letters and drawings for the survivors of the Marawi siege. We initially asked for 48 balls, but we received a whopping 353!

We shared the crocheted balls with the young survivors of the Marawi siege during the first mission of Creating Sinag Within. The looks on their faces when they saw the balls tugged at our heartstrings that’s why we are so grateful to those who shared their talent and crafted these crocheted balls for them. Emergency pedagogy sessions became even more colorful because aside from playing with a parachute, the kids also passed the crocheted balls around while singing songs.

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Suli, one of the volunteers of Creating Sinag Within, joins the young survivors in passing the crocheted balls. 

For some, crocheted balls are no more than just balls made of yarn but for the young survivors, these balls symbolize happy times. These balls helped them go back to being kids again. They felt the love, care, and nurturing of the generous makers of the crocheted balls even if they were not present during the activity. They felt that they’re worth someone’s time, that they’re worth someone’s effort, and for someone who had to deal with living in an inconvenient environment far from home, that means a lot.

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Young survivors proudly raise the crocheted balls before the activity. 

If you’re one of the makers of the crocheted balls, this is for you. I want you to know that you made a young survivor happy by crocheting those balls for them. In a few weeks, we will see them play with the balls again as they go on with their journey to creating sinag within. Continue to hold them in the light!

Love-Hate Relationship

I have a love-hate relationship with the Facebook thumbs up/like/ultimate-end-to-the-conversation icon.

There. I said it.

I dunno. I hate it when I’m talking to someone and the next reply is a blue thumbs up. Like… there are thousands of stickers on Facebook, mostly free, and all you can do is give me a thumbs up? O_O

It’s even more annoying when they press on the icon for a few more seconds just to make it bigger. It’s like a capital k, font size 1000 and in bright blue. I actually don’t know what I hate more: the thumbs-up-zone, or the seenzone.

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See? You had to scroll down for a bit just to reach this part. Different folks, different strokes, they say. But how is it that most of the people I know are avid users of this icon? It is so difficult to reply to a thumbs up, I swear. Like, if you want to keep the conversation going, you have to be uber creative and start a new topic or something.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I live for all the “likes” I receive, because I take them as affirmation for photos/thoughts/jokes/videos posted online. Put the thumbs up in a conversation and it instantly becomes a “k”, a comma, an exclamation point, a hint of sarcasm, a pause in the conversation, or a sign that both parties ran out of things to say.

And cut.

It’s funny that I’m blogging about this but really. I just need to acknowledge that yeah I have a love-hate relationship with that icon and I need to accept that there are people who just love to use it for whatever reason. May I have more tolerance for that shining shimmering thumbs up icon after this.

 

One

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Around this time last year, I found myself sitting in a room with Iris Sullivan. She greeted me when I entered the room, asked me to sit down, and after a brief oientation she asked:

“Why are you here?”

I don’t know what it was with her question but I broke down the moment I heard it. I fidgeted, trying to hold back my tears but I still ended up pouring my heart out to this woman whom I just met. Must be her warmth, I guess.

I carried the question with me for months.

Answers. I am here for answers. I am here to make the remaining years of my life count. I am here to find my purpose. I am here to know more about why I’m here… why I’m still here.

I’ve already heard about anthroposophy back in 2009. Different vessels carried the message but my ears remained closed that time. I found the information overwhelming and I put my defenses up whenever someone tried to talk to me about it. Lo and behold, things do have their perfect time and here I am, seven years later, digging deeper into my journey in anthroposophy.

I don’t know what the exact date is, but this month marks my first year in this journey. I’m slowly receiving answers to my questions but the thing about answers is it leads to more questions so you really, you can only keep on digging and learning.

So here’s to more years of being an anthroposophy sponge. I look forward to meeting more people who are also on the same journey. I’m anticipating “say what” moments and that’s fine because those will become eureka moments at some point. My heart’s really filled with happiness right now and I can only thank the forces of the universe for always guiding me through this beautiful, funny, crazy, meaningful place we all call life. . 🙂

Accidental Blessings

I want to start this entry by saying that I was raised by a single mother. How she managed to raise me and my brother on her own will forever be a mystery to me. At the age of 24, she had to take care of me and prepare me for my own life journey while working jobs here and there to make sure she still has money to pay the bills.

Yup, that’s my mother. A rockstar. I was never ashamed of the fact that I grew up without a father. I’d even mention that during interviews, random conversations with strangers, name it, I’ll say it. I took pride in the fact that my mother managed to look everyone in the eye and tell them that yes, she is a single parent and she’s doing a damn good job at it.

I guess this is why I don’t understand why we’ve been categorized as a broken family because I never felt that. My mom’s been a mother and a father to me since the day I was born that’s why I never felt the loss. I never felt the pain. I never felt the sadness. The only time that I felt pain was when a family member called me an accident.

“You are an accident. You were not part of the plan. What will people think? You grew up without a dad”

Not being part of the plan does not make me an accident. Growing up without a father does not make me incomplete. The only thing I hate about this setup is dealing with people who keep insulting my mom because of what happened. I turn thirty this year and the setup still hasn’t changed. There are times when I feel like I’m paying the debt without knowing how much it is that I need to settle. I’ve been told so many times to just shrug off the painful words, forgive from afar because they don’t know what they’re saying. I get that, and trust me I’ve tried so many times to do just that. I’ve been dealing with the labels for almost three decades now and I think it’s high time that I say no to it. I will no longer be defined by it.

I love my mom. This world has given her so many reasons to just give up and quit but she still has her game face on, ready  to fight when need be. For someone who’s exposed to so much pain, her heart is filled with so much love that’s why it hurts me when people place her inside a box that says “single parent”. She has so much to offer, I have so much to offer, and I just wish this society will change how they view single parents or kids raised by single parents.

The first few pages of my thesis have the words “the accident is now a blessing”. Today let me rephrase that. I have always been a blessing. I was never an accident.