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?

 

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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! ­čÖé

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┬ácall 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,┬á 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┬á“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. . ­čÖé

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 ┬áto 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.

Fangirling

Omg I can’t believe I’m posting this but what the hell. My heart will explode if I don’t do this, so here goes:

I’m a fan of Maymay Entrata. And Edward Barber. MayWard. There. I said it.

I never thought the time would come when I would actually grab my phone and vote for a housemate. Well, two housemates because it was so difficult to choose between Maymay and Edward. Sure, all housemates are deserving but there’s just something about these two. I still find it weird whenever I browse through articles and videos just so I can know more about them. The wacky-go-lucky from Cagayan De Oro and the cheerful charmer from Germany is what they’re called, and the viewers of the longest running reality TV show, Pinoy Big Brother witnessed how these two transitioned from complete strangers to being the best of friends. Say what you want to say about MayWard but for me, I can only confess that my dimples hurt when I watch them because seriously, how can you not?

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(c) Magandang Buhay

I have to admit I was so annoyed when I first saw Maymay. She’s so noisy, she lacks finesse, and her mouth is too big. However, I must admit that the more I watched the show, the more I learned to appreciate her. Behind that bubbly persona is a simple girl who’s determined to go for her dreams. She puts her mind and heart into everything that she does and I guess that’s the reason why she’s the big winner. A lot of people may mock her for her Bisaya accent, looks, and whatever but she doesn’t mind. She knows what she wants. I remember telling my mom that I envy Maymay because she pays no attention to the negative things that people say about her. Okay maybe she does, but only to a certain extent. Areas of improvement are considered, pure bashing is tossed out the window and that’s exactly how it should be. I learned once that when you open your heart to the world, the world gives all the love it can give and maybe that’s the case with Maymay. Inhale love, exhale love.

We then go to Edward Barber. I first thought that the reason why he’s given so much airtime is because of his good looks. Well, there’s some truth to that but I have to say that there’s more to Edward than just looks. He’s a gentleman. He opens doors for girls, helps out with the chores, and he remains to be that voice of reason when there’s conflict inside the house. He loves his family, and he’s never ashamed to tell people how close he is to his mom and his sister. I also like how he defended Maymay when some of the housemates teased him for hanging out with her too much, and how he makes it a point to be there for her no matter what. It’s also interesting that out of all the housemates, he understands Maymay the most and vice versa. He never judged Maymay for the way she speaks or acts, and although he teases her a lot, he also makes it a point to tell her that she’s beautiful. If a romantic relationship becomes a possibility for both of them in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised. For now, I choose to enjoy how their lives will pan out. Big things are bound to happen for these two, no doubt about that.

I have to admit, there are times when I feel bad for the both of them. Aside from being pressured to become a couple after confessing that they do have feelings for each other, they also have to deal with a lot of bashers every single day. While it does come with the package, I can’t help but wish that people would just back off and give them some space because 1) they’re still trying to adjust, 2) it’s not their fault that a lot of people can relate to their story and 3)you can’t blame them for being too comfortable with each other. People like that are a rare find these days and I think that MayWard happened to be at the right place and time. Their souls were destined to meet and you know it.

As for Maymay, it’s not her fault that there are people who find her beautiful (Edward, included) in spite of her dark skin, big eyes, and small frame. I actually find people who mock her physical features pathetic. We’re Filipinos, and our natural skin color is brown. Our obsession with being mestizos and mestizas happened when we were colonized but that’s for another blog entry. What I’m trying to say is that we really need to change our definition of beauty.

In a world where women are forced to fit into a certain mold and programmed to act a certain way, Maymay Entrata managed to break all the rules by simply being herself. She’s not a mestiza, and she does not have the curves that the society expects from women, she laughs out loud during interviews and that’s okay. This girl from Mindanao has so many gifts that she’s ready to share to the world, her inner beauty radiates, and she has a lot of heart. That, more than anything, is what makes a big winner.

I read somewhere that the fans and supporters of MayWard are hampaslupas and I guess I’m one of them. Seriously though, the world has a lot to learn from Edward Barber and Maymay Entrata. It may seem a bit jeje for some, but if you just look beyond the likes, tweets, follows, TV ratings, endorsements, and online bashing, you’ll understand┬áthat MayWard is more than just a love team. These are actual people with big dreams. They’re both set to become the people they were destined to be and that, for me, is enough reason to support them.

Padayon ug salamat sa inspirasyon, MayWard. Skrengge (whatever that means, hehe)!

 

Counting Tuesdays

I’m writing this because unlike most of my friends, I believe that 2016 deserves an essay from me. I experienced the lowest of lows that year and I have no idea how I managed to survive all of that. To say 2016 is full of crap wouldn’t be fair to all of the good things that happened last year. With lows are highs, with highs are lows, and the space in between is big enough to make room for learning and realization.

Nope, this isn’t a resolution post because I know at some point this year I’ll be breaking my own rules. I’m just writing this to resurrect my blog and to pay tribute to all the events that happened last year. It’s also a post I intend to go back to, should I doubt myself once again in the future.

So, here we go. In 2016, I learned…

That Every Minute Is Literally A Chance to Turn It All Around

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Words of wisdom c/o A. (c) 2016 | Canon 550D

There are so many things that I don’t post on social media mainly because I feel like they shouldn’t be there. I’ve actually been struggling with the whole sharing my life vs keeping things private shiz that’s why I’ve been on and off with my blogging. On one hand yes it’s fun to have an audience and thousands of followers, but on the other hand, it’s not fun to have an audience and thousands of followers. Anyway, back to the story. I found myself in a hellhole that started around April. It was tough and at some point I wanted to give up. Good thing I had my boyfriend, family, and close friends with me that time because they pulled me back up with I hit rock bottom. The problem would have lingered a lot longer if I didn’t decide to put an end to it by looking for ways to solve it.

That the Sun Shines Equally On Everybody

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Sun catchers | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

Some days I agree with it, some days I don’t. I mean really, how can the sun shine on the murderers, the rapists, the robbers, the naysayers, or people who don’t have at least 1% of kindness in their hearts? How can the sun shine on those who gave me a hard time? How can the sun shine on all the douchebags who broke my heart?

But the more humbling question is, who am I to decide?

I first heard about it in August and I’m still not able to digest it. On the days that my higher self is more dominant, the statement makes perfect sense. When you set your judgement aside, you’ll be able to see that indeed, the sun shines equally on all of us. However, when the higher self decides to go on a vacation, that’s when all the questions begin to appear. This is something that I’ll have to keep going back to during reflection and meditation.

That I Have to be Kinder to Myself

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I | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

I went on an art therapy session once and the funny thing is, my art revealed the things I tried so hard to conceal. Of course the things discussed during the session won’t be revealed here, but if there’s one realization that struck me, it’s that I have to be kinder to myself. It’s easy to be kind to other people but it’s hard when the same amount of kindness has to be given to ourselves.

That Grieving is Personal

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My babies | (c) 2016, Asus Zenfone

When Marley and Roxy died, people were quick to tell me that it’s okay, they’re just dogs and that I should move on. I tried my best to filter out the words of nosy naysayers because really, what do they know? I took my own sweet time to process, recover, and accept their deaths. Some say I’m taking an awfully long time to move on, but for me, the speed is just right. I also don’t believe in moving on because that means having to cancel out their existence and forgetting about them. I’d rather move forward. I wear my scars with pride, and I carry their memory everywhere I go. This is also why this entry is entitled Counting Tuesdays because both dogs died on a Tuesday, both dogs died last year, and it feels like the perfect title for a tribute post to the year that was.

That Love Happens When it Needs to Happen

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When Love Arrives | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

I grew up under the illusion that someday someone will sweep me off my feet, make me fall in love and we’ll live happily ever after. Wrong. Fast forward to my late 20s and all I can say is no, I don’t need anyone to sweep me off my feet because I can do the sweeping myself, thank you very much. I need someone who’s willing to stand by me through the good and the bad, who can see through the okays I’ve become so used to utter, who has enough patience to remind me not to skip meals, who can make me laugh my heart out, and who can make me feel comfortable enough to strip off all those damn layers and show who I really am. Thankfully, I found just the right man during the second half of 2015. We don’t post all the cheese on social media and I’m totally fine with that.

That Family is Everything

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Ohana with my ohana | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

I was helping my grandfather stand up from the hospital bed when I realized that I was holding the hands of a man who used to hit me with a belt/slipper/wood/whatever. The very hands that would spill rock salt on the wooden floor and ask me to kneel on them. I was looking at the eyes of the man who once grabbed me and threw me on the wall. I was assisting the man who once called me stupid just because I had a red mark on my report card.

But know what? None of that mattered. Set all the disciplinary stuff aside, I know that my grandfather meant well when he did all of those. I wouldn’t be able to write all these entries if it weren’t for him. When the world told me that I’m an accident, my grandfather agreed with my mom when she said I’m a blessing. He’s still one of the few men I look up to and I can only pray that he’ll be with me on my wedding day. That man means the world to me.

That the World Needs More Love and Light

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Paper Cranes | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

Oh man, where do I begin? For the most part of last year, I’ve been trying to tune out the negative juju. People are so quick to bash other people these days, those who scheming minds are now in positions of power, and don’t get me started on the cruelty that we’ve been showing to Mother Earth. I’m just hoping that things will turn around this 2017.

2016 was insane, and I’m sure all of you will agree with me. I’m not sure what 2017 has up its sleeve but what I do know is this: I’m ready to face the challenges that it’ll throw my way.

Bring. It. On.

Nights Like This

I’ve been struggling with sleep these past days because there are so many thoughts inside my head. It’s also quite funny that the thoughts only surface when I’m about to drift off to la la land. Whenever these thoughts surface, I try to tune them out by “mentally” writing a song. It sounds weird but it works! A friend actually recommended that I grab something from musicians friend┬áso I can finish the songs and I’ll probably do that once I have enough free time.

So… yeah. Here’s to trying to get more sleep. I have a lot of blog entries lined up so stay tuned!