Of Endings and Beginnings

 

IMG_20190422_174428I’ve been thinking about death these past months. It doesn’t have anything to do with the desire to end my life. It’s more of me, reflecting on how much time we have here on Earth. It still freaks me out that it is something we have absolutely no control over.

Thoughts on Death

Tomorrow is not guaranteed yet we continue to plan for it. We carry our past on our backs and we neglect to live in the present.

Everyday, before I go to bed, I think about how it will be like if the time for me to meet my Maker finally comes. Is it going to be painful? Will my friends miss me? Will it even matter? I shudder at the thought.

I’ve long accepted I won’t live forever and I really need to let go of my past pains. I want this to be my last reincarnation so my soul can finally move on. It is not easy, but it’s something I’ve been working on. I want to make the most out of this life while I still can. I want to lie on my death bed knowing I did the best I possibly could given the time I borrowed.

Some people find it weird that I’ve become more assertive in saying things that I want to say. While most of the words that come out of my mouth remain filtered (for fear I’ll be misinterpreted), I try to make it a point to be more expressive of my thoughts.

The Earth Moved

We experienced a strong earthquake here in the Philippines yesterday. It was around 5 in the afternoon. I was working on something when I started to feel dizzy. I’m on one of the top four floors of our building and I really felt the haunting, fast, shaking, stomach-churning movement of the tall concrete. The doors were swinging and the only thing I could think of was “Lord I can’t die yet”.

I read about excarnation in theory, but I felt it yesterday. I was not in my body. I do remember switching to auto pilot mode. I changed my clothes, packed my bag, then stood in the middle of the room. I froze. I watched the Earth move. I stood still, unable to process everything. Is this really happening? Am I gonna die now? Is this how it’s going to end?

I wanted to cry. I couldn’t. I wanted to scream. I couldn’t. So I stood and watched everything move. The bathroom door kept swinging. Liquid in the bottles dances, as if confirming that there was indeed an earthquake. My body turned ice cold and my stomach started to hurt.

A Montage 

People say your life flashes before your eyes before you die. I realized it wasn’t my time yet yesterday when the flashback did not happen. What I do remember is seeing images of the people that I love. I remember thinking that I really need to exert more effort in telling my family and friends that I love them. I remember telling myself “hey, we got this okay, we’re gonna live”. At some point I think I even heard a dog cry. Perhaps Marley and Roxy were with me yesterday, too.

I had jelly legs when the movement stopped. I messaged my mom and checked up on my friends. It’s silly I didn’t bother to see if I was okay. I had to make sure everyone was fine first. I packed my stuff and went out of the house. I had to use the stairs and I swear my knees hurt so bad. There was no adrenaline rush. I just remember telling myself that if it’s my time to go then so be it. I even managed to stop and take a picture of the sunset.

Speaking of sunsets, I found security when I saw the beautiful painting on the sky. I somehow felt that it was a reassurance that everything will be fine. The colors present were interesting too. Golden yellow, cobalt blue, magenta, orange, and a hint of red. I had no time to break each color down. All I know is I felt peace when I saw all of them dance together.

Waking Up to Another Day

I’ve always told my friends that I don’t want to just live. I want to experience life to the fullest and leave a dent when I go. I want to contribute to change, and make this world better. We owe it to the generations that will come after us.

Yesterday’s event is a reminder that we need to make the most out of every day. We need to let go of things that don’t really matter, and focus on the things that do. We need to be more conscious of how we use our time here. We need to value those who value us, and let go of those who don’t. Life is short.

We need to tell people how much we value them before we lose the chance to. It makes sense now why I put premium on goodbyes. When there are gatherings, it is important to me that goodbyes are done properly. I thought it was just about Venus being my ruling planet, but no. It had so much to do with closing/ending things properly because you’ll never know what can happen in the future.

Perhaps Mother Nature was reminding all of us that we need to be more aggressive in taking care of our one and only home. She’s the real boss. Once she gives up on us, we won’t have anywhere else to go.

I’ve been thinking about death these past months. Yesterday, I believe I was given a sneak peek of the moments leading up to it. I’ve never been this happy to have the chance to open my eyes one more time to see the sun rise.

I’m thankful that I get to live one more day. I’m grateful to be alive.

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.

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!

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 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 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.

Eco Choices Craft Workshop: Water Hyacinth Frames

Always share your story. Keep it short, simple, and make sure that it’s attached in all of your products. Don’t forget to include your contact information, of course.

I kept hearing that reminder in almost every workshop I attended. I wrote and revised the story of Eco Choices in the hopes that with a few words, people will understand what the battle cry of our social enterprise is. We’re a small business based in Cotabato City, we have a soft spot for social work, and the only reason why we started with this business is because we wanted to help provide solutions for the increasing water hyacinth problem in our part of the country.  The beginnings may be simple, but our dreams are big that’s why we’re always excited to tell people about our business and share what we know about water hyacinth crafts.

It was one of those dry and humid nights last April when I received a text message from Ian Magallona, a student from the Mindanao State University in General Santos City. He asked about Eco Choices and invited us to share what we know about making water hyacinth frames. I cringed at the thought of facing college students and teaching (introvert alert!) but I decided to give it a go since it’s an opportunity to let more people know about our business and it would be nice to teach a craft workshop again. After a few more exchange of emails, I found myself in a bus on the way to General Santos City.

I met with Ian and his group mates the night before the workshop to give them a crash course on water hyacinth frame making. Some steps were tricky, but they managed to pull it off and finish the frames just a few hours before midnight. They also gave me an orientation on what to expect during the workshop, plus a short list of topics that I should discuss during the session.

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Showing the students how to measure the chipboard.

The next day, we went to Grab-A Crab for the workshop. There were approximately 60 students in the function room, all ready to learn how to make water hyacinth frames. I began the session by telling them about my story, and why I’m into handmade products. I then told them about the humble beginnings of Eco Choices and then showed them the different products that we have. After a few more minutes, it was time to teach them how to make the water hyacinth frames.

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I walked around the room to assist those who struggled with the materials. I kept telling them that it’s okay if the output isn’t perfect since that’s not what the goal is. They were there to learn how to make water hyacinth frames and everyone did exactly that. As a facilitator, I stopped myself from imposing what the output should be, since each person’s creative process and interpretation is different. By the end of the session, I was surprised to see that some of them made 3d art on their water hyacinth frames. I also noticed that some of the students decided to save the paper because according to them, the texture is nice and they want to use it for something else.

It was a joy to watch the students go home with their water hyacinth frames. Some didn’t finish on time, but they still brought the materials home because they’re determined to finish and use the water hyacinth frames. It was a joy teaching them and learning from them.

IMG_1605To the 2nd year Business Management students of MSU-GSC, thank you so much for having me. Until next time! 🙂

The Sunday Currently | 02

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And You’re To Blame | Canon 550D

Writing this after walking around our garden. I borrowed my mom’s 50mm again and took some pictures of flower and garden accents. Don’t you just love the bokeh? I played with different settings and produced various results but the picture above is my favorite.

CURRENTLY 

Reading
Wordpress shout outs from all over the globe. Thank you everyone !:)

Writing
The Sunday Currently vol. 2

Listening
To my favorite person. ^_^

Thinking
Of things to do next week.

Smelling
The scent of liquid detergent.

Wishing
For permits to finally be approved next week. Also, no power interruptions please!

Hoping
For peace and joy in my heart.

Wearing
My favorite UP shirt and board shorts.

Loving
Second chances, guys who prove that chivalry isn’t dead, and people who are willing to lend a hand.

Wanting
A big bowl of ice cream.

Needing
Stronger lungs.

Feeling
A lot of emotions.

Join The Sunday Currently link-up by siddathornton!

LOVE

lolo and lola

Today my Facebook feed is filled with photos of Christmas celebrations from different parts of the world. Since my feed is filled with hunka hunka burning love, I decided to share this photo of my grandparents.  It’s a bit blurry but I still like it. Raw emotions. The only thing I can think of when I look at this picture is how much they love each other, and how blessed they are to be with each other.

My grandfather still looks at my grandmother the same way he did when they… well let’s say probably when they started dating. While he now has difficulty moving around, he makes it a point to assist her and give her the massage that she needs before going to bed. My grandmother, on the other hand, cooks for him, cracks jokes to make him laugh, and switch channels when the show on TV bores him.

My grandparents have  shown me that love is not only in the good times- it’s also in the bad. You love that person when they’re at their best, and you love that person when they’re at their worst. It’s choosing that same person every single day for the rest of your life – wrinkles, gray hair, and all. It’s growing up and growing old with someone. It’s standing by that person even when times are difficult. It’s not about compatibility; it’s about working things out despite differences in personality, perspective, beliefs, etc. I’m sharing this photo as a tribute to both of them because they serve as a reminder that despite all of the negativity and hatred that’s happening in the world today, love still exists. We need more reminders like this.

Happy Holidays! 🙂

Time to Fly

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Wiliamson

Parking this quote here in the hopes that Timehop will remind me in one, two, three, four, five years. We live in a society that encourages and discourages us to shine. It’s confusing, isn’t it? We’re pushed to go after our dreams and be who we want to be but once we reach that, we’re faced with people who call us names and talk about us when our backs our turned.

As a kid, I was unstoppable. I volunteered for school performances without batting an eyelash. I had so much confidence in my skills and back then, I didn’t care about what people had to say about me. I wanted to perform, period. I was very active in sports, too. I would run around the school and play tag with my classmates despite my difficulty in breathing. My asthma did not stop me, and I would even brag about my brand new scars to my doctor while being reprimanded for violating his orders. Those were the days when labels did not matter. While my classmates thought I was cocky for being present in every performance, I ignored them because deep in my heart I knew I was good. I had confidence in my skills and I was more than happy to show people what I was capable of.  I WAS NOT AFRAID TO SHINE.

Things changed when I transferred schools. I was an easy target because I was a transferee and my complex way of thinking was perceived as an abnormality. I was not part of a group and I was ostracized most of the time. I was called a crybaby, wimp, weirdo, ugly, fat, stupid, feelingera, etc. In high school, I was made fun of because I did not have the curves. I retreated back to my shell and decided I am not good enough. I became quiet, reserved, and opted out whenever opportunities to audition for school performances were given. I tried so hard to please people but the more I did that, the more I lost myself. I found comfort in writing, reading, drawing, singing (in the bathroom), and crafts. In college, I managed to break free but there were days when their words still haunted me.

Fact: my secret dream is to perform on stage. I would fantasize about it, I would sing and dance in the shower while pretending that my fans are cheering for me. There are notebooks with pages that have my signature because I used to pretend that I was signing books, photos, and cd covers for my fans. The closest I got to that dream was back in 2009 when I hosted Qlets & Co. – a kiddie television show that aired every Sunday on QTV. It’s a job I enjoyed doing despite the stressful work hours.

During an art therapy session five years ago, I was asked to draw flowers. I painted cute ones and when my therapist saw this, she asked me to paint bigger flowers over them. For some reason, I cried when I saw my painting. My therapist then said :

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“You know why you’re crying? It’s because you are afraid to shine. That’s why the flowers you painted are small. You know deep in your heart that you are good but you choose to hide in the shadows because you are afraid of what people will say about you. Some will love you, some will hate you. Their words may hurt you but at the end of the day what matters is you go out there and do your best. Stop hiding. Go out there and shine.”

Whenever I look at that painting, I remember my therapist’s words. The truth always hurts but we need to hear it. I am guilty of hiding. I would rather have people like me even if it means letting go of who I am but the thing is, this life is not about who they are. It’s about who WE are. I’m not saying I’ve reached that level where people can call me names and I won’t feel a thing because I still get hurt and I still second guess myself. What I’m saying is, we should focus more on who we want to be than on who this society wants us to be. Right now, I’m trying to zero in on the dreams that I put on hold because I was busy trying to please other people. I just realized that I’ve been doing myself and the people who love me and believe in me a huge disservice by hiding so that other people won’t feel insecure around me.

I guess I’m writing this because I want to go back to this entry just in case I ever doubt myself again in the future. If this entry happens to inspire someone then that’s even better. This year started at a very low point and I’m just grateful for the people who became my spine. I want to put more premium on the people who believe in me and just learn whatever lesson it is that I need to learn from those who don’t.

My dreams scare me. Big time. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve them or if I’m even worthy but I still want to try. It’s tempting to just go back to my shell but I also know that I am not getting any younger and I only have one shot at this. I believe it’s time to spread my wings and fly.

It Started With A Letter

“So, tell us about the start of the Kids for Peace Foundation”, said the reporter. I’ve been asked that question so many times I already lost count. One would think that by now I’ve already gotten so bored with the question but the truth is, it still excites me. I like talking about our humble beginnings because it grounds me. I looked at the reporter, smiled, and said “it started with a letter”. My voice trailed off as I tried to hold back tears. I’m always emotional when I talk about Kids for Peace.

I was being interviewed for the 2015 CSR Youth Awards, a project of CSR Today – a department of the Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation (BCYF). Their goal is to recognize outstanding young men and women who have initiated projects anchored on Citizenship, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility. It’s a prestigious award and I was still surprised that I was one of the nominees. It’s my first nomination and I’m just humbled and grateful for the opportunity.

Nomination

I went on about the two fighter planes that I saw, how I cheered when I saw them drop bombs and how I felt bad when I learned that the bombs kill anyone it hits : good or bad, guilty or innocent, male or female, Christian or Muslim, young or old. It’s an equalizer and it does not give a damn about who you are. It hits you, it destroys you. Literally. That scared me and as an ambitious incoming first year high school student, I wrote a letter asking people to write peace messages to let those in the evacuation centers know that there are people who are with them, praying for them, and caring for them. The letter reached people from all over the world which is surprising because in hindsight, that happened at a time when Facebook did not even exist and social media wasn’t as “big”. I guess sometimes you just have to do it. Stop thinking about what other people will say. Go out there and do it.

For years Kids for Peace has been facilitating psycho-social interventions with survivors of war and disaster. We figured, giving these survivors the space they need to breathe and let all emotions out is just as important as giving them food, clothing, and shelter. We would sit down and listen to stories of survival: how one kid carried a kettle filled with rice while running away from explosions, how one father lost his son while fleeing their village which is under attack. The stories went on and it took so much effort to put on a straight face as they showed both physical and emotional wounds. We then organized creative expressions camps with workshops on different media (photography, film, book writing, illustration, song writing, soil painting, theater) which they can use to express their thoughts and feelings.

Volunteerism is not easy. You need to have a lot of heart to be able to do this kind of job. You need to understand that when you are out there on the field,  you are there for them and not for yourself. You need to be strong because sometimes, the odds will be against you. While those instances will push you to give up, it’s also those instances that will push you to keep going. There were times when I thought of quitting and closing the foundation. I thought about it several times already. But I stopped whenever I thought about the people we helped and the people we’ll be helping in the future. It’s not about us, it’s about THEM. With that, we go back to why we started, and the fire in the belly drives us to do our work again.

During the awards night, all 27 finalists were asked to stand up so that they may be recognized and applauded for their efforts. It felt great to be acknowledged, to receive that pat on the back for a job well done. It meant so much and it gave us the affirmation that we needed, that go signal that we are on the right track.

With Mr. Salvador Laguda, Co-chair of the Screening Committee and Mr. Edgardo Amistad of UCPD-CIIF Foundation, Inc. (Image source: CSR YA Facebook page)
With Mr. Salvador Laguda, Co-chair of the Screening Committee and Mr. Edgardo Amistad of UCPD-CIIF Foundation, Inc. (Image source: CSR YA Facebook page)

I did not win but that’s okay. For me, it’s enough that we made it to the top 27. It’s enough that the spirit of volunteerism and the efforts of the young men and women were given recognition. To Noreen Bautista, thank you so much. It really means so much to us. To Ica Fernandez and Daniel Abunales, thank you for journeying with us. To my mom, thank you for supporting me since day one. Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation, thank you so much for the recognition. Like I said, I am humbled and grateful. To all of the mentors, volunteers, young men and women who have been with the Kids for Peace Foundation, thank you. This is for you.