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.

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: 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!

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.

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.

Questions

I won’t lie, I still haven’t gotten over Marley’s death and I think it will stay that way for some time. It’s not about playing victim, nor is it about begging for attention. It’s about accepting, dealing, processing, all these emotions. Guilt is one thing, grief is another, but when you add regret, frustration, sadness, and anger you enter this carnival of emotions. One minute you’re up, next minute you’re down, and the only person who understands everything is yourself.

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(c) Aliya Agbon, 2015

I’ve been asking a lot of questions the past weeks and I have yet to find the answers to them. I was once told that the questions we ask are more important that the answers, and that the answers change depending on the questions we ask. So I’ve altered words, punctuations, and tones, hoping that I wake up to an epiphany the next day but to no avail.

I’ll just have to keep on asking, I guess. After all, isn’t that what this life is all about? Ask questions, get answers.

The Healing Power of Music

I was browsing random websites the other day when I chanced upon Music Center USA. Seeing their collection of musical instruments made me want to pour my heart out on sheets of paper and write songs for Marley and Roxy. I’ve always believed that the universe makes us feel these emotions so we can create beautiful things from them. It’s a shame if we just let these moments pass us by.

I have every intention of writing a song for Marley in the days to come. I’ll post it here, so stay tuned. 🙂