Ode To My Kids

IMG_20190123_145633

The sun will rise once more tomorrow,

It will paint the sky in blue and gold

In my heart are emotions I dare not let go

For fear I’ll regret it a thousand fold

Our journey began with you asking my name,

And then you asked if I want to play a game

T’was the beginning of a beautiful story, something I hold dear

The world is a much better place whenever you are near

My task was to help you know more about the world

Some days I doubted myself, my toes would curl

You were always generous with your words of affirmation

I, on the other hand, had to make sure each of you had my undivided attention

It’s funny how the world works once you learn to let go

A lot of things manifest when you go with the flow

Like me and you meeting for five times each week

And me and you missing each other whenever we’re sick

Time does fly by so fast when you’re having fun

Because just like that, we are already done!

You have bloomed into beautiful beings and you’re ready for chapter two

All I can do is watch you spread your wings and promise that I’ll always be here for you

The healing education works; it did wonders for you and me

I was supposed to teach you but I learned more from you three

This world will be a much better place because I know you’ll share your light

The areas filled with darkness will glow beautifully once you’re in sight

I am grateful for the time we spent together, both the highs and lows

I’m taken back to that Friday morning when I gave each one of you a rose

I will always be your Binibini even if I become a Ginang one day

I know you think about this too, but I just say “come what may”

My heart is a lot bigger now because I made room for you three

Wherever I may be in this world know that you’ll always be with me

I get to give you one more hug before we say goodbye

But promise me when we see each other, you’ll come over and say “hi!”

— For T, A, and V. Mula sa kaibuturan ng aking puso, maraming salamat.

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.

CCI07092018_0001
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.

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

img_1009
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

img_1206
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

img_1717
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

Jpeg
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

img_7756
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

img_6922
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.

A Tale of Two Beagles

Two years and four months ago, I sat on the edge of my bed, thinking of ways to put Marley to sleep. It was his first time in our house and he couldn’t stop running around the place. Such a curious little thing. The dining area was a huge playground for him and the more I begged him to sleep, the more he ran, as if asking me to play with him. I remember posting a question on Facebook and asking other dog owners for tips on how to deal with puppies. Most of them said that I have to be patient because it’s not easy task. I tried different techniques, even tricking Marley into falling asleep, but to no avail. I was sleepless for two months!

img_7642
Marley @ 2 Months | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

 

But that’s how I learned to be his mom. Sometimes we buy pets thinking that our role is limited to just being their owners when in fact, our responsibility is so much more than that. With Marley, I had to learn how to scoop poop, clean pee, and deal with the many scars I gained on both arms and legs because of his sharp nails. He never bit me, although there were times when he attempted to, because I’d make it very difficult for him to access his food.

On our third month together, I realized that he was already seeing me as his “mom” because he’d run to me and ask me to carry him when I arrive home, and cry hard whenever I have to go. He’d follow me everywhere I go, and he’d find ways to still see me when I’m busy with crafts at the work area. He’d greet me first thing in the morning and I’d hold his front paws so we can do our “good morning dance”. I’d sing to him, tell him how much I love him, and give him a belly rub before sending him to bed.

 

As months went on, we noticed so many things about him, like how much he enjoys running around the garden. He enjoys barking at the dogs outside our house, and then he runs around the garden once more while waiting for the next opportunity to bark at somebody. Whenever I notice that he’s sad or mad at Taz, the other male dog, I take him out for a drive around the city with Manong Noning because he enjoys riding the car. He loves the view, he loves sitting on my lap, and he likes to put his head outside the car window to enjoy the the wind on his long ears.

IMG_6832
Marley and the Moth | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

My mom gave him ube ice cream for his first birthday and he enjoyed it so much! He devoured every single bit of it. He likes eating what we’re eating, and hates it when I tell him he’s not allowed to eat chocolates. He enjoys playtime with the other dogs at 4 in the afternoon, and joins us when he sees us making our way back to the house. He enters the house and sleeps under the dining table or my mom’s bed at around 6 PM and come 10 PM, follows when I ask him to go outside. He’d argue with me sometimes, but after receiving two of his favorite biscuits, he’d oblige.

My thoughts are always with him whenever I travel, and I’d make sure that I have something for him whenever I return home. It’s always a joy to see him, after weeks of being in another city for work. His hugs and kisses are always worth looking forward to, mainly because they are genuine and sincere.

IMG_1301
My guard fell asleep | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

When he was a year and seven months old, we introduced him to Roxy, his partner. Roxy was a different character. She has this weird way of running, her howl sounds funny, and she has this habit of hugging poles whenever she senses that Manong Noning is preparing their food.

Having Roxy around meant having to learn to be a mom all over again but this time, I was faced with another challenge: how to balance my attention between the two beagles. There were times when Marley felt left out and I’d explain things to him to help him understand. After a month Marley finally learned to accept that Roxy will be sharing his space with him and that she is his partner, not his enemy. They’d play around at exactly four in the afternoon and come night time, they’d sleep beside each other. They eventually became best friends. As a matter of fact, they were both holding each other’s paws on  New Year’s Eve because they were scared of the fireworks.

Jpeg
My babies | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Asus Zenfone

Everything was okay, until we noticed that Roxy was getting weaker and weaker. After a series of sessions with the vet, we were told that she has Ehrlichiosis and they cannot guarantee her survival. We did the best we could but on February 2016, just a few days before my first marathon, Roxy went to heaven.

IMG_1193
Roxy | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

It was so painful, I spent weeks crying, and for a long time, I had to struggle with her absence. I decided to focus on taking care of Marley, and it helped so much that my family was there to join me on my journey. As months went on, Marley and I grew closer. There are times when we’d just sit on the floor and enjoy each other’s company. I’d sing to him sometimes, and when we’re both in the mood, we’d play catch. I enjoyed watching him sleep at night and sometimes I’d wake him up just so I can hug him tight. I made sure that he knew how much I love him.

I planned on making videos with him, training him, and playing with him. I imagined what the next few years would be like for both of us and I wondered how handsome he’d look like on the day of my wedding. Each day I’d thank God for giving me the chance to take care of him and for telling him to choose me as his mom.I looked forward to spending more years with my baby, but unfortunately, that won’t happen anymore.

Last September 20, 2016, Marley rushed outside our gate and he got hit by a car within minutes. He lost a lot of blood and he was no longer breathing when I approached him. The blithering asshole of a driver did not apologize, and nope he didn’t even stop to check if Marley was okay.

So here we are today.

It’s been two days since my baby earned his wings and we’re still trying to understand what happened. I’m hoping that this blog will help me accept things in the future, but for now I need to write down my thoughts here. I don’t understand why Marley left. There are so many evil souls in the world, why did God have to choose Marley? And seriously, why did I lose Marley and Roxy in just seven months?

I’ve been told that Marley has a higher purpose, and the world needs his light. There is so much evil in the world, and it needs the guidance of pure, spiritual beings. That does not make a lot of sense for now, but I know that in the future, I’ll be able to accept it. All I know for now is I’m waking up to a quiet house and my baby is no longer with us.

I’m trying to deal with the guilt right now. As a mom, it is my duty to protect Marley from pain. But I failed. Miserably. I keep seeing snapshots of his dead body on the street and it keeps on breaking my heart. I’ve been crying non-stop since the day he died and I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon. For now I just want to deal with the fact that he went  home to meet his Maker. For now, I just have to try to process things in the hopes that someday, it will all make sense.

When I had my heart broken before, I thought it was the end of the world. Losing Marley only made me realize that those heartbreaks are a huge ZERO compared to this one. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this type of pain before, and I’ve been trying to take things by the minute. I cry when I have to, laugh when I need to, and work when the situation calls for it. I declined a trip to Manila because it’s something I cannot do for now. I just need to be here. Where Marley is. Where Roxy is. Where family is.

I guess this is also my way of telling you, dear reader, that #beaglethemarley finally went home. I’d give anything to have him back, but I have a feeling that the world needs him more. All I can do for now is miss him, think of him, pray for him, and deal with the eerie silence now that he’s gone. The word “gone” sounds final and cuts like a knife, but it is what it is.

Two years and four months from Marley’s first night here, I’m back to sitting on the edge of my bed, but this time for a different reason. I’ve been begging for Marley and Roxy to come back and asking for the Universe to hear my plea but I have a feeling it’s just falling on deaf ears.Or not. I don’t know anymore.

My heart is in so much pain and I’m filled with questions and no answers. There are so many emotions inside me and as much as I want to believe that the sun shines equally on everybody, I demand justice for the death of my baby. Dear driver, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that you killed a beautiful soul. Maybe someday I’ll forgive you, but for now let me deal with this anger. You do not get to kill my beagle and drive away pretending that nothing happened. I wonder how your conscience lets you sleep at night. I really do.

Jpeg
My baby Marley | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2015, Asus Zenfone

Marley taught me a lot of things. He taught me to be patient, he taught be to be kind and compassionate even to those who do not deserve it (eg. driver), he taught me to be playful and funny, he taught me to focus on the now, he taught me to let got of the past, he taught me to look forward to what the future has to offer, and he taught me how to love. Because that’s what Marley is. He is love. Right now, I don’t know how to move on and frankly, I don’t think I want to. What I do know, however, is that someday I will need to move forward and bring Marley and Roxy’s memories with me.

In the days to come, I want to honor Marley and Roxy by celebrating their lives and sharing to the world all of the lessons I learned from them. I’m grateful that they chose me to be their mom, and that somehow, the universe brought all of our souls together even if it was just for a short period of time.

I miss you dearly, Marley and Roxy. I am very sorry I could not save you. I am sorry I failed as your mom. I hope you forgive me.

I know you’re both watching over us. It’s painful now, and the pain has manifested physically but no worries because we’re working on it as a family. I hope that our spirits will meet again in this lifetime or the next. I also hope that when we do see each other, you’ll recognize me and I’ll recognize you. I cannot wait to see you both and hug you once again. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Now go forth, my love! Let the world see your light! I miss you so much! I love you!

Indigestion

img_7043
Bottled Paper Cranes | (c) Aliya Agbon | Canon 550D

Not in the literal way, but I’m hoping that through this blog I’ll be able to digest (sort of) some of the things that I learned the past few weeks. I was part of a workshop – one that allowed me to meet beautiful souls and help me understand/appreciate/love/accept ME. The workshop had three tracks and every single one required all of us (participants) to dig deeper into ourselves and the world around us.

I sound like I’m writing metaphors and I’d love to be more specific about these things but since I’m still trying to absorb everything, I figured it’s best if I  share this photo of the bottled paper cranes I made last month. For now at least. In case you’re wondering, the size of the paper is 1.5″ x 1.5″ and that tells you so much about how committed I am when it comes to folding tiny pieces of paper.

So why am I posting this photo today (9/11/16)?

I just feel like there’s so much going on in the world. When our workshop ended, I was a bit fidgety because that meant going back to the “real world” where I’ll be once again exposed to people who were not part of the workshop. It doesn’t mean they should be avoided, no. I was just being my usual anxious, fearful self and the question “omg what if I forget about the things I learned?” lingered. Writing all these thoughts in a journal helped a lot, because that meant getting over the urge to post it online. Yay!

I guess I’m posting this because it kind of symbolizes what’s in my head at the moment, and I’m slowly starting to see this picture from a different perspective. When I took this photo, my only goal was to upload it on Eco Choices’ Facebook page so people will know that we have this product but now, I’m seeing stories, colors, and relationships.

“Wow, deep pare”

Well, that’s exactly what it is. DEEP. Time for you to join me in my journey towards digesting all these thoughts and feelings, eh?

Anyway, going back: paper cranes symbolize peace and good fortune and in all honesty, I believe that the world needs a lot of that today. These days, there’s so much misinformation going on,  people are bashing other people, and it’s just starting to become toxic. I want to break the stream of hatred on my Facebook feed by posting these colorful paper cranes.

The bottles, if I were to interpret them, are the walls that we place around ourselves so no one can hurt us. Unfortunately, and this is something that was said to me by a beautiful wise woman, keeping pain out is also keeping love out. When you avoid the bad things, you avoid the good things and that’s a sad way to live.

You can also look at these bottled paper crane necklaces (chain not included in the picture, sorry) as constant reminders that no matter where you go and no matter how bad the situation is, there’s still kindness in the world. Love (not necessarily the romantic kind) still exists, you just need to change those glasses or shift to a different perspective. It’s all about perspective. It’s all about changing those conversations inside your head and allowing yourself to experience the world for what it really is.

Nope, this is not an attempt to market the bottled paper cranes (I’d post this blog in a different tone if that were the case). It just happened that these crafts represent what my current thoughts and feelings are. Pure coincidence.

All for now, I guess. Have a rainy/sunny Sunday!

Tabula Rasa

IMG_0999
Tabula Rasa | Canon 550D

Broken pieces can still come together to create something beautiful. Sure there are sharp edges and gaps in between, but the pieces will still blend perfectly. Let us free ourselves from the pains of the past year, rise above our brokenness and trust in the magic of new beginnings. 

 

 

 

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 :

IMG_9944

“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.

Choose or Be Chosen

I’m starting this entry with a big lump in my throat. I’m holding back tears because it’s weird (and difficult) to type and cry at the same time.  I’m browsing through my journal and the very few photos I managed to take during the Nonviolent Interfaith Leadership Program in Melbourne, Australia and I’m feeling a roller coaster of emotions. It’s a good thing I paid attention to Efrat’s sessions where we were taught to observe emotions and greet it as it enters our “guest house”.

I’ve been meaning to write about my NILP experience but I always ended up staring at the big white space on the computer screen. It’s a tough entry to start because how do you compress five day’s worth of learnings, and epic moments with people from different parts of the globe? It’s challenging but since I feel like it’s a story that needs to be shared to whoever’s patient enough to visit my page and read my entry, here goes:

At a room  with brick walls, high ceilings, carpeted floors and big windows in Edmund Rice Retreat House is where I met people who will forever be a part of me.  These are strangers turned friends who managed to break down the walls I built and see a deep part of my soul. These are people from different parts of the world who treated me like family even if it was their first time to meet me. These are people who experienced what I experienced during the Nonviolent Interfaith Leadership Program 2014 organized by Pace e Bene Australia.

A threshold of stories, self discoveries, and God-given gifts. This room was our shared space for five days.
A threshold of stories, self discoveries, and God-given gifts. This room was our shared space for five days.

On the first day, we were welcomed through a ceremony where we touched soil that ancestors from thousands of years ago walked on. The soil was warm underneath my ice cold palm. We then faced the Yarra River with palms facing the clouds and breathed in the cold Melbourne air. We didn’t talk much and I liked it. At that moment, I realized how blessed all of us are that our ancestors from thousands of years ago took good care of the land. I hope we do the same for the future generation.

After the simple but meaningful ceremony, we made our way back to the room and sat on the chairs that were formed in a circle. To break the ice, Ann invited us to pass around a ball of yarn while saying each other’s name and country. We held the yarn until the last person introduced himself and by then, we had already formed a web. We placed the yarn on the floor and it stayed there until someone decided to untangle it again and form a ball.

To know more about each other, we were then asked to share with two or three others the origin of our name, people who inspire us, places that inspire us, and our experiences. I was surprised at how much one can share just by talking about the name! It was a very powerful exercise.

Interconnection.
Interconnection.

We lit each candle after each sharing to invite the spirits of our ancestors, inspirators, places, and experiences. I like how it also made us feel that there were more than thirty of us in the room, but not in a creepy way. It kind of gave me the assurance that I may be physically alone, but I have a battalion with me ready to back me up no matter what.

Sessions on nonviolence and self discovery started the next day. There were invitations to do the Labyrinth at 6:30 in the morning but I decided to sleep in since I haven’t had enough sleep yet. Add to that the fact that Australia is two hours ahead so 6:30 AM to them is 4:30 AM to us in the Philippines. We started the session with shared silence and this made me realize how scared I am of it. I hate not hearing anything because my very visual mind wanders off to scenes from horror movies that freak me out even in broad daylight. I also noticed how noisy the mind can be despite the lack of noise around us. After twenty minutes of silence, and a couple more minutes for “check in” we went on with our session. I won’t share the discussions so I won’t spoil anything, just in case you decide to join the program.

We were given plenty of quiet time in between sessions. These were minutes (sometimes hours) that I valued because it gave me the chance to process the discussions. I like listening, but I also like writing the things that I heard to help me process and digest them. There were also times when we’d find ourselves working on the rice mandala, talking to whoever was also there while adding designs. We had plenty of tea time, too. There was morning tea, afternoon tea, and evening tea. I’m not a tea drinker, but I became one. Yay.

Silence.
Silence.
A little bit of everything. These grains of rice hold stories shared by some of us.
A little bit of everything. These grains of rice hold stories shared by some of us.

On the third day, Baqir, Vila, and I went down to the Yarra River to take pictures. Yes, at 6 in the morning. In Australia. In case you’re wondering, it was VERY cold. It was also drizzling. We were hoping for some fog and sun, but all we had was rain. We still went down the river, stopped after a few steps to take pictures, laughed at each other for being silly enough to walk under the rain, and shared stories in between shutter clicks.

Good morning.
Good morning.
The Yarra River.
The Yarra River.
Impermanence.
Impermanence.

We had different night activities. The first night was spent listening to the stories of Efrat and Bagir who both experienced violence but reacted nonviolently. It’s amazing how people who went through a lot are always the ones with the biggest smiles that radiate positive energy. The second night was spent watching short films. The third night, for me was the most intimate and meaningful. It’s a night that I will never forget for as long as I live. The fourth night was just as meaningful because we shared a piece of ourselves to the group. Some wrote poems, some shared jokes, and some shared films that they made. I shared with them “Aliya” – a song I wrote back in 2006. It was the first time that I shared the song with a group of people and it was nerve wrecking.

On the last day, we learned about open space and how it can make a difference in one’s way of thinking. It allows you to open yourself up to the possibilities, and accept them as they come. At around noon, it was obvious how people were avoiding the fact that the program was nearing its end. At around three in the afternoon, we gathered in the circle again to close the program.

Closing.
Closing.

Going to Melbourne to attend NILP 2014 was a big step for me. I’m not exactly open to the idea of travelling to another country alone because that means stepping outside my comfort zone. The thought of having to talk to people who don’t speak my language freaks me out and I’m not even worried about my capacity to speak English. I’m worried about being discriminated, of having difficulty in understanding what they’re saying because of the language barrier, of getting lost, of losing my luggage (this happened, but that’s another story), of missing my plane, and of being alone. God must have wanted me to go because despite all my excuses and reasons not to go, I found myself leaving for Melbourne early last month.

Choose or be chosen. I’m glad I chose to apply, and I’m even more glad that I was chosen. NILP taught me to be brave, to accept experiences (even the bad ones) as chapters of my life’s story, and to be open to possibilities. I learned so much from my batchmates, and up until now I still hold the conversations I had with each and everyone of them in a very deep place in my heart. I’m still grateful that they created a very safe space, that made deep and soulful stories emerge. Listening without judgement. Acceptance. Love. Care. Companionship. Interconnection. Impermanence.

To be nonviolent in a world filled with violence. To love despite hate. To take courage despite fear. To take chances. To step outside the comfort zone. To understand that the world is bigger than the four walls of your room. To take a leap of faith. To be open to possibilities. To accept change. These are just some of the many things I learned during NILP.

Now, allow me to raise my hands, wave them and say, Pace Bene!