Existential Breakthrough Part II

//Author’s Note: To make it more relatable to non-UP students and foreigners, jargons will be explained and tagalog words will be translated and written in italics//

If you are interested to read about my first Existential Breakthrough, see here. I had almost the exact same feeling. The feeling of having a mess of random memories spin webs around my head, and seeing it all form one concrete thought, as if it was my destiny to realize it after all this time.

Oct 28 2015.
– Kas 1 (history class)

We discussed the different changes and reforms that were happening in the 19th century Philippines, and how each one paved the way to the creation of the Ilustrados – a middle-class society of scholars who formed the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonizers.

– UP ALYANSA GFO (an orientation on one of the political parties in campus)

After class, I went straight to UP ALYANSA’s GFO along with my coursemate. I listened to the alumni of UP ALYANSA talk about their real-life experiences in fighting the good fight, in their daily struggles of being seen as activists. One of them told us the story of how he sheepishly admitted to his parents that he was joining rallies and delving deep into the politics of his campus, and his parents’ reply was, “Baka pagkatapos nyan ay lumipat ka na sa bundok”. And everyone laughed.

– Manilakbayan’s Lumad Camp

Straight after this, I went to the Lumad camp with my dormmate. To know more about the Lumad camp, click here. I observed the camp, the amount of students, teachers and lumads mingling and walking around. I saw orgmates, classmates and a handful of acquaintances. I silently read the poems written about the Lumads’ suffering. I slowly walked around the museum they have set up, showing brief glimpses of their culture.

I met with Alay Sining, another cause-oriented organization, and I listened once again to them lay out their principles, this time to my dormmate. Then, I followed them to Kalayaan Residence Hall, a dorm for freshmen students, to give an educational discussion about the situation of the lumads. While I was there, I met with my coursemate, who was listening in to the discussion. When she saw me, she asked if I knew what the media was saying about the lumads’ situation.

Then, I returned back to my dorm, and opened, once again, the topic of the Lumads. My roommate told me that she went there, and she was able to talk to the cousin of one of the tribal leaders who were killed.

Then, I went to Twitter, and tweeted about the lumads. My high school batchmate messaged me, and asked me if I knew any more events regarding the Manilakbayan happening in the next few days. He said he was interested in meeting the Lumads, and talking to them, too.

Oct 29 2015.
– Soc Sci 3

Right after our class, our professor asked us if we wanted to follow her to the Lumad camp.

After classes, I went back to the camp with my dormmates. I wanted to talk to them, and know more about them. Unfortunately, it was late when we arrived, and most of them were already sleeping. As it was their last day on campus tomorrow, we promised to return tomorrow.

Oct 30 2015.

Our class was dismissed early, and I was with my coursemates. We decided to go to Area 2 (a place in campus with a whole street lined up with food stalls) and buy merienda (snacks). While we were there, the topic of the Lumads, once again, came up. Majority of them haven’t visited the camp, so we decided to drop by for a while before going our separate ways.

Existential Breakthrough #1

From my coursemates, dormmates, blockmates, roommates, orgmates, and high school batchmates, all the way to my teachers, acquaintances, and vaguely familiar Facebook friends, I experienced seeing all these familiar faces in one place, and experienced listening to all these people talk about one topic. All in a matter of three days.

This is the power of collective action. This is student empowerment. No matter what religion. No matter what political party you’re a part of. No matter your beliefs. No matter how long or how short your stay in UP. No matter if you’re a freshman, or a graduate. When a victim of abuse, oppression and injustice cries for help, it is inevitably in our nature as human beings to listen to them.

Talking with the Lumads…

We were able to talk to one of the Lumads’ tribal leaders, Datu Jimboy. I learned more about the culture of these indigenous people, about how differently they lived life, how they’ve been fighting to preserve this way of living, and how our country’s own military was threatening their culture, their community, their own people.

Lumads have this tradition wherein they offer food to whoever will walk upon their land, be it a friend, or an enemy. And that was exactly what they did when the NPA (New People’s Army) came. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) were against the NPA, and so when they saw the offering, they immediately concluded that the Lumads were siding with them. They beated them up for it, despite the fact that Datu Jimboy’s tribe offered the AFP a whole pig as a peace offering on the first few days of their stay.

Lumads believe that people came from the earth, and that the land they walk upon is sacred. They have rituals and offerings, musical instruments with symbolic dances and a tradition that has only ever been passed down orally.

He encouraged us to use social media as a tool to spread awareness about their issue. His own words were, “Nagpapasalamat kami sa inyo, mga kabataan na nandito, at magagamit ninyo ang mga laptop para tulungan kami. (I am thankful for the youth who have visited us, for they are the ones who can use their laptops to help us)“. I did not expect this from him. I always thought, based on the western movies and stereotypes about tribal and traditional people, that since they do not use modern technology, they must be against it. But instead, they were all for it.

He even said that the Lumads are actually open to mining in their lands, so long as they don’t kill their people, so long as they stop burning their schools. So long as they are not taken for granted, abused, and beaten.

But if our president will not listen to their pleas, they will have no choice, he said, but to fight fire with fire. They are planning to use APEC as a way for other world leaders to see the true situation of our country, and of our people.

On a personal note…

If you have reached this point of this extremely long essay, I think it’s safe to assume that most of you care about me. To those who barely know me, let this be our little secret.

The effect of my academic life has started weighing me down. And combined with the unstable stirrings of my heart, and it shattering to pieces just weeks later, to say that the past few days have been emotional is an understatement.

But I am thankful for the weight of it all, for it was because of them that I knew how much I could carry. I am thankful for the professors who have broken my mind, and the boys who have broken my heart. It was because of them that I learned how to fix myself back again on my own.

Existential Breakthrough #2

I love – sometimes, admittedly, too much, too fast, too deeply. I daresay I have a heart big enough to love a whole nation. And at the end of this week, I realized, “so why shouldn’t I?”

I realized, once again, just how selfish I’ve been the past few months – thinking of nothing but that one boy. Or my next class. Or how well I’ve been doing in my acads. Or how long it has been since I’ve seen so and so. Always, always about me.

Visiting the Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas (National Museum of the Filipino People), watching a play – Mga Buhay na Apoy (The Living Fire?) – that talked about cultural preservation and listening to an indigenous people tribe leader, I started thinking on a macro level. And so, my love for my country has been discovered.

And as I am a pantheist, an admirer of nature and its old ways, knowing that the people of Palawan believed that people came from fire, and that the Lumads believed that people came from the earth, the diversity of my people made me fall for my country even more.

Why should just one boy merit from all this love I’ve kept in my heart? Love that is enough to fill a nation to the brim?

Kas 1 taught me that the problems that were faced by the people from the 19th century are still the same problems we are facing today – feudalism, colonial mentality, corruption, poverty, abuse… And it seems like there’s no end to our suffering.

Like it’s hopeless to even fight in the first place when you know you’re going to die losing.

And, yes, these problems in our nation may never die. We have had them long before we were even born, and we may have them even long after we are dead and gone. But guess what?

When these problems came up in the 19th century, we had the Ilustrados to fight for our freedom, and they are the reason why are here today.

Now, in our day, in our time, our country has me – a scholar who is willingly opening up her arms as sacrifice, a sign that I am freeing herself from the fear of judgement, a scholar who is embracing the joy of serving others.

And I hope our country will have you, too.

Existential Breakthrough Part II

Existential Breakthrough

//Author’s Note: this essay has mentions of depression and suicide. Nonetheless, it is meant to be an inspirational piece, not a dark one. If you are easily triggered, you can close this now. Thank you//

An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life: whether their life has any meaning, purpose, or value. (James, R.)

I experienced the opposite of an existential crisis – an existential breakthrough. Instead of being confused about the universe and my role in it – like I always did – for the first time in my life, I finally understood it all. Instead of questions piling on top of one another in my frustrated head, answers started hitting my face, like calm gusts of wind, wave after wave.

I bought a pair of earphones, and for the first time in months, used them during the car ride home. Having instrumental music blasting in my ear, while staring at the blurry city lights outside the window…. Such a mind-blowing, relaxing, feel-good experience happens so rarely (not just to me, but to anyone in the world) that it has earned its way into becoming one of my ‘core memories’, a term coined by the latest Pixar movie Inside Out. 

Last year… 
I heard that a woman’s mind is a lot like a web – wherein one memory is interconnected with a bunch of other memories – while a man’s mind is a lot like an assortment of boxes – wherein each box is an enclosed topic. Tonight, it was as if electricity pulsed through my web of a mind, resurfacing memories from years ago, tidbits of yesterday, brief instances from 12 hours ago… and like a jigsaw puzzle, my mind pieced it all together. My whole body vibrated with the joy of “I finally understand it!! Eureka!” 

Weeks ago…
I reached one of my many lowest breaking points. I was so sure I had no purpose, no worth, no reason to continue on. I was reminded of every problem the world was suffering and I told myself “I can’t anymore. I don’t want to anymore. No more, please.” I was hell-bent into believing that I was not hardwired for this world. That sometimes, the universe does a tiny little hiccup, and in the end, chokes up a pathetic mistake like me.

But tonight…
What I realize is that I have always been so selfish. I was always concerned about my calling, in how I felt every day, in what I was thinking, what I wanted, what I didn’t have. It’s such a narrow way of thinking. It was as if I were in a labyrinth, trying to find myself. I would have found what I was looking for faster if I had looked at the whole map. Instead, I looked at my own two feet to see if I was walking straight, forgetting completely what I was looking for in the first place.

Months ago… 
I fell in love. And like a lost drowning man in a sea full of thrashing waves, whenever the bliss of the deep dark nothingness tempted me to stop breathing for air, I would think about his eyes, and how much they’d wince in pain if he ever had to stand in front of my coffin. I used my love, admiration, and respect for him as my personal buoy to continue living.

All this time… 
Whenever the darkness wraps their arms around me at night and I had nothing but my bare hands to wipe the tears away, I would think about my families – my blood-related family, my Search-In family, my cosplay family, my friendship-bonded family, my Victory family, and how much it would hurt them if I successfully hurt myself. I used my responsibilities as an eldest, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, to continue living.

A few days ago… 
A friend of mine told me, “You should not only live for your loved ones, but also for yourself.” Remember every single thing that has made you unique, everything that has made you you. Inflate your own life vest by blowing your very soul into it. Inhale your own characteristics, and squeeze them all in it. Be your own life buoy.

But, tonight…
I’ve realized that, using love, responsibility or confidence may work for other people, but not for me. My life consists of  every person I have ever met, loved, hated, admired, but my life is not about pleasing them. It’s not about pleasing myself through eternal contentment with how I turned out to be.

I am not going to continue living just so none of you would cry over my death. Life should not simply be about avoiding a dark path. That’s not what it means to be alivethat’s barely holding on.

5 years ago…
I had another one of my “dark days”, and after I have stabilized, I wrote down my reflection. I wrote along the lines of “I can’t die yet. One day, I will be crossing the road like I always did, and a little girl will be walking a little too early. A truck will be coming at full speed, and I would have to be there, alive, to save that kid. If I die now, I won’t save that kid in the future.”

I remembered that journal entry with such clarity. I now realize that If I die any moment now, no one would save that girl. Sure, any other human being would see it coming and save her, but I have to think that I have an intangible role in the world. I have to believe I’m important, in a way that other people’s lives depend on me. I will save someone’s life in a way that no one else would. And so, I have to live for them. .

And by ‘them’, I don’t mean just that little girl. I aspire to become a film director, not to gain wealth or fame, but to reach out to the audience, and hopefully change a kid’s outlook on life.

June 26 2015…
When the legalization of gay marriage was announced, my first thought was about the kids. For some reason, I have this strong urge to help kid. I thought of the homosexual kids being confused about their identity because they grew up with homophobic parents, the kids that being called “gay”, the kids being bullied, the kids going through depression, the kids thinking of suicide, the kids being victims of our educational system, the kids with no money for school, the kids living with divorced parents.

And maybe this strong urge to help kids is part of my purpose.

Those helpless innocent kids, those people I hope to save in the future… I have to continue living, for them. I’m alive for others. We all are. Our greatest fault as human beings is believing that anything that we are is ours alone. Thinking that our kindness should simply be ‘quirks that will get people to date us’ rather than have it become an active work of reaching out to others is one of our biggest mistakes as a species.

The thing that hit me the most tonight was remembering that day I was so so close to committing suicide. Grade 9 Sports Fest, 12pm right after the Angelus. I was on the rooftop, standing on the ledge. One more step. That was all it took.

If I do commit suicide, I would have blocked so many possibilites. I wouldn’t have had this awesome epiphany tonight and I wouldn’t have felt this awesome feeling. I wouldn’t have joined Search-In and become a part of Circle 15, and CirCore3. I wouldn’t have passed in the top university of the Philippines. I wouldn’t have started cosplaying, and met the funniest, corniest, most creative people ever. Tonight, my whole life since that day just flashed in my head.

I can’t ever commit suicide. Not ever. Not today, not next month, not during college, not after it. I understand it now. It’s not just about looking back and seeing how far I’ve gone. It’s not about looking at what and who I have now, and worrying about how they will feel.

My past and my present is not going to save me.

My endless possibilities of the future will.

Because I have finally found myself in that labyrinth, I no longer worry about where my feet take me. I have thrown away that so-called map. Instead, I look forward to every twist and turn, every nook and cranny. I will use hope – hope that I will save someone – to continue living. And for everyone’s sake, god I hope that this time, it works.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
― John Lennon

Existential Breakthrough