#KwentongLakbayan 2016

October 19, 2016. The day the police rammed over our own people, I was with my Philo 10 class, visiting the camps of the indigenous people in the new CAL building. It was my first time this year to see them.

We were listening to the story of the Dumagat tribe leader, when an Anakbayan member showed us pictures of the incident on his phone. Pictures of a foot under a police van. I was there when he showed it to them.

It was… as if… time had slowed down. From the moment I saw their reaction… to the moment we were dismissed. The anger and grief in their eyes. It was like molten lava pooling in their eyes – wanting the people they hated to burn, and yet feeling momentous sadness as the hatred coursed through them.

Seeing them, I could feel a hundred thoughts running through their mind. They say a picture says a thousand words, and as we saw that picture, this was mine:

“Why would they do this to us?- Protecting the people who once violated our same ancestors… -What if it’s my friend? Are they okay? Who went to the Embassy? Think, think! – Wait, where are they now? What’s happening there?- Why is this happening to us?! Putang ina! Wait…Will they be safe? ….Will we?”

I called a friend from UP Manila, and he said that his friends were detained, and so were those who were badly injured, and so were the doctors who tried to help them. The police were still watching over them like vultures, waiting for their dead carcasses, excited to bring it to their boss, and feast on their triumphant battle.

I cried in the parking lot.

October 20, 2016. I did not let any insensitive sentiments pass by without them knowing this simple fact: with the freedom of speech comes an acceptance of criticism. I tried to educate as many people as I could, hoping that my voice could be heard in a void full of people who are always just full of themselves.

And I kept going, even if I had faced a handful of criticisms that had gone below the belt more than once, because the voice of the Dumagat tribe leader was echoing deep inside my mind, “You don’t need a college degree to know if you’re in the right. And if you are, then always, always choose to fight.”

October 21, 2016. I used to tell myself that I was a girl on fire, and the spit I received from strangers have doused my flame, but when human rights get trampled on with no care, I promised that I would fight. I don’t give a fuck who would stare.

As I raise my statements to the sky, hoping to attract and catch as many eyes. The broken bones my own people have had to endure had become my dried wood, and the police’s denial of the incident has become my gasoline. The friction between the police van’s tire against asphalt became the match that sparked my anger. I am so sorry. Blood had to spilled, just so eyes could be opened.

How many more gallons should be splattered on the ground before we finally receive what you’ve already had since the day you were born?

October 26, 2016. I didn’t know they were about to leave so soon. I went as soon as I could, and talked to a member of the Southern Mindanao tribe. He talked about the mining in his land, and most of all, he talked about how thankful he was to be here. Here, in UP Diliman.

That night, we had the Hugpungan, a cultural performance by the different national minority groups. I had chills the whole night, watching children talk of battle stories in front of us, amazed at the bursts of yellow, blue, red, and black all over their traditional clothes. These are children that are deprived of what we call a childhood full of innocence and Disney movies, and instead were given the battleground as their theatre stage.

After their performances, our Chancellor, Michael Tan, and the male and female leaders of the national minorities gave some closing remarks. They said, “We hope that next year, when we come back, we will no longer tell stories of our hardships, of war, and of tragedy. Hopefully, next year, we will bring with us stories of triumph.”

The host announced the different national minority groups for a curtain call. They danced in a circular motion around the stage. She invited our Chancellor to come up with them, along with other respectable leaders. The others started to invited the audience. Slowly, more and more people filled up the stage, dancing freely, chanting, “Ayan na. Ayan na. Ayan na ang sambayanan.” They mingled and merged as one uniting force – senior teachers, people of authority, students, indigenous people, children… All moving in one direction.

I was left astounded as I watched this spontaneous scenario unfold onstage. People of all ages, of different backgrounds, smiling, interacting, despite all odds – because their one goal was finally accomplished. A hopeful ending to this journey full of pain.

October, 2016. I cannot pinpoint the exact date, but this month was the month I found my purpose. This Lakbayan has changed my collegiate experience. The montage of martyrs showed every Iskolar ng Bayan who had not only dedicated their lives to the national minorities, but also died for them. I knew, then, that I wanted to be one of them.

As someone who is determined to become a psychologist, people forget that mental health is not just an issue of the proletariat or the peti-bourgeoise, but also of our national minorities. That we voice out our concerns for the health of the middle class, than the health of the children who have witnessed the burning of their schools, and other unthinkable tragedies, says a lot. I am not saying that we should disregard people who face monsters under their beds, just because other people face monsters with guns.

What I imply is this: do what you must to ensure that the people you believe should have what they must have WILL have what they must have, and I will do the same.

The indigenous people believed that UP Diliman was the safest place for them to stay, and they have stayed in many, many places. In their whole year, we have guranteed them 2 weeks away from military forces.

14 days of peace and shelter for them, in the rest of their 365 days.

14 days of enlightenment for me, in the rest of mine.

And I will not stop fighting until that 14 days of peace, turns into a three hundred and sixty-five.

#KwentongLakbayan 2016

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.)

Tonight…
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.”

Tonight…
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.

Personally…
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