April 26 last year, when I found out that I wouldn’t be able to march together with my batchmates, I was devastated. It had been a long, terrible week—just days before, I was rushed out of a room in a squeaky wheelchair after fainting during a hearing in Manila City Hall; I broke down during our 8:30AM Speech class when my professor and classmates asked me how my case was doing; I had also just lost my 11-year-old terrier Yuki (who took her last breath on a Monday, which proves that Mondays suck and always will).
I literally had to step back and ask myself if all of this was real-life or some episode from that Saturday night show Ate Charo hosted. There was just too much drama. And when I thought that I couldn’t handle any more of this, I picked my phone up at a very ungodly hour to dial my friend Jana on FaceTime—who, prior to this, agreed to direct our cameras to the ceiling so she wouldn’t have to witness my ugly crying (nor see my post-sobbing “tomato face”).
I told her how frustrated I was—how much I wanted to leave the university just so I can finally take an exit from everything that reminded me of the past. I felt stuck. Disheartened. Angry. I wanted to go far, far away and start anew. Fast. But she reminded me of this: “You weren’t meant to leave UP this way. Not like this.”
She was right. UP was so much more than a place that reminded me of hurt. It was where I formed my principles. Met my friends. And eventually, learned to soar. It was home. And nobody should choose to leave home like that. Especially not like that.
“I’m looking forward to FaceTimes that aren’t directed towards our bedroom ceilings, crying tears of joy, and the morning after all of this,” Jana told me.
True enough, tomorrow came, and days have become better.
The journey hasn’t been smooth-sailing all throughout, and though I may still be in the process of healing—days have indeed become better.
Photo by Pauline Disuanco
I had recently switched my sablay to the left, which means that (hurrah!), I’ve officially graduated! My family’s become closer than we were before. I just started my second job in publishing—as a kid, it has always been my dream to become a writer, and it still feels surreal living it. I met true friends who continue to shower me with so much understanding and support, and finally got to let go of toxic people in my life. I also met someone who showed me that love is patient and never self-seeking. And most of all, I learned to love and accept myself—without having to apologize, without having to feel ashamed.
To all the Janas in this world: Thank you. Not all heroes wear capes—sometimes, they just say the right words at the right time. As cliche as it is, love, patience, and selflessness do save lives.
And of course, to every woman who has ever been emotionally or physically harassed: You are not alone. You are braver and stronger, and heck, even smarter than you think.
Your harasser may have hurt you. He/she may have even wounded you with words, saying that you’re stupid, or that you’re a slut, or that you’re some-other-hurtful-thing-you-know- you’re not. Remember: You’re not.
This is not the end. You will break free. And you will also heal.
You may be shaped by your past, but you will NEVER be defined by it.
And finally, remember that you don’t have to fight your battle all by yourself—after all, Jesus already won your battle for you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your parents, a counselor, a psych, and of course, to your Jana.
Photo by Pauline Disuanco
This story isn’t about my past anymore, but of my redemption. Through Jesus, I am free.
Now on to better things. Here’s to having hope in every tomorrow!
A year and 2 months later—
"The morning after all of this."
June 22, 2017