#DearDiary: Dawn Is Nearing

#DearDiary: Dawn Is Nearing

I stare at the ceiling and sigh.

I toss in bed yet again, grabbing another pillow, carefully placing it in between my thighs.

I try to think of happy thoughts, but all that comes in my mind is a list of things I’ve yet to do. It’s long. And endless. I do not know where to start and how to begin.

I feel like I’m running out of time.

Constantly.

What am I chasing after?

Has life always been this fast-paced?

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Never Had Yourself Tested For HIV Before? Here's Everything You Need To Know!

Never Had Yourself Tested For HIV Before? Here's Everything You Need To Know!

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend—a public health practitioner—picked me up from work. I had just hopped into his car when he casually mentioned that he was going to be on radio the next day—a morning show had invited him to talk about the new HIV and AIDS law. What?! I exclaimed. That’s awesome! I was so excited for him! I’ve always been so proud of him for his dedication to the Philippine healthcare system. I was also ecstatic because he was given a huge platform to educate and spread awareness.

But on our drive home, I realized that I’d never taken an HIV test, even though I supported the campaign against HIV stigma and discrimination. I even encouraged other people not to be ashamed to get tested. After all, we get all sorts of health-related tests done: breast exams, eye exams, urine tests, etc—so why be ashamed of an HIV test, right?

“But why have I not taken it?” I asked myself. Then began a series of monologues inside my head. “This isn’t right. I have to practice what I preach!” I knew I wanted to fully support the advocacy, so I decided that I wanted (read: needed) to have a test done. “Very well then. I’ll take the test. Tonight. And while I’m at it, I’ll educate myself more on the issue, too.

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Grander Than the Grand Canyon

Grander Than the Grand Canyon

I can still remember how my knees trembled as I stood on the edge, overlooking the valley, soaking it all in. The perfect gradient of pink, orange, and blue. The quiet skyline. The million-age rock formations standing still. Majestic. Wise. I was in love with Creation—how it made me finite and infinite at the same time. I remember whispering a two-word prayer in my head, over and over again: Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

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[An Open Letter] I Grew Up Being The Crush Ng Bayan’s Best Friend—Here’s What I Learned

[An Open Letter] I Grew Up Being The Crush Ng Bayan’s Best Friend—Here’s What I Learned


Growing up, I never considered myself a “pretty girl”. I knew I looked average (or on good hair days, maybe even above average. Wink.)—but never crush-ng-bayan-worthy. Back in the day, there wasn’t Instagram yet—so my past time was spent flipping through teen magazines, admiring the models on the pages, wanting to be just like them. They were just like the crush ng bayan in our school. Fair and flawless, with long, straight hair and a pretty set of teeth. But I was none of those: I am dark-skinned, my hair is wavy, and before getting braces, I had a crooked smile with two prominent front teeth.

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The Other Side Of Love: A Public Diary Entry

The Other Side Of Love: A Public Diary Entry

Love isn’t always butterflies, and sunshine, and twirling and dancing. Love isn’t always an Instagram-worthy picture. Sometimes, love is two people crying together, holding each other’s hands, asking Jesus to take the pain away because everything is just too much to bear. It’s withstanding storms. Accepting each other’s past. Having faith to move on. Together.

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'I Will Always Have Paris' : On Finding Inspiration And Post-Vacation Blues

'I Will Always Have Paris' : On Finding Inspiration And Post-Vacation Blues

You need “boring days” to appreciate the “exciting days”. Bland food to enjoy the scrumptious. Lonely days to look forward to connection. A creative block to feel the surge of ideas—the high that comes with a light bulb moment.

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I Saw My Harasser For The First Time In Years

I Saw My Harasser For The First Time In Years

I often write to share stories—but on days like this, I write to remember.

Dear future self, this was what happened to you on July 26, 2018 at 6PM. I sincerely hope that by the time you’re reading this, you’re doing better. But if you’re not, it’s okay. Hang on. The sun will still shine bright tomorrow.

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A Poem For My Mother

As a little girl, I would always read bedtime stories about mothers who were sweet and gentle, so naturally, I thought that a mother’s love was just that: tender and warm and sweet. I grew up looking for those qualities in my mother, but I just ended up getting frustrated because she wasn’t what I wanted her to be. But now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize that each mom is different—each shows her love in different ways.

My mother shows hers by being strong and standing up for us. I will never forget the afternoon she held my hand during one of my harassment case hearings. She stormed into the city hall, with her chin raised high, exuding the statement—no one hurts my daughter! I was weak then, but she was strong. She was—and is—my rock.  My anchor. My fortress. My sunshine. My mother.

MOTHER.jpg

My Mother

By Hershey Neri

 

They say a woman’s touch

Is soft and gentle

Like a feather in the wind

—but not my mother’s.

 

She is not a lily in a field,

Basking in the spring sun,

Pretty but fragile. 

 

She is an anchor,

Formidable,

Withstanding heavy storms.

 

A bamboo tree 

Bending in the wind,

Resilient and wise.

 

She is the sunrise on a cliff,

Majestic. 

 

She is the flash of lightning before thunder.

In pitch darkness, she is bold. 

She is light.

 

She is as clever as she is careful,

as strong as she is beautiful.

My mother.

When he told me that I wouldn't go places without him, I cried. But only until the next morning.

A poem by Hershey Neri

This is a short piece I wrote for my 2015 self—and to every woman who needs to hear this, too.

poem1.jpg

When he told me
That I wouldn’t go places without him,
I cried.
But only until the next morning.
Then, I wiped my tears with the corners of my shirt, and hopped—
on a bus, 
a bike,
a raft,
a plane.
And I started my own adventure.
I chased,
Chased after waterfalls and sunsets and dragonflies.
And I stood,
Stood on a cliff, in pitch black, waiting for day.
Stood on a rock atop a mountain, with my fist raised high. I am free.


When he told me
That nobody would find me,
Because I was far too difficult to love,
I was a child, looking for her mother.
But I realized that greed
Does not nurture
Nor does poison protect.
I was looking for love in all the wrong places.
I licked my wounds,
kissed my scars,
And a voice inside me whispered,
“You are not weak”.
I stared at the mirror and loved the woman I saw.
I am not his—
I am my own.

 

Lead photo taken in 2016 at Mt. Pamitinan

You And I, Three Hundred Sixty Five Days Ago: A Love Letter

 

365 days ago. We were with a dozen of your friends on a Friday night, way past my bedtime, and right in the middle of a party, you leaned into my ear and whispered, “I want to see the sunset in Croatia with you.”

“Wh—what?” I stammered.

“What I mean to say is I’m really happy to be with you.”

I blinked. I thought that was a non-conventional way of telling someone you like them. But I also found it sweet. “I’m really happy with you, too.”

I’d always thought I would feel my heart race or get butterflies in my stomach when this moment would come—you know, like in the movies. But surprisingly, everything was still. There were no fireworks, no “foot-popping” moment like in Princess Diaries. But everything was peaceful. And also familiar, and calm, and safe—like everything is as it should be.

“So does that mean we’re like, ‘together’?” I asked. I wanted to stab myself with a spoon—what a way to ruin a moment. 
You smiled. “Yes, I’d love that.”

I sighed. Thank God you didn’t find me awkward. “So..do you want to grab some nuggets at the Mcdonald’s nearby?”

“Absolutely.”

And off we strolled, hand in hand, laughing at how silly we looked like at 2AM. And also because we were simply...happy.

It’s been 365 days, my Joshua. Thank you for this kind of love I don’t just see in the movies. Thank you for this kind of love that’s real. ❤️

You And 1 2.jpg

All photos by our favorite third wheel, Chris Clemente (@clementegallery).

My Post-Birthday Musings: On Staying Young, On Choosing Friends, And On Pursuing Happiness

Written on March 3, 2018

 

The weeks after your birthday is quite a sappy period, isn't it?

With all the candles blown out, the leftover cake gone, the guests out of the door, and the confetti on the floor swept away, you look around and realize—the party has ended.

And that's when it all sinks in: 365 days have passed. You start to feel sentimental, and begin to ask yourself questions like—What significant things happened in the past year? Are you living life to the fullest? Are you living a life with purpose? Are you happier? Or perhaps, a bit wiser?

Scribbling on my journal post-birthday has become sort of a tradition for me. If you'd allow me, I'd want to share with you some of my musings:

On Staying Young

I’d always felt uncomfortable telling people my age because I didn’t want them to think that I was “too young”. (In case you're wondering: I am now 22.) I wanted to be taken seriously—the last thing I wanted was to be tagged as just another “millennial” in the workplace.

But I’ve come to realize—there’s nothing wrong with being one.

Because while “young” means reckless and naive and inexperienced to some people, it also means curious and enthusiastic and hungry. It means having courage to take risks, make mistakes, and start all over again—no matter how big, no matter how small, no matter how silly or bizarre or absurd. It means wanting to learn and learn and learn, day after day.

Let's stay "young" forever, shall we?

On Choosing Friends

It's true what they say—the older you get, the less important it is for you to have tons of friends, simply because you've already found the ones worth keeping. 

The thing with genuine friends is that they're hard to find—and it took me a long time to find mine. They're not necessarily the people you see everyday (though let's be honest, it would be pretty cool to live in apartments next to each other like in 'Friends'), but they are, however, the people you want to celebrate your milestones with, big or small. Like a promotion, or an engagement, or a graduation, or even something as simple as a birthday.

They're also the people you can be yourself with, simply because they're the ones you don't even have to please. I used to be concerned of what my "friends" would think of me all the time—but I eventually got tired. The cliché phrase rings true—you're never going to please everyone. But it doesn't matter—the 'right' people know and accept you for who you truly are.

Learn to drown out the noise. Surround yourself with love and acceptance. Cultivate genuine friendship with genuine people.

On Pursuing Happiness

When was the last time you did something for yourself? 

Life is fleeting. Isn't it a waste of time when we don't do the things that give our hearts pure joy?

As much as you can, try to pursue what makes you happy, every single day. You don't have to do something drastic right away. I'm not talking about quitting your 9 to 5 or leaving everything behind to move to a far away country. Pursuing happiness can be something as simple as choosing to rest because your body needs to. Or giving in to that slice of cake. Or in my case, intentionally choosing to make time for your passion.

Blogging will always be my first love. All I ever wanted to do was write, and write, and write—but all I did was work, and work, and work. For instance, I would tell myself I'd work hard tonight so that I can blog for myself the next day—but you know what? 'Next day' never came. I eventually drowned in a never-ending cycle of work, because the truth is, I had a never-ending list of things to do.

Seven years had passed, and here I am, starting back from zero. But it's okay. I am here—dressed in my pajamas with my hair all scrunched up in a bun, typing away on one corner of my bed at 12AM—pursuing my passion even after a long day at work, just because dreamers never quit, and dreamers gotta start somewhere, even if it means starting from scratch.

Please—never give up on the things that make you feel alive.

xx,

Hershey

Pursuing Happiness, typing on my keyboard, one word at a time

Story Time: One Saturday Night In The Middle Of A Parking Lot

“Just be in the moment, darling.”

I glanced at him and smiled. I stopped pressing the shutter and looked away from the 5 inch-screen.

“All right,” I giggled as I tucked my phone under my thigh. “It’s not like I need 17 photos of the fireworks in my camera roll, right?”

We had just finished dinner (a meal good for five people, for just the two of us) when we climbed into his car and heard a loud ‘bang!’ We looked into the distance, and the sky lit up with beautiful colors: shades of red, and orange, and green—and sometimes, even magenta. We rolled down the windows and enjoyed the free show.

In our silence, I couldn’t help but wonder—How can happiness be this simple? And how can something this simple, be grand? Love. It makes us vulnerable and strong, all at the same time, doesn’t it? And it’s funny how it makes us ask questions like these in the middle of a parking lot on a Saturday night.

He nudged my elbow.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yes it is,” I smirked.

Everything felt magical, but only because everything was real.

Be in the moment, he said. I looked around—the engine purred. Passersby gathered around to watch. His hand was locked in mine. And I was happy.

Welcome To My Blog's New Home!

One boring afternoon seven years ago, I signed up on blogspot and started my own website.

I was a high school student on her sembreak—and the first thing I wrote about was my Unforgettable Trick or Treat Experience. (Yes, I went Trick or Treating at sixteen because I was deprived of a ~childhood~) By the way, I dressed up as a Walmart version of Cruella de Ville—but that didn't matter. My teenager self thought I looked fabulous!

A lot of things happened from there, and you guys have been witnesses to these—I graduated high school, passed the UPCAT, enjoyed college to the fullest, broke up with my high school sweetheart because I was a jerk, shifted out of BS Nursing and into BA Organizational Communication, signed up for internships, got into a toxic long term relationship because I thought I could ~change people~, had my heart broken (surprise!), finished my thesis, graduated, had my heart broken again, overcame a harassment case, went soul searching for almost two years, had my heart broken yet again (I wish I could give my 19-year-old self a facepalm), worked out and loved myself more, got a job at an advertising and digital production company, went on a date with a guy I've been friends with for years, realized I liked him, fell in love with the right person at the right time, left my first job to expand my horizons, started working at a publishing company.....and the rest is history. (This is my lifestory in run-on sentences, basically).

I feel like because I've learned so much, I've also outgrown a lot of things, and it was finally time to bid my blogspot adieu

I am grateful I have you guys to share my life journey with. And I am even more grateful for the friendship we've made through the years—to everyone who sent me a message of support, thank you. And to everyone who struggled, overcame, and shared their own stories with me, thank you. This is what this humble blog is for, after all. 

Let's keep this post short: welcome to my new website.

Let's keep sharing our stories, shall we?

xx,

Hershey

www.heyhershey.squarespace.com

Photo by Hollie Harmsworth

Public Journal: "I Haven't Been Saying 'No' More Often"

Have you ever been overwhelmed with so much workload, that all you can do is stare into nothingness and feel paralyzed? No, it's not an exaggeration. Work paralysis is a real thing, you guys, and it can get pretty depressing.

I've been sleeping no earlier than 4:00 AM the past few nights, trying my best to juggle 4 jobs. As I write this, I still have 7 pending articles due for submission before sunrise. I have around 10 more packages to shoot, around 30+ e-mails to read (and *actually* have to reply to), and a dozen more people to meet up with for work. My list of things to do can go on and on, and while I'm incredibly grateful for work, I can't help but feel exhausted.

Dog-tired.

Worn out.

Burnt.

I've been feeling unhappy—not just about work, but about myself. Multi-tasking has its own disadvantages, and it has greatly affected my performance. I've been feeling frustrated because I haven't been happy with my outputs the past few weeks. There's nothing more I hate than sending in half-baked work and knowing I can do better. Three days ago, I finally opened up on Instagram about struggling with perfectionism, and God knows how this week has taken a toll on me.

But after hours of reflecting, trying to find out why I've been feeling so sad and tired, I finally got to pinpoint the root cause of all this sobbing in bed, and it's as simple as this—

I haven't been saying 'no' more often.

I grew up being a 'yes' girl

A people-pleaser. A person you can always count on, even at the last minute (or at least I try to be one).

"Hey Hersh, can you go to this event?"

"Yes!"

"Can you work on this for me?"

"Sure!"

"Are you up for this?"

"Why not?"

While that's not necessarily a bad thing, saying 'yes' to every. single. opportunity. that knocks on your door still isn't healthy.

Because sometimes, a 'yes' to something can also mean a 'no' to more important things in life. 

Case in point—I said yes to a lot of work due this week (#RaketIsLife pa more!!), so I eventually ended up saying no to taking care of myself (I haven't been eating right and sleeping right), and even to making time for the people I love (I had to turn down dinner dates with friends and family just so I can finish all the freelance work I had already signed up for).

And because I've already made a commitment before even weighing things out, I don't have time for the things that really matter to me. Instead of consistently writing for my blog (something I've always wanted to do but don't have time for), or researching on which grad school to go to next year (whatever happened to, "I'll do this tonight when I get home, promise!"?), or Googling opportunities I can possibly grab to spend a year or two in my ultimate dream city, New York (this has been on my to-do list for two years now), or even resting, all I do in my free time is work, work, work (and occasionally go on bathroom breaks in between).

So yes, there we have it—The Curious Case on Why I've Been Feeling Shitty All Week Long has been S-O-L-V-E-D!

But we all know that identifying the problem is one thing, but actually working on it is another.

Next month, I'll start with a blank slate and vow to get my priorities straight. More importantly, I promise to finally have the courage to say 'no' to certain opportunities, so that I can say 'yes' to far greater things, to things that really matter.

-------

I woke up this rainy morning to a WhatsApp message that said,

"Walang pasok!".

I didn't know work suspensions were a thing, but nonetheless, I was incredibly grateful. I went to bed at 5AM the last night, and was already feeling terrible the moment I woke up. I eventually devoted the whole day to resting and to catching up with my backlogs!

Thank you, universe, for this unexpected gift. Rest was what I really needed.

Naligo ako today, promise.

PS. Stay safe and dry, everyone!

xoxo,

Hershey

My Sablay Story: A Victor, Not a Victim

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