Unfiltered #02

I wish I knew when to look away.

A safe distance is all I ever get to keep.


So this is what you get after a toxic relationship.

At first you open yourself up in the hopes that you might turn out fine- that perhaps you are okay- and if you are not, at least you will be. You surrender yourself to the wheels of decision making and trust yourself in whatever lands. For a while, it gets messy, but you assure yourself that this is growth; it’s messy, but you’re growing anyway. You surrender yourself to endless nights and give yourself up to vodka bottles and beer sessions like the tip of the bottle is all you ever kissed your whole life. You promise yourself that you’re going to get better, that perhaps there was some other way to cope, but this is the best way how. Repeatedly, without hearing the little echoes in your head telling you to stop and settle down and finally live a life outside the walls of a drunken home.

And then someone comes along.

And yes, you start from the beginning. You start thinking, “this is exactly how it started with the other.” And it scares you more than it leaves you hoping that maybe, just maybe, he might like you too.

He comes along and you start looking for him at places you never sought comfort from. You knew just how much you hated this place but God! With him around you feel like this is home. Perhaps, this could be home. With him around- hey, maybe you’ll even stay. Stay. When all you ever did was run away, move, settle for temporary.

He comes along and the game changes. Your days become longer and nights jive with sunlight and you start wondering how you ever slept with such a empty heart.

You look at him, and ask why.

I, with utmost sincerity, wish I knew when to look away. Because so many girls already have their eyes on you. And I’m not one to chase. To mingle with all the others just to get to you.

But God, you don’t know how much I want to try. You make me want to try. All over again. You make me want to set aside hurting just to get close to you. You make me doubt in the belief of truth. In the very naked truth that you will never come to like me.

You make me want to try.

I seldom try.

But you came along. Of all people, you came along and made me want to try.

But I am afraid. I am afraid of being pushed aside. I am afraid of getting turned down. I am afraid of not trying but more so in trying. I am afraid. I am so afraid that I shut myself down. Completely.


I can only look at you.

A safe distance is all I ever get to keep.

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Letters

When all of this is over, I just want to stand up straight, look my future colleagues, my parents whom I pretty much owe everything to, the people I serve, and above all, myself, in the eyes, and tell them as simply as how my heart is calm and content, that I upheld my honor through the years of recurring, dispiriting, unforgiving journey.

It’s been three years. I still feel gloriously in awe of how possibly, the universe read and prompted to accept my woes as a human incapable of living within the corners of good and just. Really, how in this complex and vast time- space continuum did I make it to one of the best universities in the world, when I’m an average, occasionally flunking, lacking, ordinary teenager? I sure could have been useful in the revolutionary path, considering I have quite a history of standing my ground to never, not in a million years, merely follow. Other than that, it was a mystery as to how I got accepted in the State University. In fact, three years after, I still wonder; I never imagined myself nearing the end.

I held on to my belief that my purpose in this life (because perhaps there is another I might get to live but definitely, my chances are slim) is to cure others of their inability to live and do daily work under normal conditions, or, conceivably, to help them live with that, to aid my countrymen in achieving a healthier life in terms where the marginalized is a priority. To succeed, in my terms, is to see others live more comfortably, to perceive others, the ones they care for and care for them included, breath more easily, because I have offered them years of mastery in my chosen field- medicine. I believed in that. Surely, there are times (probably more times than I have been assured) when I would get uninspired, unmotivated, only left with the scraps of my lapses and incompetence as an undergraduate. If I didn’t do good now by getting grades above satisfactory, what could I even help others with in the future? I could never settle for mediocre, or even less than perfect; medicine required precision, accuracy, ethical judgment; there is simply no room for mistake. Often times I would stare at my returned worksheets, exams, and quizzes, and wonder in the name of all goodness, what more shall I sacrifice to push myself harder than my limit, only to be good enough?

Here I stand, anyway.

Amidst the falling debris molded from constant grades close to three (or as we call it, the golden tres).

All my best friends, co- members in my organizations, my classmates, people I grew up with or met in college were naturally very intelligent, academics- wise. You can say I was insecure; mound of reviewers, hours of studying, moments I neglected sleep to craft scientific papers and finish exercises always weigh to nothing because I still get failing marks in return.

I knew I was not stupid, though. This system of repeated failures just framed my habits and my thinking to settle for far less than what I am made of and what I can still attain. Years of Benedictine education (what I received from attending a Catholic institution for secondary education) did not sculpt me to be alright with failure, much more with giving up and not trying. Now that I am in a university with higher standards, I am expected way more. I get to realize this now- three years after. The reason why I end up unhappy and mediocre, more often than not, is because I settle. I live with the fact that I am okay with unsatisfactory.

These moments of constant failure strive me to re- evaluate my routine. My mindset. My faith in myself, in my program, in our mantra Honor & Excellence, in my God. Because it’s true anyway: I cannot graduate, end this chapter of my life, and finish this academic journey without understanding that some of my study habits don’t work. The ways I reward myself do not work. My every day mantra, my disposition as of current, do not work. My hard work doesn’t pay off not because it is not enough, but because I do not redesign the blueprint of my voyage to achieve greater, substantial altitudes.

I doze off in class, choose to take advantage of the privileges I have to make excuses. I rest more than I deserve to. I choose to stay passive of the lessons I am faced with as a student. I choose to not stay religious with listening and with managing my time. I have eminent shortcomings and I choose to ignore them. I seem unworthy because I do not reinvent myself. I do not challenge myself. I do not let go of things hindering my growth. I choose to limit myself in a world that I was never meant to grow fondly of.

This is me. And I am making a letter of grace because God granted my prayers of receiving an education from the University of the Philippines. I am sending out a letter to my Creator, for He is constant in His presence, for He has guided me relentlessly, significantly more in dire need, such as times like this. He is the source of my strength, the cause of my refinement, hopefully to become a better version of myself. Moreover, this is me, sending out a letter that perhaps, the universe might grant, under its light, one more time; a request to help me live differently, in so a manner where others might benefit from my existence, in a way that I am worthy of their plead for help, in such a length that I know, from the core of my dignity and conscience, that I lived and shall live a life of purpose in honor and excellence.

2017 Run Through

It has been a sail unworthy to be called smooth. My canoe had sunk too many times amidst the constant trying; I might have drowned a little, too. This voyage made my muscles sore. I heard my bones crack from the waves urging me to head back to shore. My mind was my sole enemy, for who else would I be fighting in this journey alone? I would really love not to mention how my heart has lost its very beat from the every day battles I had to endure. But alas, it has to be spoken of.

This is my attempt to record the sinking, drowning, rowing, and the rummage for air, while I still can remember. As I go back and read this one day, I will know I existed, in this moment in time. Survived. It will then be definite and irrefutable: I had not let the waters whelm my travel, more so my very will.

I welcomed 2017 with a heart unwell and broken.

January was my birth month. I was turning eighteen then. I was left with no time to plan my dream debut for I was too occupied with moping and being sad. Imagine opening your arms to adulthood, wishing there had been someone to hold your hand while you do it. It went on for a few months. I would catch myself thinking about a love that lasted for years, wondering how it would cause two people to hurt each other with the same passion. It was one of the hardest calamities I have ever come to live through. I never understood a love so brutal, tough, and unkind. For a whole year, I tried making sense of it, but I am nowhere near to having the case rested. I believe now, that there are some questions I am to figure some day, or not at all. To this day, I am still hurting. Not because we chose differently nor because I was left with broken promises, but since I believe my heart still questions. It still asks, but it no longer yearns. It mourns when it remembers. It forgets. It forgives. I loved fully, and I am sure she did, too. I am certain. Our brief love story had a fate that was never meant to last, and I find utmost and sincere bliss for I had seen she was content letting me go, even more because I was able to become closer to the woman I aspired and needed to be. As I constantly put it, it was a must that I lose so I must become.

This moment of acceptance is the moment I glide through the stormy heavens smashing hard on ice cold water. It was a choice I had to make to stay alive.

I had the worst semesters of my life.

From January to December 2017 I was studying non stop. It was hard coping with my time schedule, considering I came from the humanities (from barely having laboratory classes for six hours in the heat required by dreading experiments) to the sciences. Also, I took mid year classes, leaving me with barely three weeks to rest the whole year, plus my December break. I know: I should be thankful for the case is worse for other students. I would not like to invalidate my adjustments, nevertheless, for what I went through isn’t that as easy. This year, I experienced the extreme. I studied a lot, made reviewers, beat myself up settling for mediocrity, whispered to myself, “you’ll never be good enough” out of disappointment and frustration; I memorised, analyzed, computed all day long, skipped family gatherings, neglected rest, broke down, got sick. Still, after everything, I would barely pass. It was as if I was just lucky to make it through the passing mark. I was never equipped to fail and settle for failure, nor was I prepared for it. I was taught to succeed. Every time. This year I had managed to take few sips of this long, academic journey and realize this is only the beginning.

It was also high time for me to oversee what my plans for the future are. I loved teaching at an early age, but I could never give up my love for medicine. I am still trying to surmise if getting a PhD and a degree in medicine would be feasible.

I carried on, all the same.

I lost friends.

They say maturity has always involved choosing to keep your circles small. Growing older would require ending friendships for whatever reason. But I lost mine for a reason I’d like to keep private. When losing them hurt so much, I knew- for the very short time we’ve known each other- I had already loved all of them. If they ever come to read this (I doubt circumstances would), I want them to realize that they were those friends I lost along the way. I sure had my own share of wrong doing. That is why I still remember them up to now; everything I do for my betterment had become a part of my offering my apologies. I grew even more fonder of them at the time I spent without having them around.

Then again, there are certain types of friends you know were nothing but a mere full blown season. They were there for some part of the trip, but they had to alight sooner than expected. They may have caused conflict that simply cannot be reconciled. Or simply because you know deep down, the connection can last no longer. You may see yourself checking them from time to time, and they may also check up on you. But it will be nothing more than that. Common courtesy, and the art of being civil.

My insecurities grew larger.

I gained a lot of weight. You know how family members are with comments; most of them would tell me I’ve gained so much in a very offensive manner. While it’s true, I get hurt sometimes. I couldn’t handle academic stress wisely, hence the eating. Moreover, I was always very religious with my skin care routine but this year, it just didn’t work. I would spend so much and yet the results are not as sharp as its cost. I was really frustrated with myself. I hated myself for all of it.

I knew I was the captain of my ship, anyway. I had to do something.

I lost my grandmother days before Christmas.

I’m putting this last because this is the hardest to talk about.

I have no words for the woman she has been.

My father and his family have always been traditional and Christ- centered, following the philosophy of the Catholic Church. While I already see flaws in my religion, I remain as one because I was raised to be, and because I was taught, from the beginning, to love my God. I am firm this is not hypocrisy- for I still believe in the Holy Spirit- that the people may change- not in their faith, but in the way they practice their religion. Going back, I had to mention this for the woman who influenced me most about knowing the Lord is my grandmother. She would always make me recite the Holy Rosary, along with other prayers. More than Graduation rites, what would make her elated is my receiving the holy sacraments. She would get all giddy when I talk about attending mass and being a reader from time to time in our First Friday mass at school. She would never impose, but she would teach.

I will always remember her smiling. I never saw her cry, nor in pain. I never got to see her when she was struggling the last few days of her life- and maybe this was a blessing for me; maybe God spared me from seeing her in pain, so I could always remember her happy. It saddened me, without a doubt, when I didn’t get to visit her in the ICU. I was studying too far from home, I didn’t have the chance to bade her good bye.

The night I had learned she died, I kept quiet. I talked with my Mom over text messages to receive updates with everything going on in my grandparents’ home. I was in shock, I guess. I never saw it coming. She was strong. She wasn’t going to let go. We were all used to her coming home after trips to the hospital. We were used to her coming home.

I had to be strong for Dad. I had to endure sleepless nights at Lola’s wake, so I could handle everything else Dad might worry about. I volunteered to stay and sleep with Lola during her wake. I had to be busy so I could avoid the pain of her gone. I didn’t feel the regret, the loss, the agony, until my last look at her. That was the moment I felt the urgency and the weight of letting go.

We all knew Dad was her favorite. Dad was everything Lola was. Extraordinary. With her gone, I knew a part of him died, too. During the week of her wake, I would always see Lolo peek at Lola’s casket and talk to her from day one to her increment. He would cry. Break down. For 53 years, they had been waking up in each others’ arms. It was new to him to wake up alone with no one to talk to. Ultimately, loss was a new feeling to Dad’s family and ours. We all miss her dearly, to this day. We will, for our whole lives.


Lola,

Thank you for the woman you have curated yourself to be. You will always be family- our source of strength, kindness, patience, reverence and faith. You deserved more. But knowing the life you had lived of simplicity, we are assured His love and grace is already enough for you in your lifetime.

Pray for us always.

Rest; worry not for we will be fine.

Your ease is ours, too.

We love you Nanay.


I offer you grace, 2017.  I am thankful for the time you had lent me to build up strength and wisdom. You are an inch of history I am about to conclude. Be my platform to rise.

It’s 1:45 AM and here’s something:

I am currently in my third year college, taking up BS Biology in the University of the Philippines. Every semester seems a lot tougher than the former. It drives us wild. In fact, merely remembering everything I did to surpass the hell semesters pulls me into a state of anxiety. Every after semesters, I usually end up celebrating, going out in the streets partying; after, I would come home to my parents, leave everything behind to Los Baños until I come back. It’s different this time, however.

This semester gave me a gift.

What this semester taught me is to prioritize my academics over anything else. Family could possibly outrank school, but as I recall that everything I put into work is for them, I realize sacrifices have to be made, no matter how terrible it feels. I have always been close to my ideals. I have always lived in a routine that fuels me throughout the process, making sure I never burn out. They, more often than not, actualize as extremes. A lot from my social life and hobbies end up getting offered in exchange for work, but it is a given that these ideals make me feel more satisfied than drinking and partying ever did and ever can. For a while I had been drawn apart from it. The reason why this semester has been full of breakdowns is because I failed to deem sacrifices necessary like I did. I had departed from my very understanding of sticking to my routines. I had taken a path that led me closer to mediocrity when I am trying to get my way through it.

The reason why I did not celebrate it out is because this semester, I lost more of myself than I ever have my whole life. For the past four months, it feels as though I lost myself a little each day. Moreover, the reason why this semester has been a constant dose of giving up is because I placed little value in hard work. Easy never kept me going; I believe, without a doubt, in perseverance. There is glory in that. What I have now, I had to work hard for. And I have to realize that I need to keep working. I have to keep making sacrifices. I have to offer the best of me so that I may grow. I have to get defeated in the process. I have to get hurt. I need to fail. So that I may rise and try again. It is in these moments that I find myself swim in strength, and I hope this drive will not cease. I still have a long way to go, but I am getting there.

I will get there.

I do not owe myself rest.

This whole month has left me in a floating bubble, wondering what a real, pounding heart must feel like across bare skin. I refused alcohol for weeks now. I haven’t had a single stick of Marlboro black in between my lips. It may look as if I’ve depended lifeline on drugs, but for a while they’ve been keeping me sane. And I know this blog post may look as if I’m about to tell a huge devastating story of my life, but no. Definitely, this is something else.

I woke up to an empty house on a cold Saturday morning. It did felt lonely, but it also felt good. It felt like I had no one, but it sure felt like I had myself. I’m not on a journey to self- discovery (or maybe I am) but man, have I always been so interested in living inside. So as I stretched my body and faced the window, I made myself promise.

I do not need to wait. I do not need temporary.

I have known the taste of nighttime for far too long that I have forgotten how the sun kissed my cheek and how the wind embraced my being. I have come into terms with my scour for solitude. I understand now. This is why I loved being alone. So long have I wandered around my city without tagging anyone along. Magical things happen when I’ve got no one to depend on but my own two feet and my enthusiasm. What bedazzles me as always is how often I get lost traveling around and how brave I am not to stop and ask for directions unless I am completely in a state of anxiety. I just look to my left and right and choose. And my choices have always been the right ones. I get to entrust myself to myself. I get to protect myself. I get to offer myself the kindness it deserves. I get to give her time. I get to give her the world. I get to give her vision. I do not regret my decisions.

But I do regret not giving myself the best of everything. More often than not have I fallen into the traps of sloth, mediocrity, ignorance, and passiveness for I simply do not do. This, by far, is my biggest regret. This led me to a lifelong mantra: time is deemed not a social construct; time is time and it is cruel for seeming as if it is absent.

I waste time trying to rest, believing I owe myself one. I waste time in the fraud pleasures of it. Hence, this is I, discouraging any belief that involves my being in dire need of waiting and taking sips of temporary. I need to constantly walk, take glances and experience the world in every angle. This is how I will become.

 Productivity. I have not been consistent with such. I always take in huge dosages of whatever will do to get by. I have not taken into consideration what has been provided for me to make use of to become an avatar of excellence. I like to believe I’ve only been myself when I have complete jurisdiction over my body, my thoughts, and my actions. But what I fail to recognize is I am also myself when I choose to back down and settle for alright. This is not who I am; I have always fought against temptations that will only tarnish the very innocence of my struggles and my pleas. I have always fought against myself and it seems as though I have surrendered. This is the only way I know how. It gets bloody sometimes, but having a raging battle between me and myself is better than becoming the enemy of the universe.

This is why I have always treasured my time alone. Why I always spent money for myself. Why I always think it’s worth it. Because I am always thirsty to get myself broken, to get myself dirty and to get myself to rise up and try again.

This is the kind of permanent I am aiming for.

Why I left

I was at home when I thought about it. It was a pang of realization and a puncture of pain. It was inevitable, but I had to act against inertia.

I am going nowhere. I am nowhere. I am in my hometown, a city where I grew up, and I should be happy here, but I am not. I was dying to be someplace else but that is a surprise, because I know how it feels like to be far from home. Suddenly, I am starting to feel like I’m back in 10th grade, deciding which university campus to choose. It feels horrible being away from family. And that horrible fact of being away from them makes me a monster for choosing to do something for myself; it makes me feel like I left them, sacrificed the people who made a home out of me, for becoming far greater. I should be walking towards greatness by now, except I feel way worse.

I was eaten up by a choice I willfully made which had an exemplary purpose. For a while, I thought I was a murderer for killing my spot in the family: a plate, a set of spoon and fork, a glass of water had to be put away because Rea has gone away. That, for the longest time, was who I am. I was identified to be the woman who exchanged family for education and I was done being the monster I thought I was. Because in reality, they are okay; they understand. They are rooting for the lady they believed in so much. They keep away my spot in the dining table when I’m away, but place it back right where it should be when I arrive home.

It’s been two years in college cities away from mine and this is all I came to be. This is all I had become. What a complete waste, those two years was. I refuse the guilt. I refuse to feed myself to the fangs of those voices behind my back whispering me to stay because I have long taken my flight to make myself something more, and this has been keeping me from reaching my destination. I have been on my plane for a long while- it is time to touch down.

So here I am. I will continue to work for Z Plus the same way I am willing to work for learning photography, enhancing my writing which I suppose is very much mediocre, read, and read more- be it political, be it local and international news, be it fiction. I am willing to go beyond my craft the same way I am willing to divulge and drown myself in science: biology to be specific, a field I chose to traverse and succeed. With all my heart, biology, I offer my life to you. And to my country, my Philippines, you’ve got me. Everything I do, I do for your healing.

To Mom and Dad, to my family, you are home, you will always be, but I know places that await me; I have places to be. See you back home, and I love you.

The Hundredth

I believe in the good. When I talk about good, I mean enough. A century would have passed, and like the unfamiliar scent of a deserted island, the Filipino would have enough. What they have enough of is food, shelter, and transportation. A family- with truth- stricken variety- will have food that would cater its members for three times a day or more, shelter sturdy enough to not let monsoons behead homes- a house made of concrete walls and cement, with suitable ventilation, and virtuous government- subsidized technology- and transportation where the rich ride with the poor. This is not too much for a century to have transpired- war attacks by foreign lands here and there, reigning victorious yet a little broken, our Philippines is. This is not too big of a change, but it is good. It is enough.

The Filipino Farmer- once in desperate of rice to eat, once in dire need of lands to plant on, money to garner more seeds, once handed over to a hurricane of bullets- at present, lives in the good. When I mention good, I mean enough. They have their own respective hectares of lands to plant as many root crops as they desire, to bring the whole nation meal on their plates, to cultivate long rooted dreams as they receive ample education to experiment with new planting techniques, to research more on organic matter upheld as fertilizers. The Filipino Farmer, by this time, is a scientist.

Cardboard justice serves victims no good. Drug users, under the law, shall recover under the custody of rehabilitators and not under the hands of those with guns and falsified power. The Filipino Victim deserves good. When I discuss of good, I mean enough. The Filipino Victim receives medicine, at only the right amounts, and daily consultation with recognized physicians and psychologists. The Filipino Victim is endowed with respect by his caretakers, such as a mother loves her child. The Filipino Victim is not dead.

I believe in better. When I disclose what better stands for, I mean the government is replaced by the grandsons of the millennials, those who fought for and opposed the murderer buried among those whose blood relentlessly poured for the flag with three stars and a sun and is raised every morning to welcome the light of dawn. When I state my belief in better, I mean that the arts is duly conceded as a body of knowledge necessary to supplement humankind with guts and bravery and a horizon extending outwardly, enticing the Filipino, regardless of where they stand and sector they represent, to aspire of something greater than the sunrise before them. I also imply that the Filipino receives his very right to health care, to marry, to save a broken family, to get into a job fit for the demands of his responsibilities including kin, identity, and country, to speak up for himself when subjected to criminal screening, to vote and receive the truth about his vote, to acquire honesty from those in command, and most importantly, to education. The Filipino deserves better. The Filipino now holds, a century later, what those that came before them never had, but sincerely, with the dignity they refuse to let loose, begged for.

I believe in the best. What best cradles for me is the Filipino Youth. A century later, the Filipino would have stopped counting for the day the children Dr. Jose Rizal claims as the hope of our country arrived. They have long came, generations over, only in few chosen souls, not permitting a change earlier than now, where the best of youth has gathered in outraging number, excelling in the fields of engineering and mathematics, medicine and law, arts and theatre. These outstanding youth, however, are not the best solely because they have embarked on the journey of the Renaissance man; but because they embody a light that sets them apart from the rest. They know what to fight for and how to fight for it; the Filipino Youth fights the hardest.

The Filipino Youth is raised by a century of outpouring revolutions from the pain and triumphs of their forefathers. It has been a long process. Good is enough. But more than that, we deserve better, and now, after all these years, we have the best.


I wrote this essay for my PI 10 class. It is my version of Dr. Jose Rizal’s Philippines: A Century Hence. I thought I might share it, even if my Professor probably did not find it interesting enough, nor if it is any good.

The independence we have today is a fraud; we can all do better than this. Nevertheless, although far from sufficient, much has changed since the colonial period.

Happy Independence Day, my Philippines. We will work hard for your freedom.