Chapter 1: The young Juliana.

         The wind came and left rapidly, unstoppable like time. The world used to be so wide and clear that I actually felt like if I stared too long to the sky, it was going to swallow me. Now I’m lying down on a roof and it feels like the world became smaller. I can see the edges on each corners of my eyes. 

@shutterkissed (Gerard Del Mundo)
@shutterkissed (Gerard Del Mundo)

Growing up in a village with lush mountains and vast green fields was one of the many beautiful memories I’m grateful to have. I was born during the era when playing was physical. Swim and catch fishes from the pond under the sun together with other kids, hunt spiders and random fruits. Ran bare-feet on the vast oasis. I always got scolded whenever I came home with my muddy clothes because I went to the farm alone to gather the crops farmers’ missed from harvesting.

The sense of discovery brought me to unfamiliar places and found new paths to wander. Until now I’m still surprised how careless and lucky I am to stick my hands into those holes to catch frogs and never a single snake.

The most amazing thing back then was waking up the next day with a fresh memory if yesterday wasn’t good.

My grandmother was beautiful. Her hair was like the waves of the ocean clipped with a ribbon. She was hard-working. Toughest woman I’ve ever known and she always amazed me on how she manage to still look beautiful after walking all day at work. She was a Kabo (“jueteng”).

I wish I was able to help her buy medicine and treat her diabetes back in the day because I always heard her cry at night when it was causing her pain. It gave me the wrong impression that hospitals were only for dying people because she never let us bring her. But I was wrong, hospitals are actually for people who can afford to live longer.

      If only I was older.
I stayed at school the whole day while others go home for lunch because my grandmother got more sick and there was no food at home. I spent time reading books and old magazines or simply lie my head on the grass and contemplate to rub time. I remember Mylene, she was the oldest of the class and everybody thinks she’s dumb because she’s with us on the same level. But Mylene was nice. She always shared her food with me at lunch. She walks about 4kilometers everyday from school to her house. She lives in the end of the village in the middle of the rice fields. We shared scrambled egg and tomatoes. She was so kind even when she didn’t have much to share.

I wonder where she is now. The sound of the crickets and the silence echoes back at us.

         At young age, I survived my days. The beating of my chest, the color of the sky and loving mountains to contemplate life.

I was able to buy myself a pair of slippers and medicine for my grandmother from selling on the streets at eight years old. I still remember how my new pair of slippers went through the fast running water while I was crossing the muddy bamboo bridge. I followed and watched it go away. My grandmother got so worried and asked me where I went but I didn’t tell her what happened. I stayed at the river because I couldn’t let go of my slippers.  She was shouting at me and I was scared to say anything. I ended up getting hit by a wood at the back of my legs.
I’ve always been treated differently. I was the reject. The outcast. The weird girl sitting at the back of the class because I’m not confident enough to sit in front also because of my height and the attention embarrassed me. My classmates always asked me to do errands for them. Buy them food because the canteen was far away while some would give me parts of it and or pay me a penny. That’s how I survived breaks during grade school. I let it because I needed them.

IMG_2658-4          One day my teacher pulled me out from the class because I got caught stealing ice candy from the canteen. From that day on things got worst. I felt discrimination everyday. I was bullied and rejected and everyday I had to live with that. No one wanted to sit close to me or be part of the group. It was a horrible feeling. I felt all alone until I found safety covering my face with my hair to feel a little bit safer from those people who just wanted to laugh at me. Thank goodness to those magazines and story books hiding from the shelves. I had something to do during those years. I have always been alone sitting at the broken chairs.

I got used to being ignored and somehow I felt safe. I felt like I had the super power of being invisible. It was easier for me to move without thinking about what people think. Life was better that way. A lot of time to think, to dream, to be anything.

After classes before I can play out, I had to finish my tasks at home. Fill up water containers, wash dishes or gather some woods to cook. Finish everything early so I can play longer. We lived near little forests and farms. Dragon flies go in search of place to stay during sunset. It was the best part of my days, watching butterflies, catching dragon flies and the sun kissing my skin. Playing with shadows from its golden rays. That time when the only beauty I appreciate was the beauty of nature. These were times I missed the most. The simplicity of life, the freedom and joy that I might not able to feel anywhere again anymore.

One time I made a kite. It wont fly even if it was made of 2 wings and a tail. I didn’t understand.

      “How come when it looked exactly like the other kites?”

         I kept running and running. Out of madness both wings detached, rotated rapidly until it started stay up. I was so happy! It was one of those happy memories I can’t forget. I made something that flies high. It became my daily routine, something I get excited to wake up to every day –to fly my kite.

But one windy day, like the rest of the days, I was excited! I thought the weather was perfect to fly kite. I let it go until the string reached the bottom. So high and so small and the string was becoming hard, enough to let me know that the wind was strong. I rolled it fast but it was too late. My kite is lost, following the direction of the wind.

        Carelessness. I didn’t realized that the wind was higher and stronger up there. I was focused on getting higher and higher-I didn’t consider the capacity of my kite. I was still holding the string that connected me to it but my kite’s gone.

Then came High School, I got 50% scholarship from the government also with the help of the school.

         But nothing has changed. Maybe faces and names but my situation remains. I realized I’ll just keep being invisible because it will keep me away from people. They didn’t even remember my name until second year.

Second year High school. The most challenging and unforgettable moment of my life happened. It was before Christmas.

My dreams died as the love of my life and the only person I had with me left me forever, my Grandmother.

I asked the universe why? Why everything had to happen to me. I started blaming God, the nature and everyone about all the misfortunes and heartaches I had to face at a young age. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me without her. I was scared. I have never asked anything in this world. I tried not to be a baggage to anyone. I found ways to answer my own questions. I never complained with my life but fate was hard.

I was meant to be too young to find ways to extend my grandmother’s life. I had to be born through a married father to a young woman who was not ready to raise a child alone leaving me to my grandmother who had six children–who passed away before Christmas Eve -before I was even able repay her.

Those were moments when the unknown was the only beautiful thing there is. When tomorrow was the only gift. I was given an armor of bravery and fearlessness from these experiences. The ability to move forward without looking back because everything was just dark.


There’s always a light waiting at the end of the tunnel.

I was completely on my own. I broke walls I built around me and let people do what they want with me. There was nothing more to lose only lessons to gain. Pain struck me long enough to be weak. I didn’t want to live and die in the same way in the same place. I am going to live life.

I traveled to the city and it was not an easy start. I had to go through shit holes before I even got started. I had to deal with different faces of hypocrisy while I try to find balance in between. I was naive but slowly I have learned. You are not striking if you have nothing to offer.

You know this thing called beginner’s luck? I guess it was all because of it. At some point I was scared to put down all my card but I’ve got to try and hope for better cards.

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Awaken from that long nightmare, tears of joy came rushing on my cheeks. It was like a dream. I found myself walking on a stage with a spotlight on my face, on a bright runway. People watching, taking photographs of me. ‘That moment I didn’t have to do anything anymore but to keep my head up and be proud. I made money just like that. I used to think I would have to clean toilets first before I am able to make that kind of money. But of course it took me a while to finally get used to the pain fitting my ginger-feet inside that six-inches stiletto. Tears of joy every time I got new projects. I’ve never felt so relieved. I didn’t expect to become any of it. I was just glad its over.

In no time, I left Philippines for the first time. I had my first plane ride traveling to Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 19. My first love. The first person who showed me a beautiful reflection of myself. He believed in me and loved me more than anyone could ask for. With him, I learned that love is he most beautiful feeling there is to feel and give. I was free and he let me transform into a beautiful butterfly that I can ever be. I was in Lucerne, on the mountains of Rigi and San Moritz, steps to Uetliberg, apartments in Basel then back to Philippines. As soon as I arrived, I became an official candidate of the most prestigious national beauty competition in the Philippines which during the time of the audition I didn’t even know its worth. Miss Philippines Universe changed my life. It was around 2012. I didn’t win but it was an instrument for me to gain confidence and projects. I travelled back to Zurich then to Paris, encountered a beautiful woman named Julie (Maison Julie) , who asked me if I could walk for her show in Zurich while I was shopping at her boutique. I walked-in to some agencies in Europe and tried to model. Metro-models and Time models gave me a chance but I had to go back to Philippines and again my life was on fire. I won Ms. Resorts World 2012-3rd Runner up, then travelled to Singapore as a prize. I couldn’t believe what was just happening to my life. Year 2014 represented Philippines for Asia New Star Model–FACE of the Philippines. It was a competition held in Korea where I met every every race in Asia then a lot more magical things followed. 2015, I won a place for Miss Manila. 

I realized these events were actually just a part of my dream. To go back and see the world I used to lived has always been the dream. A simple house, mountains and oasis. The exceptional sunsets, grow plants and be ready for adventures. I’ve always had it, I just didn’t know it. 

From the day I lost those slippers, it taught me to be tough and learn to let go even those that are most precious to me because there is no use of holding on and letting life slip away. Take the unbeaten paths and be brave enough to walk alone.

Those times I let people hurt me, I couldn’t be more thankful to them. I gained more wisdom and sensitivity for  people who are also going through rough times. To understand how it feels to be rejected, discriminate, bullied and to have nothing.

All the rejections and discriminations were my greatest momentum to something big and special that is going to happen with me even when I felt so small. Sit from a distance while seeing things clearer, to read better, observe and be more sensitive about other people.


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To my grandmother, thanks for being tough. Thanks for leaving me enough wisdom and strength to face the world before you left. Now I know why you had to show me tough love.

To that kite that disappeared with the wind, it was a lesson from the universe. To find balance in between things. To have self-discipline in order not to get lost with the unpredictable direction of the wind. To always keep my connection to the ground and know that being on top is not always a good place to be. It could be cold, lonely and sometimes it’s just going to break myself apart.

As I grew older, I realized that we are only able to see our treasures when we are ready to have them. It could’ve been just in front of us the whole time but we were looking somewhere else and it’s alright. That’s life! We need to experience and learn new ideas before we are able to see the beauty of life we have. Life is up to you, your own definition.

If you are looking for happiness, look for things that nurture your soul and the key to that is to always know what how your heart feels. If you want to be successful about something, you’ve got to use your craft and believe in yourself. Discover, develop and be consistent. It doesn’t matter how slow you progress as long as you are not stepping back.

We are part of a great masterpiece, part of the soul of the universe and it will bring us to where we are supposed to be. Sometimes we just get surprised for those greater things we are meant to live.


And up to now I’m still learning and learning from all my experiences and from everyone I meet along the way. From people passing by the streets, from all those amazing islands and mountains that welcomed me, from all these amazing people around me, for everything. I am grateful they happened to me.  My life is beautiful.






Hello, my name is Juliana.

Tell me something.

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