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.
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 during harvest season.
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 to stick my hands into those holes to catch frogs and not a snake.
The most amazing thing back then was waking up the next day with a fresh memory if yesterday wasn’t good. Life was tough but very simple.
My grandmother was such beautiful woman. Her hair were like waves of the ocean clipped with a ribbon. She was hard-working. Toughest woman I’ve ever known. Always amazed me on how she managed to always be graceful even 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. 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. I was wrong, hospitals are 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 grass and contemplate to rub time. I remember Mylene, my oldest classmate. Everyone thought she was dumb just because she’s the oldest and still on the same level with us-but Mylene was amazing. She always shared her food with me at lunch. She walk about 4kilometers everyday from her house in the middle of the farm to school. She wakes up everyday as early as 4am, make lunch and walk so she wont be late for school. 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. There were only sound of crickets and silence echoes back at us. I survived. The beating of my chest, the color of the sky and loving mountains to contemplate life.
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 attentions embarrassed me. My classmates always asked me to do errands for them. I was the girl who does all the things for them and get money or food in return. That’s how I survived grade school. I let them treat me like that because I needed them.
One day my teacher pulled me out from class because I got caught stealing ice candy from the canteen. From that day, things became worst. I felt discriminated everyday. I was bullied and rejected. Everyday I had to live with these people who only looked at me with disgust and fear that I would steal their things. No one wanted to sit close to me or be part of the group. It was a horrible feeling. I felt alone until I found safety hiding my face behind my hair. They can look at me but I didn’t want to see them. Thank goodness to those magazines and story books hiding from the shelves. I had something to do during those years.
I got used to ignoring them 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 other 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. I have to finish everything early so I can play outside longer. We lived near little forests and farms. There were lots of dragonflies around us every sunset. It was the best part of the day. Just watch those butterflies, play with dragon flies and the sun kissing my skin. Watching our shadows slowly fading from the golden rays of the sun. Those times when the only beauty I appreciate was the beauty of nature and time. 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 day, I made a kite. It wont fly even if it was made of two wings and a tail.
“I don’t understand. How come when it looked exactly like the other kites?”
I kept running and running. Out of madness both wings were detached, rotating rapidly until it started hang in the air. My heart was filled with joy. It was one of those happy memories I can’t forget. I thought I was a genius. It became my daily routine. I’ve got something exciting to wake up to every day –to fly my kite.
But one day, like the rest of the days, I was excited! It was windy. I thought it was a perfect day to fly my kite. I let it go until it reached the bottom of the string. It got so high and started looking so small. The string was becoming so hard, enough to let me know that the wind was strong up there. I was rolling it fast but it was too late. The string broke and my kite left with the direction of the wind. I lost it.
Carelessness. I didn’t realized the wind was higher and stronger up there. I was focused on going 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 was 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 remained. 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 have along, left me forever, my Grandmother.
That was the time when I doubted my existence? Why does everything had to happen to me. I started blaming God, the universe and everything about all the misfortunes and heartaches I had to deal with at a young age. I didn’t know what was going to happen with me without her. I was scared. I have never asked anything in this world. I tried not to be a baggage to anyone. I always find ways to help myself and find answer to my own questions. I never complained 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 so she left me to my grandmother who had six children–who will passed away before Christmas Eve -before I was even able repay her.
Those were moments when the unknown was the only beautiful thing. When tomorrow was the only gift. I was given an armor of bravery and fearlessness from these experiences. I was broken and that was an ability to move forward without looking back because everything was just dark. There is no comfort in the dark.
There’s always a light waiting at the end of the tunnel.
I was on my own. I didn’t have anything more to protect. I 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 my balance in between. I was naive. I was slow but 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 all my card down but I’ve got to try and hope for better ones.
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-inch 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 experience traveling to Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 19. I was alone on this journey to follow my 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. 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 and peak of Uetliberg, apartments in Basel then back to my home, 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. Binibining Pilipinas (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 @maisonjulie) , 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 a 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 yet.
From those moments I was alone- it taught me to be tough and learn to accept. Always get up and continue to live because there is no use of holding on to pain 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 and no one for you but yourself.
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.
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 and find balance in order to stay and not get lost with the unpredictable direction of the wind. 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. But t’s alright. That is 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 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 learn 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 actually 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.
CHAPTER 2. FOLLOW THE WIND.