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 from harvesting.
The sense of discovery brought me to unfamiliar places and found new paths to wander. Until now I’m still surprised how fierce and lucky I am whenever I stuck 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 a long tiring day of walking to search for food.
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 there. But I was wrong, hospitals were for people who can afford to live longer.
If only I was older.
I stayed at school the whole day while others goes home for lunch because my grandmother got more ill and there was no food at home. I spent time running on field during those hours or lie my head on the grasses to rub time. I remember my classmate called Mylene, she was the oldest from our class but everyone thinks she’s dumb because she was with us on the same level. For me, she was my friend because we always shared her food at lunch. Her house is about 3kilometers from school and she lives in the end of the village in the middle of the rice field. We will share a scrambled egg and tomatoes. She was so generous even when she didn’t have much to share. I wonder where she is now.We shared the silence and only crickets made the sound.
At young age, my instinct showed my way to survive. The beating of my chest, the colors of the sky and mountains to contemplate.
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 other pair of slippers went with 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 was in grade school when everyone treats me different. They always asked me favors and do something for them, buy them food because the canteen was far away. They gave parts of it and that’s how I survived breaks during grade school. I let them because I needed them.
One day my teacher pulled me out from the class because I got caught stealing ice candy from the canteen. All I wanted was eat. From that day on things got even worst. I felt discriminated everyday. I experienced bullying and rejection everyday. No one wanted to sit close to me or take me to their groups. It was horrible. I felt all alone. Until I found safety letting my hair cover my face to feel a little bit safer from those people who just wanted to hurt me. Thank goodness to those magazines and story books hiding from the shelves. I had something to do during those years. I was always alone. I was always placed at the back with broken seat.
I got used to being ignored and somehow it 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.
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 for cooking. Finish everything early so I can play longer. We lived near little forests and farms. Dragon flies go in search of place to sleep during sunset. It was the best part of my days, watching butterflies, catching dragon flies and the sun kissing my skin and playing shadows from its golden rays. That time when the only beauty I appreciate were the beauty of nature. These were the 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 were detached rapidly rotating 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. It got so high and so small but the string was getting harder enough to let me know that the wind was strong. I rolled it fast but it was too late. My kite dispersed like the clouds with 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 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 who was there for me left me forever, my Grandmother.
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 with me without her. I was scared. I have never asked anything more 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 with a young mother who wasn’t prepared to raise a child alone. Left me to my grandmother who had six children who will also leave me 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 experience. The ability to look forward without looking back because everything was 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 want to live the way I want my life to be.
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 and try to find my balance in between. I was naive but slowly I have learned. I know that 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 play it and hope for better cards.
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 the 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 ofcourse 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. With him I learned that love is he most beautiful feeling there is to feel and to 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 San Moritz, 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, Miss Philippines Universe, whoch 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, who asked me if I could walk for her show in Zurich while I was at her boutique. I walked-in to some agencies in Europe and tried to model. I went 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 dreams was actually not my dream. To go back and see the world I used to live in has been the dream. I have always had it, I just didn’t know it yet.
From the day that I lost those slippers, it taught me to be tough and learn to let go of things even those that are precious to me because there is no use of holding on to those feelings.
Those times I let people hurt me, I couldn’t be more thankful to them, I learned wisdom and passion just as they missed those important lessons I learned along the way. They are the reason why I am wiser.
All the rejections and discriminations, they were my greatest momentum to learn to keep going even you feel so small. To take unbeaten paths and be brave to walk alone. To watch things from a distance to see them clearer, to read better 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 your tough love.
To that kite that I lost in the wind, it was a great lesson from the universe to find balance in between things and to have self-discipline in order to keep tract and not get lost with the unpredictable weather. To always keep connected to the ground. I know it’s not always a good place up there, it can be cold, lonely and sometimes it’s just going to break your apart.
As I grew older, I realized that you are only able to find your treasures when you are ready to have it. It could’ve been just in front of you the whole time but you are looking somewhere else and it’s alright. That’s life. You need to seek experience and ideas before you are able to see the beauty of life you have. It’s up to you. It’s your own definition of happiness or success. If you are looking for happiness, look for things that nurtures the soul and the key to that is to always feel your heart. If you want to be successful about something, use your craft, develop, keep practice until you master. It doesn’t matter how slow you move as long as you are not stepping backwards.
You are part of a great masterpiece, part of the soul of the universe and it will bring you to where you are supposed to be. Sometimes you just get surprised of what the universe actually prepared for you.
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. Where do I go from here?