Opening Up About Spirituality with “Walang Hiya”

My spiritual journey began as a prayer turned into rambling about my frustrations and fears. I was in my early twenties fresh off graduating with a Liberal Arts degree in Small Town, USA. Like many “wide-eyed Midwestern girls,” I dreamt of moving to New York City to pursue my career. I didn’t know how to get there—physically and financially. So, I sat up one night in my room and voiced it out. The act of it soothed my heart and head. I had the conversation again the next night, the night after and so on—with God. It was during those nights that I made the first steps to my spiritual journey.

Like many Filipinxs across the world, I was born into Catholicism and attended a Catholic grade school which kept me in line with the religion. I knew what was expected of me to be a “good Catholic:” read the Bible, go to mass every Sunday, follow the Ten Commandments, confess your sins, don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, etc. I followed these “rules” as best as I could because that was what I had to do—or what people told me to do. I didn’t question it or look beyond these “rules” like the Bible verses I had to memorize. At times, I did not feel religious enough compared to my other classmates. There was a disconnect between my heart and the Catholic practices and rituals—except for one: prayers. Not surprisingly, the one Catholic practice that I took seriously was the one thing that awakened my spiritual self.

As I grew older, I waned off actively practicing Catholicism. I saw it more as a cultural part of being a Filipinx. Plus, my self identity never got along with the religion’s conservative teachings. For example, I am an advocate for same-sex marriage as well as women’s right to reproductive and sexual health having been part of a Planned Parenthood’s Activist Council for four years. My life experiences were full of emotional and mental frustrations caused by everyday struggles from career to living situations to dating. What became my rock through the years was my spirituality. When I experienced a moment of hopelessness, I had those prayers / conversations again. And I felt that same calmness after unpacking my emotions and thoughts. But for most of my twenties, I kept my spirituality separate from the boldness of my womanhood. Although there were no conflicts between the two, I didn’t know how to make them coexist more beyond having the former act as a supporter to needs of the latter.

When I joined Raised Pinay early of last year, I was introduced to other spiritual rituals. My heart gravitated towards the sacred altars my friend (and Raised Pinay director) Jana Lynne Umipig created at our rehearsals to honor our ancestors. As I spent the rest of 2016 deepening my sisterhood and focusing on myself before turning 30 last August, I came to realize that my spirituality can be accessed beyond my personal conversations with God. My spirituality also can be felt when I create my own sacred altar, when I’m cultivating a relationship with the divine energy of the natural world—from the earth to the moon—, when I participate in Inner Dance, when I get my Tarot card and aura read, when I share space with my sisters, when I self reflect in my journal, when I self care, and when I get more and more in touch with the power of my feminine essence and energy.

The complexities and beauty of my spirituality and my womanhood found a way to coexist that felt right for me, that helped me move at ease in the spaces I enter and hold, and that strengthened my voice as a decolonized Filipinx.

I still believe that there is a God and I still say my prayers. But I will continue to explore other spiritual rituals and healing that my heart pulls me to. I don’t often talk about the journey of my spiritual self, and when I do it’s mostly about where I am currently with it. Sharing it all from the beginning for the first time in this post was hard. I wanted to articulate the “right things” and avoid judgment. I even had cold feet about using this particular story for #WalangHiya. But my spirituality is part of who I am. While others may not understand or believe in the same practices, I shouldn’t let what others think hinder me from openly talking about it outside my journal or my Raised Pinay sisterhood. I am not out here to change people’s beliefs or encourage them to follow in my steps. I simply want to share how I am deepening my spiritual self  with “walang hiya.”

This post is part of the Reclaiming #WalangHiya Project; see the landing page for more narratives.

Kristina (she/her/hers) is a Midwestern-bred journalist, who moved to New York seven years ago. She has been a freelance journalist since she was 19, from reporting on local community news to fashion writing to entertainment thinkpieces to food and women of color narratives especially Asian American women. You can read more of her writing on Essence, Digital Spy, Paste Magazine and The Riveter Magazine.  She is also working to launch her own blog for Asian American women called ArawSol. When not writing, she is advocating for “Creative Aging,” currently working at a senior center where she leads culturally-specific courses for her older adult members. You can show your support by following I’m For Creative Aging Twitter.

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