Reclaiming #WalangHiya Through Sayaw

My tita once told me, “You are part of this family. This family is talented because we dance. And we are good! Trust me, you can dance!”

The warmth of the spotlight. I felt at ease. The music flowed with me and empowered me to keep the candles steady. Sayaw was how I expressed myself differently. It was a whole new perspective to life filled with such beauty and grace, but staying true to powerful movements in Filipinx dance. Dancing pandanggo sa ilaw during a Gonzaga Men’s Basketball half time on National Gonzaga Day, was a moment that brought me back to when I used to fear the spotlight.

When I was younger, I would shy away from attention because that’s what I was taught. It was so ingrained in me, I was ashamed to even participate in family grandeur. Filipinx parents and grandparents are notorious for making their kids do artistic activities, in hopes of one day becoming the next Filipinx artist(a). Apparently, I was born into a family of dancers. Continue reading

Reclaiming #WalangHiya: Embracing Who I Am

My birth mom sent me to Canada for a better life and education. Because I was only four, there was no way of understanding that. All I understood was that I wasn’t going to see her. At an age that required nurturing and love, what I received instead was confusion. Instead of family, there were strangers. Instead of love, there was anger and hate. Rather than gaining self-confidence, I learned that I was unworthy and became deeply insecure and fearful. This, coupled my growing understanding that I looked different too. This sense of not fitting in, of not belonging, stayed with me everywhere I went —  even more so after visiting the Philippines 10 years later. Who I thought I was didn’t seem to fit the description anywhere. I began feeling that I was simply an outsider in every community I discovered and it didn’t help that I was constantly reminded of my differences. Continue reading

Unapologetically Filipinx Jamaican

“They’re your children? Are they adopted?”

I remember standing at the bus stop feeling like a melon because a random stranger had asked my mother this question. She was offended, as anyone rightly would be. I was left with a sense that despite my mix I could never truly express my Filipinxness. I felt ashamed.

When we think about identity, we usually focus on what we can see. If you were to look at me, you would probably be able to tell that I’m biracial. Living in London I have always had a sense of multiculturalism, which I know I am so blessed to have but growing up there was always a need to outwardly show where I am from. Continue reading

A Kasama Love: Knows No Shame #WalangHiya

Growing up, I was engulfed in the love stories of Yna Macaspac and Angelo Buenavista in the teledrama series Pangako Sa’yo // Promise to you, of Bujoy and Ned in their journey of best friends to lovers in Labs Kita, Okay Lang? // I love you, Is that Okay? , and of Basha and Popoy in their journey of finding the right time, the right place, and the right love in One More Chance. There is a constant theme in these movies aside from the happy ending. FIRST, the guy must fall in love with the girl and decide to court her and THEN the girl makes her move towards a relationship and family or be the heartbreaker. We were presented with a formulaic approach to the perfect love with the key ingredient of a man who must first choose us to fall in love with and the rest will fall in line.  So we wait and wait for the perfect one. However, when that type of love has not come yet, shame comes with our answer to the Filipina Auntie at the family party who asks: “O, Do you have boyfriend yet?” Continue reading

Being Mentally Ill with #WalangHiya

In the last decade, I was severely depressed and suicidal for years. I suffered through three mental breakdowns. Each subsequent psychosis was worse than the last. Yet, today, I can openly share this and nearly every delusion I’ve had with no shame. Without hesitation, I’ve repeated my story enough times for it to be normal– because it is.

But I wasn’t always like this.

For years, I hid how depressed and suicidal I was and how much despair I carried in the recesses of my heart. I smiled behind “I’m good” and excessive laughter though I wanted to fail out of college.  felt like I didn’t deserve my scholarship, honors classes, my high GPA, my friends, my job, and loved ones. I spent so many nights, spiraling into my thoughts alone, allowing self-loathing and guilt to debilitate me. I wondered if I’d ever be truly happy. Continue reading

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