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

The Tsismis on Sex: Learning About Pleasure Through Conversation

The phrase walang hiya has shamed pleasure as deviant and private. As Filipinx diaspora womxn, my sister and I have been told to never speak about sexual acts. Young women feel ashamed to ask questions thereby castigating our own pleasures as secondary. As an act to de-stigmatize pleasure and reclaim these pursuits, my sister and I have open conversations about sex and our partners. We “tsismis,” which is most closely translated to “gossip.”  We talk about our different bodies, the awkward moments, and what is most pleasurable. By having conversation about our partners (often times laughing), we share information and reclaim our sexuality. Having a space to talk amongst other womxn about sex, family, school, and life allow us to center our happiness, pleasure, and pains. Tsismis is not just gossip but a way to pass on knowledge amongst Filipinx womxn. Continue reading

Reclaiming #WalangHiya: Weaving Through [Poem]

Someone once told me that beauty comes from tragedy; that’s what #walanghiya means to me. It’s reflecting on past experiences and the sacrifices my family has made has order to survive in this system. It’s what I do every day when I wake up knowing that I’m getting closer on who I want to be, who I hope to be without fear. It’s these experiences that weave the stories of my life into the backbone of my spine, and down to the cells of my ethnic make-up. For me, this is what it means to be #walanghiya… Continue reading

The Struggles & Blessings of #WalangHiya Consciousness in Academia

I haven’t always loved myself.

Growing up, I learned to hate my brown skin and flat nose. I used to wear a jacket every day in Hawai‘i so that I wouldn’t become naksut (Ilocano word for “burnt” or “dark”). Oftentimes, I would pinch the bridge of my nose in hopes that it would grow into a straight, haole (white) nose. I used to place White beauty standards on a pedestal while rejecting my own Pilipinx features that I’ve inherited from my ancestors. As a woman who grew up in a patriarchal and misogynistic society, I learned how to shrink myself at the presence of men who slut-shamed me, abused me and took advantage of my body. I once believed in the lie that I was not “good enough” because I was from Kalihi, an urbanized neighborhood in Honolulu on the island of O‘ahu, home to a majority working-class, low-income Pilipinx and Pacific Islander community.

I once held so much shame and hatred for my identity as a working-class pinay from Kalihi. When I was 19, I left the islands for college immediately in order to escape from what outsiders believed to be a paradisiacal place. Continue reading

WALANG HIYA: A Protection Spell

When I was younger, my mom would substitute library for babysitter. I found my way to the bookshelves by the back window and traced my fingers against book spines until a clever and well-designed title peeked out.

One day, I saw the words, “WALANG HIYA” in bold, black, typewriter letters on the ribcage of an off-white novel. A familiar but distant language, my first generation US-born tongue sounded it out. I opened the book. Jintaro Ishida told me stories of World War II – of Japanese occupation soldiers’ post-war accounts of their travesties on Filipino bodies. Jintaro interviewed both the Japanese imperialists and the Filipino survivors. It was a back and forth volley of shame by violent soldiers who were “only doing what they were ordered” and of classic Filipino desensitization of being colonized. Our people always understood war crimes. We became used to it. I used to be ashamed of how quickly our people are able to assimilate and forgive. But it’s only evident of what we’ve needed to do to survive. Continue reading

© 2015