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.

As I’ve become older in the belly of the beast, shapeshifted into what I truly savor as womxn, grown into my queerness, become more proud of my pinay brown, learned vocabulary for the violence that has impacted all of my identities – I reclaim WALANG HIYA.

for my auntie m
who lost a slow chess match
with breast cancer

whose queer was never acknowledged
by my catholic grandparents
whose wife was never called a wife
but a best friend
a roommate

as defense mechanism
to protect myself
from lola / lolo
tita mercy / uncle jonjon
who mistake my queerness
as sharpened blade
to use against me

for all of the black and brown bodies
who have been
commodified by our governments
stolen from home
who became profit before person

for all of the languages
we have lost in diaspora

for all of the resilience
that was not documented
but was never able to be taken from us

it has survived for generations
passed down like cherished heirloom
a secret ceremony where
now, I recite WALANG HIYA
rip the shame I learned to swallow
from my salted skin
fold it neatly into reused balikbayan box
send it back into the ocean
we crossed to get here
until it washes ashore
at the feet of our colonizers

is to fight back
is to call on ancestors
is to acknowledge their messiness
is to hold their faces in our palms
is to thank them for their strength
is to come home to ourselves

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

Jordan Faralan (she / her) is a young, queer event curator and youth worker in Seattle. She currently works for a social justice non-profit that centers young folks who identify as or are socialized girls and can also be found in committee meetings / on the streets organizing with Anakbayan Seattle. Jordan is committed to uplifting all the black and brown queer bbs, imagining pathways to transformative justice, and embracing hella avocado bacon burgers into her mouth. Instagram | Twitter

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