#WalangHiya: A Promise to Heal

I didn’t want our love to be political. It wasn’t radical or revolutionary—it was just ours. I refused to write our relationship as an allegory for oppression, for colonization. But we didn’t exist in a vacuum. We were not magically in love, off in a fantasy world. Rather, we were the perfect allegory for the colonizer and the colonized. Eventually, I wrote a poem called “White Man’s Love,” a nod to Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” (which was actually about the United States and the Philippines), in which I wrote, tongue-in-cheek, I just happened to be brown, and he just happened to be white.

Similarly, this poem, “atonement,” nods to the first song my ex wrote about me, in which he co-opted my mental illness and suicidal ideation as his own pain. It was not mere chance that I, a brown woman from a line of abused women, fell in love with a white man, who was from a line of abusive men. I learned of and even saw the violence perpetuated against the women in my life, and their trauma passed down to me. Violence between both brown man and woman, both white man and woman, and brown man and white woman—I inherited pain from my Filipino paternal side and my Italian maternal side. “atonement.” reflects on my former relationship as a result of parallel cycles of violence.

Shame. The aftermath of violence. It’s the question of whether your pain is valid. Was he even that bad? It’s fear to speak out, even once they’re gone. Shame wasn’t taught to me until I was eighteen and fell in love with someone, whom in the same breathe told me how much he loved me and how much he wanted to leave me. Someone who resented me for my capacity for compassion and empathy, because it reflected his lack thereof. Then, I saw it in his mother, who demanded little and settled for less. She kept her love for her children secret when her husband disapproved. Eventually, I saw it in my mother, whom waited over forty years to reveal a painful secret to my grandparents, only to be shut down for“lying” and “causing trouble.”

Walang Hiya. The healing. “atonement.” is one of twenty-two poems in my published book, always. Its raw and honest nature exposes how healing can be an unapologetically loud and bitter process. While putting my story out there helped reclaim my pain, the creation of both the individual pieces and the final compilation was itself a healing process. I realized what my story actually was—a continuation of a long, violent legacy, rather than the start of one. This poem serves to honor the women of this legacy, both in my family and his, and to apologize to them. I should not be ashamed of them or being them. However, I was ashamed to have fallen from grace when I fell in love. Ashamed to be hurt, to love more than allowed or warranted. Ashamed to know better but not do better.

Walang Hiya—This is my  promise to let go of that shame. It’s my mother telling me that she will never be ashamed of who I am and what I stand for. Walang Hiya is to unapologetically exist and fight and love and hurt, for the sake of myself, my past lives, and my future lives. Walang Hiya is to break the cycle of intergenerational violence and trauma, to tell the women before me that their pain and struggles were not in vain, that their memory will now carry on strength and resilience rather than silence and suffocation. This is my promise. This is me living with Walang Hiya.

Read more of Amanda’s poetry through her book always.

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

Bio Example: Amanda Kat is a second-generation Filipino/Italian mixed based in NYC. She’s a queer artist, activist, and academic. She’s currently working towards becoming a civil rights lawyer by day and Lorena-esque militant by night. She was recently featured in two Filipinx-American literary art zines: LAKAS and Ano Ba. When she is not studying for #2Majors2Minors, she is organizing with fellow kasamas, advocating for educational justice, and (not) maintaining her artistic online presence. Website | Personal IG | Art IG

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