#WalangHiya: Transforming the Burden Into a Weapon

[tw: domestic violence]

If you asked me a few years ago, “What is family?” I would not have known how to answer that question. In fact, it would be so confusing my head would hurt after much contemplation. My parents married around the ages of 18 and 19 due to my father impregnating my mother. Not being able to financially support my sister in the Philippines, they migrated to New York City in 1993 where I was to be born a year later. My father juggled three jobs at a time while my mother stayed home to take care of me. Their relationship, however, was troubled since the start. My mother had an affair with three other men at different times. My father and the rest of the family found out about the first one because the first guy sent a VHS video recording of my mother and him having sex. My dad responded poorly through domestic violence. I was not at the receiving end of the hits but the damage was done.

Almost all extended family members from both of my father’s and mother’s looked down upon my mother’s actions and blamed her for breaking our family apart. That “if only she didn’t cheat, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt”. To this day, my mother’s name is used as a shame word. “Don’t be like Aurora/your mom”; “Don’t act like a whore/ like Aurora.” My grandmother on my mother’s side would call my dad a putang ina (loosely translated to b*tch) for hurting my mother and also said to not grow up with him and like him. That I shouldn’t grow up with someone who couldn’t provide for and keep his family together.

But I am not my parents. I am not whoever my family compares me to. I have learned how to foster healthy relationships. I train in self-defense to defend and teach others how to protect themselves. I organize to kindle the fire of the people to reach revolution. I have grown and will continue to grow into someone who fights to defend the most exploited and oppressed people, who remains strong with “sufficient ease and aplomb,” and who loves softly and deeply. Ito ako, walang hiya.

Float in her water
Catch your breath
don’t worry just watch,
he’ll shelter her in his cave
with his fire kindling
and the soft sand to bed her
waves sail smoothly with her.
He boils rose petals from his garden
wondering if she can plant her feet here

She expands and weaves from
collar to hip,
birth two daughters.
Earth’s gravity weighs down
The Dance develops disorder
She goes up, he stays down
His gravity ropes her,
Water bursts into turbulence
lava roars at the earth cracked
vaporizing rivers into rain shards
knock down his sand castles
unleash lightning across her face

Please, stop
this dance
elbow, knees, sternum
take out the roots
weed out the center
His core
Her heart

Don’t meet halfway
she did not let the weight
hold her here,
Oh there she goes,

Earth quakes
My foundation
breaks.
But the cracks
open space for a place
to let me blossom.

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


Janella Lopez (all the pronouns) is a FilAm activist who addresses the struggles of the underprivileged with Anakbayan New York. She is also currently training in Filipino martial arts (specifically Kuntaw Kali) to learn self-defense and loves sloths extremely (ask her for a random daily sloth fact!). E-mail

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