To KatKat, my seven year old self

Creative Living, Life path, The Self, Women's Room

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Remember the old days? All you’ve ever dreamed of was to travel and read (you thought it was that humble and simple – you didn’t know it can mean that you had to be filthy rich to just do those things). Once you said you wanted to be a doctor because that’s a noble thing to do, but then you realized it was your mother’s dream, not yours. Then you said you wanted to be a painter, but later on decided that you wouldn’t want to take your first love seriously because you’re afraid it might not love you back. Then you said you wanted to become a nun, not because you’re religious, but only because nuns didn’t get married. Then you decided to be an entrepreneur. You’d run your own empire in your own stylish way. You could even visualize how you would look like as a successful, single, sophisticated and confident entrepreneur.

Two decades after, here I am. I haven’t become a doctor but I’ve been serving the people for quite some time now. I’ve learned how to do it first when I was in college, when I became an activist. Being with the urban poor masses taught me what it meant to really “Serve. The. People.”. I’ve learned who these “People” were, I’ve learned how they lived and struggled and what they needed. In fact, there are many ways to serve the people, and it’s not just by becoming a doctor. This time, too, I didn’t do it because my mother wanted to (in fact, she hated every single moment of it) but because I did. I chose that definite path of service.

Aha and I became a painter, too, just like what you wanted! It didn’t happen the way you imagined it would – going to art school and eventually holding solo exhibits in air-conditioned galleries. It happened during one of the lowest moments of my life. I was healing from depression. That’s when I started to paint.

I started free painting in Microsoft Paint. Then when I’ve realized I’ve already collected a bunch of works, I decided to paint on canvas cloth using the usual bookstore fabric paint. But instead of having my works framed and displayed, I turned them into bags (since I loved bags and I wanted to create things that would not just be displayed but would be useful to people, too). I made hand-painted canvas bags!

And yes, I was able to sell those hand-painted bags. There were people who were actually willing to pay for them! So the entrepreneur dream was born! The business was put in the back of my mind for a while. But now I’m planning to launch it again soon. This time with more ideas and a better sense of organization.

Aside from that I also became a production manager, researcher, stylist, fashion and travel photographer, now I’m in a non-profit organization pushing for drug policy change as a marketing officer. I’ve written poems that were published online and that were transformed into parts of a stage play by a very talented theater group.

KatKat, I’ve met amazing people! I’ve been to amazing places! I’ve fallen in love, gut stuck in the mud (yes, the two were related), fucked up so many times, learned and transformed myself so many times as well, got hurt, have hurt others, have forgiven others and myself, learned how life worked over and over and over again.

I still don’t want to get married and I don’t want to have my own kids. But I don’t need to be a nun now for me to able to do that. I just need to decide and follow that path even if that path might also lead me to somewhere I didn’t expect I would be.

I’ve finally learned how to take care of myself now, how to make myself feel good and look good. I’m comfortable now in my own skin and this includes being comfortable with all the changes that are taking place and that will soon take place. I’ve learned who to love and how to love. It took a lot of heartaches and tons of strength to be humble before I’ve reached this part. I’m still learning.

I was not able to fulfill your dreams in ways you would’ve wanted, only because God knows how we could best learn our lessons.

I’ve also learned how to stop comparing myself to others. Each of us has her/his own path. It took me years of insecurity and struggle but it’s worth it. I am relishing every minute of it now.

I still haven’t achieved your dream of a life of travel (and reading and not working for money’s sake) but I constantly travel for more or less three years now. I save up to travel. I look forward to my travels. I learn from my travels. The best thing is, I travel to places that assist me in my personal and spiritual growth and development and not just to places that are touristy. And I read a lot, too! Reading and traveling have both been part of my growth.
I’ve healed some really old and deep wounds as well. I’ve won over many of my most stubborn weaknesses and fears.
More than all the things I’ve accomplished, what I am most proud of are my battle scars. I’ve fought for who I was and who I’ve become.
I’m confident that I would be able to fight for who I want to become eventually (we are always in the process of becoming, after all). I may have disappointed you and the people who care about me in many ways, but here I am, I believe I’ve become who God thought I was supposed to be.
Ssshhhh, don’t say it. You don’t have to say anything. I’m fully grateful and empowered being in the present (I know you can see how satisfied I am).
I am a fighter and I am able to keep on fighting for a life of authenticity. I know you’re proud of me.

To the little-girl-on-fire inside me

People & Relationships, The Self, Women's Room

You were right. I had to leave him. I had so many reasons to leave him but I still wanted to stay. I’ve forgiven him. Forgiving didn’t have to mean accepting him in my life again. I have my own values and violating these values would only mean death to you, the little girl on fire inside me.

I could still remember that decisive moment when I had to choose between you and him. I chose you. I could cope up with losing him but never with losing you.

Accepting him again would only be like saying to myself that he was more worthy than me, than you. Accepting him would only mean that there’s nothing else I won’t be able to not accept from that moment on.

I had to stand up for myself, for you.

From now on we both know that blessings will continue to come our way because we’ve earned it. There is nothing greater than living an authentic life inside-out. Only cowards would be comfortable living in chronic dishonesty and mediocrity. There is no peace, abundance and joy in a life filled with lies. It was easy to forgive him because what he did was very human. I knew where he was coming from. But accepting him again after what he did was something else.

He wasn’t able to change himself for the better (in fact, he only got worse in time) because he chose not to. He may have had his own share of pains and betrayals but not all who experience the same things end up hurting others, too.

We may be limited by our circumstances but we could always choose how to respond to them. Pain could either break or make us better. It’s our choice.

He broke my heart. He buried me so deep below. But it was my choice not to sink.

I fought for you, my little girl on fire. Nobody could kill you.

Maybe I was broken down for a time. But I picked up the good parts of me that were left and I rebuilt myself into a stronger and wiser version of me.

Bitterness and regret should not have a permanent place in my life. I didn’t want to end up hurting others because I was hurting, too. I surrendered myself to healing. I was not gonna make that pain that he caused turn me into a monster. I held on for who I was. I held on for you.

We are stronger than all these pain and loss. Love and goodness, these things will rise above all the negativity.

We were healed by an all-encompassing love. We will endure. We will get better. Life will get better for us who believe in its goodness.

I love you, little-girl-on-fire. I promise to keep you safe and protected. Nothing could kill your warmth and light. Please keep lighting up my life.

To an old friend named Depression

Healing, Health, The Self


You used to have so much power over me.

There was a point in my life when I simply let myself see the world through you. Everything was just about you and your unreasonable demands. Nothing could ever appease you. The more you’re given what you thought you wanted, the more unhappy you became.

You came to me at a time when I was feeling weak and alone myself. You became my most available companion. It must be true what they say, misery loves company.

Somehow, you provided the comfort that I needed. It was suffocating in your arms, yes, but at least I had someone with me.

You justified all the wounds that I’ve been nursing on my own. There was meaning to my despair.

There was someone who actually listened, understood and cared.

I was so empty at that time that I let us feed off each other. But even my all was not enough to make you happy.

Fortunately, I was able to rescue myself just in time. I still had the reason and strength to separate myself from you.

I had no idea what’s gonna become of me after that. Would the world welcome me back? I didn’t know. But I didn’t care.

All I felt was exhaustion. I wanted respite from you and from what I have become.

Love made me strong and wise enough to confront your shadows and my own fears.

Depression, I don’t need you now. I have changed. I’ve learned a lot from you. I used to think I could take everything, that I could be everything to everyone. You taught me how to be humble enough to accept my humanity. You’ve helped me map out the hurting parts of me. But I don’t need you now. I’ve become stronger and more capable of living with the painful realities of life.

I have to let you go because I have to step into the light. I must move out of the comfort zone you’ve provided me with. I have to be there for the people I love. I deserve love as well.

I have to show up in my own life.

The darkness you shared with me was comforting for a time. You let me into your home.

You welcomed my darkness when the whole world didn’t want any of it.

Depression, thank you. You only existed because I brought you to life. You can take a rest now. Trust me, I’ll be okay. I feel safe now in my own strength.

You can let me go now.

To my Younger Selves

People & Relationships, The Self, Women's Room

Age 5

Hey Kat,

You have the right to be a child. You have the right to cry and demand the adults in your life to take care of you and not depend on you. You have to learn that it is not right to trespass other people’s boundaries only because you couldn’t help your own pain and mess from spilling over.

Be tender but tough. Be tough and wise in tenderness.


Age 21

Dearest Daena,

This deep shit you’re in is an opportunity to know yourself and transform into the person you feel in your soul you should become. Just take each and every blow. You’ll come out of this more alive, stronger and wiser because you are a lot bigger than all your troubles.

Learn to look at your monsters eye-to-eye. Learn to reach the opposite end of the tunnel by summoning all your courage. Learn to follow the light.

We can do this! Fight!


Age 27

Dearest Daena,

The beauty of the universe’s wisdom is right before you. You can see it because you are ready. Don’t worry. Your independence will come in time. Believe in nature’s own process of healing and liberation.

In time, you’ll land at your own feet; they may be sore and thick with scars but they will be more capable of standing.

Be humble to accept all of which you have yet to learn. Let yourself be guided. Forgive. Express your gratitude. You have the right to fall flat on your face, change your mind and stand up again.

You are worthy of many second chances. Redemption is in your hands. Seize it.
The universe is on your side as long as you stay true to yourself.

Sagutan ng mga Tula ng/para sa mga Kabundukan

Places, The Self

Tulad ng Kabundukan

Halika, umakyat at maupo.

Langhapin mo ang amoy ng mga damo sa tuktok

at tikman ang mga ulap – magpahalik ka sa noo

Mahilig din palang mangyakap ang hamog.

Manatili ka pa ng kaunti, ‘wag kang mainip.

Medyo mahiyain ako pero hindi naman masungit.

Kamusta ka? Gusto kitang makilala.

Mayroon ako sa’yong ipakikita.

Pagod ka na ba? Halika at maupo.

Hubarin ang sapatos at magputik. Marami kang iniisip.

Tahimik lang ako pero nakikita kita.

Gusto mo bang umidlip at managinip? Sasamahan kita.

Magduyan ka sa agos ng mga asul at berdeng lawa,

marami kang maaalala. Saang banda ba ang masakit?

Hayaan mong ngitian ka ng ginintuang kagubatang

kasama ng araw sa langit.

Naguguluhan ka ba? Pagod sa pagtakbo?

Umupo ka muna at magpatianod.

Maganda ang paligid, hindi ba? Katulad mo rin

at ng maraming mga bagay sa buhay mong hindi mo na nakikita.

Hindi ako mapanghusga. Alam kong mahirap ang mag-isa.

Doon kung saan malayo at mahirap marating.

Iilan lang ba ang mapangahas na pumupunta sa akin?

Magpakatatag ka at palagi mong tatandaang mahal kita.

Magbabago ang panahon, mga kulay at amoy.

May mga darating at lilisan. May mga magpapaiwan.

(Palagi kitang isasama sa aking bawat pag-ahon at paglusong.)

Baunin mo sana akong lagi sa’yong alaala – ang pag-ibig kong matarik at mapagpalaya

at ang mga saglit ng ating maikling pagsasama.


 Sagot sa Tula ng Kabundukan

Tungkulin kong lumipad bilang pasasalamat

sa pagsalubong nang buong init at lamig

sa munting manlalakbay na tumatanaw lang sa langit –

sa nakapagpapakumbabang katatagan at karunungan mo

na sa sandaangtaon ay gumiba at bumuo pa rin sa’yo.

Tungkulin kong lumipad bilang pasasalamat

sa pagtitiwala mong kaya kong baybayin

anumang tarik at talas ng tuktok at mga bangin

walang putik at tinik na makapagpapasuko

sa baguhang mga binting gustong-gusto kang marating.

Tungkulin kong lumipad bilang pasasalamat

Sa pag-ibig mong tumitingin ng pantay –

walang mataas o mababa

at walang hinihinging kapalit

subalit nagpapasalamat sa anumang

abot-kaya kong ibigay, ibahagi

sa mga sandaling pinipili kong manatili.

To Frida, the stubborn flower who broke out from the asphalt sidewalk

Creative Living, People & Relationships, Women's Room


I never thought I’d be able to really see your works in person. Though I’ve been planning to go to Mexico to visit your lovely blue house, I never thought I’d see your works that early and of all places in Paris. Yet, suddenly I found myself there, falling in line for more than an hour beside Musée de l’Orangerie, my hands and face freezing in the low temperature of 12 degrees, skipped lunch and monstrously hungry, legs tired from the day’s walk around the city, full of disbelief and anticipation.

I was speechless when I saw the first portrait that you painted. It was indeed so very you (how I knew you); fierce, wise and powerful. It was so alive like you! Full of guts and knowing and witty remarks.

I looked into your eyes and it’s as if you were telling me “You are here because you’re such a stubborn, spunky little thing like me. Kudos!”

I was the cardboard fan girl before I saw your works in person. But going through the exhibit, especially after watching the videos about you and your photographs in black and white, slowly I’ve come to realize how human you were.

Your greatness came from living a life of daring and unapologetic honesty.

You’ve got the talent but that talent won’t create much without the character and honesty you’ve mixed it with.

You’ve turned your life’s pains into works of art – all beautiful and sharp. You’ve dealt with loss and loneliness with both the toughness and tenderness of a bull. That is why your works are all full of life. They are bleeding not just with colors but with all your passions, love, sorrows, hopes, failures and fighting spirit.

An artist told me my artworks were like yours. Though that was of course very flattering for me, I must say I never copied your style. It’s been my style even before I knew you existed. Just like you, I began painting as a way to cope up with my isolated situation. You had an accident and were in bed rest when you started painting while I was in the process of healing from depression. Painting was the only thing that liberated me from my mind. I didn’t have to think at all when I painted. I was able to be fully present and therefore alive.

One of my very fond memories of you (yes, it’s as if I actually spent some time with you) was when you said you’d rather hang out in the market in Mexico than in the galleries in New York. You despised all those pretentious elites. Same here, girl! I’d rather spend time with the people and share my art with them than imprison my works in air-conditioned galleries where people have to pay to enter.

Frida, I am learning to be who I feel in my soul I should be. Although it has its own glamour, I must say this entire journey has been fucking crazy and lonely sometimes many times. So many people just couldn’t comprehend the things that I do and (most especially) those that I don’t. I teach myself to refrain from the impulse to explain and judge others.

I wish I could talk to you. I wonder what you’re going to tell me. Oh well, maybe we’ll just end up getting drunk or high, speaking loudly, laughing and dancing in the night streets.

Life could be tough all she wants but we could always transform each pain into things of life and beauty. You’ve left a legacy on earth and now you’re partying wherever your fiery soul is! I can hear you roar in laughter. Just like you said, wherever you may be right now, you are never going back. It must be awesome where you are. Catch up with you again soon. xoxo