Activities · Art · Business · People · Self · Travel · Women

To KatKat, my seven year old self

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Remember when you were small? All you’ve ever dreamed of was to travel and read (you thought it was that humble and simple). 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 won’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 means to really “Serve. The. People.”. I’ve learned who these “People” are, I’ve learned how they live and struggle and what they need. 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. I was at the one of the lowest moments of my life. I was alone and 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 lot 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). I made hand-painted canvas bags!

And yes, I was able to sell these 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 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 where I didn’t expect I would be (like what I always say, I could get married at age 50 with a free-spirited man like me, or I could be in a relationship with a woman, that’s also possible).

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 to all the changes that is 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 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 famous to tourists. And I read, 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.
People · Relationships · Self · Women

To the little-girl-on-fire inside me

You were right. I had to leave him. I had so many reasons to leave him but I still wanted to stay. He’d been a toxic boyfriend, he knew that and he also knew from the start that he didn’t deserve me. Oh well, I could make a really long list of the reasons why I should have left him earlier in the relationship. But the thing that made me decide to finally leave him was because he cheated on me.

I saw his regret, yes. I saw his remorse from what he did. He not only disappointed me but he disappointed himself above all. Those were the reasons why I was able to forgive him that easy.

But forgiving didn’t have to mean accepting him again in my life. I understood all his pains and his reasons for doing all the bad decisions he has made even before we met. But cheating has always been a deal-breaker for me. 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.

He did it to us. He broke us apart. We could never undo what he did. Our relationship with all its possibilities was broken. As much as I still wanted to make it work, there was nothing I could do anymore.

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. It’s giving up my dignity 140%. I couldn’t do that. I won’t be able to deal with your death. I might as well just die myself.

I had to stand up for myself, for you.

I had to stand up to the fact that he had hurt me despite saying that he loved me. I just had to let it sink in – the raw and throbbing feeling of being betrayed, hurt and left all alone to lick my own wounds. I had to acknowledge what he did to me. I had to stand up for the truth that what he did to me was unjust and was totally not right. I had to prove you that lying and cheating should never be tolerated. Some people may not do what I did because situations vary and people are just different. But I owned up to my decision. It’s what I felt in my soul I should do. I have no regrets whatsoever.

I’ve always put honesty on top of my values. I still do. Cheers to us, my little girl on fire! We were able to fight for that most cherished value.

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 being an asshole like him.

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 into the pits.

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 me transform 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 hope he learns his lessons, too. I’ve always believed in him. I just couldn’t spend the rest of my life waiting for him to change and achieve his greatest potential.

I love you, little girl on fire. I promise to keep on making you proud and protected. Nothing and no one could kill your heat and light. Please keep on lighting up my life. We are in this journey together. We are living a life of adventure. We will keep on living it.

People · Relationships · Women

To my strong friend, C

It’s always a breath of fresh air when I speak with you. Our conversations are food for my soul. They make me feel more connected to the meaningful things in life.

You’re a mom now. Like what you said, your son now means the world to you. While you never really fantasized about becoming a mother, surprisingly it has become the thing that makes you the happiest at this point in your life. I can see that. But you’re not like my other friends who have become mothers. Motherhood didn’t make you forget all the things that you’ve always found interesting. We still talk about politics (Marxism in particular), world history, art, travel, life, love and loss, among others. I don’t feel like you have transformed into a stranger just because you bore a son.

Motherhood only added up to the great person that you already were when I met you in college.

I guess, it made you more emotional, affectionate, light and understanding. Your life has never been easy. It still isn’t easy now that you are responsible for another human being. But you embrace life with dignified simplicity. I can see that in you.

Nothing can and nothing will every break you. You’ve understood long ago that it’s never the world’s responsibility to make you happy or to make life easier for you. Nobody owes us anything. It’s our responsibility to be okay and to be at peace with the reality of our lives.

Some may see you as a serious person with a tough shell. I never saw you that way. I’ve always thought you’re mature and responsible but you’re also full of interests and fun! You are honest and funny, too. There was never a dull moment with you.

I treasure our friendship so much. I don’t think I’ve ever lied to you about anything. To  be honest, sometimes I feel like I’m being too honest with you (I couldn’t help myself! Haha). But maybe there is no such thing as being too honest when it comes to our relationship.

I love you, my friend. You are a soul sister to me. You’re always included in my prayers.

Activities · People · Self · Women

To my notebook of prayers and to Her who doesn’t need to read them because She could directly reach into my heart

I grew up a Catholic. I’ve studied in a Catholic School for a decade. I’ve always been chosen as the leader when it comes to prayers because I had a good memory and perhaps because they thought I was the postcard good girl.

But I’ve never really had a personal relationship with these prayers and with you. Until that night when I felt so broken and helpless that I literally wrote in what became my prayer notebook my first personal prayer “God, please protect  my heart tonight because it’s vulnerable right now.” That was all. The next morning I realized that despite having a broken heart and sleeping so late, my sleep had been peaceful and complete. I didn’t have nightmares, I didn’t wake up crying or screaming like I did the nights before that. I was simply given what I’ve asked for. You protected my heart so I could rest. I will never, ever forget that.

I’m in a better place now. I’ve traveled recently, I’ve met new friends and been catching up with old friends, new artistic opportunities are opening up, I’ve been slowly given the solitude I need, I’ve been learning how to surrender and become more forgiving, I’ve been learning how to set boundaries and I’ve been feeling the love and best wishes from the universe.

You had to let me get broken so I could be stronger but you’re not that cruel to just let me go on my own. You’ve always provided the help (I called “miracles”) that I need when I needed it.

You’ve also always been so sweet to me as to send your affection and loving thoughts through the people I’ve been meeting and the places I’ve been going to.

Thank you for giving me enough chances in life. Thank you for believing I’m worthy of these chances.

You always knew how stubborn I was. And you matched it up with equal (or more) stubbornness!

Never leave me in my healing. Never take the backseat in my journey. I want to travel with you. We are partners in life from now on.

I’m wiser now but I’m still an idiot in many ways. I’m stronger now but for sure I’ll still chicken out many times. Be there for me, please. Promise you’ll remain to be the most honest presence in my life. I need you. You are important to me. I won’t make it in this life without you. I still get anxious every day though I try not to. Please remind me to be silent whenever I do so I could hear what you have to say. I’m not so hopeless, after all. Please be patient with me, okay?

I’m sleeping in a while. Please take away the anxieties and fears in my heart. Let me allot all the space inside me for your loving peace. Tomorrow is a new day full of possibilities. May I become fully present to seize what it has to offer and to openly give what I can offer in return.

Activities · People · Self · Travel · Women

To my learning Self

Decisive endings are perfect opportunities to plan again.

This is one of the many chances we are given to redeem ourselves and grow. Let’s do our best to work together and make more productive, meaningful and liberating resolutions and activities.

Please consider my humble suggestions:

1. Block off negative vibes from other people by strengthening your inner life. Self knowledge and forgiveness leads to peace of mind. Gratitude leads to peace of mind. Complete presence leads to peace of mind.

2. In relation to the previous one, separate yourself from people and situations that only sow negativity in you. These people could be you own parents, siblings, colleagues, friends and potential lover/s. If you cannot completely cut ties with them then better not come close. Love them, yes and be there for them. But be firm with setting your boundaries.

Maturity entails that we don’t let our life issues spill and pollute other people’s lives. If they cannot keep theirs from spilling over, just back off.

Only they could help themselves. Get busy with getting your shit together instead.

Important reminders: Insecure people will always hate confident, productive and happy people. You’ve been a very insecure person yourself so you know how it feels like. But continue working on yourself, anyway; be confident, productive and happy. Let them hate you but don’t hate them.

3. Be wiser in knowing who to trust. I know you’ve always been so open and trusting. But just because you know you can be trusted doesn’t mean that all other people could be trusted, too. Protect your heart.

While it’s true that not everyone is out there to get you, based on your experiences not everyone also has the best of intentions for you. Most people simply care only about themselves. Growing up entails accepting that reality.

Useful tip: You’ll know if someone cannot be trusted if the person makes/made you feel bad about yourself when you practically haven’t done anything to harm them.

4. After detoxifying your life from negative people and relationships, focus on the ones that are inspiring and liberating for you. You have a few pending dates with your girl friends. Take the lead and have a good time with them! There are people in your life who sincerely want to be with you. You know who they are. Focus on them and forget about the rest.

5. Get better in taking care of yourself. Pamper yourself with routines that make you feel fresh and good, wear clothes that suit your personality, eat healthy, have enough rest, exercise and smile!

6. Allot time for artistic activities. Visit museums, continue your illustration project, visit websites of artists, make friends with artists and fill your days thinking and discussing about art with like-minded people. Instead of going to shopping malls or just eating out, why not invite your friends to museums, libraries and art film festivals?

7. Read, read, read! Read books by authors who you suppose are difficult for you, read about topics you’re practically an idiot about, read books that help you work on your spirituality and growth, read books written by women and for women, read books that inspire you and teach you to write, read books that inspire you to travel and live, read books that guide you to the path your soul wants you to go.

Important reminders: Be organized and disciplined when it comes to your reading list. Finish what you started. Come on, have respect for the books and the authors and the opportunity you are given to read.

8. Watch challenging films! While you may permit yourself to watch simply entertaining films from time to time, give priority to the films that really stimulate and challenge your beliefs and abilities. Every little thing is a learning opportunity.

9. Organize your finances. Be very wise and fair in allotting budget for the household, for your basic needs, for your health needs, for travel and for your girly stuff.

10. Be sure to spend a regular amount of time alone. Spend your nights from the office in solitary walks. You’ve done it a few times. You know how relaxing it is. Spend your “Me Day” alone in whichever place you choose to be. Take long solitary bus rides. Have a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer alone in a nice place. Enjoy your surroundings.

Observe the people, observe yourself. Let the universe express its love for you in silence.

11. Work on your spiritual life. You’ve already done some major developments. Thanks to the recent pivotal events. Keep working on it. You’ll need all your strength and wisdom for more challenges and growth opportunities in the future.

People · Relationships · Self

To the ghost of Insecurity

Stop posing as my friend, colleague and lover. You should not take over an entire person. You’re a phony, spineless, meaningless piece of crap. You bring down amazing and loving people. You sabotage lives.

It’s painful for me to see my relationships break down because of you. I know you have a lot to teach us humans.

But sometimes, it takes an entire life for some people to learn.

It breaks my heart to let these people go. I know I have to let them go because I’ve been in their place before, too. There’s no way others could have helped me when I was in the pits. If I’ve let them stay, I’d only just pull them into my hole. I couldn’t let myself do that. So I had to push them away even if they sincerely wanted to stay.

Most of the time when the person goes out of your life, they never come back…or you never let them catch up with you again. Either way you’re both out of each others’ lives forever. It’s a sad but inevitable thing. Maybe it’s just part of nature’s healthy process of growth. I’d like to believe and accept that. Otherwise, I’d always be full of remorse and regret. I won’t be able to move on and enrich the relationships that I presently have in my life.

It’s just a shame how many years, relationships and good times are wasted because we let you in our lives and believe in your lies. How many more people do I have to let go because of you?

People · Self

To an old friend named Depression

You used to have so much power over me.

There was a point in my life where 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 needed, the worse you became. The more I reached out to you, the deeper you dug into your hole.

You were so clingy to the past and so jaded about the future. You used to have this habit of picking out only the sappiest, most tragic stories from heaven-knows-where. You were a negative-vibe-magnet. The truth was you were beautiful and brilliant. You just couldn’t see it because you were so wrapped up in your own pain. You won’t let it go fearing that you will lose yourself as well.

You came to me at a time when I was feeling weak and alone myself. You became my most available companion. Well, 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 on each other. I let you suck all the good things about me. But even my all was not enough to make you full and 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.

While it’s true that you didn’t run after me, I’ve always had this secret fear that I won’t be able to resist you when we accidentally meet again. There was this nagging fear that I might accidentally fall into your deep, dark hole again. This fear of falling and forever getting trapped controlled my life for a time. I lived in a constant state of paranoia and cowardliness.

Love made me strong and wise enough to confront your shadows and my 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 and disappointing realities of life.  I could be in charge now. I have to let you go because I have to step into the light. I must move out from the comfort zone that you’ve provided me. There are people who need my love. I deserve love as well. I have to be there for the people who care about me. I have to show up in my own life.

I’ve known long ago that sooner or later I must let you go. I just didn’t expect it will be this painful and sad. Contrary to what my family and friends think about you, you are not my enemy but my friend. You always had been. You came to me when I needed you. The darkness you shared with me was comforting. You let me into your home. You embraced who I was. You didn’t reject my darkness when the whole world didn’t want any of it. You gave me a space where I can grow my own roots and my own wings at the same time.

Depression, thank you. You only existed because I brought you to life. You can rest now. Trust me, I’ll be okay. As you go on your journey, please take with you a piece of my grateful, loving heart. After the long struggle to keep afloat and survive, we have reached the shore. I am finally safe in my own strength. You can let me go now.

History · People · Places · Travel

To the Vietnamese people, the face of conviction and resiliency

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Dreams do come true. I know because things fell into place and I suddenly found myself in your land, walking among you. I had the chance to be welcomed into your warm home, to be listened to, to be explained by, to be shown an example on how to summon the highest self to rise above such great loss and heartache.

Ho Chi Minh City was a beautiful, fresh place. It’s peaceful, clean and friendly. I neither felt out of place nor scared.

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I’ve always had a high regard for you. Your fight against the French colonialists and the imperialist Americans have always been a source of awe for me. You weren’t afraid to lose everything that’s why you came out of each struggle in victory. Until now, you’ve proven the world why you deserved such success over seemingly impossible enemies.

You won the wars. You keep on winning them by being stronger but more tender, by being firm but more understanding, by moving on but never forgetting what is worth remembering.

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I had a better understanding of what you’ve been through and who you were as a people when I was able to visit the War Remnants Museum, the Handicapped Handicrafts and the Chu Chi Tunnels. Your spirit was just amazing. How you transformed your limitations into opportunities, tragedy into beauty and strength would leave anybody speechless.

You fought in unity, rose up in unity, coped up with devastation in unity and rebuilt your country in unity. You’ve become indestructible individually and collectively.

People like you reaffirm the truth that it is possible to defeat imperialism, that it is possible to transform oneself and align it with the common good and that it is possible to create a new world order. You reaffirmed my belief that there are wars worth dying for because it’s the only way to have a chance for a better life and a new beginning.

The revolutionary history of my people has always made me proud. Then there was you. You’re a source of more profound and lasting inspiration.

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Your ingenuity, conviction and unimaginable inner strength became your most valuable weapons.

No enemy would be powerful enough to knock you down. My people has a lot to learn from you in continuing and winning our struggle. Your struggle and victory is ours and all the oppressed people of the world. Embrace us with your revolutionary spirit.

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On a more personal note, you made me realize that there’s nothing to fear and nothing to lose when you’re on the side of reason. Peace and prosperity will come to those who have the guts to fight for what is right and just. It’s how we grow up and become deserving of the life and the many chances we are given.

Music · Places · Self · Travel

To Daughter’s “If You Leave” album

So don’t bring tomorrow ’cause I already know, I’ll lose you. 

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You were the perfect soundtrack for my solitary trips in Europe.

Wherever each of us may be, I believe we need to have that time in our lives wherein we could allow ourselves to let go of the past and the future, to just be, to let ourselves be enveloped by all the sights, sounds and smells of the present as it happens, to be strong enough to surrender, to be humble enough to admit that we might be wrong all along and to be open enough to let love change us.

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That’s what the mountains and forests of Switzerland, France and Germany have taught me. You’ve been a worthwhile companion in that once-in-a-lifetime part of my journey. I was able to feel and remember better as I listened to you. The coldness and sound of the wind somehow acquired a body of its own, the sunlight danced with more intensity no matter how fleeting it came to be. Thank you. Everything became more meaningful and loving because of you.

People · Relationships · Self · Women

To my younger selves

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. They should know better because they’ve lived longer than 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. Know the importance of getting your shit together.
Don’t pollute the world of negativity and learn to say no to other people’s negativity. You don’t need it. The world doesn’t need it.
Go girl! 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 of 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 and by following the light.
You’re a survivor and  becoming better and better at surviving because you are learning how to master the natural process of death and rebirth. The vastness of the universe in all its righteousness and warmth is on your side.
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.