SI GEENA AT ANG KANYANG PAGLIPAD – ISANG DAGLI

2016-10-07 11.30.59 1.jpg

I am not great at Tagalog which is embarrassing. I’m one of those Filipinos who, as a child, learned English first then Tagalog second. Speaking and writing in straight Tagalog requires great effort on most days, and this is why I’m proud to share this short story (a dagli) which I wrote for a class in college.

Inspired by Geena Rocero, this is the life story of a transgender person who had the opportunity to finally live her truth.

Si Geena at ang Kanyang Paglipad

Siya ay kasalukuyang nasa himpapawid, nakatingin sa mga tala. Habang ang kanyang mga kasama ay nahihimbing, siya ay nag-iisip. Ang katagang “self-made woman” ay nabibigyan ng kakaibang kahulugan kapag iyong nakilala si Geena. Si Geena na ang buhay ay halos puro paglalayag.

Ang una niyang paglalayag ay para makalayo. Makalayo sa ama na ang tingin sa kanya ay kahihiyan. Makalayo sa pari na ang tingin sa kanya ay makasalanan. Sa mga kalye, café, at bar ng Amsterdam at San Francisco siya nakahanap ng pagtanggap. Sa mga beach ng Rio de Janeiro niya nagawang mag-bikini at sumayaw nang malaya at walang panghuhusga. Sa Greenwich Village sa New York niya natutunan ang ilan sa kasaysayan ng kanyang mga kauri. Mga lugar na bukas sa mga tulad niya. Sa piling ng mga katulad niya na malayang nakakapagpahayag ng kanilang katotohanan siya nakahanap ng kaligayahan.

Ang ikalawa niyang paglalayag ay para sa kanyang anyo. Galing Kalibo, lumipad pa-Maynila para sa estrogen na galling Estados Unidos. Sumunod naman ay sa Alemanya para sa kanyang balakang, sa Belgium para sa kanyang suso, at Sa Thailand para sa kanyang puke. Sa kanyang paglalakbay, unti-uniting tumutugma ang kanyang panlabas sa kanyang kalooban. Unti unti niyang nakakamit ang katotohanan.

Ang ikatlo niyang paglalayag ay para sa kanyang pagkatao. May isang pagkakataon na limang oras siyan pinaghintay sa NAIA dahil ang kanyang hitsura ay hindi tugma sa kanyang gender marker. Siya ay tinawag ma ‘mister’ kahit siya ay mukha nang ‘miss’. Nakakapuno at nakakainsulto. Lumipad siya pa-San Francisco at pagkaraan ng ilang taon, dito tuluyang namatay si Gino, at ipinanganak si Geena.

Ang ikaapat niyang paglalayag ay para sa pag-ibig. Para kay Oskar. “Your name would look better with two letter e’s”, sabi sa kanya ng Aleman nang siya sa wakas ay naging babae na. Hinawakan niya kamay nito habang ito ay natutulog sa kanyang tabi. Malapit nang lumapag sa New York ang eroplano. Sa makalawa ay ikakasal sila sa siyudad na ito, bagay na hinding-hindi niya magagawa sa bayang sinilangan.

Maaaring ito na nga ang huli. Ang huling paglalayag ng isang babaeng mistulang buong buhay niya ay lumilipad. Hinahabol ang katotohanan, kalayaan, at kaligayahan. Maaaring ito na nga…

__________________________

*Ang pangalang Geena ay hango kay Bb. Geena Rocero, isang Pilipinang transgender na ngayon ay isang model sa New York. Siya ang tagapagtatag ng Gender Proud, isang NGO na naglalayong tulungan ang mga transgender na maging totoo sa kanilang mga sarili at magpakalap impormasyon tungkol sa karapatan na malayang pagpili ng sekswalidad.

Advertisements

SOMETHING TO ASPIRE FOR – TURIN 2017

Processed with VSCO with se3 preset

Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on.” Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world.” – Pico Iyer

It was love at first sight. 

I never believed that it’s possible for a  moment of contact to be enough to make one fall head over heels, and be willing to do anything and everything to pursue the object of their immediate insanity.

Turin however, was unreal and otherworldly. Love at first sight, as it turns out, is possible when one travels. The entire city is a Baroque exhibitremnants of the old Savoy-ian wealth and grandeur expertly preserved throughout the centuries. What I saw only through documentaries and mama’s collected National Geographic clippings on Italy was suddenly all before me and it was overwhelming.

I visited two palaces turned museums: Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Madama, former homes of Turin’s fallen monarchs, the Savoys. I was also able to see the Shroud of Turin, as well as the Egyptian Museum. The most fun I’ve had however, was at the National Museum of Cinema. It was nirvana for a lover of film and imagery, as Maria Adriana Prolo’s collection was extensive and authentic. As souvenir, I bought a postcard of Audrey Hepburn to remind me to live an elegant life. The museum was housed inside the Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s “La Tour Eiffel”, and whose panoramic lift allowed me to see the entirety of the old city as well as the surrounding Italian Alps.

The various piazzas were moving displays of the typical Italian life. Street performers playing and dancing to classical music could be found in every corner. Water fountains with steel busts of a Bull bring forth an endless stream of perfectly potable mountain spring water. The street graffiti were incredibly poetic, calling one’s amore “alleluiyah” like it’s nothing.

The locals were never in a hurry. There was always time for a stroll or a chat with a friend and an Apéritif. The only hurried thing I saw was the drinking of coffee, as “café” automatically means “espresso” and is consumed right at the bar in one to two gulps. I ate authentic pizza and lasagna, and had Sauvignon blanc with dinner followed by a shot of espresso, and then a shot of Amarre. Oh, and I also had Gelato every day.

This visit was a privilege afforded to me at work, and it was a game-changer. Turin gave me something to aspire for. I was reminded of the dream of working at the UN level I had since university. Those dreams could be translated in to a concrete plan now, with a specific UN Agency in mind, and motivated further by the desire to live in this beautiful city.

Turin cleansed me of the  distractions that have been sabotaging my goals for months. I was made to realize the importance of letting go (of people, activities) even if we might like them very much. I realized further the value of one’s mental energy, and how necessary it is to choose one’s battles in order to make sure that we are investing ourselves properly.

Most importantly however, I realized that maybe I am good enough for this dream and that someday (a foreseeable someday), maybe I could make it.

IMG_20170904_080235_439-horzProcessed with VSCO with acg presetProcessed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with nc preset

Processed with VSCO with kk1 preset

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with kk1 preset

IMG_20170903_190035_484IMG_20170902_214707_647-tile

Processed with VSCO with kk1 preset

All photos were taken using an Oppo F1s+. My first full mobile photography set. 🙂 

SOLEDAD

IMG_20170825_182131_446

Adulthood so far has been a continuing journey of learning how to be alone, or more appropriately, how to be happy when alone.

Growing up has been marked by companionship. My first school was chosen because I had cousins who already go there, and could therefore keep an eye on me. Nanay is also always at every Kumon and violin lesson, every play date, camping and learning trips, extracurricular classes, everything.

This sheltered upbringing has been incredibly comfortable, but I was also robbed of independence. I was afforded with more freedom when I reached my teenage years, but somehow I rejected it. Life, since then, has been an unconscious, yet relentless, pursuit of relationships, friendships, and companionship.

The tables are starting to turn however. Nanay’s age is starting to catch up with her and I am starting to take on the caretaker role more and more each day. My friends are also feeling the sting of adulthood, and we have less time to get together and talk. And in a bid for independence, the boy I loved also decided to leave.

Travel however, has been my greatest teacher. Solo trips to Thailand and Italy has taught me the value of solitude. Being left alone to navigate foreign environments with people, languages, and cultures completely different from what I am used to are priceless experiences.

I have learned to be grateful for the opportunities to get to know myself better, what my likes and dislikes are, the extent of my capabilities, and how I respond to adversity.

These are growing pains that I have learned to love and actively seek. I learned that I could function and be happy on my own, and that the companionship that I used to yearn for could wait and that they come on their own anyway (and when they do, it feels much better).

Weightlessness is a treasure, a freedom not afforded to many. I realized that there are a multitude of things I would like to do on my own for now: career pursuits, personal improvement, adventure, further education, among others.

Suddenly, I am grateful for all the friendships that ended, for him leaving especially. I realized that maybe, he too needed to do things on his own at this time in our lives.

For now, I would like to be left in my lonesome, enjoy the weightlessness and be free to pursue the future I desire, full steam ahead.

LESSONS RECENTLY LEARNED BY A ROOKIE TRAVELER

IMG_9998aa

I leave for Europe in five days to visit Italy for the first time. This is another trip of many firsts: first long haul flight, first time to experience connecting flights, first time in Italy, and first time in Europe actually. And I am travelling alone again. 

I’ve had less than a month to prepare for this trip, and it’s been incredibly nerve-wracking. This post is a documentation of the unglamorous side of travel that I’ve discovered and learned from (still learning more) these past few weeks.

  1. Visa application is a chore. Over-prepare, do not cram, and most importantly, do not take it lightly.
  2. Take the time to really study the public transport system. Uber is not always available. Private transport is expensive.
  3. Plan out your accommodation properly. Things to consider: proximity to your itinerary, food places, airport, the transport system, WiFi, and the PRICE.
  4. Budget honey, look up the entrance fees for the museums you intend to visit, plan out where you’re gonna eat, take advantage of tourist transportation packages.
  5. Google translate is a gem. English is not as universal as they make it out to be. Also, studying the local language makes you more cultured.
  6. Waze and Google maps! Take screenshots! Prepare the physical maps as well.
  7. Wear a watch.
  8. You will have to invest in wardrobe. But this is a one-time thing, if you invest properly and take good care of everything.
  9. You will have to invest in luggage. But this is a one-time thing, if you invest properly and take good care of everything.
  10. Credit cards are a necessity, it turns out.
  11. Sew invisible pockets everywhere. 
  12. Have two toiletry bags. One for check in, one for your carry on.
  13. Newly discovered essentials: whistle key chain, mini flashlight, extension cord, universal travel adaptors, emergency numbers, extra copies of your travel documents (print and digital), monopod, water canteen, notebook and pen, and data package (tourist sim?).
  14. Those giant belts for luggage are a thing. Always have one.
  15. Don’t get distracted by picture-perfect instagrammers and their instagram posts. The glitz distracts you from the hard work prior to travel.

Right now I am all nervous-scared-excited-challenged. I look forward to, and am grateful for, all the adulting and growing up that this new territory will force me to do.

Future self, I know you are a much better traveler now, but take time to return to this post and remind yourself of some lessons forgotten, laugh at your naivete’, discover how far you’ve come and be grateful for the opportunity to literally journey through life.

RAMBLINGS ON HARDWORK AND WOMANHOOD

15723667_1410412735636568_4698766282605953135_o

I had a meaningful conversation with an old friend two nights ago about her current struggles in university. We met two years ago when she was just a freshman and I was a junior. I was tasked to guide her in her application as member in our major’s organization and now she’s running as chairperson for the next school year.

Our conversation reminded me of another reason why we must always work hard no matter the circumstances. I realized that even though we work hard to please God and to achieve our goals, we must also work hard and persist for the people that watch us and consider us as role models. The drive and ambition I have now would not exist if I didn’t have people who succeeded by the skin of their teeth while I was growing up.

I was reminded specifically of female role models. Those who rose up against adversity and surpassed the limits placed upon them by society. My mother is a single parent by choice and she received a lot of judgement for that decision. People doubted her ability to provide and to parent, yet here I am today, a full grown adult who had a happy childhood.

Though I would never dream of single parenthood (I’m not strong enough), my mother, in a way, has broken a glass ceiling for me. She rose through the corporate ladder by her own merit, yet still was able to guide me and inculcate in me values that have become incredibly important now that I’m an adult (though of course these pangaral sessions were greatly unappreciated when I was a teenager). She defied the “either-or”, she showed me it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too.

We have to be strong and persistent through , for every woman that decides to do so creates a better world for the women that are yet to come.

HOME

dsc_0230

So far I have only written about the big moments: my travels, euphoric moments, and moments of defeat and sadness. However, it paints an incomplete picture of the life I want to document and preserve. The plateaus and days where nothing remarkable happens also deserve to be written about, for big moments emerge from the little ones that melt together. One should never neglect the little things.

Today I want to preserve a portrait of our home and everything that is lovely about it.

I moved out for two months in 2016 to be closer to work. If you live in Manila, you’d know how deadly the traffic could be and spending a minimum of four hours everyday traveling to and from work becomes physically and mentally exhausting at some point.

So I moved out, but I had to move back home for family (in the Philippines it’s completely normal for adults to continue living at home until they get married) which was devastating at first but it ended up being for the best. Though I enjoyed the freedom and independence associated with living on my own, I definitely missed being able to decorate as I pleased (I had roommates in the apartment I lived in), our dogs barking and playing, my nana and her lush garden, my little aromatherapy corner, the way the sun enters my room in the morning, and the home cooked meals.

I did not appreciate our home this much before I moved out. Indeed some distance allows us to realize what is truly important and how the things we take for granted end up being the things we cannot live without.

dsc_0507dsc_1238dsc_5606-horzdsc_5615dsc_5623dsc_5625

 

On Dreams – Bangkok 2016

sam_3155

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. My copy came from the trash as someone from my High School decided to throw it out on our locker-cleaning day in the final days of school. Indeed one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, ha!

The book follows the story of Santiago as he crosses the Desert to reach the Egyptian pyramids where treasure is supposedly buried. This was revealed to him through a dream, and he decided to follow this dream with burning passion. In his journey he discovers the Soul of the World and meets an Alchemist who teaches him how to understand and be one with this timeless truth. As expected, his journey was anything but smooth and there were moments where he lost sight of his dream (his personal legend). In the end, he achieved his personal legend but not in the way one would expect.

There are two truths I learned from the book, and these two will continue to guide me as I go about life.

There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.

When you’re on a journey to fulfill your Personal Legend, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.

Ever since junior year of college I knew that I wanted to work on an international capacity. This desire stems from a mixture of loving travel, exploration, and photography, and also wanting to do good in the world. I wanted to join either the United Nations or National Geographic, and just travel and explore frequently. I envisioned myself getting lost in foreign lands whose language I don’t speak, and whose people look drastically different from me.

I was ready for it, and after graduation I was determined to get a job at an international NGO. I blindly applied for various positions even though I was aware that I’m incredibly unqualified for all of them; and as expected I never got a call back.

Life happened and I ended up in a soul-crushing job at a BPO.

At that time, I sincerely thought my dream was dead. Life was a hard teacher and I wasn’t prepared for all its lessons. I’ve always seen the world as very Disney. My innate optimism has made me naive and the heartbreak became overwhelming.

I had given up.

But Life has other plans, and it brought me to my current job which has strong ties to various UN agencies and other international governing bodies.

I remember my interview vividly, especially the part where my current boss asked me if I was okay with traveling. I remember answering YES with a gigantic grin on my face.

Last year I was given the opportunity to visit Bangkok twice to represent the country, and our organization, to two meetings. It’s a great honor as I’ve only been with the organization for a few months.

Here are some of the photographs I took when I explored during my free time.

sam_3160Processed with VSCO with kk1 presetsam_3156sam_3163sam_3154sam_3168sam_3169sam_3173Processed with VSCO with kk1 presetsam_3175

Misadventures and a Wedding: Tagaytay 2016

15289186_1375336225810886_8459588952863675615_o

Last October 8, 2016 I had the privilege of witnessing (and documenting) my boss/adoptive older sister marry her bestfriend in Tagaytay, surrounded by the people they love.

Their love isn’t a firework, there was no spark nor immediate chemical reaction that changed their lives in a snap. Their love is like a photo album that is built from each individual photograph of moments they lived and shared. Eventually the photographs changed its nature, and the love it contains demanded to be declared eternal.

The ceremony was a brilliant testament of God’s faithfulness, from the preparation up to its conclusion. I learned that those Mayad Studios SDE videos show only 0.008% of how weddings really go, and that there are a lot of things that can go wrong, but you really do have a choice in what you let ruin your day. A lot of preparation goes into weddings, it turns out, and a lot of money too. These things are definitely for full grown adults only.

However, I also learned that despite all the confusion at present, and all the confusion that is yet to come, indeed some of the best days of our lives have yet to come to pass.

dsc_4563dsc_4566-horzdsc_4582dsc_4607-horzdsc_4596dsc_4641aa-horzdsc_4740

Of course, Shiela and I were able to squeeze in a few misadventures before and after the ceremony. It includes, but not limited to, walking along the dark Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway with our heavy packs in the middle of the night, sharing Bulalo and a decrepit bed-and-breakfast room, meeting a monkey, and killing time (and money) at the Hippiest cafe we’ve been to so far.

dsc_4764dsc_451515252702_1375335822477593_8391879289331832893_o15325353_1375335992477576_4403098376138384301_o.jpg

dsc_4910

Images taken using a Nikon D200, and an Oppo F1S+

The family we choose

dsc_4045

It turns out I only had to wait two weeks.

I found a new family mid-May in the form of a non-profit organization. After the fiasco that was the 8-month stint at a BPO, I am more than grateful to have earned a place at an organization whose work has national ramifications.

Fast forward 6 months, we’ve arrived to November. I’m still here and still very happy. Life is currently a paradox as I’ve grown so much in the past months yet I still feel so young, naive, and unknowledgeable. Every new thing I learn adds to me as a person, yet at the same time, it reinforces how much more I have to learn and how open I need to be.

Work itself is amazing, I’ve fallen in love with this field of study despite never being interested in it before. I’ve become more grateful to have been able to attend UP and be ingrained with resilience and flexibility. I’ve also decided to take up Law, not only for its usefulness at work, but also because I’ve come to witness that knowledge of the law, and learning how lawyers think has benefits that transcend the courtroom (people’s lawyering perhaps?) and that law doesn’t automatically translate to Annalise Keating type work.

One of the more important lessons I’ve learned relates to diversity. Prior to joining the organization, I have yet to meet people who completely challenged my understanding and patience. However, moments with them taught me the true meaning of grace. There are times when I witnessed grace abounding to people who do not deserve it, and I felt upset. Yet eventually I learned that I myself am not deserving, yet the same kind of grace applies to me when I am most unlovable. I’ve learned to recognize the subtle ways we become unkind, and I’ve learned to accept that ‘colleague’ does not immediately ‘translate’ to friend, which is good sometimes, for our own protection.

Most importantly, I’ve come to love the people. Yes, even the ones that are difficult to love and understand. There is an inexplicable feeling of belongingness, of being appreciated exactly for who you are, quirks and all. There’s a benefit to being part of a small-ish organization where everyone knows about everyone, and majority of the people are kind. My boss is a big sister after hours and during the weekends, I have two new best friends, and our legal services guy just set the standard on the type of man one ought to be entertaining.

I see no expiration date at this point. Every opportunity must be maximized and respected, everything, everyone is a gift. There is joy to be found in always performing one’s best, and being recognized for it. Uncomfortable situations help one grow exponentially. Respect begets respect. Recognition takes time, and is a reward that is earned.

Featured are photographs from our company trip last May at Casa Amara, Laiya, Batangas.

dsc_4082dsc_4044dsc_4209dsc_4046dsc_4053dsc_4198dsc_4177

(photos taken using a Nikon D200)