That moment when you don’t know anymore

Ah life. On some days, I think I can take on the world and we are moving forward and we can do it and we can come out stronger. And then there are the days when I am reminded that loss is still an open wound, when it seems like every step is weighted down and all I really want to do is lie down and go to sleep for a long time.

There is a limit to how much friends and loved ones can carry together with us. There are things we cannot ask them to bear for us. We must bear these things…the three of us. My sons and I.

And the psychologists tell me that the job of moving forward rests mainly on me because mother determines how the children deal with their sorrow. How I am determines how my kids face up to their grief…with how they push forward and carry on.

Most days, I can carry on. But on some days, I can’t see beyond one moment to the next. There are moments like now, when I just don’t know anymore.

Today is almost done. I did my best. We all did. It wasn’t perfect, but we are getting there.

Tomorrow is waiting to happen. Tomorrow, we will move forward again. Tomorrow, things will be better. Tomorrow…

I have to keep on believing–

 

Back to Life

In the moments after sudden loss, the world falls away. For a while, you live in a vacuum where nothing exists except sudden emptiness. There is no formula for dealing with that kind of loss. There are no answers to questions left hanging in midair. Resolutions made, half-spoken plans–things not quite wrapped up. You are left there–hanging in midair, seeking for a foothold, trying to find stable ground again.

For a while, writing becomes a struggle. The words are too heavy–or not enough–the suddenness of loss is too startling. One moment there, then gone. Just like that. Photographs cannot answer back and memory rubs across the surface of the mind like rough paper over an open wound.

There is nothing to say. There is a lot you still want to say. No more questions can be asked. There are still so many things you want to ask.

Life moves on relentlessly. Life is too short to dwell on loss. Rather remember the good. Rather remember to embrace life and live life because the end is never expected.

So let us live life, I said to my friend.

And I think…I have to be bolder. I want to be stronger. I want to cherish those who are dear to me and to let those I love know that I love them. Each and every day. Life is too short for fear, for pride, for hate, for regret.

Things I learned: On Artistry and Art Life

Writer and storyteller, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, shared a link on her blog to a speech given by Ursula K. Le Guin upon accepting the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In this speech, Le Guin speaks not only of the need for visionary writers, but she also speaks of the need to discern between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.

At the end of her speech, Le Guin says that the name of our reward is not profit, it is freedom.

I think of freedom as I reflect and go through the notes and the memories that I have from New York and Janis Ian’s masterclass in artistry. Le Guin’s words resonate with the lessons learned from my time with Janis.

In New York, Laura and I talked about Janis’s commitment not only to her art, but also to taking hold of the business aspect of her art practice.  It was an aspect that she brought up a number of times and listening to Le Guin talk of freedom, serves as a reminder that whatever proceeds come from the exercise of one’s art–they all go back towards the artist being able to keep on practicing that art.

The practical truth of it is that we cannot exercise or develop our art when our energy is gone, when we are too tired or worn out, or when we our head is filled with worry.  I think of how I would never have finished or published the stories I have if not for being given space and time to practice my art free from the stresses and the tensions of daily life. I am grateful to my fellow practitioners–to the artists and writers who have opened their homes to me and who have so generously given me flights of freedom.

Freedom.

To be able to practice our art in a space and time when we are free from thinking of anything else but that practice is a vital and precious good. The writer cannot live without writing, and practicing art means we must be able to center ourselves on the work most of all.

Which then leads me to a question Janis Ian asked repeatedly in various sessions:

“Who among you wants to be famous?”

In thinking on that question, we are forced to recognize that fame does not equate into freedom, fame is not the same as success.  Indeed the boundary between fame and notoriety is so thin that it’s easy to cross over without realizing it. Rather than fame,  I value more the freedom to practice my art, and the knowledge that I have remained true to my vision.

Because, as Janis Ian reminded us, no one else has the vision that we have; and while there are many things in this life that can be faked, talent and art can never be faked.

Even as she said these things, she reminded us too that talent is not enough. The artist must do the work–must master their craft. If talent is a spirited horse, craft is what will ensure that your talent will not run away with you. In the course of the week, Janis continued to emphasize the need for artists to grow and add to their skillset (what we also call our toolkit). As artists,  we need to be constantly developing ourselves.  Being equipped with a wide range of skills makes us capable of answering to the call of opportunity.

I think of these things and I think to myself–the sky is unlimited.

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One of the interesting features of our week was what Janis called the Museum Wall. At the end of the week, we were asked to answer the question: What does all great art have in common? I’m sharing the image of the wall here. You answer the question.

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Things I learned: New York and Janis Ian’s Masterclass in Artistry

 

This time’s visit to America was started off by me singing lines from “Seventeen” to the customs officer at the entry point to New York.

“So, what do you intend to do in New York?” he asked me.

And because I had been bottling up my excitement for so long, I did a fistpump, smiled wide and said: “I’m here to meet Janis Ian.

When the border officer shook his head and failed to recognize her name, I decided to give him a song sample. ( I also said: You’re an American, how come you don’t know that this woman is one of the best American Folk Singers ever?)

Imagine me: standing in JFK, a row of tired and grumpy people standing behind me, and there I was, bursting into song.

The guy behind the counter shook his head (he didn’t recognize the song!). Still, he laughed (he’d been quite solemn), wished me a wonderful visit, and stamped my entry ticket.

As I walked away, I heard the lady who had been standing behind me give the officer a loud and cheerful greeting. I hope the officer was smiling still.

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One of the things Janis Ian taught us during the week in New York, was that fear is a construct. Except for atavistic fear, every other kind of fear is something that we’ve learned and what can be learned can be unlearned.

When I was standing in that line, I thought of my first visit to the US when I could hardly say a word to the officer behind the counter and ended up getting detained and interrogated for about an hour. I felt the familiar tickle of stress and the teary urge to break down.

Then, I realized that I’d traveled a long way. Friends had offered me this chance, and I couldn’t possibly spoil it by giving way to stress and anxiety. So, instead of mumbling through the interview, I squared my shoulders, spoke up and followed through with the song routine because…well, the worst thing that could happen was that they would send me back home again. (Also, who cares what people in line thought of me. The likelihood of them seeing me again was so small.)

The week with Janis Ian was marked with so many instances where I had to face up to the constructed fears that stood in the way of me doing things.

Coming out of JFK, I felt a huge burst of confidence. I was in New York, standing on the edge of change.

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To the artist, change is a constant. If we’re lucky, change means growth and development–a deepening of the work, a deepening in insight, growth in perception and understanding. Maturity not just in the work but in ourselves as human beings.

The following statement is in The Stella Adler Studio of Acting’s preamble:

Growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous. 

I would dare to exchange actor with artist and say: Growth as an artist and growth as a human being are synonymous. If we remain stagnant, if there is no growth, what does this say about our art? What does this say about us? What does this say about our practice?

Regardless of what field of discipline we occupy,  our exercise of our art, our commitment to our work is what differentiates us and binds us together in a global community.

On twitter, I posted a question Janis Ian asked that I felt is very key to all of us who are engaged in the practice of art: “Whose bones are you standing on?”  

There’s so much to unpack about that question. So much that can be said about ancestors, about the litany of names that have brought us here and continue to carry us through. We are one in a chain and I am grateful for the bones I’m standing on.

Check out the board below and think on these things.

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Sunday Morning Rambly Thoughts

Finding the words to talk about new adventures is often challenging. Here I am in New York City,  I have met one of my musical idols, have met with women I love and admire, and have found myself engaged in conversations that challenge me, inspire me, and compel me to look at various interactions in my life with new eyes.

Janis Ian said to me that it seemed to her that I was at the start of something new. I can’t help but agree–whenever I come to America ( once for the CW workshop and now for Janis’s masterclass), I find myself at a point where I must make decisions that may seem tiny to some, but are the equivalent of life-changing to me.

I find myself thinking of the Robert Frost poem that my sister loves so much–that one about two roads diverging into a wood and I can’t help but think of how life brings each of us to these forks in the road. Do we take the left? Do we take the right? Do we take the road that’s safe and known, or do we take the one that’s less travelled? And as Frost has said: the road we choose will make all the difference.

Making a choice isn’t easy. I find myself wishing that it were, but I don’t think life is meant to be easy anyway. I came out of a loving home, a nest where I was sheltered as well as my parents could, but even when there, I had to make a choice on whether to stay cocooned and separated from the hardship of the world around me, or to engage and see and know and understand that the society we live in isn’t egalitarian.

There is a larger mass who grow up in the absence of that access to shelter, to good nutrition, to healthcare, to education and the numerous minutae that we take for granted. Things we consider as simply being, are often luxury. Take for instance how here in the West, we take running water for granted–back home, running water is a luxury that only the very wealthy have access to–and then it is only the super-rich who can be assured of that kind of luxury where they don’t have to worry about whether there will be water tomorrow or not. Having grown up with this absence, each time I turn on the tap, I remember how my mother would caution us and tell us to conserve and recycle water.

Luxury.  To not have to worry that the tank will run out.

It’s easy to grow comfortable, to become complacent and inured to the hardship of the world. As long as it doesn’t touch us, we can rage, we can shout our anger, but we are still cocooned because that hardship is at a distance.

A white man can never fully comprehend the hardships a black man goes through. It’s easy for non-blacks to bagatelize the uncertainty of life as a black person. ( This is what happens when we say #alllivesmatter when black folks say #blacklivesmatter.)

Much as we want to believe that we live in a society where we are all equal, we do not and we need to make choices. Those choices won’t always be easy, they won’t be the road well-traveled, but choosing to walk that road, choosing to leave the comfort of the cocoon behind, choosing to open our eyes, step out of the box, engage fully, embrace the uncertain and the uncomfortable–these things, they do make a difference.

Another rambly post with a word for the journey

This is a rather rambly and somewhat personal post, but I’ve been thinking a lot about things and I’m remembering a day conference I attended where one of the women leaders reminded us that if we’re going to be engaged in social change, we need to bear a number of things in mind. One of these things is a word that I think we all need to carry in our backpacks.

Watchfulness.

We already know that in life, there will always be someone waiting to bring you down. When we’re starting out on the journey, we’re all eager and full of faith. It’s real easy to be made to believe that everyone who claims to be on our side really stands on our side, when the truth of the matter is that each and every person has an own agenda and that agenda may not be the same as the one you carry. I’ve learned the hard way that just because a person uses the right words and claims to stand on the same side, it doesn’t mean that person is someone you can open your heart and your soul to. It doesn’t mean that person is someone who wishes you well.

The thing is, when you’re engaged in struggle, you’re vulnerable too. It’s easy to get sucked into the kind of talk that will derail you from your original purpose. Because we long for companions in the struggle. Because it’s lonely out in the field and it’s hard. It’s even harder if you feel like you’re struggling all alone–like you’re a voice shouting into the void

Watchfulness.

Some people can’t conceive of success that makes room for others to enjoy greater success alongside of you. Some folks can’t understand the joy that comes from seeing people you love receiving praise and accolades. Some folks don’t see how the success of someone else does not diminish your own success. But we who are working for change must keep our eyes focused on the goal. Don’t be distracted by folks to the back or to the front or the side of you. You might share a goal with some folks, but in the work of change, in the work of creation, it’s not a competition as to who gets to reach the goal first.

When you have your eyes fixed on that goal, accolades and praise diminish in importance. What becomes important is that the mission gets accomplished, that we reach change, that we achieve that hoped for state. And maybe you won’t get awards for the work you do, but in the work towards change, awards aren’t a proper measure for the work that is done.

The true measure, the true reward comes when you see change taking place for real.

I keep my eyes fixed on the goal.

Sometimes, when the darkness crowds around me and I’m tempted to lay me down and not rise up again,  I think of all the hands that have lifted me up and of the folks who’ve gathered around me and chanted a mantra of love telling me to keep on writing and I know, I cannot give up. Not ever. I won’t give up until I see each and every one of those I love blossom and reach their full potential.

I don’t know when, I don’t know how the dream of proving Filipinos can write well enough in English morphed into a dream to witness how those who travel alongside me come into their own.

I don’t know when I started dreaming of a future that’s different from the present we occupy. Perhaps it was always there, lurking at the back of my mind, perhaps that dream just blossomed into maturity as I experienced what it’s like to be held up and given wings to find my dream.

My dream is to see more voices rising. To see a field occupied by a multiplicity of voices to see a field where there are no minorities.

Watchfulness.

We move through different stages in life. From not knowing, to slightly knowing, to full knowing. From apathy, to fear, to outrage, to anger, to compassion and understanding what it takes to truly work for change.  Not caring about others that is the most deadly state of all. It means, you lose your ability to feel with, to empathize, to feel deep down to your bones–you lose your soul.

Be watchful of your soul. Be watchful of your heart. No matter how hard or tough or how angry-making the struggle becomes, remain watchful.

When you’re doing the work, you need to accept that not everyone will love you. You need to accept that more folks will hate you than love you. Because who wants the world shaken up and changed? Who wants the world order to be turned upside down on its head?

Working towards change is terrifying work because it can at times feel so gigantic and overwhelming and if you’re invested in it, there will be moments when you’ll go: Oh shit, what was I thinking when I said I would do this? When you work towards change, you need to put your hands to the ground and do the dirty work. You need to invest your time and energy in creating and bringing into being a new world order. That’s not easy work. It’s an investment of time and energy and other resources and you won’t even get headlined or praised for that kind of work.

We’ve been taught to be modest, to erase ourselves, to downplay our ambitions, to keep our heads down. Don’t rock the boat.

So we don’t talk about the vision we hold in us because talking about that vision is terrifying. It’s baring your soul and making yourself vulnerable to arrows and spears. I say: We must not be quiet about the future that we want. We must not be afraid to rock the boat or to put ourselves at risk. Because without vision–without taking that risk, we don’t have a future.  And if we don’t share the vision inside us, we can’t blame folks if the world goes on as it’s always gone. Rock the boat, I say. Do it to the rhythm that beats inside you–to the tune of that song that says: we have big dreams and our dreams have a place in this world. We’re not waiting for permission, we’re taking hold of it. We’re shaping the future we want to see, marching to the tune of a song that belongs to us.

When we speak about diversity and inclusivity, it’s much more than paying bucks for merchandise. When we speak about diversity and inclusivity, it means we invest time, effort, resources in cultivating, nurturing and making sure there are no minorities in the field.

James Baldwin talked about the need to create a country where there are no minorities. We need to do that in this field. We need to show that we stand on the same level–equals in every discourse and we won’t let ourselves be treated as less than equal.

When we talk of change, we’re talking about a vision we share. A vision we want and we need to see become reality. How hungry are we for change? Are will willing to put our money where our mouths are? Are we willing to invest ourselves? Are we willing to put ourselves at risk?

It’s a fearsome thing to propose an end to hierarchies and pyramid structures. It’s a fearsome thing to say, let us all realize the power we hold inside us. It is a fearsome thing, but it is not impossible.

Instead of traditional hierarchies let us bring in horizontal fractals where a multiplicity of voices and a multiplicity of stories abound. Set up institutions with built-in nurturing and supportive systems, install programs that will encourage instead of discourage, invest in the development of multiple voices, reinstate the chains that bind older generations to younger ones. It’s a giant endeavour. It requires investment of time, energy, economic resources; it requires willingness to take the risk and it also requires a hell of a lot of love.

**Tade Thompson made a series of tweets on diversity which I’ve storified. Do take the time to check it out.

About Bagi: Ada ti Istorya

It’s June and Bahamut Journal’s first issue is now available for purchase. There are stories and there are stories, but Bagi (included in this issue of Bahamut) is a marker for me when it comes to delving deeper into the heart of story. I wrote this post to provide a little bit of insight into what went into the writing of this piece.

I remember when I lost fluency in the use of my childhood tongue. We had just moved to Manila from the mountains and our parents had chosen to enroll my sister and I in an exclusive school. You know how you have those schools where kids come from the same social circles, grew up in the same exclusive neighborhood and went to the same kindergarten? It was that kind of school. It was a school that projected the image of: all our students come from high class families.

My sister and I were admitted as partial scholars because we both scored high on entrance exams. We were picked up by a schoolbus, and while we didn’t have a house in one of the exclusive gated subdivisions, at least we lived in a subdivision. Not well-off but at least middle class. Unfortunately, we didn’t speak tagalog very well and no one spoke Ilocano or Ifugao with us. Not even the one student who had moved to Manila from Baguio City.

Our saving grace was the fact that we could both speak English that was clearly not provincial English. As time passed, I realized that speaking English was the one way to be acknowledged and accepted somehow. Slowly but surely, I forgot all about Ilocano. By the time we graduated from highschool, I spoke Tagalog and English…mostly English because that was the posh language to speak.

I find myself thinking these days of what gets lost when we lose a language. As I grow older, I find myself yearning for more fluency in the native tongues. To be able to speak without fear of stumbling over words, to be able to burst into conversation with childhood friends on Facebook or on twitter. To say things that can only be expressed fully in the language that feels closer to my skin. I feel language bubbling just beneath my tongue, but I am often afraid because I have not exercised it for such a long time.

While thinking of language recovery, I found myself thinking too about what lies buried in language. What narratives had I chosen to erase when I chose to leave behind that language? What narratives could be pulled out of a text or a few lines or a word? What memory–what emotion would rise up from the use of a language that has lain dormant for so long.

This is how I started writing Bagi: Ada ti Istorya. Bagi is the word for body. I was drawn to the fact that Bagi contains the same letters as biag which means life. I liked how these two words spoke to each other and thinking about these words, Bagi : Ada ti Istorya came into being.

Writing Bagi was also a physical experience. There are stories that you draw from the air, there are stories you draw from things that have happened or from other stories that inspire you, and there are stories that you draw from deep inside your body. Bagi, inevitably draws from the body. As I wrote about trauma, I was going through an escalation of chronic and psychological pain. At one point, I was writing with only one hand on the keyboard as I could barely move my other arm because of the pain coming from inflamed joints.

By Loncon, I had written more than 2000 words, I still did not have an ending and I worried that I would not finish the work because my head was filled with many other things. Then, came end of August and the Rainy Writers Retreat.

In the company of beloved women friends, I finally was able to write the ending passage to Bagi. It was like descending into the deep and then coming up utterly changed.

I think of the ways in which we sustain and support each other and I remember that story comes into being within the collective. I think of how being within the collective, being supported and surrounded by the warmth and the light of beloved ones, women and friends, precious faces, dear hearts, I think of how being within that collective enabled me to complete the circle of Bagi.

This to me is the joy of the work. It comes into being from some deep and hidden part and blossoms into the life as it is watered by the circle of true comrades.

I sent Bagi off to Bahamut Journal and kept my fingers crossed hoping and praying they would accept it so I could finally write about the experience of writing it. I don’t think I’ve been more joyful to receive an acceptance email. Bahamut Journal is my dream home for Bagi and I am so happy and proud that the editors chose to say “Yes, we want to publish this.”

Bagi: Ada ti Istorya shares a toc with other amazing authors for Bahamut Journal’s first issue (now available for purchase). My thanks to Darin Bradley and to Rima Abunasser for their support and encouragement, to Nisi Shawl who told me to submit work to Bahamut, to Nick Wood who provided me non-Ilocano speaker feedback, to my beloved friends, fellow Pinay writers and the circle of women. It is an honor to know that I’ll be able to share this work with you.

**I didn’t have time to blog about it, but Lightspeed Magazine reprinted my PSF 6 story. Breaking the Spell is now available on their website along with an author spotlight where I talk a bit about what went into that story. You can also purchase a copy of the entire issue.

**A bit late with this announcement as well. The movements column on Use of Anger can now be read on Strange Horizons.

Writer’s Journey: doing the work

I have been silent for quite a while as I moved through the necessary steps towards full recovery. Sometimes, we have our hands so full with the business of trying to make it from one day to the next that we don’t have much energy to think of much else. I deeply appreciate the kadkadua, the friends and comrades who have sent me encouraging notes even when I had no strength to answer.

What follows are things that bubbled up as I worked on the columns that I want to see published next. Fellow traveler on the journey, this is for you too.

. . . who  know what it is to be afraid to speak because to speak is a matter of life or death.

… who know what it is to hunger or to be anxious about where the next day’s meal will come from.

…who know what it is like to turn over every coin as each coin spent means a balance between what is needful and what is less needful.

…who have not been cushioned by the luxury of wealth, not owning anything more than what your two hands can hold.

…who do not own the privilege of position or class.

…who have not been shielded by the color of your skin or gender or sexuality…

…who know what it is like to go to sleep praying that you will not wake to the sound of guns in the distance.

…who know to lock the doors at night because there is no safe place…there is no safe place…there is no safe place…

…who stubbornly remain vulnerable in the face of fear because there is no safe place…no safe place…no safe place…

…who know the cost of dissent, the price of resistance, the punishment for rendering criticism.

…who know what it’s like to always be judged based on the color of your skin, the flag to which you pledge allegiance, the country of your origin…(fill in the blank)

…who know what it is like to be reviled, rejected, judged, ridiculed, belittled, cast out, ignored…(choose your own synonym)…

…who know what it’s like to hunger for words…to fight over words…to want to own words…to chase after glimpses of story in whatever form because there are never enough words to speak the stories that have grown and grown and grown…

…who understand what it’s like to dream of one day being that adventurer, that star traveller, that explorer, the one who discovers, who charts, who lays claim, who takes hold of–planets, countries, kingdoms…becomes ambassador…becomes forger of peace…savior instead of saved…redeemer instead of redeemed…

…who reach out in anxiety…who having found voice speak tentatively…because you have never had that freedom…to speak…to speak without anxiety…to speak without fear…to render criticism and not be cut down or imprisoned or taxed or punished or sent into exile…

…Oh who have fought not to be silenced….and having won…struggle not to fall into silence…do not fall into silence…do not allow yourself to fall into silence…do not…do not…do not surrender…do not give way.

Speak on.

Some quotes I’m thinking on

“I use the term Indigenous to refer to the self that has found its place, its home in the world. Emptied of projections of “inferiority”, “third world”, “underdeveloped”, “uncivilized”, “exotic and primitive”, and “modernizing”, it is the self capable of conjuring one’s place and growing roots through the work of imagination, re-framing history, and re-telling the Filipino story that centers our history of resistance, survival and re-generation.”   -Indigenous Filipino Knowledge as defined by Leny M. Strobel-

“Unlike the English word ‘Other’, Kapwa is not used in opposition to the self and does not recognize the self as a separate identity. Rather, Kapwa is the unity of self and others, and hence implies a shared identity or inner self. From this arises the sense of fellow being that underlies Filipino social interaction.” – Leny M. Strobel –

“In the way I experienced Kapwa, I found that people would seek acknowledgement of a shared bond by trying to find a connection that ultimately widened the sphere of the self.”  – Margarita Certeza Garcia, Towards a “Kapwa” Theory of Art, Working towards Wholeness in Contemporary Practice

And then, this Tony Hall quote that I picked up from Nalo Hopkinson’s twitter feed: “The arts are really oxygen for the community, creating breathing space. If we don’t breathe, we die. We need oxygen.”

I am thinking of oxygen–the need to breathe–the need for connections–the need for air and how we need each other in creating space so we can breathe. I’m thinking of community and I am thinking of love. I am thinking of the importance of dialogue and conversation, the necessity of keeping lines and doors open. I am thinking of how this thing is true, that we are always at risk, that we put ourselves constantly at risk. That trust is hard and pain is inevitable.

I remember my Father reminding me that what matters is not how others see me or how others judge me–I remember him saying: “what matters is how you respond to others. Your actions–what you do next–that’s what you’re accountable for.”

It is a risk to remain vulnerable, but if that’s what it takes to help build a stronger community, I’m ready.

My heart: Your heart: Our words

The past few months have been very stressful and difficult months for me. Not only because I had to deal with health issues, but also because I could feel hostility from places that I had once considered safe. Friends who I had trusted chose to question me. People who I believed in turned their backs on me and left my side. It is only natural to feel pain when these things happen.

My first reaction is to defend myself in anger. To tell the world that I am not guilty and it is those who have chosen to throw my name out into the open who are to be blamed. I had, in fact, already written such a post.

But I am also deeply aware of what goes on in my heart, and I am thankful for the friends who lift me up and remove me from that place that demands vengeance and justification. People have questioned my friendship with certain white people and made this a reason to pass judgment on me.

I want to say: It is easy for us to pass judgment on others. If we hear a story on the wind that seems to contain the smallest kernel of truth, we are liable to think: Oh, it must be true.

But in the course of my journey, I have arrived at this point where I choose not to judge on hearsay. I choose not to judge on what has been reported to me or what the wind brings to my ears. Rather than passing judgment, I choose to know and to believe with my heart.

I think that brown women from third world nations understand what it is like to be judged. We know what it’s like to be judged by the color of our skin, by the country we come from, by the way we speak, by the way we act and even by what we carry on our persons.

It is because I know exactly what it’s like to be judged because I am a dark skinned Filipino that I choose not to judge people by the color of their skins. It is because I know what it’s like to be shut out of conversations that I choose to include others in my conversations.

If you are reading this post, I want to ask you to examine yourself and to examine your own heart. To examine ourselves and to own the truth about ourselves is not weakness.

When I was still a child, I became aware of the power that rests in words and how it was possible to use words to move people either to tears or to anger—to love or to hate. I also became aware how by using words in a certain way, it is possible to sway people and to make them see my side of things as being the only right side in any conflict.

Today, more than then, I am very much aware how words wielded with cruelty and powered by malice have the capacity to destroy the person on the receiving end of those words. So, when I see people excusing words wielded cruelly as being just words, I cannot help but wonder if they truly understand just how a word in the hands of the wielder can break a spirit or strengthen it—how words can bind us together or tear us apart.

I know exactly what it’s like to be at the receiving end of words meant to make you feel so small that you want nothing more than to crawl away and vanish from the face of the earth. For this reason, I do not wish to wield words in that way. I do not wish to use my words to destroy, to belittle, or to question the humanity and the heart of others.

I have been judged for many things. Among these things, I have been judged for my choice to remain friends with people others deem as not being the “right sort” of people.

But you see, in the time since I started my decolonization journey I have changed from the person I was. I see with different eyes and I look with different eyes at people. I have been called naive for my choice to continue to trust and believe in the goodness that rests in the hearts of white people. But this is my choice. Just as it is my choice to believe in the goodness that rests in all of our hearts. I choose not to see myself as being of more worth than a white person but rather, I choose to see myself as being of equal worth.

We are all prone to failure. If I distance myself because people fail, I would be left standing alone—bereft of family, without a single friend.

It is because I see and acknowledge my own flaws that I can see clearly the flaws of those I love and love them still. I know what it’s like to be judged, so I choose not to judge. Instead, I choose to welcome those who welcome me. I choose to see the good in the hearts of those who see the good in me.

It doesn’t mean that I no longer see injustices or that I am not angry about them. I am still angry and I am still capable of great rage—but when it comes to people, I choose not to dwell in anger, I choose not to dwell in hate.

Ask yourself this question: how do you choose to wield your words and who do you destroy when you choose to tear down and destroy the other?

Adding this note as it has been pointed out to me that my post could be misread on certain things. So to make things clear:

(1) I do not condone any abusive behavior towards anyone.

(2) I am not aware of and I do not condone whisper attempts or any attempts to blacklist or blackball any writers.