SIXTEEN YEARS GONE

in my life

Once I was seven years old, my mama told me,

“Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely.”

Once I was seven years old

It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger

Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker

You’re a bright young girl who seemed to be born with rose colored glasses. Most of my memories of you had already crumbled with time, but I also have vivid ones that I would never forget. There was the time when you didn’t hesitate to join an acting competition at school; a tear-jerking moment was needed to be shown, as you pretended that the doll was your mother. The crowd scared you but behind stood Nanay, cheering you on. Seeing her standing there was enough to melt the nervousness away. I could no longer remember if you won or maybe another person gets to take home the prize, still you were happy that you didn’t back out.

I’ve also lost count of the days that you pretended to a contestant from Little Miss Philippines. Your relatives would always coax you to perform, and now it makes me wonder where did you get that showy part of you? How they would laugh when you said that your talent is to eat a live and breathing chicken. I’m sure there’s video of you somewhere, walking on your kiddie pool with one hand waving in a pageant-like manner. You’re a real life Olive straight out from the Little Miss Sunshine movie. And when asked the famous question of what do you want to be when you grow up? The answer was consistent: To be a doctor.

Yes, you may be a shy girl at times but when the situation calls for it, you become a fighter. Remember that time when you jumped off the stage to avoid being “tagged” in a game? Although I can’t really figure out if it was a 20-second-act of bravery or stupidity; you landed wrongly and eventually earned your first scar on the knee. Back then, you were so grade conscious that you cry whenever you do not belong in the top of the class list. Though more than the medals you’ve earned it felt like pedaling the bike on your own was a greater achievement.

Once I was eleven years old, my daddy told me,

“Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely.”

Once I was eleven years old

Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me

‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me

But just like in every story, a climax was bound to happen. The first part was too much of a buildup, isn’t it? Now there’s no easy way to recount how the walls started to crumble. How the puzzle pieces doesn’t fit anymore. You were eleven, still a bit young to understand it all. It was too difficult to listen through the screams or to see through the tears. Up until now maybe you still wrap them through metaphors.

Books had been your escape.

You just buried yourself page after page of all the books you can hold on to. No regrets on that though, for they have been your constant companion in life.

You read The Diary of a Young Girl and was inspired by the vulnerability of Anne Frank. Her own honesty pushed you to start your own journal. These pages held your secrets, your frustrations, and your joys. They had been your outlet from then on. Years later and you still consider paper as one of your best friends.

There were triumphs and failures. You gained some and lost some in the long process of growing up. But if I were given the chance, I’d like to be there for you when you thought that you weren’t good enough to create art. I wish I could have told you that we are all moving in a different pace, that the fruitfulness of others in their craft doesn’t mean that yours can’t be good. How I wish that I could be there when you compared yourself to others and decided to give up. I would have shaken you with a reminder that comparison only robbed you years and years of practice that could have made you grow. But maybe, just maybe, it was also a part of your artistic journey.

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told

Before the morning sun, when life was lonely

Once I was twenty years old

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told

I was writing about everything I saw before me

Once I was twenty years old*

So dear 7-year-old self, this has gotten longer than I expected. And quite frankly I don’t know how to end it. If we were in a coffee shop together, I know that we could spend hours telling each other stories (Yes, there’s still a lot to be told than these paragraphs). Reminiscing about the experiences that we went through.

Honestly, I don’t know if you could look me in the eye and tell me of how proud you are of what we’ve become (that may be a dangerous train of thought, but right now maybe we’re just a little bit lost). If there’s one thing that I admire about you that would be courage. Your boldness to pursue the things that you wanted, even if you encountered roadblocks ahead. I’ve lost that muchness over the years.

Still, hope remains in my heart that we are making a comeback. Your 23-year-old self is about to go out of the woods. Maybe this phase is a way to be brand new. Maybe being stuck in a rut is also a time to heal from wounds. A time to be more honest with myself.

As we go forward, please lend me that courage. Let my childlike heart beat again.

*Lyrics from Lukas Graham’s Seven Years

FOR AS LONG AS WE CAN

in my life

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The weekend is coming to a close, but this one was stretched out to be enough. Not lacking for me to ask an extension. Not slow for me to cut it short. Just enough. For the mountains have called, and once again we headed to its direction.

After more than a year of not being able to climb, I finally had the chance of going back on track (or should I say trek?). It was a walk in the park, they said. But we’re not even halfway through and my lungs were already gasping for air. My heart seems to be doing somersaults inside my chest. Pain was also starting to grip my back, enough to make me feel older than how I truly am. To think that it was a level 2 climb! It was supposed to be easier compared to my previous experiences.

Yet there I was falling behind, with a rusty body, weaker heart, and not-so-flexible knees (the injury I got from the past has taken its toll). My flesh just keeps on protesting for me not to continue. If I had been alone, it would have been easy to surrender. But having two friends by your side can make all the difference.

“Dee? Dee? Deeeeeeeeee! Yuhooooo…Danielle!”

I was no longer within their sight. It was funny how they kept on calling and I just kept answering them on my mind. Wait. I’m trying to catch my breath. And if were going to count the times that I’ve given up, that was the first. But they kept on calling and my final answer was to continue climbing and meet them where they are.

I lost count of the times that I wanted to stop. Was it five? Or ten? I just remembered that I kept on asking and they also continued pushing.

Can we just go back?

No, we can do this.

Can we just go down now and swim?

No, we can finish this trek.

Can you just go ahead? I’ll wait for you to come back here.

Let’s go! It’s near! Come on!

So we continue to soldier on through the heat. Fifteen minutes more. Just a few steps more and we’re nearly there. We knew we made it when the summit greeted us with the cool breeze. We lied down on the grass and it never felt so fulfilling than this.

How long do you think we can keep on doing this?Maybe until we’re 28. Or 30. No, maybe 40.

Perhaps as long as we can. As long as we have each other.

LET ME SAY A FINAL ADIEU, 2015

in my life, stories of faith, travel journals

But as for me, my feet had almost

        slipped;

   I had nearly lost my foothold…

When my heart was grieved

   and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;

  I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;

  You hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

  and afterward you will take me into

         glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

   And earth has nothing I desire

      besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

   but God is the strength of my

           heart

   and my portion forever.

PSALM 73: 2, 21-26

If there was a way to summarize 2015 in verses and words, this would be it. It was a tough year that I even asked myself if there was any sense in writing about it. Even the photographs above are a far contrast from what happened during in-between moments. But then I just have this habit of closing the year through a blog post or something written. Something to acknowledge the fact that life can be good and bad at times, but God…He just remained constant through it all. Through the heartaches, through the pain. Through the sorrow and through the rejoicing.

I am far from who I was, and who I wanted to be. Some of my plans in life did not go as expected. It has been a scary and exciting ride. A few things weren’t one hundred percent clear when the year ended, but I guess that is where He wants me to be…out of my comfort zone and into His arms.

THE HISTORY OF ART AND ME

artsy fartsy, in my life

It all began on a mindless summer afternoon. I was a 9-year-old girl who’s starting to die out of boredom. I’ve scanned the bookshelf for the second time around hoping to catch an interesting title to read, but instead, my eyes landed on the strings of a queer looking book with Dragon Ball Z as the cover. I anticipated to find interesting drawings inside, only to be faced with blank pages. It was my first encounter with a sketch book. Though we may have melted crayons or blew watercolor droplets across pages during our elementary days, I can say that the seed of art was planted during the time that I held this sketchbook in my hands and discovered the joy of drawing.

The next minutes were spent copying young Goku from a poster. While the next days were spent convincing my brother and mother that I did not traced it, but copied it (hahaha there’s a huge difference you know). They wouldn’t believe me! They actually thought that I was lying. But when I repeated drawing another comic book character, they finally did. It was the height of afternoon anime, so the rest of the pages were filled with characters that I have grown to love. When you’re a 9 year-old, there’s a certain feeling that anything you draw can be considered as an art. It gave me the confidence I need to start joining poster making contests in school, eventually winning first and second place most of the time. It gave me hope that I have a future in pursuing this thing called art.

For my 10th birthday, father bought me two sketchbooks and a set of watercolor pencils. He tried to hide it, but I found out this gold two days before my birthday. I was ecstatic! There’s nothing like brand new pages to draw in. I continued this cycle of copying and coloring, sometimes venturing out on drawing my own characters. I even thought that I would end up being a Manga artist. I also tried submitting fan arts to W.I.T.C.H. magazine, yet it broke my heart month after month when I didn’t see my artwork there. After several submissions, I stopped sending them over and just kept them to myself.

I still have high hopes, until high school came.

I met batch mates who also knew how to draw, not only that – they also have their own styles. It slowly crept into me that maybe I was just a disillusioned girl, that whatever I was making cannot be considered worthy. I felt fake not being able to draw without copying. Comparison became the thief of my passion. A few weeks after school started, I gave it up. I shoved the colored pencils away and decided to be a studious student. Aside from the usual portfolio requirements, I cannot remember a time that I picked up a tool not because I want too, I did it just because it was a requirement that I needed to pass.

It was a 4 year long hiatus of neglecting my gift.

There’s nothing more to tell because I forgot it all.

Until the muse came with the flood.

Typhoon Ondoy broke out, we were stuck in the apartment for three days. Just like my 9-year-old-self, I was left with boredom to deal with. I was missing my school, missing being out of the house, and missing my new-found-college-friends. So, I drew them. It may be a cliché thing to say but the spark was ignited once again. It’s like there’s a part of myself that craved doing this for a long time.

By then, it was the era of doodles and Tumblr. Every now and then I doodle and draw a bit in my spare time. I also joined mini creative contests when I find the chance.

There were ten of us in our college barkada back then, each of us had her own version. I guess this was my self-portrait. :) There were ten of us in our college barkada back then, each of us had her own version. I guess this was my self-portrait. 🙂

Early hand lettering pieces when I still have zero knowledge about it. Early hand lettering pieces when I still have zero knowledge about it.

Art came back. Art is finally there once again. Whenever I was stressed, or plain happy, it was there. After so many years of being contained, it was starting to take its root on me. Friends were also encouraging enough to notice the talent that may have slipped my notice from a long time ago.

Still, I cannot pursue it as much as I want because my priority then was my studies, it was too late to shift courses anyway. It may be a weird thing to say, but another 4 years has passed.

Yes, art was there but it was on the sidelines.

The year 2013 was the real deal breaker from me. I graduated from college, got a job two months after, and without schoolwork I had a lot of time in my hands (in comparison when I was still a student who juggled 8 subjects with a lot of requirements). Opportunities to learn opened up. Earning my own money allowed me to buy colored pens that I couldn’t indulge with when I was still a student. I was able to carve budget to enroll in a calligraphy class, I discovered that there’s a thing called typography, and I can finally enhance my watercolor techniques that I learned from Valerie Chua’s class (it was the only art related thing I was able to attend to when during college).

You have reached this point of the story and might be wondering what the point of telling this is?

Well you see, art and me had a very long history. It was a long time coming before we finally saw each other in a different light. Looking back on all those years made me realize that I’ve wasted too much time. As I said earlier, comparison became a thief. It robbed me of time that I should have spent practicing, honing, and discovering the craft – the gift that I was given. It made me give up and forget it for a while.

This is the year that I embraced that art runs through my veins that I’ll probably bleed colors if I’m hurt.

This is the year that I am slowly letting go of my doubts that it might not amount to anything in the end.

This is the year that I am replacing my fear with faith.

It is with faith that I am continuing this path, knowing that the Greatest Artist of them all values art whether it be grand or small. No wonder he called us His creation.

In times when hesitation creeps up my sleeve, I hold on to these words:

“and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” –Exodus 31: 3-5

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I hope that I don’t have a single bit of talent left, and say, I used everything you gave me” –Erma Bombeck

Days of pondering has lead me up to my why: To use all the talent I’ve been given for His glory.

This is a reminder that when insecurities come in, my focus should be kept on Him. Not on what others can produce, but what I can do with what I’ve been given. The rest shall follow after. I’ve come to terms that it’s an added bonus if it can inspire and motivate others to push through their own capabilities.

The long sleep is over, it’s time to wake up and not neglect the gift that I’ve been given.

SLOW DOWN TIME

in my life

Two weeks has already passed since I ended my longest hiatus (40 days) from social media. Now that I’m back on the regular rounds of status, 3 x 3 grid, and more or less 140 characters to express my thoughts, I found myself thinking back to the time when I shut it off.

During the first week of my absence, people and fried were wondering, Why did you disconnect? Are you deactivated? Why the need?

Well, because I was fed up. I was overwhelmed with all these things that a screen can present for hours without an end. The internet became a labyrinth that I didn’t know how to get out off. It was eating me up, and I was already beginning to feel lost. On the deeper side of things, I found myself questioning my own posts; do the things I post online still reflect a real version of me? Is there still authenticity?

I might just be a bad case of being an over thinker, but still it bothered me.

It’s not that I’m putting a fake life for people to see, it’s just that my posts were starting to go through so many filters. I was glued to my phone most of the time, I look at a spot and think if it is instagrammable enough, I have conversations with people that only left me thinking if it will get likes if I post it. Being online 24/7 was a clear sign that I needed to be away from all these hullaballoos. So I did.

The first few weeks were difficult. There were times that I found myself wanting so much to log in, just because…I want to (hahaha). On the 21st day, I was starting to rationalize that it was enough. But then, giving up on that day would defeat the purpose of why I even started. I haven’t fully reclaimed my identity yet, so I ended up extending it to a maximum of 40 days.

Time began to slow down. I realized that when we free ourselves form the distractions of social media, there is actually more hours that we can focus on doing what is essential to us. Inspiration abound in every corner, and action can finally take its place. Before, I was intimidated and jealous of the artistic creations that are being posted on Instagram, it made me think that I’ll never be good as them; not knowing that endless scrolling robbed me of time to practice my craft. I was pressured to pursue stuff, just because I was blinded by what others are having, or what others have achieved. Social media can spark an endless game of comparison.

That’s why, being away did me good. It gave me time to reconnect with people, to talk with them with intention, to value real-time relationships not bounded in likes or comments only. It was also a time of allowing God to open my heart once again. I let my soul breathe out of its constricted space (more of this later). I’m writing this not out of boastfulness to say that I manages to live without these icons on my phone for a while, but instead this is a reminder that real life happens outside of our screens.

The real challenge for me now is to keep this lifestyle as I go back to these socializing world. There’s the need to find balance of staying offline when needed. To know that not every moment needs to be captured and shared – you just have to live it.

P.S. This article by Hannah Brencher and blog post by Rhonda Mason is very much on point as well.