Love Your Choices

I snapped this photo when I was walking to the grocery store a few weeks back. Everytime I see artwork, a sign, a quote, or anything on the street that speaks to me, I take a picture of it. I always know that somehow, it’ll be used one day for one of my blog posts. This sign was no different, except this time it was very relevant to my current situation. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while, but never found the words for it.

A great theme for 2020 in my personal life has been change, growth, and being “confident in my choices.” I put that in quotes because sometimes I wasn’t even close to being confident in my choices, but I had to front like I was because the slightest inclination of doubt would turn into others, or even myself, talking me out of a decision. That was probably the hardest part about deciding to move – being so doubtful and scared, but not being able to talk to certain people about my doubts because I knew they’d just try to sway me in their favor. All out of love, of course, but not really taking into mind the opportunity to grow and learn.

Growing up, I was taught that whatever I do is a reflection of my parents. How I act and what my life choices are is because of how my parents raised me. And that always annoyed me. I didn’t understand the root of its importance. “Who cares,” was my response to everything. I’ve had the rebel mindset since a young age. When I was growing up, I didn’t care what people thought, I didn’t care if I was looked at as the “bad” kid, I didn’t care that I had the mouth of a sailor. That’s probably also because as a kid, there’s not much I could fuck up and make my parents / family look bad. I mean, I got good grades, made the honor roll, and I wasn’t doing anything illegal.

It wasn’t until I reached young adulthood that this took on a whole new meaning. Who I dated, what crowd I hung around with, whether I went to college or not, if I was married or not, what I posted online, all reflected back on my family and parents. This is something that I have talked extensively with close family members and friends – how the Filipino culture really values how others see them. To an extent, I get it – the need to look like everyone in your family has it together and is successful. I mean, who doesn’t want to be seen as successful and always making the right moves? But these fears of worrying about what others will think is really detrimental to young adults who are trying to get the gears turning for their own life.

“What will your _______ (insert the name of a prominent family member / or whole family as a whole) think?!”

“What will people think of you?!”

“How does that make us look?!”

These are phrases that so many Filipinos have heard from their elders.

This is something that I still struggle with. Because at the end of the day, I don’t care what other people say about how I live my life, but I do care that my parents care. And that’s where it gets conflicting. I find myself trying to do what I want to do in my life, but do it the “right way.” I find myself trying to find loopholes and justify my actions like, “well it’s okay if I move in with my boyfriend who I’ve been with for over 5 years because eventually we’ll get married, so it’s okay. And others should understand that.” But why do others have to understand that? They don’t need to understand anything. Especially choices that don’t concern them or put anyone in harm’s way.

“What will people think and say?” It’s so generalized. Who are these people I should be concerned about? And why should I care what they think about me? It’s ironic, because I was taught to not care what people think about me, in terms of classmates and peers. Oh, you’re embarrassed that you have on Payless shoes? Who cares, you shouldn’t care what people think about your material things. Oh, you’re insecure about going out in your pajamas? Who cares, nobody’s going to see you, and if they do, so what? Oh, you want to drop out of college and pursue music? What will your aunties think?! Of course, the last is a fake scenario, but you get the jist.

And even if it is not generalized and there’s a specific family member, or family friend that your elders are trippin’ about, why does it matter? I feel like there’s such a generational gap, where our elders feel the need to uphold an image of the family, or themselves. And I get it. But at the same time I think it’s so dumb and pointless. Especially if you have to tiptoe around certain people with your life choices – life choices that aren’t even bad, but that some people don’t agree with. All the while, people should just mind their business and not really care what others are choosing to do with their lives. If you don’t agree with a choice, just don’t make that choice for yourself and move along.

Choose your love. Love your choices.

This came to me at a time where I was very conflicted and needed that reminder. Sometimes in life it feels like you have to choose between pleasing those around you or choosing yourself. And is it worth keeping the peace while you are in conflict with yourself? Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are in control of your life. And people – whether that be family members, peers, friends – will talk regardless. So what is the point of changing the route of your life to please others? I’m glad that I have taken the road less traveled by, in terms of being traditional and abiding by standards. But sometimes it’s really hard.

I find this quote relevant to other parts in my life – like who I choose to be around, hangout with, and give access to the “real me.” And I shouldn’t be apologetic for distancing myself from people or situations that disturb my inner peace just to keep the outer peace and external noise at bay. This year has been the year in realizing that I don’t have to react to some situations anymore. I can just remove myself, keep a mental note, and keep it moving. It sounds very detached, but that’s life. Can’t stop the show for nobody, the show must go on. Especially being at the age I’m at now, I got more important things to worry about, like how I’m almost 26 and getting the boot on health insurance soon. I don’t have time for petty drama, hear say, gossip, or things that don’t concern me.

I choose me. Even if sometimes it’s hard to do. I try to front like choosing me is an easy decision, but it does stir some feelings inside of me sometimes. At the end of the day, I want to please my parents, their opinion of how I live my life matters to me, but they also understand that I have my own life and need to make decisions for myself. I don’t care about the extra noise of others who haven’t raised me. As long as my parents are content with my choices and trust me to make the right choices, that’s all that matters. Luckily, my parents know that at the end of the day, it’s my life and I have to live with the decisions I choose to make. So they’ll give their 2 cents, but will support me in what I choose. I think that’s a beautiful thing. To know that they still come from the generation that “cares” about what others may say, but still give their silent blessing for me to do as I please.

Choose your love. Love your choices.

So much easier to read than to live by. Choosing my peace is more important that upholding an image of myself for the sake of family or for family image. Being confident in my life choices and what direction I choose to take in this life is something I still need to work on. I need to love my choices and know that I chose it for a reason.

Filipino American History Month

Daly City / San Francisco born and raised. Daly City, California, is known for the huge Filipino presence. People joke around that Daly City is basically “Little Manila.” I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area that is so culturally diverse, but also, had people that had the same background and traditions as myself. I know that a few hours out of the Bay Area in either direction is a totally different story. So I didn’t realize until my early 20’s how lucky I was to grow up here. I know there are a lot of people that have stories about being some of the only Asians at their high school and feeling the need to conform to those around them, which usually meant acting more white.

Of course, when I was younger, I was unaware of how fortunate I was to live in an area where some people have the same features as me, speak the same 2nd language as me, and have similar traditions as my family. At the time, all of this was my normal reality. I went to a Catholic school that highlighted a Filipino-Chinese Saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, every year. And everytime September rolled around, we would have San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass during school hours. I would feel such a sense of pride. Mr. Mills’ class always “hosted” that mass, and I remember since Kindergarten going to the mass every year.

One student would recite sentence by sentence Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English, and another student would translate that sentence in Tagalog. I can still remember the script: “Lorenzo Ruiz, our first martyr.” “Lorenzo Ruiz, una naming martir…” There was a specific song we sang at the mass that was entirely in Tagalog. I couldn’t understand the whole song, but I could understand majority of it. This was my “normal” growing up. Celebrating a Filipino Saint, for example, was “normal,” but now I look back and realize it’s because we had such a big Filipino community in the Bay Area. And I took so much pride in it. I was so proud.

When I was in 5th grade I was finally in Mr. Mills’ class. I was excited because I knew that I had the chance to play a role in the mass since he hosted it every year. When Mr. Mills started to ask for volunteers, my hand was one of the first to shoot up in the air. I wanted to be a part of San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass so bad. The mass highlighted Filipinos and our language, and I wanted to be involved. Luckily, Mr.Mills picked me to have a part in the mass. I was going to be reading the English translation of Ruiz’s story. I was so excited because it was something I had watched for years from the church pews, but now, I’d be the one presenting it.

I practiced every night with my lines. The mass was going to be in front of the whole school, definitely more than 600 people. We would practice in the church, and I would have the microphone. I was known for being a loud mouth, which is probably why I was picked to read and have the role. Mr. Mills would always tell us, “Project your voice. Enunciate!” I could probably use my regular voice and people in the church could hear me without a microphone, so I was solid. I remember the day of the mass, I started to get stage fright. I looked out into the crowd and saw all eyes on me, as Ivan and I stood infront of the whole school. We told Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English and in Tagalog, and after, I felt such a sense of pride that I got to be a part of something that highlighted my people.

Even though I grew up in a place where there were a lot of Filipinos, I still didn’t understand why nobody on TV looked like me. I would get excited watching shows that had an Asian person, and it was even more heart eyes if I knew they were Filipino as well. It was to the point where my sisters and I would say things like, “Look, an Asian!” “Do you think they’re Filipino?” “I bet maybe they’re half,” when we would see an Asian on TV. So even though I came from an area that was very Filipino/ Asian dense, I knew from a young age that Asians were  not being represented on the TV screens. From Manny Pacquiao, to Shay Mitchell, to Apl.de.ap, to Jokoy, to Jasmine Trias on American Idol, once we caught wind of them being Filipino, we rode hard for them. On Balitang America, the Filipino news station that broadcasted American news through the Filipino lens, they would feature any Filipino making a name for us in America. From the music industry, to entertainment, to education. 

I feel like Filipinos are very proud of other Filipinos who “make it.” Even if they have a small following, just claiming their Filipino heritage will have other Filipinos rep them. I even remember going on Shay Mitchell’s Ask back in the day and asking if she was really half Filipino. She actually responded and confirmed that she was in fact half Filipina. It made me so proud that an actress that I looked up to was representing us on the screen. I even recall reading interviews where Shay talked about growing up in an area that was mostly white, and being biracial had her feeling left out. Seeing people that look like me on the screen was important growing up. I was the kind of kid that literally set a “Filipino For Lyfe” themed MySpace background. Jokoy described seeing other Filipinos on TV as motivation to go for his dreams and make it as well. 

When I got to high school the history books just touched on Filipino American history oh so briefly. I used to skim through the history books in middle school and see where Filipinos or the Philippines was ever brought up. It wouldn’t be much. High school was a weird time. Going to a high school in Daly City meant that there were gonna be a lot of Filipinos. It wasn’t always the case, but sometimes there would be snarky comments (sometimes from people I was even cool with) complaining about how the whole school is mostly Filipino / Asian. Being Asian or Filipino in Daly City didn’t make you special. You were just like everybody else. Which I saw was a good thing when I was younger. But then I hit my teen years and wanted to be different, I didn’t want to be “like everyone else.”

I wasn’t ashamed to be Filipino, but I wasn’t repping it hard like I used to. Why would I have to rep it if everyone and their mama was Filipino in Daly City anyways? Don’t get me wrong – I still would be happy when I saw a Filipino coming up. But at the same time I wouldn’t plaster “Filipino For Lyfe” as a MySpace background anymore because I thought it was cringe. At this age I was on the prowl for a boyfriend (cringe lyfe), and when people would ask if I would ever get with a Filipino guy, I’d respond in a way that made it seem like “never in a thousand years.” Which I thought was okay, since I’m Filipino too. “What if I find out they’re my cousin or something?!” I would say. Which by the way, isn’t too far fetched, my family on both sides are pretty big.

I would say it wasn’t until I got to SFSU and joined the journalism program did I start to get that sense of pride back again. Suddenly, my whole perspective shifted. I took on the role of “journalist” and was bothered over the fact that a great portion of newsrooms are ran by white people. White men to be exact. The lack of diversity in journalism is what ticked me off. And I wanted to change that. I wanted to represent my people and capture stories of people in my community, and branch out further. Suddenly, that pride was back. But that pride was matched with determination. Determined to make change and actually make a difference. I wasn’t giving people a “voice,” because everyone has a voice. I wanted to be so open and chill that anyone felt like they could open up to me and tell their stories, and describe to me their raw emotions.

Suddenly, I had a mission. I wanted to get more in touch with my culture, the good and the bad. And since being on this journey, I have learned a lot, just by talking to people casually about their own experiences. I started to embrace my Filipino culture with open arms again, like how I did when I was a kid. I didn’t care if I was 1 out of 2 billion Filipinos in the Bay Area. I didn’t care about the “Little Manila” jokes anymore. I wanted to learn more about my people’s history, their stories, their struggles. And I wanted to write it. Not some random journalist who is just trying to bang out another story. I didn’t want someone else to be writing our stories.

Especially being out of school, I have made efforts to try to educate myself on my own. I remember writing a paper in community College about how my dad’s side of the family arrived to America. Just by talking to the members of my own family, I uncovered historic events. My great grandfather was a prisoner of War and survivor of the Bataan Death March. This information I would’ve never known if I didn’t have the school assignment, and if I never asked for the story. I started becoming obsessed with other people’s stories. My whole life I’ve been the talker. And now, I’m taking on the role of listener and teacher.

October is Filipino American history month. Every month, we teach the kids at my school about a new country. This month, I chose the Philippines. Over the years I have seen the Bay Area, but San Francisco is particular, changing. And changing fast. And it’s nice to teach my 1.5 – 2 1/2 year old students about my culture and traditions. One of my students got picked up and told her mom she painted a flag for activity. Her mom asked if she remembered what country’s flag she painted. My student responded with, “Well, it’s where teacher Marinelle’s mom and dad is from.”

I had the right idea when I was in 5th grade, “Filipino For Lyfe.”

In 2 Weeks’ Time

One thing we can all agree on: 2020 is a year we will all remember. This year has brought so much chaos, pain, confusion, and a lot of change. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to Sheltering in Place, to police brutality, to protests, to wearing masks on a daily, to shutting down (again), to California fires, to COVID-19’s 2nd wave, to highly favored celebrities passing away, and all the above. Whatever plans we had for 2020 clearly changed when all this went down. I had to learn to be adaptable, to pivot, to not cling to any specific plan because I knew with the pandemic’s end nowhere in sight, everything is unpredictable. Sheltering in place from mid-March until the end of May really had me living day by day, having no idea what would happen in the next month, or even the next day.

Sheltering in place and 2020 in general has also brought a lot of change for my best friend group and I. I feel like in one way or another, everyone is walking out of 2020 a completely different person. There is so much change that has happened / will happen in the next couple of months. But let me rewind it back, before decisions were made and tears were shed. In blog post #32: “Time,” I ended the post by saying I could feel change coming soon. That was towards the end of February. I felt change coming just over the horizon. Something in my gut was telling me things were about to shift, and I couldn’t have been more right.

Sheltering in Place was something so new to all of us. Do we have enough food? How long are we supposed to do this for? What’s the plan after? Should we stock up on everything? Is everything shutting down? So we can’t hangout with other people? When can I leave the house? Here we are about 6 months later, and the policies and regulations are not going anywhere. Nobody thought it would last this long. The first 3 weeks of official shutdown was the hardest for me. It’s like I was relieved I got to chill and relax, but I was concerned about the state of the world. I had no idea how long this would last or when the next time I could see my friends. After all, what’s 3 weeks off when you can’t go anywhere or see / hangout with people you want to? It’s one thing to be a homebody and be antisocial from time to time, maybe even all the time, but it’s another thing when you are being told you can’t leave.

My friends and I tried to cope by downloading apps like Houseparty and Zoom. We really tried our best to set up meetings so we could catch up and check up on each other. We wanted to make sure that we were all there for each other – whether that be to talk about personal issues, anxieties, or just to keep each other company during these confusing and lonely times. At first, it was all about Houseparty and playing games. It gave us something to do and something to look forward to. Especially since with time, sheltering in place made every day look exactly the same. We would set up little game nights or Zoom calls.

In the beginning, it was literally all fun and games. Until, Cam and I had suddenly had decisions to make. And when I mean “suddenly” I mean for real suddenly, all this shit came out of nowhere. For me, an opportunity came up where I could move out of my family home without worrying about any added responsibilities but still gaining some independence. It would also be an opportunity for me and Christian to take the next step in our relationship. For Cam, she had just taken a pregnancy test, and it was positive. We have joked for years that Cam would be the first in the group to have a baby, and finally, our predictions were true. Cam and I were both at a crossroad.

For most people, my predicament wouldn’t even be a tough decision. But for me, I was scared. For one, in the Filipino culture, it is frowned upon to live with your significant other before marriage. But I have always told myself I would never marry someone without living with them first. This decision really brought to my attention how scared I am of change and how I fear commitment. Which is ironic, because I have always been very traditional, in the sense that I wanted to graduate college, get a job in my field, get married, and have a family. But here I was, in the middle of a pandemic, not where I want to be in my writing career, not even knowing when I would have the opportunity to even get a job in the journalism field.

On top of that, I had a time limit to make up my mind whether I would take the once in a lifetime housing opportunity or not. The feelings of being overwhelmed took over me. This would be a great little baby step in figuring out if marriage was in our cards, especially since we have been together for over 5 years. Not to mention a great opportunity for our future together. But I was scared. I would be the first in my family to move out and change the status quo. I wasn’t feeling confident in my choices – if I said no, I’d regret it for the rest of my life, but if I said yes, what if it doesn’t work out the way I planned? I was also scared shitless to bring it up to my parents. How would they react? I desperately wanted their support, but couldn’t get the right words out of my mouth to sell it to them.

Meanwhile, Cam and Mark were having similar issues. Were they ready for this responsibility? Cam had just graduated from SFSU, earning her degree, so technically she was at an okay stage in her life. But was she ready for this? Mark is in the thick of starting his business and working on getting known and having connections. Would a baby put those dreams on hold? Everything was up in the air. And Cam and Mark really had to weigh out their pros and cons, for this was a big decision – bringing another life into the world. Having a baby meant that their days of focusing on just themselves and their relationship would be a thing of the past. Were they ready to take the next step in their relationship?

The girls and I had our Zoom call. Up until this point, conversations about both of these topics were either through group chat or on the phone. It felt good to see each others’ faces and hear advice and feedback. On my end, there was a lot of venting, going back and forth on why I was conflicted on making a decision. I did a lot of ugly crying, snot dripping, and heart pouring that night. By the end of my rant, I was leaning towards no. I wasn’t ready to leave my family home, this isn’t how I pictured moving out to be. I felt under pressure. This time frame wasn’t enough time to decide a life changing event. So, my answer would be no. And whatever happens from my decision being no is just how it was meant to be. I was exhausted. My friends supported whatever decision I chose, but they did give their 2 cents on why it’s a great opportunity. I heard what they had to say, but dismissed it. I was too scared. I’d never grow the courage in time to do it and follow through. I knew it would put a huge strain on my relationship, but at this point, I didn’t care and if things were to fall apart, “it just wasn’t meant to be.”

I calmed down, wiped those tears away, and after about 45 minutes of my friends just watching and hearing me cry and vent, we moved on to Cam’s situation. Cam was the opposite of me. She was level-headed, calm, and didn’t seem too conflicted. Which was so surprising to me, because my situation was nothing compared to hers. She caught us up on her and Mark’s train of thought. They weren’t ready. They still wanted to do things like travel, get the business on its feet, get a better job in her field, etc. Now would not be the best time to have a baby. Cam said they were leaning towards no. There was a silence in the chat. We supported our best friend in whatever she wanted to choose. It’s her body and her life. But I will say it was so obvious that all of us hoped she would keep the baby. We would always talk about how we wish someone in our group would have a baby so we all can spoil it. We were happy and shocked when she told us her test was positive.

We hoped she would keep it, but we knew that we wouldn’t be living the reality of caring for a child. It would be her reality. It would be Mark’s reality. Only they knew if they were ready or not. And we fully supported our friends in whatever decision they chose. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it looked like she made up her mind. She explained that she planned to make an appointment to terminate the pregnancy. We gave our words of support. It just wasn’t in the cards for them right now. The “MotherFlickers” would have to wait a little while longer for a baby to enter into our friend group.

After a couple of hours on Zoom, we finally called it a night and hung up. Damn. Here I was, feeling like my world has been turned upside down not knowing how it could effect my relationship and my family relationship. I was stressed out. I would wake up everyday, and it would be the first thing I think about. It was all too much. I didn’t want to overthink anymore. But I had to make a decision. This wasn’t in my plan. My plan for 2020 was to find a journalism job, and now, with the pandemic and this new offer on the table, I didn’t know what my plan was anymore. It also made me reflect on why I was so afraid.

I was scared to fail. I was scared of wasting time. I was scared of what extended family would say. I was scared to make a move. And by being so scared, I was making no moves. And that probably is what scared me the most. I desperately tried to cling onto how things have been. But nothing lasts forever. I had planned to maybe move out at 26 and get a place with Christian. But this offer that was right infront of me was once in a lifetime, and put us both in a position where we could save up for our future, live in the most expensive city in the country and still be a 20 minute drive from my family, and not to mention test out the waters in our relationship. What was I waiting for?

I began to realize my fear of commitment. The girl who has talked about marriage since forever, now found herself scared to even take the first step. It’s one thing to talk about the future when you know it’s a few years away. But it’s another thing when you realize, holy shit, the time is now. Suddenly, I didn’t know what to do. Moving in meant that people would expect us to get married ASAP. Was I ready for that? I had to talk myself out of that mindset. I had to remind myself that I was 25, the time is now. Living together will reveal if marriage is the next move. But I’ll never know until I try. I was also worried because if I took the offer, I would be commiting to atleast 2 years in the living situation. What would that mean for journalism? Does that mean that I put my writing dreams on hold for another 2 years? No. It means I should pivote. And I thought up a whole other plan that I can stick to while working as a teacher, but still feel fulfilled as a writer.

If you’re wondering how conflicted and stressed I was, please refer back to Blog Post #41 : “I Saw The Sign.” I wrote that blog post while I was in the thick of my confusion. Knowing the back story now, I’m sure that post will make a lot more sense to my readers. But suddenly, I felt my perspective changing. Who cares if it’s not exactly what I planned? This living situation is even better than my original plan to move out by 26 and get an apartment. I had to force myself to come to terms with the fact that not everything is going to be how I exactly envisioned it. It’s okay to change the plan. It’s okay to switch up the status quo. It’s okay to take a risk. It’s okay if there is no sign, because not everything will.

Meanwhile, Cam called the hospital line to schedule her “appointment.” She talked with an advice nurse who was being very supportive. The nurse asked some questions about if this was a decision Cam was making for herself. She was right about to finalize making the appointment and getting the date and time, but then… she hung up. Suddenly she had a change of heart, and she didn’t want to make any sudden decisions without thoroughly thinking it through.

Was she ready to be a mother and take on that responsibility? On the Zoom call, she told us that her decision was 60 / 40, in favor of terminating the pregnancy. But then she thought of what were the real reasons why she didn’t believe she was ready. She weighed out her pros and cons. Cam knew she was in a position where she could care for a child. She just graduated, she had a stable job, she knew her family is the type to be supportive. But she didn’t know if her and Mark were ready to be parents. Sometimes you don’t know you’re ready until you put yourself in that position.

We scheduled another Zoom meeting – two weeks after our last one. Everyone entered the room and we greeted each other. I broke the news to my girls that I have decided to accept the housing offer. They were shocked but supportive. I honestly shocked myself, because I didn’t think I had the guts to make a decision like that. My friends told me how excited they were for me, but they could see it in my face that I was still a little iffy about my decision. They reassured me that they would always be there, and if things don’t turn out the way I had hoped, it’s okay and it’s just something I had to experience so I wouldn’t regret not taking the offer. I knew they were right. They started to get excited about my place being the new hangout spot, and it made me excited as well. This was going to be a new chapter in my life.

Then it went quiet. “What about you, Cam? How are you?” Suddenly it got serious. Since our last Zoom call, we knew that Cam was scheduling an appointment to terminate the pregnancy. We didn’t know if she had already went through or if it was scheduled. She was very adamant in the last call that it was something she knew she had to do. We asked and tried not to sound sad. Then she broke the news to us.

“So…… we actually decided that we’re going to keep it.”

Everyone’s jaws hit the floor. Everyone covered their mouths in pure shock. Silence. We internalized what was just said, and the silence turned to screaming. NO. WAY. We couldn’t believe it. We all screamed and rejoiced, we were so excited that we were going to have a little one in our group!!!! This was the best news. Of course we would’ve supported our girl either way, but especially the last 2 years, Justine and I in particular, have been itching for one of the MotherFlickers to have a baby that we can spoil. The cover photo is a screenshot I took of our reaction to Cam’s news.

It’s crazy to me that in just 2 weeks’ time, Cam and I made such life changing decisions. It’s even crazier because we had originally said we weren’t going to go through with it at all. And in just 2 weeks, we decided to do something completely different. We were both scared, unsure, and doubting ourselves. We were scared of change and the unknown. But sometimes you don’t know if you’re “ready” for that change, until you actually put yourself in that situation.

2020 brought a lot of change. And things are going to continue to change a lot in our friend group in the next couple of months. I’m so happy that I have the support of my girls to vent to, to share my worries to, to go through life with. The day we have all been talking about is finally upon us. For years we have talked about how we’re going to start adulting and before we know it, we’re gonna have whole ass families and completely different lives. That time is now. And I’m so incredibly excited and giddy for what’s to come. I feel like we all evolved, and broke out of our shells. Change makes you mad uncomfortable, but that’s how you know it’s time. When you realize you’re scared to take the chance, but at the same time you’re also scared to stay in the same position, that’s how you’ll know.

The girl that has feared and avoided change for so long has finally embraced it. And by January 2021, she will have a Godson to share new memories with. In 2 weeks’ time, Cam and I shifted the direction of our lives. And I can’t wait for what life has in store for me and my girls.

1 Year Blog-versary

On Monday, July 1, 2019 I finally made the decision to consistently post on this blog. I didn’t know how long I’d roll with it, I didn’t have tons of content lined up, I didn’t care if I had 1 viewer. I just knew that writing consistently was something I’ve been wanting to do, but kept putting off. Here we are, a little over a year later. A few weeks ago was my 1 year blog-versary! πŸŽ‰

I originally made this blog for a journalism class when I was still in Skyline Community College, 4 years ago. I had to make X amount of posts for the semester, and after that, I didn’t really keep up. I would post here and there, usually articles I wrote for Xpress Magazine or a project I did for a class while I was at SFSU. I was kind’ve just keeping everything I wrote in one place. Every now and then I’d get inspiration to post a blog post that wasn’t an article I wrote for something else. But I was never consistent. It was one of those things where you say you want to do “XYZ” but never have the time or courage to follow through with it.

A year ago when I decided to revive my blog, I was in the thick of my post-grad blues. I graduated in December 2018, and July 2019 I decided to take that leap and start up this blog again. But it wasn’t that easy. That was 7 months of me just debating on whether or not to make this happen. 7 months of making myself feel like shit. Feeling lost. Feeling like I’ve lost all sense of self since I was no longer a student. Feeling stuck and confused on what path to take next.

The hardest part was starting. As clichΓ© as it sounds, it’s the truth. Making the decision to start was the biggest hump I had to get over. Posting consistently on this blog was something I wanted to do since the class ended (the class that made me start this blog). That was in 2016. So it took all of THREE YEARS to actually follow through with it. It was that last 7 months, the hard-core post-grad blues, that gave me that push. I walked the stage in May 2019, and before that I felt the post-grad blues creeping. But after I walked the stage in May, I knew I was in for a sea of emotions. I knew I’d come down from the high eventually, but I didn’t think I’d crash that hard. The last month and a half after my graduation ceremony is what made me start. That antsy feeling of “wtf am I doing with my life?” set in. This blog was hope I gave myself in my darkest times.

And for the record, I’m still somewhat in my post-grad funk, 1.5 years later. This blog helped me pull myself out of the gutter, but I still have my days… Shit, weeks is more accurate. In no way am I saying that I was depressed after graduation so I started writing and now I’m all good. Nope. In fact, if you keep up with my blog, you’d know that that is far from the truth. But, this blog did turn into my outlet.

I’ve poured my heart out online to people I know and people I don’t know. For everyone to see. For anyone that knows me personally, that is totally against how I am as a person. With close friends and those I trust, I can vent my heart out, complain, cry, be angry, all the above. But only a select few people know me. The real me. Only a handful of people know what I really feel and how I really think. It’s not like me to put all my business out there for the world to see. I mean, stalk my Facebook circa 2009 and that’s a different story… But over the years I have evolved from wanting to share every stupid “who even cares” opinion and cringe selfie, to barely posting, to only posting pictures, transitioning to Instagram, being pretty active on the ‘gram, but slowly posting less and less. Yeah, I would still post, but never in depth into my life. I realized I wanted to be more private. The less people knew about me, my family, my relationship, and my life in general was better.

When I decided to start my blog again, I wasn’t posting much. I debated on if I even wanted people to know my business like that. I weighed out my pros and cons of making my experiences public. Was I ready to be vulnerable? At the time I wasn’t sure. I just knew that writing and actually keeping up a blog was something I had to do for myself. I’ve always admired how some public figures I follow on social media could be so transparent with their struggles. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling. I was tired of seeing the same filtered “always smiling,” “always good,” “no problems over here,” “I’m livin’ my best life,” type of content.

I wanted to bring attention to topics and issues that aren’t talked about often. And I knew in order to reach out / get people to care, I would have to get very personal. Starting with myself. And by doing that, a lot of people have reached out to me with their stories, their struggles, their truth. Whether that be in private, or featured as one of my blog posts.

A response I get a lot is people telling me, “your story made me cry.” And that’s one of the best compliments I could get as a writer. Not because I’m a bitch and I want people to be depressed, but because I know that it made my readers feel something. It touched my readers in a way where there were no words, just emotions. If you’re feeling it that hard, it’s probably because you can relate to the story you just read. And it warms my heart when people tell me they go back to reread certain blog posts when they’re feeling down or need a reminder that they’re not alone. Sometimes you need to read someone else’s story to realize the similarities in your life. It brings healing.

And that’s part of the reason why I write for myself. It brings healing. I can express exactly how I feel in writing. Sometimes I really can’t express my emotions verbally. It’s either I hold it in, or I say how I feel very bluntly and then feelings are hurt. Starting up this blog again and writing my very personal stories forced me to deal with some of my inner turmoil. What am I afraid of? What gets me emotional? Why is XYZ important to me? Sorting out my feelings and writing out my train of thought really helped me within this past year.

When I decided to finally post consistently, I had no idea where this blog would take me. I had no end goal. I didn’t know how long I would continue it, and honestly expected myself to fall off after about 5 posts. But I held myself accountable as if this blog were paying me. It’s something I had to prove to myself, that I could do it. That what I’m doing matters, and no matter what anyone else thinks, I believe in what I’m doing.

In July 2019 I started off with 6 followers on WordPress. 1 year later, I’m at 97. To some, that ain’t shit. But to me, someone who was happy if 1 person viewed my story, this is an accomplishment. I mostly get all my views from sharing on Instagram and Facebook, but it’s nice to know that I have followers on WordPress who don’t even know me in real life.

A few months ago TrapxArt reached out to me to be featured on their website. It felt so good to be recognized as a writer and as a creative. So, I just want to say thank you. To all those who have supported me, who have cheered me on, who have read my content, those who promote my content, have been the subject of one of my stories, thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories, reading my stories, and keeping it real with me. I still have no idea where this blog is headed. I don’t know how long I’m going to keep this up, or where this blog will take me. But I do know that in just 1 year of posting consistently, I have 50 blog posts to show for it (this post will be #51), and a small following of people that read my content consistently.

Thank you for reading, for keeping up, supporting me, crying with me, laughing with me, and taking this journey with me!

Cheers to 1 year πŸ₯‚! *hot cheeto toast*

Father’s Day 2020

To this day, my parents still laugh and tell the stories of me in preschool. I was a half day kid, so I was only in preschool for a couple of hours. The preschool was in a center, and a lot of the parents, my dad included, would just chill on the sidelines near the exit and talk amongst each other until it was time to go home. I was 4, and I remember always taking glances to where the parents were because I always wanted to keep an eye out for my dad. I wanted to make sure he was always there, that I wasn’t alone. I could be having a lot of fun playing with friends or be distracted by toys, but the moment my dad wasn’t in view I would lose it.

My dad always describes the same events. How he would always see me trying to look for him. He remembers me always turning around to see if he was still there, and how I would cry when I couldn’t find him. One time he had to use the bathroom, so he went up to me and told me he’d be right back. He had to explain to me where he was going and for how long since every move he made I cried because I thought he was leaving. He told me over and over again that he was just going to the bathroom and he’d return shortly. According to my dad I agreed and went about playing.

“Not even one minute later,” my dad exaggerates, “I open the door, and you’re standing there crying!”

My parents tell the stories of me as a clingy preschool kid all the time. And how after preschool my dad would be holding my little sister in the carseat in one hand, and me clinging onto his leg on the other side as he dropped us off to my grandma’s house, “Mama’s House,” so he could go to work. These are vague memories that I remember, but for my dad, that time he was in the thick of being a dad to 3 young girls, 2 of which were under the age of 5.

Growing up my mom would always tell me and my sisters, “See! You should be grateful for your dad!” I didn’t really grasp that phrase completely until I grew up. Because as a kid, growing up with my dad, who off the bat, did everything and anything for our family, I thought nothing of it. It’s all we ever knew. But as I got older, I realized how good I actually have it. I realized that a lot of people don’t have a dad like mine.

In my family, we all have a short temper with each other. But at the end of the day we all got each other. That’s what my parents taught us, and my dad has shown us that time and time again. It doesn’t matter what happens or what was said, I know my dad would do anything for any of us in a heart beat. I think my dad’s one hell of a guy. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad.

He has been the example of what a man should be like. Not only as a man, but as a father as well. When I tell you my sisters and I are spoiled, I mean that shit and it’s high key embarrassing. Not in monetary value, but with acts of service. In my household, we don’t know how to be affectionate towards one another without making it a joke. It’s actually something we need to work on. But our love translates by how loyal we are when shit hits the fan, acts of service, and food. That’s how we show our love.

My mom always told us to choose the right guy, “like your dad.” Growing up we were like “EwWwWwW” because the thought of your significant other being like your parent is fuckin weird. But now, I look at my man and see the resemblance in his character. He reminds me of my dad. And that’s how I know I’m headed towards the right path. My dad has spoiled my sisters and I, that we have certain standards when looking for a partner. We’re not going to settle for a halfass kind of dude when our dad has set the bar of acts of service and loyalty to my mom and my sisters so high from the get. He’s always been by my mom’s side and has been there for our family through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Never budging, never running away from problems, never making excuses, but facing every problem head on. And being present for everything.

Growing up, my mom was the tough one and whatever she says goes. Period. But we would always sway our dad to try to change her mind. And if it was a hard “no,” from mom, it was most likely a “ugh. Ok ok” from dad. Whether that be “can we go to the mall?” “Can I change the channel?” “Can you drop me to my friends house?” “Can we get boba, I’ll pay!”

My dad is the most selfless, loyal, honest, and generous person I know. Even if he doesn’t have much for himself, he’ll still try to give to someone if he knows that they have it worse than him. When we would be waiting in the car for one of my sister’s at BART, he’ll literally get out of the car to give a homeless person some crackers. He’s just that kind of dude. He’s not rich, but he’ll give someone the last of his cash in his wallet.

I’d like to think that that’s where I get my empathetic ways from. My dad. I’m always trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I’m always trying to fight for what’s right, to stand up for those who need help. He’s taught me to care. And not just care for the people I know. A lot of people are taught to just look out for themselves. But my dad is the opposite. He puts others before himself sometimes, all the while looking out for his family and those around him. But at the same time, teaching us to look between the lines and look past some people’s alternate motives.

Every Father’s Day we ask my dad what he wants for a gift. “Nothing.” Is his response every year my whole life. You know when someone says “nothing” but you know they’re lowkey expecting something? Yeah. That ain’t the case. When my dad says “nothing” he legit means don’t get him anything. But of course we still get him gifts.

To our driver, social justice warrior, unproblematic, Prince-loving-mother-trucker, “despacito” singing, “K” replying father – Happy Father’s Day! We appreciate and love you, and we can’t imagine this life without you! Cue in the ugly faces and “ya ya ya okkkkk” since we all can’t show proper affection πŸ₯΄πŸ’˜.

(Internal) Land of the Snakes

“Now who more thorough than me? I paint a picture of my pain for the world to see.” – J.Cole (Land of the Snakes)

I named this post “(Internal) Land of Snakes,” because the quote above is from J.Cole’s Land of the Snakes. And I realized that dark place where insecurities will take you is where all my snakes roam. My insecurities that hurt me, want to poison my mind, and will pop up when I least expect it.

A while back, I shared my weight gain journey and how I found peace within the body positive community. Body image and being confident has always been something I’ve struggled with. And I want to make myself clear: it is still something I struggle with. It took years to unlearn all the toxic ways of thinking when it came to body image, self-love, food, and my body dysmorphia. I am in such a better place, and I’ve learned how to pull myself out of that dark space when I find myself getting insecure. I’ve had to re-train my brain to not think so negatively about my own appearance and body. I try to avoid my internal dark place, my land of Snakes. The snakes being my own thoughts, insecurities, ego.

But of course, the path to self-love is a life long journey. I guess I can only speak for myself, but I doubt I’ll ever find 100% enlightenment where no outside or inside force can break me down. Don’t get me wrong, my growth and outlook on body image has improved tremendously. For the most part, I have the body positive mindset 80% of the time. But I do have my days. Since I’ve dropped that blog post about my weight gain journey and my body positive experience, a lot of people have reached out to me. I’m glad I could share my story and have people relate to it, feel inspired, and heal. I appreciate every single person that has reached out to me since then regarding this topic of self-love.

But like I said, I want to make myself clear: I still struggle. I definitely have my days. What’s different though, is how I maneuver my way out of going down that black hole. It made me happy to know that I was inspiring people to start/continue their journey to body positivity/ body acceptance. People would hit me up saying how brave I am, and how they wish they could be more like me. It was a nice feeling, but it also made me feel some type of way. I didn’t want people to think that I’m body positive all the time, because I’m not. I still get insecure. I still beat myself up over things. I still struggle. I didn’t want to be treated as a role model for being plus sized and proud 100% of the time, as if I’m enlightened and shielded from self body shaming. Because it’s not like that. The point of sharing my life and insecurities with the world is to reach someone – anyone – and know that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to go back and forth with your self-love somedays. So, I’ve decided to share this story…

I met Madison in 2016 at Skyline College when we were partnered up for a class assignment. It was my last semester before transfering to SF State. I was so excited. We were in an advanced journalism class. By “class” I literally mean “group” because there were literally 3 of us, myself and Madison included. We didn’t have enough people to make up an official “class,” so we were the 3 advanced journalism students that did something different from the rest of the class. The 3 M’s, Madison, Marinelle, and Martin. We struggled together, we complained together, we were confused together ( mostly Martin and I, Madison always knew what she was doing.) Anyways, it was through that class that I met a friend for life.

We met in January 2016, and by June 2016 she was moving cross country from the Bay Area to Boston, Massachusetts. This, though, was all part of her plan. She went to Skyline so she could transfer to Boston to get her Master’s in journalism. She regaled me with all of her stories. Moving from state to state, being from Idaho, hating the Bay Area (the disrespect to this Bay Area Native), and everything in between. She was 23 at the time, me just turning 21. “Damn, this girl has lived.” I would think to myself.

We got really close, even though it was all of what, 6 months? But she let me into her and her long-term boyfriend’s lives, and I let them into mine. They would have hangouts at their house and they would throw the best little parties. From charades, to cake, to crying while eating cake, to brunch, to hot cheetos, to someone dancing with fire, to the home owner passing out in the bathroom and possibly being concussed… we’ve had our fair share of awesome memories. So 3-ish years later, towards the second half of 2019, when she told me she was planning to propose to Bren, I was elated.

Madison asked Bren to marry her in September 2019. She let me in on all her details and plans, from how she was going to propose, to all the intricate ideas she had for wedding planning. They planned to have the wedding in January. They had just a little over 3 months to plan every detail of their special wedding day. I seriously don’t know how they did it, but they pulled off one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to. Moving along…

Towards the end of September, Madison sent me an Instagram photo. I opened it. They were pictures of her laptop screen. She was on a website for bridesmaid dresses, and all the options were velvet. She sent me pictures of the different styles of velvet maroon dresses.

“How beautiful would you look standing next to me in this color dress?!” Her colorful text said.

And that’s how she asked me to be her bridesmaid. She later asked in a more official way, but she couldn’t contain the secret any longer, especially since she knew it was hard for me to take time off of work. I was so excited, especially since I’ve never been a bridesmaid before. This trip was going to be one for the books – a wedding in Massachusetts during the winter, being a bridesmaid, and it’s a little mini vacation.

At the time, January felt so far away. Madison was letting all her bridesmaids pick our own style dress, color, length, etc. She left it completely up to us, with one request : it has to be velvet. I thought “no problem,” and didn’t really put too much pressure to find a dress. I knew she high-key wanted me in maroon, so I stuck with it. I lagged on getting the dress in hopes I would find something better, or wait for it to go on sale. The pressures of wanting to look good at the wedding were slowly creeping up on me, but I kept my insecurities at bay. That was a whole 3 ish 4 ish months from now, that’s future Marinelle’s problem.

I had my eyes on 2 dresses. I couldn’t seem to pick one. So, I waited. I was stalking these dresses religiously for weeks. Black Friday was just around the corner, so I figured I’d wait and get a good deal. So that’s exactly what I did.

“If they’re ridiculously on sale, I might even buy both to see how they both fit, ” I thought to myself.

Alas, Black Friday was upon us. I rushed to the website on my phone ASAP. My first choice dress – missing from the website completely. “No waaaayyyy, whatever,” at this point my heart is racing. I moved on to dress option #2. Large and X-Large, out of stock. I’m in panic mode. This whole time I thought finding a maroon velvet dress was a piece of cake, only to find out my options were limited. I waited until Cyber Monday. Nothing. Never restocked the second choice dress, and the first dress never came back. I panicked and bought a dress from Macy’s almost twice the price. I was running out of time, it was almost December. Having 1 velvet dress is better than no velvet dress, even if I wasn’t inlove with it. But, I would still be on the lookout for those 2 dresses.

Something in my gut (literally) was telling me this expensive dress was not going to be it. I dreaded getting it in the mail because I knew it was just going to make me feel like shit about my body. It finally arrived, and I eagerly put it on to prove myself right. Yooooo. This. Was. Not. It. My thighs were way too thick for the slit that went down the middle of the dress. To me, I looked foolish. This dress was not helping me in any way, didn’t flatter my body, hugged my gut to the point you could see my belly button, and barely zipped up. There was no saving this dress. It was a no for me, dawg.

If I wasn’t panicking before, I sure as hell was now. It was probably a week or 2 into December already, and I had nothing. As if the universe heard me, my second dress choice restocked in my size. Without thinking twice, I bought it. This had to be the one. I literally had no other choice. If I didn’t like this dress, I would be cutting it close ordering another right after. The dress arrived in the mail on Christmas Eve, right before my family and I were about to leave the house for our family gathering at my aunt’s. But I was too curious, I ripped the packaging open and held it out in front of me arm length. I held the dress by the straps, the velvet soft between my fingers. I haven’t wore velvet in a minute. It looked stretchy, and it definitely looked more comfortable than the Macy’s dress. I liked that there was no zipper, no buttons, nothing to restrict my breathing. It was stretchy, and made to hug my curves without suffocating me. I was relieved…. for the moment. I didn’t get to try it on because we had to go. I threw it on the livingroom couch, knowing that would be the first thing I tend to when we got back.

We got back home well after midnight. My family throws down for parties, so you already know I was fed when I came back home. We eat until it’s food colma. And then you make a little more room just to gorge yourself again. This is nothing new to Filipinos at parties. So this was probably the worst time to try on a form fitting velvet dress, right after Christmas Eve dinner.

Merry Christmas to me, I looked pregnant as fuck in this dress. Not even kidding, if I had put my hand over my bellybutton and turned to the side and took pictures, it would’ve looked like my maternity shoot. I was so sad. If I were to buy another dress I’d have to expedite it and pay extra, and that wouldn’t even guarantee me liking it. And truth be told, this dress and the one out of stock were my best bets. I had to just deal with it. I was a month out from the wedding.

“Maybe if I try it on tomorrow right when I wake up on an empty stomach, it’ll look better,” I thought.

Yeah, no. Still looked pregnant. I felt pretty bad about myself. I started getting nervous thinking about how I was going to stand up there and have everyone see me as the fat bridesmaid. I thought of how I’d keep my hair down as a distraction from my gut and arms. I felt fat, I felt unhappy, I felt like my appearance would get in the way of me enjoying myself at the wedding.

Had this been a couple years ago, I probably would’ve dwelled on this, and my solution would probably be unhealthy. It would probably consist of a crash diet, restrictions, and hating myself into losing a couple of pounds before the wedding. That was how the old me would’ve reacted. Me now, I knew I had to get over it. Being sad over my appearance wasn’t going to help me. It was either I act, or I do nothing. I decided to act on my insecurities, the healthy way.

I was on winter break at work for 2 weeks, so I hit the gym almost every day. I knew I couldn’t lose my gut in less than a month. It was impossible if I wanted to do it the right way. So instead, I ate healthier, but didn’t restrict myself. If I wanted hot cheetos, I was going to eat hot cheetos. I wasn’t going to rob my taste buds of things I like just for the sake of appearance. I figured if my gut is gonna hang out regardless, I might as well have a fat ass to match. So I squatted and did legs almost every single time I was at the gym.

I don’t know if there was an actual difference the month I was working out consistently, but there was a difference in my mood. I felt better, not only about myself but mentally and physically as well. I was still insecure about how I would look during the wedding, but the insecurities were quieter now. I literally just stopped every negative thought that came to mind mid thought. I realized bashing on myself has no purpose. It won’t fix anything, it won’t make me feel good in the end, it won’t do anything except make me feel like shit, so why entertain it?

Around this time, I found myself being more and more inspired by body positive advocates on social media. Their content spoke louder to me because I was going through it. This little hiccup reminded me of everything I stand for, and why I chose the body positive mindset and approach.

At one point, someone suggested maybe I should wear a girdle. I said this was the body I have and this is the body that Madison will get as a bridesmaid. That comment would’ve offended me once upon a time, but instead, it slapped some sense into me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t knock anyone who wears girdles. Do you. Its just not my cup of tea. To me personally, if I’m promoting self-love and being real, I feel like a hypocrite wearing something that will alter my appearance.

I really had to give myself a pep-talk at one point and remind myself that beauty doesn’t define me. The size of my gut doesn’t matter. My arms will jiggle and that’s okay. But I refused to suck in my gut in pictures, I refused hide behind the bouquet of flowers all night, and I refused to keep my jacket on throughout the whole event because I was insecure about my body. Especially living in the Bay Area, I’m covered up pretty much 95% of the year, so when it’s time to wear dressy things and clothes that accentuates my body, I do feel insecure.

Weddings make everyone a little appearance crazy, even when it’s not even your wedding! We all want to look good, and wear things that flatter our body types. You can dress your body type as best as you can, but your body is your body. We put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way, and if the expectations are not met, you’re stuck there feeling depressed and ugly. But who benefits from that? Definitely not you. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of that dark hole. Sometimes you need to be your own hype-woman.

Madison asked me what hairstyle I planned on getting since she hired hair and makeup people for the day of the wedding. I asked what she wanted since it was her wedding. At this point I was feeling back to my body posi self. She suggested hair up. If this had been a couple weeks prior, I probably would’ve said hair down no questions asked so I could hide behind it. But I thought an up-do was a great idea. I’ve never had my hair professionally done, and I’m rarely seen with my hair up. It’s about time I bust out of my comfort zone.

The day of the wedding went by smoothly. I did my own makeup because I don’t trust anyone with my eyebrows. But getting my hair done was so cool, I wish I had someone to do my hair every morning. When it was finally time to dress up, I put on my dress and wasn’t worried about my gut, or arms, or anything really. I was just so excited to be there and see one of my best friends marry her best friend. I didn’t hide behind the bouquet, I didn’t suck in my tummy for pictures, I didn’t post a certain way to look slimmer. And it felt so liberating to have no worries. I looked around at all the others in the bridal party and everyone looked stunning. Most of us were all strangers before meeting up in New York for Madison’s bachelorette party. Some we didn’t even meet until the rehearsal dinner. But everyone was genuinely supporting and hyping up one another. We all bonded over being a part of Madison and Bren’s bridal party, and I must say, it felt good to meet all the many friends who were there throughout the married couples lives.

If I had stressed over my insecurities the whole time, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself the way I did. I would just be too concerned with being insecure and nitpicking at myself, when honestly, nobody even really cares. I’m glad I got to pull myself out of my own head right in time for the wedding. Because when the time came, I didn’t care about my stomach, my arms, the pimple on my cheek that has literally been on my face for over a month, I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying myself. And when we let insecurities get in the way of that, you miss out on a lot of life.

I just wanted to share this story because everyone has their moments. The body positive advocate still feels insecure from time to time, and that’s okay. It’s nice to share successes, but it’s also okay to share your setbacks. Madison shared her wedding album with all of us and I found this picture of me getting my hair done. I love how you can see my perfectly imperfect tummy in the picture. I stressed about my “booty-do (when your stomach sticks out more than your booty-do)” for the longest, and here she was making her appearance in this velvet dress. I love this picture. This is the real me, body relaxed, not posed at all, tummy hangin’ out.

“Are You Filipino?”

It was Thursday evening, I just got off work at 5 PM and was waiting on a reply from the group chat with my sisters and cousin. Where were we going to freakin’ eat?! And when I mean “waiting” on their reply, I really mean I was blowing it up because nobody was responding to me. I told them to figure out where we were eating by 5 PM so I could Uber there ASAP to save time. But here I was, 5:05 PM with all the crickets. Anyways, that night, we were going to watch Jo Koy, a Filipino comedian. We followed him throughout his career and that night, we were finally going to see him live at Chase Center in San Francisco.

Finally around 5:15 my cousin texted the destination spot. The show started at 8, so I didn’t want to risk it for the biscuit by being cheap. I called an UberX to get to Mi Lindo as soon as possible. I waited outside on the sidewalk waiting for my Uber. All I could think about was how tired I was. I was thinking of taking a nap during my Uber car ride, but I was hesitant because of all those creepy Uber ride horror stories. My Uber driver turned the corner and in no time was pulled over right in front of me. I got in and did the basic greetings and confirmation on who the ride is for.

After about 3 minutes into the ride I feel myself wanting to doze off. Working at a preschool full-time got me going home at the end of the day pooped. I was thinking of taking that power nap, my eyes struggling to stay open. I usually have my earphones on during my Uber rides alone, but I was too lazy to reach into my back pack and put them on. Which was probably for the best, since this car ride would give me all the feels. There I was, tired, exhausted, not to mention hungry.

“Are you Filipino?” My driver asks me. He was a middle aged Filipino man, I would guess late 50’s barely early 60’s. But he later told me was almost 70.

“Yeah I am,” I responded happily. I had to turn on my customer service voice on. But honestly, I wasn’t really in the mood to have a full on conversation.

“Can you speak Tagalog?” He asked through his thick accent.

“I can understand Tagalog, and I can speak it,” I said. But then I started explaining myself. Yes, I can understand Tagalog completely when it is spoken to me. Yes, I can speak it, but it takes a while for me to translate what I mean and formulate it into a Tagalog sentence.

“Ah, it is because you were born here, ha?”

“Yeah. I was born here. I can speak Tagalog, but you can tell I have an American accent.”

“Oh, that’s okay. You know, as long as you can still understand, that is good.” He told me.

He kept the conversation going. He told me he was almost 70 years old, and has been in America since 2009 or 2011 (if I’m remembering this right.) He currently works 3 jobs total, Uber being his part-time gig. He is a caregiver for his other 2 jobs. He cares for elderly patients in their home, and does over night shifts. I told him I was on the way to see Jo Koy. He knew him as the “bald guy.”

“Wow, you work a lot,” I told him.

“Yes, I work a lot. To be honest, I don’t really sleep, just always work.” He explained further that of course he does sleep, but it is while on the job as a caregiver. When he’s doing his overnight shifts and his patients are asleep, he sleeps in a separate room, while occasionally checking in on his patient throughout the night.

“So when do you find time to do things you like and have fun since you work so much?”

“I don’t,” he laughed. “I like working. I’m old already. I don’t need to go to parties or anything.”

He told me how he enjoys working a lot. Working makes him happy. Sometimes when people talk about working a lot, its ususally negative. Its ususally followed by a “life is hard” speech or “all I do is work and it sucks” speech. He genuinely seemed to be content with his work load.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in America,” he told me. “You know that? If you are a hard worker in America, you can make a lot of money.”

We continued on with the conversation. He asked what part of the Philippines my parents are from, told me about his 2 kids back in the Philippines, how he came to America on a tourist Visa years ago, then had to work to remain tourist-ing. He married here in America, and his wife works at Kaiser. His daughter is graduating college in the Philippines soon and he was going to return back home for her graduation. In about a year or 2, he plans to move back to the Philippines for good.

Throughout our conversation I understood why he asked if I could understand Tagalog. He was struggling to speak English, probably the same way I would be struggling to speak Tagalog. The point was getting across, but it took a while. I thought about telling him to speak to me in Tagalog and I would just answer in English, but I didn’t know if it would come across as rude, or discourage him from speaking English. I tried to compensate by throwing in Tagalog phrases so he could understand more.

He asked about my name, and said how beautiful it was. I laughed and said my name is very Filipino since my name is a combination of my mom and older sister’s name. Filipinos love combining names to make a new name. He eagerly chimed in that both of his children’s names are a combination of his and his wife’s (the one in the Philippines) name.

He was shocked to discover that I’ve never been to the Philippines. He tried to sell the idea of me visiting with my family soon. “Oh you will love it there,” he went on. He spoke about all the Filipino food he cooks, and how his wife is chubby because he’s such a great chef.

I could tell that he just wanted to talk. I got zero percent creepy vibes from him. He never said it, but I felt like I reminded him of his daughter or something. He told me she was 20 or 21, me being 25. I think the fact that I’m Filipino made him feel comfortable. Just hearing about his life made me want to invite him to one of family parties or something. He told me it’s just him and his wife, that they met here, in America. Because of his busy schedule, I commented that he and his wife probably don’t get much alone time. From what he described, it seemed like he goes from job to job to job. The whole time I thought of how lonely that must be.

When I told him I graduated SFSU in Journalism he got happy. “Oh, you know, that’s like on the TV? Like broadcasting? You should apply! Just apply! You have a beautiful voice!” I laughed a little in my head because it’s a running inside joke with my sisters and cousins how deep my voice is. But I accepted the compliment.

He said something to me earlier in our conversation that stuck with me. When we were talking about Tagalog and if I could understand and speak it, he reassured me that it was okay if I had an American accent.

“It’s okay. You were born here, but your blood is Filipino. You might be from here, but your blood is 100% Filipino.”

We finally got to my destination. He pulled up infront of Mi Lindo. I told him that I really enjoyed talking to him, and for him to take care.

“Send my regards to your mom and dad,” he told me while waving.

I got in the restaurant, and my sister and cousin could see me from the window. My little sister commented that I was way too happy getting out of the car, prolonging getting out and saying 1 last thing before finally closing the car door. I told them that I just had such a nice conversation with my Uber driver.

Chase Center was only about 2 miles away from the restaurant we were at, so we were doing great time wise. We parked a couple of blocks away from Chase Center, but the short walk seemed longer. That San Francisco cold hits you differently at night. The kind of cold that makes your back hurt and body tighten up. Anyways, it was well worth it, paying $10 cheaper than the Chase Center parking garage.

Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors. It was a magnificent sight. It’s a beautiful stadium, and the outside of it was just as dope. It was a sea of Filipinos. We joked that we would all see people we knew. And turns out, we all did. All 4 of us.

We got to our seats, and waited for the show to start. The crowd was huge. And it was a sold out show. Finally, after much anticipation, Jo Koy finally entered the stage. He got an automatic standing ovation. I could only imagine how he felt, the stadium is huge, there were so many people. You could tell by his face that he was genuinely like, “damn, I made it.”

What makes Jo Koy’s jokes so much funnier is the fact that we can relate to everything he’s talking about. He’s half Filipino half white, raised by a Filipino mother. He may not be full Filipino, but his experiences growing up are exactly like mine. Feeling like you can relate to someone is such a great feeling. Especially since he’s made a name for himself, he’s telling the Filipino narrative.

I’ve watched Jo Koy since he was on the Chelsea Lately show. Honestly, I would get a little bummed when Jokoy wasn’t in an episode. They would cap on him for being Asian, and the running joke was that they never got the right type of Asian. He would always talk about him being Filipino, and growing up I got a sense of pride from that. Nothing more rewarding than seeing your people on the screen, and it’s a cherry on top when they claim being Filipino publically, and make an effort to rep it.

During Jo Koy’s act, he talked about growing up and not seeing Filipino people on the screen. He goes on to talk about representation, and how that shit is important. He tells the story of how his sister stitched on the Filipino flag on his jacket right before an interview. Why?

To represent all the Filipinos out there, but to also inspire other Filipinos to dream big. He went on to talk about Manny Pacquiao, and how he was killing the game in the name of the Philippines. And how proud he was to see Manny on the screen. And I can relate to that so hard.

I remember when Manny was first coming up, before he was the main event, before all the fame. We were in my aunt’s living room, and he was an under card fight. When Manny won, they lifted the Filipino flag behind him. “Oh, he’s Filipino?” I remember my dad saying. And then Pacquiao got bigger and bigger, and made/ is continuing to make history. I felt that shit. The pride and admiration Jo Koy was talking about, I can relate.

Everytime there is a known Filipino doing big things in America, best believe that person will be on “Balitang America” (a Filipino news station that reports on American news that relates to Filipinos). Jo Koy is right, growing up, there wasn’t enough Filipino representation in the media. So when there was a known Filipino, we repped them, claimed them, and supported them regardless.

From Manny Pacquiao, to Jo Koy, to Apl.de.ap, to Rob Schneider, to Bruno Mars, to Shay Mitchell. Once we learned of their Filipino heritage, us as a community support them like super fans. It gives us a sense of pride to see someone that looks like us on the screen.

Jo Koy tells the Filipino narrative through jokes. He sheds light on issues in the Filipino community, like holding grudges and not talking things out. This is a topic I’ve talked about with my cousins and friends! It’s some real shit. And as a comedian, Jo Koy jokes about some of the toxic Filipino traits, and even though he is making people laugh, it sheds light on the issues at hand.

“Stop that shit,” Jo Koy said when talking about holding grudges and going mute, “Talk! Just talk! Communicate!”

Seeing a Filipino like Jo Koy make it big makes me so proud. Having someone that represents your culture, in media that is predominately Caucasian, really does inspire other Filipinos to dream big. It’s an even better feeling when you’ve followed somebody throughout their career, and finally see them reach the top. Jo Koy said he wore that Filipino flag on his jacket to inspire other Filipinos out there, and it makes me proud. Because I have the same mentality. All these Filipinos in different professions, making a name for all of us in those fields is a beautiful thing.

I want to be successful, not just for me, but to represent my people. I come from Daly City, one of the most Filipino dense communities in America. But the fact of the matter is, once I go out of Daly City or the Bay Area, the Filipino community gets smaller and smaller. There are parts in America where people don’t even know what the Philippines is.

If you keep up with my blog, you already know I want to make it big to represent the Filipino community and shed light on Filipino topics with my writing. I can relate to Jo Koy and his need to rep his Filipino-ness hardcore to inspire other Filipinos.

Even everyday people, like my Uber driver, takes pride in talking and relating to another Filipino. When we see someone make it big and rep us, it’s a proud feeling. And I aspire to make my community proud like that in my lifetime.

One day this journalist will be getting interviewed, and they’ll ask me, “Are you Filipino?”

And I’ll respond with a proud, “Fuck yeah I’m Filipino.”

Walang Hiya

“Walang hiya,” literally translates to “no shame”/ “shameless” in Tagalog.

My ears are no stranger to this saying. In fact, all my life I’ve heard the terms, “walang hiya,” / “walang ka hiya?!” (“Have you no shame?!”). This phrase was almost always said to my sisters and I by our parents. And it was most definitely said to check us and humble us with the quickness. When you hear someone say, “walang hiya,”(statement form) / “walang ka hiya?!” (Question form) to another person, they’re checking the other person’s character and actions. It is generally not a positive reaction, especially in its statement form, “walang hiya” is most likely followed with a head shake and look of disappointment.

“Have you no shame?” has been instilled in mind at a young age. Every Filipino kid has heard this term growing up. And to be honest, my parents still say this to us to this day! Everyone can relate to their parents telling them that they are shameless, to the point where it’s almost a joke. Well, for my cousins and I atleast. When someone is being out of pocket and takes a joke too far, we’ll laugh and throw in, “walang hiya!”

When I was thinking of what to write for this week’s blog post, I kept thinking of how I could summarize my 2019. I didn’t want to do the typical, “What has 2019 taught me…” / “My goals for 2020 are…” post. I thought back on how I changed from the beginning of 2019 to now, about to close out the decade. And all that came to my mind was, “Walang Hiya.”

Shameless. I was definitely shameless this year. “Walang hiya,” has always been seen as a negative thing, but for me, being shameless this year has brought me inner growth. It has been such a confusing year for me personally. I really had to dig deep and remember who I am, what I want, and where I want to be.

My 2019 new year’s resolution was to start posting consistently on this blog. January 2019 came and went, and my blog was mad crickety. I was freshly graduated, and wanted to start my passion projects. The only thing getting in the way of that was… myself. I was over thinking, being insecure, and shy about my work. It’s easy to say, “just start!” when you’re posting your work for the public to see and criticize.

May 2019 I walked the stage with my journalism class. And my graduation ceremony sparked something in me. At that point I was 5 months out of school, and being back in the school setting, even if it was just to walk the stage, ignited my fire again. I saw my professors, and it inspired me to get out of the slump I was in and do something – anything – writing wise. It took a little over a month, but July 2019 I started posting consistently.

In the past, when I was still in school and would post what I wrote every now and then, I would get insecure about what people would think, the engagement I would get on the post, the photo that went with it, etc etc etc. But now, I don’t care about the likes, the comments, if I look “nice” in the cover pic. The thing was, in the past, I did have “hiya.” I had shame, when I should’ve had pride in my work. I was always taught that there is a very thin line between being proud/humble and being cocky. Posting about my writing / occasional video projects made me feel weird. It made me feel like I was boasting about my work, showing off, and seaking attention. It took me a while to let go of that “hiya” and share my ideas/ posts.

Before I started posting consistently on my blog, therefore all my social media platforms to get more engagement, I was very particular about what I posted. I was one of those social media users that would post like, once a month, and was very choosy on what I chose to share. Like I said before, social media is what people want you to see of them. And for me, I didn’t really feel the need to share anything particularly personal. It was like “you can see my family, friends, boyfriend, and that’s about all I’m going to share.” I didn’t post things if it wasn’t “Instagram worthy,” or if I didn’t look cute in it. I didn’t want to post too frequent, and I didn’t want to have too many posts on my feed. Because more posts on my Instagram meant that I was giving the public more pieces to the puzzle of “me.”

When I started posting a blog post every Monday, all that went out the window. In the beginning I felt some type of way that I was over sharing my life, and posting way more than I ever did before. My blog is kind of like posting my diary entries for the world to see. It gets real real quick. But I knew that if I ever wanted to be known as a writer who writes about real shit, I have to share what I write. That was definitely a transition for me. I’m not one to share my personal life on a Facebook status, and you would never catch me having Twitter fingers if I had beef with anyone. I was always a “think what you want to think, I keep my circle small and the people that matter know the truth,” if I was ever in some drama. But now, here I am, sharing my deepest thoughts, my fears, my struggles, my triumph, for the public to see.

Some of the things I write about would certainly get a, “walang ka hiya?!” from my parents, which was part of the reason why I was hesitant on posting consistently. Surprisingly, my mom hasn’t hit me with the, “walang ka hiya?!” statement yet on anything I have written so far. I think it’s one of those situations where she thinks it in her head, but won’t say it out loud because she knows I’m an adult and that I want to reach a bigger audience. Her feedback to me once was that I curse too much on my blogs. “Its good, but just don’t use ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ because its embarrassing, don’t you want people to read and like you? They may not like you if you curse so much.”

I responded by saying that I’m not writing for people to like me. I’m not changing my writing style to show face, because I’m not like that in person. If you know me, I type how I talk. People tell me all the time that they read my content and it’s like they hear me reading it. I have thought of what I post biting me in the ass. As a journalist, we were taught to be professional all across the board. But that’s why I don’t see myself in hard news, because I feel like I have too much personality. I went on to tell my mom that whoever has a problem with seeing cuss words in my writing, doesn’t have to read. I was taught that whatever content you choose to write about attracts a certain audience, and it’s okay if everyone isn’t into it.

Simultaneously while I’m posting consistently, I noticed 2019 was the year that I gave less and less a fuck about my outward appearance. I’m a preschool teacher, I’m always in leggings, no makeup, and a whatever top, because I’m constantly on the move. Might get shit on, might get boogers on me, might have to clean the whole unit, I literally never know. Even on weekends, I found myself not caring how I looked. And there was some freedom in that. But it sometimes made me sad. I wasn’t putting effort into my appearance because I genuinely didn’t care and was too lazy to put on makeup. But at the same time, it made me happy that I was secure in myself that I didn’t feel the need to look a certain way all the time. I also wake up at 5 am, there is literally no time to get cute anymore.

I took “I don’t care,” to a whole new level. Appearance wise, body wise, and all the above. But I mean this in a good way. I found no point in complaining about my appearance. I put less importance on my outter appearance and worked on the kind of person I was on the inside. I learned that I can only control myself, my actions, and my emotions. I can’t control how others react or how others interpret things. I realized my toxic traits and try to work on them. I’m quick with my words when I’m upset, and I’m still trying to learn the meaning of restraint. That’s one thing where I should have shame! But it’ll take time to break bad habits.

I made it a point this year to not support any business or brand that did not support me as a bigger bodied woman. That being said, I stopped buying undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, and started supporting Aerie for their body inclusivity. It was hard for me because I was a die hard Victoria’s Secret fan for years. I’ve spent a lot of money at Victoria’s Secret and they had my brand loyalty. But when they made that comment about plus size women and trans women, I couldn’t. I could no longer support a company that didn’t care about plus sized women like me. I had no shame in vocalizing my reasons. And now, Aerie loyalty it is.

2019 I really opened up myself to the public. I had “walang hiya” in a lot of things I did, and it worked in my favor. Growing up, I was taught that having “no shame” was a bad thing. Now, I want to share that having “walang hiya” doesn’t always have to be negative. Being shameless in my writing, life, and appearance has helped me grow into a more secure woman.

Here’s to having walang hiya in 2020 πŸ₯‚

Fly High

Can you really have it all?

That’s the question I’ve been struggling to answer. This seems to be the topic of discussion with every close friend I have. This is a topic that gives me crippling anxiety and stress, and what’s even worse is the fact that this is all hypothetical.

Growing up in the Bay Area has really been a privilege. The Bay Area is so diverse and progressive, I’m glad that I was brought up in a really accepting area. What was even better was the fact that I pretty much grew up with all my family close by.

My mom has 4 sisters and 2 brothers. The eldest brother passed away long before I was born. That being said, all her siblings stayed relatively close in the San Francisco area, and the ones that didn’t were still less than a 60 minute drive away (without traffic). Nobody strayed too far from the house that started it all for the Cruz side. Everyone knew that house. My friends knew that house. When I went to Epiphany, “Mama’s House,” as it was known to us, was located right across the street. When my cousins and I attended the school, that is where we chilled for a couple hours until our parents picked us up. And every Sunday after the 1 o’clock mass, we would meet up at Mama’s for lunch. Growing up, a majority of us were there for 6 days out of the week.

Every Sunday was a potluck. People bought food, some would make it, either way, there was always food for everyone to eat. It was basically a small party every Sunday. This was our tradition. Every birthday, life event, and celebration took place at Mama’s.

My dad has 4 sisters and 3 brothers. Their youngest sister died during child birth along with my grandma. 2 of my uncles and their families live in Vegas and visit yearly, but the rest of my dad’s siblings have stayed in the Bay Area the whole time since coming from the Philippines. San Francisco is where it all got started for the Cabillos, and they did not venture far from the city that they called “home.”

When my grandma passed away during childbirth, my dad’s eldest sister took charge as the mother figure. My great-grandfather (my grandma’s dad), after serving America in World War II, got all his children and their families to San Francisco. My aunts and uncles started their new life in the Bay Area. Growing up, their family and each other are all they had. Though they went through tragedy losing their mother, they stuck together and looked out for one another to make sure they all were good. The absence of my grandma really made my dad’s side take “family is everything,” to a whole other level. This is the example I was brought up on.

My dad’s extended family is huge. Back in the day, the Tagle family was named the largest Filipino family in the Bay Area. My grandma that passed was the eldest of 10 children, and they each had a number of children themselves. Our family is big. How big? To the point where majority of us only see each other when someone passes away, and even then we really don’t know who came from which OG.

Given my family history, it’s safe to say that I come from a long line of San Francisco Bay Area Faithfuls. For the most part, we have never strayed too far from the nest, and we look to family for support and companionship. All roots come back to here.

This was also true when I was “looking” for colleges to attend. I put “looking” in quotations because…. was I even? Haha. I knew off the bat that I was going to go to community college to save money and figure out what to do with my life. Everyone was worried about acceptance letters, while I knew from the get that community college was the route I was going to take. I saw no shame in that at all. I saved my parents a shit ton of money, and I got to explore my interests with less stress of “figuring it out” on a time clock. SF State was the only college I applied to when transfering. I knew that going away for college wasn’t realistic. I wasn’t going to make my parents go into debt for an education I could get locally.

But let’s be real, I didn’t apply anywhere else because I was too scared to be anywhere else. The seed was planted in my head that I was going to attend college locally anyways. My parents didn’t believe in going away for college. To them, that’s what Americans do, go away for college and live on their own. But for us, Filipinos definately do not leave the nest until married – and even then you’re probably still living at home to raise your family around family. And that’s normal in our culture. I also didn’t really feel a need to move away for college because there was so much going on with my family. Someone was always having a baby, there was always something to celebrate, and I honestly didn’t want to miss out on anything. Especially with my Tatay. Right now he’s 96, to us that’s truly a living legend. He’s only getting older, and for that reason, the Bay is where I’ll stay… for now.

I’ve always considered myself Bay Area Faithful, the Bay till I die, this is home for life. But as I got older and realized how hard it is to grind, save up money, and learned the value of a dollar, it dawned on me: Can I even afford to live here? And this is the sad truth for a lot of us that grew up here. As I got older, the prices to live in the Bay just got higher, and higher, and unfortunately, higher. I realized that I’ll probably never be able to afford a house in the area I grew up in and planned to stay in.

Depending on my mood, this either makes me angry or sad. Angry over the fact that people that weren’t born and raised here are running us out of our own city, and sad that I most likely will need to make a new place “home.” I’m also sad over the fact that over the years, I’ve seen San Francisco evolve. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not the same. It has transformed into something unrecognizable almost. This isn’t the San Francisco I grew up in.

And that’s what feeds into my post-grad blues. Knowing that eventually, I most likely will need to relocate. Looking for jobs will be tough, do I look for jobs in the Bay Area or should I go somewhere I can afford? And how can I when this is the only place I know as home? With all my family, all my friends, everything that is me, is here. I always wanted to raise my children in the same area I grew up in, so we could share similar experiences and start another generation of Forever Faithfuls. But with the line of work I willingly chose, I feel like I’ll be all over the place. A journalist is constantly traveling, going from job to job to make a name for themselves, exposing themselves to new adventures and areas. The irony.

I’ve always pictured myself living close to home, close to my family. How I was raised, I was never under the care of someone that wasn’t related to me. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or what, but definitely in my family, they did not believe in random baby sitters. And that’s the beautiful thing of growing up with your family, your community is strong and your children build strong bonds with their cousins and other relatives.

We were always under the care of my grandparents. And at one point, my Tatay Jack was living with us. And that’s what I wanted to continue with my kids. I wanted to be so close that if anything came up I can pull up to my parents’ house and be like, “Can you watch them real quick I need to XYZ…” Or maybe even live at home and take over the bills and have my parents stay with me and my own little family. But how, if I move away? And that’s what terrifies me, not having my parents and family there to help support me. I was raised to trust nobody, and I feel that will project ten times more when I have kids, I won’t let just anyone watch them. But I don’t want to stay near just so they watch my kids, but more so be there for little and big moments in my kids’ lives. We drive each other crazy, but we were raised to be a close family.

FOMO is what keeps me here. Fear Of Missing Out. All the cousins I grew up with are still in the area. I see them often and we hangout when we have time. More so now that my cousins have kids, they want to do more family bonding outings, and I’m here for all of it, and I love it. When I picture myself moving, I picture myself missing all the little things. All the small get togethers at Tatay’s, every birthday party, football game, and random hangouts, I’ll be missing out on. And it really makes me sad as fuck. Especially since nobody in my family has really “left.”

If they moved from the Bay Area, it was a family decision, and their whole little family moved. I feel like it’s almost frowned upon to leave just to relocated solo. Well, that’s how my parents go about it atleast. For as long as I can remember, they have used the tactic of fear to have us reconsider moving away.

“Oh, you think you can live over there?”

“You think you can come back to the Bay Area once you leave? You won’t be able to afford it.”

“Over there is racist okay? The Bay Area is the best.”

I know they come from a good place, and deep deep down they’re afraid too. Afraid that we’ll go through with it, and all of a sudden we’re not all together anymore. And I know that their wish is for all their kids and their families to be close, just like how we were raised. So, they use fear of the unknown to have us reconsider. I know that they’re just trying to psych us out so we don’t follow through because they love us and want us close, but sometimes I wish they could just be real and accepting about it. Instead of trying to shut it down with the quickness, I wish they would just say that it would be okay if we were to move. Because their opinion and support matter to me.

“You know, when you say we can’t do something, I know you’re just saying it because you’re scared of us leaving,” I told my mom one day on the couch.

She smirked. She knows why they say what they say! πŸ˜‚

But then there will be moments when she hits me with the, “It’s your life now. You get to choose,” type of rants. And not in a smartass way, but in a genuine, “I know I can’t tell you what to do anymore” way. This is not one of those “bahala ka sa buhay mo” moments. And then that shit makes me sad too! To know that my sisters and I are at the age where we are about to establish our lives. With time, one of us will move out, and all 5 of us living together will be a thing of the past. And it makes me mad depressed. I’m a bright young lady. I know that nothing stays the same and change is inevitable, and sometimes necessary. But why does it make me so sad? I think it’s the fact that I know that I can never get these moments back. Life keeps moving, it waits for no one. And either I go through with my life, and start building my own life, or I’m 45 and at home.

This is a topic that gets me and Christian beefin’. The topic of settling down and moving away. To him, he wants to move away together as soon as possible to get our lives started. He always says if I want a family and a career I need to act now because the longer it takes for us to get established, the longer it takes for us to be independent and build the life we want. And he’s right. But in all honesty, we come from 2 different worlds. I see his points, I know what he’s saying makes sense and is a no brainer. But our upbringings are so different. It’s hard for him to understand the importance of family in Filipino culture and how we don’t stray far from the group. Which he would be okay with, if the Bay Area wasn’t so ridiculously expensive.

From an outsider’s perspective, he doesn’t see what I see in the Bay Area. He just sees the cost of living here and doesn’t think it’s worth it. And honestly, if I was an outsider I’d think the same thing! I’m an insider and I think the cost of living here is a joke. But I grew up here, a part of me refuses to give up the fight and move away. But is it even worth it anymore? To bust my ass and not have much to show for it but a tiny apartment that would buy me a multiple story house somewhere else?

I’m so afraid to leave the Bay Area, how much more California? But this is all I’ve known my whole life, how will I know this is the destination I want to end up in permanently if I never go anywhere else? It’s one of those things where you know what you got to do, but you cant muster up the courage or balls to do it. Sometimes I feel like it’s a decision between living comfortably and alone away from family, or struggling to stay in the same area, and never saving enough money to live the life I want to live.

A little while after my graduation, my mom told me, “Fly high, follow your dreams.” And that made me wonder, how high is high? If I follow my dreams and it leads me far from the family, is the dream still worth it? Should I still follow it? How high am I flying if I limit myself to only San Francisco? How do I know what path to follow?

The running joke of journalists is that we sometimes put ourselves in harm’s way, yet the public hates us/ we don’t get paid well. When I told my dad that the job I’m at now probably pays more than a starting writing job, he asked why I picked this field. 🀣 He then told me to take the test to work a government job like my mom. He explained that it may not be my dream, but atleast if I put in the years, I’ll be set for retirement after with a lot of benefits. I was almost offended that he would suggest that. But I understand that he wants me to play it safe for my future, because it’s a guaranteed set living. My field terrifies him, just like it terrifies me. Either I make it, or I don’t make it and get paid “peanuts.” But I’m willing to take that risk. I’d rather try and fail, then settle and forever wonder. I need to feel this way about moving too haha.

One time at dinner I asked my cousins if I should try to stay in the Bay Area or try to move away. Almost right after I asked the question at the same time they said “Go!”

“I wish I did, and now I’m old.” My cousin had said.

While my other cousin had a completely different view. I was venting to her about my pros and cons and she hit me with the, “Well, which one is more important to you?” Aka, my dreams or family. Damn. That hit hard. And I realized, nobody can have it all. To follow my dreams will cost me. And to stay for my family could likely cost me my dreams. And it’s a tough decision to make.

I did an Instagram poll asking people if living close to family is important, if they want to raise their family where they grew up, if they would move to achieve a dream, etc etc. Majority of people said living close to family is really important, but also said they they would move away to follow their dreams. A little over half of voters said that nobody can have it all. That “having it all” doesn’t exist.

I do agree that having it all is a mindset. But at the end of the day nobody can have it all. You have to rank what you want and what’s more important. But also, everything is circumstantial, and things come in steps. You never get everything you want all at once. You have to work for it. A friend of mind explained it well saying that we will never have it all because we will always want more, with new goals and achievements being set for ourselves.

So this is my little rant of what’s currently stressing me out. I have no solution for it. And honestly sometimes it makes me feel like I’m adopting American ways where self is more important than the group. And I don’t know how to feel!

Just recently I went to New York, and I was in complete awe with the city. It was a place where I could picture myself living. I just know wherever my career takes me, I need to take the chance. And if I end up back in the Bay after being successful, then so be it!

How high is flying high? I guess I have to find out.

To My Filipina Girls

Filipina girl,

Please just keep doing you.

Don’t let these beauty standards tell you what to do.

Fuck those products that make your skin lighter,

I feel like this is something I need to address as a writer.

You don’t need products or surgery to change what you were given,

I wish you inner peace and accept the features you’ll forever live in.

However, I am not one to judge if you go down the surgery route,

But let’s be real we know what this epidemic is all about.

Society and culture tells you that you have to look a certain way,

These things were molded into our minds so young as if our brains were clay.

You’re confused as to why your family tells you to eat more, but will later throw it in your face,

And now you’re wondering why you stare in the mirror and look at your body like its a fucking disgrace.

You’re looking at the people on TV and can’t help but stare,

You’re stuck wondering if you’d feel better about yourself if you were fair.

Fuck that shit, let me say this once cuz I’m a lil’ fighter,

Those people want you to stay insecure and have you wish that your features were “whiter.”

The running joke is that of a Filipino’s nose,

Well let me tell you this, and this is how the new story goes…

I love my nose, my color, and all my Filipino features,

I’ll never deny my background, preachin’ like I’m a preacher.

There’s nothing more sad than discrimination from your own people,

They think if your “Filipino” don’t look the same as theirs then you are not their equal.

Growing up, I never saw people in shows that look like me,

I would get excited and feel pride when there was a known Filipino on TV.

When they repped Filipinos publically it made me even prouder,

So that’s why I’ll say this message again, this time even louder:

Filipina girl,

You are more than your outer beauty,

Educate, inspire, grow that brain, that’s your fucking duty.

Because when you do that, only then will you know,

They want you to stay insecure so they can sell you things, and damn now it shows!

My mission is to make it for the people that look like me,

I’m Filipina and I’m proud, and that’s the fuckin’ tea! πŸΈβ˜•