Balancing Act

By Franches Garay, FINDink Contributor

I have a birthmark on the skin right between leg and foot — a dark brazen oddity that planted its roots from, as my parents liked to tell me growing up, a Moringa (kalamungay) tree my mom used to eat obsessively when she was pregnant with me. The birthmark contrasted prominently against unblemished skin, colors merely coexisting. It was something that I continuously used to try to hide as a kid, a part of myself I was, in all essence of the word, ashamed of.

I wanted to cover up the brown.

Growing up, I don’t think I ever realized – or become fully aware of – my racial identity until I moved to America. Brown skin looked odd, out of place amongst the blanket of white. The colors contrasted against each other, colors merely coexisting. Two sides of the same coin.     

My mom – barely 5’2 but had enough tenacity and heart to move mountains (figuratively but also probably literally) –  had created something akin to paradise in a small, modest three-bedroom row house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To her, sacrifice had become synonymous to the American Dream, trading in long hours at the hospital in exchange for the opportunity to give her kids a chance in a world beyond all she’s ever known.

The thing is, I have a heritage molded so intricately into my being, have pride for a culture so boldly and unapologetically yet I feel as though I have forgotten. As if my past had been watered down, diluted to the point that the branches littered with Moringa leaves have died out as not to overshadow the growth of a new one in all its entirety.

I’ve noticed that throughout the years, my native tongue has become nothing more than a ghost in the system, embedded in the back of my throat laying dormant. It was, in a way, easier that way – to lose a part of yourself in exchange for something else that would produce the most benefit. In nature, it’s called survival of the fittest. In this sense, it meant slowly forgetting an essential part of who I was.

I wanted to fit in but my skin was brazen in its brownness, unapologetic in the way it spoke of the stories and the histories of the Filipino culture. It spoke of Spanish colonialism, mango trees, Lapu-Lapu, and a group of people whose heart and pride for their culture transcended into waves.

The Philippines is the place that marked my birth, the land that gave birth to my identity. To all I’ve ever known. I was a seed planted in the rich culture of the Filipino soil forced to uproot to find a home in a place halfway across the world. But, I did. I grew roots in Philadelphia, in Hartford, in every place I’ve been and with every person that has changed my life.

For a while, I didn’t know I could live as both. I have yet to learn how to let the two intertwine as one entity without losing parts of one to another. I have yet to understand how to spin around the two sides of the same coin without letting one fall flat. It’s a mixture of planted roots in two opposing soils, of tongues, traditions, and cultures.

I have yet to learn how to walk the tightrope of this balancing act but I have slowly let myself outstretch my arms into the sky like branches with leaves of both Moringa and White Oak.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Ligaw Ligaw Season?

By Noel Alberto, FINDink Contributor

Growing up (and even now), my mom always asked me if I’m making “ligaw ligaw”. Growing up, I had no idea what that meant but later on, my told me, oh it means “to court a girl”. Winter is almost over, which means cuffing season is about to come to a close (November to March), but there’s never a season to #ShootYourShot2018 so ligaw ligaw (courting) season is all-year round.
There’s a lot into courtship in the Filipino culture. It can start with asking the girl for her phone number or address or with teasing. Why teasing you ask? There is teasing because the “official” courtship has not begun yet and also, it helps the male suitor who really does not know how to court a girl. After the “teasing stage”, the courtship becomes more serious if the female reciprocates with the teasing or “encourages” the suitor to continue.
In the “serious” stage, more dates involving the two, whether it be chaperoned dates or group dates. While courting, the suitor begins to bring  pasalubong  to the lady such as flowers, cards, letters, etc. This serious stage includes meeting the parents. While being courted, the woman must play  hard to get , showing no interest or flirting, and being well-mannered, which is the appropriate behavior despite having interests for the suitor. Sometimes the suitor, who would be accompanied by friends, would head over to the women’s house and serenade her in a way of asking her to be his girlfriend.
The woman can choose one of many suitors, and once they begin the “dating phase”, no public displays of affection are usually shown. After the dating phase, the marriage phase begins where the man and his parents go upstairs of the woman’s house and ask for permission from the parents for the lady’s hand.
Some of this may sound old school and traditional, but some of this is a welcome change of pace in today’s  hook-up culture.  Hook-up culture is generally associated with people who are in high school or in college. In the social media age, courting someone will not go unnoticed. This is where the finsta comes in.
A finsta is a fake instagram which someone has to share their unfiltered experiences of life, which is private and only followed by your closest friends. It’s that place for those ugly selfies, those rants about life, and in this case, where you can talk about the girl you’re courting or the boy you’re crushing on.
In this day in age, it’ll be nice to see some more  ligaw ligaw , of course this is coming from someone who is a traditionalist themself, but hey to each their own. :)

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

 

1000 Sorrows Behind A Smile/To Whomever You Are, Thank You For Saving Me

By Noel Alberto, FINDink Contributor

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s a time to give thanks. While we give thanks to our family, friends, etc, I have someone else to be thankful for. The person who saved my life. I don’t remember who you are but when those words popped up on my screen, I knew I had to stop. So here’s a story for you all.

"People often ask me, “Noel, why are you always smiling or why are you always so happy?” Honestly, there’s a long story behind it, a sad one to start, but I promise you it gets better in the end.

If you really knew me, you would know the saying, “When it rains, it pours.”, it was a saying that was too familiar, except the “pours” part was more of a torrential downfall for me.

At the tail end of my junior year of high school, I wasn’t very happy with my life. It was just over a year since my grandfather had passed away, and I still had trouble coping with that loss because I was so close with him. I was the first grandchild, his namesake, and he lived down the street from me my whole life. Every Sunday after church, my family and I visited him at the mausoleum and I would dedicate all my tennis matches and track/cross-country races to him. Still, I had trouble dealing with the fact that he was gone. I was still melancholy about his loss; it was like there was an emptiness inside of me.

Following that, after going to junior prom with my best friend, she called off our friendship. After years of not having a best friend, I felt broken from losing another person so close to me, my only best friend. As an emotional person, I cried because that’s what people do when they “lose” someone who is important in their life. It was the second time in two years, that someone so important to me left my life. The heart hurt a lot.

The struggles continued when I felt I was disappointing my family plus myself, and I heard my friends were getting of tired of me and my problems. My grades were subpar compared to what they were during my early years of high school and I wasn’t living up to my parents’ and my own expectations. I felt like I was letting everyone down. My friends were also sick of hearing my problems so they shunned me away and asked me to deal with my problems alone.

Three of these four events took place in the span of several weeks and on top of that, I still hadn’t coped with the loss of my grandfather. I was depressed. It felt like it was me against the world. One day, it was a family party, but I just wasn’t in the mood with everything going on at the time. So with everyone scattered, I walked upstairs into one of the rooms that had a window next to the roof. I opened the window and sat on the roof ready to pull the trigger (aka the knife). However, my phone lit up, I had told someone what I was doing, and they told me to stop. I forgot who it was, but I’m eternally thankful for them because without them, I’m not here today, making an impact on someone’s life everyday, and my loved ones are left wondering what they could have done to stop me. However, one day, I decided I had to stop moping around and realize, “the past was the past” and that there was nothing I could do to change it.

I decided I should change my outlook on life and live life with a smile. A certain quote resonated with me, “Use your smile to change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.” That really stood out because what happened to me was I let the world change my smile into a frown. I didn’t want to continue living with a frown.

I’m always smiling because something as small and simple as a smile to someone can brighten their day. People smile everyday so it is easily taken for granted but one of the secrets to making the world a better place is to smile as often as possible. I strive to be that person in everyone’s life who they can always go to when they’re in need of a smile to brighten up their day.

I still struggle with some of those old depressing feelings, but no matter how hard you think your day is, remember that someone else has it harder than you. Always keep a smile on your face because you never know how it might impact someone’s day. I want to end this in the way I started this story: “If you really knew me, you would know why I’m always smiling because a day without a smile is a day unfulfilled.”

To whoever you are and wherever you are, thank you for everything. Happy Thanksgiving FIND :)

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.