#MentalHealthBlogathon2018: Voices for Change

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Before I start this post, here are some of the mental health services I discovered through the event:

• University of Santo Tomas Psycho-Trauma Clinic (free for all)

• Bahay Aruga

• Mental Health PH Database for services available nationwide

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On the Internet, especially on social media, mental health is becoming more commonly discussed. News of celebrity deaths through suicide are on our timelines and feed, it seems, month after month. Suicide hotlines and threads regarding depression and other mental health disorders are shared throughout every social media platform.

I don’t believe that discussion is enough to address the stigma and the issues around mental health. But I believe that discussion elevates awareness, and the more we realize how alarming it is that many Filipinos go undiagnosed, without help, unaware of their own illness or unaware that help is possible, the closer we get to a more sustainable solution for each and every one of them.

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And for that reason, I participated in Mental Health Philippine’ first Blogathon on April 28, 2018. I have had this blog for three years, posting prose, poetry, and the rare personal blog post of an event. This year, I was committed to extending my reach as a writer, and I think having meaningful content to share with my audience, no matter how small, is part of it.

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A Heart in Diaspora

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I have come to know only two seasons, like the soil that bore me to fruit:
one, of suffocating warmth and heat; and two, of vengeful tears of angels from the heavens I magine to exist.

It is possible for the mind to wander,  but for the body to stay
in one place; exploring kaleidoscopic realms unreachable by human sensibility, living in various fantasies – and I wonder,
then, if our hearts are the same.

For I have loved you with the caress of the breeze of spring; for I fell into an unknown world as easily as the fall of leaves from trees;
for it could only be winter that followed when we both froze at the first taste of the burning cold
our love could hold; for we stood on thin ice, cracks creeping and spreading and taunting by our feet, until, locked in each other’s eyes we move to the ground we must burrow under,
to find warmth together; stoking
a gentle fire for two.

for I have loved you through summer,
when the flowers bloomed once more.
and I must say i will love you over and over,
as the seasons change and i fall and freeze and bloom and my heart will remain
here in a foreign land i only know of not through sight,
nor smell,
nor touch – but of closed eyes and steady heartbeats.

Summer Syndrome

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Paris, and the fantasies of moonlit strolls, nibbling on bread outside of a dreamy cafe, feet tapping against cobblestones. Paris, with its streets covered in filth and the nights taunting crime. The Paris syndrome, where psychiatric breakdowns are caused by the reveal of the shocking reality of the dream city, is something I mull over. I thought about it, hair tied up in a bun, my eyes squinting at the odd juxtaposition of the brightness of the sun enough to blind me and the threat of rain just a few miles over. 

Summer entails mornings where you wake up with a parched throat and hair sticking to the back of your neck; your body sticky with sweat. It’s also the season of travelling, bodies bared glowing sunkissed, sipping from entire coconut fruits and taking endless video loops of your feet barely in the sea. It’s flowers in long, flowing hair and love found during beach bonfires that disappears as soon as the rain starts pouring. It’s the days where the slightest breeze feels like a blessing and being under the sun at the strike of noon a curse. It’s when the children run free on the streets and plastic cups filled to the brim with milk and ice are spotted on every street corner; it’s when the days seem longer, as if God willed the hours to go past twenty-four. It is these things, and so much more, but it is never the frightening amount of gray clouds that start to obscure the distant roofs of homes from your view. Yet the latter is what I first cast my eyes that afternoon, barefooted and groggy from siesta, on what was reported to be the first day of summer. 

Umaambon!” a child screamed, and three more snickered as if the announcement emboldened them as they ran across the street. I gazed down at a puddle underneath the shade of a store, holding an ice cream cone, and when the first drops of rain in turn made ripples I ducked my head further in defeat. I headed for home. It is not in nature to keep promises they never made. It is always in a frenzy; always brash, and how foolish of us to think it will the act the way we expect to because we said so.

Summer is freedom, and warmth, and happiness – yet the raindrops beat on the roofs loudly, like a vengeful lover, demanding that you remember her; like that small detail you chose to overlook but never do, your own eyes betraying you. It is the rattling reality check to the delusion; the lure of summer; the impossible fantasy. You do know that it is fleeting. Storms and frosted windows and floods drowning many last breaths as the bed takes on the shape of your body, eyes burnt blind from all of the screens’ glare are more common; less enticing, but you’ll choose to look at the neon lights reflected off puddles of rainwater and the lullabies of drizzles at night.

You’re a glutton for romance. 

a cognizance of apathy

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It was an unremarkable day, as I remember,

and I was walking home, I think, around October – 

the wounds had not fully healed yet, still they were sore to touch – 

I stopped in my steps as the wind picked up, the sun already beginning to set, and thought: 

this is the road we’ve walked too many times before, when home was in a person and not the run-down sickly yellow 

house I am now slowly making my way to and when 

was the last time our steps were in sync – when

had he left for good? The goodbye that came after was a formality, wasn’t it, and can science explain

the ache that is straining

throughout my chest; can I ask how it was that my world had ended, it seemed, that night, but here I am with the breeze tangling my hair, 

with the sun about to set – and rise, in another part of the world, and be seen for the last time, as it was for some; for many; my agony is nothing compared –

and I’m still hearing laughter, somehow, still seeing couples with their mouths stretched to the biggest smiles, I the unbelieving spectator separated

with the help of these glass walls – they are living, aren’t they, happily making

memories, while I try to erase each moment away and they’re chuckling

their way to tears

and here I was – standing in the middle of a breeze,

the street uncaring

for what it conjures inside of me; the houses that bore witness to intertwined fingers and never-ending stories staring

blankly, now – blood is spilling

and places are explored and there is chaos and wonder and who cares for heartbreak?

Who cares for a victim of naivete?

How I Fell For Poetry #NaPoWriMo

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April is National Poetry Month! I did sign up for NaPoWriMo to get myself to write poetry everyday for the whole month of April but… well, I’m not very good at consistency. Besides, I feel as if treating poetry as an obligation in the name of its celebration contradicts to why I grew to love poetry in the first place. Which, a few years back, spoiler alert: I didn’t.

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a metaphor for the complexity of being

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I take the roles
the world demands me
to fill:
embodying
edges, rising
to the very
brims, overflowing
the vessels I
am in,

escaping
from fingers and
flowing down roads;
seeping into
skin. I come from

the heavens and
I rise from earth;
I bless the soils
and I tear off
roofs from your homes.

I am oceans
unexplored.
I am the seas
of bounty. I am
the rain you have
rejoiced in; I
am the storms you’ve
cursed and feared. I
am limitless,
infinite, more

than what you will
ever perceive.

 

Featured image: Alyssa Monks (American, b. 1977, Ridgewood, NJ, USA) – Trust, 2010  Paintings: Oil on Linen

Happy National Poetry Writing Month! Will be posting daily poetry – either mine or another author’s – for the whole month of April. Join in! #NaPoWriMo

21

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Like mold, a secret only grows in the dark. Nourished by tears shed with a hand clamped over my lips, the secret grows, crawling up my ribcage, until it is up my throat begging for my tongue to push it out to sunlight. All that is left are the proper words to confess. Say, I am vulnerable, and it makes me strong. Say, I’ve been through this; I need to let it out and let you know. Say, this – right here – is where I am broken and the cracks are not easy to see. Be careful: it’s either I hurt you or you hurt me.

I could not utter them. I settle for whispers that gradually grow louder and louder. I hold on to the promise of perhaps: the possibility that the day will come and the darkness no longer hides something that eats away at my bones.