Bullying is an illness we must address for it will help foster camaraderie among individuals if people would be more considerate and understanding. I was bullied thrice in my life and I know how it feels to be a fiasco. Well, I was not a failure to the eyes of those who love me especially my family and friends. However, my bullies made me feel like I am less of a person because I am myself.
When I was in high school, I belonged to a brilliant group of students who got perks for being bright. I must admit, it felt good. I really thought I was perfect. But the idea of perfection was shattered when the whole science high school began chanting curses on me. Well, not really a curse but a humiliating slogan.
I didn’t last long in that school. For almost a year, I suffered an emotional torture from my peers. I really felt like I was guillotined in every second of my life—the same way one might have felt after being stabbed to death and burned at stake all the while having tomatoes thrown at them. Yes, you heard it right. I’ve been bullied until all that is left is nothingness.
Because I was an introvert, my colleagues in school thought I was a braggart, that I am always boasting my academic achievements in front of everyone, parading every single accomplishment to the disgust of my classmates. That wasn’t true. I was happy with my successes in life but as much as possible I keep it to myself. There may be times I’ve been like a child—immature and innocent to my crimes—but that doesn’t entitle them to cast stones on me. No one should bully me.
Life is a mess when I was in high school. Even if I had been an achiever, winning competitions and joining extracurricular activities while maintaining my grades, still, I felt bad about how the whole school treated me.
Not even my teachers and the guidance counsellor could stop my detractors from embarrassing me. I never had anyone who stood up for me and said, “Stop in the name of love.”
I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia by a pediatrician. I still remember the day my grandfather and I went to the doctor’s clinic for the checkup. The doctor told us I was a person with mental illness. But because he was a family doctor, he didn’t write down my illness in the paper. Instead, he said that I was suffering from anxiety.
The truth is, it felt even terrible. During my high school days, my friends and I would create our own mythology using our imagination; we even christened ourselves as the gods and goddesses of the mythology. Maybe, that was the reason why I was a creative thinker. My friends and I kept this secret to ourselves, afraid that people might rob our imaginary universe away from us.
I am still reinventing that mythology. As a writer, I am pursuing my interest in creative writing like it was before.
Rewriting my past won’t be easy. And I won’t exchange a happy memory with my sad memories. This I believe is due to my love for reality even if reality won’t love me just the way I am.
When I transferred to a public high school, I became the topnotcher of the class. My classmates even loathed me when I earned a grade higher than the ceiling grade. I also earned the Best in English, Best in Math and Best in Science awards that year. That’s the poignant tale I wrote to Letters to My Bully by Glover Lane Press.
After some time, I received an invitation from Azaan Kamau, the publisher of Glover Lane Press. She told me that A. Lassner, the producer of the Ellen Degeneres show, would like me to submit a story about bullying. It was only a suggestion but it paved way for more invitations. Nevertheless, I accepted none.
I feared about my past detractors, that maybe they would hunt me to death once I appear to narrate my past experience. Besides, it was on international television. The other reason was, I don’t want to cause public ignominy to my alma mater. I both love the high schools I’ve been even if they do not care about me.
Also, my parents did not want me to be seen in TV. They feared people might judge me because I am a person with mental illness.
The last time I was bullied was on Facebook. I met a famous writer and filmmaker in a workshop. Well, I participated in his filmmaking workshop but I never attended any. Then, I posted on Facebook that I knew him and that he was mentoring me. He was infuriated. It was a rampage, actually.
Cyberbullying followed like a shadow. I thought people would understand me, that they would at least not judge me but I was wrong. He was famous, I was not. They chose him over me because I was a nobody.
People might think I am still sad and angry but I have forgiven them all. Even myself. I have to forgive myself so as to be more understanding and compassionate to others. I believe that we all have our own flaws.
Last 2011, I was diagnosed properly with bipolar manic disorder in Philippine General Hospital. I was confined to the hospital for a month because of personal reasons I dare not say in public. I thought it was the end, that I was doomed to failure.
At first, no one believed that I am a writer, that I’ve been published in America. I had no evidence to show them but when a contributor’s copy arrived, I had to let my psychologist open the package for her to understand that I was not grandiose or delusional at all. My poem “Rizalian” got happily published in Remembering Rizal, Voices from the Diaspora which Edwin Lozada edited
I have never been to Rizal
But Rizal has been to me;
There are times when Noli
Cured me out of my cancer
In my every bone fiber;
His lectures in Spain still
Ring in my eardrum
To make me one of his,
One of his daughters.
Dra. Stephanie Eloisa D. Miaco then released me. She even became not only my friend but also a supporter. Once, I told her, “What do you want to receive this Christmas?” She only replied, “A book with your autograph.” It made me feel better. It made me feel happy that I have a good friend who sees the best in me.
While I was in PGH, an intern gave me a notebook, three pens, two magazines and two poetry collections. I began to fall in love with Pablo Neruda. I’ve only encountered him in college in World Literature. Reading him again is like plunging myself into a sea of emotions, succumbing to the ebb and flow of the tide.
I even wrote a poem inspired by Neruda but I am reluctant to share since I think it is not that good even if it got published in an international magazine.
I am still writing poetry. It helps me with my goals in life, to be a good person. I know I am a good person even if I haven’t written a line but it only proves what I can do to help others, to uplift their spirit and inspire them to be better through my work.
Poets are tightrope walkers—balancing the weight of words with the height of emotions. I believe that we can bridge the gap between readers; we can share our lives through poetry. That poetry enables us to share a piece of ourselves with others.
Most of what I write now is in Filipino. I love writing sestinas and villanelles. They make me feel fulfilled and contented with my literary career.
I’d like to share another poem I wrote years ago:
The womb of the words could not give birth to this longing,
Let me caress your shadow now that I’m missing you.
Shades of blue devour my heart as I awake this morning
Now that you are gone, I am left alone, missing you.
I hate those giant curtains covering the windows;
It makes me want to wipe the tears with it, missing you.
The cold coffee, the cold bread, the cold butter,
I ask that you remain for a second because I’m missing you.
I could not discover another word for grief, my darling,
The syntax of time calls for a hiatus, missing you.
The chirping clock forgets its duty today, only today,
I wander into the kingdom of dreams, missing you.
Sorrow penetrates into my left ventricle for so long,
Piercing my caged heart into its coldness, missing you.
My flowers forget to remind me to water them,
Staring the whole day into the ceiling, missing you.
This Mojave desert thirst could be quenched by your presence;
Be an oasis with me as soon as possible now that I’m missing you.
Pain drives me mad I begin to let go and dance and sing,
Sorrow is insulin to your diabetic kiss, missing you.
This poem is one of my favorites since it narrates my longing for someone who is gone long ago. I hope this poem could help other people move on and get over that feeling. It might not be easy but it is worth a try.
My venture into poetry began when I was eight. I once believed that I am the reincarnation of Jose Rizal, that maybe in my past life I am Rizal. So I wrote a lot of verse about this fascination.
Now, I am becoming more emotionally stable each day. I am grateful for the love and support of my family, friends and doctors. I also lift all praise to the Almighty God for He never abandoned me especially when I feel all alone in the dark. He rekindled hope in my life through poetry.
This day I resolved to be a better person, a more forgiving and more patient one than I was before; a better version of me.
Befriending my enemies is not easy. I thought it would be suicidal but I was wrong. Most of those who bullied me in high school are now my friends in Facebook. Even if I haven’t participated in some high school reunions and get-togethers lately, still, I am happy that we are now friends, that we are now at peace with each other.