Monday, July 31, 2017

Achieving an Education

by Khane Taylor

I can say that I am an achiever because even in first grade, I received awards at the end of the school year! But it's been difficult for me as well. For me, it's not hard to learn the lessons, but the problem is when it comes to paying the bills for school (and also paying for projects and purchasing materials), it's really hard for my grandparents to provide it. No dad, no mom is helping; it's just my grandparents.

Every time that there would be school bills or projects, I was always late because my grandparents still needed to look for money. Sometimes they would get mad at me because I was asking money for school, and sometimes they would hit me, but I understood because I knew how hard it was for them to find money. Sometimes when I went to school, I didn’t even have food or have money to buy my snacks.

What I would do sometimes, since I was quite good at school, is that I was the one who would answer the questions of my other classmates or I would share my answers with them, and they would pay me for that or they would give me snacks.. Sometimes they would ask me to buy their snacks for them, while they could just stay in the classroom, and so I would buy their food and they would give me some.

There came a point when I didn’t want to go to school anymore, or I was too lazy to go to school anymore, because of money. When I reached high school, that's the time when I stopped being serious with my studies. I started joining pageants when I was in my second year in high school. My priority had to be the opportunity to earn money through winning pageants, rather than my studies, because I wanted to help my family. So my education became on and off.

Finally, there came a time when I heard from my dad, and he was helping with my needs, but by then my studies were not important to me. I went to Manila, I went to different places, I wasted so much of my time. My classmates were already in college, but I was still in high school. I didn’t even care about my grades. But when my father died, I realized a lot of things. That's the time that I went back to school to finish my high school. I was finally serious with my studies again. I did well. I finished high school at the top in our class/section. I also got a gold medal as an academic award.

I write this because I want you to know how important time is. We can never get it back once it is gone. Education is one thing that no one can steal from us, and it is one thing that we can always be proud of.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Live Life for What It Is

by Jhayra Torcino

When I was six years old, I already knew that I had a poor life. My mother and father were always fighting because of poverty and our difficult life. Sometimes we were out of budget for food.

In those days, my mother and father didn’t have regular work because they never finished their studies. My mother once was a life insurance underwriter. The work of my father before was a soldier, but he didn’t last in that work because he was scared to die. So he decided to quit his work, and all the responsibilities were given to my mother.

After that, my mother was always busy with her work, and she often had to travel, so that we could have our daily needs. Then the one who stayed at home was my father. He was the one who cooked for us and cleaned our house.

At the age of eight years old, I started to help my father with the household chores. I was assigned to get the water everyday. Whenever mother left us, she put a letter on the table with the rules of the house. Each one of us had our role in the house. My sister was assigned to wash the dishes daily. My brother was the one who washed our clothes.

As I said before, I was assigned to get water to drink. At that time, we didn’t yet have a pipe from the water district. My daily routine was to get in line so I could get water to drink, and I had to wake up early in the morning so that I could be the first to get water and avoid the long lines later in the day. Then after getting water, I would go to the forest to get firewood for cooking. We didn’t have a stove because my parents couldn’t afford one - that is too much expensive!

That’s what I did daily. Then after I finished my household chores, I would take a bath and get ready to go to school.

When I was in elementary school, I could walk to school. My father didn’t give me money very often for school, as he was so strict. I was so sad because, even when I had a project for school, he didn’t want to give to me. Sometimes he gave, but sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes when it was time for our recess, I could only sit in my chair and be jealous of my classmates, because I could see them eating together in the classroom. Then after school, I walked home.

After I graduated from elementary school, my father and mother broke up because my mother was tired of always needing to find money. I was sad at that time. I didn’t know what to say when I listened to my mother, because I was so shocked and surprised.

My father was so sad and brokenhearted. After that, he was always drunk and crying. He couldn’t accept that my mother left him.

When I was in high school, he decided to apply for a job as a construction worker. Yes my father did get work, but sad to say, all his salary was gone because every time he got his salary, he spent it on alcohol. Then, when he was home, he would be mad at me: “Why don’t we have food in the house?” I told my father that he didn’t give money for food! Then he would slap my face or punch me in the stomach because he was hungry. He did that to me every day as he was always drunk.

I often went to school without eating breakfast. Sometimes I asked myself, why do I have this kind of life?

The only work I could get in those days was part-time work as an assistant in a beauty salon, so that I could earn a little money. My father really didn’t give even a centavo.

My father didn’t like me because of my gender. He would always slap my face and punch my body when he saw me using makeup. I was so sad but all I could do was to cry.

When I was in high school, my father was at his worst, being drunk everyday and thinking about mother. I am so sad to think about it.

When I graduated high school, I couldn’t afford to go to college, so I decided to work. I was able to work in a beauty salon as a beautician, and I began to have my own income.

It was around this time that my father decided to work abroad so he could earn enough to support our needs (my youngest sister started back to school). He went to Saudi Arabia for work as an electrician, and I was so happy for him. But I didn’t ask any help from him. My father said that I was old enough to support myself.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from my life is to pursue your dreams, no matter how hard life is. Live life for what it is, and bring the best out of it. Life is a great gift from God, and we should treasure our lives and find the purpose to live. Focus on today, and your past becomes your memory - still in your heart, it will become your motivation to seek your goals.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Love in the Digital Age, Part 2

by Arlo Gallemit Yamo


Friends told me to go with my instincts. My instincts were conflicted, so I decided to ask my boss about him. He said that Harold has been one of our advertisers for a long time, and that he thought Harold was a nice guy and sincere.

I thought about it many times. And then one day, again, I shared my problems with Harold. I told him everything regarding my life, including my family's situation. Then he offered to help my family, and I was really shocked! I couldn't believe that he would be doing this for me the second time around. Honestly, I had my own salary from work, but that was not really enough to sustain all my needs, especially when there came a point when I needed to cover all the expenses at home. He offered me monthly support, and he encouraged me to be positive abut life.

Harold has really made me happy, and has had a big impact in my life. Now, I am able to pay our bills every month and cover all the needs at home, since he's helping me and my family.

My life has been different since then. By nature, I am very anti-social and uncomfortable going out of my comfort zone, but because of his encouragement, I started to go out to the malls. I learned to go and pay our bills by myself, which I did not do before. Everything suddenly changed. I can say that my life has been more exciting, and I have felt so blessed because of Harold. He is really different in the way that he cares for me and respects me for what I am and who I am.

As the years passed, we chatted everyday via Skype videocalls, and we both became comfortable with each other. We can talk for hours and never be bored. We can just stare at each other, and one of us just smiles and the other smiles back. He is busy with his business so there are times that I fall asleep while we're on cam, it's crazy!

I asked him if it was possible that we could meet each other in real life. He became so special to me and, yes, I wanted to meet him in real and be with him in person.

I never thought I'd fall for someone that I've never met. It's magical and crazy, and I feel he is so special to me.

One thing that makes me sad is that he is not sure if he can come and visit me here in the Philippines because of his health problems. He did not promise me, but who knows, maybe one day it will happen. I know it is possible. It's not just looks, I've fallen for him because of the way he is and the way he makes me feel.

Now, we often speak of the future, which gives me hope that it's going to work out. This has turned out to be one of the most magical things to ever happen to me. The connection we feel has turned out to be real. The truth is you can fall in love online. We're both enjoying each other, and if we see each other personally someday, he says we will love each other more since we have endured our current separation - how much more love there will be if we're together!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What a Journey It Has Been

by Audrey Luna

I once almost lost my dreams because of the bad choices I made in life. First, I lost my chance of being married to my two-year American boyfriend. Second, I lost my good reputation as a beauty queen. Lastly, I lost my chance to graduate from college.

I thought I would never achieve them, even when I was rehabilitated from drug addiction last year. I never knew that those dreams that I once thought were over would come true this year!

Because of the abuse and the oppression I experienced from a toxic and immature ex-boyfriend, I have a hard time trusting men. I became paranoid dealing with men online. Nevertheless, I went to an online transgender dating site, just hoping to meet men to make friends with. I did not know that I would meet someone who would always be there for me when I become emotionally unstable, who would accept me despite my imperfections, and who would understand me when I am at my worst. Not just that, he committed to me after a few months, and booked a flight to be with me later this year.

Another dream magically came true when I won a new pageant title and got a new crown. It was really difficult dealing with self-esteem issues. Plus, I almost backed out a few times because of the criticisms I received from negative people. Thank goodness I still found the courage to continue and do my best to get the crown. Luckily, at the end of the night, I was not only able to prove myself to the judges, but I also won over the people whom I thought would never believe in me again.

And the pouring of blessings will continue on July 5! That is when I will finally get the very important thing that I have worked to have for so many years… my college diploma. Yes, I was able to go back to school! I enrolled for my last semester of college last January. With the help of my professors (who believed in my potential), I was accepted and was given the chance. With my dream as my inspiration, I endured all the hardships I encountered. Not just that, I have made it until the very end.

After all, with the help of Lord God, who has been my greatest source of strength, I have achieved so many things in my life that I never knew I could. So, even when someone like me falls so deep, if you will try to change for the better, a chance to prosper will always be there. Indeed, when someone has the determination to reach for her dreams, I believe that person will someday achieve the good life that she has always hoped to have.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Love in the Digital Age, Part I

by Arlo Gallemit Yamo

I have some experience in the area of love in the digital age.

I have been chatting with a man online for more or less four years now. He is from the other side of the world. He is an American living with his mother. He is much older than I am – he just turned 46 years old last May.

Let me call him Harold (not his real name). I met him through a job I had before, working on a popular gaming website. Harold was not only a member of that website, but his company advertised there (he is a businessman). He sells different products online. One day, while I was on duty working, I received a private message from him.

He privately messaged me a couple of times, but at first I was ignoring all of his messages. It took several days before he caught my attention. I was not really interested in him at first, because when I looked at his profile there was no picture! However, he was writing to me almost every day, saying hi's and hello's and inspiring messages so that he would catch my interest.

He asked if I had a Skype account so we could talk face-to-face. That is when I finally replied – I told him to stop bothering me because I was busy during my work time, and aside from that, I found him fake because he had no profile picture! I was so rude to him that time because I didn't know him. I was so annoyed that I replied with a joke, that if he could send me a birthday gift (since my birthday was nearly approaching), and just to test him to see if he would still reply and if he was really interested in me even if I was so bad to him.

When he replied, I was so shocked! He asked me to send my mailing address so he could send me a birthday gift. He even asked me what kind of gift I'd like to receive. I suggested that it would be easier for him if he just sent money, but I gave him  my full details – I was excited. I did not expect that he would really do it for me. I was still doubting until I received another message from him the next morning. He gave me the full information on how and where to get what he sent for my birthday. I was so happy and very impressed! At last, I could really celebrate my birthday for the first time in my whole entire life.

A few days passed. I finally felt interested to write him back. I thanked him for the presents. I gave him my Skype ID. I was so curious to see what he looked like.

Skyping with Harold

So finally we saw each other on cam through a videocall. I was like "OMG that's him!" as I whispered silently. I found him so different because of his looks. But when we started chatting, I felt that there was something in him that made me want to chat with him forever. We asked each other questions. There wasn't a romantic feeling, but I definitely felt a connection!

We kept in touch, and I was always wondering what the next move would be. Harold was so nice, and I loved the way he talked. I could not give him all my time to chat on Skype, because I was busy with my online work. Even so, he kept on sending me private messages which made me appreciate him more and more.

Finally, I felt it was time to share to him everything in my life. I don't know why, something just felt right about sharing my life to him, especially my problems. I felt a deep connection to him as we exchanged messages. We were on separate sides of the world, but I tried my best to answer him whenever I had extra time.

I could tell that he was genuine and a very good person. Maybe I was just being paranoid or having some trust issues, because I didn't want to fall prey to scams, especially with the history I had with other foreigners, with lies and deceit and tricks just to get me to show myself naked on cam. Should I continue talking to him or just stay away?

To Be Continued...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Happy Graduate

by Anne Olea

Every now and then, I think back and remember fondly my life in high school. It was not easy for me at school when I first started, probably because I'm a transperson, or ladyboy if you prefer. I felt bullied by some of the people in my class and it made me so irritated at the time. Because of that, I started to cut class and went to hang around at the mall all the time with some friends that accepted me. I enjoyed being with them and I had finally found some people that could just accept me for myself, no matter who I am. That meant so much to me, and it made me realize that you can find good people everywhere.

I always enjoyed any time spent with my friends because I felt comfortable with them, or we could jive together, as we say around here. I guess it was just fun because they could teach me to do things like how to put on makeup. I used to like to put makeup on in the morning before school, and then I'd take a look in the mirror and say to myself I was looking pretty so I could face another day.

One day when I was in school, the teacher called my mother and told her that she needed to come to the school to talk to them about how I was doing. After that, my mom told me that she knew about what had happened in school, and she gave me some advice about how I could deal with bullies. I decided I needed to get away from that place, so I dropped out of school, because there was no way I wanted to deal with the bullies there any more.

I continued going to the mall to meet my friends, but I did start to feel bored with that after a while. My friends started going to the mall less often, and after a while they stopped wanting to hang out there. I was just at home and feeling a bit sorry for myself and wondering what to do. It didn't help that some neighbors were gossiping about me, saying that I was a 'stupid ladyboy'. That just made me want to prove them wrong, so maybe, in a way, that helped me to turn my life around for the better.

About a year later, I made a promise to my mother and to myself that I was going to go back to school again. But it was still difficult for me, based on how it went last time. But even having to go back a year is not the end of the world, and I just had to make the best of things. I saw some of my former classmates there, and they were happy being in their second year of high school. And here I was, having to start all over again! Maybe it was a good thing, though, to be in a different class with new people. I was a bit worried that I might fail again, but I always knew my family was behind me, especially my mom. She helped to keep me motivated. Even those neighbourhood gossips with nothing better to do spurred me on. Making my mom proud was the thing that kept me going.

School turned out to be fun, and this time I met some true friends that I could treasure. They were very supportive to me, as real friends should be, and that was the best feeling to have that support there with me. I realised that without all the distraction of bullies, the schoolwork was actually easy for me. I did well until into the last year at that school... and then we had some problems...

Our whole family was relocated because the building where we lived was going to be demolished! This was a really difficult time, and when we found a new place, it meant I had to change to a different school. But I realized I just had to accept this, and there wasn't anything I could do, so maybe it would be a good change for my life. I thought it might be easy for me to adapt, but in reality it was pretty tough. It was a whole new environment for me: new teachers, new classmates, and I felt so lonely with the situation of leaving my old friends behind. I knew I could still graduate, though, and make my family proud of me.

The day of the graduation was an amazing day, and it really meant so much to me when I heard the sound of the marching band as I walked onto the stage. The principal of the school handed me my diploma, and my mom was out there watching me with her heart full of pride. It was a great feeling to overcome everything that seemed to be against me, and just to see my mom happy made it all worthwhile.

When I look back at that time, I realize how happy I was, despite all of the obstacles I faced along the way. I think we just have to follow our dreams. Every journey has to start with small steps. No matter if you are trans, gay or straight, it really should not make any difference, and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If you believe in yourself, then I believe you can achieve success in whatever you choose to do. For all the people who are trans like me, or those who find themselves in a similar situation, I would say to just ignore the people that say you can't do it, and keep believing in yourself. Once you get your school diploma, or whatever it is in life you are trying to achieve, you will realise that all the work was worthwhile, and you can look back with pride and satisfaction.

As I enter another chapter of my life, I am ready to embrace whatever life brings. I am very grateful to my mother, father, grandmother, and to my grandfather. They all believed in me and kept me going when things were tough. I hope this example from my life can inspire others to overcome personal difficulties and keep on trying until you get to where you want to be in life.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It’s Never Too Late

by Audrey Luna

Change is a process, not an event.”

That’s what I learned from the drug rehabilitation center that I was admitted to. Yes, I have been rehabilitated. That means that I have been addicted to drugs. It was methamphetamine or shabu. Being in that institution has changed me in a lot of ways – my beliefs, my behavior, and even my thoughts; and most of all, it has taught me that it’s never too late to change.
It was on May 3, 2016, that I was admitted to a drug rehabilitation center. It was against my will, but I could not do anything about it since my parents tricked me into going there. Once I was there, they put me in a detention cell for three days and told me about everything I was about to go through. In those three days, I pondered my situation and realized that if I wanted to get out of that mess, I needed to do what was required. Therefore, I decided to submit to the will and the conditions of the rehabilitation center.
Living there was hell for a transwoman like me.
First, they shaved my head. So, I was bald. Wouldn’t it be frustrating for a transwoman who took a long time to grow and take care of her hair, and just have people cut it off?
Next, the rehabilitation center had a military system. I was forced to wake up at 5:00AM to exercise until 6:00AM. It was so exhausting for a transwoman. Plus, drug addicts are used to sleeping whenever they want, so it really made me struggle.
Moreover, after every meal, I, along with the other patients, was tasked to mop the floor and clean the whole building in the morning and afternoon, and only got to rest during snack time and lunch. It was really tiresome. (Though there was a recreational time from 3:00PM to 5:00PM.)
Furthermore, I only got to receive visitors on weekends. That is, if I wasn't being sanctioned with severe punishments, since the rehabilitation center had a punishment system to discipline the drug addicts.
You can imagine how depressing it would be to live and suffer in some far away and isolated place, away from one’s family; when before you could just sit, relax, and enjoy at home. Worst, I had to live like that kind of a controlled robot for six months or more!
However, if one takes it positively, ignoring the hardships, the stay in the rehabilitation center can be meaningful. For my part, I did my best to live there one day at a time, and enjoy every moment at the time. It did made my life fruitful. First and the most important thing of all, I realized that drugs, especially shabu, were bad. It not just destroyed me mentally and physically, it also devastated my life, and I no longer want to live a life full of regrets and full of messes anymore. Then, I found new friends that shared the same sentiments as I – people who could relate to and understand me. Living there taught me patience, since waiting for six months can be so stressful. It also taught me endurance, especially in every struggle and punishment that I experienced. It taught me determination, hard work, and perseverance, for I chose to become a Coordinator (CO), the highest rank a patient can achieve; and thank God, I made it! It taught me how to value my family, the people who supported me during my darkest times. There, I learned about my faults and regretted them.
I know I can't go back to change what's behind me - that I can no longer do anything about it. Instead, I must accept what has happened, forgive myself, let go of the negativities, and do my best to change into a better person. At the rehab center, I built my new dreams in life. There, I got the courage to go back to school and determine to graduate. And there, I found God, who became my refuge, my protector, my provider, and my guide.
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13, “The one thing I do is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead.” Just like him, I had an awful past. But I am still thankful to God for all the possibilities in my life. I learned a lot and became stronger. Despite all the pain I have felt and the wounds I have acquired, still, I found the courage to stand up again and move on with life.

I can never forget what I have done, but I have accepted my fate. I know God will completely heal me someday. I know that the journey has just begun, and I will face a lot of hurdles in the near future. But, as long as I believe in myself and trust God to always be there in all circumstances with me, then I can keep moving forward and continue the change in my life.