Strong Women



Heartache doesn’t happen in isolation inside a closed bedroom door. All the crying isn’t held in by mere metal and wood. It can cross cities and oceans and reach another person who’s going about their day.

And heartache doesn’t run its course within a single day. I picture swallowing bombs. Grenades inside closed fists. Tiny fireworks in each vein. I picture the sheets as temporary backbone. Your whole being an empty shell. For as long as you let it.

But this will not be a story about defeat. Or even about glorifying it. Of painting the hurt a pretty colour for other people to like it. We will stop calling ourselves heroines for simply loving another person.

In all the strangeness of human connection, we can’t be outraged with what we understand. When we’ve always understood that we are built to endure and survive a storm, we don’t question when it finally comes crashing in. We don’t call it the devil for testing us. The best thing we can do is find warmth in the comfort of things.

And to the lovers who are left without a lover, this will not undo what you’ve given and what you’ve become. Strong women.



I see you.

You with the heavy heart, and even heavier feet. I know there are times when you can’t decide which one is harder to carry, so you stay in one corner, not moving instead. I know you watch the days change outside through your curtain, praying for rain during summer days.

I know that it’s easier to brace yourself for disappointment than happiness. That it’s something you could bite your teeth into. It’s the thing you breathe in every morning, along with the smell of toast and coffee. I know you drag it around the house like an old teddy bear you can’t get rid of because then, what do you do with your empty hands?

I know people see you like the time bomb in movies where they can just cut the obvious red wire and the bomb stops ticking and everyone is safe. I know you feel that you are more like fireworks. Beautiful only from a distance but could burn anyone when they get closer.

I know that you have days when you can’t recognize anything good. That the only sound you hear are fire alarms going off in your head, telling you it’s time to run far, far away. But I wish you wouldn’t.

You’re so used to writing about your struggle and calling it creative names that in the rare moments you choose to be strong, you don’t understand it. In the moments that you get to be strong, it feels like someone else is wearing your skin.

But I’m here to tell you that strong doesn’t always mean comfortable. Sometimes it’s cutting your hair instead of something else. Ugly haircut be damned. Strong doesn’t always mean beautiful. Sometimes it’s spending 10 minutes of your 15-minute break crying in the dirty bathroom stall, but at least showing up for work. Strong doesn’t always mean hard. Sometimes it’s sinking into a tight hug from a loved one and letting yourself be taken care of.

I see you.

You can’t live inside your bedroom, let alone inside your head. You won’t get a star stamped on your hand every time you get through the week without crumbling. Most days, no one will even notice that you have your Courage badge digging through your skin. Most days, no one will congratulate you for trying.

And I know strong sometimes feels like turning your bruised heart inside out, almost dying in the process, and then entrusting it to another person. But strong has never been easy. Or painless.

But sometimes, someone notices. Someone tells you your hair looks smart. That your skin is glowing. Takes your heart and carefully tucks it in their jean pocket. You look in the mirror and you really see yourself.

And I see you. I know it’s been hard and I can’t promise it will get easier in the next few days or weeks. But sometimes during the hottest days, we get rain.

Even on the hottest days, it rains.


I’m not an important person. People never get my name right. Baristas never know how to spell or pronounce it correctly. Strangers who see my name but have never met me always think I’m a boy. But this never really bothered me. Because we are never too mindful about things that are not important.

Oblivion has always been a most comforting promise. I could disappear and it wouldn’t make a difference. The world would stay as it is, not budging in its greatness. And this doesn’t break my heart. I’m comforted in the fact that my being gone wouldn’t make things worse.

I’ve never been scared of being forgotten. Friends and lovers have lost me way too many times and yet they’re happy and I’m still me and we’re all still here. I’m okay with people leaving without blaming them because in this lifetime, there are too many people to get to know and places to go and we can’t keep everyone.

And I have left people. Because sometimes caring gets too heavy for my already shaking hands. And sometimes, I don’t even care about myself so I can’t imagine how I can be good enough for somebody else. Like I said, I’m not an important person. It’s the most selfish thing–accepting too soon that nothing is wrong with being temporary.

But this is what I’m used to and this is what’s comfortable. But let me tell you something:

He kept saying my name. He kept saying my name and I felt my heart grow bigger. It looked so much like a smile when his lips curved to mouth my name. And I couldn’t help but think that maybe it isn’t so bad that someone chooses to remember it.

And he always remembers. I’ve gotten so used to repeating everything and people forgetting that my words nearly turned into a stutter. But he remembers, and now I’m slowly saying goodbye to repetition.

And I swear I’m not important. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t matter, and we will keep on letting people go and believe me, I’m not important.

But when he says my name, my god it sounds like a prayer.

When he says my name, it sounds so much like “stay.”


There is a special kind of monster that lurks in the hearts of those left behind.

This one doesn’t keep me up until 3 in the morning because I’m already used to that, the odd sense of peace when the world is quiet.

But it paralyzes me in the most ordinary situations. Somehow I will find myself in bed at noon and feel invisible roots digging through my heart, making their way to all corners of my room, and I will realize I won’t be able to move for days and can’t explain exactly why.

When I stare at my ceiling, my mind will automatically flash a montage of where I could have gone wrong, which move I miscalculated. Did I seem too eager? Was it too much for him? Did I not give him enough space? But I argue, “I was ready to give him the entire universe, so how could he have had too little space?”

I never like talking about this particular brand of hurt. It seems unnecessary to dwell in it. It’s a maze of emotions I’ve gone through before. No matter how many ways I ask why he didn’t choose me, it will always lead to the same answer. There is no diplomatic way of unloving someone.

But I have to get up from my bed at some point, try to wrestle through the roots, learn how to say it’s not my fault over and over until it doesn’t feel heavy anymore.

I will have to paint over the unanswered questions I see on my ceiling, maybe draw a few flowers instead so I can look at something pretty when I question myself.

I can pretend this monster doesn’t scare me. I can storm off from everything with all the willpower I can muster, but it still won’t matter then. I had only myself all this time. It had been only my heart.

And you. They will never know who you are. You will just be another pronoun in a poem I tried my hardest to brave through writing.

Because here’s the funny thing about this kind of heartbreak. Nothing technically ended. Because you were never there to begin with.


Ang ibig kong sabihin
Limang oras ko nang
Sinusubukang magkabisa
Ng mga linya
At kung paano sisimulan

Pero nakakaloko yang mga ngiti mo
Ayan tuloy
Naninigas ako sa pagkakatayo
Pero nanlalambot yung tuhod ko

At kasabay ng paglapit ko sa ‘yo
Yung unti-unting pag-urong naman
Ng dila ko

Putangina! Sabi nila madali lang ‘to!
Pero paano ko ipagkakasya
Sa iilang salita, at ipaliliwanag
Yung lalim ng pagkahulog ko sa ‘yo?

Alam mo?
Siguro hindi pa ngayong gabi
Yung tamang pagkakataon
Na hayaan ko ang sariling

Marami pa naman akong oras
Para mag-isip
…nang mag-isip,
Nang mag-isip
Nang mag-isip!
Ng mga paraan
Kung paano mo ako sasaktan
Hanggang maisipan
Mo akong iwanan

Pero sa kabilang banda
Wala naman akong mapapala
Kung parati na lang akong
Pangungunahan ng kaba, ‘di ba?
At kung nasanay man akong
Isilid sa baul ang puso
At ikandado ito
Kasama ng mga pangarap ko
Para ko na ring
Minadali ang pagkatalo

Kaya ngayon, andito ako
Nakikipagkarera sa mga
Alinlangan ko
Umaasang mauunahan sila
At mananalo
Kahit ngayong gabi lang

At sana masabi ko

Nga pala, gusto kita.

Labas naman tayo.