I Can’t Believe I’m 22

Is it too early to say I’m having a quarter-life crisis? Or is it just my anxiety getting the best of me? Whatever. It’s depressing.

Last year, when I celebrated my 21st birthday, the thing that bugged me most was the fact that I was going to be 22 next.

And what the actual fuck. 

I spent the entire year dreading the days leading to my 22nd birthday.

I mean, 21 was ok. Still young, only a bit older than an actual teenager.

I was fresh as a fresh grad, with the exception of a few wrinkles and pimples here and there, all thanks to the sleepless nights of fighting invisible monsters.

Now, I’m 22.

I’m still young, I know, if we’re talking about experience in the corporate jungle or life in general.

Yet I feel old, so old.

I feel like I’am a 54-year-old spinster trapped in the body of a 22-year-old dreamer.

I wonder why.

Perhaps it’s the depression that’s talking. “What, you’re 22? You’re getting old, and you’re dying soon.”

Or maybe it’s the responsibilities I carry on my shoulders. 

I mean, I’ve always felt old–I’m the eldest. I’ve always been the enabler, the leader. I’ve always guided my siblings, my peers, my partner, my colleagues. Heck, I even parented my parents.

I’ve always led the pack, even though I’m usually the youngest wolf.

And yet I’ve always felt old.

I can’t believe I’m 22.

I can’t believe I’m getting older and older each day. It bugs me every night. I can’t believe it’s been 22 years.

I spent two decades acting as an adult, as THE adult, because I always felt the need to act like one. 

Now, all I want to do is raise my middle finger to Adulting.

My youth is slipping through my fingers no matter how hard I try to save it. I can’t save it. I want to save it.

I don’t want to get old.

I remember Jeremiah de Saint-Amour from Love in the Time of Cholera, who took his own life before death took its toll. All because he didn’t want to grow old.

And like him, I don’t want to grow old. Just like him…

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I’m Slowly Learning to Accept That Happiness Is Not the End Goal

I used to think that happiness is the end goal.

When I was seven years old, Happy Meals were the real deal. No, my parents didn’t bring me to that fast food chain to buy me meals with those red boxes, but I saw children all around me tugging at the shirts of their moms and dads, begging their parents to bring them to McDonald’s to buy them one. We were not well-off back then, so I had to be content playing with my cheap toys–some of them were even hand-me-downs from the children of my parents’ cousins. Back then, my idea of happiness was to open a red box with a big M on it. My parents taught me to be satisfied with whatever’s given to me, but as a kid, I have always dreamed of collecting toys from those red boxes. As a kid, I have always wanted a Happy Meal.

When I was ten, my grandmother was one of the teachers in our school. As her granddaughter, I had to maintain my high grades. Even though she didn’t say it out loud and we never talked about it, I knew that I needed to graduate with flying colors. She made me study day and night. During the exam seasons, she made me wake up before the roosters crowed in the early morning and stay at her classroom until sundown to review my notes. I was never the studious one. It was hard work, yes, but I studied hard because I wanted to make her happy and exceed her expectations. When I marched on the day of my graduation, I saw that proud look on her face because I graduated with honors. That was me back in grade school–my idea of happiness was to get high grades to make my grandma proud when all I wanted to do was to play after school.

When I was thirteen, I began to fall in love with the idea of love. I saw my friends go gaga over their crushes while I sat in the corner of the room, trying my best to absorb the words coming out of my teacher’s mouth. It went on like this for a while until people around me started to get into relationships. The inevitable happened–like normal teenagers, I was curious. I wanted to know what it’s like to have someone whom I could call my boyfriend. I met this guy, and for a while, everything was hearts and flowers. Little did I know, I was only in love with the idea of our relationship. When he left for college, I was left in fragments, not because I loved him so much and I couldn’t live without him–it wasn’t real love, but because I realized I was wrong all along–I held on to the belief that getting into a relationship would make me happy.

When I was fifteen, I was told to live life to the fullest. I was in college–I was a scholar, but I did not study for exams. I did not attend classes in school. Instead, I chose to spend my days in parks or libraries to read good books and drink the night away with my party buddies. And then I dropped two subjects–Trigonometry and World Literature. I almost didn’t make it to graduation–I almost lost my chance to march with my batch mates with a diploma in hand. I regretted the days when I skipped classes and wished that I could turn back time to do the right thing.

When I was eighteen, somebody told me that if I’m not happy, leave. So I left this guy. The relationship was toxic–we loved each other but both of us wanted to enjoy what college had in store for us. We waited and waited for the other to raise the flag. When I got tired of the waiting game, I pushed the button. We weren’t happy, so I did the most practical thing to do: I ended it. Five months later, we found our way back to each other, not because we couldn’t live without the other, but because we chose to be together.

When I was nineteen, I had a dream where my favorite authors whispered these words to me: pursue your passion. So I became a writer. I wanted to believe that I was happy with my profession because I kept telling myself that this was what I really wanted. At nineteen, my idea of happiness was having a satisfying nine-to-five job and not caring about the amount of pay I was receiving. Still, I wasn’t happy.

Now that I am twenty-one, I’m slowly learning to accept that happiness is not the end goal.

Looking back, I dreaded the fact that we were poor. When I was seven, my family couldn’t afford a Happy Meal–I always had to work hard to be able to get what I want. Now that I am already working, I still couldn’t buy the things that I need because I still have responsibilities as a breadwinner, but then I met people who had it the easy way. Their only responsibilities are their cars, their phones. They may not have to deal with toxic people in a squatter’s area, they may not need to persevere to reach the top, they may not feel a level of emptiness that comes from knowing that you have nothing, but they don’t know how to survive typhoons in life without breaking down, and for that, I am grateful.

Back in college, what most of my classmates wanted was to graduate on time and with high grades to land a steady, high-paying job. College changed my perception of life. I began to see more of life and depression hit me hard. Since then, all I wanted was to be happy.  I’ve met so many people along the way–some of them I’m still friends with today, some I’ve made good memories with but remained as that: memories. My grades were not something that my grandma would be proud of, but I was young, I was free, and most importantly, I was happy. I realized that the one thing that kept me from enjoying my childhood when I was in grade school was the very thing that set me free in college, and for that, I am grateful.

I’ve lost count on how many times I tried to call it off with the person I love most because there are things about him that I want to change. Society told me that love should be unconditional, that you have to accept and love the person for who he is; otherwise, it’s not love. Society told me that if I’m not happy, I should leave. But as I’ve seen more of life, I realized that true love is always challenging. I realized that I shouldn’t believe what society tells me, that I should follow my heart always. So I stayed with the love of my life even if our differences always get in the way, and for that, I am grateful.

When I was a student, I never paid much attention to my career path. When I started working, I figured I wanted to be a writer for the rest of my life. I tried to convince myself that I was satisfied with my profession although I wasn’t earning much. Almost two years later, I realized that I was not happy. It dawned on me that I can still pursue my passion even if my nine-to-five job isn’t in line with it. Now, I would rather have a high-paying job, no matter how boring or unsatisfying it is and then do what I love after office hours than to push through with a serious writing career and don’t earn as much. For that, I am grateful.

Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time: will I ever be genuinely happy? One of the biggest lies I’ve ever heard is that if you aren’t happy with what you’re doing, leave, stop. Truth is, you don’t leave a person you love just because you aren’t happy. You don’t stop pursuing your dreams just because you aren’t happy. You don’t put an end to your life just because you’re sick and tired of dealing with bullshit. If I followed what society told me, I would have been dead by now.

I’m slowly learning to accept that happiness is not the end goal. You can be satisfied but not happy, and that’s okay. Perhaps if we just focus on finding the meaning of life, we might have a shot at living a fulfilling one.

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed: A Self-Confession

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this blog created by a fellow Beatlemaniac who loves to dig deeper into the lives of the Fab Four. Inevitably, I got lost in the world of the four lads once again.

While checking out that blog, I saw photos of John Lennon with this caption: “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.” As you know, this lyrics is from the classic Beatles song Strawberry Fields Forever. Wave after wave of emotions flooded over me when I reached this part. I’m sentimental like that. Poor me.

I’ve just seen the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the pain that I felt after watching it is still here. I was planning to write about my thoughts on the movie and its effect on me, but I still cannot put my emotions into writing.

This is what usually happens to me when I read or watch life-changing stories: I think about them too much for a long time and get tongue-tied whenever I’m asked to share my sentiments about it. This blog post is my attempt at putting those sentiments into words.

***

“Ignorance is bliss” – a phrase coined by Thomas Gray in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton

This phrase always bothers me. Back in college, I envied people who were clueless about the world. And by this, I mean those people who do not give a damn about anything. Most of my classmates back then only cared about meeting the course requirements, graduating on time, finding a steady job, and building a family so they could live and die happy.

These people don’t give a fuck about the pollution, the corruption in the country, the ongoing wars abroad, the mediocrity of the education they were receiving, the sexism happening every day, etcetera, etcetera. They do not read great books. They do not care if history gets repeated. They do not care who wins the election. They do not watch meaningful documentaries and films. They are not bothered with the bigotry of people. They are ignorant of the bullshit surrounding them. They are not bothered with the senselessness and stupidity of it all. They are stupid. They are normal. They are happy.

Now that I am already working and have seen more of life, I began giving them the benefit of the doubt. I realized that maybe, just maybe, there’s more to these people than meets the eye. What if they were mindful of the bullshit surrounding them but they just choose not to think about them? What if instead of bitching about skimpy things, they just choose to be…happy? What if ignorance is bliss, but there are people who are resilient enough to still be happy despite being aware of all the bullshit in the world?

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” – Ernest Hemingway

But this quote from Ernest Hemingway suggests otherwise. Perhaps I am too young or too dumb or…well, too ignorant, but I can’t name an intelligent person who was or is happy with being intelligent. The writers that I look up to have a history of being lonely or depressed. Charles Bukowski, Mark Twain, J.K. Rowling, John Green, F. Scott Fitzgerald–you name it. Even the geniuses Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway weren’t happy with being…genius.

And even if you enlighten me with an intelligent person who is/was happy, there’s no use. It is, after all, a rare thing.

Tell me, how can you be happy when you are aware that the world is full of bullshit? How can you ignore sexism when there are fuckfaces who catcall you on the streets? Where is the peace of mind when you know there are wars going on? How can you be satisfied with mediocrity? How can you sleep peacefully at night knowing there are terror attacks happening in other countries?

“Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.” – The Beatles

Strawberry Fields Forever is one of my most favorite Beatles songs and it’s written by my most favorite Beatle (John). The song is, in my opinion, about a person taking you to a place of solace and safety where nothing is real. I think John simply got fed up with all the bullshit and thought about playing things safe. In the last verse, he says he disagrees. If that meant he disagreed with the phrase living is easy with eyes closed, we have no way of knowing.

Perhaps this lyrics from the classic Beatles song should be the mantra of all intelligent people. Perhaps when I get the chance and money, I should have this phrase tattooed on my body. Perhaps I need to be constantly reminded that living is indeed easy with eyes closed. Perhaps I need to be constantly reminded that whenever bullshit comes knocking on my door, the best revenge is to close my eyes and pretend that it never happened. Or is it?

“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made me feel lucky my life has never been easy. If a genie were to come to me and give me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to erase bad memories, I wouldn’t accept it. I’d still choose to remember those bad moments because they were the reasons why I am who I am today. Blessed are the forgetful, but enviable are the ones who remember–-they can learn from their mistakes and live a more meaningful life.

“Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If there’s one thing I know I won’t ever regret, it’s that wisdom came to me while it can still do me good. Why would I waste this precious opportunity? Living might be easy with eyes closed, but there’s no room in my life for ignorance. We only have one life to live, so why not make the most out of it?

Sure, the best way to make the most out of life is to live happily ever after (if that’s even possible), but my idea of making the most out of life is to do whatever I can to correct the mistakes of the past and make sure these mistakes don’t get repeated in the future. I know this sounds impossible and absurd, but this is my life mission and I will stand behind it until my last breath.

Eternal Struggle of the Creative Mind

I have attended various writing-related workshops and training programs and my key takeaway is always the same: the secret to becoming a good writer is reading a lot, paying attention to the world, writing a lot, and reading some more. And by read, I don’t mean read books. In fact, reading books, whether fiction or non-fiction, is only the second goal.

If you want to become a good writer, read the how-to-use directions on the back of your shampoo bottle, read the slogans of the companies and brands advertised on billboards, and pay attention to the phrases written on flyers given to you by random people at the mall or on the streets. Read anything.

Pay attention to the world.

You see, I think that’s the eternal struggle of the creative mind. I pay attention to the world too much to the point that I always find myself overthinking.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but all I know is that having a brain with no switch can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. It’s tiring. It always gets the best of me. Sometimes, I just want to sleep and put my mind at ease, but random thoughts keep boggling my brain as if there’s no tomorrow.

It sucks.

I started this blog last October 2016 to create an outlet for my random thoughts, take on current political issues that I don’t want to post on Facebook, and latest creative endeavors that I want to share with the world.

Now, whenever an idea hits me, I put my thoughts into writing immediately and feel a million times more at ease with myself.

I don’t know what brought you here, but let me say thank you for dropping by. This is not a collection of the creative outputs that a writer can be proud of, but it sure contains my innermost thoughts that I need to let out.

Writing for this blog helps my mind relax, and that, alone, is enough for me.

Mind Your Own Vagina (or Shut the Fuck up If You Don’t Have One)

Recently, I have had a heated argument with a guy about whether abortion is acceptable or not. In a country where abortion is both illegal and taboo, it is hard to debate its pros to someone, especially if that person does not have a vagina and if he worships a greater being who explicitly stated in his book that thou shalt not kill.

This guy kept pointing out that abortion is a sin and I countered him with reasons why it is not his business. We presented our claims, debated the topic over and over, and ended up throwing personal insults at each other. After a while, I realized there is no point in arguing with him. We obviously had different beliefs and perspectives in life–I am agnostic; he is Christian–and we need to respect each other for that. It took us some time, but we both dropped the subject and let things be.

If there is one thing I regret, it’s that I failed to make him realize that I am not supporting the mere act of abortion–I am defending the reproductive rights of women.

Women’s Rights in a Predominantly Catholic Country

It is a truth widely accepted that having a religion that decides where you go after you die should make you a morally upright human being. However, this is not always the case.

Born and raised a Catholic, I have seen the bigotry and hypocrisy of many people. Those who claim to be religious are sometimes more evil than those who do not believe in religion at all. One simple example is the religious person that you see on public transportation. Whenever I ride a public utility vehicle from home to work or vice versa, I play a game in my mind that I call Counting Crosses. Here’s how it works: I observe silently, try to spot a religious person (telltale signs: wears any religious stuff, does the sign of the cross when passing a church), and wait until the person does something out of line. I have had various unfortunate encounters with them.

One hot Friday afternoon, I eavesdropped (you can’t help it if you have no earphones, to be honest) on a conversation of two old women in Nazareno shirts. They were talking about their neighbor who committed abortion. I heard phrases like “putang ina n’ya,” “malandi,” and “makati ang puke.” When we passed Santo Domingo church, they paused to make the sign of the cross.

If you are not satisfied with this example, let me share my encounter with an exhibitionist (see my open letter for further details). He did not make the sign of the cross, but I saw a cross bracelet around his wrist.

Back in college, I had religious classmates who always had something to say about everything. They were big fans of posting bible verses on social media and boasting about how many times they attend church services, but they were backstabbers who live and breathe to judge others. I have seen low-profile people who were more forgiving, caring, and understanding than them (which is wise).

I believe these bigots need to be reminded that there are basic life protocols beyond the ten commandments. If I were to create my own rules, it would revolve around two things: love and respect–with reservations. Respect, for me, stops when a person starts doing me and my loved ones harm.

Respect. Big deal. In case they forgot, respect is essential to achieve harmony and peace. There are wars, movements, and fights all over the world, not because people of different genders, races, and religions have different beliefs, but because people do not respect these differences.

Christians have condemned abortion from the very beginning, and I do not think I will ever see them change their stand in my lifetime. I respect them for that.

A Colonial Law That Prohibits Abortion

The Philippines is one of the few Asian countries that still denies women access to safe and legal abortion. The law that prohibits women to commit abortion is a direct translation of an old Spanish penal code. Back then, women were not even given the right to vote.

Our lawmakers are still turning a blind eye on the topic of abortion. The outdated colonial law was created mainly due to the religious standards of the Spanish people, and our law should uphold the rights of our people, not religious sectors. Even Spain and other predominantly Catholic countries have legalized abortion on certain grounds. We have seen how women fought for equality, and it’s about time we give them the freedom to control their own bodies.

Birth Control Shots for Men?

Recently, a new contraception for men was developed. The invention created a buzz in social media but was phased out after a year of clinical trial because men were reported to have experienced acne breakouts, depression, mood swings, and other side effects that women experience when taking these reproductive health measures.

See the injustice in this? This is just one of those gender stereotypes that’s plain bullshit. So, it’s okay when women suffer the side effects but an insult to men when they experience the same? Although it pains me to admit it, that’s how things work in this world.

A Violation of Women’s Rights

I am pro-abortion because the world has been going hard with women from the very beginning and it’s time we respect them and their decisions. I am pro-abortion because I understand how difficult it would be for both the mother and the baby if the mother, who is not emotionally, physically, or financially ready, continued with the pregnancy.

There were women raped by strangers who chose abortion because they would rather do it than see their child suffer the consequences of growing up without a father.

There were women born into rich families who chose abortion because they were not ready to become a mother. They would rather do it than see their child suffer the consequences of growing up with parents who know nothing about marriage and building a family.

There were women born into poor families who chose abortion because they got pregnant by accident. They did it because they didn’t want their child to suffer the consequences of growing up in a poor family.

There were women who died due to unsafe abortion because the hospitals, medical facilities, the church, and the government denied them access to safe, legal abortion, which is clearly a violation of their reproductive rights.

Poverty and Abortion

According to Guttmacher Institute, “the most common reason women give for having an abortion is their inability to afford raising a child.”

If I had an unintended pregnancy, I will not abort the child, but I will not judge other women who will. I am surrounded by street, abandoned, and poor children. I will understand if they do not want to be one of those irresponsible mothers who followed their emotions despite knowing what will become of their children if they continued with the pregnancy.

Poverty is a huge factor in building a family. You can say that you can provide for your child because you have a job all you want, but building a family is more complicated than that. You have to experience it for yourself before you believe it.

Abortion is a woman’s right. If she is not emotionally, physically, or financially ready and she continued with the pregnancy, the child will suffer the consequences more than anyone else. Growing up in a squatter’s area has taught me this.

Pre-Marital Sex and the Truth Behind It

Okay, I hear you. Why have sex when you are not ready to build a family? Why have pre-marital sex at all? Pre-marital sex only becomes a moral issue if your religion tells you so. You can’t argue with that.

Tell me where the equality in this logic is: when a woman is deflowered, it is an achievement for men but a sin for women.

I’ll leave it there.

Her Body, Her Choice

After all, who will suffer for nine months and more if a woman decides to continue with the pregnancy? Is it other women, other men, the society, the government, the church, an all-knowing greater being that she cannot see, or her? If a woman is not ready to conceive a child, it is not anybody’s business but hers. Her body, her choice. It is the woman who will rot in hell or pass the time in prison, anyway.

I am pro-abortion because I am pro-women, and my decision does not make me less of a woman, much more less of a human. We all have flaws. Even the saints made mistakes and the self-proclaimed religious people aren’t perfect either. If you think I am a sinner because I am pro-women, let your actions speak for yourself.

“Whose Vagina Is It, Really?”

I find it fitting to conclude my post with the title of a book by Sandy Daley. Whose vagina is it, really? As far as I am concerned, my body is my business. Whatever I do with it, I am solely responsible for my own decisions and actions. If you think I am wrong, feel free to walk away without making any fuss or hide in your room and masturbate until you come. I will not judge you.

I am pro-abortion because I am pro-women. I will not, by any means, persuade you to side with me. If committing a sin that is against your religion or an outdated law that you follow is your only concern, might as well mind your own vagina or shut the fuck up if you don’t have one because that’s how things should be.

P.S. And don’t forget, the key word is respect.

An Open Letter to Filipinos Who Think Duterte’s Sexist Remarks Against Women Are Okay

Yesterday, President Duterte stood firm on his decision to allow the late dictator’s remains to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This news shook me to the core. And just when I thought that things could never get worse, the Americans proved me wrong–Donald Trump won the US presidential elections.

I was at the office, watching Google’s live update as I awaited the end of my shift. I witnessed how the red slowly overshadowed the blue as victory greeted Trump and his supporters. All hope that I had for every woman in the world vanished when I saw that he needed only four more electoral votes to win the majority. By 4:00 PM, when the last few electoral votes were being counted, I refreshed Google three times before I let the truth sink in.

The world is going down for the third time for women.

This news disheartened me, but knowing that Clinton still won the popular vote means a great deal to me-–the majority of Americans do not want a sexist, misogynistic, and xenophobic man in the White House. My heart goes out to all the people who did note vote for Trump. The last thing that the world needs right now is another leader who will set an example for being a sexist, misogynistic fuckface.

I am writing this open letter because even before Trump won, a lot of people have been comparing him to our president. And worse, I’ve been reading news and opinion from people who keep justifying their disgusting words and actions. This makes me sick. I do not want to hear another “let them be” version, which pretty much varies from “Ano’ng magagawa mo, eh ganun sila magsalita?” “Hayaan mo na, matanda na.” “‘To naman, nag-jo-joke lang ‘yun.” “Ganun talaga siya.” “Dami mong alam!” “Shut up ka na lang!” to “P*tangina mo, dilawan!” 

I hate people who justify these two leaders’ sexist remarks about women. I understand that women in America are not done with their fight for equality yet–the 2016 presidential elections have left their country in fragments–but  I expected so much more from my fellow countrymen. Filipinos have never failed to surprise me these past few months. Whenever I see someone like Mocha Uson who applauds the president with all her might despite the man’s countless gender-directed insults and lack of political correctness,  I flinch.

I hate bigoted women who applaud the president for insulting other women–as if making scathing, appalling comments on their fellow women is not an insult to their gender as a whole. I hate stupid men, fathers especially, who justify the president’s foul words, who keep on insisting that he is only joking every time he cracks lewd remarks–as if they won’t care if their daughters were catcalled on the streets, as if they won’t mind if their kumpares threw sexist, offensive comments against their wives.

I hate you for being one of them. I hate you for being one sexist, misogynistic fuckface like them.

If you are just too blind or kulang sa pansin, I have no way of knowing. But if you think these sexist attacks are okay, I am sorry to tell you but you are one fucking stupid human being and you do not deserve a woman in your life.

We do not need another man who will insult us and make us feel less human.

We have had enough.

I have a lot going on in my mind, but I figured I might as well share my personal experiences to show you what it is like to live in a country where societal sexism exists–a country where people like you exist.

I have seen two exhibitionists in my lifetime. The first one was when I was in high school, while I was en route to Cubao. I was only 14 years old then. I had to submit my grandmother’s laboratory results to a certain hospital and that was actually my first time in the area. As a young girl who just set foot in an unfamiliar place, I was afraid I might get lost. I was riding a jeepney when an exhibitionist opened his zipper and showed me his disgustingly big, hard penis. I was shocked but I could not move. I could not say a word because 1) I was afraid of what he would do, 2) we were the only passengers in the jeepney and I did not have someone to back me up, 3) I was young and helpless, 4) I was a young girl and it’s normal for us to experience horrible things like this, and 5) he was tall and looked like he might do something bad to me if I fought back.

I looked away and let him do his thing while he continued to stare at me maliciously. I went home depressed.

The second time happened earlier this year when I was on my way home from work. I took the Espana-Blumentritt route and fell asleep on the ride. I was jerked awake when the jeepney came to a sudden halt near the Chinese General Hospital. When I opened my eyes, I was shocked because the swollen penis of the man on the other side greeted me. He looked at me with a mischievous grin on his face while he masturbated, but I did nothing. I did nothing, not because I was not insulted by the act, but because I was afraid. I went home more depressed and traumatized this time.

I am not the type who talks about my problems a lot, but I told my best friend about the incident a week later because I was still depressed. I do not always let these things pass–everyone who knows me knows this. In fact, I get back at these perverts whenever I have the chance. If I do not drop the PI bomb, I give them the middle finger. And do not even get me started on the subject of being catcalled on the streets–I experience this almost every day and I get back at the fuckface when I have the chance.

If catcalling is a form of sexual harassment, then I am disgusted with myself–I am sexually harassed by strangers. Every. Single. Day.

Depending on the circumstance, I also confront perverts. One example was when I was in an FX. I was wearing a skirt and I noticed that this fuckface kept accidentally sliding his hands on my bare legs. Since the FX was full of passengers, I decided it won’t do me harm to shame this disgusting man in front of them. I shouted to no one in particular, “Pwede pong makipagpalit ng upuan? Manyakis ‘tong katabi ko eh.” All eyes fell on me but the pervert could not look me in the eye. The man on the passenger seat gave way and offered me his seat. When we reached a stoplight, the pervert said “para” and went away.

The passengers praised me for being the brave girl, but if I was really brave, I would slap him hard on the face, take a picture of him, and post it on social media. But I was not brave enough.

In a country where it is normal for men to slut-shame women, especially when we are wearing revealing clothes, it is hard to muster the courage to fight back.

Sometimes, I want to wear a skirt or dress to work, not because I want to sport an on-point OOTD, but because this piece of clothing is easier to wash than jeans. But most of the time, I don’t. Most of the time, I settle for jeans rather than risking being catcalled by perverts on the streets.

Imagine your younger sister, your mother, your girlfriend, your wife, or whoever you hold dear being catcalled, watched by a pervert while masturbating in public transportation, and sexually harassed in public. If you keep justifying the president’s lewd remarks against women, if you keep treating societal sexism as a laughing matter, if you keep siding with these sexist and misogynistic leaders, and if you keep insulting women, then these acts of sexual harassment will continue and your loved one is at risk.

When the president, the man who holds the highest post in the country and the role model of many, started throwing misogynistic remarks to various women, I was dispirited. But to say that my heart was shattered when my fellow countrymen started justifying his actions, and worse, emulating them, is an understatement.

I am writing this open letter because I want my fellow Filipinos to stop these acts that are sexist, stupid, disrespectful, insane, and most of all, inhuman.

Yes, with fewer drug addicts around, it is safer for us to walk the streets at night. But, you see, I have lost count on how many times I heard men like you justify their deeds and words using the president as their example. One night, when my boyfriend and I were on a bus, we heard a random man saying, “Eh ano kung manyak ako, presidente nga natin manyak din eh.” Then on one viral Facebook post, a woman complained that a group of perverts catcalled her on the street. When she snapped back, they said, “Arte mo, kala mo maganda ka? Kahit magsumbong ka pa sa pulis. Kahit magsumbong ka pa kay Duterte, manyak din yun eh!” Even my younger brothers cheer whenever news about our president’s sexist remarks flash on our television screen.

Dear fellow Filipinos, is this how we want our society to be? To be full of sexists and misogynists who think it is okay to insult women because the president is okay with it? Because the president himself is doing it?

True safety is not about giving us the peace of mind to stroll the streets at night because there are fewer drug addicts around.

True safety is when women can confidently walk the streets any time of day without the fear of being sexually harassed.

I do not want my children to grow up in a society full of evil people. I do not want them to become one of you. I do not want my younger siblings and cousins to emulate what you are doing; I do not want them to think that it is okay to catcall women, to have “locker room” talks about us, to insult our dignity, and to make fun of us as if we are not humans.

In case you forgot, we are humans too.

We do not need another exhibitionist, we do not need another pervert who will harass us in public transportation, we do not need another stranger who will catcall us on the streets, we do not need another human being who will blame us for wearing short skirts and revealing clothes.

We are not the problem; your stupidity and lack of respect is the problem.

Dear Mr. President, if you truly care for women, stop being a sexist, misogynistic git because you are setting a bad example for your countrymen. Most Filipinos are not smart enough to determine what is right and wrong, and if you continue making gender-directed insults about women, they wouldn’t know that societal sexism is wrong. Lead by example. Use your power to influence Filipinos to respect women. With another misogynistic president on the waiting list, these acts of sexism need to stop. Only then will we be able to feel that we are safe under your government.

Only then will we feel that change has truly come.

I know that my blog post won’t reach a lot of people and I know that like billions of other posts, my blog post will disappear into the abyss of the world wide net within a few minutes. But I am taking my chances. If this blog post ever reaches your screen, please do not let my message pass like a ship in the night. You do not have to share this post–all I ask is for you to be a catalyst for change.

If change won’t come to us, let us come together to make the change.