Friday, October 23, 2020

Ms. Terror – A Tale Of A Wound That Never Heals

Gawr Gura fanart by me. Sad Shork Still a QT

By Cynia Mirasol with assistance from lordcloudx

Whether we like it or not, we all have our own particular weaknesses – parts of ourselves which we try to hide from others for fear that we may be negatively judged. This week, I am baring one such particular weakness – a different part of me that many of you are probably unaware of.

While admittedly, I may pale by a lot in comparison to my husband when it comes to academic achievements, I have never been insecure about my own intellect – especially in a battle of wits. Indeed, while outwardly, I am always quick to point out how brilliant my two kids are and how they really take after their father, at the back of my mind, I’ve always secretly thought that: “It takes two to tango.”

With that aside, if there is one subject that I really look upon with great disdain, it would be mathematics. I know, I know, some of you may be thinking: “but math is fun.”

I’ll give you this much: while I may never ever grow to love the subject, I will not deny that experiences can be subjective.

It wasn’t always this way for me, though. You see, there was a time when I didn’t really hate math. I was never really good at it because I just lack the patience to learn technical subjects but perhaps, if it were not for this one incident during my younger days, I wouldn’t have grown to dislike the subject so much.

How much do I hate math, you might ask? The answer is that I hate it to the point that I actually have trouble with the four basic operations. I am actually quite adept at addition and multiplication, so I can solve things that require adding numbers or repeatedly adding numbers quite quickly, but I’m quite hopeless when it comes to subtraction and especially division. I know enough to get by since I am a Masters degree-holder after all, but if I can avoid math in my daily life, I will definitely do it without a second thought.

I believe there is a psychological aspect to this as well. Just like anyone else who would care to admit that they are actually human and without hypocrisy, I like to receive things – whether it be money, jewelry or just some kind of material gain in general, but I really don’t like losing anything – especially objects with sentimental value to me. Over the years, I have accumulated so much memorabilia that my children have dubbed me as a “hoarder.” To put it simply: I like gain, but not lose. Of course, this also means that I tend to treasure the things that have been given to me; therefore, rather than thinking of it as a negative trait, I believe that it’s a bit of a gray area – as is the case with many things. As I have mentioned previously, the world is never just simply black and white.

The irony of my aversion for mathematics is that I actually come from a family of mathematicians on my mother’s side. My Mama Delia, along with all her other siblings were a family of mathematicians.  As a schoolteacher, when the division office required any reports with computations and mathematical skills, they always turned upon Mama for help. Furthermore, come election time, my Mama was the person asked to compute the consolidated results for the different polling precincts.

To further validate my claim, some of you may be familiar with the late Mayor of Iloilo City and later Senator “Roding” Ganzon. He was classmates with my Mama at Baluarte Elemenray School -- and of course, as brilliant as he was, Mama was always second to him in almost all subjects – all subjects except mathematics. If any historical documents exist of the time they spent there, you can easily confirm this. Look for Delia Dela Cruz.

This is why it is a bit embarrassing to admit this, but despite my pedigree, there was never a time when I was good at math.

Still, I do believe that there was a turning point wherein I firmly decided that mathematics was my enemy – nothing more than a necessary evil created by humanity in a vain attempt to quantify the world into understandable symbols and measurements, a subject that I should avoid with a vengeance.

This story took place during my teenage years – a rather appropriate time as for many of us, this is the turning point from childhood to adulthood, a state of transition, so to speak.

I was in third year high school and unfortunately, our algebra teacher was the most famous “terror teacher” at mathematics at that time. Knowing fully-well that mathematics was my weakness, I really tried my best to do well at her subject, but like it or not, my brain just wasn’t made for mathematics – especially not the way it was taught.

During the first grading period, I did pretty okay – lower than most but still pretty much average. Come the second grading however, I got the lowest grade in the entire class. How did I come to gain this information? Simple, my teacher had this policy of placing the grades of two particular students she handled on the classroom’s blackboard for every grading period – the grade of the student with the highest grade  and the student with the lowest grade.

At that moment, I just wished I could turn invisible. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t even want to show up for class the next day, the day after… or forever for that matter.

But of course, I had no choice. My mother told me sternly to show up for class so as not to embarrass her and she reassured me that she would lend me her skills and be my personal tutor in algebra. The next day after I learned of my humiliating results, I crept into the classroom early and changed my seat to the very back of the class. I turned my eyes downwards and tried to avoid making contact with my terror teacher as much as possible. I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, judging me, stripping me naked for the dunce that I was.

This was when I learned that my torment was far from over. No matter how I tried to avoid interacting with my teacher, she saw it fit to call me up for recitation as well as to walk up to the blackboard to solve some algebraic equation. I failed every single time even on questions that were so simple that everyone should have known the answer. My consistent failure just seemed to spur Ms. Terror to continue punishing me even more. Who knows, perhaps it was her way of trying to help me, but she called upon me more and more frequently as the school year went on even though the results were the same every single time. I felt like I was going to go insane – but you know what? I didn’t even have that option.

Unlike today’s snowflake generation who have all generally become so hypersensitive that they fall into depression and suffer a labeled mental breakdown requiring therapeutic care at the slightest hint of what they perceive to be oppression, the idea that you can take your life and take the easy way out wasn’t “trendy” back then. Of course, I only have my personal anecdotes to go by on this – so I could very well be wrong statistically – not like I have a reason to trust statistics. I hate math after all.

Thus, I suffered through two more grading periods and of course, I always got the lowest grades in class. The teacher contacted my mother to strike a deal that went this way: “Baw Del, pigado gid ya si Cynia ah, buligan mo gid na sya bi daw indi gid sa kapasar.” (Del, Cynia is in a really bad situation, you need to help her or she will never pass.)

Mama had to strike a deal to help me pass. The teacher knew that I was a side leader in the cheering squad. She said that the team had to win first place in the cheering competition we were entering and in addition, I had to bribe her with “Darigold” labels. The company was collecting these labels in exchange for all kinds of prizes – a common practice back then.

My mother helped out with the Darigold labels by asking her students for some and fortunately, we managed to somehow win the competition – this was the only reason that I passed algebra. Truth be told, I knew nothing about the subject and I still know nothing about it. I can’t tell my X’s from my Y’s or whatever a polynomial is for the life of me.

Looking back, this experience really left an indelible mark on my character. No matter how much other people may try to convince me, I could never like math ever again. From that time on, I was deathly scared of my terror teacher whenever I crossed paths with her… I don’t think I’ve ever made eye contact with her again to this day. Even in graduate school, statistics was the one subject I struggled with the most.

Unfortunately, although I would like to leave you on a happy note, there is no happy ending to this particular anecdote. This is a story of a wound that will never heal – one that will continue to haunt me to my grave. I have forgiven, I have tried to move on, but at this point, I have also come to accept that this hatred will never die.

This is me.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Driven – A Tale Of Chasing Dreams

*Note: Name has been changed to protect the subject’s identity.

It all started with a little girl who began to chase a dream.
My name “*Candy,” is a bit of an irony. Oftentimes in life, fate had been quite bitter to me more times than it was sweet.

You see, my family was many things but rich was never one of them. I was the middle child in a family of five – that is, “five eventually” when my youngest brother was born much later.

As you might have already surmised, we were – to put it bluntly, poor – very poor. This is no mere exaggeration.
To illustrate: One time, we were forced to eat nothing but rice and one big piece of botong-botong (a long cylindrical piece of candy) for lunch. Mother was slicing it into separate pieces for all of us, but just as she had cut it in half, the other piece fell off the table and through the floor. You read that right. It fell through the floor because our flooring consisted of thin-cut pieces of bamboo elevated off the soil by a wooden platform.

With that said, I never once harbored any ill-feelings for my parents just because I hadn’t won the “birth lottery” and hadn’t been born well-off like some of my cousins from upper middle-class families. After all, when it came to supporting us, my parents did just about everything they could except get rich; I could live with that.
After all, I had been brought up by my Lolo Pilis to be a devout Catholic since I was very young. I treasured the days that I spent in community service and other Church activities.
Of course, while I did not detest our financial situation, this did not prevent me from dreaming I could have more – a dream that I decided to take into my own hands… but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let us journey back to an earlier time.

Vaguely, I was about 5-6 years old when this happened. I vividly recall the sweet scents of pine, lemon and flowers. All this while soft, kind hands gently travelled across my forehead. When I looked up to see who was touching me, what I saw was a person cloaked in clean, pure-white robes. It felt comforting.
I did not know why, but I had to stay in this special place for some time – cared for by these angelic beings until one day, I was finally allowed to walk through those double doors that led to these long, narrow hallways as I passed by other beings all covered in pure-white robes. I lavished all the care and attention that they gave me and for whatever reason that I had to be in that place, I thanked “The One Above” and swore that someday, I would become the one who led these white-robed heroes – a doctor, specifically, a pediatrician... just like the person who cared for me on that day.
I was a naïve little girl chasing a dream, but it was a dream which I would never let go of. This is something that my siblings could easily attest to.
How, you might ask? Well, not to indulge in self-praise, but there was an abundance of beauty pageants in public schools every year when I was in grade school and I was often handpicked to become the class representative in these contests – and every single time, when I had to introduce myself, I would always end with: “My dream is to become a doctor for children.” Naturally, my siblings were always around to cheer for me all the way.
As early as about 9 years old, I had always understood that people considered me pretty, smart, and talented. As you can imagine, these are not traits that a child my age would find desirable in herself – for the simple fact that it automatically incites jealousy in other children; jealousy that leads to bullying. Other girls often pelted me with verbal abuse left and right – and there’s not much you can do when no one else is standing up for you – at least not unless you happen to be someone named after her overachieving elder sister. Unfortunately, although I definitely look up to my aunt, I never inherited the flames of fury from her genes.
While I do not consider myself a coward, I always chose to avoid conflict. I would cry for days whenever I was bullied, but then I would simply pray and most importantly, think about what I would do next to put a definite stop to the abuse. In this case, it was as simple as telling on the teacher – simple, effective, and practical.
Certainly, childhood dreams often fade into the distance and even change completely over time as we become teenagers and eventually adults. But… this was not the case for me. As I transitioned into my final year of High School, being the conservative, devout Catholic that I am, I finally decided that I had joined my final beauty pageant – for the life of me, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a daring swimsuit.
I do not know if you believe in God, far be it for me to judge your beliefs or lack thereof. All I know is that besides my dream to become a doctor, my faith was always the one thing that I clung to for inner strength. It was also the conduit through which I became part of the JCWL (Junior Catholic Women’s League). It was through my religious community that I had the opportunity to interact face-to-face with people from all walks of life. As a peer facilitator, I have talked with ex-convicts, rape victims, and other individuals that you would probably avoid like the plague in any other situation.
Perhaps this is why, I can honestly declare that I never judge nor have I ever held a grudge against anyone. Everyone’s circumstances are different after all.
Still, becoming a doctor when your family is poor is an extremely lofty dream – especially by 90’s Philippines standards. Therefore, I planned early. I understood fully-well that my parents might not be able to finance my ambitions, so I would do it myself. It took me six grueling years to finish my undergraduate preparatory course for medicine. Over this span of time, I took on several part-time jobs and did whatever I could to add to earn some extra income. I had actually amassed three Trisikads (Basically a bike with a sidecar attached used as public transportation in the Philippines) from being an English language tutor for Koreans in the Philippines.
The Trisikads were sold off eventually – but they had done their part, to help me get into medicine proper in University. At this point, I had a single plan in mind: I would finish my course and fulfill my dream… and if I failed, then I’d try again.

If there is one thing that my colorful experiences had taught me at this point, it would be the grim reality that sometimes, when you try your best to chase your dream, life puts you down unexpectedly. So you know what you do in this predicament when life tries to put you down? It’s simple; you get up and chase your dream again.
Medical School was quite a unique experience altogether. It was a stage of transition for me as well. Back in High School, I was actually a bit of a local celebrity since I participated in so many extracurricular activities from group dance contests to the aforementioned beauty pageants – all while keeping my grades high enough to consistently place in the top two in my year level.
In college, this part of me, the superstar slowly faded away into obscurity. At this point, I became the earnest, hard worker. I was that one familiar girl in the corner; the one who was always selling something or couldn’t hang out after school. In fact, I worked part-time jobs at several fast-food restaurants including Jollibee and Pizza Hut while schooling.
In Med School, I realized quite quickly just how much talent plays a factor when it comes to studying. While I was definitely no slouch when it came to academics, I couldn’t help but admire some of my more talented classmates who could easily ace all the written and practical exams with ease – all while partying the night before with not a care in the world. It felt just a little bit unfair, to be honest. I couldn’t help feeling just a tinge of jealousy at these people who could seemingly slack off and still do better than me no matter how much I tried to hammer in as much information into my brain as humanly possible.
Of course, I never bothered to nurture these feelings of jealousy. After all, at the end of the day, I was simply competing with myself. Other people’s performances didn’t really matter when my goal was just figuratively inches away from me. All I needed to do was keep moving forward and grasp my future with my own hands.
Finances were never the best for me even during med school. At one point, I almost quit for a year, if it weren’t for the efforts of my kind-hearted aunt – the younger sister of my fiery aunt. In hindsight, I had lots of help during this time financing my schooling from my siblings as well as my relatives. My classmates knew of my financial situation, but of course I was too proud to accept any kind of monetary aid from them – even from the ones who could clearly and willingly afford it. I had to keep my dignity after all.
As a medical student, I like to believe that my classmates saw me as the “big sister.” I was the reliable and mature one in the group – and the one you could rely on for emotional support and life advice. It was an uplifting feeling – it almost made me feel like I could actually be a psychological therapist at heart… but this was someone else’s dream, of course. It could never be mine.
Bullying was a problem in Med School as well – not from my classmates but ironically, from our superiors. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps my experience is anecdotal, but the extremely toxic prevalent culture had always been this way: If you were rendering duty as a doctor’s assistant, then you had to look as haggard as your physician. Therefore, when I showed up looking fresh and with work-appropriate makeup even though I had rendered at least 18 hours of work the day before, my superiors sounded off sarcastically: “Abaw, mayo iban may tiyempo pa mag makeup makeup lang ba.” (Well, that’s nice. Looks like someone has enough time to just put on makeup.)
I admit that I might have shed a tear or two -- again, I wasn’t my fiery aunt after all. But after the tears, after the pain, all I could think of was to pray to God and then plan my next move, and of course, the answer was simple: I just needed to ignore them and focus on my true goal.
Finally, the doctor’s license came and the mocking voices simply faded away as nothing but debris in the most obscure recesses of my memories.
It all started with a little girl chasing a dream. I like to imagine that my dream is a person – a very kind, beautiful individual who often visited me at different stages of my life; to counsel me, to console me, to comfort me, and most of all, to inspire me to pursue her form. A person who was always just out of reach until one day when I had finally achieved my goal – which is the day she disappeared forever. Even if I wish to meet her again, perhaps I never will.
But of course, it’s only natural because now that I had achieved my dream, it is my turn to become that dream – that flash of an inspiration for someone else.
I am happy.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Victim? – A Story of Injustice

by Cynia Mirasol with assistance from lordcloudx
I am sorry to tell you this, but your assumptions about me are incorrect. Yes, it is true that I was often a victim of circumstances during my younger days, but allow me to tell you that in many cases, I was not a helpless damsel in distress. In fact, I have never once pictured myself as the miserable tragic heroine in my own life story – because, as you are about to find out, I wasn’t exactly a little angel and I was often the one doing the victimizing rather than the other way around.
In the family, we were each known for our own unique personality quirks – every one of us at least, except for me, Cynia. I was simply the one with the most horrible personality. Our “Papa” (Grandfather) called me a “Katsila” (Spaniard.) This was actually meant as a derogatory term for someone who is headstrong and cruel. Well, I wouldn’t let this slide at all. Papa lived in a house not too far from ours. He had several fruit-bearing trees and vegetables growing on his property. So, whenever we paid him a visit, I’d steal all the ripe fruits and fresh vegetables I could find from his harvest. Sure, I wasn’t alone, my cousins did it too, but I was usually the leader – the only female among my male cousins.
Growing up, I had always dreamed of someday telling this one big epic story about how I eventually overcame adversity on my way to success – but alas, life just doesn’t happen that way – no matter how we wish it to be so. In fact, rather than being condensed into one coherent story, I find that the most memorable moments of my existence came in short, amusing vignettes.
If there is one person who could truly attest to my sometimes downright villainous nature, it would actually be the youngest in the family, the one who was born just after me – everyone’s beloved “Baby.” With only a 3-4 year-gap between us, we grew up very close to each other. We were good friends with each other for the most part, but being the elder sibling, I always felt this compelling need to assert my dominance over my sister.
Being the youngest, Baby was a very submissive child. She tagged along with me everywhere and whenever we would play together, she followed my instructions whether she liked it or not OR ELSE!
Sometimes, I would ask her to demean herself before me for no particular reason except my own personal satisfaction. For example, one time, I told her to pick up a piece of trash from the sidewalk and of course, she had no choice but to comply, knowing fully-well that there would be dire consequences for disobedience. Sometimes, even as an adult, I tend to forget that we’re now living separate lives and that I no longer hold any moral ascendancy over my younger sister.
When we were kids though, I was not beyond punching, kicking, slapping, as well as pinching Baby just to show her who was the boss here. She would break down into tears and cry at the top of her lungs every single time.
Naturally, if my parents overheard the crying, then I would be on the receiving end of a very hard swat with a leather belt or some other torture device of choice from dear Daddy Pilis.
This was not the end of it, though. Because after I’d been punished for my actions, I would once again threaten Baby verbally and I would make sure to find some way to get back at her next time.
My mean streak was not limited to only family members, however. If you believe in political theories about the inherent need for violence and dominance in human nature, I would probably make for a prime example.
In school, there was this one girl who was naturally much prettier and had nicer clothes than me because she came from a rich family. She looked like a little doll, a pampered little princess in my eyes – and oh how I admired her. Therefore, what did I do? Why, I grabbed her by the cuff, threatened her with bodily harm and promptly told her to kiss my feet whenever she saw me – and she did so without complaint OR ELSE.
For a while, this became the norm. Whenever my pretty princess of a classmate and I crossed paths, she would immediately kneel down on the ground and kiss my feet. Ah yes, the feeling of dominance and superiority I felt at that time was beyond compare. Certainly, I was aware that many of my classmates harbored feelings of resentment for me because of what I was doing – but well, far be it for me to be concerned with public opinion.
I was a very fast reader in school and so, I was assigned by the teachers to be a tutor for other children who had difficulty reading. I was assigned to my cousin and you might say I took a very Spartan approach. Whenever she had difficulty following my instructions, I would say:
“Ka mango mango gid sa imo. Mango mango gid mango mango!” (You’re so stupid. So stupid, extremely stupid!) Accompanied by a pinch or a slap. My cousin was petrified of me, so I got away with everything.
My cousin was quite scared of me so she never told the teachers of my abusive ways.
I was never afraid of boys and their so-called natural physical superiority. Feminists take note: I was around when your movement was still called “women’s liberation.” Whenever I got into a fight with one of the boys, I would wait for the teacher to call him up to the blackboard, and then I’d extend my leg and trip him up so he’d actually fall flat on his face with everyone laughing at him.
Of course, this meant that I’d be in for a fight after school. I got into many after-school fights with the boys… I fought back but lost most of them, but it’s ok. I played the victim card afterwards and told my mother who was a teacher in my school about how I’d been unfairly beaten up. I always got the last laugh in the end. My enemies hated me but then they’d be afraid to get in a fight with me again. I was called the “La Paborita bata ka maestra.” (The favorite, the teacher’s daughter).
If you think I’m exaggerating, back when I was in Grade 2, there was a secret vote as to who was the “Star of The Class,” or the person with the most friends. We were about 35-40 students in one class and I was actually dead last. This wasn’t public, by the way. I found out because my mother was our adviser and she told me about what a horrible person I was for having no friends and having the worst attitude.
Outside of school, I was definitely quite mischievous as well. Coming from a poor family, I often looked upon the things that rich people had with eyes of pure envy – quite natural, I believe. So… whenever I came across a nice looking car, I would make sure to grab the nearest metal soda bottle cap and scratch the surface of the car’s paint quite deeply and thoroughly – sometimes leaving a doodle or two in the process. Having a door chime was also another mark of opulence back in those days. We didn’t have our own door chime, so I thought it only fair to press every single door chime I came across on the way to and from school… and RUN while laughing all the way.
Back when I was 10-11 years old, our neighbors had this very cute 3 year-old baby. She was a precious little thing, quite pudgy, sparkling eyes, and very fair white skin. We were good friends with their family, but they were rich… SO, I would often poke the baby in the eye, yank her arm hard, and pinch her hard just because I found her so cute – which of course, would make her cry. I found the sound of her cries quite delightful. I was never ever caught by the way. I know how to make a quick escape.
As far back as I can remember, I’d always been talented at oration, declamation, dancing and other performance arts. This is why I was chosen as the conductor to lead the National Anthem at school. I was quite the perfectionist and so, during practice, I would hit and pinch my other classmates who didn’t live up to my standards. I remember one teacher telling me bluntly that:
“Ay abaw! Wala ka gid kasugad kay Cynthia. Kon ano ka nami nami sang magulang mo baliskad ya gid ka ya.” (Oh my! You don’t take up after Cynthia at al. Your elder sister is so good while you are the complete opposite.)
But then I’d hold my hand up to her and promptly reply: “Ti Ma’am tudlo ta gani wala ga tululupong tanawa bala ho. Ti amo man na. Indi man kami parehos tanan nga mag ulutod.” (Well Ma’am, even our fingers line up so that’s how it is. Not all of us siblings are the same.)
This would reach my parents of course, and I’d get a scolding from Cynthia and my parents – which I resented greatly because they never even took the time to hear me out and listen to my side of the story.
By far, one of the most unforgettable things that I’d ever done would be back in Grade 6. One of the boys knew that I had a crush on one of my classmates so he started teasing me endlessly about it all within earshot of my crush… SO, I chased him down and then pushed him hard with all my strength, which caused him to stumble onto one of the blackboards causing it to come crashing down. The noise was enough to wake the school principal who was asleep at that time. We were summoned to the princpal’s office where my mother was waiting, being a teacher.
I was told to ask forgiveness from my classmate, but I refused. Both my mother and the principal were astonished and asked me why, to which I said: “Ti Ma’am kon ikaw man bi? Isa ka ka babahe hambalon ko nga ikaw pa ga lagas sa lalake. Ti ano man batyagon mo bi Ma’am?” (Ma’am, what if it was you? You are a woman and someone tells you that you’re the one chasing a man? How would you feel?)
My mother admonished me for talking back at the Principal, but inwardly, she was laughing because she told the entire story to my family at meal time and everyone had a good laugh at my expense.
I won’t lie – I definitely wasn’t the most pleasant person back then and the truth is that I don’t actually regret many of the things that I did. I will not ask forgiveness for the things I’ve done. It’s a pointless act after all.
As I grew older though, as my quality of life improved, I came to understand what it felt like from the “other side of the fence” so to speak. When my husband bought me my own car for example, a brand-new Red Mitsubishi lancer, I always made sure to take the best care of it – and I would be absolutely livid whenever some streetkids so much as knocked on the window whenever they passed by. Back when my legs still served me well, I would be very quick to chase down the neighborhood kids who loved to play with our house buzzer – one of the things that I loved to do myself as a child.
To end on an amusing note, I was quite insecure when I was a teenager and so I’d often mask this by putting on make-up and walking around with my head held up high whenever I passed through our neighborhood – this elicited quite a few hateful, and perhaps envious glances from everyone who’d say:
“Baw Tanawa ho! Daw si sino da tag iya ka kalubihan ba.” (Well, look at that! She acts so important as if she’s the owner of this place.)
Funnily enough, in my professional life, one of my students in San Agustin left this glowing evaluation of me: “I hate Mrs. Cynia Mirasol because she walks as if she owns the University of San Agustin.”
At least that part of me hasn’t changed. Let’s call it “walking with the dignity of a woman.”
It’s funny how life comes full circle eventually. The ideals that you held onto so strongly when you were younger can feel so wrong as you start to get up there in age – at least this much is true for me. BUT if there is one thing that I am definitely proud of from then till now, it would be the fact that I have never lived my life on borrowed ideals and philosophies from long-dead authors who can never know of the circumstances of my own existence.
I cry foul at injustice, but with my own voice and not through parroting the words of some ideology. Cynia, has always been Cynia. That is all I am and all that I always will be.

Friday, October 2, 2020

RABID – A Tale of Unrestrained Violence

By Cynia Mirasol with assistance from lordcloudx

Growing up, I was not exactly brimming over with self-esteem. If anything, you could probably consider my outer façade of bravado as nothing more than a simple psychological defense mechanism. Certainly, I am not the most pragmatic of individuals – being an ENFP who is driven more by emotions and social links rather than cold, unfeeling logic. Still, I was never oblivious to the fact that I had very little to actually be confident about.

After all, who was Cynia? – An absolute nobody who happened to be the 2nd youngest child of a destitute family consisting of six children (at least the ones who survived infancy). I was smart – but nowhere near valedictorian level, and any of the skills that I had honed through the years (declamation, dance, oration) paled in comparison to my overachieving elder sister, Cynthia.

The irony of my half-baked existence is viscerally obvious even in how my name was hewn from my sister’s.  I was Cynia – a Cynthia lite – less graceful, less talented, and much less brilliant than the original. This was me back then – but with that aside, I was never bitter about being less blessed than my sister, rather, I was genuinely proud of her.

There are two things that I have always held great pride in. For one, I was always headstrong to the point of possessing an indomitable will; and secondly, I was quite confident in the beauty of my face. These two go hand-in-hand – as all my siblings can soundly attest to. Whenever our Father would hit us for some form of perceived mischief (corporal punishment was common back then), I would be the only one to open my mouth and speak up against it – but this wasn’t the end of it. I would beg my father to let me speak in my defense and then  cover up my face while loudly declaring: “Sakita lang ko pero indi lang ya pag igo a akon guya ya kay amo lang ni ang manggad ko.” (Hurt me, but don’t hit my face, because it’s my only treasure.) A bold statement that earned a chuckle coupled with a more severe beating from my father – although he always did honor my request to spare my face.

I wasn’t delusional of course, I was well-aware that I was only half-decent looking, not even really pretty. After all, I spent a good hour ogling my own reflection and grooming myself as meticulously as a cat every day – however, as experience has taught me, it’s not about the looks you were born with, but rather, it’s all about PROJECTION – and in this aspect at least, I would say that I never paled next to my naturally superior sister.

But this is a story that takes place a bit later than my childhood days. In fact, I was already in University when this incident happened.

To begin with, I was never on good terms with my older brother, Toto Bordee – especially because I felt that he was quite an irresponsible parent leaving his three children to fend for themselves here in Iloilo while his daughter was left behind with his estranged wife, Flor in Cebu.

Therefore, it didn’t help that he continued to live under the same roof as me. You see, despite the fact that our house was not very lavish, it was subdivided into different partitions for our parents, the four girls, our brother Nonoy, and another partition for Bordee and his three boys.

We were definitely not the best of friends since he comes home drunk every night and we’d often exchange some heated words because he just depended on Mama and Daddy to take care of his own children (all suffering from respiratory problems) for him.

One fateful night, Bordee came home particularly drunk and then suddenly, without warning, he just started punching me… not on my face, but on the shoulders. So I started flailing around wildly trying to defend myself. Even though he was drunk, he was still a man, much bigger and much stronger than me.

I started hurling all kinds of expletives at him, which just served to fuel his apparent rage against me as he kept hitting me harder and harder. At some point, he stopped caring about where he was hitting me and started going for me face – which I promptly covered up. Like I said before, my face is my only treasure after all.

Naturally, our rather one-sided altercation attracted the attention of everyone in the house – and unfortunately, only my sisters Inday Cynthia, Ging-ging, and Baby were around – not counting Bordee’s own sons aged no more than 5-10 years old.

When they saw what was happening, my sisters began pleading with him to stop -- and well, you know what happens when you plead with drunkards to stop – they keep hitting even harder.

The beatdown had already lasted for several minutes and Bordee clearly had no intention of stopping anytime soon – not until he somehow managed to shut me up, which I had no intention of doing.

I was on the verge of passing out, so instinctively, I rushed forward to clinch him up and prevent him from doing any further damage to me. Then, I somehow fell on my knees, probably from exhaustion, but I managed to retain my grip around his body. He started pounding the back of my head with hammer fists.

At this point, I’d had enough and whatever form of revenge I could take, I decided that I would TAKE IT. And so, I did. I summoned whatever strength I had left in my body and then mercilessly, viciously, voraciously, I sank my teeth down into his right thigh. I dug down so deep that a rabid dog would be envious of me.

Naturally, this made Bordee even more furious. He upped the ante and started pounding on my back even harder than he had before – all while my sisters stood by helplessly while begging him to stop before he killed me.

Then, something unusual happened. His blows began to hurt less. The longer I clung onto his thigh with my teeth, the weaker his punches became. After a while, it felt like all the strength had drained away from Bordee as he vainly kept hitting me with the force of a baby.

Amusingly, while I hadn’t noticed, my sisters’ pleas had changed from “To, tama na na” (That’s enough, Bordee) to “Ne, buy-i na siya” (Cynia, let him go already).

But of course, I had no plans of letting go – not until I’ve had my fill of the sweet taste of REVENGE…  I wanted to draw BLOOD!

I don’t know how long it was before I finally let go of him, but all I know is that I never stopped until he couldn’t fight back anymore.  When I finally stopped, my sisters dragged me away from him while he stood there, pale-faced, drained, but still shouting, “Deputa, patyon ko na sa! Patyon ko na sa!” (Son of a bitch! I’m going to kill her! I’m going to kill her!). His thigh was swollen purple from where I had bitten him.

That night, I slept peacefully – knowing that I had gotten the better of my tormentor. Of course, for many nights afterwards, Daddy actually had to watch over me because Bordee attempted several times to get revenge on me by beating me up in my sleep. Fortunately, his plans for revenge never came through. He managed to get a punch in or two every now and then, but Daddy was always around to prevent him from doing further damage.

By the way, he hobbled all the way to the doctor by himself the day after. Also, he had to get 50 shots of vaccine after that incident.

It took a very long time for me to finally make peace with my brother Bordee, my eldest sibling. There was no actual act of reconciliation between us. Eventually, the hate just started to fade away into understanding and before we knew it, age had already taken out the fight in both of us.

But please do not misunderstand. I am not proud of having successfully exacted revenge or of the violence that I managed to inflict upon my brother, nor am I attempting to condemn him for his actions. What I do take pride in however; is the fact that I stood up for myself in the face of overwhelming adversity – and somehow, found a way to survive.

Nowadays, it is quite ironic that with all the modern technological marvels we enjoy, people have reverted to a pure, black and white mentality; you’re either with us or against us – no in-betweens because neutrality is implied consent towards the tormentors. Yes, I do believe that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” but more than that, I believe that the wisdom of this quotation is often misused by miscreants who would utilize it to herd in drone armies of sheeple (sheep-minded people) to fight for their right to lord over and force their ideals upon others.

I think… that we, as human beings, are a little bit more complex than that. In our quest to classify and quantify everything, we have become so quick to label those who disagree with our adopted ideologies as evil, uncaring, unkind, bigots, misogynists, racists, and other derogatory terms, but stop and think about it for a second. Is the world really that black and white? Do we really need to “eat the rich” to attain the justice that we seek? Are the ideologies from the fanfiction of a dead man really the answer to the complex, multi-faceted problems of society?

I do not believe the answer is that simple – and that is why we should always keep searching and questioning – even the very ideals that we have sworn to live by. While we may never arrive at a definite conclusion in our lifetimes, at least we would not become blind advocates of glorified genocide.

Think and think again before you condemn others with your acts. I THINK – and it is always a better option.  

Nakoruru: The Gift She Gave Me (Dreamcast): A VIsual Novel Review by Mid-Tier Guard

To Derek Pascarella, Marshal Wong, Duralumin, Lewis Cox, Piggy, Nico, Danthrax4, Lacquerware, EsperKnight, SnowyAria, VincentNL, cyo, and Ha...