Category Archives: Heart on My Sleeves

I’m a Victim of Domestic Abuse

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

—2 Timothy 3:1–5 (NLT)


I’ve debated for some time whether I should take this story public or not. But first, I will preface this article by saying that my parents are two of the most wonderful, hardworking, loving, and kindest people I know. More importantly, they have never laid a finger on me. Begrudgingly, I’m talking about my baby sister.

For some context, my baby sister and I, born six years apart, were remarkably close before I offered to take her in while I was working in Cebu. At that time, I was championing for her against our family because most of them have been fed up with her constantly dropping out or switching majors in college. To ease the burden from my mom for a bit, who was paying for her very extended college education, I offered to have her join me in Cebu. We shared a room at first, but when another room opened up, I moved next door from her. After a few weeks, she started causing some ruckus in the house I was staying in, forcing my landlady talk to me about her. Embarrassed for what she has done because I never had problems in my nearly nine years of staying there, I moved her somewhere close to my workplace so I could pay her rent on my way to work. Apparently, she hated that setup because she was sharing her room with three other girls in bunk beds. At that time, she found “work” at a bookshop just right across the street from her dormitory, which we surmised to be just a volunteer gig offered by a church friend of hers who owned the bookstore. I made sure she was near enough that I could check on her from time to time and she can commute conveniently to any major mall or hangout spot. I carefully packed her stuff, bought a lock for her locker and baskets for her stuff, and gave her money for laundry. After several months, she decided to leave Cebu and flew back home. She eventually went back to school only to drop out again. One time I went home for the Christmas holidays, she was openly berating our mom for something. I stepped in to rebuke her then she turned and started attacking me with scathing words. A few days after that, she left for Davao. She didn’t even stay until after New Year’s. I found out later that she’s been telling my family that I kicked her out and threw her clothes outside the house. So that’s how it began. We clashed two times after that but it never escalated to something physical—until recently, that is.

Ever since I moved back home and she decided (yet again) to give up the pretense of going to school, we have been locking horns every so often. She continues to verbally abuse our parents despite me calling her out on it a couple of times. At first, I’d find my laundry thrown off the roof, my shirts torn, and my things disappearing one by one. One time, she even trashed my room. While I got some of my things back (Dad found my sporks in the garbage pile at the back of the house), she still held some hostage or she may have dumped them somewhere else.

Christmas Day last year, I was unaware that my family was tying to stage an intervention for her until it was about to happen. I’m sure she was thinking it was my idea in the first place. We all prayed for her and everything. It was scary. She acted like she was possessed or something. She went wild—kicking our dad, pulling my sister’s hair, and shoved me and our mom at one point—trying to escape. But after she calmed down some, we thought things are finally going to change. After we got home, she seemed mellow and back to her old self for a little while, though some of my stuff still ended up missing from my room and she continues to verbally abuse our mother. Little did I know what she had planned for my computer then (pouring water all over it). I guess our family intervention did not work after all.

So here we are in 2018, still at a loss on how to handle her angry, resentful, and vindictive behavior. I understand why our mother didn’t call the cops on her—because it will definitely put a permanent taint on her records—but if our prayers and pleas no longer appeal to her (my sister literally got down on her knees, crying and pleading with her), how else can we make her understand the pain she has caused and face the consequences of her actions?

Now I am not perfect. I gave our parents and siblings the same sort of grief at some point in my life. But ever since then, I tried so hard to make up for it by taking good care of the house, helping out with the bills, and serving our parents. I know the pain I’ve caused was unforgivable so that’s why making the decision to move back home was an easy one for me to make. Absolutely, without any measure of doubt or hesitation, I would sacrifice my life for my family. If that meant taking the brunt of this abuse, so be it. I’d wear that target on my back willingly because I know it’s not my baby sister I am fighting with, it’s the spirit of hatred, resentment, and vengeance inside her that we need to vanquish.

Some people might dissuade me from posting this, but having spent half my life being afraid of what the world thinks of me, I realize that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who else would? While I fear for the people judging my family unfairly and questioning how us children were raised, I can no longer hide behind this like it’s some dirty, shameful secret in our family. It is not my intention to throw my baby sister under the bus or play the victim card at all. I simply want to raise awareness that violence—in any way, shape, or form—is completely unacceptable. When “fighting fire with fire” is counterproductive and “fighting fire with love” is ineffective, the only thing that remains to be done is offering this entire situation up in prayer and surrendering them to God. Vengeance is His, so I should no longer have to worry about this, right? I’ve suffered enough, my family has suffered enough. It’s out of our hands now, so help me God!

Disclaimer: As I write this, I am reminded that my plight is inconsequential compared to others. Over the holidays, I found out that a former classmate’s brother was in a coma from a motorcycle accident and a former work colleague and friend’s father was suffering from another health crisis. I find myself tremendously blessed to have both my parents still with us and in relatively good health. Not to mention, some of my stuff had been found and returned safely. Silver lining indeed!



Beyond Exhausted

Today my forest is dark. The trees are sad and all the butterflies have broken wings.

—Raine Cooper, HelloPoetry



Seems like this is how she operates these days. “This too shall pass,” she would tell others in crisis. But she herself couldn’t find the strength to hold on to that belief. She often wishes she could clone herself. One to do her ubiquitous chores; the other would work on her constantly looming deadlines.

To others, it would appear that the dishes were washed and stowed away magically, the garbage cans emptied, the laundry folded and stuffed into closets, the floor swept and mopped itself clean, and the dog bathed herself. They couldn’t see the countless beads of sweat rolling off her, the hours of back-breaking work tidying up the entire house, and the putrid smells she had to contend with daily. All they could see is the finished product: the clean house, the fresh linens, the emptied garbage cans, the dishes stacked and drying, and the dog all fresh and cuddly again.


I was finishing up with the dishes when the Bipolar One used a little spoon to feed the dog. I refused to wash it and went upstairs to continue working. I was way past my deadline—again! Thirty minutes later, she came up and slammed the door to her room as she went in. She turned the Wi-Fi modem off again. Two hours went by, I went downstairs to get some water. My water bottle in the fridge was empty.

I sighed. It was happening again. When is it ever going to end? What did I do for her to be this angry at me? Does she hate me watching too many YouTube videos when I’m the one paying for our Internet. What would she have done if I changed the password and not tell her?

Barely a week ago, Dad was sick. Since I worked through the night, I decided to have some breakfast. Dad woke up early as usual, but he was coughing up a storm and seemed very weak. So I offered to cook breakfast, and he went back to bed. Around seven, I was all done and had my breakfast. Dad woke up and had his. The rest of my family usually sleep in on Sundays. After we both finished eating and I did the dishes, I took a nap and woke up around noon. I guess my dad made lunch. The rest of the afternoon, he was lying in bed. I took over all the chores, deadline notwithstanding. By the time I finished all of them, it was time to make dinner. At the end of the day, I was too tired to work. I crashed promptly at ten. The next two days went by like that.

All the while, she still delights in doing little things to annoy me, like emptying my water bottle in the fridge, leaving dirty mugs everywhere, and, yes, turning off the Wi-Fi I need for work.

Lord, you know my heart. Just lift me above all my troubles. Only you can give me true peace.



“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Vivian Greene


I made plans ahead, trying to think of the best way to honor your day. Unfortunately, life had other plans. I picked the worst time to get sick. I was stuck in my room, snotty-nosed and hacking all over the place, while rain poured in torrents all weekend long.

“I miss you!” was the last text you sent using someone else’s phone, which my sister glared at me for and demanded to know why a friend of hers (his roommate and neighbor back home) would be texting me like that. It took the better part of an hour for her to calm down as I explained the text actually came from my best friend who was borrowing his neighbor’s cell phone. If I knew back then what fate had in store for you abroad, I would have held on tighter and never let you go as you whisked me away for our last dance together.

Words cannot begin to describe how big a hole you left in our hearts. I miss you, my friend. Until we meet again!




First I felt relieved. Then I felt guilty. Now I just feel empty.


Time and time again, she notices someone looking at her from across the way. She pretends to ignore them. It never bothered her that guys are checking her out because she got used to not paying attention to it. She was in a relationship for quite a long time that she didn’t have any reason to acknowledge their presence. But now that it was over, she was starting to take notice of the lingering stares more and more.

She got so good at pretending not to notice those covert glances that it was almost second nature to her to keep doing it. In time, she will have to stop herself from being so rigid. One day, she will have to let go. One day, she will have to learn to take it in stride.




I want nothing more than to lock myself in my room and cry until all the pain has left my body and all that remains is numbness. Knowing that its familiar views are numbered, I take a few, long looks of myself, my room, and the house. I can feel fresh new cracks in my heart.  I can hear the distant bell chiming the beginning of the end. I can taste the bittersweet memories in my mouth.

Change is never easy. It is a terrible monster that lurks in the shadows, biding its time. Sometimes it comes swiftly like a thief in the night. Most creep ever so slowly until it’s practically right in front of your face, about to pounce. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Change comes to us all, whether our arms are stretched wide open to welcome it or we are cowering in the darkness. Like death and taxes, it is an inevitable force.

If we don’t embrace it, what are we afraid of? If we don’t take a leap of faith, then what are we alive for?


The Heroes in My Family

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

—The Fray, “How to Save a Life”

Not too long ago, my cousin, who is a nurse, decided to unwind after work. He and his friend went to an Internet cafe straight after their shift to play some games. Suddenly, a fellow gamer collapsed nearby. Without hesitation, my cousin and his friend jumped into action and performed CPR on the unconscious man. With their quick thinking and considerable medical skills, they were able to revive the him until help arrived.

This story was particularly dear to my heart, especially since acts of selfless heroism like this are far and few in between in today’s jaded society. Not only am I proud of my cousin’s intrinsic ability to help a perfect stranger, his modesty inspires me and makes me reevaluate my previous long-standing belief that millennials are nothing more than a bunch of selfish, privileged, and entitled generation. When he and his friend was saving the man’s life, he did so without even thinking about it. What is even more impressive  is that he said his instinct just kicked in and did what any person would do given the same situation. Outside of people whose jobs it is to save lives, not many of us regular folks can claim the same. Incidentally, my cousin’s younger brother is a Special Ed teacher, which is a different sort of hero, but a hero all the same.

Then I had some time to think about it, and I realized there are all sorts of heroes in my family. My number one hero would be my mother. She dropped out of college in order to run her father’s business to support her parents and her 10 siblings—9 of them were younger than her since she is the second of 11 children. She gave up most of her life to raise and support her family. Despite being a creative and talented woman, she gave up on her dream of becoming an artist to prioritize her family’s needs. And when they all grew up and had families of their own, only two ended up helping her. When no one else volunteered to take over the family business, she dedicated her life to keep providing for her mom, my grandmother (God rest her soul), and her youngest siblings. My grandfather was out of the picture long before I could remember him. Eventually, my mother got married and had children (all 5 of us), but she was still stuck managing the family business. Both my grandparents have long since passed away, but my mother is still running the store until now. My uncle, who comanaged the business with her as soon as he graduated from college, resigned some years ago after he got married to put up his own business. Only my mom and my aunt (her eldest sibling) are left tending the business after my cousin and uncle (another younger brother) almost bankrupted the company. The rest of my aunts and uncles got married, had their own family, and never looked back. Two of her youngest siblings, the youngest brother and sister, still rely on a “monthly allowance” from the company.

Then there’s my father. One time, our family went on an outing to a beach. During one of the small islands we visited, one little boy got swept up in a strong tide and almost drowned. My father sprang into action in a split second while the rest of us stood frozen in shock. He yanked the kid out of the water at the expense of the cellphone in his pocket. That day, I saw my dad as a hero. He become one again when the 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Bohol in 2013, which decimated his father’s newly renovated house. Upon hearing that Lolo Mando’s house—and his room, in particular—was totally destroyed, my father immediately flew back to his hometown to rescue my grandfather. We would have gotten my aunt too except she vehemently refused to leave Bohol. My grandfather stayed with my parents for over a year until he passed away on February 2015, exactly a week after his 91st birthday. Daddy’s tatay (father) never made it back home again. A week later, Dad and I went to Bohol to deliver my lolo‘s (grandfather) ashes to his final resting place. His house was still in ruins that a makeshift shed was put up on the lawn for my aunt and cousins to sleep in.

Not only are my own parents my personal heroes, they also play superhero to their grandchildren as well. When my brother and his wife had to leave their daughter with my parents while they work in Japan, my parents had to take care of my niece and my sister-in-law’s adopted son. At a time in their lives when they should be slowing down in retirement, they had to get up early, bathe the kids, prepare their meals, and drive them to  and from school. They are basically raising two 10-year-olds. Conversely, my brother and sister-in-law had to suffer being away from their daughter for long periods of time just to be able to support and provide for her and their adopted son.

It’s amazing the extent of the sacrifices parents make for their kids. I’ve  seen firsthand the unconditional love my parents had bestowed on me and my siblings growing up, and I have witnessed the great lengths my siblings go through for their own kids. While I have no children of my own, I can appreciate that parents are essentially their own brand of heroes. They work days and nights to provide for their family, stay up all night if their child is sick, and put their children’s needs before their own.

I do not use the term hero lightly. I think it is a disservice to brandish it around like insipid titles, not unlike how the word epic lost much of its meaning because of overuse. I do not necessarily think doctors, firefighters, and policemen are all heroes because I am not close enough to know one personally. But I stand by each and every hero in my life. They are what I aspire to be and hope the future generations would become. I am reminded every day that the world is not entirely a shitty place to live in and that people are not always self-serving. They restore my faith in humanity. I feel blessed that I don’t have to look beyond my own family to find the inspiration to live my life as conscientiously as I can. So this is how I pay tribute for being the heroes that they are. In my own little way, I want the world to know that there are still good people out there, and I am honored to have some of them in my family.


Of What-ifs and Maybes

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.

―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

You thought you had it under control. You thought you had already healed. You thought you have shoved the pain so deep, nothing less than kingdom come could ever dredge up all those memories from the deepest recesses of your subconscious. You were wrong!

All it took was a word or two and someone somehow managed to drag all the pain back to light. Like a freshly opened wound, the throbbing starts, the emotion swells; before you know what hits you, you are on your knees again, writhing in agony and crying your heart out.

Will it take another ten years to numb the pain again? Will the memories ever fade? Will the tears eventually run dry? Will the scars remain? Will you keep perpetually reliving all the unspoken words and opportunities lost?

The pain will never end. The maybes and what ifs still linger just below the surface, lurking out of sight, biding its time, and waiting for another chance to inflict more damage and bring new cracks to your carefully veiled facade.

Until then, the heart still bleeds and the pain endures. Love abides!