Aba Ginoong Maria (A Portraiture of the Modern Filipina)

Aba Ginoong Maria, napupuno ka ng grasiya,

Your friend sits with her ankles crossed, palms laid flat across her lap, and you get the urge to mirror. To keep your limbs from taking up too much space. This is what it means to be a woman. Speak only when spoken to. Sit still. Be pretty. Ano ‘yang suot mo? Kay babae mong tao. Centuries of grooming are coded into your system. While your ancestors failed to break free from this invisible mold, you have become all too aware of its presence— pushing at your bones, pulsing in your veins. It fuels the anger that seethes in your sinews when you catch yourself apologizing for existing too loudly. But she mentions she’s won the case she’s been slaving over for the past two years and everything comes to a halt.

You roll your shoulders back. Lift your chin. And grin with pride. This is what it means to be a woman. Strength in the midst of adversity. Grace under pressure and beyond. A single fist raised to the skies. You look at her and realize that elegance and power are not mutually exclusive. Still waters always run deep.


Ang Panginoong Diyos ay sumasaiyo.

Church pews feel unholy when your bones are riddled with Catholic guilt. It’s an ungodly emotion borne of the solemn crowd marching down this narrow aisle— all black and white, fake tears and stolen glances, mandatory condolences and veils of lace. But rosaries and reverence can’t bring someone back to life. You lift your head to the sky and scream Diyos ko, kalian titigil? Hinihinga ng kapwa ko’y dalamhati. He might not be listening. You’re not sure anyone is. So when your pastor chants Peace be with you, it’s not your fault you look away. Not your fault you flinch at the eerie melody of chirping chicks and quiet sobs. The whisper of her name keeps you distracted, and you wonder how long it would take for people to forget. Althea Barbon, Althea Barbon, Althea Barbon. They’ll lower the small casket to the ground once dawn arrives. You swear you’ll come with prayers and a promise.


Bukod kang pinagpala sa babaeng lahat
At pinagpala rin naman ang anak mong si Hesus.

When he was born the stars smiled upon him and said

Lucky, lucky boy. Be thankful for all the doors you could unlock with that thing between your legs.

Fortunately, your story is not his to take.


Santa Maria, Ina ng Diyos
Ipanalangin mo kaming makasalanan

In the flicker of neon lights, fishnet tights dig into your thighs in the likeness of unevenly cut nails and day-old stubble. Routine has written over your fight or flight reflexes, and when he grabs you by the wrist, the fighter in you surrenders— offers open palms and open legs and an open mouth that whimpers matatapos rin ang lahat. Abot-tanaw na ang kaginhawaan. He grins at the sight of blurred kohl and smudged lipstick when you proceed to shut your eyes and pray forgive me Father, for I have sinned. Cigarette smoke curdles in your lungs and you wait for time to stall. Your siblings wait at home for today’s rations. You hope that tonight, there will be enough to go around. (Hint: There never is.)


Ngayon at kung kami’y mamamatay.

Venerated goddess, guardian spirit of Makiling, they call upon you in their time of need— noses stuck in the air as they search for the scent of your empathy. Don’t they know you’ve long since decided to exclude yourself from this narrative? Long since stopped tolerating the way they pointed at your morena skin in ridicule? The Spaniards have written your legacy out of the history books. The Filipinos have forgotten how to say your name. They make you out to be a mere shell of who you once were and spit at the wake of your trail. And still, without fail, you constantly coat dusk with a fresh layer of hope.

Forgotten goddess, Maria Makiling, you stand in the frontlines, now, voice rising above the ear-splitting hum of the chanting crowds. In the defense of our indigenous people. In the defense of your sacred lands. Always in the defense of the Philippines—Perlas ng Silanganan. Sinilangang lupain. The placard in your hands is heavier than you make it seem. Your peers give you odd looks, but never more than once. All the legends they still tell about you seem distant as you rally the people.

Exalted goddess, Maria Makiling, the government takes a running leap at violence. You hear their call to arms like a hiss in the middle of your peaceful protests.

Venerated goddess, guardian spirit of Makiling. These silly men are fools to forget. Your real name is Dian Masalanta.

In English: There, be destroyed.

A/N: In partial fulfillment of my requirements for a class I'm taking this
semester we were required to write something similar to Jose Rizal's 'Maria
Makiling'. I did nothing of the sort lmao. Hope you enjoy! (This got real
political real quick yikes)

Opening remarks

A bit of context: these were the opening remarks I wrote for an empowerment
event we did at an all-girl high school. Our organization aims to promote
STEM and encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, and

To our distinguished speakers, generous hosts, and my colleagues– good afternoon.

I am Dana _____, President of ________, and it’s with great pleasure that I welcome all of you to the first leg of ________’s Empowerment Series with the theme “Deconstructing Norms: Empowered Women in STEM.”

Who among you are good at singing? Dancing? Cooking? Well ever since I was a child, I have been constantly and consistently good at one thing: and that is proving people wrong.

Relative to our cultural norms, I grew up in a very non-traditional household. My mother is a call center supervisor who taught herself how to drive and fix cars, while my father is a dance instructor who enjoys designing my prom dresses and doing laundry. So when I told them I wanted to be a Metallurgical Engineer, there was no backlash. Only pride and excitement. But as lucky as I am to have a family who supports my dreams and goals, the same couldn’t necessarily be said for the rest of the world.

You see, if women in STEM received money for every time someone questioned our capabilities, then maybe. Just maybe. It would be enough to make up for the money we lose to the gender pay gap. But we don’t. Female researchers, scientists, and engineers are still underpaid, underappreciated, and underrepresented in this male-dominated trade.

And that is one of the top reasons I pursued my degree. Second only to my love of solving problems, and helping other people by applying my knowledge in science and logic.

_________ was founded in 2017 with the goal of actively promoting three major advocacies: Empowerment. Equality. Education. So I stand before you today, on behalf of our organization, with the privilege and the platform to quote Nike ambassador Shia Labeouf: Just do it. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

If you walked into this room, looking for a sign to pursue Civil Engineering or Mechanical Engineering or Computer Science, this is it. This is the sign. Just do it.

I implore you to be brave.

Without a doubt, you are capable of doing many great things. And that includes taking the lead on innovation and initiating giant waves of progress in technology and medicine.

Walk into this wonderland of information in spite of all the people who told you you can’t. And stay despite of all the difficulties that may present themselves. Being a woman is not easy. Much less, being a woman in STEM.

Today we have three speakers who have done just that, and more. They have transcended boundaries and exceeded all expectations, all the while proving themselves to skeptics. They are fearlessly conquering science and technology day by day, taking the forefront and graciously paving the way for young girls who want to do the same.

This is how we deconstruct norms.

We deconstruct norms by stopping the vicious cycle of cultivating gender roles and starting our own cycle of empowerment and encouragement and bravery.

We deconstruct norms by educating each other.

We deconstruct norms by speaking up and breaking out of the boxes the world wants to put us in.

We deconstruct norms when we start to believe that we can be just as much engineer. Just as much scientist as our male peers.

All it takes is one leap of faith.


You are female.

And you are the future.


Thank you.


All I ever write about is destruction.

How my hands catch too many lemons for me to handle. How the citrus seeps into the wounds on my palms (I’m sorry I can’t stop myself from trying to salvage every broken mirror and every broken heart I come across.) But it’s never serious enough. The shapes of my scars fascinate me, and I’m left to wonder why everything only seems to go right.

Maybe there’s a reason why every morning feels like how nails on a chalkboard sound. Or why I feel obligated to hide this sadness from the world. Every mention of it scares the daylights out of me and triggers the kind of discomfort only written words can fix. I know how lethal these breakdowns can be. I know the people around me can only take my anxiety in small doses. When do I find the reason to believe that my feelings aren’t snake venom?

I don’t need anyone to tell me things will be okay. I just need to understand.

How do I fix something that isn’t broken?

How do I fix something that can’t be fixed?

A/N: I wrote this before I got diagnosed with anxiety. In hindsight, I really should have gotten myself checked out earlier. Everything would have made much more sense.



i am not your therapist

I am filled to the neck

with secrets that are not mine to keep,

because people are so selfish of my solace.

People push and shove to seek refuge

in my suggestions.

It is brutal.

My shoulders are fractured into

a thousand tiny pieces

given away like trophies for comfort.

I am not your therapist.

It is not my job to cushion your trauma.

It is not my job to shield you from your monsters

while mine tear my wounds open and feed on me alive.

The constellations have conspired

to make me the mistress of manic panic pacification/

the love child of internal conflict and Lady Justice.

I am battered and bloodied.

I am broken and bruised.

I’m sorry for your issues


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