Our hearts carry different types of weight from bullies. Our hearts have different stories to tell. But, regardless of all these differences that set us apart, there’s one thing, in general, our hearts have: feelings.
This is no longer just a magazine article about bullying and being flawed. This is a story that will tell you many truths about our lives, our inner struggles, and, most importantly, about who we are. But before you see our truths, I have one story to tell.
Once upon a time, there was a six years old boy who wanted to go home early from his kindergarten class. He was already longing to see his mom, who was still struggling with cancer. Later that day, once he got home, he climbed upstairs. Upon seeing his mom lying inside the bedroom, he smiled. As the boy narrated what happened in school, one thing caught his attention. He saw a pink nail polish on top of her mom’s bedside table. The boy took the nail polish and asked her mom politely if she could possibly apply it to his bitted nails.
His mom just smiled. She took the nail polish and began applying it. While the mom is painting the nails of the innocent little boy, she told him a message that will soon move him for the rest of his life. His mom said,
“Based on your favor right now, I can already define you… But I hope one day, you’ll gain the strength to define your own self because if you’re not? Other people will do it for you.”
That message got embedded in his mind, even after his mom passed away.
He was seven-year-old when he first heard the word “bakla,” which means gay in Engish. The worst part of this story? He didn’t hear this word from his classmates. The truth is, one of his grade school teachers was the first one to bully him. After being labeled by the teacher of the term, he was also tagged by his classmates that way.
Ironic, right? A teacher, who was supposed to direct and teach her pupils proper values, became his first bully.
I remember when I saw the boy standing for so long during a class recitation. He never answered the question well. So, that teacher told him in front of the class, “Nagmuno ka nga baklan!?” In English, it means, “You’re such a stupid gay.”
There’s this one lunch break wherein all students already went home to eat their meals. But the boy? He was left alone inside their classroom, scared, re-solving the math problems he failed during their daily quiz.
He was so terrified of being too young and alone.
That’s why growing up, mathematics became his most hated subject. He was traumatized by what happened to him during his first grade. When that teacher passed away, the boy didn’t visit her funeral. Every time he saw his teacher’s face, he always remembered how she always humiliated him in front of the class.
He welcomed his teenage years, trying to find the best adjectives to redefine who he is. Yet, no matter how he tried, bullying was always there, hurtful words were still louder.
Sad to say, that boy doesn’t have his own coming-out story because he got pulled out from his own closet by bullies at an early age. They didn’t give him the chance to gain more courage and just do it for himself soon. They took that kind of right away from him.
And that boy?
It was me.
MY OWN TRUTH
Since I was young, I already knew who I am, but I pity my seven-year-old self for being too weak, letting other people label him. I lost my mom at a very young age, and I felt like I lost a warrior who would have defended me from bullies.
My mother was right when she said,
“If you’re not strong to define yourself, other people will do it for you.”
I grew up trying to live a life that’s being defined by other people instead of me. Well, there’s nothing wrong with being gay, I am happy with who I am. The only problem looking back is that- the bullies always used that as a slur to hurt me.
But, I realized, that the bullies should never take my own power by means of hurting me. That’s the moment I made a promise to myself; I need to improve, I need to master myself. One day, these bullies will see the new version of me, and they will shy away from themselves.
For all the times I wasted the time finding my place from other people, I never experienced being the authentic me, because I always tried to fit in.
Instead of finding my place in between, I decided to just create my own space, my own world to rule. That was the time I started falling in love with writing, through this, I found a whole new world.
Now that I have my own body of work, I can already stand for myself and can already tell my bullies that I’m no longer just anybody… I am a brand.
So, whatever success I have now as a writer, I owe that to my seven-year-old self. I owe that little boy a lot. For that vulnerable boy, you might have lost your mom at an early age, but don’t worry because you gain ME.
WHAT DID YOUR BULLIES SAY?
We often hear how if someone doesn’t like us, we should not please them. But the truth is, even if we’re constantly trying our best not to please somebody, we still fall into that trap.
There’s this standard of beauty that society tries to impose on its members. And this is what makes us hard to define who we are. This scenario makes us feel how we’re also betraying ourselves.
We always assume that the shortcut of love and acceptance is through the means of pleasing everyone, even if it means losing our authentic selves. But once we fail and begin to hear different names and hurtful words from others, we start to collide, crash, and break down. These hurtful words and names will eventually affect us. We lose confidence, we get insecure, anxious, lonely, and sad. Plus, if we are too afraid to walk alone in our journey, sadness can fall into depression. This is what bullying can do to someone.
According to UNICEF Philippines, one in three young people in 30 countries had become a victim of bullying. Bullying, in any form, can be so devastating to anyone. This can create lasting emotional and psychological scars, even physical harm.
Hence, it’s important to build a community that aims to empower each and every one. The world is already cruel and we need real people who share the same experiences of hurting and struggling. You don’t need to be perfect to become an inspiring person, you just need to be true, because the truth is always powerful.
Dear Bullies: Yes, we’re vulnerable.
I must admit to myself, that looking back, I was also scared about my own vulnerability. I feel so ashamed about my own body, every time I’m seeing incredible people who can carry themselves with poise and confidence, I felt small. But, upon seeing different people like them, I became aware of what I need to improve about myself. Not because I hate who I am, but because I knew, that I also deserve to grow. Somehow, my own vulnerability taught me that.
We can be so vulnerable like what others think of us. But we should not undermine the truth, that vulnerability has also had the power that allows us to question the things about who we are, that we’re embarrassed to ask.
Yes, our vulnerability can open many doors of pain and embarrassment. But it can also be a great force that gives connection and acceptance to our own inner self, a gateway that bridges our gap together.
Dear Bullies: Yes, We’re Flawed but still Beautiful!
I must admit that this is the most difficult story I’ve ever written. I’m no longer just telling my own story, I’m also sharing yours. Taking this big swing in my life as a writer is also exhilarating. Through this campaign, I was able to meet different brave people who also have their own inspiring stories to tell.
When we get to know people a lot and we give them the courage to speak up about their hurting, and, also, letting them have their first fearless step to embrace their flaws, we become so empathetic, we judge less. This is the aim of this feature, not only to tell a story but also to move mountains. So, together, let’s make our face forward and show our naked truths to the world.
WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE OUR OWN NARRATIVES
Through these powerful photos, we influenced other people to also embrace who they are. These photos are the representation of our brave souls, telling us how we should never be ashamed about who we are anymore, just because bullies tell us that we’re flawed.
THESE PHOTOS WILL BREAK THE BARRIER OF UNATTAINABLE PERFECTION
Other magazines used models to represent the unattainable type of beauty. If ordinary people will see it, they become more insecure and frustrated about their lives because that’s something they know they can’t live up to.
In this campaign, we show every young people out there what reality looks like. These faces of real people are what our world needs to see: no fake contact lenses, no fake skin tone, and not airbrushed. It’s just us being real.
These photos are what the younger generation needs to see, for them to appreciate their own bodies too.
Despite our imperfections, we still have to face circumstances and the bullies head-on. Our flaws and scars don’t disqualify us to take a leap. Yes, the journey is frightening, but that’s the true beauty of it.
We need to continue our steps because, without that single step, we will never know what’s ahead of us. Without that single leap, we’ll never know what we’re capable of. If we still let other people define us more, we will never know all the possibilities waiting for us. Let’s all take back the powers we poured from the bullies in past, by means of loving ourselves even more. And together, let’s see the unique type of beauty that’s about to bloom.
Because I, as someone, can’t also wait to see that out.
Aphro Apollo (Roel Pulido Pagal) is a contemporary author and a senior student of BA Communication at the University of Northern Philippines. This young literary figure is pursuing his career in writing while attending his regular class. One of his goals in life is to become a Fashion journalist in Condé Nast, New York someday. His mantra, “Never underestimate the power of silence” really make things fall into place for him.