Manila: Reconnecting with Old Friends & Bullying

I’m finally able to get some good sleep and rest. I’m currently sleeping at my old house in the Philippines and I’m happy to say there are no roosters here to wake me up at 4 am in the morning. These past couple of days the focus on my trip is to reconnect with old friends. I’ll focus on my food adventures and reviews (which had been amazing) on another post. 

When you’re a kid, especially in the Philippines, you’re immediately blessed with two sets of friends (not counting cousins or other family relatives): neighbors and school mates. Yes, you make friends along the way when you grow up. But there’s something special with your childhood neighbors and classmates. My childhood neighbors knew me probably since I was in first or second grade. But we knew each other’s innocence, ringing each other’s doorbells to invite each other to play outside. We knew the fun and excitement of being young. I was definitely carefree with them. We would race our bikes around the neighborhood and get scars, wounds and bruises together. We would play Filipino games like patintero, agaw-base or tumbang preso in our streets until we smelled like sweat and sun. We would also play, during the heaviest of rains, and enjoy the coolness that the rain shower brings. My childhood was fun and memorable because of them. My childhood neighbors and I had a mini reunion, we first ate at a Southern BBQ place called “The Smoking Joint” (yes, that’s the name!) and we reminisce about our childhood, catching up with each other’s lives. Then we went to  a bar in Aguirre and we had drinks and played beer pong and flip cup. A group of friends from Cavite wanted to play a 4 by 4 game of beer pong. Of course, #teamDonnaville won (our team).

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What I observed that night was the camaraderie we had while playing. It’s as if our childhood selves just grew up, but the fun and enjoyment of each other’s company never faded away. It’s such a good feeling that our friendship never developed to awkwardness (for not having seen each other for so long); but it developed back to familiarity and openness, welcoming each other back as good old friends. We never forgot each other – the neighborhood kids we grew up with. I can’t wait for a grand reunion.

Lesson Learned: Even while growing up, growing old or growing distance apart, childhood friendships create memories that can never be replaced. #teamDonnaville 

My school friends are different. While my childhood friends embraced my innocence and play, my school friends knew the scholastic side of me. My elementary school (from Grades 3 – 6) were probably the most brutal, emotional, life-changing. I wrote about foundations in my previous post and this is probably why it is so.

There were always 13-15 people in my stay at my old school. 5 or so girls and the rest are boys. When I first moved into the new school, I remembered it being great (granted there’s A/C in the classrooms) and amazing and very close knit. The teachers were all friendly and they really want the best for you. As I got to know my school and my classmates, they also got to know me. I will admit that I was smart, During grades 4, 5, 6, I was the number 1 in the class, graduating as the class valedictorian. But when you’re on top, people will always try to bring you down. There’s a leader in the girls, I will not disclose her name. I want you, Reader, to imagine a girl of 7-11 years old with only 4 girl friends, it really felt like I was living through Mean Girls. If I wanted to keep my friends, I would always have to please the leader of the pack, I would call her Regina. You would think that I would receive the most bullying from the boys, but no, it’s definitely a cruel world when you’re with the girls. I’d rather be teased and be called fat, ugly, and pork chop from the guys (I can take that any day), rather than be called good-for-nothing. Regina made me feel that I was good-for-nothing; even up to this day I still have nightmares of her. In order to keep being a part of the girls, I would have to do anything Regina says. From home works to projects, to helping her out during exams.  I would give up anything to see her happy and to be a part of this group. But of course, as time passed and you grow a little older and wiser, you realize that no matter how much you help people (in this case Regina), it’s never enough. While I stayed top of my class, she eventually went lower in her ranking. Other people worked harder to be on top, Regina relied on too many people and lacked the confidence in herself.

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There’s one time where we finally confronted each other, in our classroom during the very first student government elections (we were running against each other for VP), she couldn’t handle the loss. She started going on about how I’m fake, or that I was a horrible friend, or that it’s all my fault she lost and her grades were faltering. I don’t remember what I said, maybe it’s me venting or finally standing up for myself. I don’t remember anymore. And I’m frustrated that I couldn’t remember. But I do remember this, during the last quarter of my school they put up the final grades and awards for graduation. Among the other awards I received, I also got best in Computer. Regina always received this award in the past and she told me to ask if I can request that the teacher gives it to her or else (insert threat here). I did what she asked, considering that I didn’t care if I lost one award, who cares? When I told the request to my teacher, he told me this, “Why would I give it to her? Do you want me to compare your work to hers side-by-side for me to show you that you deserved that award and everything else? Your a smart girl, but stupid to realize your own worth and potential. So know your worth.” I would never forget those words.

I didn’t know that I was bullied until I went to the U.S. (they had tons of videos and classes about it), I just thought Regina was being mean and going through a tough time and needed help. But to those getting bullied or was bullied, I hope that you find peace with yourself first. You’ll get through it and remember you’re not alone in this journey. There’s definitely different forms of bullying (I know that there are much worse stories than mine), but the number one thing you need to do is to recognize that you are being bullied. If you’re having a difficult time coping or need some advice there’s definitely some hotlines and websites that can help (I’ll post them below). The next thing you should do is find courage in yourself and also seek support. You can do it. I know you can.  

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Lesson Learned: Know that you’re worth it and stand up for yourself.  There’s a couple of people that I’m still in touch with in my old school, especially one of my good friend Althea. She was also manipulated and hurt by Regina’s actions. For me, the last time I saw her was when we had a classmate reunion and things didn’t end so well with Regina’s presence (she’s still the same, will there be any hope for her?). The others had told me that Regina is still the same as well. As for me, I’m still coping and trying my best to forgive. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see Regina again or if I would ever want to, but we need to keep moving forward and upward.

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Websites & Hotlines: 

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