She’s not pretty. She’s not tall. She doesn’t look sosyal.
I’ve been bullied many times in my life and while I thought, I can eventually get used to it, hindi pala. People will always have something to say about you or against you. Whether it’s your makeup or your dress or your body frame, even the tip of your toe nails, lahat mapapansin nila.
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I remember way back in high school, I was the shortest and poorest kid in class. Lahat sila dalaga na. Lahat sila naka bra na, ako nakasando pa rin. Lahat sila maganda, ako lang ang hindi. Scholar din ako noon which means I’m (supposedly) smarter than most girls — but I’m poor and my parents can’t afford to send me to a good school that’s why I got the scholarship.
Like most other scholars, I came from a simple, low-key family and while we’re happy, it’s always hard for us to make both ends meet. We don’t have our own house, no car, no fancy stuff.
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June has been both my most favourite and least favourite month because it’s my birthday month and it’s also school supplies shopping month. Most kids got their NBS baskets filled with cutesy notebooks and pen cases and mine’s stuffed with artista notebooks and Apache pens fresh from Josephines (a local bookstore in Marikina).
“Wala e, super kulang and budget”, my mom will always say this while I run my fingers through the pages of that Blue Feather notebook I’ve always wanted to have. During that time, ang feeling ko kasi mas maganda sana ang sulat ko pag makinis ang papel ng notebook ko.
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Unlike most kids, high school was the hardest phase of my life. Going to an all-girls, private school was indeed a great privilege and I will always be thankful to Ateneo Tulong Dunong for helping me get a scholarship grant (in the school where I came from). But every time I look back at everything I’ve been through, there will always be a pinch of bitterness and sadness in my heart.
I was bullied, big time. And I never fought back.
I remember how my classmates will laugh at me because I can’t afford a G-Tech pen. I remember how they will mock me because I can’t buy that cool denim jacket they loved to wear on top of our uniform. I remember how they will make fun of me because I was trying to be pabibo and maybe, they secretly hated it. I remember the level of anxiety I feel every time I walk past a group of girls and I hear them whisper and laugh on the side. There are times when we’re asked to form groups and no one wants to get me as part of their team.
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I remember asking myself a lot of times — WHY?
Is it because I’m different? Is it because I’m a scholar? Is it because I’m not rich? Or I’m not pretty?
I lost faith — in myself and in my dreams. It got to a point where I couldn’t read, write or even talk. It all became too much. I remember waking up, and deciding I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I was broken and I wanted to end that agony.
That time came when I’ve decided to finally tell my parents the real deal but when I was about to approach mama, I saw her tired eyes. She was young at that time but she’s already been through a lot. And then Papa, he had so much things on his shoulders. My parents are working their ass off just to make things better for the whole family, nahiya ako. My family sees me as their only hope and and I love them so much, I cannot fail them. I CAN’T.
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So I thought I should just deal with things all by myself. It might not be the wisest thing to do (and I realised it just now). I finished high school, not with flying colours. My grades in Math and Science were on the brink and I almost failed to get another shot at that college scholarship grant.
But God is so good, I managed to go to college for free. Thanks again to TD. I thought that time, I shouldn’t let the bullies overpower me, so I decided to join the Student Council and my whole college life turned out quite well.
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Fast forward to today, I must say that our lives are more stable and comfortable. I tried to make my depression as a motivation and I thought I was pretty successful in doing that. I now have my own business and my own blog. I took up my Masters, I tried Fashion Styling and I’ve gained a lot of good friends along the way.
But while I am generally happy, I found out, people will always find ways to pull you down.
The bullies are still around and they come in different forms and ages. One time a brand promoted a photo of me and while the intention was to boost engagement for the page, it turned out the post became a feast for cyberbullies. They told me I don’t look good and my advocacy isn’t realistic and I don’t deserve to be a blogger etc. etc. Really, people?
I don’t know what kind of satisfaction do these bullies get when they harass and bully others. I just can’t understand it.
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I’m just glad that at this phase, even if I do get hate words and negative vibes from others, I’m relatively strong and I know I can just shrug things off. I also have a complete support system — God, my family and friends will always be my source of strength.
Yes, the scars will always be there. I will always shed some tears every time I try to recall every bit of that experience. But the odds have favoured me in many ways and I am proud to be the young, strong woman I’ve become.
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I may not be pretty. I may not be tall and I certainly don’t look sosyal. Hello, masa kaya ang market ko! But I’ve learned to embrace my flaws and I continue to discover things about myself. I have my own share of failures because I know I am not perfect and I will always, always be proud of my roots.
And if by any chance, you are experiencing bullying at the moment, know that I’ve been through the same kind of hell. I understand what you’re going through and you are not alone.
At the end of the day, you only have two choices, you could let your bullies triumph and eat you up or you can win them over.
I do hope you choose the latter.
Shai is a millennial multi-hyphenate who loves randomness and spontaneity. She writes for her blog shairahabon.com and contributes for several local and international magazines. She is also currently pursuing her Master’s Degree at the Ateneo De Manila University. Apart from writing, she’s also into MMA and running. She manages a small business and daydreaming is her favorite hobby. Follow her journey @shairahabon.