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Literary

No Woman Is a Temple

They will never be possessions. And after every struggle, it is their voices that you will always remember.

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picture of a woman with the symbol on it
Artwork by Jessica Lopez

[trigger warning]

The first woman here is of infinite loneliness.

Thin-lipped and round-eyed, the girl has her arm sprawled across the desk, with her palm up and her fingers curled. Beside her is another girl whose full lips are smiling shyly, her arm also on the desk. The light is luminous on one side of their heads, yet it is the light on the smiling girl that they think is more beautiful—because the thin-lipped one is neither fair-skinned nor skinny. She tries to smile back, but she already has her arm under the table.

The second one is of perpetual silence.

Smoke billows out of the jeepney as the stop light turns red and a girl in a denim skirt and halter top comes out into broad daylight. She is attractive, everyone around her thinks, and so does the smirking man by the sidewalk. He calls her names, and she turns, baffled at first, then realizing all at once that he meant her, she flushed, abashed. For a moment she does not notice the stoplight turning green. At that instant, she simply wants to disappear, perhaps along with the black clouds of exhaust spewing out of the honking buses and vans.

The third one is of quiet rage.

Hands shove her legs apart. Always, always, they tell you it’s okay, you’re safe with me, with that almost-motherly voice they possess—soft, gentle, and kind. She thinks of her mother, imagining herself as a baby, cradled adjacent to her chest, her small head settling in the space by her mother’s neck. This is not like that. This is not a safe space. Hands that roam places that are not theirs to touch are not hands of love. This is home, the hands say, it’s okay. It isn’t.

Finally, the last one is nameless.

They call her a woman. They call her names. But oftentimes, they call her in a language only they understand — when she has to speak in a mild tone, when she has to drag the hem of her skirt down just one more time, when she has to put the dress back in the rack. Or when she and her girlfriend make vows in the grocery aisle. Whenever she has to say no, again and again, only to nod eventually because she has to be kind. She has to be poised. She has to be silent. She has to be a woman.

But loneliness is fleeting. Silence does not last. The rage is never quiet. And the nameless — at the end, they were never meant to be named. Because they will never be possessions. And after every struggle, it is their voices that you will always remember.

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Literary

Confession

It creeps up on me when I eat, when I am sitting in the living room, when I am about to sleep.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

To rest is a sin.

In the quiet moments of this new sheltered life, I have come to accept that there is a small dark corner of my mind where all the dates of the calendar are marked. From the first week of April, to the last week of May—it’s all there. It is a small dark corner. It creeps up on me when I eat, when I am sitting in the living room, when I am about to sleep.

This small dark corner reminds me everyday of what’s about to come. I explain that I’m not ready, that I need more time, that this is new territory and I haven’t taken a step further since I came here—it doesn’t listen to me. It tells me to get to work. It tells me that this is my priority, this is what matters the most in this worldwide pandemic. It forces me to listen, to do as it says, to be its puppet to be controlled with the numbers controlling my arms and legs.

But this is just a small dark corner of my mind. There are other corners. Much bigger corners.

To rest is a sin. 

I have yet to be forgiven. 

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Literary

Little Bit of Paradise

You try to breathe in the catastrophe as your thumb keeps scrolling and scrolling and scrolling until the end is reached, leaving a deep void that makes you unable to speak or act.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

You wake up to the sight of your room’s white ceiling. The summer heat makes your skin sweat immediately. Piled up papers stare at you from the corner of the room along with unpacked belongings from the dorm––ah, yes. You are home––earlier than expected but still, you succumb to this little bit of paradise.

You breathe in the familiarity of your bed sheet’s smell, let every caress of the fabric give comfort up until you check your phone.

Three hundred thirty-nine new cases. The death toll is now at 704. Recoveries at 1,842. The total is now at 10,610.

This little bit of paradise began to crumble from the inside. Like a volcano nearing to erupt. The summer heat began to burn not only the skin but also made its way into bones and flesh. Piled up papers began to yell, screaming for a continuation. Gentle caresses became tight grips with nails digging deeper into full palms.

You try to breathe in the catastrophe as your thumb keeps scrolling and scrolling and scrolling until the end is reached, leaving a deep void that makes you unable to speak or act.

You see posts from people staying up in their ivory towers while waving their flags of toxic positivity for all to see. You grit your teeth in disgust. The screen refreshes, showing heroes and people trying to survive from exhaustion and hunger.

This little bit of paradise of yours completely crumbles, leaving traces of guilt, fear,  and anger, all in one.

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Literary

Finding Courage

In this time, praying has become a refuge. There is solitude in knowing that you are being heard and that what you are feeling and thinking are valid.

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Artwork by Patricia Jardin

It’s nice to wake up with the thought of having food served on the dining table for the day. When you know that you have a home, your family beside you, and wondering what you will do for the rest of the day. Make Dalgona coffee? Bake? Read? Watch a new TV series? Finally finish your school work?

Watching the news has become a staple in the household. Seeing the cases increase, people helping one another, our frontliners making things easier for us, and the struggle of the people trying to make ends meet despite the difficult situation. Suddenly, watching the news brings tension, stress, and anxiety. 

In this time, praying has become a refuge. There is solitude in knowing that you are being heard and that what you are feeling and thinking are valid. It is okay to be scared in times like these but know that these too shall pass. Courage is hard to find these days but waking up and getting out of the bed is a progress. I hope you find the courage to go on day by day.

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