hahaha. and the topic of this week's 2Bu? breakups. how ironic.
anyway, my article is not about breakups. far from it, actually. to save you the trouble of having to fish for your copy of the inquirer, haha, i'll post my essay here (with the edits they made on it).
hopefully no one will laugh at me after this. but anyway.
I WAS CALLED MOWGLI THEN.
I laugh now when I think of the nicknames I once earned. But I hated them. Especially Mowgli.
Mowgli was the kid from the animated film "The Jungle Book." His best friend was Baloo the bear and his protector was Bagheera the panther. He was raised by wolves and he lived in trees. He swung from vine to vine like an orangutan, and he wore only a red loincloth, just like any jungle boy.
My aunt gave me the nickname Mowgli. I hated it the most among all the nicknames I had. I wasn’t primitive like this boy. I wasn’t even a boy to begin with. She said I looked like him, because I was skinny, I was dark, and my short hair made me look like a boy. I was the opposite of chubby, cute, and chinky-eyed kids who got all the attention from adults.
When I was a kid, I was so thin that people joked I would prick them whenever my elbows or knees touch them. I'd sit on adults’ laps and they would put me down, saying, “your buttocks are too hard.” So in my picture with Santa Claus, I was sitting on the floor.
Because of my thinness, adults would ask my mom if I was sick or something. My aunt even told me that I was thin because I had worms inside my stomach. She said I needed to take Combantrin or some other pampurga.
I also loved playing outside. I loved beaches, swimming in the sea, and playing in the sand. It wasn’t long before I got really dark because of it. I was insecure of being, well, too brown that I felt I looked like burnt meat. I was Amazon-boy dark.
My best friend in elementary had porcelain-like skin and chinky eyes. Being the ugly big-nosed Mowgli girl that I was, I could not compare to her, and I was often jealous since she would be picked to play the best and cutest parts in school plays. She was the perfect Mary for a belen or a Christmas play. I forget how many times she played the angel, but I remember she had her own set of angel wings, one that she wore more than once. I didn’t get to wear angel wings in my childhood, not even once.
But I played Joseph, Jesus’ foster father--a male role. I usually got male roles because I had short hair, another feature that made me look uglier. My aunt insisted that my hair should be cut short, for less fuss, so you could only imagine how jealous I was of braids and pigtails.
When I was in Grade Four, I had very short hair that in pictures I was mistaken as my mother’s unknown son. In pictures her friends would ask, “Who is your little boy? I haven’t seen him before.”
So I truly had earned my nickname. I was skinny. I was dark. I looked like a boy. Because of that, I felt insecure and I didn’t participate too much in school activities. I felt that the pretty and popular kids had more talent and intelligence than I had, since I was just an Amazon-jungle kid.
When I entered a different school for my secondary education, the jokes didn’t cease, but it was then that I felt a little better about myself. I began outgrowing Mowgli when I had filled out my bust and my hips, but jokes had a new target. My classmates joked about my nose, which is a cross between kamatis and kalabasa.
I got through those jokes. My friends and I matured, and in time the jokes were just silly reminders of physical imperfections that could easily be overlooked.
I’m grateful to my mom who made me see the person in me that others didn’t. Mothers are gifts to daughters. My mom made me realize that I am so much more, even if I did try so hard to look pretty. I tried wearing trendy clothes and putting on make-up. But in the end, what defines me is not what I had on, but how I carried myself.
My mother taught me to think positive about life, about other people, about problems, and about myself. She told me that if I consider myself a loser, people will also think that way. If I feel good about myself, then other people will also feel good about me. Now, some people think I look good, and I have attracted my share of suitors.
Mowgli and I are friends now, and I have accepted him as a part of my childhood. I laugh as I think about it now--how silly it was that I thought I was too ugly that I had to hide my Amazon-boy looks.
I am thankful that I realized quite early that I had much more to offer the world. I am good at writing. I have a natural curiosity of a researcher. I am a responsible leader--one skill I've developed through years of experience as the eldest sibling in the family. I have the wits and the guts to make it in this world, however hard it will be on me, on my dark skin, and on my tomato nose.
There will always be jokes about me. My ex-boyfriend used to rib me that I was a Bumbay, because compared to him, I was coffee. My dad would joke that my nose expands when I laugh.
I join in these jokes and still laugh as hard as they do. That's because I have accepted myself. Jokes about how I look would never really faze me now, or the way I feel about myself.
As Maria sings in West Side Story, “I feel pretty!” And I like myself just the way I am.
hahaha. now that my little brother has read this, he has begun to call me Mowgli. haha. it's okay. he'll always be my mark kalabaw, or my mark ipis.
(essay posted here was written for dove's campaign for real beauty. click here for more details about the campaign.)