I just got home from a poetry reading called LitOrgy, in my city. It was invigorating to hear from every passionate soul the thirst for freedom, for expression, for catharsis; to hear people, 17 and older, share recollections, well-kept memories, and longings. The whole experience was basically like being god, seeing through everyone’s hearts and souls.

The literary scene in my city, Davao, is thriving, and every year that LitOrgy is celebrated, I see and hear new faces and stories. It’s wonderful to think of what passion can make you do. And these people, the founders of LitOrgy, have been through so much and now they are being offered new people, new stories, bigger event locations, more patrons every single year. It’s amazing what hard work or perseverance, or whatever you’d like to call it, can do.

I remember wishing, “I want to become smart and hardworking” as I listened to a young professor read an excerpt from his short story wherein he raises the question: “What do you wanna be—smart, rich, or beautiful?” I wanna be smart and hardworking! Smart and hardworking, smart and hardworking, smart and hardworking…. I kept this mantra in my mind for as long as I could. My mind asks, Why?

Because I wanna initiate change. I want upheaval, grit-and-bone, and reactions, and gasps. Whatever, I just want to create and love for as long as I live. I’d lost track of time when my name was called—it was my turn to read a poem in front of 20 other writers and poets. I panicked, forgetting that I wanted to be smart and hardworking.

The poem that I read was about periods, condoms, sex, how to hold a penis. It was a pretty jumbled and messed-up poem, idea-wise, but I was proud and happy of how it turned out, especially with how the crowd reacted when I read it aloud for the first time. They laughed and laughed and laughed. I think I even heard someone from the crowd shout, “I love you!” and whoever that was, let it be known that, yes, darling, I accept the love, thank you. That poem would never have been written if I had not read Jenny Zhang’s “How It Feels” a month ago, one of the most honest and profound literary works I’ve ever read. Coincidentally, I watched Heathers for the first time this afternoon (“How It Feels” includes a reference to the film) so that’s a double fist bump from the cosmos for me.

As Ali, a BS Psychology student, and I were walking to get a ride home, I asked him why mental illness, in our country, isn’t given as much attention as physical illness. He told me that maybe it’s because of Filipinos’ inclination to just shake off an “I’m feeling lonely” statement, that our culture has wired us to become OK on our own treatments (i.e. self-help, mind-conditioning, etc.) that it’s “all in the mind,” as some elders would say. I do not believe that and never will I subscribe to that, and I know Ali shares the same sentiment. That question was my cry for help, and I know Ali knows, because he’s practicing to become a psychologist. We nod at each other and at our thoughts, and I think he understands. ♦