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        The wind came and left rapidly, unstoppable like time. The world used to be so wide and clear that I actually felt like if I stared too long to the sky, it was going to swallow me. Now I’m laying down on a roof and it felt like the world had gotten smaller. I could see the edges on each corners of my eyes. 


Growing up in a village with lush mountains and vast green fields, vegetables and flower gardens are one of the many beautiful memories I’m thankful to have. I was born during the era when playing includes physical strengths, like swim and catch fishes from the pond together with the other kids, go to little forests to hunt spiders and eat some random fruits. We had green meadows and ran bare-feet and always got scolded whenever I come home with my muddy clothes. I would go to the farm alone to gather all crops the farmer’s missed during harvest seasons or catch frogs from the farm for dinner. My curiosity brought me to unfamiliar places and found new paths to wander. Until now I’m still impressed how brave I was when I was a kid whenever I stick my hands into holes to catch frogs and never caught a single snake.

 The most amazing thing about being a kid was when I can wake up with a fresh memory after a bad day. 

  

I had such a beautiful grandma. She had a long wavy hair clipped with a nice red ribbon. She was hard-working. Toughest woman I’ve ever seen and I was always amazed on how she managed to still look beautiful after a long tiring day in search for food. She walked all day everywhere to have something we can have on the table.

I wish I was able to help her buy medicine and treat her diabetes back in the day because I always heard her cry whenever it was causing her pain. It gave me the wrong impression that hospitals were only for dying people because she never let us bring her there. But I was wrong, hospitals were only for people who can afford to live longer.

If only I was older.

I stayed at school the whole day while the others went home for lunch because my grandmother got more ill and there was no food at home. I would run on field during break hours or lay my head on the grasses to rub time. It was so silent and only the crickets makes a sound. 

  

At young age, I have always followed my instincts to help my family survive. I went to houses to ask for kamote tops planted at their backyards or some of those papaya fruits they have at their front yards. I wish I was stronger and had unlimited physical resources as a kid, I could have brought more food at home.

 I even got rid of my hair so people would think I was a boy and the woman from the bakery will allow me to sell hot pan de sal along the streets. 

I was able to buy myself slippers and medicine for my grandmother from selling at eight years old. I still remember how my slippers went through the fast running water while I was crossing the muddy bamboo bridge. I was so disappointed. I just ran and ran while I watched it go away. I came home late. My grandmother got so worried and asked me where I went but I didn’t tell her what happened neither would I ever tell a lie to her. I just kept silent. So I ended up getting hit by a wood at the back of my legs. I couldn’t speak when people shout at me. I had the words inside my head but I had no idea how to start. I guess that’s the reason why I get nervous when I hear a shout.

  

I was in grade school when all my friends and classmates treated me like a pet. They always asked me to do something for them, like buy soemthing from the canteen which was far away from the classroom after writing down on paper all the things they wanted to buy. They gave me some part of the food and that’s how I survived. I let it because I needed them. 


One day my teacher pulled me out from the class because somebody caught me stealing ice candy from the canteen. I knew it was wrong but I never had money to buy from the canteen. From that day on things got worst with me. I felt discrimination everyday, bullied and rejected everywhere. No one wanted to sit beside me or take me to their groups. I felt horrible for myself. I had to cover my face with hair to feel a little safe from people who were judging me. Thank goodness to those magazines and story books hiding from the shelves. I had something to read during those years. The kids didn’t wanna get near me. They’ve always put me onto those invalid chairs at the back. I got used to being ignored and somehow it felt like I had the super power of being invisible. It was easier for me to move without people watching. 


After classes before I was allowed to play out, I had to clean the house first, fill up water containers and cook rice. I had to run as fast as I can to come home early. We lived near little forests and farms where I can play. Dragon flies go in search of place to sleep during sunset. It was the best part of each days, to watch butterflies, catch dragon flies or play with the golden rays of the sun while it was kissing my skin. Those were the times I miss the most. The simplicity of life. Enjoying few moments of freedom from a natural day. The joy that I might not able to feel anywhere again anymore.  


There was the time I made myself a kite. The kite I made doesn’t fly even if it’s made of 2 wings and a tail. I didn’t understand, 

“How come it couldn’t fly when it looks exactly like the other kites?”

 I kept running and running and out of madness both wings were detached and it rapidly rotated until it started to fly. I was so happy! It was one of those happy memories I won’t forget. I made something that can fly. It became my daily routine, to fly kite every afternoon. Come home and finish all the house chores then go to the farm to fly my kite.



But one windy day, I was excited! I thought it was perfect for the kite. I let the string go till until it reaches the end. It got so high. It got so tiny. The string started getting hard and I felt how strong the wind was up there, my kite started rotating until the string broke and then there! My beautiful kite disappeared with the wind. Carelessness. I didn’t realized that the wind was higher and stronger up there. I was more focused on getting higher and higher, didn’t consider the capacity of my kite. I was still holding the string that connected me and my kite. My kite’s gone. Another heartbreak.

Came High School, I got 50% scholarship from the government also with the help of the school.

But nothing has changed. Maybe faces and names but my situation will always be the same. I realized I’ll just keep the way I am because I will be prone for more embarrassment of I’ll join them. They didn’t even remember what my name was until we were on the 2nd year.


Second year High school. The most challenging and unforgettable moment of my life happened. 

It was before Christmas.

My dreams died as the love of my life and the only person who was there to love and care for me left me forever, my Grandmother.

I started blaming God, the nature, my fate, about all the misfortunes and heartaches I had to face at a young age. I didn’t know what was going to happen withy life without her. I was scared. I never asked any material things in the world. I tried not to become a baggage to anyone. I found ways to answer to my own questions. I never complained but fate was hard. I was meant to be too young to find ways to extend my grandma’s life. I had to be born with a married father without a mother in a poor family with a widowed grandmother who had six children who will leave me too before Christmas Eve. Those were moments when the unknown was the only beautiful thing there is. When tomorrow was the only gift. Too much pain for my little heart.

 

I had no choice but to keep on going until I reach the end of the tunnel. I was curious, observant and sensitive. I broke those walls I built around me and let people do what they want with me. There was no use of fear as the pain struck longer. I didn’t want to live and die in the same way in the same place. I want to live my life with choices. 


I moved to the city not knowing my plans were. I learned that it’s not easy to live and to be your dreams. I had to go through shit holes before I even get to level one. Chaos, corruption, hypocrisy, poverty. Walls to walls. You are not striking until you have something to offer. I learned to trust and always follow my instincts. At some point I was scared of what my life would become but I’ve got to play my card to change it into new set of cards.


Awaken from that long nightmare, Tears came rushing on my cheeks. I was walking on a stage with spot lights on my face, people were watching, taking pictures of me and all I needed to do was to keep my head up and walk with attitude. I earned money from being a ramp model. It took me a while to finally get used to the pain to fit my ginger-feet inside a six-inches stiletto. Tears of joy every time I get new projects. I’ve never felt so relieved. I didn’t expect to become any of it. 


In no time, I left philippines and travelled to Zurich, Switzerland at the age of 19, to some cities Lucerne, San Moritz, Basel then back to Philippines. I became an official candidate of a most prestigious national beauty competition in the Philippines, it was around 2012. I didn’t win but it was an instrument for me to gain more confidence and projects. I travelled back to Zurich then to Paris, encountered a beautiful woman who asked me if I could walk for her show while I was at her boutique and walked-in to some agencies in Europe and became one of their model. I did a little bit of modeling there and then when I came back to Philippines, again, my life was on fire, I won Ms. Resorts World 2012-3rd Runner up, then travelled to Singapore as a prize, I couldn’t believe what was just happening to my life. Year 2014 represented Philippines for Asia New Star Model competition held in Korea, then a lot more magical things followed. 2015, I won a place for Miss Manila before I realized the dream was not the dream. To go back and see the world I used to live is now the dream. 


From the day that I lost those slippers, it taught me to be tough enough and learn to let go of the things that I want the most. Take the road disappointed and didn’t bother stepping on sharp stones. Those times I let people hurt me, I couldn’t be more thankful to them because they just missed those important lessons I learned in life, they made me even wiser. All the rejections and discriminations, they were great momentum for me to learn to read better, observe and be more sensitive about other people to become what I am now. 


To my grandmother: thank you for leaving me with enough wisdom and strength to face the world. Now I know why you had to leave too soon. 

To that kite that disappeared with the wind, it was a great lesson from the universe to find the right balance in order have things longer. And in order not to get lost with the wind, we need to keep our connection to the ground. It’s not always a good place up there, sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes it’s going to break ourselves apart.

As I grew older, I realized that we are only able to see the treasures when we are ready to take them. It could’ve been just in front of us the whole time but we were looking far away. But that’s life, we need to seek experience and ideas about the world before we are able to see the beauty of the life we have. It’s our own choice and own definition of happiness and to find happiness we should never look for things that doesn’t nurture the heart. We are part of a great masterpiece, part of the soul of the universe and it will bring us to where we are supposed to be if we follow it’s warnings and if we trust our instincts. Sometimes we just get surprised by those things we never expected would actually happen to us. 

And up to now I’m still learning and learning from all my experiences and from everyone I meet along the way, from the people passing by the streets, from all those amazing islands and mountains, from all these amazing creatures, living and non-living things, man made or nature. I always find myself thanking everything happened to me, for having such an extraordinary flow of life.  

 (Follow my Instagram: @jillybully)

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Jilly Bully

The author Jilly Bully

Juliana Urbina Love life and life will love you back.