I will survive because you taught me how

I was crushed by people whom I thought I could lean on. I was belittled and mocked behind my back by a bunch of people whom I thought were my true friends.


It’s been a month since my mother passed away. She was alone in her house and was brought to the hospital by her neighbor four days before Christmas Day. She did not even reach the hospital. She died in the car on the way to the emergency. The medical staff who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her told us that she died of cardiac arrest and was dead on arrival. She was 66 years old.

I was at work when I received the call from my sister that our mom was brought to the hospital. It was around 10:00 PM. At first, I thought it was just one of those regular insulin rushes since my mom had been battling with diabetes for nine years. I thought that she would get injected the usual meds to stabilize her sugar levels and that she would be fine. At 1:30AM however, my sister called to deliver the sad news. I couldn’t accept it at one blow. My mom and I was texting around 9:00PM and she was happily recounting how her day went. I had to ask my sister to repeat eventhough she had said it clearly. “Mom has passed away.” I left work and ran to my car. I didn’t even know how I got to the hospital but when I did and saw my mom’s lifeless body lying on a stretcher inside a zipped bag, I knew I had to be strong. And as I walked near her, the pain fell on me like an avalance tearing up my heart and crushing every single bone in my body.

If you’d ask me how losing my mom must have felt, I cannot provide an answer. I can only tell you that it was unimaginable. It was like losing myself in the process or one hundred million times over. It was the most painful of all pains I have ever experienced in my entire life. My mother was my only best friend. She was the one who always accepted me for everything that I am and without inhibitions. She was the one who never left my side even when everyone in my life had left. Yes, there was a point in my life when I thought everyone had abandoned me including my close friends and tight circles. I was crushed by people whom I thought I could lean on. I was belittled and mocked behind my back by a bunch of people whom I thought were my true friends. She told me to forgive and move on but never forget. I could never explain the feeling of loss and emptiness now that my mother had left me for good because she showed me what true friendship means.

She was my confidante. She never gets tired of hearing my stories. And she always listened with utmost care and enthusiasm as if she was part of my struggles and successes. Indeed, she was. And it makes this piece all the more heartbreaking because my tears cannot help falling as I type every word.

I love my mom so much. She was the best mother in the world. She was the perfect best friend anyone could ask for. She always had the best advice and the kindest of words to live by. I owe so much of what I have become to her. And I owe her my life because she brought me into this beautiful world.

Growing up, I had so many ups and downs. I had been suffering from depression since I was eleven and my Mom did everything she could so that I didn’t succumb to the deadly condition. By the time I was in college, I had overpowered depression. I had totally conquered its influence in my brain. Nevertheless, my mom would constantly check me out even when I’m already living on my own.

Unlike some, my mother never made me feel that I was different. She never judged me for the things I did and instead encouraged me to remain kind and good to other people. She taught me that everyone will hurt me but it’s up to me to choose who among them are worth the pain. She would always joke around and tell me I was worth the pain. I know it was true.

I miss my mom so much now. My tears have subsided but the pain is still fresh. I don’t even know when this would be over but I guess it’s going to be around for awhile. Unlike my three older siblings, I am not married and have no kids of my own. I do not have a family and the thought of being totally alone scares me even more now that my mom is gone.

I thought I was living the good life. But I have realized that life is no good without a mother by your side. I wanna take back the days when I could freely hug and kiss her. I wanna take back the days when I’d come home to her big smile and loving embrace. Those days —where are they now? How do I get another chance?

Weeks after my mom passed away, I was a mess and I was crying everyday. I was alone in her house, standing on her porch and watching the same sunset that she had always watched alone when she was alive. How I wish I could watch the sunset with her now.

Inspite of everything, I had to come to terms with myself and pick up the pieces of my broken heart because I knew I should not let this tragedy destroy me. I still have a life to live. I still have dreams to chase. My mom was the reason I was always motivated to do better. She was the reason I fought for my life when I had lung disease last year. I have to continue her legacy.

You can say I’m living alone now. No more weekend visit to my mom’s house whenever I get the chance. Her house had since been opened for lease. And it was painful to see new faces move in. But just like me, the house had to go on as well. It is important to have people in it so it would be taken cared of.

I’m still scared at times. But the thoughts of my mom had kept me sane and positive. I have realized that I could use her death as my own motivation to live. I know that’s what she would have wanted me to do —to find the goodness in every bad, to be positive amidst all the negativities, to remain humble and kind towards people who wants to discredit my achievements.

I remember the long conversations I’ve had with my mom about friendship and why people seem to make it their business to put others down. She told me to remain silent eventhough I was hurting because those people would never feel pity or sympathy towards me. “They are not your person, they do not care about what you feel so just stay away from those people,” she said.

Life is difficult especially if you do not have a lot of friends. But I am thankful to those who stayed with me and those who never judged me. They are the people who truly know me to the core. They are the ones who would not believe in one-sided stories and stories made up by malicious people out of assumptions based on what I post on social media. My mom may no longer be here to listen to my sentiments about friendship but she always told me to ditch fake people in my life as early as I can because they will only hinder my growth as a person.

I think I have learned a lot of lessons from my mom to help me survive the coming years. I know I will survive this because she taught me to be a fighter. I know I will make it through anything because she taught me to never give up. I will survive because she taught me how.

Some people just don’t care about you and that’s okay

I don’t live for other people’s opinion. I live for my goals and the only person I am competing with is my previous self.

We always think that people would love us if we are kind, honest, loving, friendly, thoughtful and even generous to them. We think that the key to making everyone like us is to be downright nice to them but the truth is, no matter what we do some people just wouldn’t like us and that’s okay. Why the hell is that okay? Because it doesn’t make them bad people. It simply means they aren’t your people and they just don’t care about you.

But don’t think that because they don’t care, they will leave you alone. Based on my experiences, people who don’t care about you will actually keep watching you –following your every posts on social media and concocting their own judgmental conclusions to your every move without even knowing the whole truth. People who doesn’t like you is out there to find your flaws and weaknesses so that they can use it against you. They’re out there to find your vulnerabilities so they can hit you hard, talk about you in their private chatrooms that they established just for you. Don’t be surprised if the chatroom they have created for you is even labeled after your name or some funny code name complete with silly emojis designed to remind them how a piece of shit you are.

People who don’t like you find pleasure in mocking your pictures, belittling your achievements, and simply making fun of your whole damn life. The best time to see these people in action is minutes after you post something on social media. They will make a screenshot of your post and paste it in their secret chatroom and start talking about you. These people believe that you are a bluff and that you maybe fooling everyone but not them. The thing is, they do not even care whether any of your achievements are real, they just want to discredit you for something you have worked hard enough to get.

The people who don’t care about you don’t care even if they get caught doing what they are doing to you. Most of them possesses an incredible amount of bravado and are usually itching for a fight with you. Remember, they will do things to provoke you because they are hungry for your reaction. They want to know if their tauntings worked out and served their interest well. Do not let them bait you. I’m telling you the moment you react to their shit, they already won. They are well prepared to get on a fight or a war of words because they have been doing this to other innocent people too. Those people who thought they could trust this bunch. Those who are so good they don’t even realize that they are moving in a very dangerous circle. And the moment they are attacked by people whom they thought they’re friends with, they won’t even know what hit them.

Usually, the people who don’t like you are the first to like or comment on your posts posing as real friends and pretending to be updated about your life when all they want to do is phish information so they can get something to make fun of. They spend time talking behind your back even when they are at work, traveling or in the grocery section.

Their regular conversation usually starts with, “O, alam nyo na ba latest tsismis kay ano?” Or something like, “Uy nakita nyo na ba new post ni ano? Check nyo sa IG nya dali. Hahaha!”

(Their regular conversation usually starts with, “Hey, have you heard the latest gossip about…?” Or something like, “Hey guys have you seen his new post yet? Hurry, you better check his Instagram. Hahaha!”)

Those are just some of the scenarios I have experienced myself. And while there are many other scenarios that prove how backstabbing and bullying are happening among your circle of so called “friends,” I am not here to discuss all of that. I am here to tell you that all of it is okay.

Again, how the hell are backstabbing and bullying okay? Because as long as it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. It will help you spot who the real people in your life are and who deserves to be let go of. The moment you have found who the real ones are, you would not care a shit about what the rest would say. The only opinion that matters to you are the ones coming from your people.

Of course it would hurt at first. You may experience in denial phase where you are confused why these bunch of people don’t like you but you will get through it. You will get frustrated thinking of ways how you can save your friendship with these people or how you can please them to make things right but I am telling you there is nothing that would make things right. Why? Because these people just don’t care about you. They do not care about your feelings or the friendship (if any LOL) at all. They will be there to get into your nerve if you do not learn to stop being affected.

The key to moving on from these types of people is to remain kind and just let it go. You got to admit that it is practically useless to confront them because there is no friendship or any sort of good relationship to save or fight for. They just don’t like you and you have to accept that no matter what you do, nothing willl ever change. And believe it or not, it’s okay. Because the truth is, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that means you cannot expect everyone to treat you exactly the way you want to be treated.

So be yourself and continue reaching for your dreams. Do not let your detractors ruin your day or your life because the truth is, whatever judgment they have on you reflects their own personality and how they were raised and not yours. Besides, you do not have to explain how you live your life to them because chances are, they already judged you and will continue to do so regardless of the truth. Remember, what other people think of you is none of your business so stop worrying and enjoy your blessings.

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What doesn’t kill you makes you more resilient

What doesn’t kill you makes you resilient. 

Eversince I was diagnosed with a disease called acute and chronic inflammatory cell in an amorphous background (inflammation of cell tissues inside the walls of airways in the lungs), I have felt a great loss in my life. I’ve felt like everything I have ever worked hard for was taken away in an instant.

For two years, I’ve worked to gain enough weight because I have always been so skinny. I’ve tried so hard to achieve a decent shape for my age. And for a moment, I thought I had it. I did it. I’ve made it.

And then I started having a hard time breathing. It became worse to the point where I couldn’t finish a single sentence without literally choking or gasping. It was one of the weirdest and scariest situations I have ever experienced in my life. I began to consult a doctor and soon enough I was in and out of a hospital for a chronic pneumonia. I went on medical leave and was out of work for almost six months.

According to study, 80% of people being diagnosed with this kind of disease are eventually found to have some form of lung cancer. It was a very scary discovery. I wasn’t sure I can handle it but I was determined to try and cope with it should it leads to that. What can I say? I mean, sometimes life hits us hard and gives us only one option: to fight.

My weight dropped. The very small progress I’ve made in my body was taken away and I’m back to my old skinny self once again. Now, most skinny guys would agree that it is not easy for our body type to gain muscles. It requires extra hard work because our metabolism is very fast and more often, it’s impossible to connect with our appetite. I almost stopped eating due to anorexic complications of the disease. And so when I realized I was losing everything to this ailment, I was really devastated. All the money, the effort and hard work I’ve put out turned to ashes. Two years of consistently trying to achieve my dream body wasted. I woke up each day feeling depressed. How am I gonna get it back? Will I be able to work out again? Worse of all thoughts, am I going to die?

But God is still good. He has always been. After months of suffering, bronchoscopy and biopsy results show I don’t have any life-threatening condition at least for now. Now I’m in the process of healing. The inflammation is still there but my body is slowly absorbing the medical treatment.

I don’t know how long this would take or if there will be another test to my faith and character but right now I’m just picking up the pieces and rebuilding everything that I have lost. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to work out again but I’m slowly learning to let things be. Soon, I’ll get it back. Soon, I’ll be fit again.

Yes, positivity is a state of mind. But I also know that for some people like me, it is easier said than done when you have a life and dream shattering disease. But I’m trying. I’m fighting. I’m standing still. I’m running still.

What’s good about it is that I know what I have to do now; I’ll just have to keep the faith that at the end of the day, I’ll find reason and purpose to all of this and that the sun will shine again where it left me. #whatdoesntkillyou

To the “friend” who let me down

I know walang connect sa pic! Pero kiver na!

As I was writing this piece, the famous lyrics to Justin Bieber’s song “Love yourself” hovered in my mind. “I didn’t wanna write a song, ’cause I didn’t want anyone thinking I still care I don’t but you still hit my phone up. And baby I’ll be moving on, cause I think you should be something I don’t wanna hold back.” 

Too harsh? That’s what you are to me as a friend. And recently I have been silent and forgiving, giving you the benefit of the doubt and hoping that we can fix our friendship. But it seems to me that you have stopped caring at all. It hurts to have a lump in your throat and today I am getting rid of it.

After many years of being friends, the two of us have fallen apart. We have finally called it quits. Yeah, I know. It’s so damn sad so tell me about it (insert eye roll emoji here). I wonder what took us so long? And I keep asking myself why it took me this long to realize that you weren’t actually my friend. In fact, you were never a friend to me. I have realized you were actually forced to like me because I used to be an indispensable part of the food chain. You were just there because you thought that I belong in your circle, or that we have something in common. It turns out we do have a lot in common but our commonalities weren’t enough to cover our differences.

Don’t get me wrong, I was willing to set aside the differences but you chose to play the silent treatment card on me. Thank you for making me feel like I was nothing because it actually helped me get a clearer view of who you really are. So you can play your silent card on me all you want but it’s been awhile and I have a life to live.

Ever since you ditched me, I took time to look back and reflect in all the times we have shared together as “friends.” It surprised me to realize that we have actually shared more memories together than some of the most genuine friends I have in my life. What made it worse is that some of my most treasured memories were spent with you. That is why I really thought you were my friend. The series of unfortunate events recently however, have led me to believe that we are never going to turn our closeness back. Our friendship is so broken that when I looked into it I can only see nothing but shattered pieces of something that was once beautiful –or so I thought.

In a nutshell, I’ve also realized I could have spent more time with you had you not been so fake to treat me well when we’re together and talk behind my back when I’m not around. I know what you have been up to all these years. You were talking shit about me and painting a bad image of me to our friends. In fact, you have been so professional in faking your stories that I think they actually believe you now.

I cannot blame them for choosing to sympathize with you over me. They have never heard my side of the story. Not that they gave me a chance to air it or that I care to clean my name. You know I was never a kiss ass to everyone. And I have always believed I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my actions because I have always been an open book —honest and true. Oh, it must be hard for you to understand what that means because it’s everything you are not. I was never the “people pleaser friend” who does anything to keep being friends with our well-off acquaintances. I cannot blame you either –fake people only respect people with power. I do not have the money or the power to help you when you need something.

It’s funny when you had your son’s Christening two years ago. I was invited yes. But I quickly noticed that everyone of our friends was selected as “ninong” or “ninang” except me so I opted not to attend. Please don’t get me wrong, it was fine but to expect me not to react and just understand your choices would have been a violation of the unwritten constitution of our closeness. Every single close friend of yours had a special role in the ceremony and I was just an spectator, a regular audience, an outcast. Of course I was hurt knowing you have set my feelings aside. Of course, I sulked about it because had it been my own son or daughter, I would have automatically put your name on my list without hesitations. Did you really expect me to just sit there like an outsider while everyone close to you gather in front to have an official godfather/godmother photo with your baby? It made me question what am I to you. Am I just a distant acquaintance? Am I just a common friend? You knew that things like that are like privileges bestowed to close friends only. You didn’t think we were that close because you were just faking your friendship with me. You deliberately crossed my name out in your list of sponsors because why would you choose me when you can opt for a richer friend for a godfather to your son, all right?

Remember that one time when we were supposed to hang out in this new roof deck bar in Makati and three days before our agreed date, you went and visit the same bar without me? I was hurt so I confronted you and you told me I was being ridiculous. You told me I was being unreasonable and childish. “‘Wag kang mag inarte!,” you lashed out at me. I remember how you did not even bother to hear where I was coming from at the time. You just voiced out your feelings to one of our friends who generously sympathized with you even though he knew I deserved to get angry. We had a plan. You ruined the plan and decided to visit the place prior to our scheduled date and without informing me. You were not apologetic at all. You made it seem like I was at fault, like I did not deserve to rant because you can do whatever you want because you didn’t actually care whether I join you or not.

Remember when we were in Davao back in 2015 and we had an argument about our bed assignments? You knew that for years, I am known to be generous and quiet when it comes to backpacking rules. I never complained even if I was getting less this and that despite the fact that I paid the same amount you guys did. You never hear me get mad even if I was constantly given the extra mattress on the floor while the rest of the guys get the regular comfier bed. Remember when one morning you woke me up at 5:00 fucking A.M. because my “extra mattress” was preventing you from opening the door? You pointed out that I should have asked for another room instead. You told me that I should have made sure that I got a bed for myself as well when you knew that standard hotel rooms only had two beds and that it would cost me a lot if I booked a room of my own. That time, I was being nice and cooperative. I was being a friend to everyone and yet you somehow had the nerve to make it seem like I was a burden to the group.

I’m sorry to have disappointed you. I’m sorry that I was not the friend you thought I could be. I’m sorry that I could not afford to be there all the time especially when you need something. You never asked for my help either –partly because you did not trust me enough and partly because you would rather ask for help from your richer friends. I think that’s quite practical, isn’t it? Having said that, I understand.

What I do not understand is how you have managed to pose as a friend and talk all kinds of shit behind my back all these years when you could have rejected my friendship in the beginning. What I do not understand is how you are able to attend your Sunday masses and be the perfect con artist at the same time. What I do not understand is how you put the blame on me when you knew you were not a genuine person to me from the very beginning.

When I look back to the words you said behind my back, I feel like the piece of trash I am to you all these years. It makes me want to regret knowing you. It makes me want to just throw away that page of my life where you had been and move on. It makes me want to be angry at you for betraying my trust and everything we have had as friends.

But I don’t want to be like you, a hypocrite. Although I am not as religious, I do maintain a certain set of principles that I quietly and religiously adhere to. 

Justin Bieber’s song maybe the most inappropriate for this piece but I wanted to point out that as the song says, it is okay to let go of the toxic people in our lives otherwise they will make it rain on our parades forever. So I will choose what is best for both of us and that is to forgive and move on regardless if I was being forgiven by you in return. 

You may think that what I have presented above are petty issues that mature individuals who have deep love for each other could have resolved through a gentle conversation. You may think that I am being a needy or clingy friend and whatnot. You are free to have an opinion. But if someone who are best friends with you for many years treats you like this wouldn’t you get crushed and deeply hurt? And this is beyond the issues I have mentioned. This is something more than just an issue of not getting invited to a night out or losing an important role in your friend’s son’s Christening. This is about the trust and respect that real friends reserve for each other. This is about the courtesy you always give your friend because you two have been through a lot together. And if I cannot trust you with petty things such as keeping my secrets and protecting my image like I did as your friend for many years, then I surely cannot trust you with bigger things. You suck, you don’t deserve me and vice versa. And I wouldn’t wish you as a friend to anyone.

I am done letting you disrespect my boundaries. I will not allow you to judge me again based on your biased interpretations and selfish ways. I will not allow you to spread false accusations against me anymore. I will not tolerate your fake friendship in my life again. Lastly, I am not going to let you put me down, nor will I allow your friends to belittle me and make fun of me ever again.

A letter to my present self

So I’m telling you, keep on fighting. I know it is hard. I know giving up seems an easier way out. But this is not the end of the world. This doesn’t mean your dreams are over. You will get through this.

Dear present self,

I know you are going through a very tough time. I know you are feeling down. I can’t imagine how much pain you must be feeling right now. A month ago, your world was shattered when doctors discovered you have a lump on the wall of one of your lungs. The lump can be anything benign but it can also be cancer. 

It’s hard for you to breathe. Your chest is hurting whenever you cough that sometimes, you even feel like it’s going to rip open; or that you might throw up blood. But it never happened. There is constant pain in your lower left chest and left back as well as your left shoulder. It could be a sign that whatever it is that’s inside your left rib is growing and posing a dangerous risk to your health. 

READ: There is a lump in my lung and I’m not backing down on this fight

You have lost appetite. More often, eating becomes an ordeal to you because it is just difficult to swallow food, any kind of it. You do crave halo-halo and sundae (ice cream) though. You missed the times when you are free to eat anything you like. Now everything is different.

You have lost a lot of weight. You can feel the shape of your bones against your skin. And while most people deem losing weight as a sign of being fit, to you this is a sign of being malnourished and anorexic. Considering your normal weight was just 52 kilograms. Now you are down to 42 kilograms. This is very unfair because you have spent nearly three years just to achieve a fit body. You have struggled to fight your eating disorder and adhered to a strict diet in order to stay fit. And you have made it. The once skinny boy has transformed into a man with a leaner and fitter body. But now the lean physique that you worked so hard to achieve is slowly being taken away from you —along with your sanity.

You have been hospitalized three times and have endured many grueling hours in the hospital. Your body has taken too much dosage of antibiotics but none of them was able to heal you. The doctors who looked into your case were so incompetent it took them three consecutive hospitalizations and almost one month to figure out that they should have performed CT scan earlier and not when they have already exhausted every penny you have to fund the biopsy procedure.

At first, you were in great denial. You didn’t want to accept that you have fallen ill. That instead of doing your daily routine —going to work, doing business, working out, enjoying time with your family and friends, chasing your dreams—you’re now going to be confined in the four corners of the hospital room until you are well. And there is no assurance to getting well to be honest.

There is a lot of doubts in your head right now. You are feeling a lot of pain. Both physical and emotional. This is a crucial time for you but this is also the time when you get to learn who among your so-called friends are real and who are not. Because it will be easy to ignore and forget you at this time now that you are down and have nothing. It will be easy for them to just hold their grudge or judge you without understanding where you are coming from. Nevertheless, just let it pass because going after people who don’t care about you is useless when you should be taking a lot of rest. People who don’t care about you when you are in deep shit would not care for you when you are well. You should let them go but should continue to pray for them as you have always done so.

You will feel like you are alone in this battle sometimes. Even the very person who is so dear to you do not seem to understand your situation. All you did was love people and all they did was to use and hurt you without the slightest concern about what you are going through. And this makes you feel like you are trapped with the wrong person. I know you will figure it out soon and you will make a decision to finally let it go. And it will take its toll on you above all else because you are not in your best health to deal with it. During these times, do not give in to your loneliness and depression. Find comfort from your family because they will never leave you behind. Find solace in the genuine love of those friends who chose to stay and reach out to you despite everything that happened. They are the people who will be there for you when you need them.

So I perfectly understand your pain. I totally get why you are depressed and why you are crying most days and nights. It is okay to be bitter about life, about what you could have accomplished if you will be given a second chance at life. It’s perfectly fine to rant and vent out. You need an outlet so let it all out, pour all your pain when you need to; but remember not to wallow in bitterness and pain too much. Pick yourself up and continue the fight. Stop playing the victim and own up every battle you have. I know it is easier said than done, and what happened to you shocked you to the bones. You never imagined you’d be in such a terrible situation where you are fighting for your life. 

But you are now whether you like it or not. So I’m telling you, keep on fighting. I know it is hard. I know giving up seems an easier way out. But this is not the end of the world. This doesn’t mean your dreams are over. This is just the beginning. Hold on tight and keep on fighting for your life and for the people who believe in you. 

Do not let other people take away your inner peace. It is extremely important that you trust yourself during these trying times. It is important to have a positive attitude and a better outlook in life. Always choose to see the best in people because that is how you were raised. Hold on to your faith in God and be nice, be a true Christian even when others are not and cannot.

Lastly, I dare you to never ever give up. The moment you gave up is the moment you failed to fulfill your promise to yourself. You will get through this. Remember, you have been through worst and you were able to get out of every mess. You will get away this time. You will emerge victorious. You will survive this disease. You will prove them wrong.

And I’ll see you in the future.


Your future self

I don’t lose people, people lose me

They say that as you grow older you lose your false friends and keep the best.

LIKE THE SCATTERED SHELLS and stones by the seashore, friends come and go. But when you find the good and genuine ones, you keep them. Photo circa 2016 in Samal Island, Davao Del Norte

Understand this. I am no angel and I know I’m not the best friend anyone can ever have. But my friendship is always genuine and I have learned the hard way of choosing who to give it to. They say that as you grow older you lose your false friends and keep the best. That is true and that is not because life is unfair or whatnot. That is just how life is.

I shake my head whenever I look back to my elementary and high school days, or even my university years. I used to have a lot of people around me. They were the ones whom I shared my wildest dreams with. I laughed and cried with them. We used to roam our little hometown together; learning things together, falling and helping each other stand again. We shared our crushes and puppy loves with each other. We talked about who we lost our virginity to. We LOL’d nonstop to our dumbest decisions and mediocre experiences. Back then, I used to think of everyone as my friend. But of course, that’s not always true.

As we grow apart, each independently and quietly building their lives; some getting married and some pursuing their teenage dreams such as owning businesses or traveling the world, our common interests began to shrink. We grew distant and eventually stopped talking to each other. Falling out with our childhood friends is a normal thing that all of us go through one way or another. It wasn’t everyone’s fault. On the other hand, there are people who remain close friends no matter how different their present lives are. Lucky for them. For some of us who don’t get to keep much of our old friends, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. That’s just how life is supposed to be.

Luckily, I’ve earned new friends along the way. Some of them I’ve met while I was traveling or doing volunteer works. Most of them I’ve known from my workplace and previous companies. I love and cherish all of them.

You can say I’m good with most people. I say “most” because I don’t always look as good to everyone. Yeah but anyway, it seemed that most people find me easy to be with and they instantly grow a special fondness of me. When I ask why, they would normally tell me that I have that positive aura that makes them feel like they can trust me. Some told me I am very transparent and it means I have no pretensions in my life. I don’t care what people think of me. I’m just going to be me. Some say they see me as a brother whom they can just talk to whenever they needed someone —a shoulder to cry on. It is no surprise then that most of my friends, men and women, straight, gay, bisexual or whatnot all go to me whenever they have a problem —be it family, relationship, or even financial. Yes I’m that go to person. I always try and give them a sound and fair advise and if I can, I normally try and help them to the best of my ability.

They say some people will always have something to say against you no matter how nice you try to be.

They say some people will always have something to say against you no matter how nice you try to be. If there are people who instantly accepted and loved me, there are some who instantly hated me. With that, I can only do so much.

I had a neighbor once who seemed to be so pissed just by my mere presence. Whenever he sees me around, he would make all kinds of faces and do the silent treatment on me. And I never did anything wrong to him at all except that I was a close friend of his best-friend-turned-mortal-enemy. I mean, what did this guy expect me to do? Did he want me to stop being friends with people just because he hated them? I knew he was the typical spoiled brat. He’s one of those rich kids who came from prestigious schools who are used to getting what they want. I used to adore him and at some point, I even thought we were friends. It took me a while before I was finally able to grasp that he hated me to the point that he didn’t want anything to do with me. He even blocked me in his social media. Yes, he was that personal. When I confronted him in a good manner he said he just didn’t like me and that is all. I tried to ask why and even offered to start over again but he refused. I was in denial for a time. I couldn’t believe some people can be so heartless. What’s worse is that we belonged to the same faith, worshipped together in the same congregation and part of our church’s teachings is to love one another and forgive those who sinned against us. I have always taken those teachings by heart, letting them guide me wherever I go. There is a saying that goes like, “sometimes the nicest people you meet are covered in tattoos and sometimes the most judgmental people you meet go to church on Sundays.” Going to church does not make you a Christian. Apparently, this guy was a living example. But while he was mean and arrogant to me, I have learned to accept that he will never like me. Maybe it wasn’t his fault. Maybe that’s just how life is supposed to be. And in the process, I have learned to understand that in life, you cannot be nice to people and expect them to show the same to you in return. We are born different and made to think differently. Maturity is not using your pain to seek revenge. Maturity is learning to stop playing the victim and owning up to how your life will turn out. Maturity is putting yourself in other people’s shoes and trying to understand their situation rather than holding a grudge towards them. I have forgiven the man. It doesn’t matter if he does the same to me. It doesn’t make him a bad person. That’s just how life is supposed to be. And it feels great not to hold anything in.

I had friends who now work abroad and undoubtedly enjoying better lives. They are the people who stopped at nothing to achieve their dreams and I admire them. I am proud and happy for them. The sad thing is, as they moved to new chapters in their lives they kind of acted as if we never knew each other. They just stopped talking to me. I never took it on these innocent people though. For all I know, it could be just life being a dick, always getting in the way.

I had friends who were extra nice to me during those times when it seemed to them like I’ve got a lot to offer. I kind of acquired that image of living the good life, buying the latest gadgets, traveling to places, and talking about the most relevant stuff like posh gym memberships, living in a high-rise condominium in the city center, and buying cars. Stuffs that they can relate to such as wine, parties, and other social climbing activities. Back then, everyone seemed to be so fond of me. They would always check on me asking where and how I am. They used to beg for a few minutes of my time for a little chitchat (catching up). They used to spam me with messages every year on my birth month to ask if I was planning to throw a mini-party. They’d also ask for “mandatory” gifts for their birthdays but never bothered to give one. Not that I fancy gifts but it is called “giving and taking.” Real friends are not dumb and insensitive to the needs of each other. Real friends also don’t need to be told of their responsibility to keep the fire burning. But these people were a shameless bunch. Their audacity to “make friends” just for gains is unbelievable.

Then I stopped meeting with them and declined birthday parties for I’ve felt it was just a fake gathering for people who don’t really like each other. I also stopped posting beautiful things on social media and watched as the invites and messages quickly fade away. It doesn’t mean I stopped living the good life or lost the means to do so, I just stopped posting about what I do or buy and where I live on social media.

Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough to achieve more in life. Maybe I should have packed my bags and worked/lived in a first world country as well so I could boast of my Ibiza, Russia and Rio de Janeiro vacations three years later. Maybe some people see me as a stagnant piece of crap and so they thought I no longer deserve a seat in their circle. Maybe they thought I’m too broke to be their friend. I’m not broke, I’m just low-key. And just because some people are not on the same path doesn’t mean they are lost.

A couple of years ago, I woke up one morning and bam! I realized the life I was living was not the life I wanted for myself all along. All of the glamour, the good life, the sweet vacations I have ever posted on Instagram and Facebook do not define who I really am. You can say I can afford all of them if I wanted to. I have a nice job that enables me to buy things that I want and go to places, but most (but not all) of the people around me only wanted me as a friend because we have the same interests. They thought I was one of them. But they were wrong. Unlike them, coming from a family who had nothing and worked hard to get to where we are, I am still very much attached to my roots and have no qualms being labeled as “poor” even though that would be a lie now. But I was more than what I buy or post on social media. I was more than the free treats I used to throw during my birthdays. I was a good friend. I will still be there for them when they no longer have those materials things they boast on social media but they wouldn’t be there when I needed them. Their friendships were all bogus, mine was genuine.

So I began to stay away from these people. I started to drift away slowly but always cautious and nice to everyone. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I did not want them to feel like I did not love them anymore. I do. It’s just that it was not healthy being friends with them anymore. We still have the same interests though —nice gadgets, beautiful clothes and accessories, traveling, shopping and spending. But the huge difference is that I live within my means. Most of them just go around splurging their money and then comes up to borrow from people (me included) when they are broke. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the act of borrowing money from others because I was also broke and had to borrow money from friends many years ago. But these people are different. Most of them are one day millionaires —or those who are rich only during paydays. They like to spend beyond their means just to please people on social media. Their mind were as corrupted as the life they lead. Again, I am no angel and I certainly do not have a “perfect life.” These are just the result of my personal observation being with these types of people for many years. I can’t blame them. Social status and prestige have always been relevant to being accepted in the society even in medieval times.

A very good article published in The New York Times by the Harvard associate professor Michael I. Norton summarizes this phenomena and argues that, “the expansion of consumer credit in the United States has allowed middle class and poor Americans to live beyond their means, masking their lack of wealth by increasing their debt. We might think that people who have “zero net worth” have nothing. But in fact, having zero net worth increasingly means owning a lot (cars, televisions, even houses) – but also owing a lot. As a result people with zero net worth, and even negative net worth, can still feel that they are living the American dream, doing “better” than their parents did while keeping up with the Joneses.”  I second the motion. While directed to Americans, the argument is true in the Philippine society as well.

They say that you are the first five people you hang out every day. I’ve realized I did not want to be associated to these types of people anymore. I’ve realized I did not want to be a part of their bogus life and fake friendships. I have proven many times that these people are only nice to me when they want something but easily disses me the moment I turn away. What’s funny is that the same type of people tells me that they accept my sexual preferences yet they are actually the same ones that condemn my lifestyle and laugh at my relationships. They never respected me at all. They were just there for me because they thought I was one of them. But I’m sorry there’s more to me than birthday treats and lavish gifts. I was all for the love and friendship.

I don’t regret my past nor the time I’ve wasted with the “wrong people.” In fact, I still value the memories I have of them. I believe there is no such thing as a “wrong person” in our life. Every single person we interacted with, even if they were genuine or not, is destined to cross our path and teach us something. We met them for a reason. We should understand that. But I could not stand staying friends with people who drag me down and talk behind my back. I could not stand the idea of a conditional friendship —that we-are-friends-because-i-get-something-from-it kinda friendship is not friendship to me at all. That’s being a leech, a parasite, a freeload, a sponge, a mooch! I’ve always despised two-faced people, because it’s hard to decide which face to slap first.

I’ve come across a beautiful article by Dennis Green on Business Insider. The title of the article is “What wearing a $6,000 Rolex for a month taught a 24-year-old about wealth and status.” And these last two paragraphs from that article stayed in my mind since.

It says, “when you’re spending this kind of cash on yourself, you should be spending it for your own enjoyment. Don’t wear a luxury watch for prestige and status because it’s not going to work. The only ones who will notice and comment on it are already experts. And if you get to talking with them and don’t know your Tourbillon from your chronograph, you’ll look silly anyway.”

“When I strapped on the Rolex, I thought it was going to change my world. It didn’t, but it did change my worldview.”

And so going back to the title of this article, I have realized I was losing friends here and there. When I discovered this truth, it struck me and caused a great pain in my heart. I cried, a lot. I cried because I was confused. Was it all my fault? Was I an asshole of a friend? I paused and assessed myself. How bad did my relationship go with these people? How irreparable is the damage I have inflicted? I couldn’t think of any grave offense I have done for these people to turn away from me. And then it all became clear. They turned away because I’ve changed. I became more and more real in the recent years. I have stopped tolerating their bullshits. I no longer entertain their gossips and no longer put up with their show. I knew their secrets and I would never tell anyone. I have even forgiven them for everything that happened. But I’d like to put a stop to the friendship simply because there was “no friendship” to begin with. Indeed, the group of friends that I have come to know was all a show. And when the music stopped, they consumed all the food and left the party without looking back.

My circle has gotten smaller and smaller as I grow older but I’m proud to say that the ones in it are the real deal, most genuine people I have ever met. Their friendship isn’t conditional. We’re like brothers and sisters. I am most thankful to these people for they remind me that the world is still worth living for; that there are people still worthy of our friendship and trust.

As for the fake ones, let’s just say that no matter how painful, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m better off without them and vice versa. One fake friend can do more damage than five enemies, so they say. Fake people do not surprise me anymore, loyal ones do. You see a person’s true colors when you are no longer beneficial to their lives. And after all the reflections, I knew I’m not too guilty of losing people in my life. It was them who lost the friendship I have given them. It was them who broke my trust. But I have forgiven those people and I hope they forgive me too. Not that they give a fuck or two.

Here’s a popular song by Drake that proves how fake people can drag you down if you don’t let them go.

I’ve been down so long, it look like up to me

They look up to me

I got fake people showin’ fake love to me

Straight up to my face, straight up to my face

I’ve been down so long, it look like up to me

They look up to me

I got fake people showin’ fake love to me

Straight up to my face, straight up to my face

What is your personal experience with fake friends and fake people? How did it affect your views of friendship? Tell me in the comments.

—King Ray, the Ninja

I stopped going to church and my life got better

I cannot tolerate arrogant preachers for their hypocricy and audacity to claim they are living prophets of God but do not even understand the real meaning of love. Just shut the fuck up!

Three years ago, I’ve stopped going to church. Not that I’ve lost my faith in God (because my personal relationship with God is an impenetrable connection that goes way beyond religion and nothing can change that) but mostly because I have lost faith in the members of the clergy and the system that makes up the entire church. This is the very same church which I have come to love and where I was literally baptised. This is where I have decided to accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. It took many years of prayers and contemplating in order to come up with such a decision. It took me a lot of tears and pain before I was finally able to walk away from the old facade that I used to call as my second home. But for years, I have felt sick witnessing these so-called religious people spread hatred, division and confusion among people through their blatant hypocricy and lies.

I was born in a highly devout Born-Again Christian family in a beautiful city of a hundred thousand people called Calapan, some 30 kilometres away from the famed tourist town of Puerto Galera, Philippines. Born-Again is a local denomination of the Protestant (evangelical) movement in the Philippines. As I understood it, the phrase “born again” refers to the “spiritual rebirth” due to the atonement of one’s sins following his acceptance of Christ as his own Savior and the repentance of his own wrongdoings. The bible reference can be found in the book of John 3:3-5 NIV. My parents were church workers and my sisters used to assist kids in Sunday schools. As a young man, I started serving the Lord as a Sunday school preacher and was an active organizer of my church’s Daily Vacation Bible school when I was 15 until I was 21 years old. As a member of my local congregation’s music ministry, I also sang and played instruments in countless masses and church occasions. As a small group leader, I’ve facilitated many prayer meetings and prayed with different groups of youth in many different occasions. As an outreach gospel preacher, I was part of a youth group that went to remote provinces and towns braving rivers and mountains to tell people about the word of God and also giving out religious fliers and newsletters. Having said that, I know exactly how the concept of religion and congregation work because I grew up in it and surrounded by it.

I have also been to many Christian churches —big and small, rural and metropolitan, and those what we call “little funded” and “heavily funded” ones. I have witnessed Sunday services ran by multimedia engineers (as many as twenty of them) dabbling on the keyboards of their Mac computers inside a glass-covered control room and I have attended one that is so stripped of money they can barely afford a microphone or a pulpit for their preacher. 

I have also attended star-studded services. Yes, one where Sarah G., Piolo Pascual, Christian Bautista, Daniel Matsunaga, Rachel Ann Go and the likes all seated in the front row that people find it hard to focus on the sermon because most of them are busy scrutinizing the outfit of the stars.

I have witnessed pretty much all kind of services, from the classic, serene and mostly piano organ accompanied Baptist services to the powerhouse drums-driven and concert-like Born Again praise and worships. (I loved listening to Hill Songs and Planetshakers.)

I have also seen people giving tithes of what seemed to me as a hundred thousand in cold cash and even counting the bills in their hands mid-way to the service for other members of the congregation to see (why else would they count the money there or expose how much they give to the church when they can just discreetly hand an envelope to an officer of the congregation?) Yuck!

I have watched members of the church cry buckets of tears in their prayers and during praise and worship inside the holy church only to hear them utter profanities and see them hit their children when they get home a few hours later. Are you fucking kidding me?

I have also listened to pastors who used their designated hours of sermon to talk about the politicians they support and how the members of the congregation should also vote for their candidate of choice. When did the church start to have a say in who I should vote? I find it very ridiculous. I find it “kagaguhan” (go figure) when the church start to influence members of the congregation on who they should vote and not vote. I don’t like being a puppet of my church. Nobody tells me who I should vote. That’s fucked up!

Most importantly, the church I have come to love preaches of the great love of God to mankind that He gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. And yet the church condemns LGBTQ people for being themselves. The church is blatantly and unmercifully opposing gay people for something we did not even have control about. Where is the love in that?

I remember one occassion at the local church I attended where one of our pastors (yes, we have a lot of pastors because it was a fucking corporation err they have to accomodate our growing congregation cough cough), in the middle of his homily, started blasting the LGBTQ community and how they will never get to enter the kingdom of heaven if they won’t turn themselves to “straight men and women” right away. The pastor spoke using strong words and he sounded so angry that the whole church seemed to shake at the sound of his voice while he stood there at the pulpit humiliating gay and lesbian people. After a few minutes, I heard a commotion from the front rows followed by the silhouette of two men walking past the crowds and towards the exit door. As they get near to where I was seated, their faces became clear and I could see one of them got tears flowing down his face. Both of them were tall but one of them was foreign looking —European perhaps. They held each other’s hands while they continue their stride to the exit and out of the church. We looked at the pastor who only gave a hand gesture that seemed to say “oh well. Bato-bato sa langit.” I could sense the scorn from everyone in the room but I could not tell if it was directed to the pastor or to the gay couple. But it only took a moment before another gay couple stood up from the third row and walked away. They were followed by more people, most of them alone but undoubtedly members of the gay community. A community that I also belong. They cat-walked out of the church like models in America’s Next Top Model with fierce but disappointed expressions on their faces. Some of them walked quietly with their heads down. Harmless, beautiful people who are good citizens of the country. The pastor did not tell them to stop. He just paused for awhile and then continued with his sermon. After that, the pastor ordered for silence and prayed for the sinful soul of gay people. Everyone was dumbfounded. I myself was deeply hurt by what the pastor had said. He made it sound like we chose to be gay because we wanted to have sex with every good looking guy we meet. He was so wrong. He was the most disrespectful “preacher of God” I have ever encountered and I’ve felt so miserable listening to him that day. I wanted desperately to stand up and join my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ but I did not have the guts to disrespect the pastor and my church. Yes, I could not walk out on him even if he was disrespectful of my sexual preference. Anyway, that was the last time I have ever attended a mass.

Most people will judge and even condemn me for leaving the church but we all have our different opinions and beliefs and we live by those beliefs. My personal beliefs include practicing what we preach and staying truthful to ourselves and to God. 

And so slowly and surely, I have drifted away from the church. I chose to avoid it. It is no longer helping me become a good citizen of the world. In fact, it came to a point where the teachings of the church had confused me so much that I didn’t want anything to do with it. I honestly think I am on my way to secularism but for now, I’ll leave it at that.

Most people will judge and even condemn me for leaving the church but we all have our different opinions and beliefs and we live by those beliefs. My personal beliefs include practicing what we preach and staying truthful to ourselves and to God. When we say we love God and God loves us, it means we are capable of loving everyone —regardless of their color, race, sexual preferences etc. When we say we are sons and daughters of God, we accept everyone without hesitations and we welcome them to our homes with open arms. When we say we are Christians, we are pure, honest, and kind in heart and deeds not just in public but when nobody else is looking. Sadly, most if not all members of the congregation are fake Christians who are either confused about their faith or just there for a sense of belongingness (LOL!). I cannot stand these people. I abhor their fake lives and their fake faith. I cannot tolerate arrogant preachers for their hypocricy and audacity to claim they are living prophets of God but do not even understand the real meaning of love. The LGBTQ people are harmless people and like everyone else they deserve to be treated with utmost respect and be given rights similar to what their “straight” brothers and sisters enjoy. We did not want this. We were made like this. We were born this way.

Faithwire.com and born-again Christian writer Jenna Shackelford made a point when she said in her article, “we are living in a time in which people are leaving the church frequently due, in part, to intellectual questions that are unresolved and doubts they may have, many of which seem to spring up or be nurtured in more secular environments, whether it is a social media or discussions on college campuses.” You can say I am one of those who left the church due to its primarily authoritarian structures rather than a more democratic structure. In my case, it was more than intellectual questions. It was a question of integrity and truthfulness of the congregation.

In the same article titled, “Why Katy Perry’s Rejection of Her Childhood Faith Should Concern Every Bible-Believing Christian,” Shackelford added, “we (referring to born-again Christians) should not wait for people to leave the church to realize we have a problem. We need to equip ourselves to answer questions, so that we can equip others to grow in their faith as well.” It seems to me that the church has always been ready for a rebuttal no matter what topic. The real score is whether they are being true to their goddamn selves. Are they walking the talk? The answer is no. Most of them are not. Even if they were believers. Sometimes, non-believers appear to be more Christ-like in thinking, in words and in deed. And this creates the confusion that makes good Christians leave the church.

Others may argue that I simply stepped in to the wrong congregation and that not all preachers are the same and I agree with that. I have encountered a very honest and loving congregation of true Christians. I knew a bunch of unbelievably good pastors and preachers of the Word. But this is not just about my encounter with a few congregations or some preachers. This is more about how fucked up the concept of religion is to me —how it fools most people and make them believe lies after lies in order to make a living out of them.

In the book of Romans 3:10 under the New International Version (NIV), the bible says, “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Indeed, nobody has the right to judge other people for they know nothing of the battles these people had to deal with. There is a story behind every single person; there is a reason why they are the way they are. Think about that before you judge someone. Shame on you if you are a pastor / priest who preaches of God’s love but spreads hate and bigotry and causes confusion among us. Shame on you if you are a priest who condemns homosexuality but engages in sexual relationship with another man (or woman for that matter). Shame on you and all hypocrite judgmental people who go to church on Sundays. You people should hear yourself talk. 

I am neither an atheist nor an agnostic person. An atheist do not believe in the existence of God, I believe that there is a Supreme Being who created life and everything. An agnostic individual neither believes nor disbelieves in a god or religious doctrines. I only believe that some teachings of the bible may be true and worth following but at the end of the day, the bible for all its worth is still a work of many men whose past time was to write and create stories based on their own realities and superstitious beliefs. There were no internet back then. People needed something to do. I do respect the intellectual and spiritual teachings of these writers but to claim there were divine intervention in their works, that’s another story and that’s something that has long been refuted by scholars. When it comes to the bible, I honestly take the ones that I can use in my daily life (mostly the verses about love, friendship, family and being a good person) and ignore the ones that question my own relationship and faith in God. And I do not intend to demean or argue about religion either because I believe every individual should be entitled to their own beliefs. Let me be entitled to mine.

I still pray to God every day and my faith is stronger than ever. I may not read the bible as often as before but I do carry with me the most important teachings it has ever taught me; 

1 John 3:16-18 — “16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or a sister in need but has no pity in them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words and speech but with actions and in truth.”

Proverbs 10:12 — “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongdoings.”

1 John 4:7 — “Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Mark 12:31 — “The second is this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than this.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails but where there are prophecies; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

Matthew 23:8 — But you are not to be called “Rabbi,” for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers.”

Luke 6:31 — “Do to others what you would have them do to you”

Religion has led this world into so much hatred that led to wars that led to divisions. Religion is still the root cause of the chaos in many parts of the world. Instead of coming to church and adhering to a certain religion, I choose to let the above teachings become the very foundation of my core values. I am no angel. I don’t claim to be an all-knowing person. I am not a perfect man either. I sin, I fall, I swear, I commit mistakes, I make bad decisions but I do try to live by these core values and try to remember them every day, wherever I go and whatever I do. 

I’m not saying people do not need religion to grow their faith but to each his own and eliminating the concept of religion in my life worked for me. To clarify my views about the bible; I agree with some of the great teachings of the bible but I must admit that most if not the rest of it are entirely irrelevant to my time and should not be justified or exaggerated by preachers in any other way just so it will appear valid and applicable to the present time. The Lord has blessed my life so far because my faith in Him is rock solid and no religion can break it. He has been my Provider and I couldn’t ask for more. With regards to the 10%, I make sure I give back to charity and the community. Not that it’s better than giving your ten percent to a corrupt church but that’s just “my way” of giving back. But I don’t need religion to tell me how to love my God when preachers, pastors, deacons and most religious people I know do not present as a good example either. Please, just admit most of you are there for the money and stop confusing people.

Have you been astray? Have you ever considered quitting religion? Did you do it? How was the experience? Tell me in the comments!

—King Ray, the Ninja