2018: A bit of reflections and going back

photo: Sarimanok Evacuation Camp, Marawi

There are many ways to tell a story: you may opt to write a tweet with photos to tell friends that you’ve been hanging out with this cute guy you’ve met in a music shop some weeks ago, or an instagram story about the freakiest friday night you can’t get over with, or just write any day-length notes in your journal about how your day went and tell the story to yourself. To share a part of you, online or offline, and how your daily life is going through has been a normal guise of this generation in telling the people around their everyday stories, in snippets or in a full-length movie, we have our ways.

In 2018, I became a frequent storyteller, not the usual once upon a time’s. I didn’t even dream of telling you a story of some manic pixie dream girl I hope I fell in love with, but I tell stories that many haven’t heard, under the sheets, not allowed to talk about because of how society forbids to tackle them.

Though to be exact, I did this only six times my whole life and four times were just this year alone: telling stories to people of different nationalities, from all walks of life, in four different countries which cultures I’m not even familiar with. It’s not as juicy as how the Kardashians in their reality tv show talk about their luxurious, fancy life, but I tell the Filipino stories: real, calamansi-squeezed tidbits (should’ve been a lemon but localized version) of the sour truth, chopsuey -filled feelings of the mixed, randomized, sad fate (not actually fate, because the government has been carelessly putting our lives into a blackhole of the unknown that… oops this is for another blog entry).

But do not joke around, I’m no professional in this field, I still feel the same level of nervousness everytime I talk, as if it was always the first time. It’s a different outstanding feeling every moment. Maybe 2018 is the year I got to be comfortable with this discomfort. I need to “get used to it,” because “I have to.”

Still lost about what I’m talking about? I am still lost as well about what I’ve been doing with this life, but here it goes…

2018 was the peak of my work being the youngest SheDecides Champion.

(click the link to know more about the movement)

Until now, I still question the universe on how do I even deserve this recognition. (another story for another time). Being the youngest in the Guiding group of Champions (Advisory group), I have forcefully opened my eyes, my mindset that in every meeting I need to talk, I need to share what’s on my mind. It will be tokenistic if I just sit around, listen and feed my ego to this entitlement. Me talking is not for me, it’s for the 1.8 billion youth and adolescents that I represent. It’s speaking for the unheard for them to be heard internationally. It’s not an easy task. I have my fair share of insecurities that until now, I face and conquer.

Pretoria, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Kigali? Haha, pretty prestigious right? being able to go and travel in 4 lovely cities in just a year maybe a highlight but there’s so much more being in public stages of convention centres in these places.

In these countries, I tell ‘almost’ the same level of stories, almost same format, and at times, same introduction but different wording. As if I do not have any other stories to tell. Heck no, in my 20 years of existence and 5 years in the advocacy, I’ve heard hundreds of stories of unwanted teenage pregnancies, early sex, not knowing how to use a condom, being harassed and catcalled. Different audience perhaps in different conferences that I’ve been to have heard my awful (but passionate, i promise) wishful hopes that these people of different colors will carry the soundtrack of these stories, a future were stigma is no longer a burden and to tell these stories in a much wider population; to convert the non-allies to be part of our alliances in producing a world where we can talk about sex openly, without hesitation, with open hearts and minds.

The voices of these stories, the young people what do we all have in common? We need a medium, we need someone to listen to us. Listening to their stories have put me in the position were I am now. I’ve always loved Spiderman, but his realities is my mantra in the power that I do have now. A responsibility to sustain this momentum of telling truer stories of a girl not being able to tell that she was raped by her boyfriend because she doesn’t even know that she actually was.

The stories that we tell have a face, an emotion, a soul being crushed for not being able to access the services that they deserve, the justice that they needed.

This year, I also had a chance to tell even greater stories in different platforms, of different means, and in different outcomes.

I had a 3-day interaction and exploratory mission trip in Marawi. It was just a year after the siege at the time of our visit. There we got to talk to mothers and have realized their needs. Women economic empowerment in humanitarian setting has been the evolving theme of our exploratory visit: families have asked for support in livelihood, going back to their exact homes and making sure that the kids can be able to go back in their schooling. In 2019, it will be an entirety of hopefully addressing some of these needs, of course with the help of our partners, and stakeholders in the advocacy.

It was even a greater experience to gather and document stories from the people of an island-province here in the Philippines. Batanes, which all of us have dreamed of travelling to, twas even more breath-taking to know more about the Ivatan people, their uniqueness, their bayanihan, how simple their life is but grander in retrospect. Living here for a month, I get to know myself even more, shocked that I was capable of telling stories through research, of course this wouldn’t be possible without my ever reliable groupmates.

The fruits of our labor in our anthropology field school have led us to tell tales of our research in an undergraduate conference in Puerto Princesa. I’ve fully understand because of this experience, how fate had pushed me to take anthropology, and how anthropology has been a tool for me to be a somewhat narrator of the partial tales of everyday life, of everyday people.

The frequency of my story-telling didn’t give me a free ticket to be fully confident in my own words, thoughts and even on how I look in front of everyone. Insecurities, not being good enough, not being able to give the right message had consumed my whole being. But it is the year that we learned to fight this back.

This year was also the year of cutting people off who didn’t fully appreciated my love in what I do and my passion in telling stories. There were a lot of wasted effort, time and resources that we hoped we have maximized in our goal to reach a wider audience.

This year was the year of always trying, finding that perfect routine, being on time, looking in front of the mirror for multiple times just to find that perfect tone, loudness of voice to encapsulate the story that I want to tell. Some process I have achieved, but some still failed.

I’ve learned the importance of taking snippets, notes, photos of things and people to help me remember what happened in a day.

I’ve also learned the importance of friendship, of keeping people who see your success as their own as well, who never judged your priorities and have been there to understand and respect your whole being. Friends that carry your stories everywhere they go; friends who listen to your stories.

What i learned this year is that there is no perfect formula in everything, even in telling stories. You just have to make yourself feel things and go for it, do it, listen to people and be able to be comfortable with your own discomfort.

It was hard to be a storyteller. To be completely honest, like any other craft, being one takes a lot of time, effort and practice, and listening, getting feedback, trying a bunch, a pint, a sparkle of one, of the other, of everything listed. The hardest part? This doesn’t happen in a linear path, you have to be ready that it may be thrown to you all at the same time. The best shield?

… making the stories your own. embrace it and do not let go.

It felt very much needed to start my blog by writing my 2018 reflections. Twas a year of lovely productivity, of being both influencing the international scene and being grounded in community work. Ever since I’ve been very active in my advocacy there’s always a sudden thought of writing my thoughts, but I failed to do so in the last two years. medium.com isn’t my first choice, the plan is to get my own domain, but at this point of time I do not have 200$ to get my own domain and hire someone to design the website. Medium is a saving grace tbh.

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Jona Turalde

a more organized space of my personal and purpose-driven outtakes, wanna-be essayist & poet, current sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate. 🇵🇭