By MARIA PAMELA S. REYES
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece is one of the works in a five-part series in line with the Dapitan 2019 theme Insureksiyon. All works that are part of the series are written by the Flame’s Letters staffers.
THEIR STARES were everywhere. Accompanied by their rambunctious mouths, they followed my every move as if I was a child who needed to take heed of orders. Their eyes undressed my very essence. They watched over my actions like I was a lion in a cage, but I am human, and that was how I wanted to be seen.
The moment I came out of my mother’s womb, the world already knew what I was and where I was supposed to head. I was expected to be prim and proper: the perfect example of a refined lady. During my toddler years, I was constantly told not to run on the muddy path, not to play with the boys or to spit out vile words for I would be seen as a problematic child.
I was caged in my four-cornered room playing with plastic kitchen sets and dolls that resembled a faint image of myself. At the age of thirteen, I bowed to society’s whispers and listened to their commands. I wore skirts, I played with glitter, I spoke softly and practiced being graceful, but it did not feel right. I was eighteen years old when I started hating every waking moment of my life because I realized that I am a woman. I am only second to man, for I am the other.
I was twenty-three when he got down on one knee. His eyes twinkled expectantly. Hundreds of eyes gazed down on me as the flash mob music continued booming in the background. All I wanted was to enjoy a nice day in the park, but they were all anticipating.
Everyone was waiting for that three-letter word; however, all I could muster was a big “No.”
No, because I could still remember the throbbing pain in my neck from when he strangled me the night before. No, because I had to unwillingly undress for him a week ago. No, because he disregarded my dreams to prioritize my career and earn money for myself before I get married. No, because he slapped me in front of everyone’s judging eyes for rejecting the ring that could have forever bound me to him.
It has dawned on me that I am more than what society commands me to be. I am not simply a lady who was destined to run a family, to give birth to a child, or to be trapped under their disappointed stares. I am not a lion tamed to entertain a spectating crowd; I am a person with her own ideas and ambitions, for I am the conductor of my own fate.
Their stares gradually turned into glares and their whispers turned into barks as I slowly climbed the summit of a mountain they thought I could never reach. At the age of twenty-five, their judging eyes no longer affected how I ran my life and their rambunctious mouths were muted by my newfound confidence. My soft voice turned into a boisterous tune that sang of protest and pain that was kept caged for years in my heart. In the mornings, ladles and pots occupied my hands, but as the day continued, books and pens would take over.
I was achieving more than they could ever imagine. I was raising a flag that will reign forever. Finally, I was not second to man, nor was I the other. I stood on the same ground with him, for I am a woman and I am equal to man. F