Writers: Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo and Rafael Reyes
Editors: K Ballesteros, Richardson Mojica, and Alvin Joseph Mapoy
Creatives: Krystle Mae Labio
The start of July for most Filipinos wasn’t the most hopeful month, but it did not impede a powerful conversation about being healthy and powerful. Meaningful personal experiences and narratives on fatphobia and vital relationship communications were brought up, and the #UsapTayo Spaces provided a safe space for the attendees. Here were the highlights of the sessions:
Beyond Angels & Perspectives : Tobey’s Notes
The prominence of popular culture and media created a narrow standard of beauty that isolated people who didn’t fit in the conventionally attractive guidebook. Our society excluded people who experienced weight-based discrimination, and these experinces were only a small part of the spectrum of hate and mockery. People pre-judged and assumed things based on how a person looked. A good example of this was written in the article of K Ballesteros and John Alvin Tapia, citing Virgie Tovar’s You Have the Right to Remain Fat: “It has been harder to find jobs with opportunities for promotion because employers associate fatness with laziness”. Another speaker, Richardson Mojica, described a hope for change and increased sensitivity towards people who spread hateful comments [about physical attributes], and expressed how the community should be more accepting of people who changed their behaviors as a sincere expression of regret and accountability.
The topic further discussed practical behaviors to address the stigma around weight-based discrimination. Azie pointed out that the most practical way to spread positivity was acceptance and the idea of valuing others’ appearance as you value yourself. It was also highlighted that stigmatization emanated from the language and social bubble our community had evolved from, which is something that needs to be forgotten [from Speaker AJ]. The factors leading to weight gain were also discussed in the Spaces. Our guest, Isa, stated that weight gain could be the result of systemic issues and access to opportunities, going beyond individual discipline and personality. Roy Dahildahil emphasized a Self-Society-System initiative to address discrimination.
The conversation ended with positivity and acceptance, the Spaces managed to create a place of comfort and empowerment for the listeners, sharers, and speakers. In the end, we should always keep in mind that it takes a lot more courage to accept yourself. Standing our ground and lifting our chin is an act of self-love undisturbed by the comments of others. We hear them but we shouldn’t listen to them.
Beyond Hugs & Handshakes – Tobey Calayo’s Notes
“If commitment is to be alive, that is, if it is to belong to the present, then the only commitment one can make is to commit oneself again and again. ‘I love you and I choose you again and again.’ I did not just choose you once, but I continued to choose you, and what there is of me in my speech is given to you again and again through that speech act, declaration, vow, and promise, one that binds me to you in the present, whatever present that happens to be. That means as well that one binds oneself to the process of becoming different as circumstances demand, which means that in all repetition, there is unknowing. One agrees to commit one’s love again, unknowingly again.” – Judith Butler, “Response: Performative Collection and Commitment”
The pandemic has proven to be a big blow in our lives, and the lives of those with whom we interact. With no hopeful rays of sunshine in the foreseeable future, how do virtual spaces shape the relationships we maintain? The extra tight constraints of the quarantine stripped us of our normal routine, which (may or may not) contribute to how we retain a sense of community and family with others.
The online world was a vast place where it was easy to find a model of a harmonious relationship virtually. Without limits on how ideals can turn into realities, it’s not uncommon to feel doubts and comparisons. Students were immersed in a different type of learning field, jobholders were given different workplaces, and teachers were challenged in virtual and online spaces. What was clear for almost everyone was how interactions were tested as the quarantine gave people the area and capacity to reimagine relationships, partnerships, and friendships, working near enough with constant stressors in cyberspace.
The July 20 spaces focused on relationships of all types. The first few parts of the conversation tackled integral questions of resiliency and initiating conversations. It was pointed out that resiliency as a tool may seem overrated and a double-edged sword. The level of adaptability you can have amidst psychological, physical, and other hazardous cases stemmed from your ability to connect with people on an emotional level.
It further explored narratives of other people, further emphasizing that our own experience with the world was the main content bubble of our conversations — our personal stories and narratives shaped the world we offer others in our daily interactions [Speaker Azie]. Richardson shared how feelings must be communicated with a decent amount of caution to also be self-aware of attachments built with other people.
The spaces, through Speaker K, also highlighted how people naturally want to be heard and want their stories to be understood, how we crave empathy and validation from others while at the bottom of it all is the fear that we might be alone. This necessitates the importance of good communication to build positive connections. Having this kind of ability was a form of security and safety for our own personal happiness and stability. Powerful conversations should help us meet our needs, and help us understand the needs of our partners. Speaker Kams highlighted the importance of practicing communication to better relay what we emotionally, personally, and mentally need. It also helped us acknowledge our problems better by clarifying the path to solutions.
The final part of the program discussed some of the listeners’ ways of coping in the pandemic. Relationships in all fields and types became more visible. We tend to underestimate the emotional baggage relationships may bring. Only through love’s commitment, intimacy, and passion does this world’s beauty continue. The night made listeners remember their worth: people are more than small talks and unpromised feelings. Listeners believe that they deserve this world and what this world can give. Relationships are places of understanding and participants are capable of finding and building these comfortable places.
Kenny, an #UsapTayo regular, shared this poem for everyone during the session:
“We all are feeling these things: madness, disappointing words, discouraging gestures, failing expectations, chaos, love—everything that isn’t harmonious in nature.
But then again, the story you have is worthy to be shared.
You are a story. You are valid.
At times when you feel down, unworthy and hopeless, understand that it is normal. Understand that we don’t have the luxury of navigating everything in our lives, whether in our decisions or people surrounding us. Understand that one has to go back feeling and facing these things, not to the point of being succumbed to them.
The thing about feeling things is that we are aware of everything and nothing.
We are aware that it is not always what we hope for, rather it is an outcome of possibilities.
We need to step back once in a while.
We must loosen up, pause, and appreciate the place where we are.
Time can be both healing and triggering, that’s why we make use of it wisely in order to monitor many aspects reflecting who we are as human beings.
True enough, don’t figure it out. Let them reveal who they are. Let them unfold in front of your eyes. The way we overthink keeps us insane. The way we control people and surroundings drives us to continue wanting more and be hungry, which requires an amount of patience and a level of mental fortitude.
You are a strong person. I don’t want that to fade. The dreams and aspirations that you’re carrying is an extension of your pure soul.
As long as you are safe, happy and at your true self, you will always be fine.”
Uniting People Through Healthy Fandoms: Notes by Rafael Reyes
Fandoms were prevalent in social media, and even more so in the Philippine context. Although fandoms existed since the early 2000s with the likes of 2NE1, the rise of the Internet and the boom in Korean pop culture propelled the phenomenon into the mainstream world.
The final Spaces for July 2021 discussed the fandom phenomena, particularly, how joining fandoms, and maintaining and promoting a non-toxic community are part of healthy coping mechanisms. Early conversations revolved around sharing experiences in the fandoms that the speakers belonged to and participate in.
Speaker Kams pointed out one commonality among the speakers’ different reasons for belonging to their fandoms: stress relief. Speaker Azie supports the claim by mentioning that pleasant feeling from encountering fandoms, (a K-Pop group, for instance) and returning to experience a similar high. Speaker AJ also recalls how music was there for him wherever and whenever, especially during huge moments in life. Finally, Speaker Richardson related how coping by identifying themselves in an artist or their medium (such as a song) provided a sense of comfort.
Another interesting aspect of fandoms was how it gave more agency to the consumers of a particular media. Richardson presented the Harry Potter fandom as an example. Due to popular culture, the community not only passively consumed the work of J.K. Rowling, but also expanded upon the foundations of the fictional universe by writing fan fiction and creating fan art, essentially becoming producers themselves.
With regard to building healthy and non-toxic fandoms, the biggest reminder for people belonging to fandoms was to check themselves on whether their values and actions aligned with the community they participated in. Azie borrowed something from the #MentalHealthPH team and suggested that one should always go back to your “whys”. Knowing why one joined a community and became a fan of a particular artist or book can become one’s guide in taking action and speaking with conviction.
That said, the Spaces session also took a moment to discuss the team’s endeavors with the “fandoms collage” posted prior to the event. Despite the infamous toxicity known in fandoms for misrepresentation in social media, the situation actually yielded a positive experience for both the fandoms themselves and the team responsible for graphics. Some notable stories included an email explaining the particular image used to represent a fandom and another representative apologizing for the terrible press generated by the quote retweets of the collage in question.
Overall, the Spaces started and ended on a positive note, achieving its original objective of discussing the essentials to maintaining a healthy experience in fandoms. Listeners and speakers from the latter half of the session were able to share and talk about their fandoms and experiences passionately.
Fandoms came in all shapes and sizes, as well as the medium and the people that the community rallies behind. It was a testament to how communities were built on shared interests. Thus, it is important to realize that we, as well as the different fandoms we belong to, should learn to understand each other. At the end of the day, our differences should not hinder us from enjoying the things we love, and in celebration of which these communities were built.
To conclude, Speaker Roy shared a poem that perfectly encapsulated how we should look at fandoms besides our own:
- Kung ano ang madalas nating makita sa social media, ‘yon ang perception natin ng “maganda” – Richardson Mojica (RS)
- It’s important to look at it from the point of view of food security din at access and on how nutrition can be scarce to them, it’s a socio-cultural topic. – Azie
- It’s also highly political [RS] tahi-tahi na hindi accessible ang nutritious food all the time at may pressure din to look a certain way [Azie]
- K: How does resilience affect the way we go about relationships?
- Replying to K, Richardson: “Mahal mo e, pagtiyagaan mo. That’s one way on how we see resiliency in Filipino relationships, beyond romantic partnerships, mahal mo yung tao kahit anong mangyari.”
- Replying to K, AJ in his own opinion: “Siguro when it comes to relationships, hindi tayo [Filipinos] nag-sstay sa relationships na hindi naman na nag-woworkout lalo na kapag nawala na yung vital components na commitment, intimacy, at passion. Kahit isang bagay lang mawala dun, I get that there are other types of relationships but when things don’t come into terms communication should remain and rise.”
- AJ: Dapat alam natin san nanggagaling yung mga tao.
- Agreeing to others, Kams: “The quality of your relationships with other people influences how emotionally resilient you can be in the face of an either emotional, physical, or hazardous crisis; in general, the quality of support you can draw from your family and friends is indicative of your flexibility and resiliency.”
- Azie: I find resiliency overrated, doing well in one aspect in your life isn’t indicative of you doing well in other aspects. You can’t expect resiliency at all times in all levels of your life, we need to be understanding of ourselves, other people, and people we are in relationships with.
- K: Relationships are a tool we can fall-back on, weirdly enough, taking care of other people may disrupt communication as you may not feel that your voice is being heard in a relationship where you are the carer. Everyone is just trying to get by, it becomes much harder to say, “Hey, listen to me and I need somebody to talk to.”
- K: How do we operationalize a conversation starter?
- Kams: We want to help people even though they are not blatantly asking for it…
- Replying to K (8), RS: “I go back to our memories together, ‘Uy kumusta yung ganito, ganiyan mo?’, something that isn’t triggering and can also deepen the conversation”
- K: “Quoting from something I saw before, ‘attention is the purest form of love’”
- Azie: “Our experience with the world is the way we communicate, we reciprocate our version of our world to others when we successfully communicate; hence, making communication non-constant and varied across times.”
- Azie: “It’s important to reassure our partners that we are always here for them”
- Highlighting Azie, K: “It’s important to say, ‘when you’re ready I am here’. I hope we can say it more consistently to each other and to ourselves.”
- AJ: “Asking for help depends highly on the level of relationship you have with the person.”
- Quoting an anonymous sharer, Azie: The Asian culture is communicated through reading the air, we [Filipinos] always think of other people before starting conversations
- K: “It’s more noble for us to think of other people first before we think of ourselves, sometimes leading us to not start thinking about ourselves.”
- Kams: “Be present with the person and listen to them, some just need affirmation and not advice, sometimes just being literally there helps a lot.”
- K: “It is our responsibility to understand our own emotions to an extent, to understand them enough to be able to narrativize them to ourselves.”
- K: “We all want to be heard, we want to have this platform to tell our narratives, our disclosure leans towards gaining empathy and validation, and at the bottom of that is the fear that we might be alone… It’s scary to reveal a part of ourselves that others don’t know, those deeply held fears might hold us back in our relationships. We are worthy of time, attention, and the understanding of others.”
- RS: “There is some beauty in argument, we [Filipinos] should unlearn the personal tension when having arguments, because it’s an uplift of a mental and academic discourse.”
- Speaker Kams pointed out one commonality among the speakers’ different reasons for belonging to their fandoms: stress relief.
- Speaker Azie supports the claim by mentioning that pleasant feeling from encountering fandoms, (a K-Pop group, for instance) and returning to experience a similar high.
- Speaker AJ also recalls how music was there for him wherever and whenever, especially during huge moments in life.
- Speaker Richardson related how coping by identifying themselves in an artist or their medium (such as a song) provided a sense of comfort.