Speak Up

When people ask me what I am most insecure about, I would most likely answer something that concerns a physical characteristic. I would shy away from revealing the thing that keeps me up at night, the one that embarrasses me the most. I would rather offer a superficial answer, say my hair or my stomach (both of which I am insecure about but not the ones I get most uncomfortable in). I would not let them in my inner layer.

Truth be told, that anxiety-filled insecurity is my inability to speak my thoughts out into the open. For most people, this would be a shallow concern, something that can be rid of with tons of practice. That may be true when it comes to class presentations, participations, and even orals. It may even be easier when the thought is something everyone agrees upon. But, what if that thought is the exact opposite? What if it opposes all the teachings one grew up with?

When you have grown up in a society where conformity is key and a family where speaking out against the collective opinion is never an option, the whole thing becomes easier said than done. Ever since I was young, I was conditioned to speak only in agreement and to stay quiet when I want to disagree. This is further reinforced with the belief that since I was a woman, I needed to be socially pleasant – I had to stay away from arguments. It comes as no surprise when people ask why I am quiet all the time. I have become so used to this upbringing that it has become an automatic response. It has become a habit I am much too afraid to break.

Enter Ateneo. Everyone was encouraged to talk about their differing opinions, to speak their minds, to engage in discourse. And almost everyone did. People were open to discuss certain topics that were normally considered taboo or socially unacceptable. They questioned society’s norms and they talked about politics. They stood up against oppression. This was something I found unusual and contributed to my so-called “culture shock.” What made it even more fascinating was how passionate they were about their ideas.

It made me jealous. How can they easily articulate their opinions without fear of judgment? How can they remain passionate even when people keep telling them, “you don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “shut up ka na lang“? Whereas my high school classmates easily embodied this “culture,” I never adapted easily. I was still stuck in that old mindset of keeping quiet. I was reveling in the comfort of my own privacy, my security, my silence. For a time, I was okay with that. Then I realized, I was siding with the oppressors. I had no say in matters that were important and relevant to humanity. I kept to my own as thousands of people fought for their rights and the rights of others. I did nothing as people marched on in the hopes of having a union strong enough to defeat said oppressors. My keeping quiet did not make the world a better place, it meant one step farther from that. My silence meant I was remaining neutral. I was being impersonal.

It was a rainy Thursday. The student body was asked to wear black for the day as a show of dissent for the implementation of the death penalty. An impromptu rally was organized, with hundreds of students and faculties participating. Numerous professors even chose to give free cuts for the said rally. Ours did, too.

It was an open invitation of sorts. It was giving me a chance to finally own my voice. The usual hesitation I had was not present in any part of my body. I was done being passive and quiet. I was done with remaining on the sidelines. I was done with oppression.

I took to the streets in anticipation of the rally. Everyone was already chanting, their voices louder than the pitter-patter of the rain. The desire to be for the oppressed and against the oppressors became stronger than the fear that usually froze my actions. “Speak up!” my mind shouted. Once I started, I could not and would not stop.

It was a rainy Thursday and I joined my first rally. I did not expect to have tears in my eyes after the realization that I was a part of something bigger than me. I was a part of something aimed at saving humanity. It was exhilirating and it was nerve-wracking. It was one of the few times that I was so passionate about what I was doing.

It was me emerging. It was me going out of myself and going out from the solace that was my neutrality, my impersonality. It was me being me.

Rica Giorgia Filasol



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