Hi, people. I have an eating disorder.

(TRIGGER WARNING!  If you suffer from an eating disorder and feel you might be triggered by a detailed retelling, please do not read.)

Hello, people.

Yesterday, I managed to catch the last few minutes of a friend’s radio talk airing on Facebook Live.  There, she discussed whether it’s better for emotions to be hidden or revealed.  I did want to leave a comment but the show ended before I can even complete half a sentence.

But the question hit home and I spent the rest of yesterday’s waking hours thinking about how I would’ve answered if someone asked me face-to-face, “Are emotions better hidden or revealed?”

My siblings would definitely say I’d reveal.  As far as they know, it really is that hard for me to keep a secret.  (That’s why they don’t tell me their secrets because I’d surely tell our mother.)  That’s also as far as I know.  Keeping secrets has always exhausted me, emotionally and physically.  I tend to feel intensely, and one disadvantage of being me is I can’t discriminate between big and small things: for me, everything is a big thing.  It’s exhausting.  Keeping secrets is as if I’m giving something more merit than it’s actually worth.  Putting words to it – either by saying it out loud even to just one person or writing it down – reduces its intensity.  It significantly lessens the burden of having to carry it inside.  Get it?

But one thing that I have hidden is that I’ve been suffering from anorexia for a long time.

For those who have heard it for the first time or know little about it, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by obsessively limiting the amount of calories taken and encouraging activities to utilize these calories, for the sake of being thin.  According to my research, I fall under anorexia binge/purge subtype.  (I haven’t had an official diagnosis, though.)

And yes, it is a mental illness.  And it kills.

Many times, I hinted or told family and friends that I wanted to see a psychiatrist – because I knew something bad was happening to me.  But mental health is still stigmatized in the Philippines that either they didn’t take me seriously or they told me, “No, you’re not crazy.”  Because I wanted to be liked – and nobody likes to be around sad people – I decided to pretend.  (And also because, honestly, I thought I can’t afford treatment.)

All the while I was suffering and self-hating, but on the outside, I appeared happy and full of sunshine.  In office fellowships, I hopped from table to table, danced, and sang a lot so I could avoid eating altogether.  And if anyone caught me having a handful of nuts or chips or drinking sugared water?  Rest assured my dinner later was a glass of water with two packets of psyllium husk to flush it all out.  My meal the next morning would be two HIIT sessions.

I was the girl who’s scared to get hungry because I brought lots of food on trips, but I’d exercise it all off in the room.  Also, they’re all full of fiber, low-fat, and low-calorie.  And when I get home, the fasting would begin.

I’d be grateful for any situation that kept me from going out with friends or co-workers because it kept me from having to eat.  I’d make every excuse – restroom, need to get something I was pretty sure would be hard to find, too tired – when with my family at restaurants.  Even now that we have started our lunch delivery business, I dread being forced to taste the food and eat the leftovers.  I’m late a lot at work because I would jog 8,000 steps to burn the calories.  My waking hours are 100% predominated by thoughts of food, specifically, how to survive every day without needing it.

You know what makes me happy?  Being told that I got thinner.  Or that they envied my discipline.  Or that they wanted to do what I do.  But then, these doesn’t give me contentment.  Instead, they would push me to go further.  I’d eat less and exercise more to be thinner, to be more disciplined, and to never be beaten.

On the other hand, one thing that distresses me is being told to gain weight.  I remember telling well-intentioned people, “What are you talking about?  I gained an inch around my waist!” or,  “You just don’t see it but I look horrible without clothes.”  The other is seeing other girls losing weight faster than me.  I’ve learned that these two are typical behaviors of eating disorder sufferers: a distorted view of their bodies and competitiveness.

I wish I could tell you how it all started but the truth is, I don’t know.  Maybe it’s going through adolescence getting called ugly and fat, or having feelings that were not reciprocated, or not fitting into beautiful clothes.  Maybe it’s growing up in front of the TV and seeing all the advertisements that said I had to be thin to be accepted and liked.  Maybe it’s all those physical check-ups that required me to line up with girl classmates who were most interested in comparing weights.  Maybe it’s hearing people who make fun of fat people.  Maybe it’s being noticed by guys only when I started losing weight.  Maybe it’s this ridiculous expectation – that may or may not be espoused by the community itself – that vegans have to be sexy.  Maybe it’s all of these and other things I don’t consciously think of.

But I could tell when I decided to stop.  It was a Tuesday night from many months ago and I found myself laughing at a good priest because he is obese.  I stopped, shocked, and I muttered to myself,

“Who are you, monster?”

I never thought I would say something like that.  Growing up looking different, I knew how painful it is to be judged for something I have no control over and I can’t change.  I made the decision a long time ago to see only the beauty in other people.

Then, I laughed at someone for not being thin.

I realized, painfully, that I have been looking at others that way for some time.  He got fat.  She lost weight.  Her arms are huge.  She’s so thin.  I know I never wanted to be like that.  I never wanted to be this vile person who defines someone else according to her/his weight.  It was unacceptable.  That’s when I decided to put a stop to this.

You may ask, if I’ve been aware of my eating disorder for a long time, why haven’t I stopped it at the onset?  TRIGGER ALERT again.  I’m going to be brutally honest: I didn’t because the eating disorder is like a badge, a trophy.  Every step further down is a testament to my discipline and determination.  Most people can’t achieve what I have achieved.  Most people can’t do what I am able to do.

In my case, it was also sort of an illicit relationship.  It’s like the eating disorder is seductively whispering, “Look, everybody thinks this is all effortless.  But only you and I have to know of all our hard work.  This is our dirty little secret.”

But secrets lose their intensity once we put words into them.  As words, someone else can see them.  Now, we can see them as they are.  They lose their illusion.  They lose their seductiveness.  They lose their power.

I haven’t recovered yet, mind you.  I still find myself binge eating and purging.  I still find myself obsessively exercising to burn every possible calorie I have taken in.  My relationship with food is still unhealthy.  I still find myself labeling food as good and bad.  I still find myself finding excuses to skip meals.  I still feel bad that I ate at all.  I still look at myself in the mirror and want to change parts of myself.

But I’m trying.  I’m trying really hard.  And it’s hard.  There are times – like right now – that I cry because I have to go through this illness and ask myself why I can’t just be normal and carefree like everybody else.  There are times I doubt if I even do want to recover from my eating disorder, if I’m ready to lose all my gains now that I’ve gone this far.  But I remind myself that my mental health is most important right now.  My eating disorder made me acceptable to other people, but it cost me my self-respect, happiness, and what would have been beautiful memories.

I’m relearning to respect myself, to nourish my body, to accept my genetics, to accept the fact that I’m never going to have a social media-worthy bikini body, and that’s okay.

Typing this post had been hard and painful… but honesty is supposed to hurt, right?  I hope I made it clear how important it is to be honest with our feelings.  Others may not understand.  Others may not accept.  Others may judge.  Still, say it.  Our peace and happiness are worth much more than someone else’s reaction.

So, to answer the question, definitely, to reveal.

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Vegan Eats at Cebu City

Cebu has always been home. Though I only know about most of it through photos, I spent a chunk of my childhood in the City of Naga (back then, it was still a municipality), mama’s hometown. So, Cebu has always held a special place in my heart.

Two weeks ago, I participated in the 5th International Conference in Children and Young Adult Librarianship (ICCYAL), organized by the National Library of the Philippines, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and Cebu City Public Library. Cebu City was chosen as the venue for the conference because it has the first and only 24/7 public library in the Philippines. I mean, how cool is that. Anyway, since the listed topics were highly relevant to my work at the Library Hub, I asked mama to sponsor my participation. She was just too happy to oblige since it was to be held at her home province.

At first, I was afraid that I won’t have anything to eat at the lechon capital. Back in 2016, I lived off fruits, rice and soy sauce on our Christmas vacation at Naga. But thanks to Google, Happy Cow, and the Facebook group Manila Vegans, I managed to find three vegan and vegetarian spots that are just walking distance from Cebu Provincial Capitol and S Hotel. Others are just a click away on HonestBee.

I’m not going to review them because I didn’t get to eat a lot from any of them. But I’ll just list them here. Most of the time I lived off fruits and bread from Pan de Manila, ‘coz I was broke transferring from a hostel to S Hotel.

Anyway, here you go:

Lun-haw. 100% vegan. Located at Maxwell Hotel. Not available on HonestBee. I only got to eat buffalo broccoli and pomelo mango salad but I flew to vegan heaven. I’m definitely going back here soon.

Live Life. Located at Vibo Place, at the back of Starbucks. Vegan and vegetarian. I had the spaghetti al pesto (too sweet) and halohalo (not too sweet and kinda salty).

Wellnessland Health Institute. I ordered through on HonestBee. I had siomai, bam-i, and pancit canton. Big servings.

Toniq. Fourth floor of Ayala Mall, near the cinemas. Available on HonestBee. I only managed to get the blueberry streusels from Kits Kitchen and they were the best thing in the world.

Planet Vegis. I also didn’t get to eat here but it’s just walking distance from M. Velez Street.

Next time I’m going to Cebu, it’s gonna be a food trip.

P.S. And if you’re looking for vegan pasalubong, I’d swear on the life of me on JN Merchandise cacao balls. They come in plain, mango, and mint. So delicious and the owner is so gracious.

And then I’m thirty.

Looking back, I was always excited to turn thirty. I know, that’s weird. Other women get offended when asked about their age. Me? Throughout my twenty-ninth, I told people I was thirty, sometimes by mistake, most times deliberately.

I’d envisioned my thirtieth birthday as a grand celebration. I didn’t have a grand debut. On my eighteenth birthday, I was in college, and I just had KFC delivery – I wasn’t vegan yet – for me and some friends. Also, my parents didn’t have the money and they didn’t raise us to expect grand celebrations. But since I’ve now been working for almost nine years, I thought I could finally have the Disney princess party I’d always dreamed of.

I didn’t.

Instead, I woke up to cook food for our lunch delivery business. Francis did surprise me with a dozen vegan donuts from Green Bar – and I’m eternally grateful for his effort of traveling thirteen hours to get them. It’s the first time someone gave me that much effort. Then, I set off to get my professional license renewed but failed to accomplish that. I went home, washed, and slept, accomplishing nothing but getting another year older.

I don’t get it. I never really felt anxious about my age before. But now, I kind of hate myself that I am thirty and I am still… this, here.

I haven’t been to Japan. I haven’t seen Hey! Say! JUMP. I haven’t worn bikini in Bali. I’m not a millionaire. I don’t have a camera. I still haven’t reached my dream body. I haven’t published my romance pocketbook. I haven’t even changed my darned bed.

It’s like, now I have to have different, more serious goals for my life and yet I haven’t accomplished anything.

Now, my body doesn’t like Japan’s weather. Now, I’m too old to fangirl for Japanese boys. Now, I’m afraid no matter how I work out and eat healthy my metabolism is starting to slow down and I won’t ever reach my dream bikini body. Now, I don’t think the romance book publisher still accepts manuscripts. I even cringe at teenage romances now.

Now, I don’t even know what I’m supposed to want.

First Time at Good Food Sundays at Mandala Park… or what I ate last Sunday

Hi. I’m Patti and I’m an addict.

I’m addicted to food.

Maybe it’s hard to believe. In everyday life, I refuse food beverages offered to me. I don’t have breakfast or lunch with my office mates. I rarely eat at meetings or parties.

But I can justify myself. First, I’m vegan. I don’t eat animals and animal-derived ingredients. I’m also on a whole foods plant-based diet so I try to stay away from processed food and fried and sugary stuff – even if they’re vegan. I’m eating high-carb, low-fat so nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconuts are also limited. (ATTN: I mean banana cue.) Finally, I’m not a salad person.

Plus for the most part I only completely trust vegans to prepare my food. That means my boyfriend Francis, my sister Angel, my brother Joey, and myself.

But all my thoughts actually revolve around food. I see people and think about how they eat. I see sick people and think about how food can heal them if they only let it. I see fitness people and think about how sad it must be to view food as calories. I see plants and wonder if they’re edible. I see soil and feel grateful because plants grow on it. I see animals and think there’s no way they can be food. I see non-vegan food and think of the different ways the awesome vegan world can veganize all of them.

And so last Sunday has to be one of the happiest days of my life. Francis and I dropped by Mandala Park at Mandaluyong City for our first ever Good Food Sundays experience.

It was all food.

Beanuguan by Vutcher

We had peanut butter sandwich for breakfast on the bus and were seriously famished by the time we reached Mandala Park.

Side Note: You can get there via public transportation by alighting at MRT Shaw Station or EDSA Crossing. Ride a jeepney with the sign “Kalentong/JRU” and alight at A. Mabini St. Cross the pedestrian lane. (There’s a tarpaulin with “Good Food Sunday” so it’s impossible to miss it. But if you’re paranoid like me, just watch out for KFC.)

It was still early when we arrived at 9:45. We had vegan siomai for starters but I forgot to take a picture because we were so hungry. It was okay, but not at all worth the P50 ($1) tag price for four pieces.

By 10:30, many of the stalls were already set up. We first ordered two bowled rice meals from Vutcher (by the owner of Zero Basics, a local, sustainable vegan brand of toiletries where I bought my shampoo bars). We had beanuguan – veganized version of a Filipino dish made with pig’s blood – and burger steak. Both were so filling and delicious.

Burger steak by Vutcher

I actually thought Francis’ burger steak was more enjoyable. But that’s just because of the amazing mushroom gravy. My beanuguan was light and tasted guilt-free.

S’mores by Delicielo

Then, we had a s’mores cupcake and a cranberry and oatmeal cookie from the vegan cake brand Delicielo. No kidding, my heart stopped at a bite of that chocolate cupcake. It was really that good. It was just a bit sad that the frosting wasn’t the sticky, firm mushroom you’d find on normie s’mores but I seriously fell in love with that cake I can’t say anything bad.

As for the cookie, it was also yummy but I prefer my cookies chewy and a bit moist.

“Beef” and mushroom linguine from The Good Choices

By then I was already full to the throat. On normal days I only have smoothies or fruits for breakfast but I already had rice and desserts. I was not even in the mood to walk anymore that Francis had to beg me to come with him to The Good Choices.

He said, “I can’t leave here without nachos and pasta.

So, of course, as the dutiful girlfriend, I indulged my beloved.

Longganisa Nachos from The Good Choices

And I didn’t regret it a bit. Both dishes were excellent but the longganisa nachos was the best thing I’ve ever eaten in possibly ten years. Until now I can’t get over how filling yet incredibly light they were. I can’t wait to get home and make my own version… but I’ll forever be dreaming about their longganisa nachos.

He maybe can’t believe he’s having beer for breakfast.

I came in at 45 kgs and left at 50, but as the owner of The Good Choices said, “Anyway, it’s just one Sunday!”

I was full. I wanted to have ice cream from Ocivic or Delicielo but if I open my mouth for another bite I’d faint. Hahaha. (Not true though. Before leaving we stopped by The Real Happy Cow to buy cheese and took a free taste of their incredible chocolate cookies. So delicious.) Too bad my stomach isn’t big enough for The Real Happy Cow’s “beef” rendang. Next time. Promise.

So I went home to Nueva Ecija a heavier yet happier woman.

I’m going back someday. But I’ll make sure I’ll have lots of containers for all the take outs I’m planning to get.

What She Did Last Summer: Beachin’ at Birdland

Summer has ended with me going to the beach exactly once. I know, right? It’s one perk of being an adult.

That once happened for my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary. (I still get awed whenever I think they still love each other after so long. Gives me hope.) I normally wouldn’t, but I skipped my ministry’s renewal for this – because mama and papa aren’t getting any younger. It’s also our celebration because papa is now diabetes-free.

Last year, we went to the beautiful paradise in Pagudpud, Panzzian Beach Resort. That set the bar. So this year, we wanted somewhere with the same serenity and found Birdland Beach Club in Bolinao, Pangasinan.

Birdland is considered as one of the best honeymoon destinations in the Philippines. It’s quiet and serene, not to mention the drive to the eco-resort was straight out of a Pinoy horror classic. We kept joking that we should wear our shirts inside out so we won’t get lost.

It was high noon when we arrived and it was so hot. Good thing we were treated to a cool glass of iced tea and wet towels to refresh ourselves. (At this point I reminisce about the complimentary coconut mint shake at Panzzian.) Then we went straight to our rental: the Sarah Vaughan.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I took pictures of the place. But it was a two-storey villa that coulf fit 8 people. (My sister Angel and her husband couldn’t join us because of work duties.) The owner, Michael, said that it was their original house but moved out after a scary experience with turbulent waters. It was nice, but because it faced the West Philippine Sea, it was really hot inside. Also, the AC kept shutting down. (Apparently that happens during summers and peak seasons in Bolinao.)

Aside from that, the place was beautiful… in a virgin, untouched way.

I originally wanted to swim as soon as we arrived but I had to go back to Dagupan to fetch Francis so I missed that half day. Anyway, if you’re wondering what those cabanas are in the middle of the sea, those are public-use anchored balsa.

The place has hundreds of bird houses (thus the name). The website said they are houses for migrant birds. So kind of them.

The place is perfect for my brother Joey’s new ocarina.

We swam at daybreak! This was the view from the middle of the sea. Haha. So pretty. I kinda wished we rented cabanas instead of the villa instead. Look at how picturesque the lady in the hut was! Perfect for #wokeuplikethis.

And we witnessed this beautiful sunrise.

And that crazy girl was me. Hahaha.

I’m honestly scared of seas because of the unknown creatures I might encounter. But we found these pretty starfishes. We returned them to the water at once, doncha worry.

This is perhaps the best view I’ve seen. The beagle.

There was a lady doing yoga on another balsa. But I can’t do yoga so I just had Francis take this #sexyback shot. It was also my first time wearing a swimsuit, by the way. Hahaha.

And Joey and Francis semi-bonded.

Later on we joined mama and papa at the banks for the obligatory family photo, although incomplete.

We had our breakfast at 8. They’re serving mostly organic and local dishes, prepared with no MSG. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of vegan options. The only vegan food for breakfast were the white rice, fresh tomatoes, fried eggplants and the binungey (sweet sticky rice in a bamboo) so beware. Beware also of the ensaladang talong because ours had fish sauce. (We didn’t ask until too late and we three vegans were itching already.) The food was also really expensive. (We brought in mangoes and were charged corkage.) I didn’t take pictures because the table wasn’t vegan.

My family’s #summer2018 wasn’t as great as last year’s but why should I complain? I appreciate the fact that the owners are trying to preserve the place as it is, building cabanas that would rot in a few years instead of permanent structures, and building without destroying the original features of the dead corals. It’s nice to know there are businesspeople who also genuinely care for the environment.

Now I’m thinking where we’re up to next summer.

I’m not a regular (future) mom.

Can I not send my children to school? Because I’m not a regular (future) mom; I’m a vegan (future) mom. I don’t want them to be lied to that certain animals are born for human consumption, or that the main source of protein is animal carcass, or that dairy is good for them. I don’t want to risk them being uninformed subjects to animal-tested synthetic medicines, egg-containing vaccines, or milk supplementation programs. I don’t want them to be forced to thank large corporations for donating stuff to show that they’re good when they’re not.

I’m not a regular (future) mom; I’m a feminist (future) mom. I refuse to put them in colors and uniforms and classifications that are based on their sex. I refuse to have them indoctrinated to ideas that certain chores and jobs are for males and others are for females. Or that doing male jobs make females sexy. I refuse to have them conditioned that girls are dainty and soft, and boys strong and tough. I prefer that they all know how to change tires, or fix the plumbing, or bake lemon cupcakes, or teach others as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

I’m not a regular (future) mom; I’m an anarchist (future) mom. I want my children to govern themselves. I don’t want them to fear positions and ranks. I want them instead to see every single being as an equal – neither superior nor inferior – and they don’t have to bow to or be bowed to by anyone. I want them to judge people according not to their status or their salary grades but to their principles. I don’t want them to compete with their peers but instead compete with their past. I don’t want them to be fixed to the idea that they have to study to get a job to have money to get married to have children who will study to get a job to have money to get married to have children to have the same things over and over again. Instead I want them to study because they know there’s no room for ignorance in a free society.

Moreover, I don’t want to place them in positions where they would be bullied, questioned, and judged harshly because of their principles and coerced to abide by the status quo.  I can’t imagine seeing my future children growing up powerless over the school system.  That, for me, is scarier than giving birth itself.

You see, I’m not a regular (future) mom. I’m a (future) mom who watched V for Vendetta one too many times.

I Ain’t Pretty

I’m slowly teaching myself to love myself – pores and all.

I lost my confidence in high school, the story of how still too painful to recall. Since then, I loathed how I look like: the long face, small eyes, upturned nose, brown lips, long chin, huge pores, huge legs and wide feet. And in the few times I felt kinda pretty, there was always a voice that reminded me of that hideous comment in high school.

No, I wasn’t pretty. I was never going to be pretty. Even believing the contrary was a crime.

Then, as I started earning my own money, I discovered the magic of make up. Suddenly, I have between my fingers a magic wand that made my eyes appear bigger and more alive. My pores disappeared at the lightest touch of creams and powders. My lips were my favorite shade of pink.

And the shoes. Beautiful shoes whisked me to beautiful places. On my high heels, my unshapely legs took shape, my feet didn’t seem as wide.

I had shoes and I had make up and I was happy.

And then, last year during Lent, I decided – or rather was forced – to fast on make up and heels. For the forty days that led to Easter, I was to be bare faced and on flat shoes.

I died, indeed. Letting go of the only things that made me feel pretty was hard and painful.

But by Easter, I discovered something: that feeling – feeling pretty – was an illusion.

At the end of the day I was still the girl with the long face, small eyes, upturned nose, brown lips, long chin, huge pores, huge legs and wide feet.

Then I realized I had spent all my money on things that fed that illusion. Then I’d spend more money on makeup removers and facials and foot massages to alleviate the after effects. Being pretty was unnecessarily strenuous.

Just like what Pistol Annies sang: Being pretty ain’t pretty at all.

I seldom wear makeup and high heels now and I only do so when forced by special occasions. When people tell me “mag-lipstick ka nga,” I’d smile and walk away. After all, people who want to be with me will still be with me even if I don’t look like Barbie.

In addition, most makeup I used to use either had animal-derived ingredients or tested on animals or both. I can’t continue using them anymore. There’s vegan makeup, of course, but they’re ridiculously expensive and I’d rather spend my money on food that nourish me from the inside.

I have given up on being pretty. I’m trying my best to cut off the chains that bind me to the influences of mass media and the industries. I’m trying to reclaim myself. I may not always like the woman I see in the mirror but I’m learning to love her in spite and because of the flaws.

I may not be pretty. But this – pores and all – is me.