I had been searching through all my old albums and photos scattered in different envelopes and boxes around my house. The truth is, I do not know where to start my story. I have a lot to tell.
So here we go.
WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR
I had a happy childhood. I had a very doting aunt, and my parents adored me. I grew up in a small town, the very provincial Kawit, Cavite in the Philippines. We were known as “the land of the brave,” hometown to the first president of the Philippine Republic and a lot of local heroes from during the revolution against the Spanish rule for of more than 300 years.
Everybody knew everyone, and all the neighbors looked after each other’s kids. From the age of 8, I was the leader of the pack, the “events manager” of the family and a child performer who earned money from singing and dancing at events and parties.
That attention, unfortunately, made me a bit of a bully in grade school. You just can’t fully understand what to do with that “power” as a kid. We felt invincible. We didn’t care much, since we didn’t know any better and had a lot of fun.
But I always worked hard for my money. Apart from performing, I also sold Filipino snacks in front of our house during summers holidays and traded scented stationeries, stickers and comics to earn extra cash and buy things that my Mom wouldn’t.
THE NEVER-ENDING SHIFT
All my glory days left me when I went to high school. I became a loner: distant and overly self-conscious. I felt ugly, unwanted—too different.
I had friends here and there, yet I couldn’t didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself too much. I stopped singing, I spoke inaudibly and I couldn’t walk without my eyes focuseding on the floor. My confidence left me. School became too big and too much to handle.
I began searching—searching for religion, searching for answers of why my grandma hated me while loving everyone else, why my popular older sister hated hanging out with me, or why people in high school were all about “yucky” sex and teenage pregnancies, which I never understood. Why were they all talking about boys instead of books or music or the future?
I had big ears, which I constantly kept hidden behind my big, stringy, wavy hair, but why did they have to call me “Dumbo”? I felt so isolated with my poetry and ideals in life. I tried to reach out, but I felt alone at the end of the day. It was all too much to decipher. I found comfort with Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead…all the goth, black, dark music, the equivalent of “emo” in the 90s.
Then there was this time that I belonged among the “populars,” but that ended in a mess because of a boy. The boy the Queen Bee had a crush on liked me. She didn’t like that. So she and the rest of the bees committed to making my life a living hell. They would sabotage my schoolwork, my reputation—and manage to hurt me emotionally—time and time again. It doesn’t seem that big now, but it was everything back then. The only way I could cope was to escape and cut classes, to find comfort with my dad. I would cut classes and hang out at my father’s auto supply shop, lying and saying that there were no teachers available that day.
Or worse, I would sabotage myself — I would cut my hair, a little more, and every time I was hurt by a bullying encounter. I’d cry to my parents sometimes, but I could never fully express the high school hostility. I am trying to find the photo of my short hair during HS commencement… I wonder if I deliberately lost it. It was the day I felt that it was finally over and I could move on with life, away from the mean girls and guys.
It did, little by little.
SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
My college days were the happiest of my school life. I found a home as a weirdo. I still looked down on the floor while walking, and was extremely conscious of people looking at me. But my dad made me embrace that I was weird and different and it was a great thing at a young age; so I guess that pushed me a little to keep on finding myself. It was great to find solace with a school full of artists like me.
I tried to sing again in a band, and embraced my wavy big hair in a way; though my big ears were still well hidden. I developed my skills and pushed myself to be great in arts and keep up with everyone’s massive talents. It gave me a little confidence while trying to sort out my future.
DON'T PHUNK WITH MY HEART
Looking back, my relationships were nothing like Sex and The City. They were more like Mortal Kombat or Saw or Twilight Zone. There was the emotionally-twisted Mama’s Boy (don’t ask)… Or how about the ex who perpetually told me I was stupid and useless until I believed him completely? Or what about the ex who stole all my money and left me penniless and near homeless (who, by the way, is now currently in jail somewhere in the US for murdering his then girlfriend, cutting her in half and leaving her dead body soaked in bleach and a cinder block in a bin. True story)? Interesting love life, to say the least.
THE LOSING STREAK
I lost my mom 6.5 years ago, and my dad 4 years ago. This was when it hit me that I was now a complete adult and had no security blanket anymore. I took my now 18-year-old brother under my wing, and I felt like a true parent. I miss my parents constantly, but I embrace having to care for my darling brother and keeping my family (two more sisters, a niece and a nephew) together.
I can clearly remember the last time I spoke to Mom when she was still lucid, a few days before she passed. She told me, “You’ve always been the Ate [big sister in Tagalog] of this whole family.” I took that to heart, and that keeps me going; protecting my brother is worth my life.
My brother, Jeremiah, was and is one of the vastest reasons why I live to try my hardest in everything I do. I want to be the one who inspires him to be great, to honorhonour our parents, for him to have the best future I can give him. I want him to continue my parents’ great work in raising a venerable man. It isn’t easy—I am still scared to death sometimes of this massive responsibility of tending to another life—but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Likewise, my dad always told me that I’ll always be standing up, no matter what life throws at me—deep down wishing that he were the same way. I always lived through my dad’s stories of “what-could-have-been” for himself, so I did those and more; I wanted him to be able to smile and be proud, at least living vicariously through me.
Now I’m a mobile marketer, a brand bee, communicator, culture-builder, and community gatherer, etc. I observe everyone and always ponder: What does everyone feel right now? I’ve been through a lot. This influences my work in a good way. I am in constant pursuit of happiness, and I want to take everyone along with me. I’ve been aware of my impact and influence from a very young age. I am a born leader, and I am not afraid of that anymore. For that, I have to thank my dad. I have him to thank for everything. He drives me on, to this day : )
Having lost Mom and Dad still hurts, but I choose to focus on the simplest thing they taught me: LOVE. My parents loved each other very much, until their last breath on earth. My dad did not die of cancer; he died of a broken heart from missing Mom. Now they’re together, partying in heaven everyday.
I am crying right now.
I am crying because I just can’t believe sometimes that I am alive. Still alive.
These things are not pitiful. They are all a part of who I have become. Throughout these incidents, lots of amazing things also happened (and constantly happen):
- I found amazing people and friends who never doubted me. They fought for me and were there for me with no judgments or questions asked. They constantly believed in me, listened and never failed to make me embrace ME
- I kept on moving on and refused to be in the same vicious cycle, learning from my mistakes
- I gained confidence all through the years and never stopped. I refused to be defeated
- I began to love my big ears. They are sexy!
- I started looking straight, not at the floor. Straight on. . like a BOSS!
I made peace with myself
- I learned to take chances, risks and to never, ever stop living and loving
I accepted ME.
Remember Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love? I did something very similar like that without knowing about the book. This was after I broke off my engagement. After weeks of seclusion and hurt, I woke up one day and realized I wasn’t stupid; I had made the right choice! I cleaned up my life, throwing away all the negative stuff and surrounding myself with good people, good meditation, good food, good books and good travels. I went to Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. Throughout this journey, I forgave myself and learned how to love my entirety. I knew that I’d be all right.
That was a big pivotal point that led to where I am right now. I gained real love when I thought I’d never love again. I began a constant pursuit of happiness, getting a career in Singapore for a change of environment, traveling to different places, spending time with the people I care about. I pursue to keep learning new things from my surroundings and the people I meet.
My partner Luke and I, with our family and friends, just had our second olive harvest at our dreamy land in New Zealand. We just produced our second batch of olive oil, and it is wonderful! I always knew that I was a farmer at heart. I like to nurture and make things grow. Working with the earth keeps me grounded, in contrast to my fast-paced career in the mobile technology business. I also grow relationships; I take jobs that could help to nurture and work with a lot of people I could can influence or learn from.
I’d say it takes a lot to surprise me nowadays. Life is now all by choice.
There is a fire inside me that will keep on burning. Always brave, I will always be loving, caring and thoughtful of everyone around me. I am blessed and grateful; I will never be anything but happy, no matter what the universe throws back at me.
No regrets. No bitterness. Just blessings.
— WISH RONQUILLO X UDD
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Brave (verb): to defy; challenge; to dare.
This is one of the many definitions out there for the word brave. There are others that include the readiness to face danger or to do so without showing fear. However, I think in those moments, bravery is shown when we are not entirely ready to face a situation but choose to face it anyway, or when we do so while still being afraid. I think in those moments, we are the bravest. That’s when we discover what we’re truly made of—our courage—our glory.
Believe it or not, Wish is one of the bubbliest people you will ever meet, someone whose every text you’d expect to end with an exclamation point. She’s tough as nails and cute as a button. Wish is ready for anything! Yet she has already experienced a lifetime of heartache. I was in absolute shock when she told me her story. And trust me when I say this is the abridged version. When she expresses the pure joy and wonder of still being alive, understand the depths from where it comes.
Life has pitched Wish some pretty tough balls, yet daily she chooses to get back in the game. Happy, bruised, or heartbroken, she’s playing. And she still has enough heart left to love and nurture those around her. She is brave.
WHAT I’VE COME TO LEARN is choosing life and choosing to live are two different things. One purely exists. The other says, “Eff you, world! I’m choosing happiness today!” Wish deserves her own marching band. And, lady, I do believe your daddy is smiling down on you and your choice to live.
p.s. Shout to Jeremiah. .your sister is pretty dope!