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The Speakable Me

It is difficult to be weak. To not have a voice even when you need to speak. To have no power to help even yourself. I have seen so much weakness in the faces of many. In the eyes of an abused child, or woman, in the face of a poor farmer who is falsely accused or a young person who wish he can go to school but needed to work. Or of a whole family sharing a few bananas for lunch. Some of us shout in the streets for them, some of us help them directly. Some of us try to be strong and lend them our strength. When we aspire to be strong – to seek power so one can speak for others, we run the risk of being misunderstood. Of being judged as ambitious.

Since elementary, I tried to be strong for others. I fought against kids who look down on other kids. I used my voice to defend other kids. In high school, I would always speak up for my classmates. I would always volunteer to lead in the class. In college, I run for president of the student government and stepped on several people’s toes to stand for other students. Many called me ambitious when in truth I was just filling up a post because no one wanted to step forward. I was oblivious since elementary that all these standing up for others indirectly affected my academics. Oftentimes, I was perceived as too outspoken, too argumentative. At times, too opinionated. I did not care about academic honors, although I still ended up getting some honors.

Fortunately, I was able to make the most out of my skills. I was best debater in college and always loved argumentation and debate subjects. Eventually, I became opinion editor of our school paper. It worked out well for me. I found myself in the right places.

While it was satisfying to have the opportunity to speak your mind, it was also painful to keep on pretending you are as strong as you appear to be.

When abused children and women cry in front of me, I feel my heart bursting inside but still I try to collect my thoughts and expresss them in a voice that will inspire them to be brave. 

Half of the tears I have cried in my life were not for myself but for others who are rendered weak by the circumstances. Until today, I refuse to accept that I am an empath. I am just an ordinary person trying my best to stand up for others.

Do I think myself a hero? If heroes are foolish people who would go and rescue a trafficked victim without the help of any law enforcer, then yes. If a hero means acting like a moron and running for public office without resources and a political party just to fulfill a dream of being the representative of my generation to government (as if my generation really cares), then yes, I am a hero.  If being a hero means unreasonably spending all my time away from my own family to go to places just to share what I think would help these places generate jobs, then yes I am a hero. 

Quite frankly, if these were the definition of hero – I would not look up to anyone like that. So instead of twisting its meaning, let me just call myself – an overly zealous dreamer whose goal in life is to be the mouthpiece of others. My outspoken nature is both a gift and a burden. It is a gift when I am able to succesfully speak for others. It is a burden when I had to point out a flaw to make things better.

Today, I stepped forward for my city. Just like when I was in college when no one wanted to lead – I needed to stand and offer myself. Again, I am judged as ambitious. Sadly, being mayor is not even an ambition for me – the position in fact is not something I want to covet for my own sake. Given the chance, my ambition is to write books that will outlive me, visit places in my bucketlist and age gracefully. But this – this is a mission. Another mission, just like when I was small – to speak for others who have no voice. To stand up for the weak. To use my God-given skills in the service of others. 

Do I regret being outspoken? There are times I regret saying things I should not say – but I never regret being outspoken. 

I do not need my critics to believe me. There are people out there whose biases, dogmas, doctrines, beliefs and prejudices in life do not afford them the luxury of understanding others except what they wish to understand.

There are people out there who has an opinion of everything under the sun. And sadly, only opinions.

There are people out there who do not like what I say, how I say it, or what I said – but never care about who I say it for and why I say it. I cannot sacrifice my present mission for these people  – they are too unworthy even for a minute of my time compared to those I need to lend my voice to.

I do not have even a minute to tarry. I am on my way again to speak for others. I have stumbled and fell so many times in the past but I need to stand up and keep going. I know in my heart, somebody needs me to speak and stand for him or her. 

Hence, I carry this gift and burden gladly and gratefully. 

ATTY. JOCELLE BATAPA-SIGUE • Named as one of The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service of the Philippines or TOWNS for 2016 in the field of Information and Communications Technology or ICT • Positions: Past Vice President (2018) and Past President (2010-2012) and Past Trustee (2013-2017) of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines or NICP • Founder, Former President and Current Executive Director of the Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for ICT or BNEFIT • Served for 3 terms as councilor of Bacolod City • Chosen as one of Asia Society Top Ten Philippines 21 Young Leaders in 2009 • Chosen as the Eisenhower Fellow of the Philippines in 2012 • Awarded as Philippine Individual Contributor of the Year during the International ICT Awards given by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines

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