Young Blood

Heart and Victory

/ 05:14 AM February 15, 2018

I marked the start of Love Month getting a tattoo of a heart covered with laurels: Heart and Victory. Corazon and Victoria. An ode to my grandmothers.

A week after opening up about recovering from high-functioning depression — during which I kept to myself for two


years after the death of my maternal grandmother — my paternal grandmother died. The feeling of déjà vu splashed all over me as though I were doused with cold water. This has already happened!

There were mountains of papers on top of my work desk because it was reporting season — hundreds of case laws, codes and annotations pending for midterm examinations. I thought I no longer had room for stress in my dark, clouded mind.


When it happened two years ago, I grieved, then I caved, dropped out of law school, and started ignoring my friends. I needed to channel all my energy into one thing so that only one thing could depress me.

I chose work. Being the eldest child, with my father’s pension pending, two sisters still in school, a brother away for training, this was the better option. This was the only option.

As the strong, independent woman I portrayed myself to be, I could not show that sadness, responsibility and self-doubt were making me more anxious day by day.

At first I just wanted to get busy, so I took more work than I thought I could handle. But I found out that I could handle the tasks, after all, so I asked for more.

There went my legitimate excuse to avoid people who were asking how I was but would not take an answer other than “I am okay.”

Soon I was rewarded with promotion after promotion. I was thankful for the means to survive. But I still wasn’t happy.

I made myself believe that I could buy happiness. I thought I would be satisfied if I gave myself all that I could not afford before.


But I failed. Most nights, even with evening classes having ended, I was unable to sleep. My heart felt literally heavy even when I didn’t cry.

Change came one day when I was at the mall and I could no longer find anything I needed, even wanted, to buy. By that time I had already built my dream library, updated my clothes for the season, and watched almost all the good movies at the cinema.

But I had to spend on something, so I found things I thought my sisters would like. Had I been their age, what were the things I would ask my parents to get me if we had money? It turned out they liked the stuff, so I liked the decision I made as well.

Bills used to be a problem when I was earning so little. I could not even pay my postpaid plan religiously. So the upkeep for our house — the big house built from my father’s retirement pension after three decades of duty “to serve and protect” — was a burden.

When I became capable, I started thinking more about the people inside that house, and it no longer felt hard to throw cash on the table. What used to feel like a chore became as easy as breathing.

One day I had a conversation with my mom, in which she leaned on me about spoiling my siblings. Defensive, I told her that the reason I was working so hard was to give them the things they needed so they didn’t have to spend their time seeking happiness from things that could be bought.

I said I would just provide so they could discover what real happiness was for themselves. And for the first time in two years, I cried.

A few months later, with better relationships at home and at work, I felt the renewed energy to go back to being a working student, reconnected with my old friends, and started being there for them, not just being with them. I finally had the courage to open up about the internal struggles I faced in the two years that had passed.

Then my other grandmother died. All memories came flashing back to me like it was nearing the end of 2015.

I grieved like the first time and felt the same amount of pain I thought I was over with. And then I looked at the rest of my family who must have been going through the same, or worse. I

allowed myself to deal in the way I know how—with myself fully functioning but my mind totally in chaos.

But when it was time to bury my Lola Corazon, I cried with a light heart — the exact opposite when we buried my Lola Victoria in 2015, on my 25th birthday.

Lighter now, for I know she is no longer in pain. Better now, for I know that no matter how hard everything feels now, it will be okay.

How I had a different take on the same scenario can be attributed to both my grandmothers’ names: Heart and Victory.

On my Lola Corazon’s first week in heaven and the start of my Lola Victoria’s birth month, I got myself a tattoo: a heart covered with laurels, to remind myself that as long as I put my heart into anything, I shall emerge victorious, I will win.

What an exciting life to live.

* * *

Mariel Balitao, 27, is a government employee and a law student with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She says she “writes for a living and lives for all the things worth reading.”

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Depression, grandmothers, Mariel Balitao, Young Blood
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2019 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.