Strong, independent, and ‘iyakin’ | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

Strong, independent, and ‘iyakin’

/ 05:03 AM July 15, 2021

What they don’t tell you about being a strong, independent woman is that there are days when you have to shed your skin and take a break from the facade. There are days when you don’t want to be strong and independent and days when you simply can’t.

One of my earliest memories from childhood was crying while Nanay cradled me in her arms during the first day of kindergarten. It had always been like that since daycare until I reached the first grade. Nanay recalled staying inside the classroom until the end of classes just to get me to stop crying. But what baffled Nanay in the following days was that I didn’t even look back at her anymore, much less cry, before entering the school gates.

I remember my aunties asking me why I always cry, but I don’t remember giving them an answer. I remember simply shrugging and running back to Nanay or Tatay, intentionally leaving the question unanswered. To be honest, I didn’t really know why either.

Don’t get me wrong, I did have a friend in school. I shared classes with my cousin and we’ve always been joined at the hip. I also didn’t get why the issue mattered. Can’t a kid just cry because he or she is a kid?


Looking back, perhaps the reason I always started the school year in tears was because there had always been some kind of fear that came with not knowing — not having any idea what would happen to me, or what to do in whatever situation. I always had a hard time adjusting to people and things that were new to me, first day of classes included. There was always the fear of not being sure of what I was doing, and maybe because I had always been dependent on someone like Nanay and Tatay to tell me the things I didn’t know. Even until today, I carry with me this fear.

As a college student, I could still feel the fear lingering at the back of my head, looming like a storm cloud even after hours of sweltering heat. I remember crying myself to sleep during my first night at the dorm upon realizing that in a few days, it would be the first day of college and I wouldn’t have Nanay or anyone with me. There was no one to dull the fear and tell me what to do. Funnily enough, I told my parents the night before that I wouldn’t cry because I was already a strong, independent woman.

I guess there really are days when you just shut down from being strong or being independent because, really, who doesn’t feel exhausted to the bone sometimes?

I am a strong, independent woman. I am also a poet. It is in the words that I pen, and the tears that I secretly shed on some days, that I write my poetry. Most days, I simply enjoy reading and skimming through the mundanity of my life, but on some days, I allow myself to be vulnerable, accompanied by the trembling city lights mirrored in my eyes. On those days, all at once, I feel the weakest and strongest I’ve ever been, and the weakest and strongest I’d ever be. Even a strong, independent woman has a breaking point. Why should we be deprived of vulnerable moments just because strength and conviction are what society expects from us all the time?


I’ve learned to make friends with the idea that crying isn’t a sign of weakness. I’ve learned to welcome the fears that come with living and growing up. And I’ve learned, slowly but surely, to reconcile myself to the realization that perhaps the “someone” I need is myself. After all, I wouldn’t consider myself a strong, independent woman if I wasn’t already one.

It’s okay to cry—first day of school or not—because even the strongest, most independent woman can be an “iyakin.” But that doesn’t mean she’s any less strong and independent.


* * *

Angel Diesta, 21, is a communication arts student at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños trying to live up to the strong, independent woman label she’s given herself.

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