Made of crushed little stars | Inquirer Opinion

Made of crushed little stars

Silence … broken by rude roosters wailing outside my bedroom window. My red and puffy eyes are tired of looking at the blue sky, sending sunlight directly to my face. I finally get up after an hour, looking at the exercise mat across me, then at myself, and realize it’s not worth the effort.

Contemplating whether or not I should eat breakfast today, I stare at the blank wall waiting for a sign from the heavens. My stomach rumbles, so I reluctantly go down the seemingly endless staircase. My grandmother, grinning, shouts, as my parents silently look at me like a wild animal foraging for food: “Bumaba na si taba!”


Restrained by that sweet love of Jesus: “Thou shalt honor thy elders.” That same love that drove me to cover that damned bathroom mirror with a blue towel because seeing my stacked chin, disgusting lizard scalp, man boobs, and that icky chicken skin on my arms makes me want to pick up a chair and smash it against my head. I remain silent and just grab a glass of water instead of the freshly baked pandesal sitting on the table.

I slowly walk up the stairs because I don’t want them to notice my bouncing blubber more than they already have. Straight to my room, locking the door behind me because they’ll force themselves in if I don’t. My mirror-like phone screen faces down while I read “Don Quixote.”


Every day is a new day, full of effective ways to unknowingly (or knowingly) trigger my insecurities. On Monday it was keratosis. Tuesday it was my weight. Wednesday was seborrhea. Thursday was especially depressing. Friday was surprisingly peaceful, and on the weekends, it’s a bloodbath. My only respite lies in reading books and writing fiction, listening to “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” while happily writing short stories for 10 people on the internet to see.

Back in my room as I unenthusiastically do my schoolwork, I receive a notification on my computer: “Discussion starts in five minutes!” Five chapters of “Don Quixote” each week and I’m 10 chapters ahead despite hating the book. When I first joined the book club, I was afraid, petrified even. I kept thinking I could never add anything meaningful to their conversations. Eventually, I warmed up to them, realizing that they don’t know what I look like. To them, I wasn’t that “huwag-kang-tataba-nang-ganyan” kid that mothers would point at and whisper to their children as if I didn’t notice.

Exhaustion after a long day of school recitations and quizzes was exacerbated by another notification on my phone: “Submission bins for the annual school competition are now open!” I was ecstatic, this was a chance to prove to everybody that I am not who I used to be. Productive weeks spent writing the story of a failed baker, melancholic under the grace of the moonlight. Short stories aren’t exactly my strong suit, but I still hoped to at least be put on the longlist. Sleepless nights, waiting for an announcement, until finally, the notification pops up on my computer. An overwhelming silence fills my room, the type of silence met the night before a long road trip … I won? My brain paused for a second as my eyes welled up with tears, happy tears, because for once in my life, I was something.

I felt I was confident enough to move to deeper, shark-infested waters and decided to run as the founding president of our school’s literary society and writers’ guild, Kabanata. I wanted my members to have what I had, for them to find refuge and respite in reading. We had a rocky start at first, having problems with elections, member engagement, and the general hardships of trying to organize a community for the first time without much help. Through weeks of learning what works and what doesn’t, we finally got it right. We had monthly writing challenges and book discussions within the organization where students shared, listened, and argued with each other enthusiastically.

My whole life people thought of me as the emotionally sensitive fat kid they had to walk on eggshells around. They probably thought I couldn’t hear their snide “iiyak na ‘yan” remarks followed by faint laughter. My journey of improvement has brought me closer to a once distant dream of self-worth. Though I still have eons to go to achieve that dream, I sometimes like to think I’m only one step closer to it.

My body is made of crushed little stars, along with tons of useless dirt and muck that stained my then-happy brain. Little by little, I have learned to accept who I am. Little by little, I will gain the confidence to take down that blue towel covering the bathroom mirror and reveal the pale yet shimmering stardust cascading from the heavens to my very being.

* * *


Stephen Reuel Capugan, 16, is from Santa Rosa, Laguna. His hobbies include commodifying his painful experiences for monetary gain because books are expensive, and digital trading card games. He blogs:


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TAGS: insecurities, self acceptance, Young Blood
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