Butterfly Crisis

There were pretty girls.

There were pretty girls, who were smart girls.

And then there were those who were just smart. Plain smart.

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That was me in the third category. Or at least that was the category I felt I belonged to in high school – in a private Catholic school – where the pretty girls were popular and the pretty-smart girls got most of the attention.

I knew I wasn’t pretty. Acne covered my face. My hair was frizzy and fell all over the place. I didn’t own any cool stuff or gadgets. I wasn’t friends with the “mean” and the “it” girls.

But I knew I was smart (and I’d like to believe I still am).

I entered high school at 13 (because that was how it was in the curriculum that we followed back then), an awkward girl hailing from the countryside finding her way to a city school. I was in what they call the “pilot class”, where all of the city’s, if not the province’s honor students converged and competed for the coveted honor roll at the end of each grading period. I graduated top of my class in grade school with daughters and sons of farmers and fisherfolks as my classmates. I was popular in my little rural school. I was good at everything. I was best in all subjects. I got several awards. I was representative to every oration and declamation contest. I was the leader of different clubs and organizations. My teachers loved me.

But entering the world of high school was a nightmare beginning with waking up at 5:00 in the morning to shower, eat, and prepare my things. I had to leave my home at 6:00 (or earlier) to catch the 6:15 a.m. bus because it was an hour or so of commuting from our house to the city. And then, I had to be at the bus terminal at 6:00 in the evening to catch the last trip or I would end up taking the van which charged a fare times two of the regular bus rate.

On my first year in high school, I was introduced to a community where the valedictorians, salutatorians, and honorable mentions from other schools were incredibly smart. And they were pretty, handsome, cool, some of them well-to-do, some of them rich. I wanted to be like them.

But I wasn’t.

There were several classmates who called me names. I was bullied, so to speak. I was criticized for my hair, for my acne, for where I came from. And because I wanted to be accepted, I let myself look silly. I tried my best to be funny to make them laugh. I even sang horrible songs and hit the wrong notes just to gain their amusement.

But that wasn’t me. In my heart of hearts, I knew that wasn’t me. So after the first year, where I ended on the top 10 students of our class, I promised myself I’ll do my best to be better.

My second year was my butterfly moment.

I enclosed myself in a cocoon the previous year that for my second year, I decided to come out in the open, spread my wings, and just be my awesome self.

I got a haircut. I started combing my hair (ha!). I gained good friends. I loved Science and Math. I wrote for the school paper. By the end of the school year, I climbed up to be the top of my class from being on the ninth spot.

But as it is with high school stories, everything is a rollercoaster ride. Luck’s with you one time, and then it leaves you. Good vibes come back then it disappears without any prior notice.

Third year was a good-bad year.

I became the “pet” of our high school assistant principal who also taught world history. But that was also the time that I got involved with a guy. I was a junior, he was a senior. And he didn’t come from a pilot class. He was part of, let’s just say, a “renegade class”.

That didn’t sit well with my standing and ultimately, affected my studies and my relationship with my Mom. Worse, my Statistics class made my life harder and I was struggling to get a grade above 88% to stay on the honor list.

I ran for the student council as fourth year representative. I didn’t win. Woe to me!

On my last year in high school things turned even messier. I was 16. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events but I remember ¬†that my relationship with my friends and classmates also went down the sinkhole.

You know how that feels when you’re walking down the hallway and you can hear the whispers, the stories they were saying about you?

And then you just pray that the ground will come alive and swallow you whole because it is too much for you to bear?

I felt just like that.

My Mom cut down my daily allowance by half and didn’t talk to me except to remind me how rotten of a person I am. I can completely understand why teenagers think about committing suicide (but I don’t think that is the way to go. I still believe in staying strong and steadfast even if life throws you one shit after another). And then my Mom threatened me: “If you don’t end up top of your class, you’re in big trouble! Say goodbye to college!”

Goodbye to college? I’ve been waiting for college all my life!

So I worked hard again.

Like my sophomore year, I tried to be that butterfly who made use of her beauty to do awesome things. I toiled long and hard.

I humbled myself, reconciled with my Mom, and extended my sincere apologies to friends and classmates that I have wronged.

I eventually ended up top of my class, delivered a tearful valedictory address, received a standing ovation and applause from the entire school community, and left for college, at the country’s premier state university, where I eventually graduated still on the top five perecent of the graduating class, won outstanding awards, earned a degree in Mass Communication, and worked as a reporter for a multi-awarded newspaper.

These days, I’m 29 years old with a husband who is getting interviews left and right on the Olympic movement. I have screaming twin toddlers – Nicholas and Antoinette – who inspired me to start my blog, Reading Ruffolos. Our third child, Jeffrey Peter Jr., just turned a month old a few days ago. I am currently working on my graduate studies on Language and Literacy Education.

I dream of traveling again when everything in this crazy home settles down. I am tired and lacks sleep but it’s okay, I have graduated from the stage of insecurity and self pity which I experienced in high school.

At the Museo Pambata in Manila, Philippines. Yes, I love to write!
At the Museo Pambata in Manila, Philippines. Yes, I love to write!

I don’t usually recall my teenage years and write about it.¬†

Writing this is difficult.

I never want to go back to my high school years; they’re not exactly my glory days and I’m not exactly proud of it. I even shun high school reunions.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month so I thought about sharing this part of my teenage story; my awkward story that, whether I admit or not, has contributed in shaping the woman that I am now. Because, who knows, someone out there maybe experiencing the same and this piece may actually inspire her that everything doesn’t end with gossips.

Trust me when I say that the best is yet to come.

Girls, not everything in your lives will be painted in rainbow colors. Teenage/adolescent years is a big pain on the behind that you just want to skip this part and proceed to the next level.

But that’s not how it works.


You have to earn your battle scars to become better.

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At Hong Kong Disneyland in July 2012. Photo taken by my husband, then fiance, Jeff.

You won’t exactly like it. I don’t.

I certainly don’t.

But these are life experiences that you will remember 10, 20 years down the memory lane and make you realize that you did survive a tumultuous period of your life’s story and it was all worth the tears and the humiliation.

All worth it.