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For the little girl and her pigtails

I envy the five-year-old girl who will always be braver, stronger, and more confident than me today. A girl who could not care any less about anything else but keeping her pigtails in place the whole day. She was free from pain and fear.

And yes, that little girl was me. When I was in pre-school, I was a very bright and friendly kid. People adored me for my quirky and cheerful personality, but I was also known as the tough and blunt one.

One afternoon in school, while I was getting ready to eat my hot champorado during snack time, I heard laughs from behind, so I turned my head. I saw a couple of girls and boys huddling up with another kid in the middle.

Curious as to what was happening, I started to walk towards the group. As I got closer, I saw one of my classmates Daniel (not his real name) in the center of the circle. I already knew what was going on as soon as I saw him.

Daniel is a kid that was medically diagnosed with Macrocephaly which caused him to have a head almost thrice as big as a hand. He was physically weak and talked slurry. He was always the target of bullies in school.

I saw the crossed-arm girls and bigger boys laughing and teasing Daniel. My left eyebrow raised as I saw one of them push Daniel. I tightened my pigtails and continued to walk toward them.

I got there and asked them what they were doing to Daniel. They said they think his huge head and bulging eyes were very funny. I remember one saying he looked like an octopus and another who should not be at school because he was “weird.”

I glanced at Daniel who was looking down and wiped his teary eyes after hearing the word “octopus.” He did not deserve that kind of insult. He was literally fighting every single day, living with his chronic condition and those kids were awful for attacking his ailment. I cannot imagine the pain those words have caused him.

But of course, I did not realize all of that at the age of five. All I knew was that it was wrong to say mean things to other people and that Daniel was not weird, he was sick.

I suddenly felt a burning rage inside me and so I glared at them and said, “If you insult Daniel one more time, I will tell your mothers and wreck your braided hair!” I was talking to the girls (in Bicol). I laughed in my head when I saw their eyes quiver.

I looked over to the boys, pointed a finger at them, and said (in Bicol), “You too! I will report you to the teacher so she would not let you eat at snack time!” I grinned as they took off and went back to eating. One girl dared to roll her eyes at me.

I then asked Daniel, who was already crouching on the floor, if he already ate. He shook his head in response. I offered him my hand and I felt so happy as he took it. We then spent the remaining break time sharing our food by the window.

I still remember how he smiled and laughed, the first time I saw him to. We became friends and snack buddies since that day. We always ate together.

Throughout the years, we did not really stay close. He went to a special school in elementary. My last news of him was 7 years ago, he had already passed away.

I do regret not keeping in touch with him. Still, I hope he spent his last moments happy and loved because I know he deserved it. I want to thank him and that smile for making me realize how fulfilling and meaningful it is to be kind and good to people.

I admit I have changed a lot over the years. It felt like as I lost my pigtails, I also lost the girl. As my naive mind has grown my confidence and my strength have gotten smaller and smaller.

The world has bombarded me with difficult challenges. I have had my fair share of pain. I have also faced a lot of bullies of my own that pushed that strong little girl inside a box. Hidden. Scared. Lost.

I believe we all have been like that little girl who saw only the goodness of the world. But as we grew, we realized it was not the reality, and our scars remind us of that every day.

Despite all that, I know that she is still inside me because I still believe in goodness. I cannot change the past, but I know I can make a difference in the future. As we all should. It is now up to us adults to stop the chain and protect the children, to teach and show them kindness and love.

So for the little girl and her pigtails, thank you for being my inspiration. Thank you for reminding me that if people would just be kinder and more compassionate to everyone else, the world could really be a better place.