An afternoon on courage

Paige Occeñola

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Readers and fans of Palanca award-winner Shakira Sison gather the courage from her words on love, relationships, and staying true to yourself

 'MAKE COURAGE YOUR WEAPON OF CHOICE.' Shakira talks to her readers about courage and independence. All photos by Paige Occeñola

MANILA, Philippines – “A friend told me about her Twitter account a few weeks ago and when I heard about the meet and greet, I knew I had to go,” said Eby Kangleon.

For most of us that Monday afternoon at Adarna restaurant, the meet and greet was a no-brainer with some even calling in sick just to be able to make it (if you’re reading this, don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.) 

Rappler columnist Shakira Sison started writing her weekly for the site in April. What started as a small group of avid readers and followers slowly turned into a growing community of those – straight and members of the LGBT community alike – who found themselves resonating with Shakira’s words.

Next thing you know, there were regular twitter conversations and a popular page where questions on love, life, and yes, sex, were posted and answered. 

MOOD METER: INSPIRED. 'Shakira is one of the few great LGBT writers who tell it as it is,' says Eby Kangleon

Not alone

For the readers and fans of the Palanca award-winner, it was about knowing that you weren’t alone.

“She put into words all those things and thoughts about the lesbian Pinay – both here and abroad) – that most of us have been terrified to say. She’s courage personified, I guess. Her thoughts (and all the advice she shared) on LGBT relationships have made me treasure mine even more,” said Loreen Ordoño. 

STARSTRUCK? Reader Loreen Ordoño with Shakira Sison's wife Roz

Tell your story

In her #TalkThursday interview she talks about the importance of telling your stories because you never know who might be listening and that’s exactly what she did. She told her stories and sure enough, people listened. 

“I’m lucky that my family accepts me for what I am. But I do know friends who aren’t as fortunate as I am, and try as I might, I know my words fall short of comforting them,” said Eby. “Shakira’s words, however, help them more than mine ever could, seeing as she’s someone who can say ‘been there, done that.'”

READ Shakira Sison’s Palanca award-winning essay, The Krakauer Table 

Be brave

The program began with a speech from Shakira who told us the importance of being brave.

“I want you to be brave,” challenged Shakira, “the kind of bravery you feel in your chests when you’re reading something that empowers you or makes you feel like you don’t have to stay where you are or wait to be saved or for what is handed to you.”

This challenge struck a chord with everyone in the room, especially since majority of her readers have to deal with the stigma that comes from being gay in a society that still leaves much to be desired for in terms of tolerance and acceptance.

“I’ve always considered myself brave enough,” said Eby. “I haven’t tried to hide what I am, but I don’t necessarily inspire others as well. She is, though, inspiring. Now I’m convinced more than ever to be brave, not just brave enough, and definitely not just for myself.”

SIGNED! Fans brought their favorite articles to the meet and greet 

It concluded with a brief open forum followed by a signing of readers’ favorite articles. The initially timid crowd suddenly came to life as people got to know each other without their twitter handles and avatars.

Stand tall together

We all had different reasons for being there; much in the same way we all have different reasons for loving Shakira’s articles. What’s constant is that they hit a nerve in our minds and our hearts. 

In my case I walked into the event a little unsure and a whole lot mortified having been spoiled by social media where you don’t have to look someone in the eye to have a conversation. But, towards the end, I realized that we were all on the same boat: we were scared – and some of us still are but this didn’t mean that we had to go through it on our own.

BRAVE. The afternoon was about celebrating love and friendship in all its forms

In a society where perceived norms make people quick to judge the deviants, loneliness and isolation is commonplace. It helps to know you don’t have to stand alone. –

Paige Occeñola is a social media producer at Rappler. 

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