I was bullied when I was a kid. I won’t give his real name, so I’ll give him a generic bully name: Biff. But since this was in the Philippines, I’ll call him Bip.
Bip was a bit older. He would take my snacks, smack me around, treat me like a punching bag, call me names…that sort.
I attempted to tell my teachers, but they they would only tell me to talk to him “peacefully”, and that he would listen if I told him that he hurt my feelings and that what he did was inappropriate.
He beat me up even more and stole my Spitball Sparky–the one my dad spent his meager salary on working a contract job in Bahrain, far away from us. Bip didn’t need that game. His parents were rich and could buy him whatever he wanted.
My parents couldn’t even afford home repairs. The ceiling in our house had a hole so big that it felt like Niagara falls appeared in our living room every time it rained. And it rains a lot in the Philippines.
I eventually told my mom. Mom was a bit more drastic.
She told me, “Okay, the way you do this is when they start attacking you, I want you to spin really fast with your backpack in one hand, and your lunch box in the other, and scream something like, STAY AWAY FROM ME!!!”
“Like Wonder Woman?”
“Yes, like Wonder Woman! But crazier.”
My mom has been an animator for over 30 years. In the beginning of her career, she worked on Hanna Barbera cartoons when they contracted out projects to studios in Manila. I think she was just projecting her imaginings when she talked of how to deal with Bip, as if I were an animated character in her mind.
I did just that. I spun around and screamed like a crazy person, arms flailing and all. But I got in trouble. I was reprimanded, and it was written in my progress report. Mom read it. Nothing changed.
At one point I told my neighbor friend about my situation at school. She told me that she once confronted a rabid dog and exclaimed, “IN JESUS’ NAME!” as she stomped her foot on the ground.
According to her, the rabid dog whimpered and ran away with his tail tucked between his legs because “the dog knew to fear the Lord”. So she figured that if I trusted in Jesus with all of my heart, and I invoked his name with “faith and conviction”, my bully would stop.
So I tried that.
It definitely didn’t work. Or maybe I needed to up my “faith and conviction” a bit more.
As a child, it is an excruciating and desperate feeling being on the receiving end of all that bullying. You have no one to turn to, and adults are practically clueless of how to deal with such situations. Being 7 or 8 years old and waking up with anxiety and stress and a knot in my tummy, knowing that I’d get taunted and beaten at some point during the day. That no one would listen. Hopelessness eventually sets in. How will it end? When will it end?
I felt so desperate that I tried to “run away”. I even wrote a letter saying something like “I ran away and won’t come back. Don’t look for me,” and placed it on my pillow. After that, I went to my grandmother’s (who lived a block away) and hid underneath her staircase. I figured I’d stay there forever and sneak out for food when everyone was asleep. She used to store peanut brittle and wafer cookies somewhere in the kitchen, and I figured I could live off that. But she found me anyway because I hid where she kept her purse and shoe boxes. She gave me snacks, then I went home, and saw that no one even read my letter.
Moving up a grade, things were better. We had a new classmate who I shall call Ricky.
Ricky was a bigger kid, and he was charismatic and funny. He quickly gained popularity, and he was always surrounded by girls.
Outside the classroom, Bip attempted his usual after-school torment. Ricky, from the sidelines, starts tiptoeing towards us while singing “Proud Mary”. He grabs Bip and forcefully messes with his hair as he continued to sing, Rollin’, Rollin’ On The River. Then he kind of intentionally whacks him on the side of his head but not really, because he just looked like he was dancing. Without acknowledging me or looking at me, he tiptoes away to hang out with the other girls.
Ricky attempted to braid my hair once. But then he mumbled, “Ew, dandruff”. I don’t think he touched my hair after that.
Bip’s daily torments eventually lessened, though he still called me names and stole my snacks in the school van. But it seemed like he was no longer obsessed with picking on me. It all stopped when he transferred to another school.
His parents also returned my Spitball Sparky, and everything felt right again.