The Day I Read Minds
It was Wednesday morning, February 14. There was a nice cold breeze. One could tell it was going to be a special day – and why not? It was Valentine’s Day.
But while others were hyped over romance, I was charged about something else.
I was both excited and anxious as I prepared breakfast for myself and my sister/ PR manager Candy. It would be the first time I would speak in front of many people, something new and scary for me.
I was an artist who thrived in privacy and solitude, but on that day I was expected to be part of a “human library,” sharing my story and showcasing our Cyberbrain comics for an event titled “Read my Mind.”
The heavy traffic from Quezon City to Manila made me forget my jitters a little. I booked a ride and chatted with the driver about his job, his personal life, and eventually segued into mental health. I thought I could practice talking about my topic a little.
Despite the clogged roads, the driver got us to our destination on time. By the time I stepped into LPU, I had started to relax.
The human library
The library was at the quadrangle of Lyceum of the Philippines University – Manila. The event was led by Gibby Gorres under Senator Riza Hontiveros’ mental health program.
Advocates, professionals and storytellers gathered to act as a human book. Each participant was given a booth bench at the stage. From the front desk, students chose a human book who would share his or her story in seven minutes.
Stepping into the light
At the entrance to the school, I immediately noticed the smiles that people were wearing on their faces. I remembered my own college days.
Soon, we were ushered into a briefing room. I became more relaxed when I saw even more familiar faces from the cyber brain team.
But when I saw the stage on which I was expected to speak, I became anxious all over again, sweating and chilling. The host, Terence Joy Piodos, was already speaking when I came up with the idea to sneak in front and then raise my head to create the illusion that I was one of the human books. However I soon realized what I did simply created a distraction and in fact made me look like a photobomber.
Mr. Paulo Laurel, executive assistant to the president and officer in charge of the College of Arts and Sciences, gave a heartwarming and inspiring welcome remarks. Senator Riza Hontiveros updated us on the progress of the mental health bill at the Senate.
Books, photos, presents
We searched for our booth and settled into it, putting our materials on the bench. All human books did the same. Soon, the students – “readers” – started coming. Some of them stopped by our booth.
At lunch, the participants had a photo station on the stage. When it finished, I took my chance at approaching the senator to hand over a present I had made for her.
The afternoon session was equally interesting. 2016 Miss International Kylie Versoza delivered her remarks, shared her life experiences and her thoughts about mental health. No pictures, unfortunately, but it was enough that we saw and listened to her and got kind of star-struck in the process.
When I got back to our booth, there were more students than I had expected. For a moment I was nervous again, but then the students engaged me in conversation and asked intelligent questions. We talked about art, life, and mental health. I found it so easy to talk to them that I lost track of time. Nothing beats an open, free-wheeling conversation about the things you are passionate about. I hope I inspired those kids.
Again there was a photo session marking the end of the event, but did not feel like it was an ending. From my conversation with the students, I learned that young people wanted to talk to adults but may sometimes be afraid of being judged or criticized when they express themselves.
All the anxieties of the day melted away with this realization. I found myself looking forward to the days ahead, with my renewed sense of purpose.
What a day of hearts, indeed.