“You are unique in this world and there are things that only you can do. And if you’re gone, no one will do it anymore. So, stay,” she stressed. Sunflower stated that the youth may have perceived the world as cruel. Their lives may be burdened with so much of unprecedented troubles from the problems within their families, misunderstandings among friendships and regrets from the various experiences one has to undergo, but people must not lose hope, she believes. There are more than a million ways to survive life and there are so many options available to stay positive and satisfied.
From the third floor, the sight of the ground appeared fascinating to an innocent child in a renowned Christian school in Davao while the students are flooding into the open grounds for their flag ceremony. At first, it was just a mere expression of curiosity. But, as time went on, her stares were converted into the desire to jump. The feelings of anger, distrust, and isolation which she had kept within for a long time have slowly resurfaced pushing her to commit her first attempt of suicide. In silence, she had kept her secret. But, the noises of the past have never stopped chasing her even at present times.
Raised in a middle-class family, Sunflower, her preferred name, is now 20 years old and currently a third-year student at Ateneo de Davao University. As the youngest daughter, she gets sufficient attention from her family to whom she dedicates much of her life. Her family-oriented view has kept her feet on the ground by keeping her family’s prized teachings and values, thus, placing her family a top-most priority. The discovery of Sunflower’s artistic endowment started when she was still a kid. From the simplest cartoon-like sketches to the complex color blending, she has made a life out of art and drawing. Aside from drawing and painting, her interests also include sculpture from clay. Her parents’ full support also fueled her thirst to explore what’s beneath the horizons of her abilities. Like any other aspiring artists, she has grown her dreams and goals in her chosen field.
Unexpectedly, however, the scribbles in her drawings turned real as her life seems to lose its direction. Sunflower started to feel that the people around her are trying to turn their backs against her.
Prior to her life in AdDU, she studied Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication at Philippine Women’s College. Her skills in art helped her cope up with all the bad memories she had from the past. But, little did she know that her talent in drawing can be her source of anxiety. People started to demand the best out of her through high hopes and expectations until it came to a point where she has felt suffocated. Her belief that she can be at her best in art has turned into the loss of desire and motivation to continue her endeavor. Unexpectedly, however, the scribbles in her drawings turned real as her life seems to lose its direction. Sunflower started to feel that the people around her are trying to turn their backs against her. Friends have drifted away and her social environment has changed dramatically. Her perception of the people’s view towards her became negative. The overlapping crises pushed Sunflower to come to a point of doubting her existence. She went to the extent of lying just to gain friends and even stealing just to see how others respond. Upon knowing, her parents send her to a psychiatrist. But, she found a way to lie to the psychiatrist by diverting the issue into mere envy, yet, what she truly need is attention. Living with piles of suffering from all of her pretensions and lies, Sunflower’s self-esteem went down drastically. The remaining space she had has shrunk unexpectedly as the only people whom she could lean on became distant from her. More and more questions were left unanswered at the moment of her seclusion. She started to fear to live her days alone without any idea how to escape from any of her despairing experiences.
Sunflower continued to sustain her life despite all the odds trying to uproot her from the ground. Tough times became more familiar growing up making her experiences more profound. By then, she was able to manage difficulties by staying positive and hopeful. Such attitude was further reinforced by a canon-ball that hit her on that date when she championed her first poster-making contest. Sunflower did not anticipate that her parents will be very proud of her. Inside her room, she wept hard and thank God for all the glimpses of hope showered upon her. Slowly, she realized that life isn’t an isolated valley where she is stuck in between. On her high school graduation, she garnered unperceived responses from her classmates who gave her letters which contain messages of appreciation. Those days were the defining days for the rest of Sunflower’s existence.
The first day of school in Ateneo de Davao University was a bit weird for Sunflower. She’d met a stranger who suddenly approached her with no definite reason. The stranger asked her if they can go to a secluded place where there’s little to no passers-by. No hesitations have bothered Sunflower’s mind and just followed the woman, at her similar age, into a place near the school’s chapel. At start, the woman’s words did not seem to bother Sunflower, however, she was disturbed by the stories and narratives told by the stranger as time went on. Most of what the stranger said are familiar to Sunflower. While pondering, she realized that all of what the stranger said are the detailed events that have happened to her life. In her belief, the stranger was sent by God to guide and remind her that He will always be right there for her.
A staggering increase of the suicide rate in the Philippines has become a threat to the majority of the Filipinos. In the year 2012 alone, as many as seven Filipinos commit suicide in a day. A report by World Health Organization (WHO) as quoted by GMA News Online, moreover, stated that there are 4.5 million depressed Filipinos and one-third of the given data are not aware of their situation. Also, available reports from the National Poison Management and Control Center of the Philippine General Hospital present suicide cases among the youth, in which 46 percent comes from the said demographic; 30 percent are young adults aged 20-35 years, while the remaining 16 percent are those aged 10-19. However, Sunflower still believes that there are ways to minimize the suicide cases in the country such as mental health education and other awareness programs. If the government will act passively about the problem, more and more lives will be wasted. She pleads the different sectors of the society to act upon the issue of suicide rather than just minimizing it to an issue of mere sadness or emotional imbalance. Moreover, Sunflower expressed her feelings towards those who suffer like her. Despite the weight the world has placed upon them, she believes that the feelings of despair are temporary. There will be a time when everything will just come to pass.
As stressed by Sunflower, though, a suicide attempt is the easiest form of escape, no one’s going to have a better exit afterward. The pain will remain alive among those one has left behind. “There are people you could’ve loved and the people who could’ve loved you. If you die, you wouldn’t have met them,” she said. Her aspiration of becoming a children’s book illustrator is one of the things that make her stay. Sunflower’s visions include integration of her learnings from Psychology into the books that she will create. She hopes that her learnings would suffice to make a difference in helping other people to grow better and become happier individuals. Despite the clear differences among individuals, Sunflower ascertains that each has something to contribute to the world.
“We must not turn our backs immediately just because we are tired or hopeless.”Sunflower
“We must not turn our backs immediately just because we are tired or hopeless. After a storm, not only that there’s a rainbow. But, the sky is clearer on that moment. That’s the perfect timing to contain happiness and mark a new beginning,” she expressed.
Sunflowers are known for their ability to track the sun as they start to blossom, and when they grow mature, their stems stiffen and remain facing the east. Despite being a generic species of a flower, it has never stopped mesmerizing countless people because of its pleasing color scheme and multiple utilities. Its thousand ray florets (the tiny flowers that consist the sunflower’s bud), desperate of the glimmers from the sun, are like those who are looking for hope every day. Sunflower, one of those who greatly admire sunflowers, has found her better path towards life. She desires for everybody to become more sensitive regarding the feelings of other people. “A lot of people look like they’re fine. But, they’re actually not when you get to know them.”