Featured Storyteller

PHILIPPINES: My Words Must be Written

Posted May 2, 2017 from Philippines

Dyan Mabunga Rodriguezwrites letters to survive, to cope with loss, and to light a path of hope for her young son.

“Writing is just as important as breathing.

I live to write letters. I have lived because of letters.

As a child, my father left our family. When a parent decides to leave, there is an infinity of questions. Inside my head was an avalanche of thoughts.

I remember, when I was five, the black jar, a familiar fixture in our living room, accidentally got broken, spilling my brokenness in scraps of paper scribbled with love letters to a father who decided to leave. This memory resurfaces in conversations with my mother, and in spite of its heartbreaking backstory, she uses it to lovingly remind me that writing is just as important as breathing. I must live.

I wrote letters to express my love for family and friends because certain moments merit not only non-verbal expression, they also deserve to be documented, reconstructed, and reread. Writing is my human attempt to immortalize fleeting moments of happiness.

My passion to write and my stubborn impulse to document my thoughts are evidenced in various notebooks I have collected over the years. I write notes to my past, present, and future self. When I accidentally come across these old letters, I often find myself smiling, as if reading a letter from another who writes with raw and shameless honesty. It is overwhelming at times. I find that the letters to my younger self are the most difficult to write. Because she has been through a labyrinth of thorns, she deserves good letters.

I have written countless letters to my mother; many of these I have given to her, the others I kept somewhere. There are infinite words and a number of people who deserve my letters. There are infinite words, but humans have a finite number of days. The freedom to write must not be wasted. Words must be written.

Sometimes when I write my letters my heart bleeds just as the ink from my pen bleeds. Pain, the breaking, must be transformed in written form.

My mother once told me that she loves my letters but could not find the words to respond. I told her that my letters demand no answers and require no affirmation.

Tucked in between the pages of my notebooks, I come across my letters to God on a spectrum of topics. I write Him philosophical inquiries and mundane questions, prayers that could change the world, shallow pleas, cries of disappointment, and cries for forgiveness.

My prayers, albeit short of poetry, remind me of King David’s passionate and reckless abandon when conveying his feelings to an almighty being. My dream has always been that when this lifetime ends, God will have kept all my letters and He will show them to me.

Writing letters does not require an accurate memory but one chiseled down to a defining moment. If of love, the defining moment transcends the memory of the emerald tinge in another’s eyes and lands on that moment when staring at their eyes made one feel less alone, and then protected.

If of pain, it is not the heavy breathing of an abuser or their abrasive palms, but the horrendous feeling of being defenseless. It is that moment that is so inescapable you would never want another soul to be subjected to it.

Letters as testaments to overcoming injustice need to be written. There is an African proverb that states, “Until the lion has his own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best stories.” For many who suffer from painful memories, the voice of the hunter, or the monster, echoes in their heads. Writing letters is a tool to defeat the hunter. It is a way of overcoming and a way of letting other survivors know that they, too, can survive. They, too, can live.

In 2013, I entered into motherhood with a slew of hormones. I realized that my memories had become more vivid than usual, inflicting anxiety about whether I would be able to fulfill the most important role of my life—that of being a mother to my son Kaleb. Amidst the dust of old things and with a heavy bump, I struggled to find an exquisitely bound leather notebook I had bought in an antique shop in Lithuania. In the crisp, brown pages, I began writing letters to Kaleb.

While I used to write and immerse myself in memories too painful to forget, and found indulging pain therapeutic, motherhood has transformed the aching. The aching must be transformed. I began writing of pain, and then hope. I described the dark years and then spoke of the bright moments. I wrote of rejection and unrequited love and then voraciously wrote about my own mother’s unconditional love.

Using thehashtagreadmekaleb, I leave online tracks for my son. I leave virtual notes and letters that I pray he will find when the time is right.

May the letters, the scars, the living wounds, of his grandmother, of his mother, and of the women and men in my letters, strengthen him when days are dark and inspire him to become a good man.


This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!Learn more.

Comments 14

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May 02, 2017
May 02, 2017

Keep writing my sister. It can be seen that you have developed a mastery of writing from your words in this post. Who knows where writing letters can take you in the future? Be hopeful


"A needlepoint change in direction today is worth a grand arc of change in the future!"

May 03, 2017
May 03, 2017

Dear Dyan, You are a wonderful writer! I am so impressed and moved by your writing and your story. I hope you can publish these diaries as a book some day! As for my story, my father's father also ran away from a family of 6 children. This haunted my father in certain ways all of his life. So, I know how that pain is lasting. Please keep writing to express your own feelings. Writing can be cleansing. I especially like your expression "a labyrinth of thorns". It is a perfect metaphor for life's many hurdles and pains. My best to you on your writing journey. Kaleb is lucky to have your writings.

Sincerely, WorldCare

May 03, 2017
May 03, 2017

You are a great writer. Keep up the spirit and God will reward you. Your son is lucky to have you has his mother

Immaculate Amoit
May 03, 2017
May 03, 2017


Writing is indeed therapeutic. Your writing has come out so strong in this article. I loved reading it. It is something that should be embraced as a means to coping.

Keep writing

Ritkatmwa Gwan Gwan
May 04, 2017
May 04, 2017

Hello Dyan, I enjoyed your piece. As a lover of letters myself. I developed my love for creative writing through letter writing. I have letters from 20 plus years ago and my family thinks I'm weird...lol. I also like that you are creating a footprint for your son to find someday "Using the hashtag readmekaleb, I leave online tracks for my son. I leave virtual notes and letters that I pray he will find when the time is right.

Looking forward to reading more great pieces from you.


May 04, 2017
May 04, 2017

Hi Dyan,  thank you for sharing your story.... looking forward more of your wonderful stories to share...

May 05, 2017
May 05, 2017

Dear Dyan,

I have a great read today. Thank you. Your writing is very inspirational to others as well. Please keep writing and posting.  would love to read you more.

love and regards,


May 06, 2017
May 06, 2017

keep writing Dear. The pen is mightier than the sword.

May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story.  My favourite line reads 'because certain moments merit not only non-verbal expression, they also deserve to be documented, reconstructed, and reread'.

May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

This remains me writing to my grandmom when she was still around.  She did not know technology and preferred old style ie receiving letters.  Happy writing keep writing !

May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

Your writing is beautiful, and you make your case to write so well. We all must tell more of the stories of our lives, and be witness to them. I am glad to read some of yours.

Sinyuy Geraldine
May 21, 2017
May 21, 2017

Hello dear, your writing has something beyond your understanding; and that is self-immortalization. Your writings will live on from generation to generation and these too will bring you fame. It is this very writing that has made me to know that you exist. So keep writing.

Jun 04, 2017
Jun 04, 2017

wonderful read. i enjoyed it. keep writing the letters

narayani khadka
Aug 18, 2019
Aug 18, 2019

Dear Dyan, your writing is incedibly powerful and gorgeous. Thank you a lot for sharing this with us. keep on writing . congratulations for story award!!
warm hugs