Chubby Cheeks

It happened again the other night.

I was in line at Seattle’s Best to get some dinner when I overhear a group of three friends debating amongst themselves if I was Sitti or not. 

Siya yun!”

Hindi, chubby yun e.”

Siya nga yun!

Sige nga, tanungin mo nga.

So the guy approaches me and asks. I confirm that I am me, and the picture-taking commences.

I am reminded of a similar situation before. I was boarding for a flight when I pass two girls whose conversation again, I overhear. 

Si Sitti!

From the corner of my eye I see the other girl examine me. She decisively shakes her head at her friend:

Hindi a! Ang taba-taba nun e.

And the topic of me was dismissed.

Natatawa talaga ako pag naaalala ko ‘to.

The camera does add ten pounds. But on top of that, I have been gifted with a round face that just makes me appear fat on camera and in pictures. Normal na sa akin na makarinig ng comment na: Ang payat mo pala sa personal!”

When I was in high school I would hear rumours of schoomates calling me “Monay” behind my back. Perhaps it was during that time that I developed an “issue” over it; always obsessing over how fat my face is. My mom, who is a constant witness to this, would just say, “Wala ka magagawa, mukha ng Navarro talagang bilog.” But that would do nothing to reassure me. I really, really, really a hundred times over despised having to look at myself in pictures or in videos. 

Appearing regularly on television only added to my fat face issue, for a time. No matter how thin I would work myself to be, my face would still look fat! My cheeks would still protrude and announce themselves to the world especially when I automatically lift them to sing. After pictorials, when most subjects would huddle with the style team to check the shots, I would go back to the makeup area and shrug the whole thing off, saying “Wala na ako magagawa sa itsura ko” thinking that of course, I would look fat in those photos.

It was only in a discussion with one of my voice teachers, Ms. Jeanelle Roldan, that I was finally able to accept and wholeheartedly embrace my chubby cheeks. This happened a couple of years back, I think. The head, from the neck up and that includes the face, is where the sound we produce from our vocal chords resonates. Whatever we sound like when singing, whether raspy, or sweet, or big-voiced, is a product of the sound we produce passing from the vocal chords all the way up, traveling through all the spaces and caverns that are inside our mouths, in the nasal cavity, the cheeks, even up to our bunbunan. Bottomline, my teacher said, my voice wouldn’t sound the way it does if my face isn’t shaped the way it is. So don’t ever wish that your face was shaped differently, she said, because that would also change how your voice sounds.

(Of course, we are all gifted with different sets of pipes as well that determine the texture of our voices. And the very admirable ones who have truly mastered their vocal instruments could change how they sound at will - like that guy who sang Disney’s Frozen in 21 different characters voices.)  

I was thunderstruck. I never saw it put to light that way. For almost half of my life I have been singing, and it has led me to one blessing after another for which I will always be grateful to our dear Lord. 

So to you who are reading this, if there is ever a thing you want changed in your physicality, please know that you are created perfectly, just as our Heavenly Father designed for you to be, to fulfil the purposes He has made you, and will lead you to do. Kahit isang maliit na nunal, lahat yan may purpose, kasi ang kabuuan natin, may purposeLearn to love and to fully accept all of who you are.

I love my chubby cheeks. :) <3