I could accept being made fun for the things that were my fault. But it felt horrible to be called names for things I had no control over.
When I was in Mom’s womb, she did not grow wide. When she had her back to you, you would not know she was pregnant until she turn to you. Because I slept most of the time I was in her womb, I rarely changed my position. They learned that I was horizontally positioned inside of her. I think they call it a transverse lie. That, I think was the root cause of my defect.
I was born knock-kneed and pigeon-toed. The inner sides of my knees rubbed together when I walked and my feet pointed inwards. For a few years, I had to wear orthopedic shoes that looked like the shoes of Ronald McDonald, except that they were black. Those were heavy shoes and did not look very pretty at all. Unfortunately, the were unable to make a miracle for my feet like I was hoping for.
I would always trip and scratch my knees as a kid. When I was six, I remember walking to the waiting area for my school service when I suddenly tripped. I prayed to God that the nun who was a few meters behind me did not notice. Unfortunately, she did and made it a point to let me know she did. She even called me lampa, which is the Filipino word for unsteady or clumsy. As innocent as the word meant, it had a negative connotation in my country. It is also used to describe somebody who is seen as weak and lame. It hurt, coming from a nun.
But if being called lampa by a nun already hurt, nothing prepared me for when my classmates would notice my defect. They soon noticed how my foot curved inwards and my knees touched when I stood or stand. I was called pato (duck) and every time they had a chance, they would make duck noises and quack in my ears. At that time, Pokemon was a big hit so they started calling me Psyduck too. It would have been okay had they done it for days only. No. It went on for years.
Mom brought me to the Philippine Orthopedic Institute to determine what could be done with my foot because the teasing from my classmates was heavily affecting me already. They took x-rays and the doctor basically said that they can do a surgery to correct my feet. There were these tiny bones on the outer part of my feet that they can take out and transfer to the inner part to sort-of support and push my feet into place. At least that’s what I understood as a kid.
But the doctor didn’t want me to go to surgery. He said I was still too young to be made to go through a procedure that was not a matter of life and death anyway. He told me to train my feet to walk straight. To do it, I had to imagine a straight line in front of me and to position my feet in a way that when I walked, my feet were parallel to that straight line.
It took a lot of practice and now, my pigeon-toed feet are not as obvious when I stand or walk. People only found out when I pointed it out and showed how my feet looked like when I don’t straighten them out.
The bullying did not stop even when I could walk straight already. That’s fine, though. I have come to accept that part of me that I could not have done anything about. I was not going to have my feet split open for an unnecessary surgery just because they were being mean. They were not worth it.
I used to cry as a kid when they would call me a duck or point out that I am pigeon-toed. Looking back, I do not mind now that they called me names of birds and fowl. They can call me a bird; it only means I can fly. And fly above them I shall.