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What does Filipino girlhood look like?

By Andrea Panaligan Published Mar 17, 2023 5:00 am

Perhaps no other image encapsulates modern life better than the meme, “Am I a person? Or just a bunch of Taylor Swift lyrics glued together?”

Of course, the artist being referenced is interchangeable; the point is that, right now, it is extremely difficult to create an identity that is not just that of “consumer.” Our genuine interests are commodified and sold back to us. They become signifiers of cool, appropriated by corporations and celebrities in an attempt to win our allegiance. “This is what I like,” easily mutates into, “This is what I like to buy.”

In comes the teenage girl. Like queer people and other people on the margins, they have an unparalleled ability to take, in the words of author Kaitlyn Tiffany, “a commercial product and make it the foundational text of a new kind of culture.” The product, whether a social media platform or a boyband, is unfurled and teenage girls take ownership of it, generating their own meanings and communities in the process.

This is all to say that teenage girls and young women are perhaps among the most important producers and caretakers of contemporary culture, as they have been for decades. In celebration of Women’s Month, Young STAR asked readers to submit photos that capture their girlhood—partly as an exercise in cultural ethnography, or as a documentation of this specific experience in the Filipino context. But mostly to gather indispensable proof that, while it is extremely difficult to create an identity outside of consumption, the teenage girl will continuously succeed—and excel—at it.

Andrea, 22, Cavite

School was important and all, but we all knew the real education began after the bell rang, when we would all huddle under the shade waiting for our sundo. The stories of my female high school classmates are something I will carry with me forever.

Iya, 28, Cavite

I grew up in a Catholic school, and this was in 2012 when we had to get our pictures taken. Everyone looked like young and mischievous angels. We were girls together!

Muriel, 23, Caloocan

Growing up watching cheesy Kathniel and Jadine films will make you feel kilig while having your first dance with your boyfriend at 15, even if you’re just at the roofless basketball court of your public high school with Ed Sheeran playing in the background.

Now that I'm a young adult, I miss that kind of intimacy with my mom that I could only get when I was a girl.

Nani, 17, Makati

This is a scan of my journal. I tried to write down my happiest moments while staying inside during the pandemic. My phone was taken away from me so all I had at the time was my handy journal.

Camila, 20, Quezon City

I used to collect magazines when I was 10 and I saved the posters that came with them. I took a picture with my favorite one; you can clearly see how happy I was!

Shiri, 21, San Juan

As a female filmmaker/director, I feel empowered and proud to be a woman in a career path surrounded by men.

Kamina, 16, Bulacan

A picture filled with the bittersweet memory of my first love. Even with a foul ending, I will always cherish this memory as it played a huge part in my understanding of love and life.

Ella, 22, Laguna

This Zoom photo is of me and my all-women thesis advisory committee. Four women at different stages of our lives, all working towards uplifting the agriculture sector of the country.

Ennaira, 16, Nueva Vizcaya

I recently visited the stream that my cousins and I used to play in when we were little. We call it karayan, which is Ilocano for ilog! I haven’t set foot in those waters for years, and I felt I was reliving my girlhood at that very moment.

Liyan, 18, Taguig

I took this on the way to eat lunch after school. It reminded me of being carried by my mom when I would fall asleep. Now that I'm a young adult, I miss that kind of intimacy with my mom that I could only get when I was a girl.