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Manila, Philippines

Bela Padilla

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

An open letter to you.

Before I begin, open Apple Music...or Spotify. Go to the search bar and type in “Should Have Known Better” by Sufjan Stevens.

Found it? Ok. letters.

This has become a thing nowadays, hasn’t it? Open letters. Talking to your five year old self... things you would say kindly to the younger, cuter version of you. I’m often asked this question in interviews and I never know what to say. In a way, I fully support and applaud this idea. The thought of being kinder to yourself. Isn’t that the first and most valuable thing were taught when were young? To be kind? To share. To tell the truth. To understand. To forgive. And then you become an adult and suddenly the world is upside down.

I started working when I was 16. Fresh out fo high school, naïve to the bone. And I took those core values with me. I would go to the Kingdom Hall (our version of church) thrice a week and would preach to whoever would listen but I quickly realized that my workplace wasn’t the venue for it. My earliest memory of being in show business is a dance number for ASAP in 2007. They were going to launch us there. And because I was one of the taller girls, I would always stand at the back so the more vertically challenged people in the production number could actually see their form in the mirror. And I was told by actors who’ve been around longer than me not to do that. I was told always to fight for front and center. And true enough, over the next few years I would witness girls my age or younger claw their way to the front when the production numbers go live and you cant react anymore. Or wear a completely different color from the rest of the group, even if we had strict instructions on what to bring, just to stand out. At 16 I absorbed that to truly make it, you have to be cutthroat, you need to make your job your only priority and most importantly, you always need to be faster in the race of life. The idea of talking to your younger self was unheard of, instead you get shouted at, berated for being at the bottom and the voices in your head gets louder and louder by the day. The insufferable thought of not being enough mixed with the need to succeed clinging on to you like second skin.

That kind of mentality tires you. It tired me. And I started questioning myself. I constantly wondered if I was the same person I was inside when I jumped into the rabbit hole as I am in the present. Because that was my only condition for myself. I would do everything I could to make it, but I should still know how to be kind, to tell the truth, to share, to understand, to forgive and most importantly, to believe that other people are kind too. Having consistently worked on sets with different kinds of people who come from all walks of life sometimes challenged but ultimately strengthened that condition. And now I believe I’ve done a (fifteen year) sprint to get to where I want to go and I’m slowly walking around to pace catch my breath. Did you notice how I introduced myself? “ I started working at 16...” this is a habit I cant shake off, and I use this introduction all the time. I think because more than anything, I am defined by my work. And maybe because I want to remember how long this journey has been so far. Over time and after hours and hours of hard work, I got myself to a comfortable space where I feel I could say something. So here are my two cents:

If you have a dream, do everything in your power to turn it into a reality. You have everything you need to make anything happen. I only had my faith and probably a bit of talent. But I wanted to prove that I could be whoever I wanted to be from day one, so I made sure that I honed that talent. I made sure that I would leave scenes with no doubt even if I entered them with so much fear. I saw to it that I built friendships on set so the energy we share while filming always flows. And you could do all of these and more if you really want something. They say that only money and connections get you to the top. But again, I was 16. I didn’t have money and I most definitely didn’t use the one connection I had in the industry. I put the hours in. And so could you.

"you were so scared, of everything. EVERYTHING. You always had the urge to cry because you wanted to quit and go home and hide with a comforting book. But you didn’t. You always had a smile to share."

In a way, I believe that the generation today are lucky because they have so many avenues to shine. They have so much grit and guts to speak up and ask for what they require to thrive. That was unheard of in 2007. So use that. In whatever industry you’re in, do your best. Or don’t, and float by...there’s nothing wrong with that option. But make something of yourself. This is the kindness I’d like to give to you today. I want to move something in you that makes you get up and start writing something or makes you go for a run outside or pick up a paint brush or read. Anything that will make you feel alive. Because that is truly all I could wish for you, dear reader. I hope that in this lifetime you feel alive.

Now, if I do have one thing to say to the younger me, it would be this: you were so scared, of everything. EVERYTHING. You always had the urge to cry because you wanted to quit and go home and hide with a comforting book. But you didn’t. You always had a smile to share. You did well. And now you’re writing open letters to people far and wide. Hoping that if they are scared right now too, they could muster up a smile.

Has the first song ended for you? If it has, go back on Apple Music or Spotify, tap on the search bar and type in “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs band. This was my favorite song when I was 13 or 14.


Inspiring. Ate bels, I dearly look up to you. You're living the life I always dreamed of. Thanks for being such an inspiration. I got tearyeyed because you're so on point writing this and I felt it. I hope someday, I'll be happy living the life I've choose. Happy holidays. Hoping to meet you, anytime soon.💕🙏


Shin J. Dee
Shin J. Dee
Dec 29, 2022

brilliant! good job 😘❤️❤️❤️

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