I’m a 25-year-old guy and I stand 5’2”. That’s small even by Filipino standards. Well, there are those rare times when I see a smaller guy and I can’t help but stare, thinking, How the hell can he be shorter than me?! And for that brief moment, I feel like I’m having a really good day.
Being small comes with its pros and cons. When I was a child, there were kids who will always pick on me because I’m tiny; and there were those who will always defend me because, well, I’m tiny. I was always the one at the front of any line arranged by height – flag ceremonies, dance numbers, school parades… you name it. I was the one always getting teased as partner for the smallest girl in class because, “You make the cutest couple, midgets. Ahahaha!”
My first time joining a quiz bee, I had to go to town a day before the event. I was to be fetched at the terminal by my teacher, who was late for about twenty minutes. A kindly lady noticed me and smiled.
“Where are your parents? Have you travelled here all on your own? What a smart boy!” she said.
I said yes, then added, “I’m already in fifth grade.”
“Oh. That makes sense, I guess.” She looked disappointed, as if it was my fault that she mistook me for a gifted five-year-old.
It’s fascinating to observe people’s reaction when meeting me for the first time. They assumed I was a grade-schooler when I was in high school. They asked me what high school I was attending when I was actually in college. When I started working, bus conductors perpetually asked me for a school ID to give me the mandatory discount for students. And even after four years in the corporate world, some people think I’m either an intern or a fresh-grad.
My favorite moment so far was when we went to Hong Kong on a company trip. In our free time, my friends and I decided to visit Macau. As we entered a casino, a security guard stared at me, shook his head, and pointed to a large sign that say something like, “Under-18 not allowed.” After some explanation, he finally let me in – only to be spotted later by another security guard patrolling the building. I had to pull out my passport to prove that I was twenty-two.
I’ve accepted a long time ago that I’m a little guy. But it doesn’t mean that I’m just a little guy. In fact, I have learned to use it to my advantage. I learned to feel amused rather than insulted by curious comments. I even take them as compliments (I really look young, no?). I am so much more than my stature. After all, there are many great names in history who are vertically-challenged, Jose Rizal included.
By the way, I have three brothers and three sisters. On some holidays, when everyone’s at home, you may hear us laughing because, “The seven dwarves are together!”