Mahal Kita (I Love You)

Mahal Kita (I Love You)

Artist Statement by Althea Balmes

There is one type of love that I aspire to and that is unconditional love. I am learning that unconditional love is purifying and clarifying energy. It makes us true and honest, aligning us with our most authentic self and connections. 

But it is hard work because to practice unconditional love is healing work. Dr. Gabor Maté taught me that the true meaning of vulnerability is our capacity to be wounded and that everything in nature grows by being vulnerable. He also taught me that the true meaning of healing is to be whole. That is what unconditional love will do, return us/ remind us of our wholeness. 

In this system, we are taught to focus more about our lack. Systems of oppression will amplify our shadows, the parts of ourselves that are made to hide because of fear, shame, rejection or whatever else in order for us to disconnect from our whole sense of being and instead comply with a false source of higher power. 

To accept the conditions of unconditional love means doing the hard work of having to confront our beliefs, programming and limitations. It means having to have radical acceptance of our shadows and face the consequences of our past actions and be at peace with it in order to participate fully in authentic and sincere connections. Unconditional love is meant to challenge and change us and everything around us. It is an invitation for conscious expansion. That is, actively choosing how and who we are in the world because we have decided to honour the authentic expression of first, ourselves and then of others. Unconditional love will require us to be radically honest about our capacity so that we can make space for each others’ expansion with grace and tenderness. 

This is why to say, mahal kita, is such a powerful prayer and spell. The Tagalog double meaning of mahal says, I love you and I value your wholehearted existence in my life. This is why people say love is revolutionary. It liberates and affirms all our authentic ways of being.

We share with you: the Mahal Kita Crewneck and Tee

The anting anting design of mahal kita is an image of a person embracing themselves completely with the words, mahal kita around it. The ambiguity of who this prayer is being said to (is it you the reader or you the wearer?) mirrors the deep understanding that unconditional love requires us to acknowledge our wholeness and of others. For extra support, we have added, “sakto lang, hindi nagkulang” on the inner sleeve specifically for the wearer. We want to remind you that you are made exactly right and nothing about you was ever missing. You have always been whole. 

About the Artist and Author: Althea Balmes (she/they/siya) is a multidisciplinary visual storyteller & arts-educator. I carry the Ilocano and Ilonggo lineages and stories of my ancestors. My artistic work focuses on the multiplicity of our experience of migration and diasporic personhood. I tap into the ancestral, the sacred and the intangible cultures of my people. I approach this work like visual ethnographies to connect to past, present and future existence and the Unseen worlds. My work is about deepening our human experience and being a witness to alternative worldviews and realities. For my people, my hope is that the work is healing. 


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