Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.

Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.

And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Walling Myself In

WallsI’ve been trying to convince others who, like me, live with HIV, to realize that HIV is not the end-all and be-all of a person. I’ve been trying to let them see that this is not a reason for them to discriminate themselves from the world they live in. I’ve been trying to show them how to empower themselves, to get them to let go of the paranoia, and to break down the walls they’ve built around them.

Yes, I can be strong for others. Yes, I can fight for others. Yes, I can be feisty for others. But do you ever notice that it’s much, much easier to help others feel good about themselves, than you of yourself? I did.

In as much as I’ve been trying to encourage others that this HIV thing is something that can be dealt with, I realize that when the prospect of a relationship comes up in my own life, I am reminded of how hard I can really get on myself.

It’s not really something new, I’ve been there before. Even long before this HIV thing. Minimum self-confidence, maximum self-doubt. It took me a while to get a grip of myself and realize that I wasn’t such a bad guy. But just when I thought I’d found my mojo, and was starting to get the hang of it, I found out I was HIV-positive. I lost it again. That’s when I started building my wall.

Realizing that I was losing some old so-called friends was my rebar. It started off touching to hear them say I’m here if you need me. But then words are sometimes just that – words. Hearing it so many times as I watched people walked away, I started realizing that maybe what they really meant was I’m here if you need me, but until that time, ciao!

Realizing how much of a deal breaker this HIV thing can be with new acquaintances is like the foundation to my wall. Hearing I’d still like to see you and watching it end up as nothing, I started realizing what they really meant was I’d still like to see you, so just send me a picture or a video, thanks!

The stigma has been looming. So with that, brick after brick was laid, and the wall I was building around me went higher and higher, stronger and stronger. I was set on not letting anyone in. At some point it got so bad, that every time I’d meet someone who just wasn’t into me, I’d automatically think, it’s probably the HIV thing. HIV became the moat outside my wall.

I don’t know what other crazy things have I’ve cultured in my head, but I’m pretty sure I’ve added some barbed wire, glass shards, and electrification to my fortress. I was safe.

And then it came. Someone came. It didn’t start out as anything meant to threaten my security. It wasn’t even a date. He knew even before we’d met that I was HIV-positive. But after that first meeting, he made sure he showed he was interested. I brushed things off as just a pathetic attempt at flattery, but with the way he kept things up during the days that followed, I couldn’t help but think.

It’s been a week, and I’ve let every form of skepticism run through my mind. Maybe he didn’t realize the implications of my being HIV-positive. Maybe he just didn’t think things through. Maybe he was just desperate. Maybe he was just being nice because he needed something from me. Maybe he just didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Maybe he just felt sorry for me. Maybe he’ll snap out of it soon enough. Maybe he deserves someone better.

It hurt a lot to have to roll through all those scenarios in my head. But it hurt even more to have to acknowledge them and enunciate it to someone. I told him. I felt so pathetic admitting my flaws. I felt naked opening myself up like that. I was showing my vulnerability.

That’s when it hit me. I was fighting myself to open up to this guy. Even more convincing was getting the chance to get physical with him, but showing that I wasn’t ready to take that step. Me? Not ready for sex? I was dumbfounded. If it was just a sex thing, then we would’ve been done in a matter of minutes. But that didn’t happen.

With the infancy of what I not dare call a relationship just yet, I’m still left in limbo. In Friendster terms, it’s complicated, but in an it-feels-right kind of way. I’m trying hard not to have any expectations, but I must admit... it’s hard not to at least hope.

If I can bank on it being similar to the relationships that it’s supposed to protect me from, then hopefully this wall I’ve put up will be easier to destroy than it was to build. What happens next, only heaven knows.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Psyched Out

Psyched OutI don’t know what’s been going on, but I’ve found myself volunteering more and more to be a representative of the HIV-positive person. It’s a consequence of my being more relatively in-your-face from the start about my whole HIV story.

I received an e-mail last week from a group of psychology majors who were doing a study on some things that an MSM who lives with HIV has to deal with. They had found me through this blog and I certainly fit their criteria. I didn’t really have to give it a second thought, and I agreed to meet the group.

I’m not sure, but I think the fact that they were from the same university I went to made me more eager to do it. Making sure not to give them any clue, I decided I’d reveal that fact to them at the end of the meeting, so it would not be something that they nor I would need to factor into the conversation.

My eagerness to do this particular meeting hit a speed bump when I realized that my sister taught at the same department of this same university where these students were from. I was thinking what a hilarious coincidence it would be if my sister turned out to be their professor. So again, I decided not to dare ask who their professor was until the end of the meeting.

It was another benefit-of-the-doubt thing to be waiting inside the mall for some strangers to come up to me. After a few minutes standing there, I was approached by two girls. It was them. The third member of their group was to join us in a while.

While walking to the third floor of the mall, they began chatting me up. It was fine to some extent, but hearing them refer to me with words like sir, kuya, po and opo was a bit uncomfortable. Considering I was more dressed down than they were, I requested them to treat me as a peer. I just thought it’d make things more comfortable for the rest of the afternoon. And it would be good for my ego, too.

Getting to the almost empty coffee place, we took a table at the very corner, and they began explaining that this was to be an unstructured interview, where they had no real outline, basically just letting the conversation take on its natural flow. They simply called it kwentuhan. Cool. They also mentioned that they had already spoken to members of the so-called HIV advocacy groups, which only struck me because of the fact that what they learned there could already have caused them to formulate patterns for MSMs with HIV. Patterns which I probably won’t conform to.

It was an awkward start for all of us, to be honest, but when the third member of the group arrived, he had the secret to breaking the ice. He had been reading this blog religiously, I believe, so much so that he was accurately able to use several entries, situations and personalities that I’ve mentioned here to formulate his questions.

So with Mr. In-One-of-your-Entries opening the floodgates, they were able to tap into my thoughts, and I found myself rambling openly and comfortably with the group. The two other girls followed suit and opened up as well, and they became Ms. I-Have-a-Question and Ms. I-Have-a-Realization. Don’t get me wrong, these were all good aspects of each of them, and I really do believe that it was their diversity that made them a great team.

After about three hours of touching every aspect of my story, even going beyond the supposed scope of their topic, it was refreshing to see them all still laughing and smiling. That, to me, was good, because it meant that I had told my story just as it was, which was far from tragic. The most significant thing I heard from them was that I seemed so different from the guys from the HIV advocacy groups that they’d spoken to. I took that as a compliment.

As the end of the meeting approached, Ms. I-Have-a-Question wanted to know if writing was any part of my profession or education, to which I answered, “No”. Asking what course I actually took in college, I said I’d tell them off the record later, which was when Mr. In-One-of-your-Entries reached for the voice recorder and turned it off. So I told them. You’d think they’d stop there? No, no, no.

I soon found them passing the baton to each other, wanting to ask me something else. I had a hunch what it was about, but waited. Ms. I-Have-a-Question stepped up to the plate. I was right. They wanted to know where I went to college. They didn’t ask what school, but rather named their own, asking if I graduated from there or not. I was giggling at the fact that they guessed right, and that they couldn’t even stop themselves from asking or wait for my planned confession. So I said simply, “Yes”.

With I-knew-its all around, they admitted they were so convinced based on the way I dressed, the way I spoke, the way my mind worked and even went as far as saying it was evident in my eyes. Very intuitive. I felt good that I was that open and transparent to them, as I pride myself with being a no frills kind of guy. But I had also confirmed that these people were amazingly smart. They had psyched me out.

With that secret out of the way, I decided to ask my other question. Who was their professor? With drum rolls in the back of my mind, they mentioned a name. Nope, it wasn’t my sister. I’m not sure if I was relieved or disappointed, having considered the possibility of this being a chance from the heavens for me to come out to my sister. Darn.

At that point, we wrapped up. They presented me with a token of thanks, which I certainly wasn’t expecting or asking for. After agreeing to follow-up meetings after this and hugs all around, we went our separate ways. I couldn’t help smiling on the walk home, recalling the afternoon’s events. I realize that I do love sharing my story, and I was left with a high for me to enjoy.

Though I can only hope that I have been able to share my knowledge and my experiences to these members of the new generation, I acknowledge that I too have learned a lot from them. More than just the objective of a passing grade, they have shared with me their sincerity, their interest and their passion in the lives of us who live with HIV, and if I may take them to be rightful representatives of their generation, then there is definitely much hope for the future.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Befriending the Enemy

Cat&Dog?Recently, I was informed by Mr. Blackpool that someone from GMA wanted to get in touch with me. I swear, I cringed. Blackpool has become a friend, and he is completely aware that I’ve come to develop a history with that television network. But he assured me the person from GMA was a friend of his, and requested that I at least give it some consideration. It felt like I was gonna be sleeping with the enemy, argh. But, fine, I gave it some thought.

Initially, I was hesitant to give my mobile number to the guy, and didn’t even want to call him on his landline, from fear of being traced and stalked. So I asked that he tell me what he needed via e-mail. And he did. Simply enough, all he wanted was a meeting. But I think he drove his point when he said no commitment, no bullshitting. Fair enough. But I had my bitch ready.

So after a day’s worth of thinking, a quick chat via YM to warm things up between us, some attempts at flattery, and of course some badgering from Mr. BlackPool, I finally gave in. We were to meet that same evening. Discovering we lived nearby from each other, we agreed that a coffee shop at the local mall would be a convenient place.

I honestly was considering calling the meeting off at the last minute, only because I really wasn’t feeling well, hung over from the physically and emotionally draining weekend. But I just wanted to get it over with. I needed to know what it was all about.

Needless to say, it was another benefit-of-the-doubt thing, but I showed up nonetheless. After some small talk, he shifted from social to professional. He made clear that though they were from the same network, he could not officially comment on what happened to Baby Nathan because he was not witness to it. He assured me though that they were a completely different group from the Emergency thing, and just shared a bit of his personal and off-the-record insight on what he had heard about it. Fine. I was appeased.

He then went straight to the point. He was part of a team doing another documentary on HIV and AIDS. He wanted my input on how it could be treated, at the very least. I don’t know exactly what I can or can’t say about what we talked about, but let’s just say I used references to the previous documentaries done by Reporter’s Notebook and Emergency, both GMA shows as well, to point out what exactly was not properly done or shown. I was also able to share with him my thoughts and concerns on the treatment hubs and HIV advocacy groups, some of which he was able to visit already.

After a lot more talking, my drinking my ARVs in front of him signaled that the meeting begin wrapping up, before I started feeling the side effects. We finished the meeting and headed our separate ways, probably both left with much to think about. Personally, I think just having someone to pour out my thoughts to was therapeutic. I slept past my usual bedtime, and woke up an hour before I was actually supposed to, but I’m feeling much better than I have been for the past few days.

As much as he’d like to hear me say "I think he's really nice and really good looking, too", I’ve chosen to focus on the business side of things. So I’ve been giving it some thought, and I’ve come up with a wish list of points that I’d like the documentary to make. Here goes...

~ HIV is here. Now.
~ HIV has no mercy for age, gender, race or sexual preference.
~ HIV has no mercy for intelligence and social status, either.
~ HIV is not a homosexual disease.
~ HIV is not a disease of just the promiscuous.
~ Knowing one’s HIV status is important.
~ We must not fear getting tested.
~ Whether positive or negative, HIV tests are life-changing.
~ HIV can not be transmitted through casual contact.
~ Discriminate against ignorance, not HIV.
~ A risk is a risk, no matter how small. Just be ready to take responsibility.
~ It is everyone’s responsibility to keep him or herself safe.
~ HIV does not kill.
~ HIV is not a debilitating disease.
~ People living with HIV & AIDS can still be productive.
~ HIV is a big deal, but can be dealt with.

That’s just as far as I’ve been able to go. I might come up with more. Or you might have some ideas. Sound them out. That’s the least we can do to make sure this is done right this time.

Awareness, I believe, will be the key to stopping the spread of HIV. And whether I like it or not, the media will play a huge role in spreading information. And whether they like it or not, we, as viewers, have the power to steer the media onto the right path. Empower yourself. Now is as good a time as any.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day

I told myself I wouldn’t blog about Valentine’s Day. And I didn’t. I did blog on the 14th, but on something totally different. But right now, I just can’t help myself. The mere fact that I was blogging on Valentine’s Day meant nothing else than that I was single and dateless. Single and Dateless? That’s S.A.D. And that’s totally sad.

I hadn’t even gotten past that bit of depression I had last holidays when Valentine’s Day was suddenly just around the corner. It was actually a good thing that I had my CD4 count to worry about until a couple of days before Valentine’s. I thought the high that my CD4 count left me with was good enough to last me a while, but…

Anyways, Friday night, the 13th of February, I purposely went straight home from work, not even bothering to stroll through the two malls that I could’ve passed. I just didn’t want to navigate through the presumably huge crowds that were there. Okay, so maybe that’s not the entire reason. I didn’t want to see droves of couples walking hand in hand either. That way, there was nothing to rain on my solitary parade.

Next thing I knew, it was Saturday. The 14th. Valentine’s Day. I only had a trip to the grocery with my mom scheduled for the day. I took time to drop my little cupid, Baby Nathan a line first thing in the morning, and met my mom at the supermarket shortly after. I wasn’t really enjoying being there. I already saw some couples shopping that early in the morning, and I wasn’t too keen on seeing more. I just wanted to get out of there. So I rushed my mom through shopping, and left for home even before the rest of the mall opened.

I don’t even remember what I did the rest of the day. I think I was just watching television, snacking, surfing and sleeping for most of it. But thankfully, no drama. I even decided against going to the nearby Burger Machine, afraid of having to pity myself for going for a buy-one-take-one deal alone. The day passed by without a hitch and I was happy. I slept through the night, and Valentine’s Day 2009 was over. You’d think, right?

The following day, the 15th, I spent at home again. I was able to do some chores around the house as well, and evening came with nothing really significant happening. Right after dinner, I retreated to my room earlier than usual, and got into a text conversation with a friend. And then it happened. Cellphone in hand, with Nina singing I Love You, Goodbye in the background, I just shattered to pieces. I don’t know what got over me, but I got so depressed.

My chin trembling, tears streaming down my face, and who-knows-what out one nostril... the works. I blame my friend for telling me I made his day. I blame Nina for singing her sentimental song. I blame my right hand for pressing “PLAY”. I blame the night for being so dark. I blame my mind for losing it.

I think it was self-pity that crept in. I looked into the mirror and took everything in. I saw what others saw. I saw me. I looked okay, but still tried to figure out what was wrong with the person I was staring at. It was a question which I couldn’t answer. Is it the HIV? I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe nothing is. Maybe I am okay.

Fortunately, I was able to calm myself down after that. It was over in no time. I just always enjoyed having a good sob, something I haven’t done in a while. I now needed to focus on the work week ahead, and was fast asleep in no time. I woke up with a bad headache and a mood to match, luckily without the puffy eyes. I know it’s a bad way to start the week, but hey, I’m just human.

Another Valentine’s Day gone, and hopefully no more residual dramatics. Another twelve months before I need to deal with it again. The countdown begins... now. Ngarrr.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Secret

Going for my CD4 count last week, I had previously heard cases of CD4s going up and down by over 150 points. With that in mind, the least that I was really wishing for was that it not go down and I be told that my ARVs weren’t working, and that they’d possibly have to be changed, which would mean another round of trials and adjustments.

Truth be told, upon receiving the slip of paper from Ate where she’d written our CD4 counts, I read it initially as 404. And with that, I was happy enough. But noticing a little loop on top of what I thought was a zero, Ate confirmed that indeed, it was an eight that she had written, making it a 484. That just left me even more amazed.

So with that accomplishment, I’ve been asked what my secret was. How did I do it? Geesh, honestly, I don’t know. Let me think.

When it came to food, I didn’t really make many changes. I’ve consciously been trying to eat more, increasing my rice intake from one a meal to 1½ or sometimes even 2 cups a meal. I’m still eating anything and everything there is. Rice, bread, pasta, pork, beef, chicken, fish... even fruits and vegetables.

I’ve always been a veggie eater, which I’ve heard is a good thing. My favorite? Gisadong ampalaya. Yum. I get that once a week from the little canteen near where I work. Luckily, ampalaya or bitter gourd was the particular vegetable that the resident counselor at the RITM says is good for people like us living with HIV. I don’t exactly know why that is. But I might be a testament to its efficacy.

Surprisingly, I’m choosier when it comes to fruits. First of all, I only like the fruits that I grew up knowing. I don’t enjoy “seedy” fruits either. And I hate the smell of oranges and the like. That leaves me with mango cheeks, canned pineapples, fruit cocktails, peach halves, seedless grapes, raisins and bananas.

I did try to get into a milk phase earlier into my ARVs. I started off with a glass of milk every night, but was overcome by my long-standing fear of milk causing me diarrhea, so I reduced my intake to just over the weekends, or with cereals for snacks. But I’ve just gotten too lazy. I’m now only able to take milk when I feel like it, when I remember it, and when I put my mind to it.

Food supplements are zero at the moment. I started off taking multivitamins, but ran out of them back in November. Anyone ever notice how expensive they are? So anyway, since that time, I haven’t gotten back to taking them. Despite that, I’m doing pretty good I think. I noticed I haven’t been catching coughs or colds as easily as before.

Alcohol intake is still the same as before, occasional. I did say I had my fair share of drinking during the holidays, but since that, almost nothing, which is normal for me. After the new year, the next taste of it I had was a single bottle of beer up in Tagaytay. That’s been the last, too.

I do believe that getting enough rest is a big factor. I’ve always been an eight-hour a day sleeper, and I make my zzz quota maybe 90% of the time. That’s just the way I was built, I’m practically useless past my bedtime. On weekends, I even sneak in afternoon naps when I can.

And then of course, there’s the compliance with medications. I’m still on Isoniazid, a tuberculosis prophylactic, which the Doctor put me on for nine months. It was fortunate, having been possibly exposed to tuberculosis when I found out that a couple of job applicants at work flunked their medical exams because of it.

As for the ARVs, I’m proud to say I have never missed a day of taking them. I’ll admit though that sometimes the timing becomes a problem, especially when I’m with people to whom I’d rather not explain what exactly all the tablets are for, or when I’m caught on the way home and would rather not risk drinking water from heaven-knows-where just to gulp them down. I think the most that I’ve missed my daily schedule by was maybe two to three hours. But shhhhh, don’t rat me out, okay?

Those factors might just be the tip of the iceberg. Of course, there are all the psychological, emotional, and maybe even sexual factors that might come into play. Heaven knows which ones I’m doing right, and which ones I’m not. In any case, I still believe thinking and living positively go a long, long way. My secret is out.


Friday, February 13, 2009

A Day of O's

I had been anticipating another huge Thursday since weeks ago, it was to be my follow-up CD4 count, my first after being on ARVs for the past six months. This would tell for certain whether or not my ARVs are working. This would determine whether I was taking proper care of myself and doing the right things to keep my health up. This was to be a make or break thing.

Let me introduce a new addition to my alphabet friends, O. The one thing that stuck with me about O was the fact that on a number of occasions, people have actually mistaken each of us for the other. O and I had bumped into each other a number of times before at the RITM, but never really got to talk much. I guess we were the same type, preferring to stick with the people we already knew. But due to some extremely unusual circumstances, and with U’s help, who knew us both, we finally made contact via text messaging. It was natural for the three of us to gravitate towards one another because of the proximities of where we lived.

O and I met a couple of times after that and gotten the chance to talk, discovering we’d actually met in a group of common friends many, many years ago. Of course, we chatted about family, work, our HIV journeys, and everything else under the sun. And we also found out that we were both scheduled for a CD4 count this month, and just happened to set it on the same date, so we agreed to go together.

We had met out on EDSA at 7:00 am, thinking it would give us enough time to get to the RITM before 9:00, the time that Ate told us to be there for blood extraction in time for the running of the CD4 batch. But like a really bad joke, we seemed to have been sucked into all the possible traffic there was, so much so that we had to be constantly reassuring Ate via text that we were indeed on our way, practically begging for her to wait for us before the batch of samples was run.

And sure enough, after about three hours on the road spent chitchatting, joking around, yawning and stressing out a bit, O and I finally reached the RITM just a couple of minutes before 10:00 am, the ultimate final leeway that Ate had given us.

After several vials of blood each and with that mission behind us, O and I both decided not to report for our respective jobs for the rest of the day, not that I really could because I was just wearing a shirt and a pair of shorts. We just agreed to wait for the results to be released at around 3:00 pm. I was really the one more excited to wait, this being my first CD4 count since starting ARVs.

So some brunch, a bit of hanging around, a med refill and even a movie session at Festival Mall later, it was time for the verdict. We trekked back to Ate, and waited anxiously. Finally the call came in. The lab wasn’t ready to release the hard copies, so they just dictated the result to Ate over the phone. O and I both tried desperately to read her reaction, and figured that at least one of us had done well, as something caused Ate to mouth out a smiling Oh! as she wrote on her little paper.

Putting the phone down, she teased us a bit with a beaming Hmm!, refusing to read the results out. She handed us the piece of paper, as I heard a drum roll in my head. This is it. This is really is it.

On the piece of paper, next to our initials, were our respective CD4 counts. The good news was that O’s count went up 57 points, and that was absolutely exciting. And mine? From my first CD4 count of 343 back in San Lazaro Hospital in May 2008, to my first at the RITM in August 2008 of 328, my present CD4 count was... JANJARARAAAAN... 484! O as in OMG! Up 156 points! Woohoo!

My worry was suddenly replaced by a whole onslaught of emotions. I wanted to jump, wanted to cry, wanted to pump my fists in the air… of course I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, and honestly I felt faint… but it was all good. I just had to sit down and take it all in.

What did this all ultimately mean for me? I could and should stick to what I’ve been doing the past six months.

Taking medicines religiously? Check.
Eating right? Check.
Sleeping early? Yawn. Check.
Working my ass off? Check.
Advocacy? A definite check.
Keeping sane? Check.
Blogging? Check.
Keeping tabs on HIV documentaries? Check.
Harassing stupid people who discriminate against HIV? A feisty check.
Caring for Baby Nathan, his family and others like them? A bouncing baby check.
Keeping my sexlife barely alive? Whew. Check.
Being content with singlehood? Ngargh... but check.
Staying alive, positive and happy? Check, check and one big CHECK.

I guess one change that this result might trigger is that it’s a big leap towards my telling someone in the family. Aside from disclosing that I have HIV, I really wanted to be able to say for sure that I’m stable, taking care of myself and doing well on the medication. And now that I can, it should make things easier for people to understand and not be too shocked at the situation. Anyways, that’ll be a whole different episode.

After a bit of celebration over dinner to cap the night off and calm ourselves down, I was left with a residual high to enjoy for the rest of the evening. Actually, a natural high that might even tide me over the whole weekend. Absolutely O! As in orgasmic!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lucky Me!

With the Chinese New Year ushering in the Year of the Ox, everyone’s been talking about luck. And from all the features I’ve watched, 2009 should actually be a lucky year for me, being born in the Year of the Horse. But I believe my good luck started last year, when I found out I was HIV-positive.

You know that I’ve always regarded myself as lucky despite the fact that I’m now HIV-positive. I’m lucky that it isn’t some other more severely debilitating disease that I have. I’m lucky that I found out relatively early on that I had it, and still wasn’t manifesting any symptoms. I’m lucky that I had a pretty decent CD4 count to begin with. I’m lucky that I’ve gotten through the challenges of starting on ARVs. I’m lucky that I’ve made the choices to get to where I am now. I’m lucky to have encountered the greatest people along my HIV journey.

I was lucky to have chosen to get tested at the Social Hygiene Clinic in Manila, the personnel of which have been so kind until now. I was lucky to have encountered U, who introduced and took me to the RITM more than 6 months ago. I was lucky to have come across E, who’s become my poz blogger buddy. I was lucky to have met RITM’s resident counselor, who, through some ridiculous circumstances, was instrumental in linking me to the Positivism team. I was lucky to be introduced to Baby Nathan, who’s brought more passion and inspiration to my positive life. And of course, I’ve been lucky to have all the rest of the angels along the way, who’ve been so extremely supportive and accepting.

Being HIV-positive has afforded me some opportunities that I may never have gotten if I wasn’t. I’ve rediscovered my passion for writing, which has given me the chance to get noticed. Of course, there’s this very blog, and Positivism, which have kept my momentum going. I don’t know if it’s entirely lucky, but my writing has been heard by, or more like criticized by, one of the nation’s recognizable journalists. And once again, I stand the chance of being published for international circulation.

As of today, I can say that my lucky streak continues, and has overflowed onto my professional side, as I’m being given the opportunity to work for a great company, doing the very thing I love doing, and being the very person I cannot deny I am. I only dreamed of the possibility of pursuing a path where my creativity, writing and advocacy becoming a career. And I won’t deny that I would love to work with people who know about and are, as far as I know, comfortable with my being HIV-positive, and I am completely flattered by the fact that they see potential in me.

Of course it’s going to be a huge decision to make, and for someone who is intimidated by change, a very daunting one. Getting uprooted from what has become my comfort zone of almost 5 years just leaves me scared to the bone. Before this, the biggest change in my life has been HIV. Heaven knows how I’ve gotten past it still sane, assuming of course that I have gotten past it, and that I am indeed still sane. Someone just loves throwing me curve balls I guess. And I just have to step up to the plate swinging.

So maybe luck is just one part of the equation. Maybe I have to be a bit carefree. Maybe I have to have faith. Maybe I have to muster up enough courage. Maybe I have to give in to the risks. Maybe I have to be willing to step out of the box. Then, and only then, can luck play its part. Like someone said, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.


Saturday, February 07, 2009


ThirstDayIt was just another regular Thursday. No biggie.

Or so I thought.

What should have been just a regular commute to work turned into a whole telenovela of emotions worthy of being featured in a chick flick.

Or so I thought again.

Let me tell you my story.

I used to take the MRT to work to avoid the traffic, but realized the face-tradingly crowded trains, long walks to and from the train stations and steep climbs to the platforms just aren’t worth it. I don’t really mind the traffic anymore. My consolations are that I’m seated comfortably for most of the ride, and picked up and dropped off at more convenient places. I’ve now traded in the speed of the MRT for the hour-long weave of a public bus in and out of traffic on EDSA.

So last Thursday was like any other. I started off with my daily routine, heading out the door to brave the traffic that I’ve eventually gotten used to facing five times a week. Although I’m so used to it, I hardly find it boring enough to manage to sneak in some shuteye during the approximately hour-long trip. An hour long, if I’m lucky.

I’ve always been the type who loves seeing people, not to mention adoring them. I’ll admit, I look more at men than anyone else. I’ve been a man-watcher ever since, and all the more now that I’m HIV-positive, with the rationale that it’s the safest sex there is. And with that as my new hobby, the traffic is a huge plus. The more time I spend on the road, the more people there are to see.

The bus I was in reached Cubao, and queued at the foot of the MRT station. I’m pretty sure I’d seen so many good looking guys already, being just halfway through my trip, and my eyes had made their quota for the day.

And then there he was, just standing there, waiting for a ride. A guy. The guy. He was in a sexy, body-hugging, blue shirt, tucked into a pair of equally sexy jeans, every perfect muscle making itself known to the world against the constraint of his outfit. Admittedly, a guy’s body usually does make a huge initial impact on me. And I have this crazy habit of actually voicing out my appreciation whenever I see a perfect specimen. And so I let out my signature Wow, Wow, Wow through the glass panes of the bus, knowing I was safely away from his earshot.

I wanted to see if he had the face value to back up his great physique, but wasn’t at the right angle to judge clearly. I noticed he was looking into the bus I was in, trying to see if there were vacant seats. I knew it was half empty, and found myself saying Oh please, Oh please, Oh please, wishing he would get on the bus so I could get a better look at him.

I lost sight of him for an instant as he approached the front of the bus. And then, there he was, climbing up the steps at the door, making his way onto the bus. Oh yes, Oh yes, Oh yes, I finally got the chance to look at him straight in the face. It was as perfect as his body. Dark, clean cut hair, just as I like it, a fair, clear face that anyone would like, and the most beautiful eyes hidden behind a pair of dark rimmed, almost geeky glasses. He was a complete picture: the innocence of Clark Kent flaunting his Superman of a body.

At that point, I was in heaven already. I’d gotten my ultimate fix. The icing on the cake was seeing him look my way. Icing that melted away when I realized he was making his way towards where I was seated. Oh shit, Oh shit, Oh shit. I was panicking. Why was he headed my way? There were certainly so many other vacant seats. Why walk to almost the rear of the bus and squeeze into a two-seater with me? I felt faint.

Sure enough he sat beside me. Oh no, Oh no, Oh no. I was nauseous by that time, not knowing what to do. So I sat quietly, but was still observing. He seemed extremely comfortable beside me. Calf to calf, thigh to thigh, hip to hip, elbow to elbow, and arm to arm.

I could feel some electricity as his arm grazed the hair on my forearm as he reached into his pocket for money as the conductor came to collect his fare. "Guadalupe lang", he said in his deep, sexy voice. I caught myself realizing that I’d be late for work if I overshot to Guadalupe and just took a ride back to Ortigas. Hmm. I slapped myself mentally.

What was I supposed to do or say? Hi, I’m HIV. or Whoa, before you start groping me, I’m HIV-positive. or I really do have HIV, it’s not an alibi!, I imagined myself saying. I think my sanity got off back in Cubao.

So anyways, it seemed to be the longest ride between Cubao and Ortigas I’ve ever been on, and I suspect it was because all my blood had unconsciously rushed from my brain all the way down to my groin. Before I knew it, we had reached Ortigas, my stop. I stood up and excused myself, and got down from the bus without even looking back. Whew, Whew, Whew, I remember saying.

I looked at the bus as it drove away, trying to see the row where we both sat. It was vacant. Oh fuck, Oh fuck, Oh fuck. The panic was back. My imagination ran wild, thinking he’d gotten down to try and catch me. Of course, that wasn’t the case. I looked behind me and didn’t see him.

My ten-minute walk from the highway to the office left me with a lot of time to think, and as usual, I was suddenly struck with a bit of regret, missing my chance to meet a possibly great guy. Crazy, ain’t I?! Or is it just the Valentine thirst? Geesh, I think I need a life.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'm Not A Superhero

Not a SuperheroI’m not fast like The Flash. I’m not strong like The Incredible Hulk. I’m not a web-swinger like Spiderman. I don’t have x-ray vision like Superman. I can’t communicate with animals, like Dr. Doolittle. I’m not even as hung as Jeff Stryker.

I’m not a superhero. But these past few weeks, everyone has been expecting me to be one.

At work, I’ve been denying the fact that I’ve managed to shoulder the work being done by at least four different people who’ve left the company. And this past week, I’ve been receiving feelers to take on even more work. They’re actually trying to flatter me into thinking that I’m being developed for bigger things, but flattery will get you nowhere. I’d appreciate some help, for crying out loud! Multi-tasking is one thing, but overloading is a whole different situation. It’s not even funny!

Some emo friends have been making contact as well, asking for some advice regarding their respective relationship problems. I don’t know when exactly I became the expert on love, nor do I know why I was made mature enough to handle situations such as theirs. I know I’ve been gifted by the heavens with this “talent”, but sometimes, I just don’t want to hear things. I don’t want my solitude-slash-loneliness being rubbed in my face. I just want to tell them to be thankful they actually have relationships to be problematic about, when I on the other hand, have nothing.

This thing with Baby Nathan has been another challenge. This was the one time that the HIV advocacy organizations could’ve stepped up to the plate to help this deserving family out, but sadly, I don’t know if and how they’ve been helping. I’m not exactly rich or anything, but I do manage to assist them in my own personal capacity. Granted that they should eventually be able to support themselves, you don’t know how hard it is to turn my back on a kid who can’t even go for a check up or a med refill because they don’t have money for a bus ticket to Alabang.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have found my passion for writing, and be able to use it to fuel my HIV advocacy. But even that is daunting. There’s just so much to do, and lucky enough that I’ve been receiving opportunity after opportunity to both write and advocate, I’m just afraid of spreading myself too thin.

And with everyone pulling on me from all directions, some even trying to shoot me down, the last thing I want to do is snap. This is not exactly going to do wonders for my upcoming CD4 count. There just has to be some other way to relieve the strain.

It’s just so much pressure to have the success, happiness, comfort, and the very lives of others depend on my actions. It’s physically tiring, mentally exhausting, and emotionally draining. So much so that, I must admit, I’ve needed to take a slight respite from the realities of life.

I felt like a turtle in a race, leaving the confines of my own shell, trying to push everyone else, from a frail ant to an emotional elephant, past the finish line. My biggest fear was looming... to get trampled in all the ruckus. A hero in the eyes of the few who might care, but mere roadkill in the greater scheme of things.

Fortunately, an angel picked up my rotting carcass and took me up to the heavens, to revive what little life there was left in me. And given the chance to converse with God, I only had three things in mind. I asked for strength, I asked for purpose, and I thanked Him extensively for everything I have. And with that, I felt peace and smiled.

Somehow, it dawned on me that maybe I didn’t need to be a superhero. It might just be enough to be me.