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.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Our Power of You

Subic. It’s December 2, the crack of dawn right now. We travelled three hours by bus from Manila Monday night to be here in time for yesterday, the first day of an HIV Awareness campaign training thing for school officials and student leaders, organized by the Department of Education with the support of UNICEF. E is sound asleep in the bed next to mine, while I’m sitting up in bed right now... blogging. Freaky, huh? Yes, E, gising na si lola. Hahaha.

Yesterday was just the first of three days, but it was so overwhelming... so much so that I was too speechless to blog last night, but at this break of dawn everything’s coming back to me and I don’t even know where to start telling you about it.

Basically this all started way back in April when they aired the interview I granted to GMA’s World View on HIV. Yep, the one where some of you watched the back of my head talking. Mr. DepEd just happened to be watching, and contacted my through the blog after that. Little did he know that he’d be having a project like this dealing with HIV.

The DepEd and UNICEF came up with Power Of You, a youth-targeted interactive video about HIV and STIs. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure thing, where users are immersed in the lives of fellow youths and asked to make choices in life surrounding the risk of HIV. And they gathered school officials and student leaders from Luzon here in Subic this week to train them in the usage of the video and how to get the messages across to other kids. Enter E and I.

Mainly, our role was to be resource persons for the sensitization and testimonial part of the program. We were to give a tangible face to HIV. And knowing what kind of a face needed to be given to HIV, we were up to the challenge.

Okay fine, we were up to the challenge until just before our part. But after a morning filled with the prospect of a hundred unfamiliar faces staring at me and judging me, not knowing how things will turn out, my innate stage fright kicking in, and one hell of a biblical debate that crucified us sinners which left E brimming with feist... well, needless to say, I was shaking in my boots and preparing to sweat bullets.

Kuya DepEd Introduced E and I, and actually prematurely gave away that we were indeed HIV positive. I had had it worked into my presentation to give as much shock value as possible, but hell, it’d be too late to back down now.

Basically, E and I were on the opposite ends of the spectrum. He was pasaway boy, who lived a pasaway life that led to HIV. I was geeky boy who lived an almost ideal life that still led to HIV. So we were opposite ends of the spectrum that met in the middle. Point be told, HIV is everyone’s concern.

I breezed through my life story unexpectedly easily actually. I’m the type of person who is terrified to stand before a crowd, but once I get going, I take on a whole new tougher me. I was lucky to have gotten to that phase. I stood there proudly sharing my wares of where I studied and what I accomplished, but hopefully showed how I humbly accepted and coped with being HIV positive.

E followed with his life story. And though his life story involved such shocking times as smoking at age 10, drugs and prostitution, he just had to flash his pearly whites – his teeth, not his briefs – to win the crowd over.

Really, I think the biggest shocker for the audience was that for most of them, they would not have fathomed ever meeting anyone who had HIV in person, let alone two in a day, or in their lifetimes. And with an open forum to follow, we were prepared – or more like we needed to be prepared – to handle these curious young ones and young once.

The questions thrown to us were a spectrum in themselves, from everything from treatment, discrimination, life changes to love lives and sex lives. As usual, I think we painted the kind of HIV positive picture we wanted... a positive one. The liberty at which the students and even the school officials expressed how they “commended”, “congratulated”, “admired” and were “inspired by” us was every bit of flattering, touching and overwhelming. If I’m not mistaken, someone actually shed a tear listening to our unexpectedly happy stories.

People came up to us after to shake our hands, ask for contact details, and even have pictures taken with us... I know, right?! Good luck to us with how far those pictures will go, hahaha. I mean we weren’t celebrities or anything. But neither was this the venue to show how paranoid someone with HIV could be. We were here to empower the positives and enlighten the negatives. Roar!

But it was still just all so overwhelming. This is technically my first major “coming out” experience to date, and believe me, I was prepared for the worst. I was surprised some biblical lady didn’t take a stone from her bag to have a swing at us with. So as a first, this was the best it could ever get. And I’m surprised to hear myself saying... coming out ain’t so bad after all.

So is the title “Back In The Closet” nearing the end of its useful life? Well not quite. Not until I muster up the guts to tell my family. But this is a good step forward, right?

So on behalf of E, I thank the participants for opening their ears and minds to our stories. We hope we got our message across. Yep, even we have and need our “Power Of You”. To the guys and gals of DepEd and UNICEF, thank you, thank you, thank you for this opportunity... and see you again later for more. Hehehe.

9 comments:

john stanley said...

i am so so so proud of you , my friend. i am already one of your followers in the early stages of your blog and i've witnessed your humble beginnings.

that's why i'm really really happy that you've come a long way. life has given you tough choices but you remain positive that somehow, in your own ways, you can make a wonderful contribution to us.

you're such an inspiration, beyotch! mwah!

Anonymous said...

"So is the title “Back In The Closet” nearing the end of its useful life? Well not quite. Not until I muster up the guts to tell my family. But this is a good step forward, right?"

i wish you have the courage to come out to your family.at the end of the day, the hiv advocacy seem to be useless if you don't have the guts to let them know...i am not sure if i am making sense here. the title of the blog itself shows that you're still hiding...what are you afraid of?

tim said...

hey there i just wanna share my deepest appreciation to you personally, for being so vocal about what you had faced before and has the courage to speak. You are positive of HIV and that is not good, but you know what, you give me some great light now. Encouraging me to be more mature and be aware about this cases.. Thank you so much!!!

PinoyPoz said...

@Anonymous: Disclosure to one's family is just not as easy as one thinks... But sorry, but I don't ever think a real hiv advocacy will ever be useless. :-)

The Green Man said...

Hi BITCH! I just got home from the National Consensus event for all HIV aids guys and gals :-D it was fun!

I told you the feeling was overwhelming. I had that when a did a talk last Dec (world AIDS day ) in Puerto Princes, Palawan. Grabe yung feeling ng love and acceptance.

I am so proud of you and E. We are no different from the other Pinoy Poz out there, except that we were brave enough to step forward and put a face on HIV.

Let's keep the advocacy alive and the love burning.

Hug kita ng mahigpit.

daned said...

thanks for the sharing... i hope it will bring some goodness to you and to everyone... God bless po kuya...

daned said...

"Kuya DepEd Introduced E and I, and actually prematurely gave away that we were indeed HIV positive."

sorry kuya, ill try to change it the way you think it should be hehehe... that is if i could make it in cebu on day 1.. or else, please dont forget to remind whoever will take over my place to change my slide... thanks...

PinoyPoz said...

Bwahahaha... kuya naman! Isip ko lang naman may element of surprise... hehehe. Pero it was okay! Love ka namin ni E! :-)

Anonymous said...

I was searching for some more background and development about the Power of You video (because I will be training some govt people on it) when I came across your blog.

I was there in Subic, I was among the crowd who happened to get a glimpse of your life (and E's), though I was there because I was the kids' facilitator then.

Anyhow, I've been looking for your blog (hahahaha!), because I was interested to read it, and fortunately, finding it and seeing that most of our "kapatids" in the advocacy has resorted to blogging.

I wanted to drop a comment to say that what struck me most was your last words to the audience:

HIV
HAPPY INSPITE OF THE VIRUS

I always bring that up to young people who get curious about how it is to be positive (of course, credits to "the speaker of that session"). It has helped me a lot to process things with them, and it has helped me a lot into thinking that if I EVER DO FIND MYSELF POSITIVE, the world will not definitely end. :)

DepEd has plans to implement the video in all high schools coming this school year. That's a big step forward into penetrating the world of young people :)

Thanks for being such a great help! :)


-Essa