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.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Party Party!

Christmas. It’s here. Just when I turned my head away to focus on the flurry of yearend work, it ambushed me like it was no one’s business. It came faster than the MRT. And I snowballed with it as well. I was dreading it. All the stress, all the traffic, all the hassle... I was just really looking for ward to the break... both the Christmas break and a break from the Christmas rush. But it was not meant to be that easy. Christmas sent its advanced party.

I spent my first Christmas party with Yoga for Life. As usual, yogic stuff is far from the usual. The potluck was mind-boggling, it’s never easy for a meat-eater like me to figure out what he could bring for a vegetarian feast. So as I came from work, I shuffled through the mall and settled for some monggo bread. No meat in that, for sure. Rush, rush, rush. I made it to the venue with time to spare.

Not content with just partying hearty, we started with a short yoga practice. Then just as we got totally calmed down, our Yogi Bear and Babe snapped us out of it. It was time to party! I believe it helped that we went through the World AIDS Day thingy the week before. Dramatic as it was for some, it was an icebreaker for sure. A bonding experience. So for the Christmas party, everyone seemed game.

Game, indeed. Games, in fact. There was Paint Me A Picture. A yoga version of Newspaper Dance. Bring Me for items like a pair of underwear on your head, 5-centavo coins, and condoms, which, ahem, I handily got a prize for. And then of course, probably the most fitting yoga game, Twister. Woohoo for me and the four others who they couldn’t knock down! The energetic night was capped off with some take home gifts and an attack at all the meatless but scrumptious food. Kudos to them who organized it and the sponsors who supported it. This party just set the bar.

By that weekend, another one was lined up. Our work party this time. Not knowing people from our sister company, the tacky cowboy theme, the required production number, and the 3:00 pm start all made me less enthusiastic, honestly. But it was something I wouldn’t be allowed to pass up, but only because I got assigned to be the host... Geez, I know, this is the 2nd year in a row that they’ve gone for this admittedly anti-social host... Oi. So I gathered all the kapal-muks I had, borrowed a cowboy hat from my hubby, practiced a dance, and prepared early, and I was good to go.

With ceremonies like a wish balloon release, a holy mass, and photo ops with our big boss, this was certainly more formal that I’d need. I don’t know what happens, but I get drowned in shame and stage fright, and then I turn into a host. Go figure. I don’t know what exactly it takes, but I watch my words somehow, and just okray away, and voila! So with the exchange gift, variety show, raffle, a couple of shots of something I don’t know, and an abundance of my most favorite food, the party actually wasn’t so bad.

Next on the calendar was a couple of parties and gatherings at the RITM. Now these were the ones I was least enthusiastic about. The record of seemingly soulless partying of recent past. The threat of nega-monsters. Having work. The distance. The sleepover. Having to leave the Lil Bastard behind. I had all the excuses. Even the attempt at making it “in memory of Papi” couldn’t get me to go. A no is a no. Sorry.

Instead, we had gotten into putting together a little gathering of our own. A gathering of my pozzie posse. I don’t know why I seem to get myself into it every time, but I was secretariat again. I’m not exactly the kunsentidor of the group, maybe the matriarch, at least. Fine, so I disseminated the invites. It was my pozzie family, "plus plus". "Plus plus" because in the past year, some of them have managed to get hitched or have their own pozzie babies that not everyone knew yet. So it was a celebration of a year since the original group first got together, pre-Christmas, and was going to be a reunion-slash-inventory. Hehe.

As a group that began with us northerners, it was but befitting that it once again come home to the north. So it was set, meet at the local mall at 6:00 pm. I had gotten confirmations, but didn’t really have a good picture until people started trickling in. Me and BFF GreenFrog, Trese with adopted kiddos Pozzieboy and ThisHeartIsStillBeating, O and his hubby, my grandson APositivePointOfView, W, BFF’s latest kiddo, another fellow northerner RecordBreaker, BruskoBoi, and two of my own kiddos. We were far from being complete, but 14 was an achievement, I must say.

It was a good mix. Some of us who’ve been years old with HIV, and some newbies. I really believe it helps to be exposed to others in the same situation but in a normal setting. And normal it was. Dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and videoke after. Not everyone was a singer, but singing was not the only thing there was to do. There was dancing, joking around, catching up, chatting on. I was so happy, that I wanted to be seated at a vantage point where I could see how everyone was having fun. This may just be the start of a yearly gig for us.

Just this past Wednesday, Yoga for Life went for an unplanned part two. There was a mix-up at the venue, which left us without one, so definitely, yoga practice was out. I was ready to head on home, but they thought we could make do with what we had. My favorite doctor advocate played host to all of us, twelve thereabouts, feasting on pizza, brownies and chocolates, and stopping for an educational yoga video.

The highlight of the evening was all the sex talk. With all us gay guys at our soon-to-be-wed Yogi Babe’s fingertips, there was no reason to be shy about anything, not even sex and all. We were curious about her, she was curious about us. Hehe. The taboo, with all of the laughing, giggling and roughhousing, really turned it into a Christmas party part two for us, and bridal shower part two, a gay version, for her. I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.

So there, deny as I may that I’m not ready for Christmas, the party-party mode has certainly taken its toll. A good one at that.

So let me take this opportunity to greet each and everyone a Merry Christmas! Party hard, party safe, party on, and just PAR-TAY!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goodbye for Now

Every time I hear that a fellow pozzie passes away, I just thank the heavens that it’s not anyone I know personally, especially not one of my poz posse. I know it’s harsh to think that way, but I won’t lie. And every time, I wonder how it would feel if it was one of my little poz family to go. It’s a question I can’t answer, or am just avoiding altogether. But it is bound to happen. It has always been bound to happen. And recently, it just did. I lost someone from my pozzie family.

It was Monday early morning, around 1:00 am I think. I awoke to my mobile phone ringing. I was still groggy and actually missed the call. I tried to peek through blurry eyes at who called, and realized I had an unread message as well. It was E. Bitch, patay na si Papi. Nasaksak siya. What the?! He must be kidding. E can be such a joker.

Then my phone began ringing again. It was E’s kid, Lil Jenny’s boyfriend. I answered. I sensed panic in his voice. He told me to remain calm. Wala na si Papi. I sighed deeply. He passed the phone to Lil Jenny, who was sobbing. Mami, wala na si Papi. Shit... so is it true?

I don’t know how exactly I felt. I was probably overcome with shock. But hearing the panic and grief on the other side of the line, I needed to remain calm and strong, even though my mind was reeling. I thanked them for the info, told them to relax, and said goodbye. I needed to let it sink in.

The phone rang again, and it was my other kid, RedAppleBlackMark. He said the same thing. Hearing it thrice was enough. This would’ve been too much of a conspiracy if it wasn’t true.

Papi’s gone. Papi’s gone.

Apparently, he was defending his brother against a group of guys. Then it happened. He got stabbed. Twice. Even his current boyfriend, who was with him, got stabbed. Papi didn’t even make it to the hospital alive. Thankfully, his boyfriend did.

It’s not easy to explain how I felt. I was asking myself how the hell it happened. Why the hell it happened. I blame him and his confrontational nature. But why didn’t anyone try to stop him? But that’s that. Not something I can control.

I wasn’t crying. I just might not really be the crying type. Even when my own father died six years ago, I didn’t shed more than a tear. Was I sad? Of course. Sad but not crying. Yes, it’s possible.

I won’t deny that it dawned on me that he never granted me the closure I wanted back when things between us got complicated. Why didn’t I see his confrontational self when I needed it then? He left me to my own capacities to get over things, live with unanswered questions and just move on. Good thing I did, eventually. Civil, but he and I knew things changed between us.

So I was questioning, I was introspecting, I was reminiscing, I was blaming. Even though everyone expected me to be distraught and grieving.

Honestly, I wondered if I deserved the concern people were giving me. Remember, I’m no longer the boyfriend. He is still Papi, but he is not my papi. I no longer have the privilege of acting like I got widowed.

I texted my BFF, GreenFrog, asking if he was up. Thankfully, he was. I messaged him about what was up. He suggested we talk over the phone, so he called. We discussed it, and like me, he was shocked, probably even more than I was. While we were talking, he got online and stalked Facebook. Even more confirmations. It wasn’t just my imagination. Papi’s dead. Papi’s dead.

We had talked. We had vented. But really, there was nothing that we could do. So we bade each other goodbye, and I tried my hardest to go back to sleep. A feat after all that, but I had to wake up for work in a few hours.

Waking up, I knew what had happened the night before. But I was busy. It was Monday. I needed to prepare for work. Me and my routines keep me sane. It wasn’t until I was in the bus, stuck in traffic, left with hours of time to think, that it hit me. I was tearing up, trying hard not to lose it. I don’t know what was running through my head. Probably just me still hoping that he was just happy. Argh.

That evening, I decided to go to the wake. I was glad not to have to go alone. I had BFF, W, and O and his boyfriend with me. We took the trip down south, bonded over dinner on the way, and made it. Here goes nothing.

It was a small chapel in the church compound of the village. I was surprised a bit. Less glamorous than the royalty Papi always seemed to exude. A banner that said Official NBI Morgue... must be that way for murder cases. Why’d he have to beat us to the grave? And so close to Christmas? At such an unholy hour?! And on a Sunday?!?! Geesh, always the center of attention. Oh boy, I was really distracting myself, wasn’t I?

So we walked up to the casket, and took a look. I was aloof, as usual. I didn’t need to say anything. I’m sure Papi knew what was running through my head right then and there. He looked alright. His vain self would’ve been happy. I gave him a secret smirk which said, hey, I’m here, long time no see, we have a lot of catching up to do. I think I wasn’t sad because I felt he was in a happy place. I felt he was happy to see so many people cared.

Walking away, we greeted some fellow RITM peeps - and there were a lot, mind you. Ate was there. My eldest kiddo. Y too. And so many others. Papi was a loss to the HIV community. He was ever present whenever there’d be a gathering at RITM. Even more present than I was, for sure. So much so, he was probably the one who qualified most to be an honorary pusit. And he would’ve been proud.

I always wondered why he got so attached to the positive community of RITM. I remember he told me he got himself tested at RITM for the first time in a long while back in 2008. And though he turned out negative, he developed an affinity to the people he happened to meet then. And ever since, he never got the positive community out of his system. A negative attracted to the positives. Just how a magnet says it’s supposed to be.

Even in the advent of death, it’s never too late to say thank you. So I will. Thank you for the smiles. Thank you for the laughter. Thank you for that one fateful date. Thank you for laughing your ass off with me at Kimmy Dora standing at the back of the movie house. Thank you for the hugs. Thank you for the kiss and the kisses. Thank you for being my first “relationship” since finding out I was HIV-positive. Thank you for reintroducing me to the roller coaster of love. Thank you for saying you’d love me forever no matter what. Thank you for introducing me to the person who became my BFF. Thank you for being the Papi of the family. Thank you for the friendship. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

Life. You never know how it’s going to go. Too soon, they say. Too soon. So the world lost a life. I lost my first official pozzie, though just honorary. He was a couple’s son, a sibling’s brother, a friend’s friend, a stranger’s neighbor, a lover’s lover, a cause’s advocate, my posse’s daddy... and my Papi.

So long Papi. With no tears, all smiles. Goodbye for now. I’ll see you soon...

June 1972 - December 2010


Saturday, December 11, 2010


Oi, What a weekend it was. All as usual. Walked the Lil Bastard as soon as I woke up. Had breakfast. Gave the Lil Bastard a bath. Took my own shower. Went to the grocery with mom. Had lunch. Yoga for Life day, but this time, without the yoga. Yep, Yoga for Life without the yoga. Today was going to be different. We would be walking instead of yogaing. It was the 2010 LGBT Pride March.

The LGBT Pride March. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. I belong to the gay part, of course. I’m not lesbian, because I’m not female. I’m not bisexual because I’m not sexually attracted to females. And I’m not a transgender because I’m still all male body parts, no more, no less.

Gay. I’ve never been ashamed of being gay. Not even if most of the paminta population was up in arms declaring they were “bi” when they actually were really gay. Not even if and when the stereotypical gay was the parlorista, keribels. I’m gay, and proud of it. Bakla ako, may reklamo?

I was always out to prove that there are so many forms of being gay, and I was the discreet kind. I never dressed up in women’s clothes... okay fine, I did once when I was fielded to a beauty pageant by my college organization... but on a daily basis, I am still all man. And even if I was the “penetrated and perpetrated”, as my officemate would call it, I have never had the desire to sport a vagina or labia.

Unashamed, but I’ve never needed to shout out to the world that I am gay. As such, this year, I joined my first ever Pride March, as part of the Yoga for Life contingent.

Now Yoga for Life is in no way particularly targeted towards gays. But the reality is that most straight men would either underestimate the effort needed to do yoga, or cower at the possibility of them walking out of the class in a tantrum of I-can’t-do-this. Oi, men and their manhood. That being said, majority of those attending Yoga for Life are men... let me qualify that... men who have sex with men or MSM. A frustrating fact that the straight women who join us have to face. Hehehe.

That being said, whether Yoga for Life belongs in the Pride March is a resounding yes, if not just for the fact that both Yoga for Life and the gay community advocate acceptance and tolerance. Not to mention, this year, the Pride March was to be jointly celebrated with World AIDS Day.

So Saturday afternoon, instead of heading to Makati, I headed to Tomas Morato. This is the first time I remember that the Pride March was not being held in Manila, Malate being the unspoken home of the gays. And being a Quezon City boy, I was glad and proud that QC finally hosted the event. And I actually hope it steals it away from Manila altogether.

I was anxious, because I am never comfortable in crowds, not to mention the extra pretense of a gay crowd. Remember, we are the ones who brought scrutiny to the whole new level of okray. So, I was dressed in my usual comfortable clothes, purposely veering away from any attention-grabbing garb to keep myself under the radar. All I had was a backpack of essentials, plus our Yoga for Life banner in hand, as the cab dropped me along Morato.

I needed to wait a few minutes before the rest of the Yoga for Lifers got there, a few minutes of awkward paranoia, shielding myself both from the sun and from being noticed by others. Upon being prompted, I walked to the meeting place, ready to see my comfort zone.

Greetings and hugs aside, we stowed into a coffee place craving for some protection from the afternoon heat while waiting for the parade to start. Some more Yoga for Lifers trickled in one after the other. Soon we were about ten, thereabouts.

The sounds of percussion drew us out of the café, and we were ready to march loud and proud. Yogi Bear and Babe were there of course leading the pack, dressed in black outfits, a cross between sleek and sultry. The Yoga for Life banner. Some fuchsia balloons. And then the rest of us. Most of us were actually Pride virgins, which may have explained the mix of excitement and anxiety... but really, everyone was game, and we were just all out to have fun and proud to represent Yoga for Life. Then the parade began.

We walked. I spotted Carlos Celdran walking by us, and our Yogi Babe approached him to join us for a picture. He was game! The energy was high. We were following a float of trannies, and their music and antics were keeping the energy high. It was a great place in the parade to be.

We walked. Now I knew that media would cover the event and all. So was I scared of getting exposed as part of the Pride contingent? Not really. Being gay is the least of my issues. What if my mom sees my face on TV? Well, she knows I’m gay. Other people? So what?! My HIV status? Well it’s not like it’s tattooed on my forehead, is it?! I was just hoping I don’t get interviewed... else I might just faint. Hehe.

We walked. Shortly we encountered some guests, protesters to be exact. Waving bibles, disapproving condoms, and declaring “God did not make you gay”, it was laughable, especially since there were just three or four of them there. Old issues that for me were non-issues. Geesh, nothing better?

We walked. A lot of people came out to watch, from the residences and the buildings we passed. Our Yogi Babe was outrageous, approaching people encouraging them to do yoga poses for photo ops. From street kids and fab femmes, to policemen and titillating trannies, to hiphop dancers and construction workers, she was just out to get them! Oi, straight female wins over the gay contingent on this one. Hahaha!

We walked. It was hot. Scorching hot. Not gay friendly. Make-up melts, you know. And oiliness, they say, is next to ugliness. And sweatiness is next to confiscation of the gay license. Argh. But seeing everyone still all out in spite of that was great. It was good too that the streets along which the route ran were pretty wide, compared to Malate where I imagine the density of people would’ve added to the afternoon heat. QC rules!

We walked. Tomas Morato. Eugenio Lopez Drive. Panay Avenue. Timog Avenue. One last turn back to Tomas Morato, and we saw the home stretch. The protesters were back, the same ones we passed going the other way. Namaste. Peace, peace, peace. Some other city should host their march.

We walked. Oi, just a few more blocks... Finally, we made it back to the starting point, a good hour or so of walking under our belts. Geez, an hour?! All for pride. All for pride.

We got a breather before the program started as the darkness of the night set in. A few more Yoga for Lifers joined us, better late than never. As the show started, I think my energy went off with the setting sun. I was pooped! I couldn’t wait to rest. But we wanted to wait until they acknowledged the groups who participated in the event. As fate would have it, they made the announcements in alphabetical order. Yoga for Life? Oi, we were third to the last out of sixty groups. Oh well, we’ll take it.

After some part of the program, including speeches by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, both putting Quezon City behind the advocacy of HIV & AIDS awareness and LGBT rights, some musical numbers, a cameo by Journey frontman Arnel Pineda, the descent of seemingly godmother to the gays Risa Hontiveros, and a short segment allowing our Yogi Bear and Babe to talk about Yoga for Life, I split.

I had actually promised the hubby we’d meet, considering the proximity of the venue. But I had tipped him off after the walk about how tired I was already, and had already called our date off. But I thought I’d just push myself a little bit more, and ended up in a cab to his place. I was tired, sweaty, sticky and smelly, but still got the hugs, the kisses, dinner, a movie, and arms to fall asleep in. Mmm. Not a bad way to end the Pride weekend... Happy and Gay!


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Yogaing Away AIDS Day

Fine. It’s December. Primarily, I’m dreading the reality that Christmas is fast approaching. Gone are the days when hearing Christmas carols as early as August was a welcome thing. Lately, I’ve been trying hard to ignore the -ber if the months, even as they didn’t exactly sneak up on me. But even before Christmas hits me smack in the face, the dawning of December is something else. It’s World AIDS Day.

December 1 was World AIDS Day. This is officially my third as someone living with HIV. My first, back in 2008, I remember I was home watching how the news would ramp it up, at the same time awaiting the launch of Positivism. My second, last year, I think I was watching some local documentary about HIV. It’s my third. Imagine that?

It’s my third, and still, I object about being part of the celebration, considering I don’t technically classify as having AIDS. Maybe there ought to be a World HIV Day? Oh well, that’s just me and my twisted mind.

My third year. What did I do? I could’ve been glued again to the boob tube with my guns ablaze ready to shoot down all the reporters who would say something wrong about the issue. I could’ve been leafing through the latest UNAIDS report on the global status of HIV. I could’ve actually been surfing through the Project Headshot Clinic albums trying to spot the people I knew. I could’ve even been lined up at the cinema to watch the premiere of the HIV-inspired and DOH-supported indie film H.I.V.: Si Heidi, si Ivy at si Vi. But no. I had plans.

December 1st this year just happened to fall on a Wednesday. And Wednesday is Yoga for Life day. And as an official HIV advocacy, our Yogi Bear and Babe planned to integrate a World AIDS Celebration into the day’s session as well. Involved as I am in Yoga for Life, I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen exactly.

Getting there, the usual: Changed into my shorts. Rolled out a yoga mat. Chika with friends. Then things were taking a twist.

First, candles were being set up. Tea light candles in little red glasses were shaped to form a red ribbon. Around it, the mats were positioned like rays around a sun. And on each mat, another tea light candle was placed. Hmm. Two friends arrived and started hushing with our Yogi Bear and Babe, with a guitar on the side and a stack of papers in hand. What’s this all about? And shortly, we started.

After some breathing exercises and nine sun salutations, we sat down to start what was called a Kirtan, if I’m not mistaken. Basically, it was meditation through song. Fine, I don’t really sing, but I can try. And try I did. Some songs I actually knew. There were church songs, and you know how I’m not exactly the church type. There were Tagalog songs, the cheesy kind, which I like. And some English songs, including the Rent classic, Seasons of Love. But singing wasn’t all of what it was about, surprisingly.

In between the songs, the floor was opened to anyone who had something to share with the group. Our Yogi Babe started the ball rolling, expressing how honored she was to have been destined for Yoga for Life. My BFF followed, a bit emotional at that. Then our Yogi Bear. Then BFF’s kid. Then BFF’s future boyfie… it just went on and on and on. It seemed like so many people had something to say.

Quite remarkable was how most of those who spoke were the positives, telling their stories and how our little community had factored into their lives, actually getting to the point of disclosing their status to the group. Significant, as for some, it was the first time they were to disclose in front of a crowd. At Yoga for Life, there’s an unspoken don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy when it comes to status, aside from the fact that you really couldn’t guess who was positive and who was not just by looking at us as a group. Test us all, why don’t you…

Anyway, the stories varied. Some thankful. Some emotional. Some just poured their hearts out. One of them talked about feeling the ripples of disclosing to a parent, and how heartbroken he was about being judged for his condition by the very person from whose womb he came.

I admit, it wasn’t easy to listen to a sad story as that. And I would’ve had much to say, talking from my own experiences and drawing on what analysis I could make, if only I had the guts to speak up. But then I’m not exactly the expert on disclosing to parents, am I? Hehehe. Oh well, maybe what insight I can share with him someday might help somehow. Someday, someday.

I, of course, didn’t volunteer to speak. But alas. I was volunteered. Argh. It was a conspiracy against me. Darn, even Yogi Babe has now figured out how I looooove (urk) being put on the spot. So aloof and anti-social as I am, I dug deep trying to weave my thoughts together impromptu.

Of course, I still don’t have a sob story. But as I looked around realizing that I probably was the one person in the group that evening that had been living with HIV the longest, maybe I did have some thoughts to impart. Don’t ask me what those thoughts were exactly, because again, I was speaking half-conscious, half-unconscious, half-subconscious, and half-self-conscious. Dami, ‘di ba?

I remember pointing out how life must go on for all of us. I remember saying HIV is not a punishment, but rather a challenge and an opportunity to care for one’s self and others more, and make changes for the better. I remember mentioning my HIV tagline, about how H.I.V. for me is a whole different acronym… Happy In spite of the Virus. I was staring into the candles for most of that time, so I’m not sure if I made sense, if at all. But hopefully I did.

At the end of it all, I was glad I wasn’t glued to the television this year. Yoga for Life has proven itself to be a real community, and being with the Yoga for Life community turned out to be the best way to celebrate World AIDS Day.

Yes, I dare to use the word “celebrate”. Because gone are the days of World AIDS Day being a commemoration of the lives that had been lost to AIDS. Rather, we should be celebrating. Celebrating life going on in spite of the virus. Celebrating hope that humanity will not be beaten by a measly virus. Celebrating faith that there is purpose to be found in everything. Celebrating reassurance that every one of us, positive or negative, is and has been blessed.

Happy World AIDS Day!