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, 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!


paci said...

happy in spite of the virus -- like!

i completely agree with you. we celebrate life and continue doing so despite whatever negativity is out there. =)

Ubermensch said...

Been getting invites to do Yoga. I guess I have to try it, one of these days. =D

Mysterious MD said...

hi!! i have not explored ur whole blog..can i have just few words on how did you get the disease..thanx!!!

PinoyPoz said...

@Mr. Mysterious: Just two words - UNPROTECTED SEX.