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, November 05, 2011

Come Together

Come. I've done it. Maybe you have. Maybe you've done it with me. Admit it, it feels damn good.

Come on.
Come alone.
Come with me.
Come one. Come all.
Come. Just come.

Or better yet...
Come together.

Hey, hey, hey... Before your dirty mind goes places, let me just stop myself as well. What the hell am I talking about?

Come Together is the latest HIV and AIDS campaign by MTV's Staying Alive Foundation.

So why should this particular HIV campaign pique your interest?


Well, just having names like fashion designer Kenneth Cole, music legend Cyndi Lauper, Glee's Cheyenne Jackson, songstresses Skylar Grey, Estelle and Ke$ha, and actresses Rose McGowan and Sarah Jessica Parker backing the campaign may just get your attention.



Fashion designer and Chairman of amfAR, Kenneth Cole, has partnered with MTV International’s Alive Foundation and amfAR on the reinterpretation of the iconic AIDS ribbon. Designed to commemorate the discovery of the virus 30 years ago, and to ignite a new wave of awareness about the pandemic with the next generation, the new AIDS ribbon, features a double loop, and symbolizes the coming together of individuals and the re-doubling of efforts in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Kewl.


You can buy the new double ribbon for $5.00 from the Kenneth Cole site, of which 100% of the profits will be donated to AWEARNESS, the Kenneth Cole Foundation in support of amfAR and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

But aside from buying and wearing the double red ribbon, you can also pledge your support by making a donation, watching and sharing the campaign videos, or just simply getting educated and spreading the word on HIV and AIDS.

For more information, visit www.mtvcometogether.com.

read more...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Disclosure... Sort Of

Okay, so maybe I’m not new to disclosure. The back of my head was featured on TV for GMA’s Think Positive documentary about HIV some years ago. And I was part of DepEd’s Power of You sexual health awareness campaign, disclosing my HIV-positive status to an audience of students and faculty, both in Subic and Cebu.

For some, those are amazing steps to take. But for me, I could inch a wee bit further.

Really, those times I’ve delved into the business of disclosing my HIV status have almost never been any risk to me. I mean, almost all of these people, I had not known before, and they would only have known me after the fact. And also, there was little chance of seeing most of them ever again. Non-detrimental is the term I’d use.

So in summary, brave as some of you think it to be, there was to be little bearing on my everyday life. But, in the interest of being a guinea pig of the HIV experience, I’ve been taking it a bit further.

You know how when you get urine tests for illegal drugs, they would usually ask if you’re taking any medications? Well, the reason for that is the possibility of false positive results. Our doctors and nurses have always said that some of the ARVs could result in a positive result of a typical urine test for drugs.

So lately, I’ve been figuring, I may as well tell them before a drug test that I am indeed taking maintenance medications... just so it doesn’t sound like a defensive afterthought after a false positive result of a drug test.

The first time I applied this new mentality of mine was some months ago, when I went to have my driver’s license renewed. So, wary of my shy bladder, I arrived with my bladder already full to the brim. In afterthought, not a very good idea.

Hour after hour of filling out forms, waiting, waiting and more waiting, it was finally, finally, finally my turn to collect my urine sample. Sounds normal, right? But at some point of filling out the form, I filled in “Yes” to answer the question of whether I was currently taking any medications. And in the blank provided, I wrote “Lamivudine”.

Lamivudine is actually just one of my three ARVs. So, of course, like I taunted it out of him, the guy who checks my form asks what I’m taking it for. Okay, in all honesty, I didn’t exactly disclose that I’m HIV-positive. But rather, the next best thing... how about disclosing one of my co-infections? Good enough.

Hepatitis B. Yep, aside from HIV, I indeed have Hepatitis B. Not your typical Hepatitis that you get from dirty food, but rather, an STD as well. But fortunately, due to some odd circumstances, two of my three ARVs, Lamivudine and Tenofovir, are acting against both my HIV and Hepatitis B. Two birds with two pills. So I could really claim that I am taking them for my Hepatitis B.

So to cut this chapter short, I renewed my license without a hitch. No false positives. No problem with disclosing having an STD either. No... Big... Deal.

Cut to the next scene. I’m tempted to try my stunt again. Let’s move on to a different challenge... something more detrimental.

So the last time I had a medical exam for employment was back in 2004. Pre-HIV. This year would be my first after that little milestone.

So I got a dental exam, blood tests, x-ray, and once again, another urine test for illegal drugs. After all that, I go to the doctor for the physical exam. And she was plotting out my medical history. Previous operations? None. Hospitalizations? None. Family history? Well, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. And medications? Yes. Lamivudine.

Of course, she needed to ask what I was taking it for. Hepatitis B. When was I diagnosed? Did anyone in the family have Hepatitis B? Did I have any blood transfusions? 2008. Nope. Nope. So I’m sure in her head, the doctor now could deduce it was sexually-transmitted. And so it was over, she sent me off. I could expect the results at the office.

For all I care, it’s no big deal. I just have it. It’s not affecting my work. I still wasn’t sure what effect it would have on my job prospects. Then the following day, I got called into the company clinic. Oh boy. Here it goes.

So I was called in with a couple of others. One needed a follow-up urinalysis. The other, a re-x-ray. And then, my turn. I was told to shut the door to the clinic. What the? So I was asked by the company nurse about my Hepatitis B. How long I had it and what not. And I was just answering it matter-of-factly. Then she places a call to the doctor, asking about my case. Chit-chat chit-chat over the phone. She looks at me from head to toe, and looks into my eyes while still on the phone.

Hindi naman po siya naninilaw. Okay, salamat doc.

She puts the phone down.

Okay ka na. Fit to work ka na.

I knew it was right, but I honestly was still in a level of disbelief. Sigh of relief.

Yeah, yeah. I know that was just Hepatitis B. But really, if you think about it, disclosing HIV should be just as easy. Exactly like I just happened to have Hepatitis B, I just happened to have HIV. I am still fit to work. I am still fit to live. I am still fit. Period.

If you think about it, I didn’t have to say it. I didn’t have to disclose. I didn't have to take the risk. They wouldn’t have found out if I didn’t tell them. I have an STD. Hmmm, not the easiest thing to say. Let alone I have HIV. But why must it be that way? Why must HIV be the one skeleton I have in my closet that I have to keep hidden? Sadly, for now, there’s still a higher level of stigma that surrounds HIV. But times are a-changing... Someday... Someday.

read more...

Friday, October 14, 2011

How Do You Live Positively?

Meditate.
Smile.
Laugh.
Love.

Living positively takes a myriad of forms, from the most profound to the simplest. How do you live positively?

Show us. If you have time on October 22 or 29, and have P 1,000 you're whole-heartedly willing to donate, come and join the Living Positively campaign of Yoga for Life... an awareness-raising and fund-raising campaign to help YFL reach more people affected by HIV.









Find more information on www.yogaforlife.ph, and join the legion of HIV advocates that is Yoga for Life.

read more...

Monday, October 03, 2011

Living Positively

Inner peace is found from within.
Seek it not from without.

Do you live positively?

Show us how.
October 22 and 29, 2011

Whether it's as huge as making the world a better place, or as small as stopping to smell the roses, you too can live positively and live well in your own ways.

This is a project of Yoga for Life to raise funds to support the training of a new yoga instructor from within the community... so YFL can serve and reach more people... because everyone should live positively and live well. Help us. Join us.

read more...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pulses

Simply a thesis? Maybe. Maybe not.

Dulaang Laboratoryo presents Pulses, a play produced and performed by a group of theater majors from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. But more importantly, it is said to be a play inspired by people living with HIV.



Pulses is a play that weaves personal accounts, monologues, scenes, songs and poems. By creating a tapestry of whispers, cries and clamor, Pulses is a play that asks everyone to be aware - and to understand. It is a prayer for love, hope and acceptance.



The initial student run of Pulses is slated on the following dates:

~ September 22, Thu, 7pm
~ September 23, Fri, 7pm
~ September 24, Sat, 3pm and 7pm

at the Tanghalang Hermogenes Ylagan, Faculty Center, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

Written by Icarus & Iscariot
Directed by Pat Valera

read more...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Princess' Touch

HIV does not make people dangerous to know...
So you can shake their hands...
And give them a hug...
Heaven knows they need it.

Princess Diana
July 01, 1961 - August 31, 1997

I found this quote on one of the advocacy blogs... And I'm glad I did. I actually never encountered it before. I never knew Princess Diana for such words.

I know it should be heartwarming... it probably is for most. But I had to read it a couple of times, trying to feel the "kilig". Alas, it did not come.

Sorry. I know it seems blasphemous of me to be saying this about something the late Princess Diana said. I mean, most of what she said is fine and perfect. I was just turned off by the last part... "Heaven knows they need it".

To me, it sounds like pity. And no, I don't need pity. I'm not a victim. Don't stigmatize against me. But don't patronize me.

No. Just because I have HIV, doesn't mean I need your hugs... at least not any more than any other human being would.

That's all I want. Don't treat me bad just because I have HIV. But don't treat me any special either. Treat me normal... because I am.

That being said, Diana is still an angel... I shall bow down before her in honor of her gift to the HIV cause... a Princess' touch.

read more...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

K-Pop ICAAP

We bid farewell yesterday to our Yogi Babe. She left us.

No, silly! Not for good!

She's flying off today for Korea to attend and represent Yoga for Life at this year's International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, or ICAAP for short.


The 10th ICAAP will begin tomorrow, August 26, 2011, and will end on Tuesday, August 30, 2011, and will be held at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center or BEXCO in Busan, South Korea.

ICAAP is the second largest HIV and AIDS forum in the world, and is held every other year. The ICAAP becomes the venue for the release and discussion of scientific, programmatic and policy developments in the global response to the issues of HIV and AIDS. The co-convenors of ICAAP are the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific and the UNAIDS.

The theme of the ICAAP10 is “Diverse Voices, United Action.” By sharing knowledge and experience at the ICAAP10, the organizers hope that participants shall be able to step forward further to combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic as one. ICAAP10 offers a platform where the region can be united in action.

The overall objectives of this year's Congress include:
• To accomplish the theme “Diverse Voices, United Action
• To empower and strengthen political, community and business leadership
• To offer a platform for voices from Asia and the Pacific to reassemble
• To exchange and share achievements, successes and best practices
• To ensure those affected are free from stigma and discrimination
• To promote equal access to prevention, support, treatment and care

Participants from different nations in the Asia-Pacific region were invited to share their efforts to the community through oral and poster presentations, and each project falls into 1 of six categories or "tracks".

Track A: The evolving epidemiology of HIV in Asia and the Pacific
Track B: Advances in basic and clinical sciences
Track C: Meeting the challenge of Universal Access
Track D: Building and supporting leaders and advocates
Track E: Engaging communities for effective responses
Track F: Overcoming human rights, legal and policy barriers

I took a look at the roster of presentations, and saw that the Philippines is well represented in both oral and poster presentations. Some of the presentors I knew as fellow Yoga for Lifers, though they would be there representing different organizations. And some I recognized as fellow advocates from other NGOs. Some just caught my attention because their studies included the Philippines. And one, well, their names just sounded Pinoy... I just had to guess.

So here's the Pinoy contingent at the ICAAP:


Oral Presentations

Number 208, Track E
29 August, Monday, 10:50-12:00
"Who Will Take a Bakla Seriously?": HIV Risk of Filipino MSM and Transgender Persons as a Function of Gender and Sexuality Values
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Mikael Navarro

Number 212, Track E
29 August, Monday, 10:50-12:00
HIV Rapid Antibody Testing Among MSMs at Easter Weekend 2011 Festivities in Puerto Galera, Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Bric Bernard Bernas

Number 238, Track E
29 August, Monday, 10:50-12:00
I am POSI+IVE Campaign: Bringing the Voices of Young Key Populations to the Filipino Youth Communities
Corresponding Author: Igor Mocorro; Presenting Author: Vermont Arvesu

Number 253,Track E
29 August, Monday, 13:30-14:40
Motivations to Engage in Intentional Condomless Anal Intercourse (Bareback Sex) in HIV Risks Awareness Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Davao City
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Elizabeth Malonzo


Poster Presentations

Number 288, Track A
27 August, Saturday
Risky Behaviours Among Young Urban Professionals in the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Richard Howard

Number 595, Track C
27 August, Saturday
Utilizing Internet and SMS Technologies to Provide Care and Support to Young MSM living with HIV: Experience from the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Igor Mocorro

Number 845, Track D
27 August, Saturday
Churches as Channels of Hope for PLWHAs: World Vision’s Experience in Engaging Faith Communities
Corresponding Author: Alain Dizon; Presenting Author: Mary Grace Pasion

Number 1003, Track E
27 August, Saturday
Factors Affecting Success in Promoting AIDS Competence in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Dusit Duangsa

Number 1253, Track F
27 August, Saturday
Seeking Redress for HIV-Related Violations of Human Rights
Corresponding Author: Manuel Guzman; Presenting Author: Ranier Ritchie Naldoza

Number 1264, Track F
27 August, Saturday
Barriers in Access to Justice and Legal Redress among People Living with HIV in the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Jeffry Acaba

Number 653, Track C
28 August, Sunday
AIDS Stigma: Attitudes of Filipino Nursing Students about HIV and AIDS
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Igor Mocorro

Number 1145, Track E
28 August, Sunday
Impact of Anti-Prostitution Laws on HIV Prevention among Sex Workers in Quezon City, Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Jeffry Acaba

Number 932, Track D
29 August, Monday
I.Lead@GFATM Philippines: Empowering Young Filipinos Towards Meaningful Youth Involvement in the Global Fund
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Igor Mocorro

And last, but definitely not least...

Number 1199, Track E
29 August, Monday
Yoga for Life: Promoting Health and Healthy Behavior among People Affected by HIV and AIDS
Corresponding Author: Amanda Maud Jones; Presenting Author: Charmaine Cu-Unjieng


Yey! I'm honored to be part of the team who put together the Yoga for Life poster, so I will be in Korea in spirit... or more! Wink, wink!

So if you're in Busan this coming weekend, check out Yoga for Life and the rest of the ICAAP... and bring me home some Kimchi or K-Pop! Annyeong Haseyo!

For more about the ICAAP, visit www.ICAAP10.org

read more...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No Of-Fence

This was on TV in the morning news today. HIV once again is the star. Oddly enough, this was not a health segment or anything close to that. It was really just meant to be bizarre news.

So HIV makes for bizarre news these days?

Well, see for yourself...

Click here if you can't see the video.

Okay, don't nosebleed on me. Luckily, I speak Spanish... no I'm kidding. I did research.

So basically, a doctor in Brazil was getting tired of being burglarized while at work. The solution? She took HIV-infected syringes home with her and built a "wall of HIV" to stop people jumping her fence.

Of course, seeing syringes might not have been enough. So she put a warning sign on her fence that reads, "Wall with HIV-positive blood. Don't climb it."

Hmmmmm. Wherever this woman lives, burglars must be pretty educated to know exactly what HIV is. Oh, but then this begs the question whether they are educated enough to read and understand the sign in the first place.

But kudos to this doctor for taking advantage of the myths of HIV that have actually been haunting the Philippines for years now. Remember, around a decade ago maybe, rumors that instilled fear in Pinoy moviegoers of being suddenly pricked by HIV-infected needles in theater seats? Oh... reminiscing.

But really, her method probably won't scare away those who already are HIV-positive, those who know that her contaminants will probably not be fresh enough after being exposed to air and sunlight for days and days, those who take a cutter to the tape that's holding her syringes, and those who can see that there are gaps in the fence that are clear of her prickly things. Darn, doctors ain't all that smart, huh?

In the end, the Homeowners' Association called the police, who said they couldn't do anything about it. So the Homeowners' Association gave her 5 days to take down her HIV-tainted needles or get fined.

So yeah, HIV is in the news once again, hilariously bizarre as this story may be. But to all of us living with HIV, no of-FENCE.

read more...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Simply Complicated: Workout

Were we officially a couple? Are we officially a couple?

Okay, okay, hold your horses.

I hope to successfully zoom through what’s left of my little flashback that’s taken up more than a handful and a month’s worth of entries, and answer that question by the end of this post.

So... let’s continue.

When June 1st came, I don’t remember exactly why, but I didn’t report for work that day. If I’m not mistaken, I just wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be late for Yoga for Life’s anniversary that evening. Yep, I think that was it.

When I told the boi of my free day, his reply was an invitation for me to join him at the gym. I froze. I was a gym virgin, having never worked out before, at any gym. Mostly it was because I was intimidated of the place and the people . Seriously. Paranoid, I know. I mean, yeah, I’m pretty sporty and all, but gym… all the horror stories and visions of predators lurking in the locker room ready to pounce on any fresh meat that passes... been dreading it, been dreading it.

Honestly, I’ve been wanting to do it, for decades now, but dreading it. And here was someone offering to hold my hand through the experience. We’d actually talked about this before, under the context of sharing. He would teach me what he knew about working out and swimming, and I would teach him what I knew about Photoshop and organizing a space. Fair trade.

So I faced my fear, and agreed to the gym date. So we met and went to his gym. I was almost clueless. And here he already had printed out a workout regimen for me. Nice. So I was devirginized, gym-wise, that is. And I also saw and appreciated what passion he had for working out. He proved he wasn’t there to hang out at the showers and flirt around with guys. These were the perks of going to a bakal gym instead of all the commercialized gyms. Perfect for me. Very, very nice.

It was actually an eye-opener, that little invitation. This was turning out to be our first taste of commitment. From gym to commitment? What the hell am I talking about?

Let’s face it, here he was, inviting me into his territory, the gym he goes to, where I would see him half-clothed, sweaty, grunting, making faces, and down to his bare elements. And, I was to be enrolling for a month at a time. So it was a month’s contract not just between me and the gym, but between me and him too. I wonder if he realized that.

After a good couple of hours at the gym, we freshened up and headed for yoga together. We passed by a Yellow Cab to schedule for a couple of pizzas to be delivered at the end of the session that evening. We made it to yoga, went through the class, and Savasana’ed into the anniversary celebration of Yoga for Life, a banquet of food to reward everyone for their practice that evening. We then headed home, still together. And by the end of that day, it was clear that we would be sharing more time together.

So I’ve known him since February. Buddy-buddy since March. Love since May. Gym buddies since June. And been practically together since… sweating through gym and yoga; chatting online when time permits, talking on the phone when load doesn’t; a lot of lunch and dinner dates just anywhere, and a couple of out of town trips with yoga friends; making it through a sick period on his end (though all I could really do to ease his discomfort was bring his favorite cake and buko shake), currently going through a career hitch on mine; and even things as simple as shopping for vegetables at the local wet market, and raiding an ukay-ukay a couple of times.

Throughout our kinda-sorta-relationship, I’ve made sure there would be no pressure. No pressure for us to be together every minute of everyday. No pressure to be at yoga or wherever together all the time. No pressure to stop either of us from going out with other friends. No pressure to text every single chance there was.

But surprisingly, despite not being together all the time, not texting every chance we got, nor talking every single day, I can confidently say that we are pretty secure… even despite the technical non-relationship.

So again, the situation begs the question, are we a couple? At this point, if you were to ask me if we were a couple, I’d say officially, we’re not.

I know, I know. Why not? Why not? What am I waiting for? I’m really not in a rush to define us with a couple label. Why, because it’s just that… a label. It doesn’t define what we do have. And that’s something even I can’t put into words.

What about the early bird catching the worm? Was the worm meant to be his soul mate, or might another bird be the reward for his patience?

Someone mentioned about good guys finishing last. First, I’m flattered to be considered a “good guy”. Other than that, it’s not a race. I don’t mind finishing last, because the last means no one comes after. Yep, the last guy gets forever.

I don’t want to be pushed towards proposing prematurely just because someone else might get to him before me. Even if someone did, I know, I know, I know he’d be happier with me. Wooooow... confidence, no? Hahaha.

So there, no proposals, no courtship, no I-dos. Rest assured, we’re working it out, albeit slowly but surely. Hmmm, if you think about it, we’ve gone pretty far in the mere five months we’ve known each other... that ain’t too slow. So officially, we are NOT a couple. But there’s love. I know it. He knows it. And even if we haven’t declared ourselves a couple, it sure feels like we are. And damn, it feels good. It feels right. And that’s what’s important, right?

It seems complicated, but it's really been simple... thus, Simply Complicated.

read more...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Simply Complicated: Surprises

Am I ready to deal with all the competition?

Again, the too-cute category instantly invokes a fight or flee mode. And honestly, I would usually flee. I’m not a competitor. I was never raised to be. Inferiority complex, that’s me. But this time was different. I found myself with an unusual conviction. Go ahead... someday you’ll see we belong together. Wow. My confidence amazed even myself.

So I was sticking around for that “someday”.

And in sticking around, we were spending more and more time together.

Having met there, definitely, yoga was a staple. As he became a regular, so did we become... uhm... regular. On Wednesdays, we’d see each other there, him from school, me from work, and head home together. And on Saturdays, we’d meet around our place and go together, and after head home together.

But in all that, I made sure we weren’t a package deal. We should go for the benefits of yoga, remember? So on more than a handful of times, either he’d be there and I’d be stuck at work, or I’d be there and he’d be busy with school. No big deal. And even when we’re both there, we’d usually be in different parts of the room, only catching up when it was time to leave.

And aside from yoga, at times, I’d take leaves from work, to give myself a break and to accompany him on errands. I dunno, I felt like I needed – no, not “needed” – I wanted to take of him. But even if I wasn’t completely helpful on his errands, he appreciated me being there, and we both always had fun spending whole days together. A very good sign.

When our birthdays came, mine a day ahead, I wanted to spend it with him. Dinner would do. It was a Friday, so I suggested we meet at the mall. I’d be coming from work, and him, school. As I got there, he was on his way. Next text, he said he was there, but with a classmate he needed to shake off. It turned out to be a harder shake that expected.

I ended up waiting a couple of hours, and found myself alone, no dinner, no date, no nothing. I admit, I was a bit disappointed. It was my birthday! I had dodged other invites so I could be with him! Geesh! Instead I was home, lying in bed with my dog, munching on some cookies for dinner. Very spinster.

Ah well, no grudges. No big deal. By the next day, we were together on the MRT, on the way to yoga kissing and holding hands. No blaming, no apologies… he told me about his night out with his friends, and I was happy he had fun. Sincerely. So at yoga, we got offered a lot of sun salutations that day, a number equal to the average of our ages, actually. And after, we were able to have our birthday dinner finally, with Yogi Bear and BFF.

He fell asleep with his head on my shoulder on the long bus ride home from Makati. We took a cab from the bus stop, and I dropped him off at his place. But before he alighted, I reached into my bag to pull out a gift I got for him. Surprise! He thanked me intensely, as we greeted each other happy birthdays, and he gave me a kiss. I hoped he’d like the gift.

It was tough thinking of what to give him. But this was something I knew he needed. So I got it, and made sure he’d see a message as he opened it. I fell in love with you. Happy Birthday. The L word. I used the L word. It may have been the first time I used the L word towards him, but I had been feeling it for quite a while already.

Cheesy, I know. But it was the truth. I wasn’t saying it so he’d love me back. I was saying it because it was matter-of-fact. No more, no less.

I was thinking, even if he didn’t like the gift, I hope he appreciated the feelings that I sent with it. Napaiyak mo ako sa saya! Maraming salamat! Mwah mwah mwah! With that, I believe he was happy. And so I was happy too.

We saw each other again the following Wednesday at yoga. I ended up carrying a package of his through a dinner meeting and on the trip home. As I handed it to him as we were about to separate, he throws me the most beautiful smile and says Surprise! What the?! Apparently, what I thought the whole time was his school project was his gift for me! Grrr, I hate surprises, remember? Hehe.

As I got home, I opened up the gift, and it was something I could definitely use, and even better, something that would surely remind me of him. I spied a little card at the bottom of the package. Thank you for being there when I needed you. =) Love you too! Happy Birthday! The L word? From him?! And, hard as it is to admit, I broke down. Argh, I still get teary-eyed every time I read it till now.

So was this it? Were we officially a couple?

read more...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Simply Complicated: Competition

CompetitionShould I die now? Of course not. OA lang ako.

So yeah, people were noticing the chemistry between us. They were seeing a lot of us as a package, arriving and leaving yoga a lot together. Sometimes, during dinners and get-togethers with friends, he would be my plus-one. And on more than a handful of times, I’ve been asked whether we’re a couple. I have to be honest of course and say that technically, we’re not.

But the path we were treading was far from perfect, or ideal for that matter.

On one occasion, after a yoga session just on heels of our being introduced, some were going for dinner, and some were going home. I thought we were heading home together. But he got cornered by someone else... actually the same guy who was molesting him at the dinner some nights back. Before I knew it, they were walking together to the dinner place. And seeing he didn’t even look back to see if I was coming or where I was, I bade goodbye to the others and headed on home.

On the bus, I got a text from the boi. Sabay ka ba maya? Darn, so he looked for me? Should I head back? Geesh. So I replied that I was already on my way home. We sent each other Ingats. So everything was fine, right? Sort of. I found out after that the guy he was with took him home. Whose home? Well, the guy’s status message after which read, Perfect na sana, lakas lang humilik, should tell you what happened.

In all actuality, this guy was pretty persistent. The next yoga session, despite the fact that I had arrived with the boi, the guy again marked his territory. As in I was seated in front of the boi while we were joking around, and the guy actually squeezed himself in between us and immediately put a hand on his leg. Ohhhhh, okay. I backed off.

After yoga, the guy tried to whisk him away, offering him a ride home. Assuming “home” was really home, I should hitch too, so I did. Very third wheel of me, I know, I know.

With the boi in the passenger seat and me at the back, I was witness to a courtship ritual. Actually, from the turn of the key, the stereo flipped on with Cee Lo’s “Fuck You” at the top of the playlist. Wow, all planned out? Double entendre quips. Caresses here and there. And attempts at convincing the boi not to head home yet. Ahm, excuse me, am I not in the car? But at the end of the trip, I had managed to keep my food down, and found myself on the MRT... with the boi... having been dropped off at a station.

This guy was not the only one.

It wasn’t alien for people to be talking with him while caressing his strong arms and bulging chest. Don’t get me wrong, he would never shoo people away, enjoying the attention. But on my end, I’d be rolling my eyes into the back of my head thinking, excuse me, he’s a human being, not a piece of meat.

Sometimes, at yoga, guys would call him over to take the place next to them. In all fairness though, I appreciate how, when that happens, he looks back at me with a face that says What do we do now? I just nod at him to give him the go ahead. We’ll be back together after yoga anyway.

And then the boi has a circle of friends he would hang out with. Out-of-town trips and parties. He tells me about plans, an FYI short of asking permission. Trips and parties, nothing bad about that. Supposedly. But hanky and panky were there hanging out with them. He told me himself when I asked him if he was going to be good at these things. He couldn’t say yes outright. He said I shouldn’t expect, for I’d just be courting disappointment. Rather, I could hope. I appreciated the honesty.

But I think my bigger concern with this group of his would be vices. Fine, I can drink a lot too. Drugs, only time I’ve done it was one session smoking a joint of marijuana. First and last time. But the boi wasn’t averse to these things at all… claiming he knows his limits. But then there’s a reason why the ABCDE of HIV prevention has D as Don’t Use Drugs or Alcohol... because it clouds your judgment.

That being said, mix alcohol, drugs and hanky panky, and you’re flirting with trouble. Yes, even if I’m NOT a trained HIV counselor, I know that. I’ve made sure I’ve done my part reminding the boi of that fact, and repeating time and time again that he stay safe. I just hope this circle of friends of his be real friends - be better influences and keep him safe too.

So a lot of people were interested in him. As in, a lot. And since I was hardly trying to fence him off, it wasn’t unusual for the boi to turn into a free for all.

Nope, all these things were still not a big deal. We weren’t a couple anyway. Special friends, maybe. But not a couple. Yet. So as long as he was safe, I was fine. So it was probably the drugs part that brought me the most concern.

But otherwise, certainly, the too-cute thing was certainly turning into something to deal with. Like I mentioned before, the very first time we were introduced, I instantly put him into my too cute category. Too cute meant too out of my league. Too cute meant too much competition. And the world itself seemed to not even try to debunk my theory.

So should I fight, or should I flee? Am I ready to deal with all the competition?

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Simply Complicated: Revelations

Did the relationship end before it even started?

Saturday was yoga day. Sadly, the boi was a Wednesday yogi. I man the Yoga for Life attendance files, contact numbers included. I was tempted to take advantage. So even after my rePUTAtion being broken, I swallowed my pride and texted the boi inviting him to Saturday yoga. I even offered that we go together. Time tick-tocked away as I waited anxiously for a reply.

All he said was that he’d try. As Saturday morning rolled by, I followed up if we were going together. We could meet at the MRT. No reply.

So I went on my usual itinerary, taking a bus to Makati. Lo and behold, the boi suddenly texted asking where I was, saying he was running late just approaching the MRT. Yikes, but I was already on my way. But of course, I hopped off the bus.

I headed for the nearest MRT station. Ideally, I would ride the MRT back to his station, and enjoy the entire ride with him. But, I stopped myself. I had other plans. Let’s not be totally easy-to-get. I suggested we meet at the destination station, Ayala. Wooooow. Hard-to-get. LOL.

So I got there ahead, and exited the turnstiles and waited patiently. I think it was a good 20 minutes. He got there and looked around for me as I was walking towards him. Fine, I admit, I was a bit thrilled to see him, and more to be with him.

Focus. Focus. This is not a date. This is just a walk... to yoga. This is yoga time.

After yoga, our Yogi Bear insisted we hang out with him before his next yoga class. So we had a snack together at a mall food court. Nothing fancy. I believe I had siomai and a drink.

With much time to spare, the tambay time quickly turned into getting-to-know time. Everything from personal, school and family, to HIV, safe sex and fetishes... oi, this wasn’t an interrogation. This was one huge round table with everyone sharing.

So I got to know a lot about the boi. One thing that struck me was that he was no angel. He’s been around. Yes, sexually. My rePUTAtion heaved a little sigh of relief. Very, very interesting.

One other thing that struck me, was that our birthdays were both coming up... just a day apart from each other. Fate... almost. So we shared the same zodiac sign. Big deal? What if we shared the same animal sign, too? It was creepy.

Were we the same age? Unfortunately not. Which, based on the cycle of the Chinese zodiac, meant we had an age gap in a multiple of 12 years. Age GAP. It’s a wonder that I’m attracted to him. I used to really prefer guys older than I was. But in hindsight, I was attracted to the maturity, which, as I learned the hard way, does NOT come with age. So it was not a wonder after all that his age didn’t matter.

Soon, Yogi Bear needed to leave for his class, and I was left with the boi, still basking in all the revelations. We headed for the MRT together. I put my arm around him as we walked. No resistance. Nice.

Getting to the landing, he said he was staying behind. He was going to a friend’s place in the area. His smirk told me it was a date. Hehehe. No problemo. I said I’d go ahead.

So before we headed off our separate ways, he looks at me with these puppy dog eyes, leans in and pouts his lips. I got it. And I obliged. I leaned in and gave him a smack on the lips. Yes. In public. I smiled. He smiled.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t necessarily a big deal, the kissing in public thing. I kiss BFF in public. I kiss Yogi Bear in public. I kiss my favorite doctor-slash-advocate in public. And so many others. It’s just something we’re not shy about, being the liberated gay bunch. No... big... deal.

Okay, fine. I had a smile on my face the whole way home. I was happy, not just with the kiss. You know how you’re attracted physically to some people, but once you start getting to know them deeper, it changes things make-or-break? With getting to know him, I liked him just the same, if not more.

With that, I texted him reminding him to stay safe on his date... in all senses of the word. He knew what I meant. And I couldn’t stop myself.

Stay safe... Like kita. :-) Send.

Beep beep. Haha stay safe too. Like din kta! Lambot ng labi mo. :)

Should I die now?

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Simply Complicated: Reputation

Were things going to get… complicated?

So the next time I saw him was the following Wednesday. Yoga for Life day again. No biggie, nothing unusual, I was just yogaing away. After the class, in one way or another, we found ourselves planning to head home together. I can already hear you saying HMMMMM.

But no, this was still no big deal. No hangover from the hand-squeezing that happened. None at all. It was all just common sense. We lived within 15 minutes of each other, so it was just logical for us to head home together.

Incidentally that evening, our Yogi Bear, BFF, and other Yoga for Lifers planned to have dinner somewhere in our part of the metro. So logical again, we hitched a ride and joined them for dinner at a local ChicBoy.

Seats were taken around a long table. The seating arrangement? Nope, we weren’t dinnering as a pair. Hell, we weren’t even sitting beside each other. I didn’t even try to elbow my way there. I’m not that type. Truth be told, someone else’s hand was all over his thigh... almost the whole way through dinner. Ohhhhhkay. I’m not reacting. No reason for me to react. I’m an observer. So I observed. And I observed that someone was aggressively interested in him. Geez, the guy didn’t spend much effort trying to hide it either. Deadma. Good job to him, I thought.

The next thing I know, the topic of the conversation went my direction. As is, I’m not comfortable having the spotlight on me. To make it worse, I was being outed as the slut that I potentially could be. Okay fine, true as it all was, it’s not exactly something that I would like a new acquaintance to know. Let alone a new acquaintance that seemed... uhm... interesting.

Geesh. Thanks ha. Ang linis nyo lang teh eh no? And these were supposed to be my friends?! The friends-make-laglag-friends principle is one I don’t really subscribe to, sorry. I don’t know what face I was making, but I guess I kept my evil eyes at bay because the person who started it was and is still alive. I’m pretty sure though that my eyes rolled into the back of my head a number of times. And I was fake laughing. Tact, anyone?

It was embarrassing. Frustrating. Irritating at the most. But fine, que sera sera. And indeed, sira went my reputation. I reminded myself that I spelled my reputation with a capital P-U-T-A. Ah well. There goes the norm of making a good first impression. Instead of having my best foot forward, my filthy ass led the way. Nak nam puta.

So with that, the little hope or dream or whatever spark I had for the guy fizzled out. I was thankfully first to get dropped off, as I could not have turned invisible soon enough.

And with that, the relationship ended before it even started... or did it?

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Simply Complicated: Squeeze

I apoligize for being so quiet. Too quiet. I've been busy. With work. And with family. Okay, fine... and with my personal life. It's been a case of I-want-to-tell-you-all-about-it-but-I-don't-want-to-jinx-it. But right now, I'm afraid that I've been saving too many details in the memory card in my brain... so I decided I'd tell my story. Or start to. So allow me to backtrack... to when it all began.

It was February, (hahaha, what?! i told you i would backtrack didn't i?!) and Yoga for Life was celebrating the love month with a series of partner yoga sessions. Basically, you do yoga in pairs. You get into more intense stretches and positions with the help of your partner, and vice versa. And you get the challenge of going into a deeper state of focus, having to interact with someone in your personal space. Sound interesting? It is.

So basicaly, as much as I wanted to have my actual partner-hubby at the time there, he just wouldn't have it. No way in hell. Fine. I will go alone... and be a broken record explaining why I didn't have my boyfriend with me. Screw you all.

So it was a packed class on my first partner yoga session. And I looked around the room wondering who I was going to get paired up with. I had a few that I was eyeing. Crushables, you might say. Mostly shorter guys. Yeah, I tend to be attracted to short guys, because they tend to be more chunky... CHUNKY in my bitch-tionary is short for chubby-slash-hunky. Basically, I’m tall and lean, I’m borderline-twink, so I prefer guys who are more built that I am, albeit a little extra or more to love. And shorter usually means the weight is packed into a smaller frame... ergo, chunky. Mmm.

But then of course, partner yoga pairs you up with someone closer to your height. Lucky me, I got paired with the young, tall, lanky, straight guy. He wasn’t bad looking at all, don‘t get me wrong. A number of others were eyeing him... but he wasn‘t rowing my boat. Oh well. I was there for the yoga anyways, so I got down to business.

At the end of the class, we were okay. We worked hard, I could say. It probably helped that there was no sexual tension going in either direction. We were all about the yoga. And then of course, I got approached by some saying how lucky I was to have him for a partner, and how envious they were of me. And I was like, yeah, whatever.

So after class, I got introduced to some of the other guys, including one of those I way eyeing. Acquainted, and that was that. I looked him over and thought... mmm, chunky, more hunky at that... but cute. Too cute. Yes, some guys fall into my category of too cute... and I fall into out-of-my-league mode. As in this guy is too cute to be interested in someone like me. So on that note, I drop it. Done. Acquainted, and that was that.

As fate will have it, we both live up north of the metro, so we headed in that direction together with our yogi bear. The MRT was packed. No poise whatsoever, not that I needed it. Yogi bear got down first, leaving the two of us. He was getting down next, a station before mine. Dito na ako, he said. Okay, I replied, Ingat ha.

Simple, right? Yes. But only until his hand slid down the handrail to where mine was, managing to squeeze the fleshy part at the base of my palm, before he stepped out of the train. What the hell was that?! I stared at my palm, and my brain went haywire. Was I imagining things?! I admit, I was giddy, but didn’t want to assume anything. I was left speechless. And confused. It couldn’t be. No.

And with that, were things going to get... complicated?

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

K Brosas for TTT

K Brosas on real beauty... for Take the Test.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Graduation Day

It’s Tuesday, the start of another workweek. It was a holiday yesterday. So after a long, cold, rainy weekend, it was going to be tough to get into work mode.

But today, I decided last minute… as in after taking a shower and dressing up… to make a detour onto the path of my past.

Blame my current workplace, they suddenly decided to get some pre-employment requirements from everyone, even those who’d been with the company for years on end. I’m one of the newbies, so I had most of mine. Except one. My diploma.

I never got my diploma. No toga. No ceremony. No nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I finished my degree. Albeit taking three extra years. Well, I blame Happy-150th-Birthday-Jose-Protacio-Rizal-Mercado-y-Alonso-Realonda himself because I failed his subject so many times. And I blame ROTC, whose irrelevance to life was just not giving me enough sense to finish. So three years after I should’ve, I finally passed Rizal, and ROTC got reduced to two semesters, and I finally graduated. Whoopee!

And I think that was a factor. I was a bit ashamed to suddenly show up at my college three years late, claiming my diploma. Not exactly something to be proud of. So I just got my Transcript from the Registrar’s Office, which was all that I needed thus far, for work and whatnot. Until now.

So today, I took the turn to a different yet familiar destination. I soon realized that familiarity was not only about location… it’s also about time. And here, I’m not talking about days, not months, not just a couple of years. I’m talking 7 years after settling my clearance, and 9 years since my last enrollment. So things had changed.

Just getting there, I no longer knew. Where exactly is the jeepney terminal? Which line is it? Did the route change? Where can I get off? Where are the jeepney stops? Thankfully, I got there without having to ask, or even look stupid.

First stop the Registrar’s Office. It was in a new building that wasn’t there yet when I was still in school. So I had to find it. I was led by the guard to the Records Section. I waited. Soon, the window opened, and I asked if I could get my diploma there. Asked when I graduated, whether I’d been cleared, and what documents I had, I was told I should claim it at my College. Fine. I am not a coward. I am not a coward. Brrrrr.

I guess my biggest fear has been seeing someone I know who would ask me what I’ve been up to. Hmm, nope, I’m not anyone’s boss. Nope, I don’t work for a big multinational company. Nope, I’m not even practicing my degree anymore. Yes, I’m still rank and file. And yes, my biggest achievement might just be that I’m now HIV positive. Not exactly the most ideal spiel.

The stroll across the picturesque campus to my old College building may have helped calm me down. Climbing the front steps, the guard at the gate asked for an ID. Okay, security has changed as well. I asked what time the office of the college head opens, instead he pointed me to another room. Apparently, even that had transferred.

The office was still closed, and a bunch of students were outside. I tried not to let the generation gap stick out. Allow me to say I think I can still pass for a college student. Time ticked away, the students left for class, and still it was closed. Hmm. Good thing I walked towards the old Admin Office, relieved to see that it was still where it used to be.

I walked in and saw familiar faces, still the ladies who always used to be there. I’m pretty sure though they didn’t recognize me. So I asked if I could claim my diploma there. Bingo. She took my transcript and asked what year I graduated. I told her the year I last enrolled.

She approached a cabinet and pulled out a diploma jacket and a binder, and started leafing through the pages. Back and forth, back and forth. She asked me what year again, and if I was sure. Honestly, I wasn’t. She even asked for an ID to prove I was the same person. Fine. Still nothing. I was beginning to sweat. Did I not graduate after all?

Finally she was approached by one of her colleagues, asking what the problem was. She took my ID and searched the computer database. Okay, my year was right. And in a few minutes, they found it. I was hearing the graduation march in my head. I was in disbelief. Not much hassle. A single trip. A couple of hours. No payments made. That’s it. It’s done.

I walked to where I could have it photocopied. And honestly, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the whole time. It was a gutsy day. A gutsy move. And I’m officially a diploma-holder. Should I frame it? Should I give it to my mom? Oi, I was giggling.

I was actually so proud at the time that I wanted to treat myself with a day off from work. Watch a movie maybe. Go home and sleep. Workout. But my pride was prize enough. So I shook it off, and just hopped on a bus to work, which is where I am now.

Obviously, I’m still caught up in the excitement because I’ve managed to blog instead of work. But hey, gimme a break. This is the closest I’ve gotten to my graduation day.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Alicia Mayer for TTT

Alicia Mayer on real beauty... for Take the Test.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Geneva Cruz for TTT

Geneva Cruz on real beauty... for Take the Test.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sweet Break

May pasalubong ako sa iyo! Baket ka nagagalit sa akin? Nagpapakasweet na nga lang ako eh!

Him dropping the call was the most welcome thing for me. That was it. We didn’t talk nor text for the next two weeks.

Yep, I’m talking about the hubby. Do I seem harsh? Snapping at someone just because of a pasalubong? I think so too a bit, but here’s my story.

So he goes out of town, and asks me what pasalubong I’d like. He always brings me pasalubongs. Too much in fact, that when one pasalubong comes, I would still have pasalubongs from previous trips still at home. Perishables every time at that. So I declined this time.

You don’t need to get me anything.

But I want to.

No, no need, there’s already too much food at home, but thank you.

So he goes on his trip and comes back. May pasalubong ako sa iyo! And I’m pissed.

Why? I’m a quiet guy. An introvert. I would usually rather keep things to myself. So those few times I speak up, I would appreciate if you'd listen.

And I repeated myself.
No need, thank you.

But I want to.

Fine, bahala ka.

Baket ka nagagalit sa akin?
Nagpapakasweet na nga lang ako eh!
Sige na nga, matulog ka na!


Call dropped.

I felt offended. Not by the dropped call. But by the insinuation that material things equal sweetness. No. I’m not that kind of a guy, sorry.

Sweet is listening to what little I have to say.

Sweet is calling not just to say you love me... ask how my day went!

Sweet is not stopping me from putting my arm around you in public.

Sweet is not just saying you want to hug me whenever we meet. Do it.

Sweet is accepting my invitations to share my yoga time with me.

Sweet is not a “Masaya ka na?” after meeting my BFF the first time.

There, that’s why I snapped. Sweet?! These were things I had been letting pass. I was patiently letting him have his way. And this, this seemed like the last straw.

I’m sorry. I’m the farthest thing from a closet case. Fine, I’ve declared I’m Back In The Closet with this HIV thing, but even with that, I haven’t let the closet doors stop me from living. Not at this point where I’ve gotten a wake up call to treasure life more, and be thankful for every moment I get to live, laugh and love.

I was soon asking myself, why was I so bitchy? Why was I nitpicking? Why did I snap at him? It was becoming clear what the underlying issue was... I was falling out of love.

Some of you will think that I’m letting go of a perfectly good thing, knowing that an HIV-negative guy accepted me for who I am and what I had. But that’s not the end all and be all of it all.

He will not be the last person who will accept me despite my HIV-positive status. Call me much hopeful, but I guarantee that. Like I always say, if you don’t like me just because I’m HIV-positive, then you’re not worth my time anyways.

So there. Pending one final conversation... closure to be exact... this BITCH is officially single.

So, sweet ba kamo? Break.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

"Functionally Cured" of HIV

Since HIV was discovered 30 years ago this week, 30 million people have died from the disease, and it continues to spread at the rate of 7,000 people per day globally, the UN says.

There's not much good news when it comes to this devastating virus. But that is perhaps why the story of the man scientists call the "Berlin patient" is so remarkable and has generated so much excitement among the HIV advocacy community.

Timothy Ray Brown suffered from both leukemia and HIV when he received a bone marrow stem cell transplant in Berlin, Germany in 2007. The transplant came from a man who was immune to HIV, which scientists say about 1 percent of Caucasians are. (According to San Francisco's CBS affiliate, the trait may be passed down from ancestors who became immune to the plague centuries ago. This Wired story says it was more likely passed down from people who became immune to a smallpox-like disease.)

What happened next has stunned the dozens of scientists who are closely monitoring Brown: His HIV went away.

"He has no replicating virus and he isn't taking any medication. And he will now probably never have any problems with HIV," his doctor Gero Huetter told Reuters. Brown now lives in the Bay Area, and suffers from some mild neurological difficulties after the operation. "It makes me very happy," he says of the incredible cure.

The development of anti-retroviral drugs in the 1990s was the first sign of hope in the epidemic, transforming the disease from a sudden killer to a more manageable illness that could be lived with for decades. But still, the miraculous cocktail of drugs is expensive, costing $13 billion a year in developing countries alone, according to Reuters. That figure is expected to triple in 20 years--raising the worry that more sick people will not be able to afford treatment.

Although Brown's story is remarkable, scientists were quick to point out that bone marrow transplants can be fatal, and there's no way Brown's treatment could be applied to the 33.3 million people around the world living with HIV. The discovery does encourage "cure research," according to Dr. Jay Levy, who co-discovered HIV thirty years ago, something that many people did not even think was possible years ago.

You can watch Brown talk about his cure in this CBS video report.

Source:
Yahoo!

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

YFL Hits the Inquirer

MAROON 5 VOCALIST Adam Levine recently revealed his obsession over yoga, how it helped solve his flexibility issues and how it sculpted his body. For a group here in Manila, yoga means more than just a workout. To them it is a community whose common advocacy focuses on helping people with HIV.

Read on as Yoga for Life is featured by Emman Cena in the Philippine Daily Inquirer article "Yoga for people living with HIV". :-)

Founded by yoga instructors Charmaine Cu-Unjieng and Paulo Leonido who once dreamt of bringing yoga particularly to the HIV community, Yoga for Life became the buzzword in June last year. With the help of ECHOyoga, Positivism and core volunteers, Charmaine and Paulo were able to start yoga classes initially with 14 students.

“The first months were like walking on thin ice as we needed to get people to open up to either experiencing yoga and facing the issue of HIV,” the founders recalled. After almost a year, the Yoga for Life community has grown to over 300 members holding bi-weekly classes in Ortigas and Makati.

As a community of people living with HIV and those tested “negative” but likewise support the cause, YFL seeks to send the strong message that “there is no place for fear, stigma and discrimination in our world.”

The number of people getting HIV infection is sending shockwaves of alarm the world over. In the Philippines alone, six cases are recorded a day unlike in 2006 when it used to be just a single case per day, said Cu-Unjieng in an interview with the Inquirer.

It should be noted that Philippines and Bangladesh are the only countries in the whole Asia Pacific region whose HIV prevalence has increased by 25 percent in over 10 years. Most countries have HIV epidemics that are controlled or decreasing, she said.

Best yoga poses
What makes the YFL program different from among the yoga programs available is its emphasis on the practice of breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation to deepen the yoga experience.

“Many of our students face extraordinary fear, stress, anxiety or depression because of the impact of HIV and AIDS in their lives, so we use these yoga techniques to help alleviate these and bring them back to a peaceful, happy and optimistic, positive state of mind,” Cu-Unjieng told the Inquirer.

Because HIV attacks the immune system, people who develop AIDS become vulnerable to opportunistic infections. YFL puts premium on certain yoga poses that are especially beneficial in boosting the immune system, stimulating the thyroid gland and detoxifying the body, particularly inversions and fish pose. All breathing techniques are beneficial to the immune system, especially the Ujjayi breath (“victorious breath”), Cu-Unjieng said.

“Meditation is good for everyone, especially those suffering from mental and emotional stress. People living with HIV need to adopt a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. Healthy diet, regular exercise, stress-free environment and avoidance of toxins like alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can all strengthen the immune system,” she furthered.

Part of the YFL program is discussion on relevant issues such as safe sex and positive prevention using the yoga philosophy.

The YFL community provides a safe haven for people living with HIV because they do not need to disclose their status to become members, the founders said. Members are welcomed and treated with the same respect and love as anyone else. The group relies on the support of private and public donors to cover for their expenses and from the minimal “suggested donation” of P200 from students who join their classes.

All the regular yoga classes that YFL conducts are open to anyone who supports the HIV and AIDS cause. There is no registration fee to be a member. Schedules are available at www.yogaforlife.ph.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yoga for Life Touched Lives

Around two months of preparation is finally over. Last weekend, we held Yoga for Life's first major major event for the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Most of what I did was in preparing print materials like banners, teasers, flyers, etc... my fault for getting my proposed design approved, and thus getting assigned to cascade it as well. Hehe. But it was fulfilling for a frustrated designer as myself. Oh, money matters too... till now, a week after the event, I have the tail end of the accounting to deal with. MS Excel mode, on! All in all, it was a fun event, with the support of the community taking most of the feeling of work out of it. A true group effort, making it feel, for me, like it was a huge success. :-)

On Sunday, May 15th, the Yoga for Life community came together to join the world in commemorating the 28th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at the Glorietta 3 Park in Ayala Center, Makati City. Entitled “Yoga for Life: Touching Lives”, the afternoon gathered yoga enthusiasts and HIV/AIDS advocates alike in a candlelit sunset ceremony honoring the lives of people affected by HIV and AIDS.

Participants gather for the Candlelit Memorial

The Yoga for Life community took the traditional candle lighting ceremony a step further by making an impact in the way it knows best—through yoga. Co-founders of the Filipino branch, Charmaine Cu-Unjieng and Paulo Leonido, were joined by the country’s top yoga instructors in leading the community through yoga poses, breathing techniques, and guided meditation, thus demonstrating how the discipline and kinship of yoga can help those affected by HIV. More importantly, however, the event, which took place amidst the ordinary buzz of Makati traffic, united the community’s energies towards igniting the flames of HIV awareness in the general public.

Participants engage in yoga practice led by the country's best instructors... I'm actually in this picture... SPOT ME?! Hehe.

As people passed by on the street, some staring, some joining the gathering crowd of spectators, acclaimed yoga instructors Roland dela Cruz, Jeannie Javelosa, Tesa Celdran, Marilen Elizalde, Marc Carlos, Lex Bonife, and Rebecca de Villa each led the participants through a brief series of postures. The yoga practice was followed by a candlelit “kirtan”, an ancient call-and-response chanting experience that originated in India and involves chanting hymns or mantras accompanied by musical instruments. The kirtan called upon sacred energies which served to quiet the mind, remove obstacles, and bring the participants back to the center of their being—while also commemorating the lives of those who have died, and allowing spectators to recognize how precious and powerful their own lives are.

The event also celebrated Yoga for Life’s official launch as a non-profit organization. Yoga for Life began in June 2010, and is the Philippines’ first community-based yoga program for persons living with HIV, as well as others who support them and the cause and want to experience the beauty of yoga. To date, the community has grown to over 300 members, as YFL continues to reach more people and build a community of advocates who, through yoga, share their energies towards living positively and living well.

Participants in the yoga practice model their warrior pose

This particular event, the 28th annual International Candlelight Memorial (the longest running grassroots movement around HIV and AIDS), also marked the first time YFL has joined the global cause and the tens of thousands of people from 83 different countries who participated in similar memorials. While the Candlelight Memorial was originally started to commemorate the lives lost to HIV/AIDS, Yoga for Life chose to expand the mission, praising the lives of those who continue to triumph in spite of the virus, and celebrating the HIV advocate in everyone.

Charmaine Cu-Unjieng, co-founder of Yoga for Life, joins others in singing the kirtan, an ancient call-and-response chanting experience

The memorial coincidentally occurred in the same week as a groundbreaking new discovery relating to HIV treatment. Results announced on May 12 by the United States National Institutes of Health show that if an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%. This discovery will seriously change the way HIV is treated, and hopefully have a huge impact on the so-called “prevention revolution”. At a time when the number of HIV cases in the Philippines, once noted for its remarkably low rates of HIV, is rising steadily—the results from March 2011 marked a 43% increase compared to the same period last year—any HIV advocacy, such as that encouraged by Yoga for Life, is of great importance to the country.

Participants engage in the kirtan

If you are interested in joining Yoga for Life or want to help their mission, visit www.yogaforlife.ph.

Yoga for Life offers classes twice a week for those living with HIV and/or those affected by HIV in some way. Classes include breathing techniques, postures, and guided meditation meant to address the fear and stress of HIV, as well as the stresses of everyday life:

Wednesdays at 7pm: 28th Floor Conference Room, Medical Plaza Ortigas Building, 25 San Miguel Ave, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Saturdays at 2pm: Century Plaza Penthouse, 120 Perea Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City

Photos courtesy of Yoga for Life

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Touching Lives Thru Yoga

On Sunday, 15 May 2011, the Yoga for Life community will come together to join the world in commemorating the 28th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at the Glorietta 3 Park in Ayala Center, Makati. Entitled Yoga for Life: Touching Lives, it will be an afternoon that will gather yoga enthusiasts and HIV advocates alike in a candlelit sunset ceremony honoring the lives of people affected by HIV and AIDS.


The Yoga for Life community will take the traditional candle lighting ceremony further by making an impact in the way that it knows best - through yoga. Co-founders Charmaine Cu-Unjieng and Paulo Leonido will be joined by the country’s top yoga instructors in leading the community through yoga poses, breathing techniques and guided meditation, to demonstrate how the discipline and community of yoga help those affected by HIV. More importantly, the event aims to unite the community’s energies towards igniting the flames of HIV awareness in the general public.

The event will begin with registration at 3:30 pm, and will be supported by yoga instructors Roland dela Cruz, Jeannie Javelosa, Tesa Celdran, Marilen Elizalde, Marc Carlos, Lex Bonife and Rebecca de Villa, HIV advocates from different sectors and friends of the Yoga for Life community. Proceeds from the event will support the services that Yoga for Life provides to the HIV community, which include yoga classes, meditation sessions, and HIV and life-skills counseling.

This is the 28th year since the International Candlelight Memorial was first held, making it the longest running community event around HIV and AIDS. It will also be the first time that the Yoga for Life community is joining the tens of thousands of people from 75 different countries in touching the lives of those affected by HIV. While the Candlelight Memorial was originally held to commemorate the lives lost to HIV, Yoga for Life chooses to empower the lives of those who continue to triumph in spite of the virus, and celebrate the HIV advocate in everyone.

Yoga for Life began in June 2010, and is the Philippines’ first community-based yoga program for persons living with HIV, as well as others who support them and the cause and want to experience the beauty of yoga. To date, the community has grown to over 300, as Yoga for Life continues to reach more people and build a community of advocates who, through yoga, share their energies towards living positively and living well.

So come and join us as we touch lives through yoga!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Intercourse of the Church

The issue of the Reproductive Health Bill or RH Bill has been heating up again. What with President Noynoy Aquino seemingly back to support the RH Bill again, and as expected the Catholic church not backing down from opposing it. Oi, who would ever have thought that Reproductive Health would be of a priestly concern? For me, it would be like me promoting sex with a female... irrelevant... disjunct... does not compute. But well, things happen. So the church and the RH Bill have headlined Yahoo! news today... not just once, but twice!

Some Priests are Pro-RH Bill - Bishop

The Catholic Church does not have the unified support of all its members when it comes to the issue of the Reproductive Health Bill, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) disclosed today.

Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chairman of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL), revealed that there are some priests who are pro-RH bill.

“Well, in the Church, there’s a space for dissent also… Even the 10 commandments, there are many who disobey it, right?” Aniceto said in an interview. “We leave it to their conscience. We respect that. But majority are not in favor. I think, in their own moral and theological discernment, we should respect them for that.”

He said these priests have maintained anonymity although some bishops are aware of their dissenting positions.

Aniceto believes that these priests are only misguided or are lacking sufficient knowledge about the provisions of the bill.

My thoughts? "I respect your views, but you're misguided." LOL! Ironic much!


Filipino Cardinal Urges Charm Offensive but Hits President's Lack of Faith

Take it from someone who has walked the corridors of power at the Vatican. Saying that Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was now "losing his popularity", Jose Cardinal Sanchez, the oldest among the country's three living cardinals, has urged Catholic bishops to go on a charm offensive and befriend congressmen to win them over in the reproductive health (RH) bill debate.

Sanchez, 91, also lamented in an interview with CBCP News that President Aquino's mother (the late President Corazon Aquino) and his sisters had "more faith than him".

"He is now losing his popularity. He has no firm idea on marriage. It is too much politics now and no longer religion. (His) mother (the late former President Corazon Aquino) and (his) sisters have more faith than him," said Sanchez, who once oversaw the diocesan priests around the world as prefect of the Vatican Congregation on the Clergy.

Hiking Filipinos' income: Sanchez said that the government should try to improve the lot of Filipino families by increasing their income instead of "destroying" them by pushing for the RH bill.

But with the President losing his popularity, Sanchez said that Congress would not be able to pass the bill. And a charm offensive could help.

Sanchez recalled that when he was once a bishop assigned in Bicol, he was a "friend to all the congressmen" so it was easy for him to confront them when a proposed law contradicted church doctrine.

"If there are bills contradictory to the Catholic teachings, I would go to these congressmen one by one to enlighten them with the Catholic teachings and they would easily agree with me. And as friends, they would find it hard to go against the bishop," Sanchez said.

However, he admitted that it would be harder to do this now since many lawmakers today are non-Christians.

What next? Sanchez said he came back to the country from Rome to ward off the "tendencies that threaten to destroy the Catholic Church."

He said he was worried that same-sex marriage, which he said had been approved in Brazil - the world's largest Catholic country - might also be "accepted" later in the Philippines.

"I did not come here to fight the RH Bill. I came here to protect the Catholic doctrine. (The RH bill) is insignificant as far as the problems of the world are concerned. But I'm happy that it is being faced seriously by the Philippine Church," Sanchez said.

He said that if the Church fails to reverse these "tendencies" that threaten the Church, there would be fewer priests in the country in 50 years' time.

"The world is changing, and the evil doesn't stop. I hope the Philippines will remain a Christian country. But I know the (Filipino) Christians are not sleeping, they keep on fighting," Sanchez said.

My thoughts? Government increase Filipino families' income how? Perhaps if we begin collecting taxes from the church, hmmm. And it's nice know that the cardinal spilled the beans. So the church is only concerned about the Catholic doctrine and about there being less priests in 50 years. So they really aren't out to care for the people... sigh. Huhuhu... hu.

Let me end with this picture...


LOL! Just quit the intercourse of the church with the state, okay? Abstinence to you!

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sexidents - Toilet

It wasn’t planned. I couldn’t get out of it. He started it.

This hilariously sarcastic ad campaign created by Grey Worldwide for the MTV Networks says it best with its Sexidents series.

Sex is no accident. Always use a condom.

This particular one is entitled Toilet.


Sex is no accident. Always use a condom.
So, what's your excuse?

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Noynoy Risks Ire on RH Bill

President Benigno Aquino III pledged on Sunday to push for the passage of a reproductive health bill in Congress as a tool to fight poverty even at the risk of excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.

Efforts to enact a law that would promote access to sex education and contraception have been blocked since the 1990s by powerful Roman Catholic bishops. Around 80 percent of the country's 94 million people are Catholic.

"I remain committed to push the passage of a law for responsible parenthood," Aquino told graduates of the country's premier state university.

"I know there are those who oppose it. At risk of excommunication, it is my obligation as leader to explain my principles to them, even if their minds are already closed. But, in the end, I must listen to my conscience and do what is right."

Last year, Catholic bishops denied threatening to impose canonical sanction against the president due to his plans but reminded him to consider church's position.

The bishops said some forms of contraception were tantamount to abortion. Abortion is illegal in the Philippines.

Aquino has indicated support for the bill, raising hopes it could be passed, but the measure was not on a list of priority bills submitted to Congress.

During his speech, Aquino spoke of meeting an unemployed 16-year-old boy with two children. He said:

"How will they feed their children when they have no jobs? Who is to blame for their situation? How did such responsibility fall on them? More importantly, how can I help them?"

The church says tackling corruption would do more to reduce poverty than slowing population growth. The Philippines has one of the region's highest rates of maternal deaths -- an average of 11 women a day die giving birth.

Foreign missions and international agencies have been urging the Philippine government to adopt a reproductive health legislative framework as an anti-poverty strategy.

The European Union has also called for the passage of a maternal health law, saying slower population growth would improve health and lower poverty. It has promised $50.5 million health package to raise contraceptive usage in low-income, rural communities.

Source:
ABS-CBN News

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

PGH with a capital ACHE!

I met a new friend at Yoga for Life quite recently. Despite starting from zero, and being almost a whole generation away from each other, we clicked. Blame location, blame the zodiac, blame Chinese astrology, we just clicked.

So I swore I’d take care of him, as a friend and as a newbie to the HIV scene.

So we were headed home from yoga one Wednesday when he mentioned he was going to PGH for his lab tests the next day. He asked what I was going to be doing. Work as usual. Hey, I’d be a newbie to PGH as well, right? “Sayang, magpapasama sana ako...” and he laughs it off. I didn’t.

The following day, I left the house at 7:00 am as usual. But whether I was going to work or going to accompany someone to PGH was still undecided. Deep inside I knew I wanted to go with him to PGH. I honestly did. He was just hesitant to have me take a leave just for him. If hiya was all it was, then darn. So I decided. I would go with him.

After scurrying about with last minute plans, which entailed a misunderstanding as to where we were meeting, we finally caught up, as his sweet smile and thanks told me I made the right decision.

We took a familiar route, one that I took to the Social Hygiene Clinic in Manila, and the same one I used to take when I used to date someone who lived in Sta. Cruz. A jeepney ride, and a short LRT trip to Pedro Gil Station, and we were at PGH. It wasn’t my first time at PGH, I’d been there for a meeting before. But for medical services? Never. Here goes nothing.

He suddenly realized he didn’t seem to have his lab requests with him. No problem, right? I’d just ask Ate for another set, and that would be that. So we headed to the Infectious Diseases Section (IDS) and knocked on the door. A nurse opened the door, and greeted us, but not so warmly. She was short of asking who the hell are you and what are you doing here. PMS, teh? Okay, stay cool.

So he relayed his problem. And with a furious frown and clearly peeved, she told us to wait outside for the doctor. Hmm. I had to ask, is this nurse always this bitchy? I could not help compare to how Ate takes care of us at RITM.

So we sat along the corridor for a good half hour. We talked about anything and everything, thankful that neither of us had to experience such a thing alone. We fidgeted in each other’s bags, for fans, clothes and books... Good enough as we found his lab requests hidden under all his stuff. Whew!

So we walked down to the cashier and lined up. At the window, we got asked about a Blue or White Card. What card?! I just answered that we came from the IDS. The cashier mentioned something about Charity, and I just thought, okay, if you say so.

From there we walked a short way to the Express Laboratory. But only to get pointed to another lab, Laboratory Info on the second floor. Then we were pointed to the OPD Lab in a whole other building. We managed to walk the whole PGH block to the Faura end, near the Supreme Court. It was the building that housed the OPD. Made sense, at RITM, we were at the OPD department as well.

Inside, gasp! Long lines, hot air and dismal faces. And not just any lines. You were supposed to line up to get a schedule, and come back another day for the actual test. Seriously?! We walked back to the IDS to ask. That just couldn’t be right.

Nurse PMS opened up again. Fine, she was calmer this time. Apparently, we had gone to Charity indeed, which explained the long lines. We were ushered back to the Express Lab. There, we were told we had paid the Charity rate. So once again, we had to line up at the cashier to pay for the upgrade to the Express rate. And again, back to the Express Lab.

So apparently, only blood tests could be done there. No sputum tests. No x-rays. Fine, fine. He took a seat. Before he got pricked, the nurse asked what he was getting the tests for. He hesitated, so I just answered we came from IDS, hoping that she’d understand without us having to spell it out. But she continued to badger. Was this for employment? A check up? Close tayo, teh? I was fed up. Just blurt it out. You want to know? Fine. He said HIV. Happy now? She went on telling my friend not to be too paranoid about the tests and all... Hmmm, free counseling I see. Interesting.

From there, we were pointed to the x-ray section, where we were pointed once again to the OPD building. We got there and it was closed for lunch. Let’s try the sputum.
We headed back to the IDS to ask where we were supposed to go, and nursey pointed us to another section, Lab Info, the same one we passed earlier. Okay, we were really making the rounds.

So apparently, we again weren’t charged the right rate at the cashier, so we’d have to line up. Again. At that point it was noon, and we gave up. He needed to be somewhere after lunch. We agreed that at least we got most of his tests done. And at least we got to tour the PGH, albeit mostly unnecessary, but together.

From there, we had a well-deserved lunch, just some pasta and chicken at McDonalds across the street. Remember, he had been fasting since the night before for his blood tests. So I’m sure he was happy.

We were both skins sweaty, both bodies tired, both legs aching, both tummies finally full, and it was time to go. From there, we were off. He was on his way to school – yes, school – he was enrolling that afternoon... and I was on my way home.

PGH was an experience. It was a long arduous day. But it was a good one. I got to spend the day with my favorite new person. He was happy not having to go through all that alone. And I was happy that he was happy. And I apologize in advance, but let me just say, at the end of the day, I was happy I was with RITM.

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