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, 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!


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!


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?


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.



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.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Miss Saigon to Miss Condom

Any time a well-known personality supports condoms and the Reproductive Health Bill is certainly blog worthy, to me at least. And as well as well-known can get, internationally-acclaimed Broadway star Lea Salonga - just of the tiny Miss Saigon and Les Miserables fame - has joined the fight to support the RH Bill, thanks to that crazy ordinance that the officials of Barangay Ayala Alabang passed. So who said I was making a big deal about it? Apparently, I'm not alone.

Lea Salonga joins Ayala Alabang residents to protest condom ordinance

It was the same scene two weeks ago, rallyists dressed in yellow with placards protesting the passage of a barangay ordinance that regulates the purchase, sale and promotion of condoms and other moderns forms of contraception. Only this time they were angrier, noisier and demanding.

Storming the gates of the uber posh Ayala Alabang Village, rallyists were vigorously waving signs. Words that were previously only spoken in angered whispers or "shouted out" in the realm of Facebook, were now brandished in bold red letters: "I am a citizen of the Philippines, not Alabangistan!" read one placard. "AAV = Alliance Against Vaginas" read another placard, giving another meaning to the acronym of the village name. "Get bigots out of our bedrooms!" cried another. Other posters asked those passing by to show their support by honking their horns. And they had every right to be angry.

Since the last demonstration that coincided with the second public hearing on the controversial ordinance last March, there has been no word from the Barangay Council if they were going to repeal the ordinance which was rejected by the City Council and later declared as unconstitutional by various local government agencies.

"Wala pa kaming balita sa barangay council kung ano ang gagawin nila," said former DOH Secretary and Alabang resident, Esperanza Cabral."Hindi dapat pa patagalin ito." Cabral has been leading the efforts among the anti-ordinance group in the village.

Broadway star Lea Salonga, who openly opposed the ordinance said, "We live in a democracy and this is simply not right. Maigiging public record ang pabgili ng condoms at kahit ng pills na pwede naman hindi lang pang-contraception, pwedeng pang treat ng ovarian syndrome, magiging public record. It simply is not right." Salonga said she would have joined the previous demonstrations, but was out of the country.

Raoul, the 27-year old resident whose attempt to buy condoms last March from a drugstore in Alabang Town Center was secretly captured on video, also revealed himself. "I'm an example of who this ordinance directly affects. I'm going to have to go to my doctor and get a prescription for condoms. And how will I even say it, "Doc I'm going out on a date and it might work out."? It's just crazy."

Despite a statement from Barangay Captain Xerex Burgos that the ordinance was not be implemented as it had not yet secured the approval of the City Council, condom sales are being regulated. This was validated by Raoul. "Just three days ago, I tried to buy condoms at the Rustan's supermarket inside the village and they wouldn't let me. Bawal daw." Raoul also explained that condoms were at the back and not accessible without the assistant of a pharmacist.

"We want a resolution to this already," added Cabral who said that since the March 19 rally, nothing yet had been done by the Barangay Council, not even an update. When asked about being prepared for the worst and the ordinance being kept in effect, Cabral said, "They cannot not repeal that. And if they don't then we will just keep on doing this," Cabral concluded.

Read the article here.

All I can say is, "You go girls!"


Monday, April 04, 2011

Three Cheers to Three Years

Three Cheers!It’s April. In the snap of a finger, the first quarter of the year just passed. And in a snap of the finger and all the knuckles of a hand, it’s been just over three years since I got myself tested for HIV. Well, whaddaya know?! Three frickin’ years?! Imagine?!

Yes, yes, yes. I think I’ve told this story a number of times already before, but please bear with my reminiscing.

I recall it was the last day of March 2008. It was supposedly the last day the Manila Social Hygiene Clinic was to offer free HIV testing. And just in time, I had gathered all the guts I had to drag myself there to get tested. And like you may already know, I had scouted out the place some days before, meaning to get tested, but chickened out at the last minute.

The second time proved to be a charm. I guess the end of March deadline was the push I needed. I am a crammer, after all. I mean I was still nervous as hell just walking there, let alone getting tested. But I have no regrets getting tested. At all. I got my results two weeks after, in mid-April.

So I tested positive. Oh well. I was fortunate that I was up for the challenge of living with HIV, which really proved not to be as much of a challenge as I‘d expected. I was curious, open, forgiving, and just ready to delve into unknown and unfamiliar territory, and I guess that helped in the adjustment period. A short learning curve before I could say to myself proudly, “Yep, I have HIV, no big deal“.

Even now, three years later, it’s not at all the big deal everyone expects. I’m still not going to die. It’s still not going to kill me. I’ll still be okay. But of course, I can only say all that because I got tested. Because I know that I am HIV positive. And I know what I have to do to take care of myself. That makes things alright.

In the span of three years, I have never been hospitalized for anything. Well, actually, it’s never happened in my lifetime, except if you count birth and circumcision. These past three years have been almost normal. So if HIV were a battle, then I’m successfully keeping the enemy at bay.

Three years. Geesh. It’s been a while, huh? But what’s changed? Well, of course I‘ve been taking anti-retroviral drugs or ARVs, for almost three years as well. It’s a daily habit, much like drinking multi-vitamins. I’m consciously keeping away from food with raw meats and fish, which I never really crave for anyway. Other than that, I’m not giving myself special treatment.

I am still working, in a field that got presented to me BECAUSE I was HIV-positive. As in, had I not been HIV-positive, I would probably not have started blogging, and would not have gotten the opportunity to write for the advocacy called Positivism, and would not even have gotten the chance to dare to delve into the industry I’m in now. So I can say I thank HIV for that. Interesting, huh?

I also have HIV to thank for some of the friends I have. My BFF. My pozzie posse. The rest of the positive community. The HIV advocates. The Yoga for Life community. I was telling W the other day that I would probably be a totally, totally different person on a totally, totally, different path in a totally, totally different place, had I not been diagnosed with HIV. I mean, I’m still me, but different. Am I making any sense? Bottom line, I have no regrets. I’m glad that three years ago I got tested.

Oh, speaking of tests… let me segue.

I haven’t told you yet, but I got my first CD4 test for this year. I was actually supposed to have it done February, but then I was informed that there was no reagent available to run the CD4 test. So I had to wait. As March came, I got the go signal. So in early March, I scheduled a trip to RITM with W. He was having his CD4 done too, along with all the other blood tests like the CBC and blood chem.

Funnily, I realized I fasted since the night before unnecessarily, since I wasn’t having a blood chem done. I pretended I was merely sympathizing with W’s own fasting. Hehe. Getting to RITM, there was no one at the clinic. It was past 8:00 am, and that was unusual. We headed to the back office, and were told that everyone was attending a seminar that week. Ah, okay. And skeletal force was late?! Argh.

After waiting a while, we decided to go back to the clinic. The nurse was already there, and so were a lot of other clients. Hmm, and we weren’t told. Gee thanks.

This was supposed to be a long story. Long, because the nurse on duty was all flustered, confused, overwhelmed and unfocused, probably because there were so many people there, but if you ask me, she was just plain unorganized and unsystematic. To cut the long story short, all I needed was a CD4 count and a med refill, and yet it took me till past 11:00 am. Geez. I swear, I was at the end of my patient nerve.

I waited for so long that I had time to think about how my last six months were, which could determine how I’d do at my CD4. That meant August to February. In that span, I stressed over Christmas, I lost my job, started a new and more stressful one, and so on and so forth. Sounded bad. But this was also the first full six months that I had been doing yoga as much as twice a week. That may have evened out the odds. So maybe I should think about what I’d been up to immediately prior to getting the test.

Well, the day before, which was a Wednesday, I was working stressed as usual. Bad. But it was yoga night, too. Good. But I slept late and got just about 5 hours of sleep. Terrible. But only because I had some safe mind-blowing sex that evening. Great. Still had no clue. No choice but to wait for the verdict.

Luckily, my calf-caressing friend went to RITM the following day. I texted him for the favor of asking what my result was. Back tracking, if you recall, I had just recovered from a CD4 yoyo of 493 - 447 - 493. Being up and down and all around was no pattern to expect. So when calf-caresser texted, I was shocked. My result was… 646. Whoa! Up 153?! I was in disbelief, honestly.

I was as a point where I thought the 500 mark was just taunting me. I’d been so close, so close. So to absolutely hurdle the whole 500 range was amazing! I’m happy. I officially now have a CD4 count of a normal, non-HIV-positive person. Kewl. I need to keep up with what good I’d been doing. Religiously drinking my ARVs. Of course. Doing yoga. Definitely. Having mind-blowing safe sex. Perfect. And just being optimistic and happy. Easier said than done, but the least I can do is try.

Great news without the April fools! Three cheers!