Monday, January 24, 2011


I sit alone in a coffee shop, eating my way through a warm cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting dripping along its top. I watch the steam rising from my macchiatto, my eyes passing over the sweet caramel crisscrossing the foamy milk froth layered on top of the espresso. My mind is taken over by random thoughts, and in a few quick seconds, my features run the gamut of emotions usually reserved for exciting conversations. Flights of fancy or existential musings, my brain has decided to think wildly and freely, and the end result of my intellectual meanderings are usually as unusual as they are surprising.

I do not understand why some people can be so scared of those few instances they find themselves alone. Perhaps, in that rare moment where their thoughts are allowed free rein; where, in a way, they are forced to engage in a "conversation" with themselves, they realize something they do not want to admit. Maybe, for them, loneliness is an enemy they must overcome with overflowing scheduled commitments, boundless enthusiasm for random activities, and countless, countless acquaintances and friends. Maybe, in that small period of loneliness, they realize how afraid they are of the darkness it represents.

But I've learned, even at a young age, that the darkness can be a friend. It isn't always, and sometimes the darkness can consume you and bury you in its endlessness. But I've always relished those moments when I can engage in those thoughts we usually can not access unless we have dealt with each of our own individual brands of loneliness. Through that darkness, I've discovered pain, and sadness, and beauty. It is like a patient lover, always waiting to accept me in its embrace.

Photo taken here.

Monday, January 17, 2011


It was a few weeks since I last had any contact with Chad. I was making it a point to avoid any type of communication with him since our relationship was less than perfect at the time. Not that it was ever perfect mind you; in fact, I would have settled for normal if I could. If I'm being totally honest, our relationship was, in a word, toxic, characterized by passion and love, with no real substance to ground us. The perils of youth one could say, although that assumes only the young are capable of doing stupid things, and I have far too many examples of stupid things adults do to disprove that point.

It's always difficult, I think, breaking up. Most people assume it ends with a discussion, with the parties mutually agreeing to stop seeing each other. Sometimes there are tears, or harsh words, or things thrown, but the common idea is that everything happens at that one point, as if something that important could be so easily and neatly summed up and discarded in a half hour. As if the relationship you just had with that one person was nothing more than a footnote in your otherwise perfectly normal life.

But the idea doesn't take into account the slow deterioration, the unraveling of passion, the almost imperceptible, but unmistakable, disintegration of affection. If the relationship wasn't working in the first place, the cracks will show, and the lovers will grow distant, and things will start to fall apart. But the initial process is barely recognizable, until at some point the couple realizes that they are at a place neither of them had thought they could ever come before. And the breaking up, especially with a person you love, is rarely just a one time deal; most likely it's a process that will take a while to stick.

Breakups are rarely simple, at least in my experience.

In Chad's case, we didn't really break-up, since there was nothing to break in the first place. What relationship we had was in one of those gray, blurry areas that mimicked all the symptoms of a "real" relationship, only that it wasn't. We can be postmodern about it, and say that it had no label, and it would be true, because what we had was really, well, undefinable. I hate admitting it, because it makes the relationship seem so trivial, but it was true, and maybe it really was as trivial as it seems.

So I think I was already starting to settle back into my usual routine, with sudden pangs of pain here and there (it is impossible to just walk away from a person you love I think, even if you know it's what's best for you), when I got a text message from him. It started with the usual pleasantries (How are you? I miss you. What have you been up to?) and ended with an invitation to meet up. I didn't reply, because I didn't know what to say. I knew what I wanted to say and what I needed to say (and the gap between what I wanted and what I needed was oceans-wide), but I had absolutely no idea what I would actually say. So I waited. I figured I didn't need to decide right then.

It was midnight when I texted back. And though it broke my heart to do so, I told him what I needed to say, my head slowly, but inexorably, dismantling the fantasy of the conversation I wanted, dreamed to have.

Photo taken here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Body Issues

When I was a teenager, I hated how I look. I hated how my hair seemed so straight and wiry, how high my forehead was, how far apart my eyes were. I especially hated my nose, which I thought seemed so flat and squishy. I looked a lot like my father, and I sometimes resented the fact that I inherited a lot of his physical attributes. 

So, like any other kid going through puberty, I had a lot of insecurities. And the fact that my skin decided at that particular point to break out with a gajillion pimples just seemed like extra unnecessary crap piled onto an already steaming mound known as my life. 

I'm not sure when I decided to embrace my features. But I remember a particular moment, when I was walking by a mirror one day, and noticing the slight hunch of my shoulders, and the way I seemed to drag my footsteps. I remember thinking that just because I hated the way I look, it didn't mean I actually had to look like I was the most hatefully ugly creature in the world. So I made a mental note to make sure I stand a little straighter, and I carry myself as if I thought I was gorgeous. It took a while before I got used to pushing my shoulders back, and carrying my feet, but at some point I learned how to, and that was when I changed. 

The change was mostly internal I think. A shifting of perspective. Days where I looked at the mirror and thought, "I don't look so bad". Or moments when I felt that I totally rocked. My confidence grew, and I started really liking how I looked, how different I seemed to be from any other person. It was then that I realized I actually liked being me, and that I really had nothing to complain about. 

Then one day, I realized how lucky I was. I wasn't perfect, but the imperfections made me feel more, well, me. And I loved the idea that, maybe, I was created exactly as I should be. 

Photo taken here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snapshots: on HIV

The first time I heard of the increase of HIV cases in the Philippines, it was from my friend Manuel. He worked as a researcher for various international organizations as well as the Department of Health. We were in a coffee shop, just hanging out, talking about unimportant things, when he brought it up.

"I don't think I should be telling you this," he said. "It's all still confidential. Well sort of. Actually I don't know. Anyway, I want to tell this to you as a friend because I want to warn you."


"Well, there is substantial data coming in that shows an alarming increase in HIV cases this past year."

"How alarming?"

"Very. Before, HIV cases were limited substantially to female sex workers and to heterosexual men who had sex with them. The new cases are coming from men who sleep with men. The most vulnerable people, well, according to the limited information that I know, are those who work in call centers."


"We don't know yet."

"That's scary."

"I know."


I was having dinner with my friend Ron when I learned that the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran an article about the increase in HIV cases, where they underscored the fact that most of the new cases came from gay men who worked in call centers. I asked him how he felt, as a gay man who actually worked in the same industry.

"I don't really know how I feel about it," he said. "Well, first, because it's not like I'm having a lot of sex right now. Second, I've always been careful. STDs scare me."

"Does it make you more wary of having sex with people from the same industry?" I asked.

"Not really. Well, maybe. I don't know, I've always been careful," he insisted.


We were in photographer Niccolo Cosme's exhibit commemorating World AIDS Day when Wanggo Gallaga came out as a gay man afflicted with HIV. The room was expectedly tense. His voice was clear, though there were moments that I thought it would break. His speech was short, and purposeful. When it ended, there was a moment of silence. The type that seemed so deafening.

Then applause. I looked at my friend Ioanis, who asked me to come with him. There were tears in his eyes. I realized there were some in mine too.

I made it a point to walk up to Wanggo right after to commend him for his bravery.


"I think this epidemic, if you can call it that, is almost inevitable really," a friend said to me one day.

"What do you mean?"

"It's like this, we all know that HIV is real, but at the same time, we also felt that HIV wasn't really a problem within the Philippine gay community. At least until now. The number of people who actually practiced safe sex is woefully low. Barebacking is a given. We should have expected this."

"I agree. I think we looked at World AIDS Day as one big party. The literature was there, and the warning signs. We didn't listen I think."

“Here's my theory. I think that before, we've always thought of HIV as a problem foreigners have. Some disease that people in America or Africa get, but never for us here. We were isolated. We felt safe in our cocoon. So we got lazy, and we forgot the danger. Now we're paying the price for our failure and our apathy."

"Well, let's hope the price doesn't get too high."

"Well, yes , but even one case is one case too high."


"My roommate's ex just got diagnosed with HIV."

“How did you know?”

“He told me. Besides, word gets around. We’re not exactly a large community.”

“I must admit, this is really starting to scare me.”

“Me too.”

“What can we do?”

“I’m not really sure. All of this just seems so new. It shouldn’t be, but that is how it feels to me. It’s scary.”

Photo taken here.

Monday, January 3, 2011


We were drinking in a popular wine spot in The Fort a few months ago when my close friend Ioannis, obviously inebriated and uninhibited, referred to sex as a "sport". To be fair, the sentiment wasn't completely out of nowhere: once you mix adults, alcohol and conversation, thoughts naturally seem to flow towards this more "primal" direction. But the statement was still interesting on several levels: Did he mean that it was competitive? Physically taxing? Something only a group can do?

When we asked him to elaborate, he said that he didn't mean it in the sense that it was a competition, only that the acceptance of one's inherent sexuality should be something fun and exhilarating. He underscored the idea that sexuality should be celebrated, not restrained. He found it unusual and unnecessarily restrictive to continuously dampen one's "natural" needs, simply to conform to an arbitrary societal standard. He said that we are all in charge of our own happiness, and that sometimes the bravest, and the most important thing we can do for ourselves, is to acknowledge the things that make us happy and to do something about it. He pointed out that if we refuse the things that make us happy, then what's the point of being alive?

We concurred, if conditionally. The idea sweeps at other ideas in too general a manner, and certain circumstances and factors must also be taken into consideration, but we did agree that he raised a valid point.

Afterward, he fell asleep on my other friend's lap, drunk and oblivious to the world. Ioannis has a lot of endearing qualities, but he is definitely not the classiest person when intoxicated. In fact, I consider it a minor victory that Ioannis managed to keep his shirt on while he was so obviously sloshed.

(Although, to be fair once again, I think that alcohol can sometimes bring out a person's brilliance. The lack of inhibitions it induces does not only refer to emotional inhibitions, but also to intellectual ones. I wouldn't be surprised if someone discovers that some of the world's best ideas were thought up during stages of extreme intoxication. In fact, I seriously think that someone should do a study on the relationship of alcohol and philosophy. I'm sure that a lot of the greatest philosophers in the world are non-classy, hardcore drinkers).

A few weeks later, Ioannis gets a boyfriend, whom he loves dearly. When asked about the status of their relationship, he said that they had an "open" one; that is, they are allowed to have sex with other people, subject to a few ground rules. When I asked him to elaborate on those rules, Ioannis said that he was okay with his boyfriend having sex with someone else, but that he would not be able to stand the fact if the connection between the boyfriend and the other person transcends sexuality and enters a more intimate and personal sphere. He said he can stand sexual indiscretions, just not emotional connections.

I didn't really understand what he meant, but when I asked him to elaborate further, he said he also couldn't explain it. Rather, he gave examples, such as "holding hands, kissing, going out on dates". He still believed in sex as a sport, so he felt that one could engage in it without any emotional investment, but as soon as it becomes more than sex, he said that he feels that that is where he should draw the line. When I asked him how he would know when, as he defined it, the relationship of the boyfriend and the third party becomes more intimate, he said he doesn't really know how, only that he would know. Sex can be just sex, he argued, but once it mimics the symptoms of love, then that is when there would be problems that would arise.

I still didn't understand, but I let it go at that. I have resolved, not too long ago, to try not to judge the decisions my friends make in matters of the heart. Is it possible to separate one's emotions when engaging in an act that is physically intimate in nature? I'm not so sure. In my head, it seems improbable, but I've been wrong before. Whatever works I guess. Whatever gets one through the day.

Photo taken here.


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