On All Things Brave and Sexy.


It being a Sunday and F1 Race Day at that, I will keep my post as concise and straightforward as possible. At least, I will try.

How many of you have seen the movie Hunger Games? Show of hands! One, two, 300. Good for you. I haven’t. Yet. Now, how many of you have read the book – at least the first installment of the trilogy – before making a beeline for the cinema? I see a few hands raised, good! Now I’m probably one of the many who crammed reading The Hunger Games in anticipation of the global premiere last Thursday – except that I haven’t made a trip to the cinema just yet.

In which my 'hunger' turned out to be just transitory.

I have read The Hunger Games, yes. In fact, I finished the book in less than 12 hours – totally sacrificing some precious hours of sleep – first, because I didn’t want to be the only person on the planet who’s clueless about the book that has the whole world raving about Suzanne Collins and second, well, because I found it riveting enough not to put it down until I’ve read it from cover to cover.

I think Katniss Everdeen is all things brave and sexy…at the beginning and all the way to her emergence as one of the victors of the 75th Hunger Games and even farther down the intricate labyrinth of gore and brutality of the Quarterly Quell in Catching Fire (Book 2) – where she was ‘conveniently’ thrown back into the death arena along with the living victors of the previous hunger games.

But when Mockingjay, the final installment of the trilogy, opened to our favorite heroine’s pained ambivalence and annoying ‘uncooperative’ spirit just when the wheels of the revolution against the evil dictatorship of President Snow and the Capitol, have already been set in motion – I couldn’t help but feel pangs of disappointment. I thought – and not that Katniss cared about what my thoughts are – she was being fickle-minded and selfish by hesitating to see the revolution down the wire. But then again, perhaps, I, too, am being unfair by denying her the right to be human and therefore be susceptible to feelings of doubt, self-loathing, and vulnerability. After all, I was not the one who was forced to kill and watch other tributes die in the most brutal way possible in order to save the people I love.

It turns out, I’m not alone in this. My friend Gail was just as disappointed with Mockingjay and having my feelings validated like that has officially killed whatever little excitement I still harbor for the once-anticipated climax.  But since I got the box set, I feel it would be doing my hard-earned money a disservice by not finishing the book – however long it would take me to read it because frankly, I am no longer psyched. Katniss and her emotional outbursts have become excruciatingly boring.

***

You know what else is brave and sexy? Having tested for HIV.  I hope all of you reading this post right now are not viewing my declaration with myopic eyes. Take away your predilection for sanctimonious behavior and self-righteousness just for a moment and instead, think of the staggering number of Filipinos now confirmed to have been infected by the virus and are consequently reeling  – if not dying – from its full-blown effect. The last thing they need is your coldhearted judgment or worse, apathy.

We live in dangerous times and the sooner we accept that, the smarter and more vigilant we will be in handling certain situations we still have control over. Like staying HIV and STI-free, for example.

Sexy and I know it!

Late last year, my dear friend Noel and I signed up for the HIV/AIDS seminar, after which, we got certified by the Department of Health (DOH) as peer educators or volunteers whose main vocation is to help spread knowledge and information about this dreaded virus and hopefully, prevent it from spreading far and wide. Sadly, if you go by statistics shared by the DOH and independent parties, the number of confirmed HIV cases is rising.  However, that can also be viewed positively (no pun intended) as perhaps having the shroud of ignorance and denial being lifted, little by little, which has resulted to more people getting tested and myths getting busted, i.e., AIDS is a gay disease (IT IS NOT!) – thanks to the small number of social-medical workers and volunteers who make it their mission to drum-up support for a vigilant HIV-prevention strategy coming from all sectors of the society.

With photographer and dear friend Noel Abelardo.

As volunteers, we share our two best and readily available resources: time and talent, for the purpose of advancing this noble mission. Take Noel, for example, who makes use of his great photography skills by conducting an open ‘themed’ photoshoot and sharing chunk of the proceeds with Take The Test and its various programs including free testing/screening, counseling, seminar, and certification.

In which Ian tries to make me look presentable for the lens. Napagod yata siya dun.

I just came from the second Official Take The Test Open photo shoot session and I am simply in awe of the volunteers who share so much of themselves, and selflessly at that. I am especially in awe of Atche and his commitment to this cause.

Remember, you aren’t brave or sexy enough if you don’t take responsibility for your sexual behavior.  Whatever you do, remember these five letters: A, B, C, D, and E.

A = Abstinence

B = Be Faithful

C = Consistent and Correct way of using condoms and other protection

D = Don’t do Drugs or drink alcohol

E = Early detection

Be guided by this 5-point rule book and save your own life and that of your loved ones.

***

In other (BREAKING!!!) news, FERNANDO ALONSO claims victory at the 2012 F1 Malaysia Grand Prix against all odds – especially Sergio Perez’s relentless pursuit of his Ferrari! This has got to be one of the best races I have ever seen and one I prayed hard for. So hard, in fact, that I almost reached for my bible and just clutch it really close to my heart. I know it sounds ridiculous but I’m really hoping this would be a Ferrari year. Okay, fine, an Alonso year. I really think he’s the best driver in F1 today and it’s unfortunate that his car is taking a while to adjust to levels where it can be considered worthy of going wheel-to-wheel with the McLaren and Mercedes cars.

Even today in Sepang, he had a bit of a tough time shaking off the relentless Sergio Perez who, by the way, is rumored to be on top of Ferrari’s shopping list for a Massa replacement. A long time coming for Massa, I would say. I can imagine his self-esteem taking a wild beating each and every time Alonso would outperform him – which happens to be all the time. Maybe it’s really time for him to pack his bags and let someone else take the Ferrari wheel. It’s painful to watch him being relegated merely as a charity case.

Oh would you look at that! Over a thousand words already and I did say I wanted to keep this short! Si Fernando Alonso kasi eh!  Anyway, I hope you guys had a fantastic weekend. Mine is superb on so many levels and not just because of today’s Take The Test activity and Alonso’s F1 victory.  If you would allow these few words of sharing: I am happy because finally, I can see God’s hand at work in my life and I am happy to finally be in a state of genuine gratitude and need for His presence.

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Take The Test!


So last Monday, in a move to drum up support for sexual health advocacies and increase awareness for HIV/AIDS and its perils, I invited my dear friend and social worker, Tony B., to give a 30-minute talk to the staff on the subject matter. He dished out hard truths and statistical data concerning the current state of sexual health in the country and they were truly sobering. And I mean sobering, even I had to do several double-takes.

Thank you Tony!

For example, did you know that the number of HIV cases in the country has reached astronomical levels, chances are, you know someone who has the virus without having to go all the way through six degrees of separation? That we are now inching closer to Thailand’s HIV record and that is in no way helping us given the many other socio-political challenges we are currently facing? That – and for this you may need to sit down, I think – women are, now more than ever, more promiscuous than men and the only difference is that they do NOT talk about it like men do?

The only silver lining we see here is that somehow, according to Tony, Philippines has better HIV support system (as) compared with neighboring countries battling the same problem. HIV-positive people can actually gain access to free medicine and other support systems just as long as (1.) They are AWARE, and (b.) They KNOW where to go. So you see, AWARENESS is crucial. Knowing is already winning half the battle. And mind you, having HIV is no longer synonymous to a death sentence in this day and age. But of course, that does NOT in any way, justify you carrying on with your risky and indiscriminate sexual behavior.

What’s the first step? Take the test – TODAY! Kudos to those who have taken a proactive and vigilant stance on this and actually submit themselves to HIV testing on a regular basis. For highly sexually active people, it is recommended that you get tested once a year, or more, if you have been rather naughty. I have had myself tested twice this year and there is NO shame in that. Like some people, I happen to like being in the know and this is where I want to be two steps ahead in the health game, no ifs and buts. Monogamy seems to have taken on a whole new twisted dimension, or so I’ve been told. Most of you may still be of a different opinion when it comes to the M word, but they say these days, when you are in a committed relationship and you have sex with another person BUT used protection, that still qualifies as monogamy. Pretty sad, huh? Imagine the unpretty, unpalatable scenarios now playing in my head, thanks to my overactive imagination and absolute lack of trust and faith in people. So, yeah, it’s not you, it’s definitely me – and my trust issues.:)

Here at work, we believe that knowledge, indeed, is power.:)

Going back to the talk, we are thankful to Tony for taking time out of his very busy social work schedule to drive home some very basic yet excessively serious points on sexual health and being responsible adults that unfortunately, we all tend to disregard or treat with a great deal of disinterest, sometimes.

At the end of his talk, 11 of us from work submitted ourselves for HIV rapid test (95.something percent accurate) and the test results came back non-reactive for all of us! Yey! Except for Noel and I, it was the first time for the rest of them to take the test and I’m just happy that they volunteered. Besides, HIV testing is not covered by our HMO and I heard it costs around 400 to 600 pesos to have it done in clinics – we only donated 100 each. Tipid, di ba?

11 out of 11 Passed!

On a serious note (as if the last 300 words or so were some form of jest, haha), I’m really encouraging you guys out there to take the  test. I mean, sure, you may be 110% confident about your monogamous ways BUT you can never be too trusting of your partner’s. You don’t know where that merchandise has been dipped into before coming home to your eager arms. Am I being too harsh and judgmental here? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever, trust your own instincts and protect yourself – at all times – because believe me, if there is one test you would want to pass with flying colors, HIV test would be it.

Lastly, glove up and lube up! There is no shame in that either.

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Note: EDITED to add this.

If you want to join the crusade for ZERO HIV infections; ZERO Discrimination; ZERO AIDS-related deaths, sign up for this race and visit the website here for a dose of fact and figures concerning HIV/AIDS.

Act NOW!