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.

***

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!

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Total Fitness: FIGHT FAIR


Total Fitness September 2011

Too often, we tend to treat those whom we are in a relationship with less respect than we do mere acquaintances. This is why disagreements between couples can turn very damaging with all the name-calling, finger pointing, and screaming. These emotional fights, if not managed well, might as well be the final straw that broke the camel’s back. That is why it is important for couples to learn the art of fighting fair, if they are so keen on finding solutions to problems, instead of giving birth to more.

1.  Identify the problem and avoid digging up past issues. During an argument, it is easy to fall into the trap of recalling every single wrong your partner has committed in the past, perhaps in an attempt to deflect attention from one’s own shortcomings. This type of behavior is counter-productive and makes problem-solving almost impossible because it only allows for problems to pile up, with no resolution in sight. You and your partner must ask yourselves what the problem really is and just concentrate on getting to the root cause of it, instead of digressing and finger pointing.

2. Hate the game, not the player. While going into a vitriolic verbal attack might seem to be the automatic course of action when at the height of frustration, the wisest move would still be for you to take a step back and choose your words carefully. By attacking your partner and not the issue at hand, you are putting him on the defensive – which could only spark an argument that is much bigger than what was initially on the table. Disagreements can and will always occur, especially in close-knit relationships, but you must always remember to go into it with the desire for amicable and fair resolution rather than exacting revenge or gaining control.

3. Be a good listener. You do not have the monopoly over problems and disagreements. In the same way that you want your partner to listen to you attentively, so does he. More often, our mind is already bursting with thoughts and rebuttal even before our partner has started talking. There is no way that a disagreement can be handled properly with this kind of behavior. To avoid monopolizing the discussion, experts suggest you try flipping a coin on who gets to talk first and each of you gets 3 minutes to air your side, and son on, until a compromise is reached.

4. State your needs and offer suggestions. Don’t just complain incessantly about the issues you have with your partner and leave it at that. Understand that your partner has needs and wants, too, and by focusing a little less about yourself and a little bit more on him, you may discover that most of your issues can be resolved by being unselfish about attention and love.

5. Sleep on it. We have been told many times to avoid, if possible, to go to bed angry with your partner. However, in some cases, it is also better to hold any emotional confrontation or discussion until there’s a better time to do so – not when tempers are flying all over the place or you are both too tired or too hungry to be reasonable and objective.

Running through all these tips is a common thread called mutual respect. At this stage in your relationship, both of you should already have invested enough love and respect in each other so as not to let disagreements fester and cause permanent damage.

 

Total Fitness: Slip-ups That Lead To Break-ups


***Published in TOTAL FITNESS Magazine August issue.

Relationships, even those with the brightest and most passionate of beginnings,  spiral downwards usually because of common and seemingly innocuous mistakes. Failed relationships are attributable to a lot of factors. It could be due to mistakes committed by you or your partner; it may even be due to external factors neither one of you have full control over.

For better understanding, these relationship hiccups exist in order for us to gain a better perspective on things and eventually grow as individuals in a committed relationship. Some of them are designed to be uncomfortable and time-consuming but that is not to say that we give up at the slightest hint of trouble.  There is nothing to be learned or gained in taking the safe, quiet route.

How the relationship survives  is directly proportional to the gravity of these hiccups. Has the relationship gone past the point of no return? How willing are you to stick it out during the toughest of times and work through the difficult conflicts to get to the other side? With the right desire and a good amount of willingness, even “the point of no return” can be but just a temporary perception.

But let’s look at the common mistakes first and then make a decision of whether or not we want out or still make an effort to win our Ex back. ***If you ask me, however, blue binning (recycling of an Ex) is a mistake one must avoid committing – at all cost. But then again, that’s just me.***

#1 – Do you put too much premium on your online relationship status? With the advent and off-the-charts popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, most couples have gone all-out in letting the whole universe know about every little thing that goes on in the relationship. Stuff like what you and your boyfriend had for dinner and how many times you had sex after that no longer shock people when they read it on various online forums (or fora).  But with this unrestricted openness comes a deluge of danger. By being so visible, you also render yourself and your relationship open to scrutiny and malicious attacks. Suddenly, the whole world has an opinion about your relationship and when the foundation is not that strong to begin with, the relationship falls apart so fast the next thing you know your relationship status has been altered to ‘Single’ from ‘In A Relationship’ and you have friends and strangers feigning sympathy for your sorry state.

#2 – Do you attach too much value on the superficial and lose sight of what your man really needs? Let’s face it, in today’s world where everyone seems to wake up every morning thinking of ways to look better than they did yesterday, it is so easy to lose oneself in the pursuit of things that look pretty and desirable on the surface. For most women, trying to decode men and their way of thinking has become an obsession that they end up doing things not according to what empowers them as a woman but according to how they will be perceived, accepted and loved by men. Most women commit the mistake of putting out or having sex on the first date and having multiple sexual partners because they think it’s a surefire way to get men to like them. So untrue! Men may be first and foremost visual (and sexual) creatures, but if you want to keep them, you have to have something more substantial on the menu. Brain and character, I believe, are what they’re called.

#3 – Do you expect your relationships to make you happy? We go into a relationship with the hope that it will bring us happiness, as they should. (Otherwise, what’s the point, right?) But sometimes, in our strong desire to be insanely happy, we fail to see that our idea of a happy relationship is NOT always shared by our partner. Some of us want to be together 24/7 but our partner wants to maintain some semblance of personal space.  And between the two, keeping and respecting each other’s personal space takes the cake anytime. This is how you grow as a person. This is how you get to know yourself better. A lot of people fall prey into the misguided idea that couples ought to share everything, even to the extent of having synchronised inhalation/exhalation. This is just the thing that will get you a one-way ticket to Splitsville. Before you can expect your partner or your relationship to make you happy, you have you make YOURSELF happy first.

Total Fitness: Self-Love Tips For A Better YOU


Total Fitness August 2011

American Psychologist and Educator Virginia Satir could not have  expounded on self love and appreciation better than this line she made famous — “I am Me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it — I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.”

Perhaps it is the way we look and express ourselves – soft, loving, nurturing – that makes us, women, the go-to soundingboard of our broken-hearted friends, troubled sisters or kids, and even our stressed-out and embattled boyfriends or husbands. Being a woman is almost synonymous to giving – until it hurts, sometimes. And because we are so focused on making the significant people in our lives happy and cared for, we tend to overlook our own happiness. As a result, we become obsessed with our search for the perfect boyfriend or husband – our bandaid solution to our inner emptiness. And often, this relationship we end up building with the ‘perfect’ boyfriend or husband fail because we have insufficient self love and have not exactly addressed the root cause of our internal conflict.

Learning to love yourself starts with a conscious decision which you yourself have to make. You have to decide to become happy and lead a fulfilled life. By not loving yourself enough and appreciating your own talents, skills, and physical attributes, you are selling yourself short and thereby making it impossible for you to grow into your full potential.

So if you have already made that decision, here are some steps that you can take in order to reach that level of self-appreciation before you can finally move on to building and developing meaningful relationships with others:

  1. Be Less Critical of Yourself. Sometimes, especially when we compare ourselves with our people, we tend to be too harsh in self-judgment. Committing mistakes and making bad calls or judgments are but natural and we need not berate ourselves every single time.
  2. Trust Yourself and Acknowldge the Efforts You Put Into Any Project or Undertaking. Life is not all about winning all the time. Sometimes, you should learb to appreciate the effort and time you gave to a project even when it did not exactly produce the great results to had in mind. You have the ability to improve and do better – think of that when you set out to re-do the project or embark on a new one.
  3. Cultivate Your Creative Side. When things get a little bit too much for you to handle, take a step back, breathe, and find time to explore things that feed your creativity. Check out art, dance, writing or photography classes. Sometimes the limitations we face are the ones we created ourselves. Break out of the mould and do something creative with your time. You’ll be surprised by the results you will get when you try.
  4. Cultivate A Grateful Spirit. Learn how to say ‘thank you’ sincerely. Sometimes in our haste and preoccupation, we just let well-meaning compliments sail on by. In other cases, we try to sidestep compliments or downplay it because we don’t want to call too much attention to ourselves and what we believe to be just menial accomplishments. Be grateful and say thank you.
  5. Look After Your Body. And believe in your heart that today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll be ever again. Stop harming your body by smoking, drinking, and emotional eating. Treat your body with respect, love, and care – that’s the only way you can get others to treat you the same.

Men’s Health September 2011: WIN THE DATING GAME


It is a shame that most men don’t know a single thing when it comes to approaching women properly, because it is so easy if done in the right frame of mind – and with a great game plan as a follow-through. The approach should be an enjoyable experience for you and the girl that you are going to meet. Unfortunately, few men have the ability to give women that thrill and excitement that they’re looking for whether at a club, the cinema, sports event, or on the beach.  Much more often, women get approached by guys who make them feel uncomfortable and cause their “force fields” to rise up and palms ready to connect with the face of the next obnoxious guy.

Full story on page 86.

Let’s face it guys, most of you need to get seriously clued-in when it comes to the art of seducing women.  And so, with the help of some of my friends, let me walk you through the proper ways of approaching women in select places. But first, let’s get one thing clear: Do not get sucked into thinking that you can only find girls to date when you’re out at a party or at the bar. They’re on the street, in a store, in class, the cinemas, and nearly everywhere you go. All you have to do is play close attention and get your game on.

Awww, thanks Peejo!:)

***To read the full story, grab a copy of this month’s issue of Men’s Health magazine with Phil Younghusband on the cover.

I Am 32 Flavors…and then some.


So here’s the deal.

I have tried to delay it for as long as I could but with only two days left, I’m better off embracing the inevitable. At the stroke of midnight on the 21st, I would have officially abandoned the calendar age. Andy, one of the superstars in my department, said 32 is the new 23. I say, that’s exactly what someone who obviously would rather stop ticking her age off a calendar, bingo card, or lotto ticket would say. So, let’s see. I am 32 and at this point, really, there aren’t a lot out there that would thrill me still. At least, not the ones I would consider to be well within the bounds of reason. I mean, yeah sure, a Ferrari (only because of Fernando Alonso, otherwise, an Audi or Mercedes would be just as nifty) would cause me to pass out for half a second but is that something I can afford? Na-uh. Sure, an impromptu month-long adventure to the wondrous Galapagos Island would cause me to pass out half a second longer but again, something I cannot afford. Not yet. So, no, I am not going to do a birthday wish list as I had gotten used to in the past. I don’t get all my wishes anyway – but that’s not the point.

The point is, I think this time, I will do a Birthday’s Resolution. I already have a few off the top of my head so let’s get right down to it, ya?

1. Read one book per week and it starts right about now. I won’t set parameters on genre. It can be anything from serious lit to chicklit. I have been wanting to read Shakespeare and Homer but have always seriously feared I would be proven intellectually inept. But this time, I will not let my silly doubts get in the way. I have always loved books and there was a time (and this kind of stretched for a long period) when I would literally forego eating or showering on weekends because I just got to the good part and once there, of course, I’d want to read it all the way through until the very last page. FYI, I do not stink. Yes, not even with those missed showers in the past.

So I guess I will have to start with this. I’ve had this book since December of 2008. Quite a trip that month and year was. Oh but anyway, for some reason, I couldn’t seem to get past the ‘Natural Philosophers’ which was somewhere only in the second chapter. Not that I’m dimwitted or anything like that – well, I pretend to be sometimes when I’m really annoyed by the person talking- it’s just that I have this habit of reading 2 or 3 books at the same time. Not simultaneously, of course, but I normally would have a bedtime book, a bathroom book, and one that I read in the office or when I’m traveling. And usually, one would be more interesting than the other and I would end up finishing that one first. And then I would sorta forget where I was in the other book so I would go all the way back to page one and then I will maybe pick up another book and, well, it goes on and on like that.

Bookworm Chronicles Week 1

2. Turn myself into a fat-burning machine. I think I have made some good progress in this department so far and it’s now really more of just having a sustainable game plan to make sure I stay a size zero until I pop one – or two – out in the future. With that, I think it goes without saying that I will be blogging ‘Insanity this, Insanity that‘ or ‘Running an ultra here, running an ultra there‘ or ‘Testing this treadmill and all sorts of workout equipment‘ more than I have ever said so in the past. Don’t ask me why I am doing all these things, I do not have a profound answer. I just want to look good. Extremely good.

3. Say Thank you and I’m sorry more. I am not an ungrateful witch and I certainly know how to say Thank You and mean it but I feel I’m not doing it enough. Not verbally, at least. At times I assume a grateful smile or hug would be enough but having those two words uttered in your direction – especially when complemented with a smile and a good hug – is still quite something. Ditto with ‘I’m Sorry’. In fact, this is something I fail to do more than expressing my gratitude. I don’t know but I find it too difficult to acknowledge and own up to my mistakes sometimes. It’s pride in its most evil context at work here, I know. Hence, the birthday resolution.

4. Stay out of trouble. Especially the kind that cause others hurt and despair, even unknowingly. And especially, never maliciously. This also goes so (or should it be ‘as’? Oh grammar, please be a pal!) far as me finally activating my filter. So far, I think I have been practicing restraint in the things that I say and write about but I can maybe do a wee bit more. Let’s see, because usually, when I am angry, I spew vitriol. And more of same for a good long while. I can seriously keep at it until I’m exhausted. NOT. GOOD. AT. ALL

5. Avoid eating four-legged animals and especially not the exotic ones. I don’t think I will ever become a full-fledged vegetarian but I will now only eat just fish and chicken. I was never a beef-eater anyway so it’s really just pork that I am turning my back on – for eternity. Besides that, I can’t think of any as I am not really that adventurous when it comes to meat. I have tried a sliver of crocodile meat maybe two years ago in Boracay when my friend coaxed me into trying it and I didn’t think it was anything special. And last year, my boyfriend got me to try lamb for my birthday dinner and I didn’t think it was all that either. No offense, but I’m just that daring when it comes to food. I am pretty basic. No fuss, no frills kind of girl. Kind of a major dreamboat, really. hahaha. Anyway, to those whom I shall be sharing meals with from here on in, never – I repeat, NEVER – cajole me into eating anything other than those two. Unless, of course, you fancy the thought of having them hurled at your face. No, not really. Vegetables and fruits? Bring it on!

6. Learn how to swim. I know I keep saying this to the point that even I am getting sick and tired of hearing myself say it BUT I am going to learn how to swim before 2011 is up. Just you wait and see.

7. Take care of my skin more. Which means, more sunblock for me even when not going to the beach. Now might also be a good time for me to start picking up (my) slack in the facials department. It’s not cute for someone my age to still be sporting a zit or two on days when looking pretty and fresh-faced would have actually served me better. Not that the opposite of pretty was ever an alternative, but whatever, you do get what I mean ya? I was just never the facials kind of a girl. In fact, I have not exactly been meticulous with facial care that I’m paying for it now. I mean, hello, crow’s feet and wrinkles?!?

8. Ahhh, Bataan Death March 102 in 2012. Now this should be very interesting. I mean, after all the long runs I have participated in, this is what it will come down to – One hundred and two kilometers under extremely hot weather conditions. I have already enlisted some of my friends’ support on this one. I just need to enlist my knees and shins, too, while I’m at it. These two seem to have taken quite a beating these past two years that I have been attacking roads and trails, albeit, on and off.

9. Be a little less impatient and intolerant of things and people I cannot change. Ahhh, the cause of my eternal downfall if I don’t do something about it. Like now. I used to be able to stretch my patience and tolerance a little bit farther before but lately, I have been failing miserably. One word and I blow my top. One look and I lose it. Wrong spelling? Mispronunciation? P&F, V&B syndrome? Ugly shirt? Oh you are gonna get it from me! And it’s usually the smallest things that tick me off. Big time. Could be it age-related? Or have I simply lost my sense of humor somewhere between 20 and 30? And if so, I would really like to get it back. I remember, not too long ago, I used to be funny. You know, like tickle-me-silly-Elmo kind of funny. Now, I am just dripping with sarcasm and condescension. And I’m not proud of it – at least not all the time, no, but I do get a perverse sense of satisfaction out of it! That’s really not funny, isn’t it? I’m sorry.

10. Resolve to get all those nine things listed above DONE! Need I say more? Not a peep required, right? Good. It seems common sense is still fairly common – contrary to popular belief.

Aaaand on that note I say, Happy birthday you silly woman, you!

Total Fitness: The BREAK-UP Guide


NOTE: Published in this month’s issue of TOTAL FITNESS magazine. Grab a copy TODAY!

***

Who made the rule that you have to be friends with your Ex? No, seriously, how can two people who, at one point, shared everything in their lives –both emotionally and sexually, to the complete extent–ever break out of that mould and erase the past and pretend like it never happened? Some people manage with ease and élan, but some are just unable to.

I remember a very long time ago when R and I broke up, I often wondered ‘How can I be “friends” with him, when even now, when I’m not in love with him anymore, some part of me flinches to see him looking so good and taking this whole thing better than I ever could? How can I be friends with him, when he has successfully ruined my last three flings, because all of those guys looked at me and said,“Um…are you still hung up on your Ex?” How do I explain to people, that it is not because I am “into” him per se, it’s just that for a year and a half, he was the most important person in my life. He was my best friend, with benefits. We shut out everyone else, just being with each other. That he and I were like some stupid packaged deal that you cannot have one without having the other as well? And I hate that he’s able act all “Oh, I’m so over you” around me, and I turn into this completely different person, who’s being snarly and bitchy and picking fights for no reason at all. I might as well just paint myself red and run around waving a sign, saying “Remember me? I used to be your girlfriend. We used to date.”

That was six years ago and contrary to what my broken little heart feared before, my life did not end.  In fact, shortly after the proverbial bruise has disappeared and my ego has had a chance to repair itself, I woke up in a place where flowers are much more vibrant, the air a lot fresher, and dreams are much closer to reality.

Most of us who dare to love and make a decision to cast all else aside, are never spared from the lashings of a break-up – any break-up. When we are in a relationship, we tend to conduct our lives in a certain pattern or structure and this goes on for what seems like ages that when things finally come to a halt, we feel a great deal of pain and desolation. But usually, the pain is due to the fact that we suddenly have so much time in our hands that we don’t know what to do with – no more going to the gym together; no more candlelit dinners during anniversary and birthdays; no more hanging out with other couple friends, and yes, no more sex with the same person night after night after night.

Face it, the inevitable has arrived. You are no longer in a relationship and the sooner you accept that; the sooner you allow yourself to look past the hurt and wish the other party well, the better and stronger you will be. Getting over an Ex, especially if the relationship was the most intense you have had yet, can be a long and arduous process – but you will get there. Now to make sure you don’t self-destruct, here are some tips you can apply post-break-up:

  1. Find A Good Distraction. Go ahead, mull over the relationship and its demise, but NEVER obsess about it. If it ended, there must be a good reason why and there is no use trying to relive the good days over and over again in your head. So he now has someone new and it hurts like open-heart surgery without anaesthesia — but you have to move on. How to do this? Take on a new hobby. Start a blog. Get active in sports and group activities. Feed your creative side by reading great literary works or dabbling a little in poetry and prose.
  2. Keep Your Space and Ditch Memory Triggers. Usually, after a break-up, we go through the ‘We used to’ phase – ‘We used to come here every Saturdays’ ‘We used to shop here a lot’ – and it’s very normal. What is abnormal is when you insist on clinging to memory triggers:  Little gifts, dried-up flowers, and framed photos that you put on display on top of your office desk or the corner table in your bedroom, forming a little altar of love begone. See that trash bin over there? Use it! And while we’re on the subject, STOP CYBERSTALKING YOUR EX. Terrible idea.
  3. Love Yourself and Embrace Your Inner Goddess! So he dumped you for someone else – or a new toy (Don’t laugh, it can happen. A toy or hobby can sometimes be just as good a substitute to a tiresome lover!) big deal. Whatever she looks like, never use it as an excuse to wallow in self-pity and think yourself unattractive and unlikeable. You are beautiful and someone is dying to be with you. Keep your options wide open and don’t shut people out.
  4. Deal With the Hate Phase Positively. 9 out of 10 breakups are antagonistic, no matter how the splitting parties try to make it appear amicable. If the reason for the break-up is infidelity or betrayal of trust, expect rage to be boundless. But sooner or later, this phase will come to pass – unless you or your partner are chronically vindictive. Nonetheless, you should find a way to channel that hatred and rage. Be open to your friends about your feelings or write about it. By unburdening yourself of negativity, you are that much closer to achieving catharsis.
  5. Do NOT Rethink Your Decision…especially when break-up is caused by one party’s infidelity. It is very common for people to turn messianic thinking you can save that person from himself and if you find yourself going down that road, STOP and RUN the opposite direction! You wouldn’t want to be sitting in the front row for the re-run, believe me.