Tony, Tony

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Hey Tony,

I know we didn’t always see eye to eye, like when we were talking about the mandatory HIV testing a few years back, but we always agreed to disagree.

And I know I’d have difficulty understanding you when you speak (I believe I told you several times to speak slowly, and louder), but you’d get your message across somehow.

I know you’re not Filipino, but the way you cared for the positive community is never less than how and what other Filipinos have shown the community.

You spent countless hours helping those in prison and are in need of HIV & legal services, again, something not every other Filipino will do for his fellow Filipino.

Last year, you made a Facebook announcement about your cancer.  Today we learned about your passing.

I will miss you.  Especially how I would hide from you and I’d still bump into you, hehe.  Or our smoking/chat sessions outside the clinic, or at Starbucks in Shaw.  I will miss how you speak so passionately about how the services are and how they should be here in the country, and despite the lack (or absence) of some services, you would still relentlessly serve the community.

You are no saint.  But you sure as hell are a savior for many.

You are loved.

Thank you for gracing our community here in the Philippines.

 

 

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Dear Choi- for the last time

02.07.2019

Dear Choi,

So you never got to read the blog I wrote for you:  DEAR CHOI.

I was already home past 5 yesterday from a usual unproductive day at the office when I heard about your passing. It was expected, at least, I kinda expected it but somehow I was hoping otherwise.  The otherwise never came true. When I visited you at the hospital last weekend, I know I whispered and promised I was gonna bring you to an out of town activity, I guess I can’t fulfill that promise, eh?

So many posts on facebook and twitter about you.  People saying they were gonna miss you. People with whom you shared training classes and consultation meetings were sad.  Some were even texting me till 3-4 in the morning, asking the never-ending whys and what happened.  My only response was, “He died”.

Some posts caught my attention.

One was saying that you were strong and that you had so much support, the post was saying that you did not reach out for help. That your strength was what you used to make it through your darkest hours– alone.

One said that there are so many support groups and programs in the country, questioning why people would not utilize these services.

One stated you gave up.

So What really did happen?

I opted not to share any information with a lot of people simply because

(1) they haven’t been around to even have the slightest idea what’s going on with you (of course this is typical especially with people you helped before and disappeared afterward since they’re okay) 

(2) they knew you were in the hospital for weeks but never bothered to visit you (yeah, yeah. they’re busy and all…)

(3) they don’t even know you.

So what happened? You died.

But over and above what happened is what you went through.  People will never know what others go through– what you went through.  Did you fail to reach out to the support groups or did you simply opt not to reach out?   If you opted out, is this a failure of the health system and the HIV program? Others like you will follow, some may fail to reach out, some may not know how to reach out, or some may simply opt out.

You have done so much for the advocacy.   And you will be missed.

You have done so much for us whenever we needed a volunteer, and I will miss you. I will miss your two big front teeth, your lazy eyes, and the way you called me “kuya” while others (older than you) would call me Daddy.

Hey, I just received a message (a few secs ago) that a mass will be held for you tomorrow at the chapel, do accept my apologies as I am not comfortable with those kinds of things.

So this is it, eh? No more kuyas, no more crazy lazy eyes,  no more HIV screening activities, no more World AIDS Day, no more candlelight, no more with you.

Yeah, I know, I know, Choi will be with us forever, in our hearts, in our memories, and that BS.

But you and I know better.

Bye, dear Choi.

Love, Kuya

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Dear Choi

02.02.2019

Dear Choi,

When did we first meet? Grindr, eh? (And no further details about that, LOL).  We didn’t know each other from the advocacy and less than a week later, I saw you at the Pride March in drag. Eventually, our paths meet again, you were identified to be one of the CBS motivators and as a pre-requisite, you had to be trained as a counselor.

You applied with the city health unit under the Global Fund project and when you (and the city) told me that you were using me as your reference, you were already hired.  You had issues there and you had to leave in a few months’ time.

As a CBS volunteer, I was particularly irritated when you seem to have frequently lost your patients to treatment, I didn’t know why or what happened, but we never got the chance to sit down and talk about your issues.

Then we noticed something about you.

SUBSTANCE. (no not drugs)

During consultations, we noticed you talked with so much passion and you spoke your mind rather eloquently. You weren’t one of the seat warmers who would attend consultations and well, warm the seats the whole day and just wait for food to be served, and enjoy the hotel amenities.   Your presence in the social media was felt whenever you had to raise a voice for the community, or maybe correct a piece of wrong information about the advocacy.

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO

You were hospitalized. And up until today, we heard the news that you’re in critical condition. So what can we do, I asked.   They told me, we can just wait, pray and hope for the best.

SO CHOI…

You have given so much of your time and yes, your life for the community.  You have given and asked for nothing in return.   You have volunteered without asking if there would be any allowances in return. You have trained new CBS motivators pro bono.  You have spoken your mind out during consultations. You have joined us both in the Senate and the House of Representatives as we lobbied for the (recently signed) AIDS law.

You have done so much beyond the social media.

You have done so much behind the masks of alter-accounts.

Yes, Choi. You.

So if you get to read this, it means you’re doing better. It also means that you’re gonna be with us for more fights, more challenges, and more community works.

If not, well,  I won’t go there.

Not just yet.

I am still hoping. But my hope can only get me so far.  Your fight is yours alone.  But then who’s to say that there’s a fight going on, eh?

Thank you. I just want you to know that I’m grateful to have met you.

We love you.

 

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CD4: The Target

02.01.2019

There were times when I personally thought all the CD4 obsessions were just, well, obsessions.   Whenever people go below a hundred, people panic and I must admit, I have seen people at their worst when below a hundred.  I have seen people who didn’t seem to feel anything wrong despite their CD4 being below a hundred.  So I thought to myself, what’s the fuss?

Mindset.

Some people need to have a goal that’s easily quantifiable for them. An objective or a target, if you must, which may be reachable. A number to hit that will make them feel good. Something to feel fulfilled about.  For some, CD4 is a basis of success.

So when they hit 200, they want that 500-mark.  When they hit 500, why not go for that 1000-mark?

And there’s nothing wrong in having a prize to set our eyes on.

Maybe because I was never in the hole, I never quite understood what it meant for others.   Facts say what the importances of CD4 are.  But when someone is healthy and O.I. free, we want more.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more, especially if it concerns our health.

A stable CD may mean that our ARVs are immunologically working.  It also means that we’re able to fight off infections, and ultimately, it may also mean we’re able to live normal lives. (Let’s not go into the definition of normal lives at this point)

(An unstable CD4 is something you would want to talk to your doctor with.)

It’s nice to have a goal. Something that we want to achieve in the (near) future.  You and I have so many targets to look forward to — at work and in life– and these goals are what keep us striving to be better.  And yes, these goals are what keep people working hard for that higher CD4.

Mindset.  Whatever works for you works for you.

So if CD4 is what will make you feel better, then so be it.

I am hoping that CD4 is not the ultimate end goal.

But then it’s just me.

Yours is what matters.

 

 

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The Old You

01.25.2019

Dear Drew,

Do you remember the old you?

How did you use to spend the mornings when you were a kid?  Mostly in school? Would you wake up to a breakfast prepped by your mom? or maybe too lazy to get up for school?

How did you kill time in school? Were you the nerd type? or did you ever skip classes to go out with your friends?  Were you a bully? Were you bullied?

At night,  did you have a tutor coming over after school?  or was there a constant struggle between the telly and your homework? Would you come home on time? or mostly late after school?

Who chose your college course? Who decided which school and why that school?  Did you enjoy your course or did you get used to what you were doing?

What about your first crush? first love? first heartbreak? Weren’t all those bitter-sweet?

Your first job? Was it before, during or after college?

Your family? Closely knit or loose as hell?

These, and a lot more of your past, are all what make you YOU.  Something may have happened at some point that made us decide to be a so-called better version of ourselves, but that’s still you.  There’s no rule book to your being you not becoming a better or as you or others may have perceived, the best you.

The present you may be a lot better. But the present you may also be at its worst.  But this is you.

It would be nice to see how the old you turned out to be the now-you.   It would be nice to always look back and see how the old you seemed after all, was much simple, much less complicated, and much less worried.

But you see, the old you doesn’t define the present you. A more interesting question is who defines you. Or better yet, WHY DEFINE YOU?

You have been through hell and back, and you have dealt with the wrong so-called friends and lovers and yet, you kept on giving them that 2nd chance, the 3rd, 4th, and that’s neither the old nor the new you, that’s just WHO YOU ARE, the stubborn you.

So keep your head up. No matter how bad or good things are today, look back and be grateful for the things that came and went in your life.  No matter how seemingly opportunistic  some people are (like some infections), freeloaders are part of the food chain.  Besides, the stubborn you won’t get rid of them anyways, so what’s the use in telling you to kick ’em out of your life.

Look back because your old you has built you the way you are now.

Stay in the now. Cherish the moments, no matter what they are because the here and now will become part of the old you tomorrow.

Look forward to the future without fear because your now is a now full of love and pain that will make you more fearless in the days of your future.

Appreciate.  Keep.  Give.

 

 

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Unfriending. Unfollowing. Deactivating (But cannot)

01.16.2018

I have been itching for so many months now to deactivate my alter-facebook account since well, i’m pretty much out with my HIV status anyways and a lot of the positive community members have been my facebook friends on my personal account.

I have been thinking of unfriending people on facebook and unfollowing twitter guys, specifically those who would (1)flirt and expect to be treated like some prince(ss) knowing very well I have a partner, and they would afterwards ignore me, (2) character assassinate people, regardless of what they did, instead of addressing the issues (political, or advocacy), (3) go all self-righteous on all earthlings bec they suddenly became saints after being diagnosed with HIV, or they have been hurt (and fooled) so many times, or they have a partner now, and (4)simply be at their best being assholes and jerks.

But I can’t.  I am somehow being held back from doing so. I am rationalizing the fact that we would be facebook friends, or mutual followers on Twitter, for a reason.  And I may not know, yet, the reason, so I’m holding on to the connection.

Or maybe I have at one point helped you, and you’ve moved on (which is fine), but cutting the connection might mean you not being able to reach out to me should you need me.

Maybe I should be jerk instead and not care, eh?

 

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PODCASTS & HIV (and bored)

01.15.2019

My boyfriend likes listening to podcasts, he has a ton on his iphone and today, while bingeing on #spotify, I accidentally saw Talk About Gay Sex.  Of course, I won’t be able to listen to this the whole day while in the office (only bec I left my charger at home).

This is interesting.  Having a podcast that constantly talks about being an MSM, or the LGBT community, and HIV– in the Philippine setting.  I read in an email update that poz.com had a PLHIV podcast in 2018, quite not sure if it’s still there.  But it would be interesting how it would fare in the Philippines.  I’m sure that some wouldn’t even want to be seen listening to an HIV-related podcast knowing the kind of (self-)stigma we have here

Maybe we should have one.  I mean, @talkaboutgaysex literally talk about sex, being fucked, hooking up, sex toys, condoms and all that. Things we don’t here on mainstream around here.  Hmm…

I don’t know. Just thought about it.

And I’m bored at work,.

And i’m done with what I’m supposed to do.

And yeah, I’m bored.

 

 

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A World of Empathy

01.09.2019

It would be nice if the world were full of empathy.

Like one would put himself in the shoes of someone who:

  • steals because of the needs of his family and he has so long tried to look for a job but life is just not friendly enough
  • takes drugs because when he’s under, he feels calm and free; or when he’s high, he feels strong and invulnerable
  • does sex work because she needs to put food on the table, or simply because she wants to
  • judges people because he simply doesn’t understand what others are going through
  • feels that people say or do things with the right intention but it so happens that people sometimes use the wrong words, or are simply misinformed
  • takes pride in the limelight no matter how the light reflects on his image, thinking this is his way of spreading the right information
  • indiscriminately tells people that they are just not good enough, or they haven’t done anything good to and for others, not knowing how much others have put forward to help others
  • gives so much of himself and forgetting about his own self not because he doesn’t love himself enough, but because, maybe because, he just feels the need to give himself– his whole self– to that person; even if for others, he seems like a fool
  • loves without questions while the whole world is already questioning what he is doing, because for him,  loving is all about giving his all to the person
  • cries for others when others feel that he should not be crying for people who didn’t seem to have cared for themselves enough that they are now in deep shit
  • refuses to take the HIV test because they are afraid of being judged, stigmatized, and maybe, even afraid to know the truth; even if the world is saying that the truth will set him free, or will set him right for the future
  • does not take HIV meds because he feels that he’s dying anyways and he feels the need to focus on what matters to him most at this time, whatever these matters are; even if science is telling him that these meds, in the future,  will enable him to do better the things that matter to him
  • hates HIV positive people because they  feel people living with HIV deserve what they have; or maybe, everyone in the world deserves what they get in life

Won’t it be a perfect world?  Peaceful even?

No conflicts.  No arguments.  No pessimisms.

A world that cares so much it fails to care for itself.

Nah,  the fact is,  this is not how things are.  The world is perfect as it is — imperfect and flawed.   This is how we get to gain more strength, and wisdom.   It is with the people around us that we are honed to becoming the better versions of ourselves.

Bullshit. But true.

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YOU=YOU

01.08.2019

If you don’t have faith in yourself,

If you don’t believe in yourself,

If you don’t like yourself,

If you don’t love yourself,

If you don’t trust yourself,

Then why would others?

It’s you that matters.  Not them.

The world may have something to say.

People may judge you.

But you are all that matters.

Love yourself.  How ever you’d show love.  Love yourself.

 

 

 

 

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The Hole

01.07.2019

Paulo was walking around, minding his own business, enjoying his life.  Suddenly, he found himself in a hole.  The hole was so tight so he just stood still and did nothing.    Suddenly, it rained and the hole slowly started filling with water, and the man cried for help.  A counselor happened to be walking by and sat down by the hole. The counselor asked, “how does it feel to be in the hole?”

Paolo never thought about this so he started to think about how he felt — focusing on how he felt.  After what seemed like hours, the man stood up and said,  “Sorry, I have to go somewhere else and if you have time next week, and you’re still there, maybe we can talk…”

Paolo was frustrated and a doctor happened to be passing by; He asked the doctor for help and the doctor asked Paolo, “How does it feel to be in the hole? Was there ever a time when you weren’t in the hole?”  After 5 minutes, the doctor started writing a prescription and left it with Paolo.

Paolo was however still stuck in the hole and it was night time.  A guy passed by and Paolo asked him for help.

The guy said, “Alright.” and jumped into the whole.

Paolo asked, “Why did you jump? I’ve been here the whole day! How are we gonna get out?”

The guy said, “Well, I’ve been here before…”

 

You see, in life, we all have different holes.  That’s what essentially differentiates us. Whilst I may not fully understand your story, I fully understand my own.   I may not know what it’s like being you, but I have my own story to be able to emphatically relate to some elements of your story.

 

 

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