There were two major candlelight memorial activities in Quezon City last week. Unfortunately, the two groups were not able to agree on merging their events into one and so, we had two.
May 16th Candlelight
This one was spearheaded by Pinoy Plus in coordination with the Philippine National AIDS Council. I got there as a mother spoke of how her son fought AIDS-related complications and eventually succumbed to the complication. I was bothered however by the lady who was laughing (probably about something else, I hope) standing behind the emotional mother. All the same, I tried to focus my attention on what the mother was saying, especially how she and her son would be excited every time they were coming in for confinement.
The host kept saying the “kilt” so I had my attention on the program on what the host was referring to. I was thinking of the knee-length skirt-type thing.
And it dawned on me. The QUILT. Oh, the quilt. It was an emotional segment of the program but was distracted by people going down on their knees to take selfies by the quilts – smiling and enjoying the photo shoot!
Then my attention was drawn to a group of three young men who were silently standing over one of the quilts. I extended my neck to see what they were doing and they drew a smile off of me as they made the sign of the cross (how do you call that?). They were praying. It drowned out all the distractions around me as I faintly smiled and went on with my business.
The Candles around the Quilt.
Some of the candles lit around the quilts were blown out by the wind, I kneeled over to light a few of the candles back. The wind blew harder and the lights went out again. I tried to rekindle the lights and was glad to see some standing strong against the wind.
I suddenly stayed still as I realized. The candles were like my kids in the community, I (and the others) would try to rekindle them but the wind would bring them down from time to time. Then the point comes when they are able to stand the wind and stay lit.
I smiled. Stood up and went back to my friends.
We left. The minute I got home, I lit a couple of candles for a few friends who died in 2014.
May 18th Candlelight
This candlelight was staged by the Project Red Ribbon in coordination with the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine – AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG). I came in a few hours late as I had to go to the Mass testing activity of Loveyourself some 45 minute-drive away. i know that same day, we had simultaneous candlelight events happening in Cebu, Western Visayas & Cagayan De oro City.
We walked in and witnessed some activists talking about LGBT rights, and then I noticed, the event was also intended for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. There was a Parade of Colors afterwards followed by the candlelight.
There were no quilts. TRR made sure they had the exact number of candles to represent those who died from AIDS-related conditions, as the candles were spread out across a red ribbon.
There weren’t much distractions. I did not come close to the ribbon as I knew I would be emotional. I instead dragged a friend over to a nearby tree and smoked. And cried on his shoulders.
As I cried, my friend told me,
Haven’t you gotten used to all the deaths around you?
And I said,
I refuse to get used to deaths without justice, without a fight. Deaths without the information that could have saved them is sheer injustice.
I know, I know. I can only do so much. I always get that. Always.
Back to reality
We went back to the group and said our goodbyes. I went home.
I had a lot of things running through my mind immediately after both candlelight events. Did everyone really understand what was happening? Did the quilt serve to inspire others? Does it matter that people understood and the we can just hope that we drive people to eventually understand what’s happening? Did we do the candlelight for the right reasons? Is there such a thing as a “right reason”?
I’m never gonna get answers.
For me, so long as the event touched ONE life somewhere somehow, the rest does not matter anymore