Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Jay Fernando - Manunulat, Tagataguyod

Ni: Ruben Jay Alvarez

Mamulat tayo sa mga kulay at talinghaga ng mga karanasan ng isang manunulat, tagapagsalaysay, alagad ng sining, at LoveYourself volunteer na si Jay Fernando.


Sinong mag-­aakala na ang isang batang nangangarap maging dalubhasa sa siyensya ay magiging isang alagad ng sining sa kasalukuyan?
Habang hinihintay ko ang aking kapapanayamin, umupo muna ako sa isang bakanteng silya sa tapat ng aking kasamang si Mickey at nagisip ng kung ano ba ang dapat kong itanong sa kanya. Maulan ang hapon ng Martes at wala masyadong tao sa Detoxify Bar kaya naman yun ang napili naming pagdausan ng aming panayam.
Pagdating ni Jay ay umupo na agad siya sa tabi ko at kapansin­-pansin ang pulang scarf na nakabalot sa kanyang leeg. Tipikal kay Jay ang magsuot ng maluluwag na kasuotan dahil mas komportable siya sa ganitong istilo ng pananamit.
Si Jay ay isa sa mga volunteer ng Love Yourself at kasalukuyang manunulat ng mga teleseryeng pinapalabas sa ABS­-CBN.
Ang Mahirap Na Panimula
Parehong nagkaroon ng karamdaman ang mga magulang ni Jay at ito ang naging dahilan kung bakit nahirapan ang pamilya nila sa aspetong pinansyal. Dahil sa kanyang mga dinaranas, minabuti na lang ni Jay na manatili sa silid-­aklatan ng Philippine Science High School (Pisay) at magbasa ng mga librong hindi madalas nababasa gaya ng mga librong tungkol sa Literature at Philosophy. “Halos wala ako masyadong kaibigan at dahil sa mga hirap na pinagdaanan namin sa buhay, lagi akong nasa silid-aklatan ng Pisay,” wika niya.
Hindi naging madali ang paglaki ni Jay bilang isang bata lalo nang pumanaw ang kanyang mga magulang. Dito siya nakaramdam ng matinding lungkot at pangungulila. Kaya mga libro ang naging kaibigan ni Jay at nahilig siya sa pagbabasa.
Pakiramdam niya may mga totoong katauhan sa mga kwentong kanyang binabasa at nagkakaroon siya ng kakaibang ugnayan sa mga ito.

Naging malaking impluwensiya ang pagkahilig ni Jay na magbasa sa pagkapukaw ng kanyang interes sa pagsusulat. Bata pa lang siya ay mahilig na siyang magsulat at gumawa ng kwento dahil ito ang naging takbuhan n’ya tuwing nakaramdam ng lungkot. “Ang pagsusulat ang tumulong sa akin upang lagpasan ang mga hirap na dinanas ko sa buhay.”
Pero biro nga niya, mahilig din siyang gumawa ng mga kwentong barbero o gawa-gawa lang n’ya na may mga naniniwala.
Mula sa Agham patungong Sining
Sa Pisay nag­hayskul si Jay at isa sa mga patakaran ng paaralan upang maipagpatuloy ng mga mag­aaral ang kanilang scholarship pagtungtong ng kolehiyo ay dapat kumuha sila ng kursong may kinalaman sa agham or Science courses gaya ng Engineering, Biology, Chemistry at iba pa. Ilan sa mga napupusuan ni Jay ay ang Robotics Engineering, Physics, at Forestry.
Nakapasa si Jay sa kursong Forestry sa UP Los Baños, ngunit naisip ng kanyang nakatatandang kapatid na baka mahirapan siya sa layo ng paaralan.
Napag­desisyunan niyang kunin na lamang ang pangalawang kursong pinili niya at ito ay ang Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino sa UP Diliman. Hindi lingid sa kaalaman ni Jay na mawawala ang scholarship niya mula sa DOST (Kagawaran ng Agham at Teknolohiya), ngunit pinili pa rin niyang ipagpatuloy ang kursong sa tingin niya ay magbibigay sa kanya ng kaligayahan.
Aminado si Jay na nag­-excel naman siya sa kursong napili. Sa edad na labing-siyam, nakamit ni Jay ang unang pwesto para sa “Future Fiction in Filipino” ng Palanca Awards. Sumali rin si Jay sa mga National Writing Workshop at ito ang nagbigay ­daan sa kanya upang makapag­trabaho sa ABS­-CBN sa edad na dalawampu. Naging una niyang proyekto ang “Mangarap Ka” na pinagbidahan nina Piolo Pascual at Bea Alonzo at hanggang ngayon ay nasa parehong kumpanya pa rin sya at kasalukuyang Creative Manager ng iba’t-ibang teleserye na napapanuod gabi­-gabi.
“Kung ako ang tatanungin kung ang mga manunulat ay nilikha o isinilang, sa tingin ko ang mga manunulat ay talagang isinilang.” Naniniwala siya na ang talento sa pagsusulat ay nakatanim sa puso ng isang tunay na manunulat; hindi lamang manunulat kundi isang tagapagsalaysay o alagad ng sining.
Si Jay, Ang Kanyang Madla, at ang Kanyang Tungkulin.
Habang hinihigop ni Jay ang kanyang fruit shake, binalikan niya muli ang kanyang ugnayan sa kanyang mga naging kaibigan – ang mga aklat na kanyang nabasa sa Pisay. Sa pagbabasa, alam niya na may mga taong nagkaroon ng karanasan na tulad ng sa kanya, na nagdaan sa parehong emosyon at pagsubok o kaya’y nakahihigit pa.
“Kahit hindi ko sila kilala, nagkakaroon ako ng ugnayan sa kanila dahil nagdaan kami sa halos parehong pagsubok at landas sa buhay.”
“Ang aking madla o panauhin ay mga taong handang makinig at may pakialam sa aking kwento,” dagdag pa niya.
Naniniwala si Jay na kung sinuman ang kanyang mga tagapakinig, handa siyang maging gabay ng mga ito sa pamamagitan ng kanyang mga isinulat.
Naramdaman ko ang dedikasyon ni Jay sa kanyang obra, at natuklasan kong mas binigyan niya ng diin ang kanyang tungkulin sa kanyang sining kaysa sa kanyang manunuod. Ngunit hindi niya winawaksi ang katotohanan na may tungkulin rin siyang dapat gampanan para sa kanyang taga­subaybay.
“Alam ko ang tungkulin ko sa aking audience, ngunit ang tungkulin ko talaga ay more on my material, towards the story that I am telling. Dapat ito ay totoo, walang kasinungalingan, emosyunal, at naisulat nang may pagmamahal.”
Naninindigan si Jay sa kanyang obra, kaya naman alam niya kung kailan ito totoo at hindi. Hindi niya hinahayaan na manipulahin ninuman ang kanyang isinusulat, dahil naniniwala siya na dapat ang kwento ay magkaroon ng sariling buhay.
Kadalasang tema ng mga sinusulat ni Jay ay buhay at pag-­ibig na umiikot sa pamilyang Pilipino. Mga kwentong sumasalamin sa pagsasakripisyo sa ngalan ng pagmamahal. “Naniniwala ako na sa buhay ng tao, pagmamahal ang isa sa pinakamahalaga. Pag nagmahal ka, doon mo mas makikilala ang sarili mo,” ani Jay.
Nais niyang maisabuhay ng mga bida sa kanyang kwento na kaya ng sinuman ang magtaya ng lahat para sa pag­ibig, sapagkat ito ang katotohanan sa labas ng telebisyon.
Ang Pagsulat at ang Adbokasiya
Dumadaloy sa dugo ng pamilya ni Jay ang pagiging makabayan at likas na matulungin sa kapwa. Ibang kaligayahan ang  naidudulot nito sa kanilang magkakapatid. Ang kanyang ate ay isang Project Manager sa Ayala Foundation na tumutulong sa mga guro na mas maging epektibo sa pagtuturo lalo na sa mga liblib na lugar. Ang kanyang bunsong kapatid naman ay ang Lead of Implementation ng CHED para sa K-12 Program.
“Pag naguusap-­usap kami, sila, they share yung mga ginagawa nila para sa ibang tao, ako ang tangi ko lang nasasabi ay ‘marami akong kilalang artista.’ So parang nainggit ako. Gusto ko rin gumawa ng mga bagay para sa lipunan,” aniya. “Bilang manunulat, hindi ko direktang naapektuhan ang aking madla. Maaari kong ma-­influence yung pananaw nila sa pag-­ibig, pamilya, buhay pero walang direct physical connection kumpara sa mga karanasan ng mga kapatid ko,” dagdag pa niya.
Gaya ng maraming volunteer ng Love Yourself, si Jay ay mayroon ding mga kaibigan na PLHIV (people living with HIV). Napagtanto ni Jay na isa sa kanyang moral na obligasyon ang tumulong bilang ito ay napapa-lapit na sa kanilang tahanan. Para sa kanya, isang imoralidad ang pananahimik sa isang krisis na alam niyang lumalala at pumapatay sa lipunang kanyang kinabibilangan. Sa kadahilanang ito, naghanap si Jay ng isang organisasyon upang makapag­bahagi siya ng panahon upang tumulong.
Sa pamamagitan ng dalawa niyang kaibigan, natagpuan niya ang Love Yourself. Nang marinig pa lang niya ang pangalan ng organisasyon, alam na niya na ito na ang hinahanap  niya, dahil sa ideya ng “loving yourself”. Ayon sa kanya, sa lahat ng love stories na kanyang naisulat, ang pagmamahal sa sarili ang naging puno’t dulo ng mga kwentong ito.
If there’s an underlying message other than the virus, it is more of like loving who you are and accepting who you are and maybe that is where the real healing happens.
Ang TV at ang Adbokasiya ng HIV
Malaki ang papel na kayang gampanan ng TV at midya sa pagpapalaganap ng impormasyon tungkol sa mga bagay na napapanahon. Subalit ayon kay Jay, ang TV (drama) ay wala masyadong ambag padating sa usaping HIV sa kadahilanang hindi pa handa ang madla sa ganitong uri ng paksa. “Yung madla kasi na pinagsisilbihan natin, hindi naman natin maikakaila na masyado pang konserbatibo kaya hindi pwede ang forced entry. Though I have tried pitching [stories about PLHIV] pero [it seems that] the market is very niche.”
Ayon kay Jay, may nagagawa naman ang midya pagdating sa pagpapalaganap ng impormasyon tungkol sa HIV at ito ay makikita sa mga balita. Bukod dito, naniniwala siya na marami pa ang magagawa at pwedeng magawa. “Makapangyarihan kasi ang teleserye lalo na sa pamilyang Pilipino kaya umaasa pa rin ako na balang araw magkaroon ng karakter na PLHIV sa mga teleserye upang mabawasan at tuluyang mawala ang stigma”.
Ayon sa kanya, may kakayahang mag­sibol ng panibagong kaalaman at ideolohiya ang teleserye at kung magkakaroon ng karakter na PLHIV, magiging malaking hakbang ito sa mundo ng telebisyon. Ang nakikita na lamang niyang balakid ay ang kahandaan ng mga manunuod sa ganitong pagganap.
Bilang parte ng creative team, handa raw ang management na magkaroon ng ganitong paksa ngunit isa sa mga pagsubok nila ay kung sino ang magsasabi na handa na ang madla. Isa itong madugong proseso pero hindi nawawalan ng pag­-asa si Jay na sa hinaharap ay magiging katanggap-­tanggap sa pamilyang Pilipino ang istoryang tumatalakay sa HIV. Naniniwala rin si Jay na ang HIV ay isang collaborative effort na dapat ay napag­-uusapan sa paaralan at iba pang institusyon upang maging handa ang mga manunuod sakaling ito ay ipalabas na sa telebisyon.
Buhay Volunteer

Sa mahigit isang taon ni Jay bilang isang volunteer sa Love Yourself, pakiramdam niya ay natupad niya ang kanyang adhikaing makatulong sa kapwa. Sa palagay niya ay nagkaroon siya ng pagkakataong makipag­ugnayan sa ibang tao. Nasubukan na rin naman niya ang magpa­test kaya alam niya ang nakakakabang proseso nito, kaya ang maging gabay ng ibang tao ay isang pribilehiyo para sa kanya. Ang magkaroon ng pisikal na koneksyon sa ibang tao ay isa sa mga gustong gawin ni Jay ngunit hindi lang iyon ang tangi niyang magampanan. Nais niya rin maging instrumento sa pamamahagi ng kaalaman tungkol sa HIV.
Miyembro rin si Jay ng Communications Committee ng Love Yourself at naniniwala siya na marami ang mga hakbang na kailangan pang tahakin. Para sa kanya, ang HIV at AIDS ay isang communications issue. Ang pagbibigay ng tamang impormasyon sa mga tao sa pamamagitan ng counselling and education gamit ang social media ay isa sa mga tinututukan ni Jay.
Malaki umano ang papel ng social media sa pagpapalaganap ng impormasyon at ang organisasyon ay mas nagiging popular sa pagtaguyod ng adbokasiya. Gamit ang social media, kinakailangan ng organisasyon na maging mas responsable sa mga aksyon na gagawin nito at matugunan agad ang mga pa-bagu­bagong pangangailangan ng kasalukuyang lipunan.
Masaya si Jay sa natatamong pagtanggap sa Love Yourself sa pagsulong ng HIV advocacy sa bansa, ngunit alam din niya na mas malaki ang magiging responsibilidad ng organisasyon,di lamang sa mga taong gusto malaman ang kanilang HIV status, kundi sa lipunang ating kinabibilangan.

Kaya naman, tinatanaw na utang na loob ni Jay ang pagkakataong ibinigay sa kanya ng Love Yourself upang makapag­lingkod at makatulong sa kapwa.

Litrato: Mickey Jamias


Ang LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight ay isang feature na linlalathala kada buwan tungkol sa taglay na volunteerism ng mga miyembro ng LoveYourself. Makakapanayam namin ang mga samu’t saring volunteers na may iba’t ibang mga pinanggagalingan at kuwento, ngunit nagkakaisa sa isang layunin. Mangyaring balikan kada buwan ang aming mga kuwento upang makilala ang mga mukha ng LoveYourself.

Kayo ba’y napukaw sa tapang at pagtataya ng aming mga volunteers? Hinihikayat namin kayong mag-like sa aming Facebook  page at tulungan kami sa paglaganap ng mensahe ng optimismo at self-worth (o kaya’y pagmahahal sa sarili) sa sarili niyong mga komunidad upang makatulong laban sa paglaganap ng HIV.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

HIVisions - Saving the world is risky business: Self-care for HIV/AIDS advocates

By Jan Gabriel Castañeda

The HIV crisis has gone on for four decades, and for four decades the world has struggled against it. Doctors, scientists, educators, policy makers, writers, artists -- people of all walks and all colors have, in their own ways, sought to make sense of this crisis and its relationship with society. From citizens to states, from medicine to prayer, from cures to cries for reform, people’s visions of how to respond to the crisis are as diverse as the people who bear its scars. The goal of this series is to give you a glimpse of these visions: the roles people of different passions and disciplines have played in this crisis that, as of March 2016 as recorded by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, is infecting 25 Filipinos daily.

To call compassion a dangerous temptation is a little odd, but it is something every advocate understands well. It’s the temptation to give without restraint, moved by the moral compulsion to serve a higher purpose and the natural high that comes with generosity. To give, after all, is the noblest of human works – and gratitude, the noblest of all intoxicating substances. And while advocacy is preferable to drug use (isn’t it?), the risks that come with sacrificing yourself for social change can be just as daunting.

In the counseling setting, we find that each case brings their own challenges, each new therapeutic relationship coming with their own world to explore. For clients who have taken it upon themselves to save the world, their experience as advocates evokes a mix of feelings that at once fascinates and terrifies. The ambiguity that so necessarily plagues advocacy work – the tension between hope and hopelessness – raises dilemmas that escapes most of us who live unplugged from the realities of social injustice. And these ambiguities quite often escape the advocates themselves, who may end up ignoring or setting aside these fascinating and terrifying feelings in favor of what they perceive as a larger problem. After all, what are the troubles of one heart compared to the troubles of the whole world?

But as any counselor who has worked with advocates knows, it’s exactly that thinking where the troubles start. They may come to the counseling room expecting us to help bounce around ideas or offer political solutions to social injustice, but like as we might, counseling is not a meeting on strategic policy. To psychologist Rod Penalosa, the objective of the counseling relationship is to shift the focus back to them: the advocate. Because while they’re off saving the world out there, their own worlds often go unexplored.

Self-care as an issue of social justice

Rod Penalosa
While he initially intended to attend law school and practice family law, Rod explains, “I realized that psychology was a better fit for the advocacy that I had in mind, which was to support children and families in crisis and those requiring support.” To aid in the advocate’s discernment of their inner lives was itself a solution to social injustice.

A graduate of the University of San Francisco, he is currently finishing his doctoral dissertation in counseling psychology. Back in California, he worked for the Community Health for Asian Americans, a non-profit agency in Oakland that provides services to low-income clients from mostly Asian, Hispanic, and African-American communities. And here in the Philippines, he serves as a psychotherapist consultant at MedMom Child Development Clinic. He currently runs a program called Circle of Hope, which aims to provide psychological services to adolescent cancer patients and their families, the medical staff, and volunteers of Philippine General Hospital.

“As a therapist who works in a clinical group practice setting, I consider myself and my colleagues to be advocates for social justice, health and wellness, because we choose to serve the marginalized population of the community,” Rod explains. “As a gay man-of-color myself, I am considered to be a minority in most cultural norms, and I have a social obligation to reframe this image and perception that society carries by being a voice and a visible presence of healing and empowerment.”

The consequences of caring too much

When asked what advocates’ most pressing mental health issues were, he began with a description of what advocacy entails: “We are givers, nurturers, care providers, and healers. We are in this profession because it comes naturally for us to devote ourselves completely to our work, clients, principles, and causes.” In his experience however, Rod has observed a dangerous side to this devotion: a perpetuation of the mindset that says, “Always put the needs of others first before your own”. This leads advocates to disregard their own well-being.

“Many of us in this profession neglect the value of practicing self-care, which often leads to elevated amounts of physical and emotional stress,” Rod cautions. And high stress levels, which accumulate when we allow our own pain to go unattended, can take its toll in many ways.

According to Rod, some of the more familiar “warning signs” that an advocate might be accumulating unhealthy levels of stress are: fatigue and exhaustion, sleeplessness (less than 6 hours of sleep at least 3 days a week) or oversleeping (more than 10 hours of sleep at least 3 days a week), irritability, excessive and constant worrying, lack of appetite or overeating, excessive tearfulness and sadness, lack of job satisfaction, incapacity to experience any pleasure, emotional outbursts, and other physical symptoms (e.g. headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, nausea, unexplainable muscle tension and pain, slow mobility, etc.).

“Burnout” is another term for the way these symptoms come together, and it is a shockingly ubiquitous feature in modern society. And on the advocate’s part, Rod explains, when we take on more than what is within the scope of our competence and practice, we subject ourselves to compassion fatigue. That is, we exhaust the heart – a muscle which, contrary to popular media, is by no means an infinite resource. (And when we say we exhaust the heart, we mean that quite literally.)

Rod explains the advocate’s “save the world” mentality another way: “When we aspire to ‘save’ our clients and take personal and professional responsibility for their setbacks, drawbacks, and downfall, we lose sight of the fact that we merely function as facilitators and support system. But we must remember that it is the client who has the main responsibility of actualizing the work that is necessary to improve their condition.” The client here, in this case, is the society we are working to change. And as in psychotherapy, when we plunge too deeply into society’s issues without having a firm grip on our own condition, we risk drowning. And we are of no use to anyone gasping for air.

Take care of yourself to take care of others

So while we labor on towards social justice, what can advocates do to stay well? Rod says that taking the time to create a balance between one’s private and public lives is a good place to start. "Let us not forget to incorporate play and fun into our lives. We don’t have to take life so seriously all the time. Find the means to embody and express gratitude daily. When we focus on matters that cultivate the positive elements in our lives, we create and reinforce habits and a lifestyle that promote an optimistic outlook on life.”

“We should be aware that we are just as responsible for our own empowerment and liberation just as we are advocates in liberating and raising the consciousness of others,” Rod reminds us. “We must always ask ourselves: What is the cause of my advocacy? Why is this important to me? How can I utilize my strengths in advocating for others?”

And taking care of yourself, Rod emphasizes, is a responsibility advocates have not just to themselves but to those they serve: “We have to remember that we can create long-lasting, impacting changes if we are clear about our mission, vision, and boundaries.” The point on boundaries is especially important: in serious HIV/AIDS advocacy, as with all advocacies that involve the body, we are so often forced into the most raw and vulnerable spots of the people we serve that it becomes so easy to get lost in their pain. But as advocates, we cannot afford to get lost.

So in counseling the advocate, the general advice is this: if we keep ourselves in mind, we stand a better chance of saving the world.

Friday, August 05, 2016

LoveYourself Holds Iconic "Wear Love" 2016 Campaign as #OneLove


HIV/AIDS advocacy group LoveYourself will once hold its annual advocacy campaign called “Wear Love” featuring the iconic LoveYourself shirts which have been worn by numerous personalities, as well as LoveYourself volunteers, who in turn may have their photos taken. The resulting collection of photos reflects the organization’s vision of bringing together people from different walks of life for one cause: HIV/AIDS awareness advocacy through self-worth.

Proceeds from sales of the shirts and the photo shoots have been used for funding the organization’s activities. More than the spirit of unity, LoveYourself’s name itself sends the message emphasizing the importance of self-worth and loving oneself. In fact, the triangle of self-care which LoveYourself counselors keep on tirelessly imparting to both clients and fellow volunteers, speaks of caring for oneself through timely testing and treatment, safe and satisfying sex, and correct and consistent use of condoms.

From “Wear Love” to “One Love”


LoveYourself has seen itself grow from a small organization of less than ten founding volunteers to one with over 700 hundred registered volunteers. The organization has, at the beginning of 2016, opened a new clinic called LoveYourself Uni near the junction of Buendia and Taft Avenue in Pasay City. The bright and perky interiors of the clinic are part of the organization’s vision of providing a worry-free environment where clients can feel at home.The strategic location of the clinic also aims to make testing and counselling accessible to students from nearby universities.


LoveYourself has also started rolling out the NEX+ CHAP+ER program, which is the organization’s life coaching service for people living with HIV (PLHIVs). The program aims to encourage PLHIVs to continue receiving treatment and also to provide a safe space for clients to talk about their experiences and problems and help them find ways to solve these issues. More than this, LoveYourself is setting up plans for distribution and promotion of PreP or pre-exposure prophylaxis, as one method of HIV/AIDS prevention.



As this year has been marked by a lot of changes and new endeavors, LoveYourself has decided to modify this year’s “Wear Love” campaign to “One Love” (#OneLove). Similar to the message of unity delivered by previous “Wear Love” campaigns, “One Love” underscores this more heavily through its self-evident name as well as its campaign methodology. Firstly, the black shirts have been replaced with white shirts, with the usual LoveYourself logo printed across the chest. The campaign will have an additional twist, cleverly highlighting the importance of self-worth by juxtaposing loving things one is passionate about with loving oneself.

The campaign’s emphasis on unity has never been more timely as the organization’s membership base has never been larger than before. With hundreds of volunteers with diverse backgrounds, “One Love” reflects the congealment of unique individuals’ efforts, volunteers or non-volunteers, towards the organization’s causes--HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, regular testing, and self-worth.

#OneLove Photoshoot

The #OneLove photoshoot is scheduled on August 20 and 21, 2016, at the DHQ Studios located at the second floor of the Alphaland Makati Place at the corner of Ayala Avenue Extension and Malugay Street in Makati City. A donation of 1,000PHP will include a #OneLove LoveYourself tee that will be worn during the shoot, hair styling (excluding grooming and cutting), and two digital copies of your photos to be sent to your email. To register for the event and for more details, please proceed to go.loveyourself.ph/onelove2016.