Saturday, August 31, 2013

Erimar Ortigas Wins $500 for LoveYourself Anglo in Mr. Gay World 2013

Twenty-five of the hottest and proudest gay men in the world converged in Antwerp, Belgium early this month to participate in the Mr. Gay World 2013.

LoveYourself member Erimar Ortigas represented the Philippines, placing 6th overall and also winning GuySpy’s People’s Choice online voting award.

The latter accolade came with a $500 donation for LoveYourself, Erimar’s chosen charity, and will go a long way to help build the advocacy’s second HIV testing community center, LoveYourself Anglo.

But so much is left out of these headlines – how Erimar rocked a neon-lighted National Costume, the camaraderie and combined hotness of the candidates, and all those sweet lessons one gobbles up while exploring a land of chocolates.

So we let Erimar tell his whole story. This is his weeklong diary as told to LoveYourself.

Day 1 – Hallo Belgium!


The competition started with us arriving in the city of Antwerp, and checking in at the Ramada Hotel in Belgium.

Ah, Belgium. The heart of Europe. A center for arts and culture, fashion and diamonds, history and gastronomy, diversity and LGBT life.

Now I see why the organizers fell in love with this country, and chose Mr. Gay World 2013 to be held here.

Day 2 – Boys Just Wanna Have Fun

This turned out to be an awesome and productive day. We held our press conference, a sports challenge, a tour of Antwerp and a fun Karaoke bonding session.




I tried Belgian food, and found their waffles and chocolates truly mouthwatering and yummy!

Almost everyone is friendly but I spent most of the time with fellow Filipino Benjie (but representing as Mr. Hong Kong), Ricardo (Namibia), Nolan (India), Sai (Myanmar), David (Mexico) and my roommate Conor (Northern Ireland).




We had lots of group activities, so we really bonded as friends. Which was great, because the spirit of Mr. Gay World is less about being competitive and more about solidarity. “Love United.” So we just had fun and focused on how to be an inspiration to each other and to others.

Day 3 – Time to Shine

In the morning we attended a Human Rights conference and I was so inspired by the guests and speakers because of their never-ending fight for equality, and love and support for the LGBT community.

Then we continued with the competition. The organizers held a written test to gauge our mental strength and a nautical-themed photo shoot where we showcased our manly physiques.





We then witnessed the opening of Rainbow Village, and during the event I even sang to Rihanna’s appropriately played Diamonds track: "Shine bright like a diamond…”

I also have to mention the sumptuous dinner served to us by the sponsors of Mr. Gay World 2014, which will be held next year in Rome. Overall, it was an amazing and unforgettable day!

Day 4 – Pinoy Pride

This day was a special one since I got to share with the world what Filipinos could offer. We had our Arts Challenge and I did my best to present the colorful and fun LGBT life in the Philippines.





Next was a panel interview with the judges and our first rehearsal for the pageant night the next day.

We then all took part in the opening ceremony for the World Outgames, which was also being held concurrently in Antwerp.



Different countries from around the world had come together for a celebration of sports and culture. Everyone was just so happy and had a blast during the event.

Day 5 – Topless and Owning It

We had our final rehearsal and dinner with VIP guest before starting the finale night wherein we showcased our National Costumes.




My National Costume was a futuristic costume depicting the colors of the Philippine Flag. This costume reflects the aspirations of the Filipino gay community towards a bright tomorrow filled with hope, respect, equality and gay empowerment.

We also had the chance to strut in Swimwear, Casual Wear-cum-dance dance performance and NOH8 campaign plug and, finally, in Formal Wear with a gay wedding theme.





Then after all that the special prizes were announced. I won the People’s Choice Award which came with a reward of $500 for LoveYourself -- woohoo!


I'd like to make a quick shoutout to GuySpy who sponsored the cash award. It's not only one of the coolest and most popular gay social networking sites around, it's also very active in helping the LGBT community. Thanks for your support!

I’m really thrilled that, in my own small way, I am able to help LoveYourself build a new HIV testing and community center near Ortigas called LoveYourself Anglo.




I made it to Top 10 and ranked 6th overall. (Christopher Olwage from New Zealand was crowned – a real swell guy!)

I am very happy and proud of what I have achieved. My success is also our country's success. I believe Mr. Gay World is just a label, and what matters most is what I can contribute to the society with or without a title. I was very proud of what I have achieved already because I know I did great during the competition and the experience I had was truly rewarding.

Day 6 and Beyond – European Paradise

Aside from the fantastic Belgium experience, I also grabbed the chance to travel to other parts of Europe like Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. I fell in love with each succeeding place.



Final Words – Thanks and Future Plans

I'd like to thank all of you who gave me strength, love and inspiration. Thank you so much for all the support and for all the overwhelming messages. I super appreciate it!



As for my future plans, I will continue what I started like involving myself to different LGBT projects and events, and staying active in LoveYourself and other HIV awareness work. I will also lend my support to the Mr. Gay World organization and the next representative of the Philippines for the competition next year.

And finally, I'll work harder to become an inspiration to other Filipino gay men.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

QUICKIE Rescheduled to September 20


UPDATE: 
Quickie by LoveYourself Confidential is now scheduled for SEPTEMBER 20 (Friday). 

Same time, same venue. 
To register visit http://go.LoveYourself.ph/quickie

To learn more, read about it here:
Quickie by LoveYourself Confidential: One Night Only




----------------------------------------
We're sorry.

We have decided to POSTPONE Quickie (HIV testing for men) to another date because of the ongoing weather condition.

We encourage everyone to help out instead with the relief operations for those affected by Maring/Habagat.

We will be announcing a new schedule at the soonest possible time. Sorry for the inconvenience.


#Quickie #RescuePH #ReliefPH #FloodPH #Maring #Habagat

Monday, August 19, 2013

LOVEYOURSELF IMPETUS -- An Army of Lovers

  
GOT LOVE?
So, you know you’ve got talent and mad skills, but you want to do more than just your 8-to-5. Maybe there are all these creative ideas that you're dying to unleash. Or maybe you’ve just got all this love inside of you that you want to share, but you don’t know where, or how, or whom to.

Find your impetus. LoveYourself is always looking for committed volunteers who believe in our vision of a self-loving, healthy, and HIV/STI-free Philippines. If you have the time, energy, and team spirit to make a difference in our community, read on.


WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?

COMMUNICATIONS
Software engineers / programmers. Technology is the tool that enables us to touch thousands of MSMs everywhere. And everyday, we're working on cutting-edge projects that can revolutionize the advocacy. If you’ve got IT chops, we want you! 
Visual artists / graphic designers. We make things look sexy. If you’ve got an eye for layouts and you rock at Photoshop, you’ll definitely want to join us. Get your best creative work out there and make a difference! 

EVENTS MANAGEMENT
Events are our way of physically engaging and inviting people into our advocacy. 
No hard and fast skills required here: we just need fun and energetic people who enjoy conceptualizing and organizing events. It’d be neat if you’ve had experience leading in promotions, sponsorships, visual design, or logistics, but it’s no biggie if you don’t. Just be dynamic, personable, and cooperative (and hopefully able-bodied!), and we’ll take care of the rest.

RESEARCH AND EVALUATION
Research and evaluation is how we continuously upgrade the LoveYourself experience.
Love a challenge? We're looking for people with a background in technical writing, qualitative/quantitative analysis, measurement and evaluation, or research design. Whether it's working with the different committees to fine-tune their operations, or leading ground-breaking research to discover the things that matter most to our clients, you'll play a significant role in making sure that LoveYourself continues to deliver an outstanding experience to the community.

COUNSELING & EDUCATION
Counseling and Education is at the heart of what we do.  
Whether you see yourself in the descriptions above or not, you may also believe you have the empathy, open-mindedness, and people skills to show our community some real love.  We are definitely looking for people to be trained as peer counselors and educators  frontliners to the organization's key objective: HIV awareness, education, counseling and testing.

GET TO KNOW US BETTER
Discover who we are, what we do, and why we do it (along with other cool stuff about us) here.


WHY IMPETUS?
An "impetus" is something that incites  a stimulus. If you've read this far, you've probably been looking for an impetus yourself: a cause that has meaning, a space for your ideas to play, a community where you belong.

LoveYourself offers an opportunity to be part of a worthwhile movement, where volunteers unite their diverse talents behind the purpose of promoting HIV awareness, counseling and education. It’s no secret that we're growing: with more and more people starting to love themselves, we’re putting up a new community center to meet the skyrocketing demand for our HIV testing and counseling services. As we scale up to take on the country’s burgeoning HIV epidemic, we need an army of Lovers—our name for committed, talented people like yourself—who find meaning in what we do, and are ready to help us make a difference.


READY TO FIND YOUR IMPETUS?
Sign up to volunteer on our website: go.LoveYourself.ph/volunteer. Our next batch of volunteers will be invited to an orientation on August 31, 2013 (Saturday). Block the date, and we'll see you there!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to get to Makati Friendship Suites: Directions to QUICKIE by LoveYourself Confidential


UPDATE: Quickie by LoveYourself Confidential is now scheduled for SEPTEMBER 20 (Friday). Same time, same venue. 

------------------------------------------
Here's a guide on how to get to Makati Friendship Suites for QUICKIE by LoveYourself Confidential, a special free HIV testing event.

COMMUTER ROUTE

From EDSA via MRT/Bus (commuters):
  1. Alight at the Guadalupe MRT station or Guadalupe Bus stop
  2. Go to the Jeepney Terminal at the back of Guadalupe Commercial Center (building connected to the Guadalupe MRT station, northbound side.)
  3. Take any jeepney going to Pateros, Market Market, Gate 5 and FTI.
  4. Tell the jeepney driver to drop you off at the Makati Friendship Suites (Guadalupe Bliss). The venue will be on the right side of JP Rizal St. Extension. 
  5. Get off when you see the hostel signage and walk to Tower 3. Estimated less than 1km travel distance from the jeepney terminal.
  6. Feel free to download or print this mini-map guide for reference:

CAR and TAXI ROUTE

1. From EDSA Guadalupe, turn right at the Guadalupe Nuevo Cloverleaf Park.

2. Turn right again to take JP Rizal Extension heading to the Pateros/The Fort areas.

3. Drive straight ahead. Turn right when you see the hostel signage on the right side off the highway. Park and walk to Tower 3.

EXACT ADDRESS

Makati Friendship Suites Tower 3, Guadalupe Bliss Housing Project Bldg. 30, Phase 2, Dr. Jose P. Rizal Extension, Brgy. Cembo, Makati City

GOOGLE MAPS

For smartphone users, search for "Makati Friendship Suites Tower 1" on Google Maps to find the general vicinity map. Or visit http://go.LoveYourself.ph/QuickieMap for the exact location. Please refer to the above directions in addition to your Google Maps.

FOR ASSISTANCE

For further assistance on directions going to Makati Friendship Suites, drop us a note on the comments below. You can also email us at LoveYourselfConfidential@gmail.com.

For other questions about the TLY Quickie event, please refer to our FAQs section or contact us for questions that were not covered.

Haven’t registered yet? Visit http://go.loveyourself.ph/QUICKIE to reserve a slot. See you on August 23!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Closet Chronicles: Andrew

(photo credits: www.biggaycloset.com)
Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has a road to take. No two stories are the same. Some of them might be similar but they are different from one another. 

This column will showcase the story of a member from our community, a John Doe or Jane Doe. A stranger who you’ve never met but he or she has a story to tell and experiences to share. His or her story might be similar to yours or someone you know.So let’s take a glimpse at their life here in the Closet Chronicles.

The last closet we looked into was Benjamin's wherein he gave us a glimpse of his life and the things he had to go through being trans. This time, let's take a glimpse at the life of a guy with a story that, let's just say, some television shows are made of.

Andrew (not his real name) is a manager in one of the many call centers around Metro Manila. He is in his late 30’s and describes himself as a selective extrovert. The thing about Andrew is that he has been married to a woman for the past 7 years and has a 3 year old kid.

“Does your wife know or at least have an idea?” I asked.

“No. Not at all. I try very hard to make sure that she doesn't find out.”

“So your life is similar to My Husbands Lover?”

“You can say that but minus the lover” he answered with a laugh.

So to get the ball rolling, I asked him when did he realize he was gay.

“Looking back, at some level alam ko na talaga na iba ako pero sinubukan kong labanan” (I knew I was different but I tried to fight it).

“But you ended up marrying a woman. Why?” I asked

“Yes I did. I was afraid of what my family would say and back then, gays were not as accepted as they are now. It was a different time. In my head there were only two options. Either I come out and be judged by society or stay in the closet, marry a woman and pretend to have a normal life. Obvious naman kung anong pinili ko diba?” (It’s obvious which option I picked right?).

“So tell me more about how you ended up where you are.”

He looked around for a few seconds. I could see that he was nervous. He was afraid someone might see him. I told him to relax and that if someone he knows approaches us, I will introduce myself as a real estate agent trying to sell him a condominium.

He felt more at ease after that.

“I met my wife in my first job. We were from the same department. Even though I already accepted the fact that I was gay, I had no plans of coming out. I became close to her kasi astig siya (she was cool). She wasn't maarte or anything and she was very easy to get along with. I just thought that if ever I was going to spend my life living as a straight man, I’d want to be with her because she wasn't annoying like other girls.”

“So you pursued her?” I asked.

“Yes. And it wasn't easy because it didn't feel natural to me at that time but after a year of courting her, she said yes. We got married three years later.”

I asked him if he would ever come out to her.

“Aaminin ko, naisip ko rin yan (I must admit, it has crossed my mind). But I won't. I cannot do that to her. I can never hurt her that way,” he answered. “Siguro on my deathbed nalang” he said jokingly.

“Since she’s a woman, you have needs that she cannot fulfill, if you know what I mean. How do you deal with that?”

“I get to travel a lot because of my work and when I do, I meet up with men sometimes just to get it out of my system. But I am very discreet about it. I make sure I am in a place where no one would ever recognize me. It’s hard, I must admit but I made my choice years ago.”

I told him that I admired the willpower and discipline he has.

“I've accepted what I want and what I need many years ago. It wasn't easy but I've learned the very fine line between both,” he answered.

“But how is the marriage?”

“Happy. Seryoso. Sure, it’s not the life I would have wanted but I’m happy with how it turned out. I am married to an amazing woman. There’s no lust or any sexual desire but there’s love and trust and companionship, romance, all of that. I’m lucky because I married my best friend.”

I could hear the sincerity in his voice.

“Do you regret anything?”

“I would like to say yes, but in all honesty, no I don’t regret anything. I didn't choose to be gay pero pinili ko na mabuhay ng ganito (I chose to live a life like this). It’s hard and it’s a struggle but at the end of the day when I get home and my kid hugs me I tell myself na, no matter how hard it is, seeing my child makes everything worth it.”

To end the interview, I asked Andrew if he has any advice to give to people who are or was in his situation.

“Nakapa-ironic naman kung ako ang magbibigay ng advice (I find it ironic that I’m giving advice)” he said with a loud chuckle. “I guess if someone else is in the same boat as me, I’d tell them to make sure that whatever decision they make or whatever life they choose to live, panindigan nila (stand by it). I guess that’s it. I made my decision to live my life as a straight man even though I know I’m gay but I’m happy how things turned out. Okay na ako sa ganito (I’m good with this),” he answered with a smile.

With that, we ended the interview.

We all have different experiences and stories, and the Closet Chronicles aims to share one person’s story. Whether they are out of the closet or hiding inside, it’s a story worth telling, it’s a story worth listening to because whether it’s one person or a dozen, someone would be able to relate to your story and maybe, just maybe, they’d learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Very Victorian Quickie: Lovers Paint Asgard Red


Last Saturday, something was amiss at Asgard.
At exactly 08:00 PM on 10 August, 2013, Lovers flocked in droves to one of Victoria Court Malate’s most magnificent themed rooms, Asgard

The Thor-inspired offering—a palatial two-floor suite, decked to the nines with intricate gold finishes and illuminated at every turn with lush mood light—played host to one of the most exciting events at just a stone’s throw away from the LoveYourself Hub.

The occasion? TLY Connect, a mixer organized by the LoveYourself Events committee with a distinctly LoveYourself flavor. Advertised internally as having “no agenda, just fun and excitement”, it was exactly the breather that the Lovers had been looking forward to, some even having come from the furthest reaches of the metro to be able to “mix, match and be merry” that night. 

The Events committee certainly did not disappoint: a potluck ensured food, drinks and “drinks” aplenty, and a packed karaoke catalogue led to round after round of diva and OPM hits—the energy stayed at fever pitch well into the night.

But it was about to get even hotter. As the program for the evening kicked off, the Lovers were ushered into the upstairs bedroom—a large circular chamber with an elevated mattress in the center—the lights dimmed and five talented Lovers took to the stage, donning in turns their civilian clothes and Norse drag, to vie for the title of King Connect 2013. None other than Erimar Ortigas, a top ten finalist at the recently-held Mr. Gay World 2013 pageant in Belgium, claimed the title, taking home a Folded & Hung gift bag.

As if that wasn’t sizzle enough, the event was further graced by gentlemen from Bayleaf Spa, who rocked the evening with their performances.


The merry-making lasted into the wee hours of Sunday, with more food, drinks and singing. For the Lovers, TLY Connect was very welcome respite from a busy month that will culminate in LoveYourself Quickie: One Night Only, a large-scale mass testing event at 05:00 PM – 01:00 AM this coming 23 August, 2013 (Friday) at the Makati Friendship Suites.

Let's have a Quickie and meet the LoveYourself Lovers. Register at http://go.LoveYourself.ph/QUICKIE
See you there!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Husbands Lover: Lessons Learned

In this country, shows about betrayal and infidelity have become part of the Filipino culture. If a TV show or movie comes out revolving around this premise, people eat it up. However, the stories have become cliché. From movies like No Other Woman or A Secret Affair, to TV shows like A Beautiful Affair and Temptation of Wife, the premise and story is always the same. One person cheats, the other person gets hurt and their entire family gets involved in the process together with some curses thrown here and there, a lock or two of hair being pulled out and in the case of Andi Eigenmann in A Secret Affair, she was sprayed with Calamine lotion.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

From Chicago with Love Forward: The Benefit Show for Love Yourself Anglo


It was a night of sheer fun as two gay Asian groups united to successfully stage “Love Forward,” a benefit event in Chicago aimed at raising funds for the construction of the new LoveYourself Anglo in Mandaluyong.

Last July 25 at @mosphere Bar, Filipinos and Friends in Chicago (FINC) and Asians & Friends Chicago (AFC) hosted a Thursday cabaret evening chock-full of performances from homegrown talents like Madame X, "Mahal" playwright Danny Bernardo, musical-theater actor Chip Payos & opera sensation Rodell Rosel.



Other local artists who graced the stage with mind-blowing performances include Angel Abcede, Aria's Divina Aleonar, Randy Ballesteros, Christine Bunuan, Jovie Calma, Bagwis, George Infantado, and Karrel Bernardo.


The benefit show garnered over $2,700 in cash donations, and more than $500 worth of pledges.

LoveYourself would like to thank everyone who made this event possible.  Thank you for believing in our mission to provide free and accessible HIV screening. We commit to building a community that fosters love and acceptance for every individual, especially those from the LGBT sector.


Photos by @moshere Bar.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

It's Time: by Manila Gay Guy

ED: This post was originally written in 2011 by Manila Gay Guy. It still rings true even today.
It starts like a painless prick in the mind — HIV? Me? Nah.
Then after a while, you remember those crazy times in the past. Yeah, you think, crazy but not too crazy as to put me at risk. Besides, the probability of getting it is too low. Malinis naman sila, I’m sure.You continue to attempt convincing yourself.
Time pass and you’re mostly successful in keeping those HIV thoughts at bay. Yet there were times, admit it, that the prick in the mind becomes a bit more intense. Did I really do it bareback? Can’t remember na. May condom naman yata. Yata? Shit, can’t remember na talaga.
Now it’s selective memory lapse. You think you were safe naman, most of the time, at the least. But you can’t seem to get the doubt off your mind. Suddenly, you don’t know, it is not clear if you really were safe.
Everytime you see those three letters HIV, there’s a slight skip in your heartbeat, a little lump in your throat forming. I think I have it. Maybe I have it. What if I have it?
It’s a creepy little bastard, because like a thief in the night, it blindsides you: you have started to trim your life plans and water down your dreams to accommodate the assumption that, maybe, you think, you feel, you have it. It’s a painless thought at first, a dull feeling after a while, but the longer you stay in the dark, the heavier it feels.
You busy yourself with stuff, with work, with parties, with anything that can fill your mind and keep it from focusing on HIV. Fuck that blog, now the only thing it talks about is HIV. You distract yourself to the hilt only to find a big white snorting elephant stuck in the meandering grooves of your brain. HIV, HIV, HIV, fuck.
You search online for symptoms. Fever, flu-like symptoms, rashes, diarrhea, but not for all, sometimes none at all. Symptoms only when it has advanced to AIDS, when the body has given up, when the virus has totally taken over. Scary shit. You slam a closed fist on the table, why wasn’t I careful kasi.
You consider getting yourself tested. You’re scared like a little kid about to get spanked, closing your eyes before you hear the leather belt whip and welt your skin.
You realize there is really no way out but through. If I don’t have HIV and I’m suffering this way, fuck, I’m such a worry wart punishing myself for nothing. If I do have HIV and I’m standing here doing nothing about it, then I’m really just letting this foul-smelling fear immobilize me. Like committing the most gradual suicide by slicing myself up part-by-little-part.
Part of you triumphs saying, it’s time. It’s time to unload the baggage. It’s time to use this energy, now in the form of fear, to propel myself forward. It’s time that I face that fear, ready to battle it tooth and nail.
* * *
Have you been thinking of getting tested? Perhaps you are not ready yet for testing but you want to talk to someone about it? Here’s the event for you. First, you will find here friendly, professional, and well-trained HIV educators and counselors. And, secondly, the event is scheduled on a Friday! And very importantly, it will be held in a private (not in a government clinic) and discreet location, for your own privacy and convenience.

What: HIV Confidential Counseling and Testing – it’s FREE! No charge!
When: Friday, September 20, 5pm to 1am (next day)
Where: Makati Friendship Suites, Makati City (location map: http://go.LoveYourself.ph/QuickieMap )

Some frequently asked questions (FAQs):
1. I am afraid to go for testing, I think I’m not ready yet. Can I still go and just talk to someone without getting myself tested?
Absolutely. There will be trained HIV educators and counselors there that you can talk to. They will respect your feelings, and if you feel you are not ready to go for your HIV testing, that’s okay. There is value in just talking things out, so come.
2. How much does it cost if I go to this event?
The HIV counseling is free of charge. The HIV testing is also free of charge. You do not need to pay for anything. Love Yourself is subsidizing the conduct of this event, and if you want to help by donating, you are free to do so. Otherwise, everything is free.
3. What should I bring?
You are not required to bring anything. You will not be asked for an ID.
4. Since it will be a blood test, should I not eat anything before? Is there fasting involved?
It is a blood test, yes, but there are no prerequisites such as fasting or no-alcohol diet, etc. The test will look for HIV antibodies in your blood, and eating food or drinking anything will not affect the results.
5. This is my first HIV test. I do not know what will happen during the test. How will the HIV testing process go?
Congratulations for making the brave decision to take the test. Watch this video:

Other questions? Email help@loveyourself.ph

- MGG