Tuesday, July 21, 2015

LoveYourself Marks 4th Anniversary Plus A Thank-You Message From Founder Vinn Pagtakhan

On July 21, 2011, LoveYourself was officially formed as a response to the alarming spread of HIV in the Philippines. And in just four years it has grown into a volunteer-powered movement that spreads love and positivity as a counter-force to the epidemic.

To date, LoveYourself has provided free HIV testing services and confidential counseling to thousands of clients through its two community centers, helping reclaim their confidence regardless of their status with an approach rooted in self-worth instead of fear.

LoveYourself's efforts have been recognized as a shining success both locally, as a finalist in the 2014 Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations and through newspaper features, and internationally through recent visitations from the likes of the World Health Organization who want to find out what we are doing right.

On this anniversary day, LoveYourself founder Vinn Pagtakhan has a special message specifically to its passionate volunteers, the "modern-day heroes" that keep the heart of LoveYourself beating stronger than ever.

Thank-You Message From Founder Vinn Pagtakhan

Gratitude. One word that will describe how I feel. 

It’s LoveYourself's 4th anniversary. So many things happened in the last 4 years. We were able to build a family from 1 to 6 to almost 700.

We now have 2 clinics - Hub in Malate and Anglo in Mandaluyong - our community centers. 

The successful projects and events that we had from successful mass testings, parties, camps and cafe's. It has been and will still be a roller coaster experience diba - the fun and adventures, learning and growth, love and drama, love teams and break ups, optimism and negatrons, and above all the analogies syempre, the greater purpose and magnamity.

So many people to thank, you know who you are maraming salamat (pasensya na kung di ko maisa-isa.)

Butch, Bamba, Tony, Neil, Von, Antzy -- who have been with me in every step ever since LoveYourself started until now.

Kuya Jun and Daddy Rod, Kuya Ken, Ninang Annie, Mother Marvi, Doc Eden, Mother Loyd, Jonaly Viray and mga fairygod mothers ng LoveYourself for the guidance and support.

Finally, sabi nga sa result ng Google search ng phrase na "kindness quotes": "Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm.”

To my modern-day heroes, my dear dear lovers from our first batch of lovers (Originals), Next Gen (the mask), Synergy (retasong divas), Impetus (the horses), Vanguard (golden tutubi), Ignite, Ascend, Sensation, Absolute, Hiraya and the newest batch Bigkis, salamat sa oras, sa passion, sa tiwala, at sa pag-mamahal sa LoveYourself.

Love and light,

Princess Ronnievinn “Vinn” Pagtakhan

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Registration Begins For The 4th LoveYourself Counselors’ Convention On July 25

LoveYourself's once-a-year learning and training convention dedicated to counselors returns this July 25.

All counselors are invited to sign up for free and attend the 4th LoveYourself Counselors’ Convention to be held at Amelie Hotel, Bocobo St., Malate, Manila City.

Register here for a guaranteed slot.

The convention welcomes counselors from all LoveYourself batches. Spend a fun Saturday building your counseling know-how and forging stronger bonds with your fellow counselors.

Refresh, Revive, Reach Out

This year’s theme is “Counselors’ Convention 4 The Win: Refresh, Revive, Reach Out,” and aims to energize the ever-growing family of LoveYourself counselors.

The convention will be a whole-day event from 8AM to 6PM. Counselors will get to interact with expert speakers, gain new knowledge, and discover insights to improve their counseling skills.

Convention Schedule

Below is the full day schedule, including sessions and expert speakers:

7:30 AM - Registration
8:30 AM - Opening Prayer
8:35 AM - Opening Remarks
8:45 AM - RA 8504 Redux: Revisiting Confidentiality and Ethical Standards in Counseling
10:00 AM - Morning Snacks
10:30 AM - HIV Response in the Philippines: Outlook and New Programs in the Horizon (Dra. Annie Ditangco)
12:00 NN - Lunch
1:00 PM - Caring for Carers: Dealing with "Counselor's Burnout" (Dra. Kate Leyritana)
2:30 PM - Afternoon Snacks
3:00 PM - Simulation/Group Facilitation: An Interactive Session On Counseling "Difficult" Clients (Rolin Obina)
4:00 PM - #Ask4TW: An Open Forum On Counselors' Concerns and Client Feedback (Ronnievinn Pagtakhan or Chris Lagman)
5:15 PM - Closing Remarkds (Ronnievinn Pagtakhan or Chris Lagman)
5:30 PM - Awarding of Certificates of Attendance

Feedback Forum

The 4th LoveYourself Counselors’ Convention will also become more interactive through a new feedback discussion forum. Concerns and issues that have been raised regarding LoveYourself’s testing and counseling services will be addressed in this dedicated forum.

Register now for a guaranteed spot in the convention.

Early registration will also help the organizers prepare for the number of potential attendees.

Thank you and see you all on July 25!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

What Is The Normal Heart? A Review Of The Philippine Production Of 'The Normal Heart'

by Jay Fernando

(Note: The opinions expressed in this review do not necessarily reflect the views of LoveYourself.)

“We must love one another or die.” 

W.H. Auden hated that line and struck it out of the poem he wrote where the phrase The Normal Heart came from. But the line remained on various published versions of the poem and these words must have resonated with Larry Kramer, playwright of The Normal Heart when he wrote that powerful exchange between Ned Weeks and his brother Ben as Ned confronted him about his homophobia:

     BEN: Agreeing that you were born just the same as I was born isn't gonna save your dying friends.

     NED: That is exactly what is going to save my dying friends!

This may be debated upon – that it is an incessant belief that homosexuality is a crime and a disease that is killing us off and not HIV – is only one among the various points made by the play, arguments that could not be resolved overnight.  It wasn't about the answers though, as about the hard questions asked.

The Normal Heart is set in the past, but doesn't belong comfortably in the past. It is set in New York City, but is as relevant to its Manila audience.

To Bart Guingona, the local production's director and lead actor, Manila 2015 is not so different from New York 1982. With an alarming increase of reported HIV cases in the country, we may be losing the battle that started in the early 80’s.

The Normal Heart though is more than just about AIDS. It is about the medical industry, research and access to healthcare; it is about activism, politics, power and the conflict between personal and political agenda; it is about family and friends, and the differences that break them apart; it is about leading an ethical life and how one would want to be defined either by convention or conviction. The Normal Heart is a war story and like all war stories, it is about the human spirit’s desire to survive.

Ultimately, The Normal Heart is about love. About finding and keeping it and being changed by it. We may or may not agree with the play’s protagonists Ned and Bruce, with how they behaved and acted, how they argued about finding a way to stop the gaping hole that is the AIDS epidemic from gobbling up all their friends and lovers. What was true for both was that both experienced love and fought hard, even against each other, because of that. These characters are fictional but who they are and what they stood for is very real.

There was a storm during the last night of the production's very limited run but theater enthusiasts all over the metro braved the rain to see the play. They know it is important that they see it and support it, as The Normal Heart is one of the plays you do not merely watch, but experience. In the end, the play deserved the standing ovation it received but what it truly deserves is funding and sponsorship as it is one of the most relevant plays ever mounted at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium.

In one of the play’s final few scenes, Felix, the one whom Ned didn't manage to scare away, turned to him and said “you cannot force the goddamn sun to come out!” But we cannot just drown in the rain and not try to do anything.


Jay Fernando is a writer and loving father to two cute dogs. He is also a volunteer for LoveYourself, an advocacy that offers free HIV testing in the Philippines. It also champions the values of self-worth and positive change to galvanize the community against the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. 

The Philippine production of The Normal Heart had a limited run from July 3 to 5 at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater in RCBC Plaza in Makati.