Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Franco Moje, Style + Substance

Artist, corporate professional, and LoveYourself volunteer Franco Moje celebrates individuality in every aspect of his life. "Just express yourself. At the end of the day, the only person you're supposed to satisfy is yourself, not others.”
By Jean Natividad
Franco needs little to no effort to stand out. Towering, clad in not-so-everyday fashion pieces, he exudes an aura of both refinement and rebellion. It's this stylishly expressed, in-your-face uniqueness that can either instantly draw you to him or maybe intimidate you just a little to keep a safe distance.
But we're betting on the former. Once Franco gets talking, it's no challenge to warm up to the guy - just like how it was when we chatted with him for this edition of LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight.
The 30-year-old takes on multiple personas: an international project manager for, a creative with his own brand of relatable and entertaining comics titled The Zero Calorie Adventures of Milk & Coffee (TZCAOMC), a lover and writer of lyrics and poems, and a no-nonsense LoveYourself volunteer.
As Franco continues to switch from one role to another, he keeps one thing constant – his individuality. Below, he talks art, expression, passion, the cause, and why you should keep doing you.
His art
"It was really my frustration to become a comics artist ever since high school," Franco confesses. "I started The Zero Calorie Adventures of Milk & Coffee last July 2015. The idea just came to me to draw caricatures of my best friend and me. That's where it started, and then I added the thought bubbles and created the jokes.”
TZCAOMAC features hilarious, everyday situations most of us find ourselves into. It tackles familiar topics like friendship, love, current events, and life in the time of social media prevalence – all while balancing sense and comedy.
Franco also showcases his talent in illustrating through Harana, LoveYourself's online novel where his art and advocacy merge. "I'm really excited about Harana. With it, I see the fulfillment of my dreams, of having my artwork seen by a wider audience," he says.
Also a lover of words, Franco uses some of his free time to write poetry and lyrics. "Sometimes a melody would play in my head, and I would write lyrics for that melody. I also look for instrumental music from YouTube and combine that with the lyrics or poems I've written," he shares.
Unlike his comics, however, the young creative chooses to keep his music – another project inspired by another best friend of his – more private. "I prefer the recorded music to be just for myself and my best friend. They're not online, so it's only the two of us who know about the music."
One would assume Franco's creative works are a retelling of his first-hand experiences, but the self-confessed observer says otherwise. "I'm the type of person who likes to listen, let's say, to friends' conversations. I'm the quiet one who just listens. I get the hugot for my poems from their stories or dramas. So it's not always from my personal experiences; sometimes, I get it from other people."
His style
Franco's creativity isn't just evident in his works; they're in the clothes he wears, in every piece of accessory he picks for the day, like his Linda Farrow Marta's Heart sunglasses, which has come to comprise his signature look. "I first saw the design in a post by Niccolo Cosme. I looked for it here in the Philippines, bought it, and really pushed to wear it even if it doesn't look like the usual shades."
His confidence is something to admire, but it's also something for which he had worked hard. He recalls, "I had long hair before, but I cut it short after I heard a lot of negative comments. But I regretted that decision because then I lost the hair I wanted. Now, I just think about what I really want. I still assess myself and check if I look too weird, if I look like I'm in a costume."
He continues, "I like different ways of dressing. I like it when, through fashion, I confuse people when they look at me. I want them to wonder if I'm straight or not. It became my goal for them to be curious as to why I dress as such."
Does he ever get conscious? "I don't get conscious anymore because if you think about it, whatever you decide to wear, people will always have something to say anyway. Even in the office, for example, if I want to wear a sarong, I will wear a sarong."
Through his eccentric ensembles, Franco sends a message not just about fashion but also about self-love. "I think you should just do what you want to do and wear what you want to wear. Just express yourself. At the end of the day, the only person you're supposed to satisfy is yourself, not others.” It is this empowered disposition that also makes Franco a model volunteer.
His advocacy
Like many other LoveYourself volunteers, Franco was inspired to join the cause after going through his first HIV testing. "That's when I realized how right information about HIV is necessary because wrong or misleading details can cause a person to extremely worry. That's also the time I decided to volunteer for LoveYourself."
Franco joined LoveYourself in 2014 and tried to find his place in the organization. He tells us, "I joined LoveYourself with no idea of what I could contribute. I thought it was just all about counseling, but I was surprised to see there were other ways of helping, like in Events, Communications, and other committees."
He decided to be part of the Events Committee. "I felt that was my weakness. I wanted to learn how to work in events that's why I picked it," he explains. From organizing gatherings of new members, Franco moved on to spearhead the LoveYourself Ü project along with a few of his co-volunteers in batch Vanguard - Dr. Jason Suquila, John Danvic Rosadiño, Roy Dahildahil, and  Anthony Covar.
"The highlight of my LoveYourself Ü experience was when it started to grow and we were able to visit many schools, when it was the people who started contacting us to conduct HIV talks in their schools. The program then grew as LoveYourself Caravan with the help of other batches."

He adds, "It feels good to see that 'wow' look in the students' faces. Through LoveYourself Ü, we open the minds of the students as to what HIV is and what they can do to protect themselves. The program keeps the community knowledgeable about HIV, especially at a time when so much false information are going around in social media."
Franco, now also an HIV counselor, is reaping the rewards of his hard work. “I realized that when you volunteer, it's not just about helping others; it also gives you something in return," he shares after admitting he once feared public speaking but was able to conquer it, thanks to his work in LoveYourself Ü.
His two cents
Through his art, style, and advocacy, Franco celebrates his individuality and shares himself with others. To those working on themselves, their craft, or their passions, he has this to share:   
“If you love doing something, it's really in your heart and that will be your fuel to work harder. As long as you're working from the heart and with passion, you can do a lot of things. The will should be there. If it's in your heart, you can do it.”

Photos: Franco Moje and Kris Tangco
Photo editing: Mark Long
LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight is a monthly feature on the cause- and service-oriented members of LoveYourself. We will be chatting with volunteers from all walks of life – all united in one cause. Keep checking every month to meet the different faces of LoveYourself.

Have you been inspired by the courage and commitment of our volunteers? Like us on Facebook and help share our message of positivity and self-worth in your own communities to help fight the spread of HIV.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

LoveYourself Successfully Holds The Much Awaited Cherry Poppin' The Second Comin'

The much awaited Cherry Poppin’ The Second Comin’ took place last March 19, 2016, Saturday at the Century City Mall Events Center in Makati. The event is a collaboration by HIV testing and awareness group LoveYourself and the LGBT DJ collective Kosmos. Partygoers flocked to the event and danced the night away to the hip music of upcoming class act, Dutch DJ and music producer Garuda, one of the top DJ's in the Philippines, Deuce, and in-house Kosmos DJ's Mike Lavet, Kazwal, and Deej Diaz.

Highlights of the evening included the auction and fashion show. The date auction involved interested partygoers bidding for eligible bachelors of their choice, with the proceeds of their bids to be used for funding the organization’s activities. In return, various prizes including dinner dates, spa, accommodation, and travel packages with the auctioned bachelor await the winning bidders. In addition to the auction, a fashion show was held showcasing the creations of Outkast Paradigm. The bachelors to be auctioned, including models who are actually participants of the upcoming Mister United Continents 2016 pageant.

On the eve of the event, a Twitter Party was hosted online by LoveYourself volunteers with the participation of the auctionees. A lot of followers asked intimate, if not revealing, questions to the eligible bachelors. The Twitter Party proved to be a useful means of enticing people to participate in the much awaited event.

Compared to last year’s Cherry Poppin’, the bids generated by The Second Comin’ were far higher. Bidders actually raised their bids greater than 70,000PHP for just one bachelor alone, much to the amazement of the other guests. All in all, a net profit of 140,000PHP was generated from ticket proceeds and bid amounts. More than 400 guests, volunteers, and event participants joined what proved to be LoveYourself’s biggest and wildest fundraiser yet. 

LoveYourself extends its utmost thanks to those who donated through ticket purchases and the winning bidders who all helped in making Cherry Poppin’ The Second Comin’ an outstanding success. For more information about LoveYourself and for those who wish to be updated of the organizations’ activities, please follow our page on Facebook page and regularly check out our website.

LoveYourself would also like to extend our appreciation to Hornet Gay Social Network, the most popular dating app for gay men in the Philippines, in spreading the words about our event. With the recent establishment of Health Innovation Group, Hornet has been proactively working with community organizations to improve the health and human rights of LGBTI community worldwide.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cherry Poppin' - The Second Comin': LoveYourself's Hottest and Biggest Fundraiser

The weather has turned warmer with the onset of the summer reason, and so is the heat with LoveYourself’s biggest and hottest fundraising event, Cherry Poppin’ - The Second Comin’. 

Come and join the Cherry Poppin' - The Second Comin', a party that will be held at the hip and upbeat Century City Mall Events Center in Makati on March 19, 2016, 8PM - 3AM.

Cherry Poppin’ started last year and its astounding success prompted LoveYourself to organize another one for this year, and with LoveYourself’s collaboration with Kosmos, a local counter-culture group of LGBT DJ’s, The Second Comin’ promises to be even bigger and better than last year. 

Groove to the music of upcoming DJ act Geert Major, also known as “GARUDA”. He will be supported by Kosmos’ in-house DJ’s.

What Else is In Store

Undoubtedly the hottest part of Cherry Poppin’ held last year was the date auction where partygoers can opt to choose from a selection of handsome and eligible bachelors by raising bids. Well, the date auction will still be part of Cherry Poppin’ - The Second Comin’, this time with an apparently new set of guys to bid for.  

But this year’s auction isn’t just a conceptual repeat of last year’s date auction. A fashion show featuring hip apparel from local streetwear brand OutKast Paradigm donned by the guys will also be held alongside the auction. It’s a chance to see the guy of your choice walk down the runway and feast on eye candy.

Similar to last year’s auction, winning bidders will have an intimate date with their guy, A romantic dinner is of course in the list, but other surprises await those who go for higher bids. This year’s Cherry Poppin’ dates-for-auction include models, young actors, dashing doctors, hunky professionals, and the reigning Mr. Gay World - Philippines, Christian Lacsamana.

All proceeds of the auction will be used for funding activities of LoveYourself, a non-profit organization that advocates for HIV awareness through its numerous campaigns and free HIV testing services through its two clinics - LoveYourself Uni and LoveYourself Anglo. Participants of the auction include LoveYourself volunteers and friends who would like to use Cherry Poppin’ as a platform for helping out the organization.


Tickets can be bought at the venue itself, but reserving tickets in advance also has its benefits. Your donation of PHP300 grants you a ticket of one ticket, inclusive of a free drink, and will also help fund the activities of LoveYourself. Higher-tiered tickets with better seats and more consumables are also available. Please click here if you wish to purchase tickets in advance.

Those who register for tickets in advance will be given a Grab promo code to get a PHP100 discount on your Grab car ride to or from the event. For other questions, please contact 0917-8608244.

Friday, March 11, 2016

LoveYourself Creates New Batch of Volunteers, Known as "Kinaadman"

LoveYourself welcomes its first batch of newly-recruited volunteers for 2016, collectively known as Batch Kinaadman.

The batch name comes from the Visayan word for wisdom, “Kinaadman”. It is the hope of LoveYourself that the new batch will impart and utilize their wisdom to help the organization’s missions of HIV awareness and self-worth.

Batch Kinaadman volunteers will receive training to become counselors in LoveYourself’s two HIV testing clinics - the LoveYourself Uni near the junction of Gil Puyat Avenue and Taft Avenue in Pasay, and LoveYourself Anglo along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong.

Beyond counseling, LoveYourself offers multiple pathways requiring various disciplines for volunteers to contribute to the organization’s cause through their own capabilities. It is the hope of LoveYourself that all volunteers will imbibe the value of self-worth, and through the knowledge and awareness of the HIV epidemic, be agents of change in the community.  

Behind the Logo

The most salient feature of the batch logo is the owl. Its features have been derived from the Philippine Eagle-Owl (Bubo philippensis), a specie of owl usually found in the Visayas, particularly in the islands of Samar, Bohol, and Leyte.

“The owl has long been the symbol of wisdom”, shares LoveYourself Creatives Manager and creator of the logo, Geno Maglinao. At the same time, LoveYourself has decided to feature species endemic to the Philippines to represent the names of batches to be recruited for 2016.

Sifting For the Right Fit

Similar to previous batches recruited by LoveYourself, Batch Kinaadman volunteers underwent a recruitment process aimed to sift through many applicants those who have the right fit with the organization’s missions, structure, and operations.

LoveYourself’s recruitment team incorporated scenarios that tested the applicant’s ability for teamwork and for making decisions. Apart from seeking perceptions on the psychosocial issues surrounding the HIV epidemic, the recruitment team also emphasized on finding out the capacity of applicants for collaborative work, as a trait befitting LoveYourself as a community of volunteers working together. Furthermore, the volunteer’s decision making skills highlights his or her ability to think critically in the face of the interpersonal and multi-faceted issues linked to HIV.

Half of the almost 100 applicants who signed up made it through the interview process, and Batch Kinaadman with 51 volunteers, is one of the larger batches recruited by LoveYourself since it downsized batch sizes particularly with Batch Bigkis and Batch Katha in 2015.

Awareness Keeps on Getting Better

Pete Tan, head of LoveYourself’s recruitment team, has noticed that “most of the applicants interviewed were quite hungry for knowledge, and most of them were aware how serious HIV is not just in the LGBT community but for society in general. Moreover, most of them are keen on how education is vital in addressing the growing epidemic in the country.”

The recruitment team shares that a lot of the recruits have been inspired by the work of other volunteers when they have gone to visit LoveYourself’s two clinics. “The hospitable environment of the clinics and the volunteers’ positive attitude evoke a safe and welcoming environment for others”, shares Pete Tan. The presence of LoveYourself in social media also extended its reach.

With various programs on HIV awareness and education and mass testing activities, LoveYourself has, through the years, expanded its reach, growing to an organization with over 500 volunteers. Last February, LoveYourself opened a brand new clinic called LoveYourself Uni. Also, the organization is venturing into PLHIV treatment through the NEXT+ CHAP+ER Program, and it is currently studying the rollout of a PrEP distribution program as another HIV prevention measure.

Call for Volunteers

If you are interested in helping LoveYourself as a formal volunteer and join its future batches, kindly fill up the form at