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.

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