Wednesday, June 22, 2016

LoveYourself's Circle of Love 2016: Solidarity in Diversity, and Gratitude For The Past 5 Years

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
-  Lao Tzu

The famous pundit’s words have always rung true for people who strove for growth and greater heights. For LoveYourself, these words resonate just as well as the organization reaches a significant milestone. LoveYourself celebrates its 5th anniversary by holding its annual “Circle of Love” festivities, with this year’s event focusing on themes of solidarity in diversity and gratitude as its reaches its 5th year milestone. Circle of Love 2016 will be held on July 2.

From a Few Steps to Reaching Out Further

The non-profit organization started out with a team of six counselors, then known as VINN Advocacy, named after its founder, Vinn Pagtakhan. “I remember the day when we held our first mass testing activity, and we weren’t even allowed by doctors from the Health Department to counsel by ourselves. They said we weren’t ready [despite the fact that we were more than prepared for it]”, shares the founder of the organization now with almost 700 volunteers.

LoveYourself has embarked on education and awareness campaigns, and mass testing activities. It opened its first clinic in collaboration with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), The LoveYourself Hub in Malate, Manila in 2011. By 2014, LoveYourself expanded its reach when it opened the LoveYourself Anglo along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City. Earlier this year, LoveYourself has opened a bright and youthful facility called the LoveYourself Uni near the Taft-Gil Puyat junction to replace The LoveYourself Hub.

Onto its fifth year, the organization has entered a new phase by expanding its core services from HIV awareness and testing to include life coaching programs for PLHIVs (People Living with HIV). The group has striven to continually improve its services, implementing the “inaasikaso at inalagaan” brand of service this year to all of its clients.  With more clinics it plans to open, along with its innovative campaigns, LoveYourself has been making HIV testing more accessible not only to the general population, but to sectors that are most at risk. Based on HARP (HIV/AIDS and ART Registery of the Philippines) data maintained by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, LoveYourself is now a major contributor to national HIV statistics as its testing services capture key sectors in the population.

The Circle of Love

Looking back at the five-year journey LoveYourself has treaded, the fifth Circle of Love commemorates all of the organization’s milestones by recognizing key and outstanding volunteers who have selflessly dedicated themselves to the cause and improvement of the organization. Afterwards, the first ever Miss LoveYourself pageant will be held, with representatives from various batches of LoveYourself volunteers competing for the crown. In contrast to previously held pageants, this year’s event will focus on HIV awareness platforms as a main criterion for judging the contestants.

LoveYourself has grown from a group of friends working for a cause to a more formidable force of almost 700 volunterers, comprised of people from various walks of life, united together, more than ever before, to help the community through HIV education and awareness, and to send the important message of loving oneself and self-worth. This year’s Circle of Love celebrates the forces of volunteerism that have congealed individuals together, and to exercise gratefulness for what LoveYourself has accomplished.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Vinn Pagtakhan, Mother of LoveYourself

By Karl Faustino
It was never in Vinn’s wildest dreams that he would eventually give birth to LoveYourself. Almost 5 years later, Vinn recalls how he and his friends raised this baby into the organization that has grown to be the largest, most renowned volunteer group advocating HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in the Philippines.
On conceiving LoveYourself
Pre-LoveYourself, Vinn was a private person. As an advocate of “World Peace,” it became part of his life to do charity work, most of them outreach events. Back then, he was not yet aware of LGBT and MSM volunteer groups. “I just want to help” became his mantra.
When he became a nursing practitioner, he created the twitter profile @TwitrNurse. As his following grew, he found out that most of the questions people asked on social media were slowly becoming more focused on HIV/AIDS, and these mostly came from gay/MSM accounts. Then he realized that the current efforts toward HIV/AIDS is not enough. He then said to himself, “If I wanted to do something to help spread awareness on HIV/AIDS, I’m gonna do something different.”
At first, Vinn thought of creating a youth-centric community center, which later on evolved into an LGBT community center, somehow inspired by what he has seen in San Francisco. On June 29, 2011, during one of his friends’ birthday celebrations, he proposed his plans to those present in the party and asked for their commitment to help transform his vision into reality. “For some reason, the universe conspired because that night, I met Chris (Lagman), Von (Arroyo), Ian (Alquiros), and the rest of who would be the founding members of TLY. Everyone got excited with the proposal, so we decided to do it and started writing down the necessary steps to make it happen.” By July 21, 2011 LoveYourself was officially registered.
The birth pains of LoveYourself
Back then, LoveYourself was a “new kid on the block” and with just a handful of enthusiastic volunteers, it was not an easy task. After its inception, branding and funding became the first order of business on their list. By the end of July, they organized their first ever mass testing targeting MSM (men who have sex with men) sex workers. By September, after a screening of “Sayaw ng Dalawang Kailwang Paa” back to back with "Zombadings" and photo shoot fundraisers, they were able to generate enough funds to have the core team undergo DOH training, giving birth to LoveYourself’s first batch of HIV counselors and volunteers. Shortly afterwards, TLF (The Library Foundation) Share, a non-profit membership organization comprised of sexuality, health and rights educators, provided Peer Education training.
The circle of alphamales
Vinn also recalls another birth pain – managing the strong personalities of the core team. For him, it was hard to mediate everyone and everyone ended up “agreeing to disagree,” as it were. Arguments were heated, and people weren’t just going to give up on their perspectives so easily. “The good thing about it though is that at the end of every argument, Chris usually asks me for the final say. And I’m happy that they still respect me, especially when I feel that there are things that don’t go well with the overall vision.” Vinn says he is happy that despite all the differences, there is still respect among the members, and it’s a culture that continues up to this day.
Coping with funding
Vinn also remembered how difficult it was to raise resources during the first few years. The resources came from either me, Chris, or the fundraisers. It was like paying for the tuition of two college students! We also relied on help from other volunteers. But it was more of a personal sacrifice, which I didn’t mind because I know that it’s for a good cause, and it’s a good investment for Love Yourself’s growth. At the end of each event, I am happy because it all went well despite our limitations. I think our key strength as an organization is that we believe in the innate goodness of people.”
It was also because of these events that Vinn learned how to Google for information on where he can apply for grants to further fund the organization’s activities. With his resourcefulness, Vinn was able to secure funding from several companies and international agencies for sustaining LoveYourself’s operations in the years to come.
On raising LoveYourself
Now that LoveYourself has grown beyond Vinn’s initial vision, so do the struggles that he faces in managing it. Resource funding problems have evolved to submitting fund utilization reports to sponsors. Challenges in organizing events became challenges in clinic operations. And managing a handful grew to managing hundreds of volunteers.
On negativity and the art of deadmatology
With its growing popularity, LoveYourself has had its fair share of detractors. But Vinn just simply lets it all pass. “We can’t please everybody no matter how hard we try. There will always be somebody who will throw stuff at us. You just have to learn to let it enter and exit your ears. That’s the art of magnanimity and deadmatology. What gives me the strength every time is the support that you get from people in the organization. There are things to improve, but overall we’re doing something good. As long as there is someone who believes in us, my confidence for the organization will always be there.”
On coping with fatigue and stress
Vinn came to a breaking point last year when his anemia struck him big time. It was during that time when several things were happening simultaneously that it became a bit too much for his body to handle. It was never a reason for him to give up though. “My physical body may be down, pero yung espritu santo ko buhay na buhay pa rin (but my spirits were still very much alive)!” The confidence and faith he has in LoveYourself’s staff and volunteers made him feel at ease that everything will run smoothly even while he was recovering. “Before, I was very hands on with all projects. But thanks to everyone, the organization operates smoothly even if there are several things going on.”
I continue to be just me
Vinn recalls how Chris oftentimes protects him from negativities while raising LoveYourself. “He just wanted me to stay the way I am – perky, warm, and friendly. He wanted me to share my authentic personality to the organization. He doesn’t want me to face everyone looking or feeling jaded because of everything that’s happening in the advocacy. I appreciate this gesture more than ever, because if it were not for this, I don’t know if I will be like this up until today.”
On reaching out to everyone
Given the scale of the organization, Vinn has yet to continue reaching out to its volunteers, especially the new batches. “Everytime I’m here, I make sure that I always go to the clinic to say hello to everybody. Of course, not everyone is able to go to the clinics. But I really want to know everyone especially the new volunteers. The organization has grown so big that it has become difficult for me to really be everywhere at the same time. I hope I can have a ‘coffee with Princess’ kind of an activity with the new batch of volunteers so I can get closer to them.”
Looking back and moving forward
Vinn mentions that over the past five years, his greatest contribution as LoveYourself’s mother is building something that is open to everyone. “LoveYourself was able to open its doors to everyone regardless of identity, financial capability, sexuality, and religious or political beliefs. I believe that everyone has something good to give, and it is this openness to diversity that helped us grow into becoming what our organization is like today.”
Vinn marvels at the exponential growth LoveYourself has achieved. “I’m proud that I was able to build a family from scratch. And that this family grew and grew, and they started having their own families of their own through the different committees and groups within the organization. And that each member finds solace in this family. More than the figures and cases we are able to identify and contribute to national numbers, this is something I will be more proud of”.
Vinn recalls how he never really thought of writing down long-term plans for the organization. “LoveYourself growing into what it is today has been beyond my imagination. I am humbled by a lot of volunteers who have huge responsibilities in their homes and families, and yet find spare time to help in the advocacy. This is the reason why the soul of LoveYourself is its volunteers.” Vinn, the mother of LoveYourself, is definitely one beaming with pride and gratefulness for her children, the volunteers.

Photos: 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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hit comedy musical Rak of Aegis all set for its 5th comeback

The Philippine Educational Theater Association's (PETA) hit comedy musical Rak of Aegis is making its fifth comeback, running from June 17 to August 28, 2016 with a total of 82 shows. This spectacular theater showcase also comes as PETA gears toward its 50th year celebration.

The popular production has garnered over 20 awards and citations since it opened in 2014,  including Outstanding Original Musical, Outstanding Musical Direction, and Outstanding Stage Direction Outstanding Original Libretto, to name a few.

The new season will see the Rak ensemble reprise their roles as the colorful Villa Venizians, with two wickedly talented new Aileens - The Voice runner up Alisah Bonaobra and actress Tanya Manalang.

Shows run from June 17 to August 28, every Tuesdays to Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays to Sundays at 3 and 8 p.m. at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.

Catch the June 19 (Sunday), 8 p.m. show. Twenty percent of ticket sales sold to LoveYourself members for this show will go directly to LoveYourself. For tickets, contact Lui at 0917-562-5050.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Break Free From Isolation With Erka Inciong's Works On Display At Pride Night 2016

On Facebook, Erka Inciong is often snapped hugging friends and carrying a wide smile, but the young artist knows all too well the feelings of loneliness and shame that hound LGBTQI+ persons.

A professional graphic artist for a business daily by day, Erka eases into the shoes of an illustrator at night during which she creates powerful images of despair, visualizing the struggles that the LGBTQI+ community and she herself have felt growing up.

Erka's work has been on display in "L O S S," an art exhibit celebrating the opening of Warrior Poet Art Cafe and she was also a featured artist in the Metro Manila Pride Queer Arts Festival held earlier this year.

This Saturday, Erka also joins Pride Night 2016 and below she explains the comforting emotions she tries to imbue in her work:

Could you describe your art?
It's an extension of myself.

What is the role of your art in empowering LGBT?
To make them feel that they are not alone.

What can people expect from you when they attend Pride Night?
That I am not ashamed to be myself.

Catch Erka Inciong's works on June 11 at Pineapple Lab, Makati City. Register now at for free tickets to Pride Night 2016.

Friday, June 10, 2016

DJ Group Panty Monsters Liberates The Beautiful Beast In You at Pride Night 2016

When you step onto a dance floor, you let loose all inhibitions, and for Panty Monsters, it should also mean a release from inequality and discrimination.

Self-hate and pretention are thrown out the window when you dance to a Panty Monsters set, as members of the "unapologetically insane" DJ group make you feel real good about yourself with their entrancing pop beats.

"At a Panty Monsters' party, you are encouraged to be whoever & whatever the fuck you want to be. No T, No Shade," says Darryl Recina, the manager of Panty Monsters, which was formed more than eight years ago.

DJ Mike Lavet

DJ Queen Bridgette Olga 

DJ Peanut Butter & Jelly

DJ Mike Lavet, DJ Queen Bridgette Olga and DJ Peanut Butter & Jelly from Panty Monsters will be liberating party goers at Pride Night 2016 on June 11, 2016 at Pineapple Lab, Makati, and we get a little teaser on how they will make the night a fabulously beastly one.

What is your role, if any, in empowering LGBT?
This group started as an answer to discrimination against the LGBT, the weirdos, the freaks - the deviant. Kami lang ang grupo ng musikero na walang pakialam sa party goers, naka panty ka man o hindi, (We are the only group of musicians that do not care about the appearance of party goers, whether you're wearing a panty or not), whether your cock is tucked or not, we care more about our wigs like your momma does.

What can people expect from your set on Pride Night 2016?
Our selves and our music are both a paradox—pop that can’t be played for everyone; diamonds that are less De Beers and more Bejewelled; synthesizers that wants to play a different game. We’re elegance through the lens of an SM Advantage card. Every Panty Monsters party is a celebration of individuality.

Unleash the beautiful beast in you by dancing to a Panty Monsters set this Saturday. Register now at for free tickets to Pride Night 2016.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Ampalaya Monologues author Mark Ghosn to perform at LoveYourself's Pride Night 2016

By Jean Natividad

Mark Ghosn, monologist and writer of Ampalaya Monologues - an episodic play featuring a collection of monologues about love, heartaches, and bitterness - will take the stage at Pride Night 2016 on June 11 at Pineapple Lab in Makati City.

Through Ampalaya Monologues, Ghosn aims to tell the stories of those who've tasted the different flavors of bitterness that love has to offer. The artist has created a powerful art movement and a whole new performance arena, gathering theater actors, spoken word artists, and audiences in galleries, coffee shops, parks, bars, and other venues.

See what Ghosn has in store for you on Pride Night 2016 in our Q&A with him below. He also talks about the new instalment of Ampalaya Monologues this Pride Month, so be sure to check that out too.

Describe your art.
I am a writer and an actor.

What is the role of your art in empowering LGBT?
Through these monologues, we can share different stories of LGBTQ+ individuals for others to relate to and make them feel that they are not alone.

What can people expect from you when they attend Pride Night?
I'll be performing a piece from our show Ampalaya Monologues.

What can people expect from your June 19 AMLOVEWINS show at O-Bar Ortigas?
Ampalaya Monologues #LoveWins is a celebration of different faces of love. It will feature a lot of new monologues. We have spoken word artists and musicians who will be joining us as well.

Taste the bitterness of love through Ghosn's performance. Register now at for free tickets to Pride Night 2016.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Contemporary artist Mars Bugaoan to connect with audiences through his art at LoveYourself's Pride Night 2016

By Jean Natividad

With his chosen materials transformed in ingenious ways, Mars Bugaoan lets us in on his thoughts about themes that are all too familiar to us - the nature of change and constant evolution of all things. The artist makes us take a second look at the everyday transformations we see around us, inviting us to slow down and contemplate the cycle of life.

Bugaoan showcases his creativity through a variety of outputs, including photos, fine prints, installations, and mixed media artwork. He graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree Major in Advertising from the University of Santo Tomas and is currently pursuing his Masters in Fine Arts Degree at the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Read what the artist has to say before viewing his works at Pride Night 2016 set for June 11 at Pineapple Lab in Makati City:

How would you describe your work?
I produce works that present how the chosen material transforms and evolves. I want to show the order of things, the cycle of life, and the contrasts surrounding it.
What is the role of your art in empowering LGBT?
The message is to speak the language that we know – to share our stories/experiences in nobody else’s voice but our own.
What can people expect from you when they attend Pride Night?
To share with them a little of piece of myself through a visual experience.

The LoveYourself x Pineapple Lab: Pinoy & LGBT Pride Exhibit will run until the end of June, and part of the proceeds from art sales will go to LoveYourself. For more details, click here. To register and get free tickets, log on to

Appreciate Eroticism with Tokwa Peñaflorida's Works at LoveYourself's Pride Night 2016

By Kris Tangco

Upcoming artist, Tokwa Peñaflorida, has showcased his works in numerous exhibits and campaigns including Ayala Foundation’s “As One As We Can” and The Red Whistle’s “Red Letter Days”. Tokwa has selflessly created works for advocacies he believes in. Prolific and skillful, with works ranging from paintings to illustrations for children’s books, Tokwa’s compelling works celebrate the beauty of the human form while combining deep and metaphorical narratives.  

With eroticism and nudism as prevailing themes, Tokwa’s artworks challenge socially conservative mindsets and conventions by speaking close to human experience. Never smug, Tokwa is an artist who is constantly honing himself. The altruistic artist sits down with LoveYourself’s Editorial Team for a short interview.

(Photos provided by Tokwa Peñaflorida)

Could you describe your art?

I always had this fascination with the concept of sleep and things that have a relationship to it, like dreams, the process of sleeping, beds and bedrooms, and the homograph as in "sleeping with someone". My art style is diverse and I love to experiment with different styles and media, but my language will always be the same. I focus on silent emotions and soft and warm imagery.

What is the role of your art in empowering LGBT?

I just do what I want to do to be honest. I never really got the logic behind "since I'm gay, I should only do homoerotica or gay-themed artworks" and I really don’t like it when people expect that LGBT artists only produce LGBT-related work. I do a lot of imagery that involves homosexual love, but I also do female pinups for heterosexual audiences. I'm also a children's book illustrator.

I just make sure that there should be an equal representation of different kinds of people in the stuff I do. And I fight for that equal representation. I'm a proud LGBT artist but that is not to the exclusion of others.

What can people expect from you when they attend Pride Night?

I will be displaying old and new works for the Pride Night. There will be prints and large series of illustrations of different stories.

Tokwa Peñaflorida’s works will be on display in LoveYourself’s Pride Night, set on June 11, 2016,Saturday at the Pineapple Lab from 7pm onwards. Click here for more details and register at

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Up-and-coming Artist Josh Galvez's Illustrations On Display at LoveYourself Pride Night 2016

By Kris Tangco

Art director and digital illustrator Josh Galvez spends much of her time working in an ad agency and at the same time creating art, but she also dazzles the 11,000 fans on her YouTube channel Artpalette with digital painting videos. In 2013, Josh Galvez was one-half of a pair that represented the Philippines in the Young Designs Lions category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, a prestigious creative communications summit held in Cannes, France.

Josh also maintains an online exhibit featuring her works, which mainly are illustrations, and digital art. Her works will be featured at LoveYourself’s Pride Night 2016, much of which revolves around the theme of apparent normalcy.

(Photos provided by Josh Galvez)

“A lot of us have issues we keep buried deep in ourselves even though we pretend we are fine and dandy on the outside. Inside we're already drowning and that we have no choice but to keep afloat no matter what happens. We also have to realize that these issues may not get fixed overnight but how we live our lives is in our hands, not society's”, shares the young artist.

Get a glimpse of Josh Galvez’s experiential creations at LoveYourself’s Pride Night which will be held on June 11 at Pineapple Lab. Get your tickets and register now at

HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) - April 2016 Report

HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) - April 2016 Report Past HARP Reports can be accessed through this link

Monday, June 06, 2016

Get Swept Away by Daloy Dance Company’s Performance at Pride Night 2016

When HIV/AIDS advocate Wanggo Gallaga caught a performance of Daloy Dance Company he was moved by its grace and power, calling it "breathtaking, provocative, and daring."

Improvisation, experimentation and polished technique all combine to make the dance theater collective a rising force in the Philippine dance scene.

Aside from garnering critical applause, Daloy has become a prolific presence in prestigious local arts festivals such as the Fete de la Musique and Malasimbo Lights and Dance Festival and the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Pasinaya Festival and Performatura Arts Festival.

In celebration of the inclusiveness amid diversity that is at the core of Pride Month festivities this June, Daloy Dance Company will perform at Pride Night 2016.

Below they share their unique viewpoint as a dance company and reveal the concept behind their performance this Saturday:

Could you describe your performance art?
Daloy Dance Company is a Manila-based dance theatre collective founded by Artistic Director Ea Torrado. With its commitment to dance as experiential inquiry and explorative practice, Daloy develops process-driven experimentations that incite and evolve dance performance aesthetics and thinking in the Philippines.
What is the role of your art in empowering LGBT?
At the core of our work is the conscious cultivation of organic and authentic movement, contributing thus to personal and communal transformation.  Dance as a codified movement language in most genres still have traditional gender roles.  In Daloy we aim to explore, experiment and experience movement from a very individual perspective. In our movement education programmes we advocate that body type, shape, age and gender are not limitations for one to move and enjoy his own organic movement.
What can people expect from you when they attend Pride Night?
Daloy artist Zyda Baaya and Artistic Director Ea Torrado are performing a short duet about the intricacies and intimacies of two women in a relationship.

Watch Daloy Dance Company's moving duet performance at LoveYourself’s Pride Night to be held on June 11 at the Pineapple Lab. To register, please go to