Thursday, April 28, 2016

Memoirs of a Counselor: My First Reactive Client

By: Jamie Titan
Ang lahat ng mga detalyeng matatagpuan sa sumusunod na kuwento ay kathang isip lamang ng manunulat. Ang mga personal na karanasan ng manunulat bilang isang volunteer counselor sa LoveYourself ang nagsilbing inspirasyon para sa kwentong inyong mababasa. Ginagalang ng LoveYourself ang non-disclosure agreement sa pagitan ng client at ng counselor, at tinitiyak ng manunulat at ng mga patnugot ng website ng LoveYourself na sa pamamagitan ng paglathala ng mga taalarawang personal ay walang nalalabag sa kasunduang ito. Nilalayon ng manunulat at ng mga patnugot na maliwanagan at mabigyan ng perspektibo ang mga mambabasa ukol sa realidad ng HIV.


Aligaga. Kung hindi tensyonado, kabado. Punong-puno ng emosyon.
Ganito ko mailalarawan ang pakiramdam ng isang newbie tulad ko, lalo na at first time sasabak sa counseling session matapos ang mahaba-habang training ng Love Yourself, Inc. sa mga bago nitong volunteer counselors. Ang training na ito’y tinatawag na “Change Agent Program”.
Nagkaroon din ako ng pagkakataon na makausap ang ilan sa mga fellow counselors ko. Cholo and Marlon, both from batch Bigkis (I am from batch Katha), said they felt the same way as I did. Si Marlon halos maiyak daw right after his session; Cholo, on the other hand, got over his session with beer at a nearby bar in Eastwood.
Although may mga kakilala akong PLHIV (People Living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus) at ang ilan sa kanila ay malalapit kong kaibigan, iba pa rin pala ang pakiramdam kapag kaharap mo na ang isang taong hindi pa alam na may ganitong siyang sakit at ikaw mismo ang magbabalita na mayroon siya nito. Not all people respond the same way to HIV. Marahil mahirap tanggapin ng sarili ang katotohanan tungkol sa kaniyang HIV status kapag ito’y reactive, na siyang dahilan kung bakit marami sa mga PLHIV ay nagtatago na lamang sa labis na kahihiyan sa halip na humingi ng tulong upang magpagamot. At ito na nga ang tinatawag nilang stigma. Masasabi ko na marahil hindi talaga lubusang maihahanda ng mga HIV awareness programs ang mga damdamin ng isang tao kapag siya ay binabalitaan na siya mismo ay may HIV. Maaari nating sabihin na ang stigma, sa kabila ng ating pagsisikap na labanan ito, ay hindi lubusang mapapawi.
Naka-ugalian ko na ang manalangin muna kapag ako ay may isang bagay na gagawin - be it at work, creative projects as part of my hobby, or kung may mga travel man ako. Kaya naman, bago ako sumalang sa kauna-unahan kong pagsabak bilang isang newly trained counselor, nagpasalamat ako sa Diyos para sa pagkatataong maranasan ang ganitong eksena, at humingi ng gabay gayun din ng lakas upang makapaglingkod sa isang epektibo at taos-pusong paraan. Ipinanalangin ko rin na ang bawat client na makakaharap ko ay mabigyan ng lakas ng loob at pang-unawa para mapagdaanan ang counseling session.

Si Jessie (di tunay na pangalan) was my very first client. 2nd year high school siya ng maulila sa magulang na siyang dahilan at napilitang maghanap-buhay sa mura niyang katawan at isipan upang matustusan ang kanyang pag-aaral at makatawid sa araw-araw na buhay. Life has never been easy for him lalo na at wala siyang malapitang kamag-anak dito sa Manila dahil lahat ng mga ito ay nasa Bacolod.
Instead of going back to the province, mas pinili na niyang manatili na lang kaysa gumastos pa ng malaki para sa pamasahe na kung pangkain na nga lang niya, minsan ay kapos pa siya. Kung anu-anong klase ng trabaho ang pinasukan ni Jessie. Waiter sa isang cafeteria, crew ng isang fast food chain, at pagiging isang mensahero ng isang law firm hanggang sa naisipan na niyang tumigil na lang sa pag-aaral at gawing full time ang pagiging isang “masahista”. This guy is quite charming; he has plenty of avid customers. Halos tatlong taon din sa ganitong hanap-buhay ang binata at may mga pagkakataon na kung hindi man minsan ay madalas may mga eksenang “extra service” ito.
Hindi rin nagtagal at unti-unting bumagsak ang timbang ni Jessie. Madalas kung siya ay lagnatin, may kasamang ubo at sipon. Salamat sa mga mabubuting kaibigan niya na kahit papaano’y naasikaso at naaalagaan siya. Ilang buwan ding pabalik-balik ang sakit ng binata hanggang sa minsan ay sinamahan na siya ng isang malapit na kaibigang nakatira sa kabilang kanto lamang-- si Goreng (di tunay na pangalan). Doon na nga nila nalaman na maaaring HIV nga ang dahilan sa karamdaman ng binata. Kahit ininom ni Jessie ang mga gamot na nireseta ng doktor, hindi pa rin nawala ang mga sintomas na sanhi ng paghihinala na maaaring siya’y mayroong HIV. Bukod dito, nagsilabasan ang mga skin rashes nung uminom si Jessie ng gamot. After his last consultation, the doctor advised him to have the HIV test.  
Hanggang sa napagpasiyahan na nga niyang tumungo sa LoveYourself Anglo upang magpa-HIV-test. That’s how Jessie and I met. This was last December, 2015.
Dinudurog ang puso ko habang nakikinig sa kwento ng binata. Malayong-malayo na ang itsura nito kumpara sa litratong pinakita niya sa akin. He also had a partner from Europe. The man was one of  his customers who supported him financially before, but who eventually left after finding out about Jesse’s situation. Bagama’t tinutulungan siya ng kanyang mga kaibigan kung saan siya kasalukuyang nanunuluyan, may mga gabing nababagabag ang kalooban ng binata dahil ang matindi roon ay napaliligiran si Jessie ng mga kaibigan maging mga kapitbahay na di umano’y lulong sa ipinagbabawal na gamot. Nakatutulugan na nga lang niya kung minsan ang mga ito when they are having sessions. Nangangamba siya na kung hindi man siya palayasin ay baka saktan siya ng mga ito sa oras na malaman nilang siya nga ay may HIV especially when they are all high on drugs...    
Before I shared the results of his HIV test, tinanong ko siya kung ano ang gagawin niya as soon as malaman niya ito.
May nginig sa kanyang tinig. “Hindi ko po alam, pero baka magpakamatay na lang ako.”  .
Nagimbal ako. I was terrified.
“Hindi ko na po siguro kakayanin, Sir Jem, lalo na sa mga pinagdaanan ko.” Pagpapatuloy ni Jessie habang nakikita kong unti-unting nangngingilid at tumulo ang mga luha nito mula sa kanyang mga  mata.
Lalo akong dinudurog ng mga sandaling iyon. But I have to look strong Saka ko naalala ang lahat  ng mga natutunan ko sa aming training.
Agad kong tinapik siya sa kaliwang tuhod at sabay sinabing, “Huwag, hindi dito natatapos ang lahat.” Dali-dali kong binuksan ang envelope. Hindi na ako nagulat sa resulta. He’s reactive. I composed myself quickly as I handed over his results.
Duon na tuluyang bumuhos ang mga luha sa kanyang mga mata. Good thing he had his own hanky. I tapped him on the shoulder. I didn’t ask him to stop crying. I let him be. “Sige lang, umiyak ka lang. I feel your pain.”
Pagkatapos niyang mahimasmasan ay muli kong sinabi sa kanya na hindi dito natatapos ang lahat. Na bata pa siya (he’s only in his early 20s). Na kaya niya pang makapagpatuloy. Nariyan naman si Goreng at tutulungan siya nito, karamay niya. Hindi man ako makatulong sa kanya ng pinansiyal pero andito ako na maaring niyang lapitan para makausap at bigyan siya ng lakas ng loob. Yun ang tungkulin namin bilang counselor.
Aksidenteng natabig ni Jessie ang dala nitong clutch bag at dali-dali itong nahulog sa sahig. Agad din namang pinulot ito ng binata gamit ang kanyang kaliwang kamay. Duon ko lang napansin ang suot nitong beige colored bracelet rosary na gawa sa ivory beads. Namangha ako sa ganda nito.
Wow, is that a rosary?” tanong ko sabay turo sa kaliwang kamay nito.
“Opo, sir,” ang matipid na sagot ng binata.
“Ang ganda. I love it. San ito galing?” Bati ko at sabay follow up question na rin.
“Ah, bigay po sa akin ng isang customer ko from Thailand,” ang paliwanag ni Jessie.
Very nice, Jess. Ayan huh, sana magsilbing reminder sa iyo ang rosary na yan habang suot mo. I know it’s a cliché but, despite of many trials and challenges you have gone through, hindi ka Niya iniwan at mananatili Siya sa iyo, sa tabi mo basta wag ka lang makalilimot na tumawag o lumapit sa Kanya. Manalig ka at magtiwala lang. May pag-asa.” Payo ko sa binata habang siya ay aking tinatapik sa kanyang kanang balikat.
“Opo, sir. Marami pong salamat.” Tugon ni Jessie habang marahan naman ito sa pagpunas ng mga luha sa kanyang mukha.
Makalipas ang ilang sandali muli kong nakitang ngumiti si Jessie. Ngiting nabasag matapos bumalik sa kanyang gunita ang alaala ng pait at sakit ng nakalipas. Bahagyang umaliwalas ang mukha nito. Nabuhayan ako ng pag-asa na marahil sa kabila ng kanyang naranasan ay hindi natatapos ang lahat sa pagkakaroon lamang ng HIV; bagkus, may paraan pa upang makapagpatuloy ang laban niya sa buhay.
Natapos ang counseling session namin after kong ipaliwanag sa kanya ang proseso ng treatment at kung paano pumunta sa Research Institute for Tropical Medicine o RITM, ang partner institution ng LoveYourself. Wala pang treatment facility ang LoveYourself Anglo nung mga panahong iyon. I referred him to other support groups as well to supplement the care that we can provide him.
Jessie and I are still communicating as of this writing -- and he is doing pretty well.
###
Photos by: Kris Tangco
Models: Mike Toyoda, Jamie Titan

LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Alumbro, Laborer of love

By Gian Geronimo
Government employee, LoveYourself volunteer, and all-around woman Jane Alumbro talks about rising above challenges and fighting for what one believes in. "Call me idealistic. When you are in the right, you stand up for what's right."
I have barely settled in my seat in the milk tea shop where I am about to interview Jane when she starts talking animatedly about how she's been addressing several work-related challenges lately.
It is funny in a way, because although I see how annoyed Jane is as she recounts her story, I can sense the confidence exuding from her person. I feel how she knows things are going to be better in the end, despite currently being infuriated with the situation. And my feelings are apparently correct, because though she's lost hours of sleep, though she's way over her head with work, though Jane acknowledges how ridiculous her whole predicament is, she also knows things will fall into place.
Though her round eyes and radiant smile might make people peg Jane as just another sweet girl type, they'd be wrong to dismiss her then and there. She is a fighter, someone who would not allow trials and tribulations to weigh her down. And she has had her fair share of these as I would learn during my chat with her. She has but only grown from these experiences, and shared her lessons with the people around her.
Passion for learning
Jane, 29, currently works as a labor law compliance officer with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), highly trained on knowledge specific to labor standards. Her responsibilities run the gamut from attending conferences and hearings, to going to offices and interviewing employees in order to assess if workplaces are complying with labor and employment standards.

In accordance with Republic Act 8504, or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, all private workplaces must have HIV/AIDS policies in place. Jane and her fellow labor law compliance officers assess if the offices in the areas under their jurisdiction have policies such as the one on HIV/AIDS and are thus following the law.
She loves her job with the department because it lets her help other people, and check if they are being treated unfairly. She firmly believes in justice and fairness. "Call me idealistic. When you are in the right, you stand up for what's right," Jane declares.
Before DOLE, she worked in a BPO company as a fraud analyst. And before that job, she worked as a legal staff member for a law firm based in Metro Manila. "I wanted to expand my horizons," Jane says. In her first job in that firm, she took in many life lessons along the way.
"There's one thing my boss in that law firm taught me. He told me never limit yourself to being knowledgeable only in one thing," Jane says.
She also notes her capacity and willingness to know more. "Maybe I'm just hyperactive," Jane jokes. "I really like activities involving people, and I like learning. Life is a continuing learning process."
Learning from life’s lessons
From the way Jane talks, one wouldn't think she hasn't known of hardships in life. As a matter of fact, she had to grow up quickly when she was just a teenager. Her parents departed for the US when she was just 14, leaving her and her siblings in the care of their aunt.
Jane says this aunt is one of her role models, and one of the reasons why she went to DOLE to work as a public servant. In 2013, she found out her aunt was diagnosed with cancer. That was a wake-up call for Jane to look for opportunities  to give back the love her aunt showed to her and her siblings.
"It was then that it became clearer to me more than ever that I needed to do something to prove myself to her," Jane shares. Thankfully, her aunt is presently in good condition as her cancer has gone into remission.
Still, the experience has contributed to Jane's drive to be a better person. Her experience in moving to Manila, too, has helped mold her into who she is now. When she worked in her first job in 2012 at the metro-based law firm, Jane had actually just moved from Cebu, where all of her relatives live. She has had to take on the urban jungle ever since with no one to help her make her way. But Jane continues to flourish.

"I thank my past self for deciding to go to Manila. I grew up here, I changed my party girl ways, my passive ways. Living here alone, I had to take care of myself, and I learned to love myself a little bit more."
A happy accident
One day in October 2014, during a period of time when she felt down due to a breakup, she wanted to feel better and tried searching for inspirational messages. "I decided to Google something about loving myself, and lo and behold, LoveYourself appeared in the search results," Jane recalls while laughing. She went to Anglo afterwards to get herself tested. She reminisces her LoveYourself beginnings with a giggle because, as she puts it, her involvement in the group was a result of a series of coincidences.
"It's just so funny because in the BPO company I worked for before I went to DOLE, my manager was Marky [Mendoza]," referring to a fellow LoveYourself volunteer. Jane says she was surprised to see Marky in Anglo.
"He could have chosen not to be there in the clinic when I went there, he could have chosen not to go on duty, but there he was," Jane said. "Right then and there I knew I would belong in LoveYourself."
"I asked Marky when I saw him the first time I went to Anglo, 'How can you help around here?'" Jane shares. "So I joined Batch Hiraya in March 2015, and here I am."
Jane's contributions to LoveYourself involve frequently manning the reception desk in LoveYourself Anglo and guiding clients who visit the clinic.

“I feel more fulfilled once I started becoming a LoveYourself volunteer," she says. "The group never fails to make me feel I found a place where I belong."

She has also been a point person for one of the initiatives of LoveYourself Caravan, a group initiative done in partnership with oil and gas company Shell that brings HIV awareness as well as free testing services to the business sector and schools. Jane fielded queries on HIV policies in the workplace to support the event's speaker. She has also been a resource speaker during one of the group's recent counselors' conventions, where she also talked about HIV policies in offices.
Love knows no labels

Filipinos living with HIV are pegged at 29,706 as of November 2015. It has also been noted that though HIV cases are more prevalent among men who have sex with men (MSM), women living with HIV are increasing as well.

It’s because of these data why Jane doesn’t mind at all that she’s one of LoveYourself’s few -- but passionate -- cisgender heterosexual women volunteers. Aside from the fact that the group is an inclusive one that has members across the gender spectrum, Jane doesn’t believe in labels when it comes to helping others.
"At first I didn't know LoveYourself was primarily composed of gay men," Jane says. "When I decided to join the advocacy, it didn't matter who the other members would be, because I knew I'd try to get along with the people there."
She notes with a smile, "It doesn't matter who you are with if you know in your heart you want to help, right?"

Photo: Gian Geronimo
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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#SaveSexy Through “Racing” HIV Awareness and Testing

By Raybert Domingo

Thousands flock to Boracay every summer for leisurely vacation, and in this time of the year, fun and play runs around among strangers and even familiar faces. Thus, LoveYourself, Inc., an HIV awareness and testing organization, earnestly supports the Red Whistle's #SaveSexy Campaign even before the gun fires on 29 April-01 May in the world renowned island beach resort.

The #SaveSexy campaign, which is on its second year now, is a race where individuals from various youth organizations are invited to volunteer as “Lifeguards” to promote HIV awareness and prevention measures among the most vulnerable sectors of the society, such as, the youth and males-who-have-sex-with-males.

"We are in charge of conducting HIV 101 to all #SaveSexy Lifeguards who will then explain the information to tourists and locals in Boracay,” said Loveyourself Executive Director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan.

LoveYourself and The Red Whistle also wanted to take advantage of the number of people in Boracay following the 350,000 foreign and local guests who visited in April and May last year. The advocacy groups see an opportunity in this number of people who can be taught of sex education as a means of prevention, since both organizations aim to educate their peers and colleagues to finally resolve the stigma and ignorance to HIV and AIDS.

The goal of #SaveSexy campaign this year is 300% higher than its initial run last year. The campaign aims to reach the finish line with a total of 1,000 people marching towards the end of the race in an effort to spread awareness on HIV. So, it will be extra exciting and interesting for this year’s Lifeguards to sprint up their dedication and passion in hurdling the challenges which will eventually dictate fate in the race.


At the last mile of this race, the LoveYourself and The Red Whistle encourage everyone to register to go.loveyourself.ph/savesexy for anonymous and confidential HIV testing. It has to be emphasized that through timely testing and treatment, safe and satisfying sex, and consistent and correct use of condom that we can truly have a podium finish for #SaveSexy.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

JOB OPENING : TRANS PROGRAM OFFICER BASED IN METRO MANILA



ISEAN-Hivos Program (IHP) – Global Fund Round 10 – Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Grant
Expression of Interest (EOI) Number: TLY-31
Issuance Date: April 26, 2016 (Tuesday)
Deadline of Submission: May 8, 2016 (Sunday)

Call for Expression of Interest for a TRANS PROGRAM OFFICER (full-time position based in Metro Manila) under LoveYourself for the ISEAN-Hivos Program Phase 2, Year 3 in the Philippines –“Strengthening Community Systems to Reduce the Vulnerability to and the Impact of HIV Infection among MSM and TG in the Islands of Southeast Asia “Infection among MSM and TG in the Islands of Southeast Asia”

CALL FOR EXPRESSION OF INTEREST

In 2010, the Islands of Southeast Asia Network on Male and Transgender Sexual Health (ISEAN) and the Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos) jointly submitted a regional proposal to the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis (GFATM) Round 10. The programme, entitled ‘Strengthening Community Systems to Reduce Vulnerability to and Impact of HIV infection on MSM and TG in the Islands of Southeast Asia’, was approved by GFATM. This grant has the main goal of reducing (a) the vulnerability and risks of MSM and transgender (TG) to HIV infection and (b) the impact of HIV on their lives in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Timor Leste. It intends to address critical gaps in supporting and scaling up activities that reduce HIV/AIDS among MSM and TGs. Phase 1 of the program was implemented from October 2011 to September 2013. Phase 2, Year 1 of the program was completed last September 2014 and Phase 2, Year 2 started January 2015, anticipated to run until September 2016. The program focuses on these key program components: capacity building, advocacy and networking, and technical and financial assistance.

LoveYourself, Inc. is co-implementing the ISEAN-Hivos Program Phase 2, Year 3 in the Philippines as the sub-sub recipient (SSR), with the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Inc. (PNGOC) as the sub-recipient (SR) of the grant, will be hiring Trans Program Officer (based in Metro Manila)

For the implementation of the ISEAN-Hivos Program Phase 2, Year 3, LoveYourself is looking for a Trans Program Officer (based in Metro Manila) who will be responsible for the conceptualization, development and implementation of transgender people-related initiatives, interventions and activities under the program both at the SSR and SR level. S/he will report to the LoveYourself Executive Director (also Program Director) and will work with the other members of the program team of the SR and SSRs.

ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS:
1.       Reports directly to the SSR LoveYourself Executive Director (also Program Director) and coordinates with ISEAN’s Regional Trans Program Specialist on all transgender-specific activities and deliverables;
2.      Organize and mobilize informal transgender groups (both transwomen and transmen) at the community level;
3.       Provide support and guidance to the SSRs, the national Network and other local and national partners and stakeholders, especially with program implementation and reporting of trans-specific activities;
4.       Facilitate the capacity-building of community leaders on transgender issues;
5.       Carry out desk research, field visits and participate in program monitoring and evaluations in line with trans-specific activities;
6.       Provide support in organizing national coordination meetings, including liaising with participants on events, meeting, training and workshops, especially those focusing on transgender issues;
7.       Contribute to documenting and disseminating project-related best practices and lessons learnt especially on transgender issues;
8.       Create and maintain internal systems, including contact lists, diaries of upcoming events and opportunities and other databases of trans-specific networks, non-government organizations, community-based organizations, informal groups and individuals.
9.       Perform the role of coordinator and facilitator/trainer during program activities such as trainings, workshops, forums and consultations, especially on SOGIE and Transgender 101 topics;
10.     Together with the SSR Administrative and Finance Officer and SSR Program Officer, prepare and provide monthly and quarterly programmatic reports to the SSR Program Director for submission to the SR; and
11.     Respond to and coordinate with SSR Program Officer for organizational profiling concerns.
12.     Perform other project-related functions as assigned by the SSR Program Director. 

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS

·     Education: College graduate with a degree in behavioral sciences, social sciences, liberal arts, or other relevant courses.
·     Work Experience: More than one year of working experience performing work similar to stated job functions in a development work setting. Preferably with experience in organizing and conducting consultations and advocacy activities, community mobilization, monitoring and evaluation, basic research, technical report writing, and networking and partnership. Working knowledge and familiarity with HIV and AIDS, and TG community issues.
·     Training Experience: Has undergone training on program management, training facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, community mobilization, sexual and reproductive health and rights, SOGIE, HIV and AIDS.
·     Other Professional Skills: Proficient in oral and written English business communication; operation of computer and other ICT equipment; and knowledge in the use of most Microsoft Office applications; and familiar with data backup procedures.
·     Other Desirable Qualities: Willing to work beyond standard working hours; can work with minimal supervision; highly trainable; detail oriented; can work well with a team; and gender sensitive.
·     Openly identifies as a transgender person.

FAIR HIRING POLICY
LoveYourself is an equal opportunity employer and highly encourages applicants from the transgender community who have experience in non-profit and community development work. Applicants familiar with Global Fund procedures are encouraged to apply.

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE
Interested applicants should submit an expression of interest (EOI) letter together with the applicant’s CV/resume, via e-mail to vinn@loveyourself.ph and cc: jhaydee@loveyourself.ph and info@loveyourself.ph on or before May 8, 2016 (Sunday), 5:00 pm (PH time), addressed to Mr. Ronnivin G. Pagtakhan Executive Director of LoveYourself Inc. technical review of documents will be done and the most qualified applicant will be contracted by LoveYourself Inc.

Technical review of documents, phone and face-to-face interviews, and written exam will be facilitated and the most qualified applicant will be contracted by LoveYourself. Please take note that this is for immediate hiring to be based in Metro Manila with expected start date on May 16, 2016.

For the hired applicant, the following documents will need to be prepared and submitted within two weeks upon hiring: SSS, TIN, Pag-IBIG and Philhealth numbers, police and NBI clearances, and medical certificate.