Saturday, November 30, 2019

Finding Sanctuary: Batch Caim is LoveYourself’s Batch 24

By Carlo Ando

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LoveYourself welcomes its newest batch of volunteers on November 16, 2019, at the SAP Office located at Cyberscape Gamma, Ortigas, Pasig City. There were 45 fresh faces that completed Batch Caim as LoveYourself’s third and last batch for 2019.  Batch Caim is the organization’s 24th batch in its 8-year run. 
A quiet Saturday turns into an insightful learning experience as the new volunteers were immediately immersed into the organization’s culture of unconditional positive regard.  The safe space culture within LoveYourself allows volunteers, clients, and partners to be the best version of themselves without reservation or fear of judgment and discrimination.  The creation of safe spaces is a key ingredient in driving the mission of LoveYourself - to embrace and affirm one’s self-worth.
The activities truly fit the name of the new batch, Caim from a Gaelic term associated with protection and sanctuary, so that volunteers may exemplify the practice of carrying and nourishing the creation of Safe Spaces within the community.
Batch Caim Logo by TJ Monzon
Caim's Symbolism
Similar to earlier 2019 batches, LoveYourself continues a tradition of incorporating a mythical creature in the batch logo, all created by volunteer TJ Monzon.  The organization started with Batch Kauna Kai’s Phoenix logo as a symbol of strength and rebirth, traits imbibed by volunteers in their undying passion and commitment to fight against HIV.  Next is Batch Isetu’s Griffin as a symbol of boldness and bravery, to remind volunteers of their role as selfless community leaders, exhibiting empathy and compassion in the advocacy work.
For Batch Caim, the batch logo is a water dragon, symbolizing wisdom and strength – traits necessary to foster a flourishing sanctuary for LoveYourself’s internal and external communities.  Batch Caim embodies this ripple of positive change in the community, one that starts with the self and touches on other people, in ever expanding circles.
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LoveYourself’s growing positive influence in the community leads the organization to fruitful partnerships, and as an example of such a partnership, the organization was able to use the SAP Office to hold the batch orientation.  Among the new volunteers is Ms. Khaye Ortanez, SAP’s HR Recruitment Specialist, who remarked that SAP’s partnership with LoveYourself will enable the company to conduct its own awareness campaign and engage its own employees in fulfillment of its corporate social responsibility.  LoveYourself, for its part, will be conducting HIV and SOGIE awareness talks in SAP’s various business sites.
The batch orientation team was ably led by Cris Tresmonte, HIV Counselor and Life Coach from Batch Marcelino.  Helping him out were co-heads Nicole Silvestre of Batch Duque and Carlo Ando of Batch Ignite.  According to Nicole, “being part of the orientation team was special because it felt like being part of a supportive and encouraging family.”
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting“The fight against HIV will need more agents of positive change to nurture sanctuaries of self-worth within the community.” says Alaiza Malinao, Ambassador of LoveYourself’s Flourish Circle and now Batch Caim volunteer. “It really is a safe space. Being part of LoveYourself like being in a sea of inspiring people!  There are lessons you can learn from fellow volunteers that you can’t find anywhere online. LoveYourself is a family with a big respect to individual differences. You can really be who you are in this family. Love is in the air always.”
Feeling inspired? You can sign up to volunteer in Metro Manila, and/or in Metro Cebu!
Carlo is part of LvoeYourself's Tabletops Bottoms, and Sides Gaming Group. The group used to hang at Roll Play Gaming Lounge when it was still open at the Greenfield District. Send him a message for an invite to join the gang.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

#KYS: Know Your Stars, Know Your Status

By Tino Largado

The country’s top stage performers are taking on the role of HIV awareness ambassadors as the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) team up with LoveYourself for this year’s #KYSandPlay National HIV Testing Day happening at up to 19 different locations nationwide on November 23, 2019. 

Our theater stars-turned-advocates take time off rehearsals and performances to promote and campaign the importance of testing and knowing one’s status as a solid step in fighting HIV and the stigma surrounding it. Before the you know your status, let’s get to know them and learn about what they have to say regarding this important cause.

Not a One-Night Show

For theater actors Eko Baquial, Topper Fabregas, Cheeno Uy Macaraig, and Jimi Marquez, HIV testing must be regular and consistent, never a one-time thing.

“I started when I was young… At an early age, we were told to have ourselves tested,” said Eko, who recalls how his involvement with PETA’s Metropolitan Teen Theater League gave him the chance to partake in HIV-related training sessions and productions that got him educated early on. Yet, he admits that the first time will always be different and memorable. “Pero iba pa rin ‘yung experience ng first time. Nag-flashback lahat ng ginawa ko, but I'm glad I did it.” (The first time doing it is still different. I had flashbacks of everything I did before, but I'm glad I did it.

“[I’ve gotten] tested in-between shows,” recalled Topper, who starred on Angels in America early this year, as well as on PETA’s local staging of “The Normal Heart” in 2017. He credits these productions, as well as the chance to partner with LoveYourself in a workshop for counselors in the past, to the knowledge he’s gained about HIV. “I was educated about how many people get infected. I think it was only 22 [Filipinos testing reactive, in a day], at that time.” (In comparison, a July report released by the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines shows that this has increased to up to 35 new cases in a day.)

For Cheeno, everyone should get into the habit. “Actually dapat lahat ginagawa ‘yun, kasi para sa ‘yo rin ‘yun eh; para sa health mo, at para ma-protektahan mo ang sarili mo.” (Actually, everyone should be doing it because it's for yourself, your health, and for you to protect yourself) To this, Jimi agrees. “That’s the only way you’ll know your status. Believe me, it will help you.”

HIV testing can only end up with one of two results, yet regardless of the outcome, Jimi calls it a “win-win situation” adding, “You’ll know how to cope with the situation that you’re in. There’s no better feeling than to have peace of mind.” Eko stresses this out as well: “Getting a non-reactive [result] is also a reminder that everyone is susceptible to the virus. To be tested regularly is the key.” 

Saving Your Skin
Actors Bene Manaois, Dylan Ray Talon, and Miguel Almendras star in “Under My Skin” which opens February of next year. Written by Rody Vera and directed by Melvin Lee, the play tackles HIV through accounts of different characters affected and impacted by the virus. 

Bene, Dylan, and Miguel are thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this meaningful project, and become ambassadors of #KYSandPlay, as this sheds new light to what they know so far about HIV, and how they can be advocates of this cause and become better colleagues to the rest of the theater community.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa PETA at binigyan ako ng mas malapit na pagtingin sa sitwasyon,” (I'm thankful for PETA for giving me an closer look at the situation) says Dylan who, prior to this project, has only learned about HIV through self-research and stories from other people in his network who live with HIV (PLHIV). He’s eager to get himself into the advocacy armed with the facts he needed to know. 

Bene, meanwhile, highlights the importance of self-care through testing and knowing one’s status, and how care and concern for other people, particularly PLHIVs can spring from it. “As a person and an artist, it’s always of great concern to know [how to care about others]. Tao rin sila, kabiyak mo rin sila.” (As a person and an artist, it's always a great concern to know [how to care about others]. They are people too, They are family.)
“There’s no reason not to get tested,” says Miguel. “At this day and age, you have to break the stigma,” he adds, and the first step in doing so is to get it finally done and break away from fear. “Don’t be afraid, don’t limit yourself.”

No Day But Today

Sensational, award-winning titles such as RENT, The Normal Heart, and Angels in America center on the strength amidst the struggle and stigma surrounding HIV. This representation in the theater is what “Under the Skin” aims to achieve, but with a local, more familiar approach. This also makes the collaboration with LoveYourself for #KYSandPlay the right fit, allowing theater actors to be more effective advocates by playing important roles both on- and off-stage.

“You’ll be surprised at how much people just don’t know,” reveals Topper, which is why he believes “it’s so important to keep spreading the message and to end the stigma.”

For Eko, theater “gives an avenue, a space to talk about the issue.” He emphasizes this, realizing that the impact of HIV has come closer and more urgent, given the rising number of cases.
This impact is indeed closer to home for Jimi, who shares about a friend who has been diagnosed. “It can happen to anyone. [That’s why] as much as we can, we’re encouraging everyone [to get tested]. It can only do you good.”

From this new-found advocacy, Dylan hopes he can inspire everyone to finally take on this important step of knowing one’s status. “Kung anuman ang resulta, mas makikita mo ‘yung halaga ng sarili mo.” (Whatever the result is, you'll be able to see how valuable you really are.)

After #KYSandPlay National Testing Event you can still have free and confidential HIV screening at any of these venues: Metro Manila (LoveYourself clinics in Anglo in Mandaluyong, Uni and Victoria by LoveYourself in Pasay, Welcome in Quezon City, and Lily by LoveYourself in ParaƱaque), Luzon (Hero by LoveYourself in Bacoor, Cavite, AVES Love and Light in Imus, Cavite, Lakan Community Center in Mabalacat, Pampanga, and Amos Tara in Puerto Princesa, Palawan), Visayas (LoveYourself White House and Atma Prema Community Center in Cebu City, Cebu, Bangaw Federation in Talisay, Cebu, LoveYourself venues in Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue City, Cebu, and Rajah Community Center and kNOwTELL Health and Wellness Lounge in Iloilo City), and Mindanao (Olympus Society of Davao in Davao City*, Oro Pia Community Center in Cagayan de Oro, and Mujer LGBT Organization in Zamboanga City).
When not juggling BPO work and HIV advocacy, Tino is a self-confessed TV addict and Broadway musical fanatic. He thinks he’s an old soul, perhaps a sitcom actor in his past life, trapped in a selfie-obsessed man-boy suit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What’s Lube Got To Do: How Lube Makes Sex Safer (And Better!)

By LoveYourself Communications

They say love makes the world go round, but lube makes the ride smooth.

Personal lubricant, is your wingman for better, more pleasurable, and even safer sex! Whether you play with sex toys, enter the backdoor, or beat the meat, a handy dandy tube of lube can already make everything so much better.

Safe, Satisfying, and Slicker Sex

Having anal sex can be tricky business, getting in can already be hard enough (pun unintended).. The anus is lined with delicate tissue that barely produces enough lubrication for comfortable anal sex. Without additional lube this tissue can get small tears easily — called anal fissures. which can become the gateway for viruses and bacteria to enter your body causing a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Applying more lube is handy to reduce friction and irritation when penetration starts. A win-win situation for you!

Aside from giving you a smooth ride, we also want to avoid condom tearing up inside. Excessive friction can make the condom break, which defeats its purpose of keeping you and your partner protected. A few drops of lube inside can make it easier to put a condom on. Then a lot of lube outside the condom makes it easier to slide in without having to worry about your protection failing. But do take note that condoms aren’t good with oil and silicon-based lube because they react with the latex of condoms making them brittle and easier to fail. A better choice would be water-based lube, which does its job perfectly and keeps the condom intact.

 Getting to Know Your Lube

There are various kinds of lube, but water-based ones are the most common. They’re silky,  light, and gentle enough for condoms, sex toys, and sensitive skin.

You don’t have to worry about staining your sheets or clothes with water-based lube because they’re easy to wash off and don’t leave any residue. Although they tend to evaporate a little quicker than other kinds, a few more drops of water-based lube can solve this easily.

Water-based lube is very versatile and can be used in various sexual activities, which is probably why it’s such a popular choice. Anal sex, masturbation, sex with toys, foreplay — name it, lube is here for you!

Everything is easier and better with water-based lube, especially if it’s EZ Lubricating Jelly. Lube up for more and better lovin’! EZ Lubricating Jelly is available at leading drugstores, convenience stores and online shopping sites. Get yourself some EZ Lubricating Jelly, and slide into more pleasure!

Monday, November 18, 2019

KYS‌ ‌and‌ ‌Play‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌Basics‌ ‌of‌ ‌HIV‌ ‌Rapid‌ ‌Testing‌

By Ronald Bugarin

All the world’s a stage and you are the performers!  The stage is set for the National HIV Testing Day themed KYS (Know Your Status) and Play in partnership with Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) on November 23, 2019 from 11:00am to 7:00pm. LoveYourself has joined forces with more than ten (10) Community Based Organizations (CBOs) nationwide for you to experience fast, free, and confidential HIV testing in a fraction of the time.

Sign up now for a fast, free and anonymous HIV screening.

#KYSandPlay marks the eighth community-led multi-site  National HIV testing event spearheaded by LoveYourself, beginning with Incognito in May 2016. This is part of LoveYourself's efforts to make HIV screening easier and more accessible to more Filipinos,  together with other CBO’s in the nation. By promoting timely HIV testing as a regular part of one’s self-care routine, more Filipinos can take charge of their sexual health.

This National HIV Screening Day is perfect for people on the go!  In just 15 to 20 minutes, rapid screening shortens the processing time compared to regular testing  and assures 100% accuracy for nonreactive results! These rapid test kits can even detect HIV 1 and 2 antibodies with only  a few drops of blood.

What exactly should you expect to happen during a rapid screening setup at #KYSandPlay? First, you register at the  front desk where a unique identifier code (UIC) will be given based on a few personal information as well as generated client number with QR code upon successful registration which shall be scanned per station to guide you throughout the process.

After registration, you can proceed to the laboratory section for blood extraction. No worries here as only a pinprick with a newly opened sterilized lancet will be used as a sample. Compared to the regular screening where a bigger needle is used and a syringe full of blood is extracted, in rapid screening set-up, the needle to be used is much smaller and only a drop of blood is needed to run the test.  Afraid it’ll hurt? Well don’t fret as our Volunteers will be gentle with you in getting a sample of your blood. Once the sample is dropped onto the kit, a reagent is added to activate it. Results will be ready to read in 15 to 20 minutes.

While waiting for the results, our tireless volunteers will facilitate an engaging discussion about the screening process, basics of HIV transmission, and sexual health management. After which, a trained change agent or counselor shall conduct risk assessment prior to the release of result. This private individual session with a counselor is the best time to raise questions and concerns related to HIV.

When results are ready, your counselor or life coach will then explain to you whether you are reactive or nonreactive. When you test nonreactive, your counselor will emphasize how you can have safer and satisfying sex with your current sexual practices, and you can be on your way home! It is important to note that this process does not give you a printed copy of your results for anonymity and confidentiality purposes. If you prefer or need a physical copy then you can visit LoveYourself Uni or Anglo on another day after the HIV Testing Event to avail of the standard testing process during regular clinic operations.

When results are reactive, your Life Coach assures you that you won't have to go through this alone. They will be on hand to guide you through the treatment process including the requirements needed prior to enrollment to a treatment center as well as health management for newly diagnosed Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) It is essential to get yourself treated immediately with a treatment center of your convenience to protect you from possible infections.

All discussions with our counselors and life coaches, especially the results, will be kept confidential. So what are you waiting for, register now at to get tested, Know Your Status (KYS) and break the stigma.

To learn more about rapid screening assay testing kits and its accuracy, click on this link.
Ron is a true blooded Banker who does events and hosting on the side. He has volunteered at LoveYourself because of his former partner was diagnosed as PLHIV.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Theater Actors for National HIV Testing Day on World AIDS Day

By LoveYourself Communications

MANILA – In celebration of the World AIDS Day on December 1, LoveYourself, Inc. and the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), together with 10 community-based organizations nationwide, will conduct a national HIV testing day on November 23, 2019.

Dubbed as “Know Your Status (KYS) and Play or #KYSandPlay2019, this national HIV testing day entails a free, fast and confidential HIV test at 19 test locations nationwide for registrants to this link:

This collaboration with PETA aims to strengthen the awareness campaigns of community-based organizations through highlighting the #ActingOnHIV drive of the theater institution. Theater performers are the primary ambassadors for the #KYSandPlay2019, namely: Topper Fabregas, Jimi Marquez, Gio Gahol, Gerhard Krysstopher, Iji Ampil, Eko Baquial, Chamyto Aguedan, Bene Manaois, Dylan Talon, Rhenwyn Gabalonzo, Lygie Carillo, Cheeno Macaraig, Carlon Josol, Mico Esquivel, Miguel Almendras, Jarred Jaicten, and Ian Segarra.

Fabregas relayed, “It's so important to have HIV represented in theater, hopefully in all art platforms. I remember when we did Normal Heart, you'll be surprised at how so much people don't know [about HIV].”

Relatedly, Marquez explained, “When you're getting tested, it's a win-win situation if you think about it. If you're negative, you know you're practicing safe sex correctly. If you're positive, then you get to know what to do next.”

Gahol said, “There is strength in knowing the changes you need to face, to make good of whatever your status is. Know your status and you get to choose your next step. If we let fear take over, we allow the virus to choose for us.”

Based on the Department of Health (DOH) report, there are around 1,111 newly confirmed cases of HIV cases July alone. 51% of the cases were aged 25-34 years old, followed by 31%of ages between 15-24.
There will be five test locations in the National Capital Region – (1) LoveYourself Anglo in Mandaluyong, (2) LoveYourself Uni and (3) Victoria by LoveYourself in Pasay, Lily by LoveYourself x DIOSSA in ParaƱaque, and (5) LoveYourself Welcome in Manila.
For Luzon, there will be four sites, including (1) Hero by LoveYourself in Bacoor and (2) Aves Love and Light in Brgy. Bayan Luma 4 in Imus, Cavite, (3) Lakan Community Center in Brgy. Lakandula in Mabalacat, Pampanga, and (4) Amos Tara in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
In the Visayas region, there are seven testing areas – (1) LoveYourself White House along Llorente street in Capitol Site, Cebu City, (2) Atma Prema Community Center in Banilad, Cebu City, (3) Watever KTV in Lapu-Lapu, (4) Sunflower KTV in Parkmall, Mandaue, (5) Barangay Poblacion Park in Talisay, and (6) Rajah Community Center in Brgy. Maria Clara, Iloilo City, and (7) kNOwTell Health and Wellness Lounge in Robinsons Place, Iloilo City.
Meanwhile, Mindanao region has three testing centers, namely, (1) Oro Pia Community Center in Cagayan de Oro, (2) #36 Loyola St., Bo. Obrero, Poblacion District in Davao, and (3) Mujer.Community Center in Brgy. Tetuan, Zamboanga.
#KYSandPlay2019 is the fifth of its kind HIV testing movement from various community organizations that is supported by Pilipinas Shell Foundation Incorporated, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation. 
The community-based organizations that join forces for this movement are Aves Love and Light, Bangaw Federation, Bisdak Pride, Decent Image of South Signal Association (DIOSSA), Family Planning Organization of the Philippines – Iloilo Chapter, Juan Positive Movement, Kagay-an PLUS, LoveYourself, Inc., Mujer-LGBT Organization, Olympus Society of Davao, and Project H4 (Health. Help. Hope. Happiness).