Thursday, February 20, 2020

A Performance That Truly Got Under My Skin

By Ryan De Torres
LoveYourself volunteers who watched the pilot run of PETA's Under My Skin last February 7.
HIV cases in the country are increasing. What aggravates the situation is the lack of awareness, knowledge, and education of people across different ages, SOGIEs, socioeconomic statuses, religions, education, and professions. This already unfortunate situation has worsened by misinformation, stigmatization, and discrimination, hindering people from accessing free and available HIV services in the country. Thankfully, the Philippine Educational Theater Association's (PETA) latest offering, Under My Skin, debunked most of these misconceptions, encouraging the people to take charge of their sexual health.

PETA's Under My Skin is one of the most unique plays I have ever watched. I am impressed by playwright Rody Vera for his research input with all the nitty-gritty details about HIV. Vera must have gone through a lot of painstaking research on HIV - the current situation in the Philippines, the terminologies and jargons, and of course, the stories of the people. I love the transitions of the stories that depict the different modes of HIV transmission, and I am surprised by how stories were juxtaposed.
At the LoveYourself booth, Ryan entertained a spectator who was asking
about HIV preventive measures.
I understand that these researches aim to provide the audience with the most accurate information to widen their perspective of HIV as a public health concern. The people also need awareness, attention, and collaborative effort to lessen the burden of HIV to individuals and communities.

I was amazed by PETA's delivery of the play, 'Under My Skin.' The drama was creatively and interactively staged.  It can capture your attention, making you aware of your vital role against misinformation, stigmatization, and discrimination related to HIV. By watching the play, I also realized that HIV education could not only be done in a classroom, a clinic, or a hospital but also through artistic performances in theaters. Additionally, PETA also made sure that throughout the run of the play, free HIV screening is available on every show date. It has been full force on destigmatizing the false notions of HIV.

During the talkback of the play on February 8, Ryan (center), together with PETA's hosts,
answered the questions of the audience.
One of the highlights of the play is the importance of attaining an undetectable status. It made it easy to understand that a person living with HIV (PLHIV) can live a healthy and quality life. The concept of 'Undetectable Equals Untransmittable (U=U)' was weaved seamlessly into the story. The play presented the U=U concept as a bucket of hope to every PLHIV, who is regularly taking an effective antiretroviral therapy to control their viral load at the lowest possible level.
Raymond Martin Manahan (center) is one of the talkback representatives of LoveYourself during the February 8 shows. He was accompanied by fellow volunteers Eenno Dinglasan and Jang Go.
When it comes to acting, I only have praises for the ensemble, who gave justice to their respective roles, particularly the principal cast. Honestly, everyone was able to leave a mark. Personally, I was moved by them. After the play, the audience also showed a lot of interest and appreciation for the story that was told. Even though it was my second time around watching the play, it still excited me, especially when I saw Cherry Pie Picache was there. 

LoveYourself Head of Caravan, Pete Tan (2nd from left) shared not only his knowledge of HIV but his heart as well to the audience of Under My Skin's February 14 show.
I was fortunate for the opportunity to represent LoveYourself, Inc., for the talkback right after the play. The audience gave their commendations. There were a lot of questions related to misconceptions about HIV transmission and living with HIV. Laws and policies regarding the rights of PLHIV were raised.

Dedicated LoveYourself counselor Abe Gagui explained the concerns on anti-retroviral drugs, PrEP and the initiatives of the government to address the HIV pandemic.
As an adult healthcare expert, the most challenging question asked of me was about maternal and child care related to HIV. A student asked about the timing and frequency of HIV testing for an infant who is born by a mother with HIV. The student also asked about measures to prevent mother-to-child transmission. I was able to provide clarity regarding mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and Anthony from HASH shed light on the management and medication for the mother with HIV. I was thrilled with the participation and engagement of the audience, which makes me feel confident that the play was able to heighten their awareness of HIV. Kudos to PETA, The Red Whistle, and The LoveYourself team for making Under My Skin such an enjoyable experience!

On the February 15th show of Under My Skin, John Oliver Corciega did the talkback, educating audiences about sexual health, anti-retroviral drugs, access to services, legal concerns
and the role of the government in HIV response.
Still, much has to be done in HIV advocacy. I am proud to be a member of LoveYourself that passionately strives to offer services in the spectrum of HIV prevention and management. LoveYourself works so diligently to impart broader knowledge on HIV prevention, testing, and treatment, and to provide a unique sense of care to reach more people. The organization continuously reassesses its stand in responding to the booming epidemic of HIV in the Philippines to ensure that it offers relevant, efficient, effective, and population-based programs and interventions. Recently, the organization started providing Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) while also rendering education, assistance, and guidance to clients availing of the service to ensure its effectiveness. The organization is also proud of its partnerships, through its LoveYourself Caravan, that extensively promotes awareness to different schools, companies, and organizations like PETA.

Head of Flourish Circle, Joy Daguiso, and one of the dynamic leads of LoveYourself University, Bryan Galvez, posed their selfie after a heart pouring discussion during their talkbacks in the afternoon and evening shows of Under My Skin last March 2.
LoveYourself University Chancellor, Jose Mari Maynes, addressed the further inquiries of the audience right after watching Under My Skin last March 7. 
Going back to the pivotal point of the play, I realized that everyone has a significant role to play to change the way HIV is viewed. As we have been constantly reminded of in LoveYourself, everyone can DARE to be oneself, CARE for oneself, and SHARE oneself as a way to multiplying joy in the community. Be that seed of love and truth that create transformative and responsible communities for the better. I'm sure that Under My Skin has one way or another planted a seed of hope to each of the spectators' hearts that would surely grow further from our own skin.

Life coach of LoveYourself, Ronald Bugarin had a great time responding to the questions about
RA 11166 or "
Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act" during the talkback right after
the March 8 run of Under My Skin.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

GLAMMed Up for Valentine's Day

by LoveYourself Communications

LoveYourself, Inc. once again co-presented GLAMM: (Gays, Lesbians, And Many More), a phenomenal LGBTQ+ party. GLAMM is going for its third run this Valentine's Day on February 14, 2020, at Cove Manila in Okada Manila. Cove Manila is the biggest indoor beach club and night club in Southeast Asia that continuously supporting the advocacies of LoveYourself for HIV awareness and inclusivity.

Bearing in mind that there's unity in diversity, the first GLAMM edition in July 2019 sent terrific stories of triumph for solidarity. That inevitably led to GLAMM's second edition in October 2019, where another explosive night was witnessed and enjoyed by the guests. This advocacy party also promoted self-empowerment with Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach and Miss Universe-Philippine 2019 Gazini Ganados alongside HIV awareness and LQBTQ rights. Those were significant and unforgettable experiences at Cove Manila while grooving to the music and soaking to spectacular performances!

Due to the success of GLAMM parties in 2019, LoveYourself highly supports GLAMM III as its partner, bringing great pride and the message of love to everyone no matter what gender you are right on the heart's day, February 14! Skilled and energetic Cove Manila resident DJs Everyday People and Mike Lavet, together with equally talented guest DJs Cal Soesanto and Jeb Tizon, are surely rocking the decks with beats, making everybody dancing.

Throwing jaw-dropping performances as they impersonate local and international artists are Drag Queens, namely: Precious Paula Nicole, ViƱas Deluxe, Gigi, Dee Dee Holliday, Eva Papaya, Bench, MC Black to be hosted by Peabo Orilla. Four hot and alluring ledge dancers are flaming up the whole venue as well! Doesn't that sound exciting? Make sure all your senses are ready to get tickled on that night!

Overflowing drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and gastronomic treats are to be enjoyed by the guests on this lovely Friday night - not to mention a special cocktail curated only for this event!

Cove Manila's GLAMM is in partnership with Inquirer.Net, Inquirer Pop, San Mig Light and LoveYourself Inc., where a percentage of the sales serves as a donation for the meaningful and significant cause of HIV advocacy. There is nothing better than throwing a fun celebration that promotes a strong federation and, at the same time, lends a helping hand to advocacy that benefits people who are most in need.

Let us all come through and celebrate our oneness! Love truly wins! See you all at Cove Manila on February 14 at Southeast Asia's biggest indoor beach club and night club for GLAMM III (Gays, Lesbians And Many More!)

Contact Cove Manila at +63 917 516 0082 for more details and inquiries.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Unboxing the Cherry Poppin’: Perfect 4 You Auctionees

By Jay Fernando

There is something dubious yet exciting with that thought of bidding for a date auction. Speculating the possibilities of what would happen just tickles one’s curiosity, and participating in one just makes it feel more real. It somewhat brings you back to highschool cafeteria games like Boink Marry Kill where one’s standing is determined by a single trait.

Nonetheless brave souls have entered the game as this year’s auctionees for Cherry Poppin’ - the most popular, if not the only auction of its kind in the country. Now on its 4th iteration, the event aims to raise much needed funds for LoveYourself’s various programs for HIV awareness, testing and treatment, among others.

Putting yourself out there is certainly risky. While there’s a possibility of frustration - especially when you lose the bid - there’s also the possibility of having your happily ever after. But one has to wonder - why? For the auctionees, it’s also a gamble, banking on their appeal to help the organization.

For Marvelous Pascual, an events organizer, it doesn’t need much thought. It is for a good cause after all. He believes and supports the organization. Being a member himself of a charitable group of gay and bisexual men in Metro Manila, Marvelous is not new to fundraisers and has been very active in community service. For him, helping out in any way he can is an important aspect of his endeavor to change how people see the LGBT community – that they are not just about fun and parties.

Because of social media, looking at twitter feeds or instagram posts that, it has been so easy to judge people nowadays as either empty or overbearing. This sentiment is shared by another auctionee Aldwin Amolat, a student who sidelines as a barista. Despite being the youngest of this year’s auctionees, he has been volunteering for LoveYourself for years now. One may not expect this from Aldwin who may easily fall under that “twink” category, or from Marvelous whom people see as the “party guy.”

When you look at Arlan Dizon, he may seem like your typical athletic guy who goes to the gym, and watches sports on livestream. But this  mechanical engineer, is interested in much more than that. He loves suspense movies! The looming possibility of a surprise just invigorates his soul.

Apparently, boxes are  lazy categories we use to classify people, and the more I get to know them, the easier they are to refute or discredit. For example: Janlee Dunca may appear to be the token trans woman of the group. But she’s not defined only by her gender identity. Opening up about her dating history, she shared how she has dated both men and women, and prefers to keep her options open when it comes to love.

More than anything, time with these people can make you realize that making snap judgments about a person or fantasizing wildly about them are normal, but may not be helpful in your happily forever after. What’s important is  that you enjoy the experience of getting to know each other. That’s how you’ll know if you’re the perfect match.

Be part of LoveYourself’s Cherry Poppin’ – Perfect 4 You and get to know cool people and have a chance to date an auctionee this May 23, 2020 at One Canvas Events Place. Visit for tickets! Together let’s take down some more boxes.