Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lit Love: Feb Fair, Death Traps, Zombie Apocalypse, and my Anxiety

By: Joel Donato Ching Jacob

Amy asked why I felt that I wanted to meet with her. I answered, “I wanted to meet with you because I do not want to meet with you.”

I didn’t know it then, but I have social anxiety. I am not sure how it feels for other people I can only relay how it feels for me. It does feel like I was going crazy because I get upset over conflicting fears. I get overwhelmed with fears of missing out but I am also afraid of people. I dislike interacting with people. Some of my friends find it hard to get on board with the idea; maybe I did too at the start. I can be loud. I can be fun. I am the guy you can expect to call for the waiter at the restaurant or to ask for the manager if we had complaints in a venue. I love dancing in the clubs. I am not the least bit shy, so social anxiety seemed like the least of my problems.

Illustration by Isaac Brines


But I was also very flaky. I would agree to go to events and I would be ready but I would cancel at the last minute. The idea of interacting with other people made me uncomfortable. At work, when people come to my desk with requests, I would ask them to go back to their desks to send me an email instead; I have made up a very real and valid excuse that I am forgetful and that if I were busy, I can queue their requests on my inbox. But I did not want to be talking with my co-workers. It got so bad that some of my friends have stopped asking me out because there was no point; I was not going to arrive. I am often late for work because I need to build up the courage to interact with other people.

The desperation to seek help finally arrived when the UP Feb Fair was going to be held a few blocks from my workplace and the idea of tens of thousands of people freaked me out to the point of indigestion and sleeplessness. Amy is a psychiatrist and she was going to be my therapist for the next 8. My first session was spent making introductions and instructions on how to maintain a mood diary where I was going to track my anxiety events, thoughts during the event, feelings during the event, and most importantly, I had to write down physiological observations as I went through the event, like if I was short of breath, or physically agitated in any other way.

Illustration by Isaac Brines


I pace. I probably could have walked from SM North to UP Diliman with the pacing I do in the parking lot over a week. I don’t keep a pedometer because I am sure I can knock any step goals out of the park. But in staffing ours, my away-from-desk time is not looking admirable. In an exercise, Amy asked me to report about a moment of extreme stress and what could go wrong. I was like “Talaga lang? (Oh,really?) Are you challenging me?” So I spent an entire hour telling her how horrible malls were and how I imagine stuff like fires, martilyo (hammer) gang attacks, terrorist bombings that would result in zombie-apocalypse-level stampedes. I transitioned into an actual zombie apocalypse scenario because I was soon explaining how I spent most of my time in malls imagining how to escape from zombies. At some point after, I talked about disease transmission by droplets, bodily contact, or by air. Malls are death traps. Near the end of our eight sessions, Amy gave a bit of advice and I wrote it down word for word because I knew it was going to change my life: Avoidance causes anxiety because it keeps you from the position to create positive change whereas, even with failure, action is anchored on hope.

I have become paralyzed by things that I should do right. I have expectations of how to behave to impress my friends when they never verbalized those expectations of me. So I end up flaking out on opportunities to be a friend to them. I have this idealized self that presented himself as a distinguished co-worker that I can never live up to so I just gave up and stopped interacting with my officemates. Malls are still death traps.

Illustration by Isaac Brines


Does interacting with people still freak me out? You bet. I hate it! But now I do my best to follow through because I want to have hope. I had lost hope in myself and I had to regain that. Do I still flake out? Yes. Do I still panic in public? Yes. But do I hope to get better?



Yes. I sought help.



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Joel Donato Ching Jacob is called Cupkeyk by friends. He is the 2018 winner of the Scholastic Asian Book Award; Wing of the Locust is coming out later this year. Cupkeyk is also a 2019 Editors Choice Awardee for The Best Asian Short Stories for “Artifacts from the Parent.” He lives in Bay, Laguna with his mother and two dogs. He likes hiking up mountains, lifting weights, and eating out. Follow him on Twitter or IG: @chimeracupkeyk

Sunday, May 24, 2020

LoveYourself White House Continues Services in the Time of COVID-19

By: Ryan Taborada

Restricted mobility in Cebu City due to imposed lockdowns has posed a real challenge for its residents who continually need to avail of HIV-related services by LoveYourself White House.

Knowing that testing and access to medication is critical to combat the spread of HIV, LoveYourself continues to open its door to anyone who needs its services.



Except on holidays, LoveYourself White House remains open from Wednesdays through Sundays, with temporarily reduced service hours of 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., cut-off time at 4 p.m. Starting on May 20, 2020, the center will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., 6 p.m. cut-off time. Its return to its regular hours of 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. will be announced once this becomes viable. 



To keep the in-person antiretroviral (ARV) refill uninterrupted for those undergoing treatment, LoveYourself has recently activated the Xpress Refill program. They may now receive ARV refill via delivery by registering here: go.loveyourself.ph/xpressrefill.


“It is important for us to keep helping the community, especially in the time of COVID-19,” says Jan Estrada, head of LoveYourself White House. “Immunocompromised individuals are at great risk. Now more than ever they need our help.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, LoveYourself had partnered with Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia - Philippines for HIV education, testing, and treatment of inmates in Cebu City Jail. 



Upon learning that this community had also been affected by COVID-19 transmissions, the organization immediately offered help. Wasting no time, LoveYourself launched #ProtectCebuCityJail donation drive in coordination with Champion Community Center, SafeSpaces, and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. As of May 13, 2020, 180 cloth masks, 6 1L cartons of fresh milk, 40 cans of 250 ml liquid nutrition Ensure, and 3 cans of 850 g Ensure Gold have been distributed. 



However, there is still a need to procure vitamins, face masks, face shields, PPE gowns, 70%-solution alcohol, bleach, and disinfectants for the Cebu City Jail. 



To sustain this initiative, LoveYourself White House are still accepting donations during the current service hours or through bank transfer to BDO account number 004190392920.



Although most LoveYourself volunteers are also stuck in their homes, their advocacy work continues. On Facebook, Cebu’s LoveYourself volunteers are actively engaging the public with awareness campaigns not just on HIV/AIDS but also on COVID-19. Additionally, weekly games with exciting prizes are held to reach out to people in these unprecedented times. 


LoveYourself White House is the first community center of LoveYourself outside Metro Manila. Located at #40 J. Lllorente St., Capitol Site, Cebu City, it offers free, rapid, and confidential HIV testing, counseling, and treatment to all, no matter the age, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. For inquiries drop a message at LoveYourself White House or contact +63 927-873-7575.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Lighting Up the Community

By LoveYourself Communications



The fight on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues alongside the battle with COVID-19 as the nation observed the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PIACM) on May 17 for the Light Up, an online concert ceremony.

Following the imposition of the physical distancing, the Philippine HIV community gathered virtually for “Light Up” in commemorating the lives of people we have lost to HIV and celebrating the progress we have made through the years in our fight against the disease. Hosted by Tim Yap and Patrixia Santos, the online event was streamed on the PIACM Facebook page.

Highlights of Light Up included the inspirational messages from UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and staunch HIV advocate, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray.

Wurtzbach said, "Despite these trying times, we light up each candle as a symbol of our stronger faith and serves as a pint of hope that we all need right now." Enthusiastically, Gray said, "We remember. We take action. And we live beyond HIV/AIDS." That is our promise whatever season we're in, whatever storm were up against.
Another HIV advocate, Miss Universe-Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados, led the candle lighting ceremony together with more than 50 community advocates. Ganados prayed that people find strength in the midst of two ongoing crises -- HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.

Also, giving their inspirational messages were Dr. Stanley Carrascal of the Department of Health-NCR, Assistant Secretary Rhea Peñaflor of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Dr. Louie Ocampo of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 

One of the event's highlights was the formation of the Red Ribbon video message, which emphasized health as a basic human right. The call was conveyed by various movers in the HIV advocacy, including actress Cherry Pie Picache, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Directors Melvin Lee and RS Santiago, health experts, community leaders, and other influencers.
Also showcasing a free online concert, Light Up’s roster of performers included Katrina Velarde, who sang "Isang Himala," Nina with "Sunlight," and 4th Impact with "Hallelujah." Asia's Premiere Vocal Harmony Group, The Company performed two songs, "Nandito Pa Rin Tayo" and "Isang Tawag Mo Lang." Joining performers include Ice Seguerra, Zeus Collins, Anna Ramsey, Phi Palmos, Adrian Lindayag, Addlib Divas, Nicole Asensio, Arman Ferrer, Globe Voices@Work, and drag queen performers. 

Towards the end of the concert, the Light Up My HIV Story photo essay contest winners were announced. Winning the first place was Anthony Louie David with his photo essay entitled: "Unconditional Love." Kael Mata's "Salamat HIV" entry took the second spot, and Alliah Nicole Tabarangao Sayo, whose piece was entitled "Think POZitive" got the third place. 

The concert concluded with the exceptional performance by Lea Salonga, Morissette Amon, Jed Madela, Radha, and many more artists singing "Seasons of Love." The concert gained 36 thousand views just after Light Up streaming has ended. 

Light Up was presented by the Department of Health, The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, and The LoveYourself, Inc.; sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. by Hetero, Cepheid, Champion Community Centers, Frontrow Cares, Macare Medicals, Inc., Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Premiere Condoms, Teleperformance Philippines, and Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA); and supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, EON Foundation, the National Youth Commission (NYC), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), PhilHealth, Positibong Marino Philippines, Inc., The Red Whistle, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, and UNAIDS.


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Friday, May 22, 2020

Breaking Stigma with "My HIV Story"

By LoveYourself Communications



To break stigma and discrimination, this year's Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PIACM) asked the community to share their distinct, and compelling stories of HIV online through a photo essay contest called "Light Up My HIV Story."


Nearly 50 stories were collected, and most of them are genuinely moving and inspirational. Some talked about their own HIV journey while some talked about how they become a supporter of the community.

The Light Up My HIV Story photo essay contest winners were announced during the celebration part of the PIACM 2020 event last May 17. Winning the first place was Anthony Louie David with his photo essay entitled: "Unconditional Love." This entry talks about Anthony's HIV journey as someone living with HIV. He likened his status into being swallowed up by the waves or play along with it.

Anthony described that he felt like huge waves crashing over him following the death of his partner due to HIV complications and upon knowing that he has HIV. According to him, he was tired and wanted to give up. He was slowly drowning from his thoughts about his HIV status.

"It's up to us to decide whether to sink to the bottom or to walk on water. But for me, I choose to survive the waves and embrace every splash with a smile in my face," he said.



Kael Mata's "Salamat HIV" entry took the second spot. His story focused on how he has faced HIV despite many social injustices he has to face.

With his regained strength, he made a promise to himself that he'll be a voice to the PLHIV to fight against HIV, stigma, and discrimination. He said in Filipino, "I will constantly bring with me the stories of PLHIV that even living with HIV, we deserve to be loved, cared for, and an accepting family."  



Alliah Nicole Tabarangao Sayo, who placed third with her "Think POZitive" entry, talked about being optimistic, encouraging, and empowering. Her story revolved around the purpose of her joining the HIV advocacy works.

"In all that I've learned from the advocacy, one of the most important things to know is how to become accepting of people no matter who they are," Alliah said in Filipino.


In this respect, the winners have won PhP25,000.00, PhP15,000.00, and P10,000.00.

Judging the photo essay contest are Imee Igpuara Country Product Manager, Camber Pharmaceutical, Inc. by Hetero; Jeffrey Johnson, Senior Vice President - Human Capital Resource Management, Global HR Committee Member, Teleperformance Philippines; Dr. Maria Stella Flores, Senior Program Officer, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.; Dr. Maria Lorela Averilla, Country Lead for SKPA - Program Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations; and Dr. Ronivin Pagtakhan, a recipient of the 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World, Founder and Executive Director of the LoveYourself, Inc.


Light Up was presented by the Department of Health, The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, and The LoveYourself, Inc.; sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. by Hetero, Cepheid, Champion Community Centers, Frontrow Cares, Macare Medicals, Inc., Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Premiere Condoms, Teleperformance Philippines, and Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA); and supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, EON Foundation, the National Youth Commission (NYC), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), PhilHealth, Positibong Marino Philippines, Inc., The Red Whistle, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, and UNAIDS.

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Pia, Gazini and Catriona headline the country's first online AIDS Candlelight Memorial

LoveYourself Communications


MANDALUYONG CITY (May 14, 2020) – Advocacy queens Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray will be leading side by side the first-ever online concert ceremony of the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) on Sunday, May 17, at 4PM.

Dubbed as "Light Up," the online concert ceremony has two parts: Commemoration and Celebration.

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach will head the Light Up's commemoration part alongside community movers, government officials, and private institutions. One of the highlights of the commemorative event is a ceremonial candle lighting to be led by Miss Universe - Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados.
Staunch HIV advocate, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, will top bill Light Up's celebration part, showcasing a free online concert. Performing at the show are exceptional Filipino artists: Katrina Velarde, Nina, 4th Impact, Jed Madela, The Company, Ice Seguerra, Zeus Collins, Anna Ramsey, Phi Palmos, Adrian Lindayag, Addlib Divas, Nicole Asensio, Arman Ferrer, Globe Voices@Work, and drag queen performers and with special participation from Lea Salonga, Morissette Amon, Jed Madela, Radha, and many more.
Hosted by Tim Yap and Patrixia Santos, the Philippine IACM online concert ceremony will be Live on Facebook. The country's 2020 IACM shift to an online concert ceremony was in response to the government's imposition of social distancing protocols as the nation grapples with the COVID19 pandemic.
This year's celebration also includes a photo essay contest featuring the HIV story of any Filipino who is part of the advocacy. Interested participants may still join until May 15, at 6PM. Visit "My HIV Story" for the mechanics and win as much as PhP25,000.00. It will also benefit the Duyan Program of The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation (TRR) that aims to provide care and support to children living with HIV in the Philippines.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported that since 1984, 3,730 Filipinos have died of HIV-related complications and 74,807 have contracted the virus. In the same DOH report, 3,029 newly diagnosed people living with HIV were recorded for the last quarter of 2019. It has to be noted that HIV testing and effective HIV treatment therapy are given by the government and community-based organizations for free.

Light Up is presented by the DOH, TRR, and The LoveYourself, Inc.; sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. by Hetero, Champion Community Centers, Frontrow Cares, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Premiere Condoms, Teleperformance Philippines, and Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA); and supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, EON Foundation, the National Youth Commission (NYC), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), PhilHealth, Positibong Marino Philippines, Inc., The Red Whistle, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, and UNAIDS.

The IACM happens every third Sunday of May to commemorate the courage of the people who succumbed to AIDS. It also celebrates the continuing battle by the people living with HIV and the progress the community has made through the years.

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Sunday, May 10, 2020

International AIDS Memorial Candlelight Ceremony to Light Up the World on May 17

By Tino Lagardo

As the world wrestles with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue fighting a battle we have begun – our war against HIV. After all, the need for public awareness, education, and treatment has never taken a backseat even in these unprecedented times.

More than ever, we need hope now, and we’d love to spark a glimmer of light in you through “LIGHT UP: The 2020 Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PIACM) Ceremony” on May 17, 2020, at 4PM

Themed “We remember – We take action – We live beyond HIV”, this candle-lighting and online concert centers on care and compassion, coinciding with the annual International Candlelight Memorial, happening every third Sunday of May.

LIGHT UP aims to express our undying love for and unwavering support to those who have lost their lives to HIV and to celebrate the great strides the community has made to advance HIV advocacy.

With the shift to online streaming, this year’s celebration is uniquely special as we forge on and beat HIV using the best tool at our disposal —our solidarity. Amid all the uncertainties hanging over us, we need to show grit and optimism, defying the limitations of distance.
It also features the "My HIV Story" which is a photo essay contest that talks about one's experience for the people in the HIV advocacy work. All Filipinos are qualified to join and tell their compelling HIV story. "My HIV Story" winners will be announced on May 17 during the Facebook Live Light Up Concert Ceremony on this page.Prizes include: 1st: P25,000.00, 2nd: P15,000.00, and 3rd: P10,000.00.



Celebrities supporting this event are Pia Wurtzbach, Catriona Gray, Gazini Ganados, Regine Tolentino, Adrian Lindayag, with special performances by Katrina Velarde, Zeus Collins, Anna Ramsey, and other surprise guests.

Allow us to brighten up your Sunday as we all unite to bring back the light in our lives! Let this also be a moment of togetherness as we fervently pray for healing and an end to the battles we are facing today.

This event is brought to you in partnership with the Department of Health, Project Red Ribbon, LoveYourself Inc, Pilipinas Shell Foundation and sponsored by Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA), Teleperformance Philippines, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Champion Community Centers, Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. | Hetero, The Red Whistle and the National Youth Commission for our supporting the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Ceremony 2020.

Join us by hitting that "Going" button here https://bit.ly/LightUpPH2020.

Let's continue the fight against HIV. Get tested, get treated, and LHIVe free. Also, don't forget to like and share the page.
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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.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Volunteer Spotlight: Insights from Flourish Circle

By Dan Guevara


I arrived at LoveYourself Anglo 30 minutes before the call time. I made sure to come early so I could review the flow of my first session today. I noticed that the function room was colder than the usual, maybe because I was feeling jittery, excited and anxious. I patiently waited for three people who I will be meeting for the first time. Questions raced in my head. What would they look like? What are their issues? How could I probably help them?

Finally they arrived in trickles. The first one who arrived looked at me and asked “Hindi pa ba tayo mag-uumpisa?” His commanding voice was firm. I just smiled and responded calmly, “Yes, we are about to start.”


That day marked the beginning of our 12-session journey in the Flourish Circle.


The Flourish Circle, is a community-based initiative designed for people who are experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The program aims to offer an avenue where individuals could feel safe as they go through the process of understanding and resolving their personal struggles. Unlike counseling, the Flourish Circle is peer-led. This means that help is collectively extended by a group of individuals. And with the aid of carefully designed modules per session, it is facilitated by trained Peer Support Specialists. The sessions are started by following a set of mutually agreed upon arrangements that values honesty, openness, and safe boundaries.

The success of the Flourish Circle was highly dependent on how everyone would commit to the process. A fall out of course, was inevitable as participants can choose to exit the circle when values are in conflict. But as weeks unfolded, those who stayed began to appreciate the relevance of every module to their own processes. The 6-month session brought back their courage to face and heal painful experiences that affected the way they see the world. And as a team, we provided support by listening to every spoken word, while respecting quiet moments. We lifted each other up as we struggled challenging our individual cognitive distortions (or false belief of oneself). We have reached a point when individuals became more comfortable verbalizing their emotions without judging them. They experienced small victories in practicing mindfulness and self-regulation. 

The journey in completing the 12 sessions was an emotional roller-coaster ride. We had difficult conversations and faced things we have avoided to confront. We allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and decided to face our inner struggles. It was like extracting our wisdom tooth without using anesthesia. But in the end, the experience allowed us to realize that our True Self is far greater than the “narratives” or the false conditioning which we received from our upbringing and society.

Time flew so fast and we just found ourselves feeling nostalgic for the experiences we have shared as peers. I could now see the glow in their eyes that weren’t there before during our first session. But at the same time, there was a feeling of sadness knowing that the program has ended. We may not see each other physically but the experience we have all shared is something that cannot be taken away from all of us. We will surely flourish in our own little way by trying everyday


You can join the Flourish Circle as a participant by signing up at https://bit.ly/FlourishCircle

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Dan has been a volunteer in LoveYourself since 2014. He currently works as a Training Head in one of the local banks in the country.