Tuesday, December 04, 2012

High Risk (II)


High Risk

"While waiting for the result, I realized this is how I will always feel during an HIV test, that I will always be a little scared. No matter what you do to protect yourself, there is always a risk you will be exposed to the virus during sex."

I was nervous, edgy, fidgety; the all-too-familiar dread was making me anxious as I waited for the results of my regular HIV test. Only, it hasn't been that regular of late. The last time I got myself tested was two years ago.

"My God, honey. Can you believe it?" I said to Vackie afterwards. "After all the countless random and not-so-random encounters, I'm negative!"

"Akalain mo, sa dami ng nakasex mo nakalusot ka!" V replied. "Kailan ka ba titigil? Naubos mo na ata ang cute sa Grindr."

"I don't know," I said and sighed. "What's wrong with meeeeeeeeee?"

"Matagal na nating tanong yan. Grabe, tinalo mo pa ang carinderiang laging bukas para sa gustong kumain. Honey, you're like a convenience store na, a Ministop. Bukas ng veinte cuatro horas."

"OMG! I hate chuuuuuuu!" I protested while laughing. "Basta, the important thing is that I get myself tested."

While many of us are undoubtedly familiar with the joys of sex, some are still unaware of its peril. Sex is a double-edged sword. It can bite back. Ever since I found out some of my friends have HIV, I have become a strong advocate of safe sex and getting yourself tested.

While many nations are reporting lower new infection rates of HIV, the Philippines is among nine countries where we see increasing incidence rate of HIV infection among adults 15 to 49 years old, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS said in a report released last month.

Very few people get themselves tested, with the median proportion of men who have sex with men receiving an HIV test in the past 12 months at 38%.

To stop this, more people have started campaigns and awareness programs to educate the public. Niccolo Cosme, who has been active in the fight against HIV through social media, did a photoshoot a couple of weeks ago. He aspires to help spread awareness among the public through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. I joined him this year and apparently, after a lot of editing this is how I look like if I had perfect skin.

While having photo shoots is fun, it doesn't mean that our problem is serious. I'm asking you to get yourselves tested, and to encourage your friends to do the same. It sounds trite, but each small thing can lead to something greater.

Have fun, have lots of sex, have lots of safe sex. All you really need is rubber and a really tight ass. I'm kidding! All you need is a tight .... I mean, all you need is rubber!

Friday, November 09, 2012


Better Days

"Three of my Tita Deng's siblings died in the past few years. One of them was a brother she dearly loved. He was her housemate, her companion. Her friend. She never really recovered, I think. She is turning 88 years old this year, and our talks are now full of her laments in life. How difficult it is to be old ... and weak. Her increasing inability to walk. How lonely she feels."

While the rest of the nation were visiting the dead, I decided to see the living.  It has been a few months since the last time I took Tita Deng out. I was always too busy, too tired, too preoccupied with work, friends and boys. Next time na lang (I'd do it next time), I'd tell myself when I'd wake up the next day with a hangover after a night of partying.

And I found myself  saying that every week. Next time na lang. There was always an excuse I used to assuage my guilt but I knew I should see her soon. So last weekend, I called her up and told her I would be picking her up for lunch the next day. A date with her always takes time. I'd have to go to Antipolo to fetch her, then we would go to wherever we were going to eat, then I'd have to bring her back, before I head home. All in all, it takes about eight hours.

I slept early the previous night so I'd wake up early. I had already researched some restaurants we could try and I was looking forward to spending time with her. Tita Deng and I always had fun. We would laugh and talk about many things, she always had a sense of humor that hasn't been dulled by old age.

I was shocked when I saw her. She came out in a wheelchair, looking very frail and thin. Apparently, her health has deteriorated dramatically. She can no longer walk because her knees hurt due to arthritis and she is now forced to use a wheelchair, something she had always dreaded.

The process of getting her inside the car was strenuous. I had to lift her and put her in the passenger seat. Then, I had to lift her wheelchair and put it in the trunk. By the time it was done, I was sweating heavily.

Once I got in, I hugged her. "Tita Deng, kamusta ka?" I said.

She started to speak but I couldn't understand her words. Later on, I learned she fell down and hurt herself badly in September, and that she may have had a mild stroke. Sometimes, her speech becomes slurred and she finds it difficult to be understood.

I looked at her and suddenly, she really seemed ... old. Matanda na talaga si Tita. I suppose I always had a feeling she would live forever, that she would always be around. I was getting sentimental and sad, but I hid it from her.

I knew what she would like is for us to have a normal day together and act like everything's the same. So I greeted her cheerfully and told her how beautiful she looked in her blue dress.

We went to Eastwood and decided to have lunch at a Thai restaurant since Tita Deng loves spicy food.We had pad thai, tom yum goong, steamed rice, and squid with garlic. I noticed her hands were trembling and she would spill some food on her lap, so I arranged her napkin so her dress wouldn't get soiled. I regaled her with stories; my sister's pregnancy, my travels, plans for Christmas, updates about work.

"So Tita, anong balita sa iyo? (So Tita, what's new with you?)"

"Alam mo ba, natumba ako isang beses. Actually ilang beses. Mahina na talaga ang tuhod ko. Masakit dahil sa arthritis. (You know what, I fell down once. Actually, several times. My knees are really weak now.  It hurts because of arthritis.)"

She winced and I could imagine how it must pain her. "Nabagsakan pa nga ako ng cabinet eh (A cabinet even fell down on me)," she said.

"Oh my God!!! Nakakaloka!!! (What the fuck!!!!)" The cabinet she was referring to was a big one that's around five feet ten inches tall. She said people found her with blood on her face due to a gash, but otherwise, she was unhurt.

"Nakakaloka! (The fuck!) Akalain mo, natumba ka na at nabagsakan ka ng ng cabinet pero ... buhay ka pa rin! (Imagine, you fell down and got trapped by a cabinet but look ... you're still alive!!" I said.

"Loco ka talaga! (You're such a smart ass!)" she said and we both laughed. I hugged her and smelled her shampoo on her hair.

"Aba .. naligo ka!" I said.

"Siempre, may date tayo eh," she replied, her eyes twinkling.

Afterwards, we transferred to another restaurant and ordered ube cake and a green mango-watermelon shake. Later on, I took her around the mall in her wheelchair because I know she likes seeing the shops and people watching. She doesn't go out anymore, and the only times she gets to see the outside world is when I take her out. I would tease her and push her wheelchair hard so we would be running across the hallway, and we'd be laughing afterwards.

"Para naman akong bata nito," she told me with a smile.

I remember something I read about how life comes full circle as we age. From a baby to an old man or woman. Once we rode strollers, later we'd be straddling wheelchairs. The wheel of fortune turns and sometimes we find ourselves right back where we started.

Time is running out. I don't know how much time is left for Tita Deng, and there's really nothing to be done about it. We all have to take our exit, at some point. She has had a long life, a good life and perhaps that is enough.


Monday, October 22, 2012

On My Own


Originally posted on my Facebook account on Sept. 25, 2012

Farewell, My Concubine

My phone beeped earlier while I was at work.  How are you K? Chris texted. Wow, I told myself. This was a surprise. I rarely hear from him these days.

"Busy, tired from the weekend, back at work, flying to Singapore on Thursday until Sunday for work," I said, quickly summarizing the events. "Ikaw? Kamusta ka? It's been ages."

"I'm doing great. :) Nangamusta lang. I miss you."

"Okay .. napaka vague ng great," I said. "Hahaha. Ikaw talaga. Walang balita?"

Chris then rambled on, telling me about his new work, his training. And then he said "I'm so in love with my boyfriend. He's the best thing that happened to me."

And just like that, suddenly, I remembered what it was like to be with someone, to be with someone you love. I smiled at the memory, and felt a little wistful.

"I'm really happy for you," I said. And I am.

I am happy with my life; yet I know what I feel is nothing compared to the joy Chris is feeling. They say nothing is as sweet as the nectar of love. Not all the accolades at work, nor the adoration of men (or women), nor the wealth of a thousand empires. Wasn't it the bard himself who spoke of the ecstasy of love?

So tonight I sleep with a little smile on my face, thinking of Chris and his newfound love.

And I think about the best thing that happened to me. I know it sounds strange, but it's a small piece of truth I picked up along the way.

It's the thought that no matter what happens, I'll always have myself. They say it takes a certain kind of wisdom to be happy on your own. I think I'm getting there.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Power of Commercial

Gossip Girl: The Inglourious Basterds

"Short hair is more commercial, more sell-able. And I ... I wanted to be sold. As the locks of hair started to fall, I felt like all the heroines in all the books and films I've seen. I'm Romeo's Juliet, I'm Dante's Beatrice. I'm Serena and Blair, I'm the Devil Wearing Prada."

Arlan invited me to go with him to a birthday party and be his plus one. I haven't seen him for a while, and I was looking forward to a night of drinking and dancing. With a little flirting on the side, I hoped. I arrived at the venue first and waited for him at the lobby of the condominium.

"Oh my God honey. Ang guapo mo!" A said when he saw me. I smiled impishly and twirled around to show him my new haircut.

"You think?" I asked, and we both laughed.

"Shit! Kelan pa yan? For sure, marami kang makikilala niyan!" he told me.

"Of course," I said. "Because it's commercial. Para lang iyang Jollibee, pang masa!"

So I caved in. For years, I held off from cutting my hair and opted for a more "unpopular" style, growing it long. I loved my long hair. It allowed me to change my look every now and then. I would curl it, tease it. But there's a time and season for everything. And one day, I decided to cut it short.

Like ... really short.

The effect was instantaneous. Overnight, I became the darling of gay men as I paraded in clubs, parties, and events. I attended a play and I met a college freshman who followed to the restroom. That same day, I met another guy at the gym who wanted to take me out to dinner, mind you. My God, ano ba yan, I wanted to tell him. I'm easy. You don't have to buy me dinner.

Once, I was at a bar chatting with a friend when a guy nearby talked to me out of the blue, "Alam mo, ang guapo mo." I turned around, surprised. I was a little embarrassed.

"Ahhh ... wala lang iyan," I said, trying to downplay things. "Nakainom ka lang."

He kept on smiling. "Ang guapo mo," he repeated, nodding his head. I gave him a smile and felt my knees tremble slightly.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a text message from a guy who kind of likes me. I was partying the night before and he saw me at the club. "Hi Kane. Hanga na ako sa charm mo. Panalo! You're an epitome of what a real chicboy is."

I reread the message again and again with a small smile on my face.  Yes, I've had many compliments in my life. But each time, it still never fails to surprise me. I guess, deep down, there will always be a part of me saying "Me? You mean me?" That boy who always felt he was just ordinary.

Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. But I must admit, it still feels good every time it happens. Someone once told me, "It never gets old". You know what, it really doesn't.


Monday, October 01, 2012

Little Boy Blue


Doni was competing in a drag show in Singapore and I was thrilled to have the chance to watch his counter-ego Mona Kee Kee perform on stage. I knew how much this means to him and I was happy that I'd be there to support him. For some, it may just be something for fun ... katuwaan ... but I knew that Doni was passionate about being a drag queen and this competition meant the world to him. I invited Nestle to join me and he brought along a couple of his friends.

Dan was rather quiet and shy. We barely spoke at first. I was intent on watching the show, shouting my heart out, cheering for Mona until I got hoarse. The crowd was having so much fun, and Mona was clearly among the crowd favorites.

Eventually, after the show ended we transferred to Tantric to drink and party. By then I was tired. A week's worth of exhaustion, a generous amount of alcohol earlier that evening, and lack of sleep were piling up and making me feel sleepy.

I sidled up closer to Dan and made small talk. Up close, I noticed that he was cute. He wasn't the classic head-turner; his charm was the kind that reveals itself slowly. The big smile on his face, his steady demeanor.

We chatted a little, I was a little tipsy so I don't know how exactly but after awhile we found ourselves flirting a bit. Hands briefly touching. My arms around his shoulder. The teasing smiles and grins back and forth.

But then he suddenly straightened up and turned serious."I have a boyfriend," Dan confessed.

Was it just me or did the room feel suddenly a little tighter? I slowly disengaged myself from him and we stood a little far apart. "Ahhhh ... matagal na kayo? (You guys been together long?)"

"Four years," he replied. "Pero hindi na kami nag se sex. (But we don't have sex anymore.)"

I was surprised. "Oh ... wow."

"Kelan pa? (Since when?)"

"Two years. I guess para na kaming magkapatid? (I guess we're more like brothers now?)" he said hesitantly, and gave me a tired smile. I wanted to hug him, to comfort him but I didn't know whether it was appropriate. He suddenly seemed frail and fragile under the bright disco lights.

Much later, we were about to go home as the bar was closing. We've lost Nestle, he was flirting and dancing with a guy the last time we saw him. Dan and his friend offered to drop me off at the hotel. His friend knew something was up between us and sat at the front of the cab.

Inside, we sat quietly and made small talk. I turned to look at him and suddenly, I couldn't resist it. I kissed him and Dan ... he kissed back. It was quick, furtive, and the knowledge that there were other people including an old man in front made it more exciting.

"Gusto mo bang sumama kahit sandali? (Do you want to go with me for a little bit?)" I asked him in a whisper.

"Hindi puede eh. Magagalit siya (He'd be angry)," Dan answered. I knew who he meant.

"Kahit sandali lang? (Even for just while?)" I said.

He looked at me and I could see he was struggling. I knew he wanted to stay, I also knew he wanted to go.

I stepped up the game. I kissed him again and unbuttoned my jeans a little. Then I took his hand and guided it to my crotch. I moaned softly. Tang-ina sarap. (Fuck) I knew Dan would never do that on his own.  He would feel guilty, but I suppose having someone lead you to it eases the guilt a little. Our kisses were becoming more urgent. I was biting his lips, caressing his body. And then suddenly, we were at the hotel.

We both got off and stood at the driveway. This is it, I told myself. What I would say and do next would determine how our night would end.

"So ..." I started, giving him a devilish grin. "Sige na. Kahit sandali lang?" I coaxed.

"Kane ..." he implored. "Hindi ko pa kaya (I can't do it yet.)"

"Hindi ko pa kaya (I can't do it yet)," he repeated slowly. And then he gave me a look. That look which said --- Please huwag mo na akong pilitin dahil alam kong bibigay ako and then I'd hate myself afterwards (Please don't ask me again because I know I'll give in and then I'd hate myself afterwards.)

We stood quietly still looking at each other in the wee hours of the morning. I moved closer and hugged him.

"It's okay,"I told him. "I understand. You're a good guy Dan." And then I turned around and walked away.

That night, I slept with an ache in my groin. Dan slept beside his lover with an ache in his heart. Somehow ... I knew which one of us had it worse.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia


"I think the human face is the most beautiful landscape," Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan said in an interview with The Telegraph. "The face tells you everything. It's the only way to get to the truth because, most of the time, the words we say are not true. We have a tendency to deceive others to protect ourselves."

Nuri directed and co-wrote the film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

What he said made me think. Are the words we speak mostly untrue? My first instinct was to say no, but is it my unwavering belief in the goodness of humanity that perhaps blinds me to the truth?

“I don’t have very optimistic feelings about life,” Nuri said. “I like to look at things realistically – and with that realism comes pessimism. Man is dark. You feel the darkness inside your soul all the time and you feel the potential for evil.”

I know evil. Or, at least I think I do. It's  there, inside all of us ... inside me. On most days, it's buried deep deep below I even forget it exists. Most days it happens to people and in places far away from us. Wars in Afghanistan, repression in the Middle East. It's easy to read through the headlines and not recognize it for what it is.

And then there are times when you feel it quietly worm its way through your soul. Your anger can breed and fester into hate. It can happen to the most gentle of us, the kindest. Perhaps evil is a necessary human condition. Or perhaps, good and evil are always in a constant flux; one wanes while the other waxes. Who knows really.

I'm thirty two and these things still baffle me. Still, I seek the answers.

Click here to read the interview.
Click here to read Seongyong Cho's review of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Delight || Delirium


Note: Please play the song below before reading this story.

"When summer winds will again fly. To mountains untainted and new. Today is a good day to die," Samboy, a high school teenager in the play Bro said on stage. "Today is a good day to die," he repeated, wanting to die. "Today is a good day to die."

I could feel my body shiver. I was having goosebumps as the words resounded throughout the small theater in U.P. where the four one-act plays that comprise Delight || Delirium were staged. Suddenly, I knew I was watching something I will never forget for the rest of my life

Delight || Delirium is the final output as a creative writing student in U.P. of young playwright Riley Palanca. In his notes, Riley said the plays looks into that triggering incident that shifts the dichotomy from the pains of delight into the logic of delirium.

"This is both a celebration and a lament of that psyche of an underground, masculine, and queer subculture, with each play layering deeper and deeper into the world of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, violence, rage, angst, war, power, and memories," he explained.

Here is a brief summary of each play that comprise the festival.


When five high school boys stumble into one of their friend’s basement to engage in their usual drug sessions, little did they know how it would be the night that would change them. As they get more and more drugged, each boy zooms in on an incident in their group’s life, breaking down the barriers between individual and group, ultimately leading them to question why they became friends in the first place.

In a post-apocalyptic Philippines where the Clergy has taken control of the government and homosexuals are being massacred, Viper, a high-ranking rebel soldier, attempts to resurrect his murdered lover by kidnapping and interrogating an imperial priest about the whereabouts of a specific body part — only to find out that its discovery comes at a price.


One night that could have been typical for two people: the first throwing himself into the world in search of himself; the second, willing to oblige — for a price. Both the callboy and the client are trapped in an endless negotiation about boundaries and fetishes. When the games begin, their whole philosophies on love, sex, and relationships (the big three) might get either reaffirmed or shattered beyond thought.

Little Black Book

Who owns a memory? Who steals a memory? Is a memory a fragmentation of truth or the weaving of a lie? What are these men, are they men, are they characters, are they caricatures, or are they ultimately ideals? One man questions his present by rooting through his past, clawing through the shards that make him whole. A confession with no penance.

In Bro, we see five people discovering that sometimes, it's hardest to be truthful to your own friends. Each of them keeps a secret; some of these are revealed, some stay hidden. In Viper, the desperation of a lover clashes with his principles. What makes a man, after all, if not his word?

In Magkano, we see two strangers slowly getting to know each other and the truths and half-truths come out.

"Bakit ka nag callboy," the client Rick asked as they played truth or dare inside a motel room.

"Kasi gusto ko. Binabayaran ako para kumantot," Joe, the callboy replied. 


"Ang gusto mo atang marinig nag-callboy ako pang-suporta ng pamilya. Pwes, wala akong asawa," Joe answered back. "Na inabuso ako nang bata ako? Hindi rin."

"Manyak ako," Joe continued. "Mas manyak pa mga customer ko. Sa totoo lang, mahilig ako sa sex, mahilig ako sa pera, mag- doktor kaya ako," he said laughing.

A little later, while he was being tied up, Joe asked Rick "Mapera naman kayo. May itsura. Medyo nakakatakot nga lang. Wala ba kayong boyfriend?


"Ba't di siya ang tinatali niyo ngayon?" Joe continued.

"Nahuli kong pinapasukan ng iba," Rick said, his voice filled with quiet anger. And in his anger, we see ourselves, all the promises made to us, promises we've made that got broken.

The Little Black Book tells the story of a gay young man named R and the various men he had loved. From his high school best friend to a college jock, his stories are laced with youthful enthusiasm and ardor that perhaps only the young can fully own.

"To be seventeen and invincible."
"To be nineteen and naive."
"To be twenty and youthful."
"To be twenty one and gone."
"To be twenty two and hopeful."

And I asked myself, to be thirty two and what?

Each play explores the shift from reality to fantasy to reality in our minds, the worlds we create inside of us, places where the worst and perhaps, the best parts of ourselves exists. The demons and angels, the sacred and the profane. Who am I? Who are we? Why do we do the things we do? Each story delves into our perceptions of identity and power, with the writer carefully giving the audience enough questions and very little answers.

Perhaps those answers have to come from us.

I saw Delight || Delirium twice in one weekend. The first time, I watched alone. I came back the next day and dragged a couple of my friends along to see its final run. That night, we all went home knowing we had been given a gift. The gift of wonder, of desire, of passion. Every bit of our being was on fire, we felt so alive, conscious of the world and its joys and tragedies.

What adds to the beauty of a play is the knowledge that when it ends, they truly end. They aren't like films that you can watch again and again. Or a sculpture whose form and structure is unchanging. A play comes alive only at that place and time it is performed. And if they do ever get staged again, the actors could be different. The setting different. It becomes a whole new play, an interpretation of somebody else; it may be similar yet it will never be the same.

At the end of Magkano, as they were about to part Rick asked the callboy Joe "Maalala mo pa ba ako?"

"Siguro mga ilang araw sir," Joe slowly said.

"Ganoon kabilis?" Rick asked, his voice cracking a bit.

"Ganoon kabilis," Joe replied, as a matter of fact. He must have seen the look on Rick's face.

"Wag mo ng isipin yun sir," Joe gently said. "Isipin mo na lang, sa pagkadami-dami ng motel, pagkadami-dami ng mga callboy, ako ang nahanap mo."

And then he walked away ... out of the room, out of the play, out of Rick's life, out of our lives.

Weeks have passed and I am still haunted by the memories of Joe and Rick, of R and his various men, of Viper and his dead lover Chris, of Kevin and Samboy and Nico and Kenn and Third. I remember them fondly, with a bit of nostalgia.

Perhaps it is because at some point in my life, I have been them. Desperate, angry, happy, hopeful. They remind me of myself, and that our stories aren't just our own, but a shared human experience.

And though, happiness may have been elusive in the plays, perhaps it needn't be so in our own lives. Perhaps someday, the fantasies in our minds can become a reality. And if not, well, one can always dream right?

Riley will be leaving for Canada before November. There are plans for a re-run of the show. While interviewing him today, I asked him how old he was. And he said, twenty two ... and hopeful.

I smiled as I heard the note of hope in him. It has been said that Little Black Book was based on his own life. Well, you have much to be hopeful for, I told him. I think you can and will go far. And I will always remember where it all began.