Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 
May 18, 2014
UP Diliman, Quezon City 

Good afternoon friends! 
Isang mainit na hapon sa lahat ng ating mga kapatid at kahanay sa parehong layunin at adbokasiya!
Kag maayong hapon man sa akon mga kasimanwa kag kaparyentihan nga ari dire subong!

I remember this fateful afternoon, exactly one year ago. I was lying in bed, inside a private room of a nearby hospital in Imus, Cavite, alone and woke up gasping for air. I almost succumb to the thought that this will be my very last afternoon siesta. Desperation was sinking in. But along that came the last thread of hope. An inner desire to survive, not for any particular reason. But just of plain animal instinct to live.

I checked my situation and assessed my immediate circumstances. Well first, my cognitive faculty for reasoning is still functioning. There might still be a chance. I found myself staring at the ceiling, with light that at first I thought was the blinding one which ushers those who pass on. Hindi pala, fluorescent lang pala ng kwarto ko. I started to move my head and found myself looking at the door on my left. Isang saradong pintuan; pasukan, maaari ring labasan... Nagkumahos akong umupo sa pagkakahiga at sinipat ulit ng taimtim ang pwertahan na nasa kaliwa ko. Nakita ko ang aking mga kamay, buhay pa ako at gumagalaw, at nandito lang pala sa ospital, sa loob ng isang maliit na kwarto, nagiisa at nahihirapang huminga. Walang hangin, malamig ang kwarto na parang gustong durugin ang aking dibdib ng yelo. Kapos na kapos ako sa hangin. Nagdedeliryo napapraning...

If I don't do anything now I will surely die. If I will not ACT UP I will leave this room cold dead. If these bare hands do nothing, my feet will surely cross that door lifeless.

I called out for help. And somehow I got it.

In this life we face many challenges. It's not a cliche but a reality. A morbid and almost fatal one for me and for most of those we remember today.

Call out for help. Or be there when someone does. Call out for help and She could be the nurse outside that door. An infectious disease doctor tending to patients at the ER, at the Ganci ward, DOTS clinic, HACT office or sometimes manning their unofficial post at Twitter and Facebook answering questions but also asking you or begging you to see him in person at the treatment hub clinic. Pwede din itong mapagmahal na kapatid sa malayo na may sarili ding pasanin pero hindi pinagkait ang kanyang puso at pagalala, o maasahang pinsan na kasama sa bahay at karamay sa luha at galak ng buhay. O mga magulang na hindi man maintindihan kung ano ang sakit mo pero ang alam lang nila ay intindihin ka at mahalin ka, sampu ng iyong kapintasan, kahinaan, kalabisan, pagkukulang. Mga kamaganak at kapitbahay na tutulungan ka magbuhat ng iyong mabigat na dalahin. Mga kaibigang tinanggap ka at pilit ka pinapangiti at pinapatawa kahit nakakahiya ang inyong pinaguusapan o pinapanood. Or it could be complete strangers, people who takes time writing their story online. Making their lives available to others, daily, selflessly, on season, off season. Laboring and toiling the adage "Love your Neighbors". Just when you thought there is no one else you can call out help to - "We are all in this together."

Because keeping quiet could be fatal. Silence meant sure Death. And today we remember those who have passed on. We celebrate their life and their love, theirs that paved for ours to reach the maximum lifespan. Today there is no more reason to see the blinding light early on. No more means Nada, Zero. Let's get to Zero. No more deaths because of AIDS, no more new HIV infection, no more fear and discrimination. Magpa test habang maaga pa, magpa treatment habang malakas pa. Magtanong, humingi ng saklolo. Tabang! Tabang! Call out for help. Or be there when someone does.

Be there talking about HIV and STI when your friends are avoiding it. Answer their questions or speak up when no one is asking. Find that every venue and opportunity to help out. To Educate and Empower. To correct misconceptions. To right was is wrong. Some are just afraid to ask questions or to tell you their problems, but be available when they do. He could be your funky officemate, he could be the soloist at your church or your brother working overseas. He or she could be your bestfriend or your seatmate or your professor or your student. Your Team Leader or your agent. The IT guy who fixes your broken computer. Your boss who could be in hiding or your subordinate who cowers. He could also be your nurse or even your doctor. Everyone needs help at some point. Be there when they do.

Because that will only matter. When we start to CARE for others. When we give our friends SUPPORT. When LOVE unite neighbors. When we partake in FELLOWSHIP. Let's not waver on our COMMITMENT even if our own allies make it more difficult for us to ACHIEVE our goals. Let's continue the STRUGGLE to better days for all PLHIV living in the Philippines and elsewhere. Let's REMEMBER those who have left us for the stars. Shining bright like diamonds in the sky.

And here below on earth as we kindle our candles tonight in solidarity with them, with the Red Ribbon we wear on our sleeves - "Let's keep the light on HIV."

- Tomasito