Friday, July 21, 2017

See This Movie



After watching Kita Kita last night, I predict that it will be a modest sleeper hit among Pinoy audiences who automatically lap up romantic hugot films, TV commercials, and songs. We are a hugot nation, after all.

Kita Kita (I See You) opens with Alessandra de Rossi as Lea, a Pinay who works as a tour guide in Sapporo, Japan, who goes temporarily blind. A Filipino neighbor, Tonyo, comes over to make friends with her. Eventually he slowly woos her. Empoy Marquez plays Tonyo with just the right light touch, striking a careful balance between charming and trying too hard.

It is largely to the credit of the two leads that their cute-meet and the eventual development of their relationship are mostly engaging and believable. On-screen, the two share an easy chemistry that works; in fact, a woman behind me muttered to her friend, “Shet, kinikilig yata ako!

The movie upends the usual romantic clichés by replacing them with another cliché. In this rom-com, it’s possible for a pretty woman like Lea to end up with a guy like Tonyo because love is (temporarily) blind.


In true rom-com fashion, the audience assumes that the true test of whether Lea really loves Tonyo will be when Lea regains her eyesight and sees Tonyo for the first time. (In a previous scene, when she tries to “see” what he looks like by tracing his face with her fingers, she says, quite confidently, “Ang guwapo mo siguro,” to which Tonyo replies in an aside, “Bulag ka nga.”) Will she accept Tonyo, looks and all?

When her eyesight returns, he’s across the street from her. Everything is in slo-mo, she sees him, and smiles.

Then, bam!

At this point the movie does a 360, and we rewind to the start of Tonyo’s story. The movie shifts to his point of view, including a change in voice-over. There are surprises and revelations, and their love story becomes fuller when his part in it is plugged into the timeline.

But while writer-director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo does something unusual in Filipino rom-coms, this two-sides-of-a-story is actually a well-worn storytelling device that the Japanese and Koreans have almost mastered to a T. So while I smiled at the slightly-clunky-at-times but generally smooth execution by Sigrid, I can’t help but think, “been there, seen that.”

Still, I prefer to see our filmmakers stretching their wings and giving the viewing public something more than the usual fare. And for those who are tired of hugot rom-coms, here’s something that’s worth seeing.

Kita-kits tayo sa Kita Kita.

(Kita Kita is Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Almost A Month of PrEP

As a participant in the DOH study on PrEP, I’m required to keep a diary that records my PrEP intake as well as my sexual activities. This is what our diary looks like:


(Already, some people pounced on the words used in our diary. Instead of having “unprotected” sex, it should be “condom-less” sex, since having sex without a condom but while on PrEP means, technically, “protected” sex. They have a point.)

We’re also asked to take note if we experience any side effects while taking PrEP. Those taking PrEP have noted drowsiness. Others said they’ve had very lucid and psychedelic dreams. And some have experienced upset stomach in the first few days.

For me, I didn’t experience any drowsiness or psychedelic dreams. My stomach got upset easily, but Loperamide helped me get through those days.

But there was one curious effect on me that was totally unexpected.

While filling out my diary every morning (after taking my daily PrEP), I’d see all those checks on the top, and a row of empty, unchecked boxes on the bottom. They seemed to be mocking me—“Have you turned into a prude, McVie?!” Was I pressuring myself to put out, because of PrEP?

Entering my 20+ days on PrEP, I’ve only had sex 3 nights since June 26 (my first day on PrEP). Granted, one night was in a bathhouse, and the other two nights were organized orgies in hotel rooms. But still, 3 out of 20+ days is too low compared to the three-times-a-week bathhouse visits during my 30s and early 40s.

Ah well. Less sex, less likely to get infected, right?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Come On Guys, It's 2017


I am put off by parents—especially mothers—castigating Nadine Lustre when she answered, if she and boyfriend James Reid were living together, “I’m not gonna confirm, I’m not gonna deny. But then, ano naman (so what)? If that was true, so what? ‘Di ba, it’s not new anymore. Come on guys, it’s 2017.”

These parents feel that her home studio should retrain Nadine to answer properly such types of questions because they feel that little girls look up to her, and she should set a proper example.

What?

First of all, Nadine is an adult at 23 years old.

Second, she’s an actress. She plays roles, not role models.

But ultimately, if there’s anyone responsible for how children should or shouldn’t act, it’s the parents. Why should parents abdicate their responsibilities to a total stranger? Nadine isn’t here to teach people how to behave. She’s not even herself when you see her onscreen.

Sure, there are a few exceptions, like Emma Watson, for example. But the fact that they’re exceptions only means that we lucked out with the likes of her. When she was chosen to play Hermione Granger, it was specified in her contract that she couldn’t behave in a manner unfitting for her character’s image—that’s the studio protecting their massively expensive assets. That she grew up an upstanding young woman is a welcome delight, not an expectation.

But ultimately it goes back to the parents. The showbiz world and its denizens do not owe you a favor by making your jobs as parents any easier. They’re your kids, they’re your responsibility—not Nadine’s.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A One Year PrEP Study


Sunday, 25 June 2017:

We go to TLY Anglo Clinic around lunchtime to get pre-screened and tested for PrEP Pilipinas’ “Project PrEPPY”. I signed up because I wanted to get into PrEP while at the same time contribute to the DOH’s yearlong study on PrEP in the Philippines.

During the screening, I find out that, for the first time, my blood pressure is high. “141… sir, matagal na bang mataas blood pressure n’yo?” the male nurse asks me. I am shocked. In all the annual corporate physical exams I took, my blood pressure has always stayed within normal levels. Well I am older, I haven’t been working out for more than 6 years now, and I don’t exactly follow a strict healthy diet. Still, it is a rude awakening. Part of me is still hoping the reading was an anomaly.

But thank goodness my blood pressure isn’t too high to boot me off the PrEP program.

By 4pm that afternoon, they hand me my PrEP diary, wherein I am to record my pill taking as well as any incidents that may expose me to the virus (in other words, any sexual dookit or pak ganern, I’m to record it). And then they give me my bottle containing 30 PrEP pills.

Monday, 26 June 2017:

First day of PrEP; I decide to take it after eating an oatmeal breakfast. My PrEP counselor says I should take it on an empty stomach; but upon reading the literature, I find out that PrEP is best taken with meals, for better absorption.

The whole day goes by without anything out of the ordinary.

My mom cooks spaghetti for dinner, and I love her spaghetti. I eat too much and drink a little too much soda. That night I feel a little too gassy/burpy than usual, but I attribute that to my dinner splurge.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017:

PrEP after oatmeal breakfast, and I am off for work. By afternoon I’m feeling sleepier than usual, but I assume that’s because I lacked sleep the night before (playing, of all things, Candy Crush Soda).

I still feel gassy/burpy/bloated. I’m now wondering if it’s a side effect of PrEP.

* * * * *

In the pre-test screening, I was asked if the statement “PrEP encourages promiscuity” is true or false. I wanted to give a more nuanced answer, but my PrEPPY Counselor insisted I stick to the two one-word choices.

What I wanted to say was this.

I can’t answer for other people, because I can’t read their minds. But for me, taking PrEP isn’t a license to be promiscuous. If people want to be promiscuous, they will—and they’ll look for any excuse to justify their actions. If PrEP is a convenient excuse for them, then they’ll use it. As an excuse.

But promiscuity is not the more important concern. “Will PrEP encourage condom-less sex?” is the bigger issue. But even with this one, I’m not entirely convinced that the issue stops at condom-less sex.

I think ultimately condoms, safe sex, and PrEP all point to the essence of why we do what we do: What is our sense of responsibility, to ourselves and to other people? Do we take responsibility for our actions? Do we act responsibly or carelessly? And do we consider the effects of our actions on others?

It’s your choice whether you have protected sex or not. But do you take full responsibility for your choices? Are you willing to live with the consequences of going bareback with a total stranger—consequences to you and to your sex partner? And will you be gracious enough to allow your hook up to turn you down if he finds out that you’re not packing rubber?

Taking PrEP doesn’t mean that I’m allowing myself the luxury of letting my guard down and occasionally engage in condom-less sex “just because I can”. On the contrary, taking PrEP is about me taking responsibility for my (thank god still active) sex life. PrEP is an additional arsenal I can use in my quest to protect myself from HIV.

We acknowledge that we aren’t perfect; we occasionally make mistakes. Being infected with HIV has lifelong consequences. Wouldn’t it be nice to have protection for those times we do slip up and open ourselves to the possibility of infection?

Instead of encouraging me to be careless, PrEP reminds me every day, before I take the pill, that I should be careful out there.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Neutral Is For Pussies

Most of them are well-meaning Filipinos, and they justified their vote or, after he won, their giving him the benefit of the doubt with, “His heart is in the right place,” or “He really loves the country,” or “It’s time to try a change from the usual politicians”. This, despite his track record as the mayor of Davao, his outlandish, bigoted, and cavalier pronouncements, his refusal to show his bank account, and many more. They wanted to give the system a chance; they wanted to give the man that 16 million out of the 54 million possible voters chose in the last elections a chance.

Now most of them are just quiet. Or they’ve stuck to posting about their family, cats and dogs, or the latest movie they’ve seen.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Yesterday I Stopped Wearing My Ring


Almost three months after we broke up, I kept wearing my ring. My friend G noticed it and asked me if it was a manifestation of a subconscious desire on my part. My honest answer was that it was a manifestation of a physical need to have something on my finger. After almost six years, I’m so used to wearing a ring that, whenever I take it off, it felt weird. There were times before when I’d forget to wear it after taking a shower—after a few minutes I felt like something was off, like when your tongue feels around for a missing tooth. So I continued wearing the ring if only to shut up that nagging feeling of incompleteness.

Then yesterday morning after showering, I grabbed my ring but it slipped from my fingers. It landed on the floor and almost went into the drain. I looked at it and thought, “A few more inches and it’s bye-bye, ring.”

So I picked it up, went to my bedroom, and placed the ring inside my cabinet.

After that, I didn’t miss the ring on my finger at all.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Siya Ang Ma-Fillet, Hindi Ako!

I saw the guy before me order a fillet with rice, so when he left and it was my turn at the counter, I asked the female crew who was serving me:

Me: Miss, ano yung in-order niya? Chicken o fish? (pointing to the order of the guy as he walked away from the counter)

Crew: Fillet po.

Me: Oo nga, pero chicken ba yun o fish?

Crew: (insistent) Sir, fillet po.

Me: (pause) Alam ko fillet yun. Ang gusto ko malaman ay chicken ba o fish.

Crew: Oo nga sir. Fillet.

Me: (giving up) Fish fillet?

Crew: Hindi po. Iba pa po ang Fillet-O-Fish.

Me: (bingo!) So chicken siya.

Crew: Opo.

TANGINA THIS. THANK YOU, PROCESS OF ELIMINATION. NOW KINDLY PROCESS HER ELIMINATION FROM MY WORLD.

Monday, May 22, 2017

And So I’m Back…

…from outer space.


Upon entering a relationship—even when it became an open one—I never found the urge to go back to the place where “the thrill is in silence.” Perhaps it was too far. Perhaps the ubiquity of gay hook-up apps made it unnecessary. Whatever my reason or reasons were, the raid on CB by the police (twice, in fact) sealed its fate for me. I let my old membership card expire, and I didn’t bother renewing my membership.

It’s been almost six years since I last set foot in this place. The gym area and the TV room look the same. The stairs leading up to the second floor is the same, including the row lights placed on the banister. The second floor looks the same; even the bathroom looks the way it was 6 years ago.

But when the attendant showed me to my room, bingo! Aha, here’s something new. They now have a built-in drawer in side the bed. Inside the drawer is a huge plastic storage box, the kind you buy in SM. You can now store your valuables inside the plastic storage box, for added safety. I decided to stuff my clothes, wallet, and shoes inside the box.

The showers are still the same. The steam room though has been expanded—they ate up one shower stall to make room for the extension.

Up on the third floor, everything remained as I remembered it. The small free-for-all rooms, enough space for two guys to stand. The open-air smoking area. The dark room. Even the posters remained the same.

And even some people remained the same. “Hmmm, I remember him.” “Oh my, he still goes here?” “He looks familiar.” But there are also new faces; I wonder how many of them will turn out to be recurring new faces.

The second floor smoking area has become the choice area for those who want others to see them do it. Several times I saw it get crowded, a sure sign that a “show” was ongoing.

The music, thank goodness, is new. I mean, they still play wall-to-wall dance music, but at least they didn’t play any Gregorian monks chanting. (Oh wait, that was in Fahrenheit. Wrong bathhouse!)

Had a pretty straightforward hook up—nothing out of the ordinary, nothing blog-worthy.

Who knows, maybe next time, I encounter another polio victim. Fingers crossed!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lumandi Ka, Papa


“Can you still move?”

“Lo.”

Just a couple of messages I received on Grindr and other similar online apps. And that’s because I clearly state my real age on my profile: 51 years old.

Clearly these guys were trying to get a rise out of me. Luckily I remain largely unaffected by such attitude, because ever since I marketed myself as a “daddy” I’ve have a good number of 20-somethings (and a few 30-somethings) approach me, wanting to hook up with me. Apparently daddy issues are more prevalent than I thought among Filipino gay men.

Like this 21-year old senior college student who lives 6 short blocks away from our house; a brisk walk to his house won’t take more than 7 minutes. The first time he messaged me, he wanted to do it, but his parents were at home. We didn’t push through with it.

Sunday morning, he messaged me: “Are you free? My dad will be gone for about an hour.”

“Sure,” I replied.

“What can we do in an hour?” he asked.

“We can do a lot of things within just 30 minutes,” I assured him.

We wait until his dad went to mass (the church is less than 5 minutes away from their house), then I walked over to his place.

When I arrived just outside their house, he was standing at their porch, nervously glancing at his neighbors’ front yards. He wanted to make sure no one would see him sneak a stranger inside the house. I quickly snuck inside.

After he made sure the front door was locked, we headed to his room. His 50-inch flat screen TV showed a PS game on pause. The moment he locked his bedroom door, he immediately pulled me over to the side of his bed. He took off his eyeglasses (which made him look nerdy; his post-teenage pimples didn’t help either), sat down on the side of the bed, and pulled me closer. I pushed him down on the bed and kissed him hard on the lips. Even though his mouth was full, he kept making these excited noises.

Soon our clothes were tossed on the floor beside the bed.

He hugged me tighter and tighter as I kissed and licked him all over his face. And he moaned louder as plunged my tongue in his ear. “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” he said, which made me think, “His dad must be in church already at this point, and he might also be saying, ‘Oh God, oh God, oh God’ at this very moment.”

And as I let my tongue travel down and towards the back of his neck, he whispered into my ear, “Abuse me, daddy.”

At that point I wanted to stop and conduct an in depth interview. Why do you want me to abuse you? Were you abused before? Did your dad abuse you when you were younger? Was it an uncle? A neighbor? How old was the guy?

Then I thought, I really ought to stop speculating, accept his inputs, and just go with the flow. It’s so very improvisational theater.

(Of course, all that thinking earlier happened within several nanoseconds only. Otherwise I’d have lost my erection and my interest in having sex.)

I felt I had to say something. “You’re body’s mine,” I whispered back in his ear.

“Oh yeeeeesss, yeeeeeesss! Daddy, I’m all yours,” he hissed back in my ear. I was glad his response was that, because my mind was already berating me at that point, “Really Joel? ‘You’re body’s mine’? How cliché is that?!”

He whispered again, “Do what you want with me, daddy!”

So I said, “I wanna cum inside you so badly.”

Suddenly he snapped out of it. “No, no, no,” he said in a normal voice, not whispering. “Not without a condom.”

I too was out of the moment in a snap. “Of course!” I replied. “I don’t want to do it without a condom too. I meant next time. Not now, of course.”

He looked relieved. “Ah, okay, okay.” Pause. Then he added, “Next time, I want you to fuck me.”

“Oh sure,” I nodded. Now where were we?

Several minutes later I paused and looked at my phone. “The mass should be ending soon. Your dad will be home soon.”

We decided to cum together at the same time on his chest.

A few minutes after, I was poised near their front door while he was outside their porch, waiting for his all-clear go-signal.

Can I still move? You betcha.

Am I a lolo na? If to you I am, then I’m a lolo who can still f**k your ass sore.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Our Winter Of Discontent


I just found out that even before November last year, D already thought of breaking up with me. He was already dissatisfied with our relationship around two-ish years ago; I suppose there were needs of his that our relationship (and I) could not answer. Or maybe his priorities and needs had shifted already.

So why didn’t he? At that time he felt that if he broke up with me, he had no place to go. He still wasn’t earning enough to afford a place of his own. His mom and sisters live in the metro, and he also has relatives in Taguig; technically, he could have moved in with any of them. But it would have been a big hassle not only for him but also for his relatives.

(Let’s also assume that at that time he still had enough feelings for me, making it harder for him to leave. Because otherwise, if he were really unhappy, he would have been compelled to do something.)

By the time he broke up with me during the ides of March, he was in a much better place financially. And his mom and sisters had moved to a bigger apartment, with an extra room for him. Conditions were right for him to break up with me.

Was it unfair to hold on for several months given the discontent? Because a relationship involves two parties, let’s tackle that question in two parts.

Was it unfair for him? Well, it was his choice; he decided to grin and bear it. And for most parts, I did not sense anything out of the ordinary from him, so he was able to hide his discontent well. In that sense, kinaya niya. So whether it was unfair or not, I suppose it didn’t matter that much for him, because he stayed on.

Was it unfair for me? Did I deserve to at least be told? Do I deserve someone who is not discontented with me? Personally, I don’t mind having a partner who harbours some discontent, so long as he can live with his decision to stay with me.

The truth is, everyone can have some level of discontent or dissatisfaction with everyone else. Let’s get real here. The saying “No one’s perfect, but you’re perfect for me” is a huge fallacy. Walang perfect, walang forever. So staying with a partner means learning how to live with a certain level of discontentment and unfulfilled needs. The question one should ask oneself is: Can I accept him, warts and all of that? One must be able to determine the level of acceptable discontent and disharmony. Because if they go beyond that—we call them “deal breakers”—then the deal is off, so to speak.

Which is why, upon hearing that D had been thinking of breaking up with me earlier, I wasn’t really fazed or bothered that much. I was more curious as to why he didn’t say anything earlier.

(And to some extent, I feel bad for D that he had to endure months of discontent with me, when he could have extracted himself from that situation.)

Do I feel bad that he stayed for practical reasons? No. We all have different motives in life. And when we choose a particular path to take, often there’s more than one motivation at play there. We do this, we choose that, for several reasons; and it’s possible that there is no clear ranking of motivations. What’s the more important motive? What’s the least important? Most people act without much deliberation, which requires self-awareness and self-assessment.

At no time in our relationship did I feel that he was just using me. So no, I do not feel bad. In fact, it’s more likely that he had other reasons alongside practical ones for staying with me. And those are enough for me.

Friday, April 7, 2017

“This Is Where We Broke Up”



Okay, DO NOT read too much into this. This is not how we broke up. I just think this is a wonderfully executed short film.