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Positive Pinoy: my personal journey with HIV.

I was diagnosed last March 29, 2012 in a time that I was supposed to leave the country in a couple more weeks. I had my medical exam, and the result returned POSITIVE. From then on, my journey with HIV began.

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What's New?: gateway to useful links on local and international news and updates about HIV.

A summary collection of medical articles, research news, and science breakthroughs on HIV/AIDS, STIs, and other related diseases.

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HIV 101: Basic information for the newly-diagnosed.

Understand the basics, know the facts, and take care of yourself. This section contains basic information about HIV/AIDS.

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Social Media: going viral against HIV/AIDS and other STIs.

The entrance of social media in spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS has gone viral. Famous personalities and the common man alike showed their support not just to HIV education but also with regards to the lives and struggles of the LGBT community.

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Health Events: listing of wellness and advocacy events for HIV-positive individuals and friends.

This section contains a summary listing of knowledge-sharing events on HIV, mass HIV testing, and other wellness events that will strengthen the overall health of HIV-positive individuals.

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29) Puerto Gay-lera




Puerto Galera

I first heard of Puerto Galera from the early 2000 indie movie, Duda (Doubt).  Some of the scenes were shot there, and from what I saw, it’s similar to the gay scene in Malate. When I transferred to Manila in 2009, I’ve been curious to go to these places.

It was Holy Week in 2011 when I finally went on a trip to Puerto Galera. I worked on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in order to secure rest days on Saturday and Sunday. My gay friends were already there as early as Thursday, and I brought along a female friend when we went there on Saturday morning.


How to Go There

Puerto Galera, by the way, is the northwesternmost municipality in Oriental Mindoro. If you are travelling from Manila, you take a JAC Liner bus (located near Taft MRT station) that will take you to Batangas pier, which is the last stop of the bus. Travel time is around two hours, and bus fare is less than 200 pesos.

There are actually four major points of Puerto Galera: Sabang Pier, Muelle Pier, Balatero Pier, and the most popular of them all, the White Beach. Secure a ticket from any of the shipping companies there that traverse to White Beach. Travel time is around 45 minutes.

But of course, the two paragraphs above are common knowledge to the LGBT community. And a friend once told me, “Every gay man has gone, at least once, to Puerto Galera.” I disagree a bit, but then again, for sure, every gay man has heard of Puerto Galera, or heard personal accounts from their gay friends what happens in the place especially during Holy Week.




White Beach

When we arrived in White Beach, the very first thing I noticed is how thick the crowd is. I didn’t expect that the stretch of the beach is not that long, but the hotels and inns are just too many. I actually thought of it as a mini-Boracay: very popular which makes it very crowded, which in turn makes the stretch of the beach appear shorter.




There are also a lot of restaurants there. Some offer steeply-priced food while others serve budget meals. Activities that you can do there include banana boat ride, volleyball, frisbee, skim board, jet ski, island hop, or simply, people watching. My group even tried the famous Mindoro Sling together with our lunch. Hehehe!




Hot bodies abound Puerto Galera, mostly males. Hahaha! At least, all the hard work in the gym paid off for those who flaunted what they have. To which a part of me decided to hit the gym when I return to Manila (I jogged instead, but still did not achieve the Galera bodies of others. Hehehe!).

I was also surprised to pass by a kiosk which offers free HIV testing (sadly, our group did not pay attention to it). And at night, some advertisers gave away condoms.




Galera Nights

We slept mid afternoon after the late lunch since the Mindoro Sling got us a bit buzzed. We had a quick dinner immediately after we woke up, and I couldn’t understand the excitement of my companions as we head to the beach front for the night party.




Well, I finally understood it as we arrived in the beach front. The bars and restaurants had their own shows, from spectacular fire dancers to impersonators to live bands, but the crowd seemed to be united as they danced on the beach to the fusion of loud music from the bars.  Galera just explodes at night time! People party there like it’s the end of the world. They danced on top of tables, hugged and kissed openly, and chattered over Mindoro Sling. It was crazy and fun at the same time!

In Manila, bars are usually closed in observance of the Holy Week. In Puerto Galera, it’s totally different. I was feeling quite ambivalent as I have been accustomed to traditional Holy Week celebration especially back in the province, and somehow, I felt that the festivity is not quite right. But then again, times have probably indeed changed. I believe that Galera is about openness and acceptance.


Love

Just like Malate, Puerto Galera has been the venue for the LGBT community to be themselves. There are no pretensions, no masks, and no need to hide. Love is everywhere in Galera: love among friends, and those in relationships. The energy is uplifting in Galera. It gave me a sense of oneness with the crowd. The music drowned all my worries. Galera made me real.


Note: the photos from this blog entry were taken last April 2011 and September 2012.