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If there’s one thing this past week that made me stop and think, ponder and reflect, it was Charlie’s letter.

I’m Charlie, turning 27 in a couple of months. I’d like to share my story with your readers… I found out about my condition (…) last year. I’m HIV positive.

His was the third I received this August, talking about being HIV-positive. His letter simply rendered me without anything to say, at least temporarily. I didn’t know how to react. It was overwhelming. I thought, if I fire off sweet, encouraging words, will that really help? Will that really make Charlie feel better about his condition? If I start playing the role of a cold jaundiced preacher, lecturing on lessons learned from Charlie’s experience and perhaps advocate “safe sex” till the cows come home, will it really make a difference? I don’t know.

* * *

While reflecting, I caught myself midstream — I realized the approach I was taking was not helping anyone, in fact it was not helping me. I was being too messianic. I don’t need to be a superman and rush to the rescue. I thought, maybe before I lecture to anyone on the matter, if I ever so decide to, I should process whatever mixture of feelings I had for myself first.

* * *

Why did I feel the way I felt after reading Charlie’s letter? Bakit ba tila kay lakas na dagok sa dibdib ang maigsing sulat na iyon, nakapanlulumo, nakapanlalambot? I knew it was fear, but a different, very potent kind. It was like I was blindfolded, and a venomous snake is nearby, staring at me, ready to pounce at any moment.

* * *

There really is something about realizing our mortality that most powerfully moves us to look at the neglected corners of our lives. There lies the cobwebs of important things set aside and forgotten, the meaning of one’s life, the significance of one’s existence. And so while I do advocate safe sex, Charlie’s letter for me was a push towards learning a much deeper lesson, an inspiration to tap into a much more powerful force inside me. And that for me, is the journey to discover my ultimate significance on the face of the earth. I drank from Charlie’s chalice of sorrow, and was moved to ask myself, yet again, what am I here for, what is my role, what is my relevance in this wild, wobbly world?

* * *

Even with just that question I felt jolted with an inexplicable amount of energy to push forward. Even without the answer, I feel so much zest for life, not devoid of fear about the future and what it may bring but palpably more hopeful, more enthusiastic.

* * *

Suddenly I don’t worry too much about mortality. Yes death is still unknown, and thus frightening, but I realize what makes it really scary is not that it’s unknown. Between now and when it happens, if there is nothing substantial in between, that is what’s scary. Emptiness is the culprit. By asking about my own significance and relevance I move myself further from that terrifying emptiness, and closer to a more meaningful existence.

* * *

After all these, am I still afraid to contract HIV?

Will I still resolve to practice and advocate safe sex?

For both questions, my answer — yes, of course.

But not so much because I’m afraid to die. (All of us eventually will.)

It’s because I’m just too excited to live my life significantly, relevantly — joyfully, meaningfully.

Thank you Charlie for such elegant lesson.

* * *

[Postscript: I do not think contracting HIV stands in the way of living one’s life significantly and relevantly. It may have dampened your zest for life, Charlie, but you know you can decide otherwise.]

* * *

For Charlie — “Stand Up For Love” by Destiny’s Child.

Comments (17)

  1. Ryan said on 02-11-2009

    hi migs,

    just want to reiterate that there is an ongoing hiv testing for free in manila..
    you can read more details here..

  2. wannabe said on 26-10-2009

    Siguro, ang prevention versus hiv/aids na gagawin natin sa ating mga katsurvah, titingnan natin kung papaano natin pinapahalagahan ang ating mga selves. Kung wala tayong respect sa ating mga selves, mababa ang tingin natin na parang mga aso tayo na nagrerespons sa sexual desires through instinct, haay. Magkakasakit talaga. Mas maganda talaga check ang ating mga self worth. Aware pa ba tayo na may dignity tayo bilang mga tao. at kumikilos tayo sana according sa respeto sa sarili na meron tayo. Ganun ba kababa ang self worth natin? At siguro baka malabo ang intindi ng mga nagkakasakit ang tunay na meaning ng freedom. Freedom is the capacity to do good, and the ability to say no to anything detrimental to the persons well being. Kaya kapag hindi maka say no, sa sexual desire at kung ‘kanino na lang’, alipin ang tao sa mga desires na yon. kasi hindi maka say ‘no’ sa need na yon. Kapag after the sexual act na sa mga taong hindi dapat, kahit sexually satisfied sya. I bet you, deep within may guilt, the conscience keep on haunting this person. Kung honest lang itong mga taong ito. Hindi sila happy sa buhay. at dirty ang feeling nila sa sarili. bye you!

  3. Ja-MeS said on 16-01-2009

    i guess i’m afraid of the consequences of having aids. rejection, for instance. the feeling of being accepted is somehow universal, and each of us tries to do everything that would make us more acceptable in the society. this may sound absurd since some would say that it is the same feeling that makes us “weak.”

  4. john carlo said on 15-09-2008

    well its not the end of the world. patunayan mo na kaya mong harapin ang malaking suliranin ngayon sa buhay mo. i’ll hope always ka maging okey at god always loves you. kaya mo yan! tira – tira!

  5. Charlie said on 04-09-2008

    Death is what lies at the end of the road for all of us when our life’s journey heads to its end. I agree with migs and in between birth and death is what really matters. You only go through life’s journey just once and we should all live each day at a time, savoring every seond and creating lasting memories. A life lived with a purpose is a life lived to its full potential.

    For everything there is a season,
    And a time for every matter under heaven:
    A time to be born, and a time to die;
    A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
    A time to kill, and a time to heal;
    A time to break down, and a time to build up;
    A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
    A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
    A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
    A time to seek, and a time to lose;
    A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
    A time to tear, and a time to sew;
    A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    A time to love, and a time to hate,
    A time for war, and a time for peace.

    Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

  6. jed said on 03-09-2008

    i really pity..being on the medical field, takot din ako mahawa sa ganyan, kaya practice safe sex mga dudes..

  7. yohan said on 28-08-2008

    Death is not the greatest loss in life…

    Like migs, i too would like to dedicate a song to charlie, a very meaningful & appropriate song: Strong Enough by Stacie Orrico. Hope you can search it out.

    Says there, “If i’m healed, renewed & find forgivenes, find the strength i never had, will my scars forever ruin all God’s plans?”

    May it inspire you and let your spirit never fade away. For death is not the greatest loss in life…the greatest loss is what dies inside us while we are still alive.

  8. larrygp said on 28-08-2008

    if u have lived a risky sex life….GET TESTED ..and from now on practice “SAFE SEX”.

    i just heard in the news today here in the US that HIV incdence in the philippines is 45% higher compared last year….i didnt doubt that for i know how PLUs lived such risky lifestyles ( not that i saw them, but thats what i read from chatroom (sebs) and blogs…

    i’m not here to judge anybody but we just all have to realize that we are all at risk if we continue these unsafe practices….


  9. ef said on 28-08-2008

    i dunno what to say Migs but….heres my comfort hand for Charlie.., no more regrets no more pains…, start with a new life Charle…may our gud Lord shower u more blessings and heal u…..pls accept my deepest yahhh…mwahhh

  10. Paulo said on 27-08-2008

    I was also moved by Charlie’s story. Yes, MGG. Even with that sort of affliction, life has to move on. Live for the present and stop thinking about the future, eh?

    To Skittles: Tama! *apir* Epistaxis nga ‘tong post na ‘to! Haha. 🙂

  11. Little Fish said on 27-08-2008

    the question is:

    is it death are we afraid or fear of?

    or perhaps,

    is it the stigma of having and being HIV+?

  12. dodong said on 27-08-2008

    hi migz, it’s my first time to post a comment on your blog. there is a blog listed on, which is definitely you are familiar with, that moved me and touched the hearts of my friends. This post is more than encouraging for PLU’s to know their hiv status. I’m new in blogging and I’ve featured that blog in mine.

    I was hoping I could be added as well on your list. Thanks migz!

  13. butterflyrhai said on 27-08-2008

    i felt the same way, it made me rethink once again of my life and what i wanted to do and fulfill in the future, not just for me but for my family, friends and loved it made me realize how lucky i am to be alive, appreciated my family, have my guy for 3 yrs now and being true to one another and loyal…

  14. I pray that Charlie will allow God to make him feel His compassion and love. I know it’s tough getting this condition in a country like the Philippines where healthcare cost is prohibitive. In the meantime, let’s love life and prevent the spread of HIV. Peace, ladies!

  15. lordmanilastone said on 27-08-2008

    may point ka migs, life should go on, i also saw Bangkok’s love story dahil nalaman ko thru your site, the character of the younger brother of the hired killer malimprinted a valuable lesson i shouldn’t forget while i’m alive….thanks for these series of meaningfully intertwined posts…

  16. imladris said on 26-08-2008

    great post!

  17. skittles said on 26-08-2008

    epistaxis lol

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