Minsan nakapanlulumo rin. Well, choice ko naman kasi ito, but still, it doesn’t take away the fact that I feel like this right now. To regularly stay at the darker folds of the rainbow, it can wear you down, it wears me down.
Almost every weekend, I spend volunteer time sa isang HIV testing clinic. Halos walang mintis I get clients na who turn out to be positive sa HIV. It’s my job to ensure that at that moment they get to know about their status, they have someone to talk to, they are supported with the right information, the right next steps to take, etc. etc. There were quite a few times when my poz clients would instantly break down. Understandable naman. Bilang HIV is, ika nga, a lifetime achievement award. Tattoo sa dugo, walang erase-erase. Habambuhay nilang dala-dala ang katotohanang sila ay may HIV. On the one hand, it’s not all that bad, many of my poz friends lead normal, happy lives. On the other hand though, of course, it’s not the same as when you’re HIV-free. They got to deal with so much — the meds, its effects, the adjustments in lifestyle, the stigma, the major secret, the fear of being rejected, the guilt, etc. Sa madaling salita, mahirap talaga kapag may HIV.
One time, pagkatapos ng isang mahaba-habang conversation, matapos makauwi ng aking kliyente, nakatanggap ako ng text mula sa kanya.
“Salamat ha, Migs. I think this is going to be a tough battle pero kakayanin ko ito. I’m a strong person.”
“Yes, of course kaya iyan. Basta if you need someone to talk to, just let me know, ok?”
“Salamat. I really appreciate being able to talk to you. Salamat talaga. Kaya pramis kapag namatay ako, dadalawin kita.”
Yes, some of my clients have a demented sense of humor. But I guess okay na rin iyon. Ganyan naman talaga tayong mga bakla, one of our best armors is humor.
Another text conversation with another newly diagnosed PLHIV (person living with HIV) client:
“Hey Migs. Just got home from the treatment hub, had my baseline and TB tests.”
“Hey hey. Good good. O, kamusta?”
“Ayun, may TB pala ako. And since my CD4 is 148, safe to say I would have died next year had I not seen your blog. Lovely.”
So, yeah, this guy is kind of saying, “it’s tragic, but thanks.” At least that’s how I interpret it. May sarcasm na halong gratitude na halong ewan. But basically, as I always say, knowing your HIV status is still the best place to be. It may be tragic, dramatic, or whatever way you want to call it, but it still is where you have the best control of the situation. Those who have died too soon mostly knew their status too late, or never even.
Admittedly this being at the darker folds of the rainbow comes with sparks of light and bright. Andiyan ang realization na kahit papaano, nakakatulong ka. Kahit papaano, may kabuluhan ang presensiya mo sa mundong ibabaw, para nang sa gayon, kapag pumailalim ka na (sa mundong ibabaw), masasabi rin namang may nagawa kang kabutihan. Pero more than this, ang napansin ko lang ay ganito. Sa araw-araw na dumaraan, bagaman pagod at pagal sa trabaho at adbokasiya, maraming beses na hindi ko mawari kung bakit may nararamdaman akong kakaibang kaluwagan at kaginhawahan sa aking dibdib. Naisip ko, ito siguro yung tinatawag na grasya. Biyayang kahit narito ka pa man din sa lupa ay may katiting na langit nang nakasilid sa iyong kalooban.
At sa araw-araw na pa-slide-slide ko sa rainbow, sa panaka-nakang pagsiksik ko sa darker folds nito, halong maigting na pasasalamat at taimtim na panalangin ang bulong ko — sana, ikaw na nagbabasa nito, alagaan mo ang sarili mo. May nagmamahal sa iyo, at bagama’t hindi pa tayo magkakilala, asahan mong isa ako rito.
Love yourself dude,