D R . E L R O I

A PERSONAL JOURNAL OF A MAN LIVING WITH HIV

Monday, January 2, 2017

Does Life Really Begin at Forty?

Past twenty-five years of age, there is always this dreadful feeling of hostility towards the season of Christmas and New Year since then. Worst traffic, heavy crowded malls and transport stations, and other unusual things that occur only during this period are all part of it. But on top of all these, I have another source of antagonism.

Christmas and New Year indicates that a year is coming to an end. As the following year enters, it also means another year has passed. And very soon, I would be a year older! One of my fears in life is getting old. Although I was able to resolve and still in the process of resolving this issue, I felt it again this time. Maybe it has something to do with reaching the age of forty. In two months, I would be. Believe me, I guess I have lived now longer than I have expected.

Inevitably, a few number of people have already told me that I should be excited this time because my life is about to begin. But come to think it, does life really begins at forty? I have no clue where that idea actually started but personally, I have to say that my life has already begun nine years ago. I have started to truly live a life back on December 13, 2007. This was the day when I have yielded my whole life to Christ and declared Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour.

“Everything is meaningless” according to Ecclesiastes 1: 11. When we say everything, it is everything in life. That includes dreams, career, wealth, pleasures, achievements, success, and even relationships. However, everything in life turns out to be meaningful when you started to live your life all for the glory and honour of the one who created us…our God. How? Through pursuing and building a relationship with Him through Jesus makes everything that we think, feel and experience, and do or pursue in life…meaningful.

Looking back on that day, I was at the lowest point of my life. In the past couple of years, I have learned to be grateful to God for allowing me to hit hard that rock bottom. Lost and extremely despair, I searched for the meaning of life for it was useless to continue on that time. Then He came into my heart as I have decided to give my life to Him. It was the beginning of living a life towards in its fullness. It led me to discover who really I am, my passion, career, gifts, and my calling. It led me to where I am today…a life with a purpose.

All the riches of this world I may not have. For I only have enough for what I need for the day. I may still be living with the consequences of my past. There will be more pain and suffering through the “cross” I have to take daily. Struggles and “dying to myself” would be continually not fun and may get even harder. However, nine years ago I have made my decision to FOLLOW and OBEY Him. There will be no turning back. Mysteriously in spite of this situation, life can never be any better than having the sense of purpose, contentment, inner peace, and joy each day. Is not that we are all searching for? All of which can be found only through Jesus. For He came to give us life and have it to the full (John 10: 10b).

In a couple of months, I will be turning forty. I believe in my heart that my life has begun already several years before hitting the final year of my four decades of existence. This marks the beginning of the tenth year of my journey with the Lord. And I am quite sure there will be more beginnings for this year and the coming years. Who’s counting? Me, for it says, “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).


So, does really life begin at forty? Be the judge. As for me, I don’t actually think so. Have a blessed 2017!

Monday, November 28, 2016

“Sayang” (What A Waste!)

If there is one reaction that irritates me the most each time someone finds out about my broken masculinity, it is that word “sayang” or the phrases, “Sayang ka, ang gwapo mo pa namang lalaki, (What a waste, you’re such a handsome dude).” That is a very typical response that I often heard when a good-looking guy confessed that he is attracted to the same sex. Not only that it seems very insulting to me. Also, it makes me feel that my entire being is a trash, useless, and good for nothing. Actually, I found it rude. Honestly, there were times I have reacted silently this way, “How could you say that? For all we know, your life could even be more pathetic than mine and my existence could be a whole lot more valuable than yours!” As if I would fall for them if I have become totally straight! Sadly, there were a couple of times I have really said that. Forgive me but I lost my control. Truly, that is how irritating and insulting these reactions are to me.

People who are reacting usually this way towards a gorgeous man or woman who unfortunately likes another man or woman are totally clueless regarding its implication to the person. Evidently, it affects negatively our self-esteem. However, I would like to consider some of the possibilities on why they are saying “sayang or sayang ka?”

One probability is that he or she, usually a she, is feeling bad for herself because her options to have a beautiful boyfriend have diminished. Well, this happens more often when the person who shockingly got the bad news is single and chasing after the last jaunt towards marriage. For parents, they could be lamenting for their own single daughters. If this were you, okay I would take no offence. But don’t you think it is a little selfish?

Normalcy in life could be another possibility. It sounds like this, “Sayang naman, hindi magiging normal ang buhay mo. (What a waste! Your life will never be normal.)” Or allow me to be extreme on this especially for those who are self-righteous, “You will burn in hell when you die.” Oh yes, I heard these feedback at least once in my entire life. Only men and women who are attracted to the opposite sex are normal for them. Thus, when you go beyond that, you are not normal. Nowadays, everything seems to be normal anyway so what’s the big fuss? Why would you mean that if this were you? Perhaps we could reevaluate our definition of what is truly normal in this life of being a real man and a woman.

After saying, “What a waste!” automatically this statement comes up. “Your beautiful race would not spread.” Is it panic about the dearth of seeing numerous physically attractive people in the future? Or is it fear for the person that his / her winsome genes would not be passed on to the next generation and just stop? My guess is it could be both. Who says we did not want to have children of our own? And it does not mean it is impossible especially with the modern ways we have today. Extending our beautiful race through having offspring is a choice. Personally, I must say that it is more of a calling. Therefore, you may want to stop meaning that if you could. Would you?

Another insinuation of that disappointing reaction could be misery. There is a truth in this actually. Being “not normal” by having an attraction with the same-sex is not a joke. But unfortunately, for centuries, people with same-sex attraction (SSA) have been the butt of jokes. It got even worst when you are “blamed” for something tragic that happened. You have become the “curse.” The truth of the matter is, people who react this way have very little or no idea at all having this feeling. Next time, you may want to switch place with the person and experience how it feels to be “not normal” before responding in this manner. Having a bit of empathy would be very helpful and encouraging.

A friend of mine who happens to be single, smart, and have a pleasing personality, experienced the same response shared this with me. For her, “sayang” suggests you are incomplete as a person. Then I realized, yes it also could mean like that for a single but normal man and woman. Yet, it does not make any sense. No one is whole or completely whole if there’s such a thing. Everyone is broken in various ways whatever you are in this life. However, you could attain that certain degree of wholeness when you have found your purpose in life. By the love and grace of God, I have found mine. And so far I feel complete. But have you found yours?

Look, perhaps you have other reasons that I have not mentioned here. But whatever it is, I hope you do realize this by now. Using the expression “sayang” to a gorgeous guy or gal who likes and sometimes prefers the same, or to someone who remains single is not healthy. Otherwise, you would create more sadness to the already wretched emotion. You may bring despair instead of hope. And you could be breaking the previously broken self of the person.

Every life of a person is valuable whoever or whatever he or she maybe. Not having the “normal” things in this world that most people have does not mean that his or her life is “sayang.” Once you have found and live the very purpose of your God-given life for and through Jesus, it will never ever be a wasted life. As a matter of fact, not only you would feel complete but also you would have that sense of inner peace, joy in the midst of life struggles, and contentment. How could I say all these? Like I said earlier, I have found mine and praise the Lord for I have lived and am still living it.


So next time, please exert a little bit of an effort to control yourself. Promise, it would not kill you. Refrain from using “sayang” as a reaction to a handsome and beautiful SSA-ed man and woman. And also to “normal” and attractive single people. Who knows, his or her life could be a lot better than yours. What do you think?

Friday, October 28, 2016

You'll Never Know Until...

Try and do it. You’ll never know until you see it for yourself and do it. Of course, for Christians, it does not have to be this way for things that are clearly outlined in the Word of God. However, in our daily life, we are forced to make decisions.

These decisions range from the choice of clothes you are going to wear or food to eat, talking to a colleague or friend, or going home early. These are simple ones. Seeing a possible date, firing an employee, starting up a business, or changing a career could be moderate decisions for some people. While quitting a job, getting married, and shifting to another career are examples of major decisions that could affect your entire life. Bottom line is, making decisions are part of our everyday tasks.

Last month, I made a decision to file an application for graduate studies at De La Salle University. You know, just trying to go beyond my usual territory of studies and work. Getting a doctorate degree in Counseling and Psychology is a bit far-fetched for me. Aside from a few hundred bucks for the application fee, some effort in writing, and time of traveling to DLSU, there’s nothing else to loose anyway so might as well take the chance. I thought it was improbable for a few reasons. First, I was not sure if my credentials are enough for me to get into the program. Let’s face it, Bible graduate schools programs are sometimes not considered, or shall I say credited, to big and popular universities like UP, ADMU, and DLSU. Second, based on the requirements, the only thing I was sure of that would get me into the program is my license as a Guidance Counselor together with my simple thesis. Lastly, I was not sure if they would give me a full scholarship! But when I talked with the friendly personnel from the scholarship office, he encouraged me that I might have a chance. In other words, if someone would ask me what would be the probability of getting into to the program, I have to say that it’s pretty slim. Nevertheless, I took my chance. I guess we’ll never know until I try and do it!

Today this afternoon, I was scheduled for an admission interview. I was fifteen minutes early so I have fifteen minutes of waiting. Was I anxious? Not a bit. Was I hopeful? Oh yes! So I focused on refreshing myself and observing the people passing by the un-air conditioned lobby. My scheduled time has arrived and I got to meet the person I was speaking with through email. After a few minutes, I was introduced to the department head of Counseling and Psychology (that was how I remember but honestly, I forgot so I was not sure LOL!). The interview lasted for less than an hour. It went very well indeed!

Verbally, I got admitted! I passed the application! Right then and there, he unofficially welcomed me as a new student! I said unofficial for the formal admission letter would be sent to my email stating what type of scholarship they have granted me with, together with all the information I need to know. By the way, this scholarship would be a huge factor in making this decision. But again, yes I GOT IN the program! Praise the Lord.

I am quite very happy of course. There you go. You will never really know the outcome of something until you try and do it. So go ahead and take that step of faith! The big question now is, will I pursue this or not? Well, that would be my problem in the next seventeen days.


So Lord, will it be De La Salle University (DLSU) or Asia Graduate School of Theology (AGST)? Please pray with me, folks! Really appreciate it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Being Single And Living Alone

It was forty minutes after six when I arrived that evening at the very small studio apartment I have been renting for more than seven years. How small if you may ask? Well, you can reach everything in a couple of steps. As I was preparing myself to relax watching the local news …I realized I got few things to do first. Then the idea of writing this article popped up.

Some people asked me if I did not get lonely when I’m alone at my apartment. For an introvert like me, I love my own private space so very rarely either that I feel lonely or alone. I enjoyed it actually most of the time. After nearly nine years of living as a born-again Christian, I have never enjoyed living independently than ever before. Living on my own means freedom to me. I could sing praises freely and worship God anytime, which I really loved to do both in victory and in defeat. Spontaneously, I could pray and talk to God out loud as if He is just there. Easily I could cry and sometimes mourn when struggling with sins and sinful desires. Moreover, I enjoyed the quietness as I do my devotions or simply reading the Bible.

Additionally, I could enjoy doing stuff alone such as watching movies or series, listening to my favourite music while singing along with it or sweating my body out to maintain a healthy and good physique, and reading books or studying. I love it when I am writing, conceptualising, and doing presentations for my workshops or seminars! Most importantly, I love the silence of being alone when I am thinking about anything … and talking to myself. When I got bored, I could simply go to a mall and other places and meet friends anytime I want to.

On the other side, here are the things that I need to do while contemplating on my independence that led me to write it down. First, I need to cook rice for my dinner. While waiting for it, I have to place the groceries I bought that day to their allocated places. Afterwards, I need to count how much money I have left and check my budget for the week. When the rice cooker got on warm, I put on top of the cooked rice the viand and covered it. Then I sat in front of my TV as I thought of my life as a single guy and living alone. Doing all these, I recognised, are also part of being unmarried and living independently. Not to mention that there are laundry and other very limited household chores.

Another not so bright side of this kind of life is when you get sick. It is quite hard to manage and still do the necessary task when you are not feeling well. In fact, when I was confined early this year due to severe abdominal pain, I need to call out a few friends to help out and bring me to the hospital. It is not every day that you are sick. However, still, it is difficult, dangerous for some, when you are living alone. Good thing I still have a family to escape to once in a while.

Knowing that my life is meant to live for Jesus, I need not worry about everything. Trusting this reality gives me a great sense of satisfaction in life, inner peace, and joy in the midst of life struggles. Living alone and being single for almost twenty years of my adult life, I got so used to it. Thus, the idea of marriage is not that appealing to me. Not that I do not want to get hitched and have children, I do, to be honest. Sometimes I got envious whenever I see sweet couples or young family close to my age. Come on! Who does not? Most especially single women, right? However, with my same-sex struggles and sexual issues, freelance income from my budding career in counseling, and not having my own house or a car … all these make the romantic relationship a little complicated for me. Sounds pathetic? I do not think so.

What matters most is that I am happy and contented with my life in spite of the “not so bright” side of it. Still, there are a lot of things I look forward to, get excited, and be positive about life in general. There are plans being cooked at present and dreams that I have been praying about! And there are many other things I could do as a single guy, which I am not sure if I could still do when I am married and got children. Especially in serving the Lord through ministries while pursuing a doctorate degree at the same time.


So who says living alone and being single is not fun? I guess you better think again. As long as you know and you are breathing the purpose of your life (i.e. living a fully surrendered life to Jesus above all, just in case you are still wondering what is it), living alone and being single could be as happy, or even better sometimes, like that of being married.

Monday, September 12, 2016

CoH Training@YMCA KL

After over four years, once again I got the chance to do certification training for HIV Channels of Hope (CoH) at YMCA, Kuala Lumpur that began on the last week of August and lasted for seven full days. It was exhausting but at the same rewarding!

The last time I have become part of the training team was back in 2012 of March. It was my last training with my former employer that was held in Chennai, India. This is my first time to do it with AIDSLink, another partner organization of Christians AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa (CABSA) in doing CoH globally. I got to experience once again the long days but short nights, getting to know and making new friends, and sharing what God has done through my life and CoH in a multicultural setting. Usual challenges with the participants and the process happened but in the end, everything went well like before.

What made this experience different from my past trainings are two things. First, there are new additions in the program that makes it even more comprehensive and integrated than ever. Second, my encounter with the Lord took place not through the participants but with my co-trainers. When we were giving feedback to each other during our last meeting at the end of the training, it felt like God has given me affirmation of what I do and how I live my life for Him. Through the words I heard from each and everyone of the team, it pierced through my heart that I could not help but to burst into tears. I was so deeply touched, blessed, and overwhelmed by His presence through them! It was truly an amazingly different experience!

But of course, the participants also expressed their gratefulness on how blessed they are hearing our stories and meeting me. God never fails to show me who He is on this ministry in different ways.


This coming weekend, I will give a short talk on same sex attraction (SSA) to this church in Cavite. Shalom to my readers!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

CoH at DZAS and BukSU


 
“Oras Na Pilipinas” was the morning program at FEBC – DZAS 702 where I got invited to talk about HIV&AIDS on its “advocaserye” segment last week. Although it was not my first time to be interviewed at the said station, this particular guesting has become both a good and bad experience. Due to poor judgment regarding time, traffic, and bad weather, I failed to make it on time and lost the first fifteen of the short twenty-five minutes of the slot allotted to me as representative of Micah Challenge, which made it bad. I was not able to do what I have planned to do. However, lesson has been learned. On the positive note, while it was only a little over ten minutes, I was able to speak about HIV through a story and promote the upcoming event of Amara Center for Family Counseling. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with the whole thing. Nevertheless, I still believe it was good based on the few positive feedback I received. 

More on the brighter side, my trip to Malaybalay City, Bukidnon was indeed a memorable one. For the first time, a two-days Channels of Hope or CoH for HIV workshop has been conducted to a non-church or non-FBO or faith based organization. Our participants were teachers, Gender and Development Staffs, one DOH representative, and guidance counselors of BukSU or Bukidnon State University! Honestly, I was a bit apprehensive at first for they are not faith leaders so I slightly modified and removed a few topics that are not relevant to them. But the core foundation of this ministry is the Word of God and the Bible so it is quite impossible not to include the spiritual aspect of this response to HIV&AIDS. Moreover, they have witnessed that it is the missing link that could possibly address the issue of stigma and discrimination through what it has done on my life…and what the Lord has done through my life as I have shared. It turned out that they have appreciated and liked this part very much through their expression of how much they were blessed. In fact, they want us back in a few months for another similar event praise God! 

Also, this trip has become a reunion of my spiritual mother doctor and me. We spent one evening together just simply sharing and talking about our own struggles and other deep personal stuff. We have missed each other so much that we ended up schmoozing past twelve midnight! But it was worth it.

Prior to my departure, with friends who are responsible for this trip and who led me to the life I am enjoying at present respectively, I was able to conquer the longest zip line in Asia at Dahilayan Adventure Park. Bukidnon is the home of sweet pineapple (Del Monte) in the country and the climate is somewhere between Baguio and Tagaytay City. The mountains, the wide road, the widespread plantation of pineapples, corns and other crops, and the peace brought by its natural countryside would be loved by anyone who is thinking of retirement or place for vacation. Indeed it is a cool place with warm people. All these are more than enough reasons to go back, visit the places and experience the things I have not been able to see and do.

Till next time...shalom!