A few weeks ago, my boyfriend—a public health practitioner—picked me up from work. I had just hopped into his car when he casually mentioned that he was going to be on radio the next day—a morning show had invited him to talk about the new HIV and AIDS law. What?! I exclaimed. That’s awesome! I was so excited for him! I’ve always been so proud of him for his dedication to the Philippine healthcare system. I was also ecstatic because he was given a huge platform to educate and spread awareness.
But on our drive home, I realized that I’d never taken an HIV test, even though I supported the campaign against HIV stigma and discrimination. I even encouraged other people not to be ashamed to get tested. After all, we get all sorts of health-related tests done: breast exams, eye exams, urine tests, etc—so why be ashamed of an HIV test, right?
“But why have I not taken it?”I asked myself. Then began a series of monologues inside my head. “This isn’t right. I have to practice what I preach!” I knew I wanted to fully support the advocacy, so I decided that I wanted (read: needed) to have a test done. “Very well then. I’ll take the test. Tonight. And while I’m at it, I’ll educate myself more on the issue, too.
Growing up, I never considered myself a “pretty girl”. I knew I looked average (or on good hair days, maybe even above average. Wink.)—but never crush-ng-bayan-worthy. Back in the day, there wasn’t Instagram yet—so my past time was spent flipping through teen magazines, admiring the models on the pages, wanting to be just like them. They were just like the crush ng bayan in our school. Fair and flawless, with long, straight hair and a pretty set of teeth. But I was none of those: I am dark-skinned, my hair is wavy, and before getting braces, I had a crooked smile with two prominent front teeth.
I often write to share stories—but on days like this, I write to remember.
Dear future self, this was what happened to you on July 26, 2018 at 6PM. I sincerely hope that by the time you’re reading this, you’re doing better. But if you’re not, it’s okay. Hang on. The sun will still shine bright tomorrow.
I know—scrolling through your Facebook news feed during grad season is bittersweet. You see your close friends post their photos and success stories, and happy as you are for them (surviving college is no easy feat!), a part of you is sad because, well—you're disappointed. Hurt. And maybe even embarrassed. Because while they’re all moving on to the next chapter of life, there you are, sitting on a couch, feeling stuck, preparing yourself for another semester (or two..or three..or five..)