There are still a few more World AIDS Day (Week) activities and programs that are ongoing until Saturday but last night was my last for the year. I’m tired. I’m exhausted shuttling from one event to the next. Malu Marin of NSAP and Bai Bagasao and Miss Ced of UNAIDS probably go to more events than I do. But as an individual advocate with no means of which to fund my own advocacy work, I use my own money to get to one event to the next and take time out of my own schedule to do these things. I’ve put all my other work in the backseat these past few days and they might have suffered a bit in the process.
It’s time to catch up with myself and get back to the regular grind of things. As I’ve joked before, “this is the only time of the year when I am relevant and people are more demanding of my time than usual.” When the World AIDS Day period is over, they send me back to the sidelines and I have to wait until someone puts something up that needs me.
The advocacy work is fulfilling but it is taxing and I haven’t been sleeping well as of late but it’s all going to be worth it in the end. If we manage to help some people take better care of themselves, then it is all so damned worth it.
My final night of advocacy work brought me all the way to the House of Representatives in Congress, a place I’ve never been to before, at the farthest edges of Quezon City. The PLCPD invited me to a concert and poetry reading of HIV and AIDS poems, read by people who have made it their goal to fight the good fight.
Miss Bai Bagasao of UNAIDS, who has been there for me since I first became an advocate, was one of the readers and so were various members of the House of Representatives. Party List members and councilors also lent their voices to poems that have been written about HIV and AIDS. I gave voice to two poems that I wrote about HIV. I read Humpty-Dumpty and threshold.
But the night was made even more spectacular by musical numbers performed by some of the country’s most established, most renowned and loved folk singers like Gary Granada, Bayang Barrios, Cooky Chua (of Color It Red), and Lolita Carbon (of Asin).
I’ve seen Gary Granada and Bayang Barrios perform live once before. Gary Granada held a concert at college and the whole auditorium was filled to the brim with students and he captivated us for over two hours with just his voice, his beautiful songs, and an acoustic guitar.
Bayang Barrios performed in TXTube, a show that I was working on back in 2005 and I got to see her sing two songs. It was amazing.
I’ve always been a fan of Cooky Chua since the release of Color It Red’s first album back in the mid-90s. Paglisan was always a favorite of mine but I also loved their songs, I Need You Here and Pass Her By Girl. She even sang Paglisan with my sister in the show Music Bureau back before the days of Myx and MTV. There was a time I had committed the song’s lyrics to memory.
My Dad made me listen to our one CD of Asin back in our old house in Mandaluyong and having been raised in a house by two hippies, I was really appreciative to hearing Filipino folk music. Asin really is the best in the business and to finally get to hear Lolita Carbon sing live was a true joy.
They took turns singing their own songs and then one song written by kids from Tondo on a music workshop sponsored by the PLCPD. In between performances, there was a poetry reading. When all the singers had sung, they began doing duets.
Most notably, for me, was Cooky Chua singing Paglisan with Lolita Carbon. It was everything.
At the end of the concert, I went up to Cooky Chua and told her that I was the brother of Michelle and she remembered singing with my sister and she told me to send her regards and her love. I then turned to Lolita Carbon and told her I thought Himig ng Pag-ibig was the best Filipino song I have ever heard. I told her that my Dad was a fan and made me listen to that album when I was still young and she was so floored. I was so happy.
The people were really enjoying the evening. For a few of them, their attentions waned during the poetry reading but it was more because some of the poems that were chosen were better read than read aloud. But the music was captivating and some songs were interpreted in such a way that it could hold a new meaning involving HIV. The context of being at that concert created a new space for which the song could be interpreted and it was lovely.
Much like Scarlet Letters from Baguio, the poetry slam I judged just last week, I really see the power of the arts in helping spread the information. The energy is so much stronger and more accepting when the audience is dealing with an art form, rather than a straight up talk or forum. A talk or a forum is so formal and so serious. That’s why I have always tried to be funny and self-deprecating and light-hearted in all my talks because the message has to get through and not get lost in the atmosphere of dread.
Here, the atmosphere was light and forgiving and accepting. I felt that we really did something last night. It was a small audience but it was an important one.
I’m done for the year, really. I’m going to enjoy the rest of 2012 and be with my family and have a real Christmas celebration.
Then, we’ll see what 2013 will bring in terms of the advocacy work.