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Pride March and Prejudice


I’ve been to many pride marches but the most recent one in Marikina was the first time that I got to talk to one of the Christian protesters from the other side. His name was Koy, and we were able to have conversations about topics ranging from morality to epistemology. And although we may have disagreed strongly with each other’s conclusions, we didn’t devolve into a shouting match. I was listening intently to his arguments and I felt that he was also listening intently to mine.

I imagine that many people would say that I am wasting time trying to engage these so-called “fundamentalists.” To assume this, however, smacks of prejudice. I also think it’s not fair because it denies both parties a chance to learn from one another. If someone else knew that I was terribly wrong in my assertions, I would like that person to explain to me why, the same way that if I honestly believed that someone would go to hell for what they were doing, I would try my best to save their souls. Frankly, I have a bit more respect for these people who think they are saving other people from eternal damnation than for those who would rather watch other people burn in hell than have to endure social confrontation. I believe that they may be misguided, but I don’t think that they bear malice in their hearts, which is why I think it is unfair to characterize all of them as “full of hate”. Some of them may be, but definitely not all.

It is also quite unfortunate that quite a few people from the march started showing bad form when engaging the protesters, even going so far as to use their educational attainment to prove how they are on the “right side.” I think that this too is unfair and uncalled for, and does not help the cause, as it risks adding legitimacy to highly-educated fundamentalists as well as alienating less-educated members of the pride community.

Alas, not all discourse will go smoothly and there are inevitably cases where it’s best to disengage. What’s important is to be able to identify these cases as soon as possible. Let me give an example:

One of the protesters was shouting that there are no nonhuman animals who practice homosexuality. I tried to tell him that contrary to what he was saying, homosexual behavior has been widely observed in nonhuman animals. He then backtracked to say we shouldn’t be basing morality on animals, which wasn’t at all related to what I said, and actually nullified his original statement completely. When I tried to expound, he replied that I couldn’t possibly convince him of my point through discussion. And with that, I thanked him for his honesty and walked away.

Had I had more time, I would have loved to talk more to Koy about deconstructing the bible as a source of absolute truth and discussing studies about God as a projection of the self. The least I was able to do was hand him a bottle of water on the way back to my contingent. He asked me if I was sure that I wanted him to have it, us being on different sides of the event and all. I was a bit surprised at the question and just had to remind him: “Lahat tayo nauuhaw. (We all get thirsty.)

This short experience of mine made me hope that we can all find the compassion in us to resist othering those we disagree with and instead find our common humanity. Let us engage each other as individuals who are capable of love and change, however slowly, however small.


Below are some shots from various pamphlets circulated around the event:

The helpful

The hellful

And the sellful!

Posted in Education, Freedom of Expression, Gender Rights, HIV/AIDS, Personal, Philosophy, Society, Stories0 Comments

FF Podcast 58 (Audio): That Abstinence Video

FF Podcast 58 (Audio): That Abstinence Video

FF Podcast 58: That Abstinence Video

Are you a bobo boy or a gaga girl? This week, we talk about the Department of Health’s abstinence dance video.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, HIV/AIDS, Politics, RH Bill, Science, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 58: That Abstinence Video

FF Podcast 58: That Abstinence Video

Are you a bobo boy or a gaga girl? This week, we talk about the Department of Health’s abstinence dance video.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Advocacy, HIV/AIDS, Podcast, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Society1 Comment

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #6

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #6

Hello friends! Welcome again to Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post! Let’s get right to it, shall we?


HIV is a nasty, cunning virus that pokes its way into immune cells and literally hacks them into producing more of itself. It slowly disables its host’s immune system and lets opportunistic infections (i.e. pneumonia) finish the job. Left: colorized scanning electron photo of HIV (yellow) invading a human T cell (blue). Right: external structure of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). (source: NIH, Russel Kightley

Take that, HIV!

US scientists have announced that a 2 1/2 year old kid has been ‘functionally cured’ of HIV infection. This means that a tiny amount of virus DNA may still be present in the cells, but standard tests come out negative and there are no signs that it is spreading. Right after being born to an infected mother, the unnamed child was also found to be HIV positive. The pediatrician decided to act quickly and put the infant on antiretroviral drugs within 31 hours after birth. Antiretroviral drugs are commonly prescribed to HIV patients – these are very effective in destroying the virus. However, patients have to keep taking the drugs for the rest of their lives. If they stop, the virus comes back. Turns out that HIV can hide out and lay dormant in the cells for a while, patiently biding its time. What makes this case special is that the child stopped taking the drugs. Several months later, the child is found to be HIV negative. He/she should be a walking virus bag by then! It seems that in the child’s case, launching an early attack meant that the virus simply never found the time to infect enough cells and find a hiding spot in the immune system. Experts say that the child has a normal life expectancy and is not infectious.


The sunny Philippine cylindrical snake (Hologerrhum philippinum) can be found in Zambales

A snake a snake! Ooh it’s a snake!

A team composed of American, Filipino, and Dutch scientists led by herpetologist Rafe Brown traversed the Sierra Madre mountain range and discovered roughly a hundred new species of amphibians, lizards, turtles, snakes, and crocodilians. A majority of those are endemic to the northern Luzon region, already known for being a biodiversity hotspot, especially for 90 – 100 amphibian species (70 – 80% endemic). My heart goes out to the conservationists and naturalists dealing with all the mining, deforestation, climate change, urban development, and military shoot-outs with commie rebels happening in the area.

What Captain Kirk says, goes.

The SETI Institute recently held a poll to help name Pluto’s two newest moons – and the winners are Vulcan and Cerberus! Note that the winning names will be submitted to the International Astronomical Union, who, along with the 10 astronomers who made the discoveries, will have the final word. Expect the official names to be announced in the coming month or so.

And finally, the question I’m sure everyone has at least once pondered in their life: why do men have nipples? You can find the answer here in this short video.

And that concludes your weekly dose of FF LL! See you next week!

Posted in HIV/AIDS, Science1 Comment

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #2

FF’s Lab Letters Issue #2

And so we meet again, darlings. Welcome to another edition of Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post!

Last February 1st marked the fourth year of FF in existence. It’s great to be a part of an organization that digs reason, science, and secularism as much as (even more than) I do.

While one may ponder about the prevalence of Reason in the annals of internet message boards, forums, and Youtube comments, and while the state of Secularism in this country isn’t something to smile about, perhaps this week’s crop of Letters can hopefully bring some cheer. It’s time for Science, bitches!


Dude… can I see it?


Achtung, Boobies!

Members of a German military unit known for performing drills at ceremonies have grown man-boobs, but only on their left side, apparently as a result of repeatedly slapping their rifles against their left chests while performing. Scientists, doctors, and people who want to avoid giggling call the phenomenon as gynecomastia, and the term for giggling at the misfortune of others is schadenfreude.


Not pictured: crystal sex


Blue lights and hydrogen peroxide make crystals get jiggy wit it

New York University biophysicists have synthesized ‘living crystals’ that are capable of self-aggregation under certain chemical and physical conditions. The particles are said to model how living things behave (mobility and metabolism). The lab is now trying to achieve the trifecta: mobility, metabolism, and self-replication. Meanwhile, I never thought I’d ever read the words “blue light,” “hydrogen peroxide,” and “crystals” in a non-rave party context.


Zinc fingers (in blue) holding a zinc ion (green ball)


Stacking the odds against HIV

Think of zinc finger nucleases as DNA scissors: they seek out a specific region of DNA, then snip it into two pieces, rendering it non-functional. And well, if that particular region of DNA happens to code for a protein receptor that allows the HIV virus to stroll right into the immune cell? Well great! Stanford scientists went one step further: not only did they cut the DNA, they slipped in a bunch of HIV resistant genes as well just to be sure. This hacking and stacking is not meant to ‘cure’ HIV completely, it is meant to block the disease from progressing into AIDS.


This week in science history:

You could call it the week of remembering catastrophic crashes. On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart in mid-air due to a malfunctioning O-ring seal that caused its rocket booster to fail during lift-off. It was to be the spacecraft’s 10th mission. All seven crew members were killed.

left: Space Shuttle Challenger. right: Space Shuttle Columbia


On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven also suffered a similar fate while on their 28th mission. A briefcase-sized piece of foam broke off from an external tank and struck the left wing, compromising the shuttle’s thermal protection system. It didn’t survive the intense heat during re-entry.


And finally…

Here’s is International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield demonstrating how astronauts wash their hands in space:


See, space exploration doesn’t have to all airlock-ejections and exploding spaceships. Think of all the fun stuff you could do in zero gravity!


Join us again next week for another issue of FF’s Lab Letters! I’ll see you then. ♥



Posted in HIV/AIDS, Science0 Comments

Getting Tested: The Results of My First HIV Exam

Few things make me nervous. Job interviews, cute boys, boa constrictors—I can face them just fine. But when I took my first HIV test at the last FF meetup, I definitely felt my tummy tumbling over. And this ended up being a very good thing.

I’ve been sexually active for a decade now, and have had an above average number of sexual partners. And yes, I hate to admit that some of those encounters were without protection, because I was a stupid, stupid, stupid kid who should have known better. And in all ten of these years, I had never gotten tested for HIV. So, despite the fact that my partners were relatively clean-living people (e.g. no back-alley blood transfusions for cash, at least I don’t think), and have not announced any life-threatening ailments on their Timelines, I was most definitely not in the clear. There was that chance, however small. It takes just one, as they say.

Fortunately, we were under the care of some awesome people from Take the Test Project, a group that administers HIV testing and counseling for free to whoever requests for them. Not only were they learned, patient, open, and unbiased during their pre- and post-test counseling, but they were also very efficient on the whole; I knew the results of my blood test in less than thirty minutes.

But that period of waiting, however short, spooked me. It made me think about how I should have been more careful, and how I should apply what I’ve learned and be far more cautious from that point on. I was also nervous because if I turned out to be HIV-positive, then it was highly likely that my boyfriend of nearly five years could be positive as well, since we stopped using condoms after I went on the Pill. I knew that a positive result, all in all, would change my life, and maybe my boyfriend’s, significantly.

Nonetheless, it’s important to understand that being HIV-positive is nothing to be ashamed about. I was nervous, yes, but none of that had to do with a prospective shame. Yes, being HIV-positive would be challenging. Yes, it would affect what kind of activities you could or couldn’t do. Yes, it would make meeting new partners* trickier, since it would entail being extra candid and cautious when it came to matters of sex. But being ashamed of myself was not one of the problems.

I was nervous because HIV was a virus. Having it does not make me a bad person; having it does not warrant anyone to look down on me, much less shun me for anything. But it is a dangerous thing, and if not treated immediately and properly, could lead to AIDS and a much earlier death. In certain respects, it’s kind of like having diabetes. Getting diagnosed with diabetes means drastic lifestyle changes—cutting out sugar, being generally more careful with what you consume, taking daily insulin shots, etc. I would be very nervous if I had to wait for news of whether I was diabetic or not, too. Either condition would change my life, and as a person aiming to live a fairly simple existence—with just enough thrills here and there to sate me—this would be a little hard to swallow.

My test turned out non-reactive, which meant that I did not have the markers for HIV. There was a very miniscule chance that I could still be positive, especially if I were recently infected, but on the whole, I was safe. It was the best news. But the last thing that announcement did was encourage me to move on like all of this never happened. It did the exact opposite. It made me even more adamant that everyone, regardless of who they are and how they live, should take the test as well. Not only will taking it lessen this ridiculous stigma around the virus, but it will do a whole world of good to those who do turn out positive, so they can plan out their lives accordingly, preventing them from getting sicker or spreading the virus to others. Feeling nervous prior to test results is nothing compared to finding out accidentally and far, far too late.

However wild or tame your lifestyle may be, taking the HIV test is simply the right thing to do. Negative or positive, the results will help you, your loved ones, and the population as a whole to look the virus in the eye and live a better life for it.

Want to take the test? Just get in touch with the Take the Test Project through their site, or through these numbers:

0917-58-HIV RT (448 78)

0999-88-HIV RT (448 78)

0932-88-HIV RT (448 78)

*Which I won’t do because I lab you very, very much, babby!!!

Posted in Advocacy, HIV/AIDS, Personal, Society6 Comments