Thinking about HIV & AIDS

At work today, we had our Advent Retreat in the morning. In the afternoon, we went to different non-profit organizations to take part, albeit for only a day, in the services that they offer to the community. I’m part of the group that went to the Center for Refugees+Immigrants of Tennessee. But that’s another story for another post.

But today is also the World AIDS day and I couldn’t help but think about the HIV & AIDS situation in the Philippines, even though, I am thousands of kilometers away. The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. In July 2015, there were 22 cases being discovered daily! And that number represents only those that are reported!

Here’s the rub. A big percentage of these new incidents of HIV infection are among young people.

Based on a news report from Rappler: “Those in the 15-24 years age group in the population also showed an 800% increase in HIV prevalence.” Think about that for a minute and let it sink.

During our Asian Young Leaders Summit on Nov 11-15, 2015, we listened to a member of Babae Plus talk about HIV/AIDS prevention. After her session, we sat down and talked about how HIV is affecting young people. And here are some of the salient points of our conversation:

HIV-Positive Young People: Matitigas ang Ulo!

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Reflections from the YPM Asian Young Leaders Summit 2015

Discipleship is really about following Jesus. While there are hundreds, if not thousands of books about leadership. As Christians, however, leadership is not just being in front of people, it is about being a servant, and most of all, being a follower.

Encountering young leaders who want to make a difference in the world is probably one of the greatest joys of my work. I’ve seen this in Ndola, Zambia last April, and this November, I saw it again in the Philippines.

While on the bus to the venue, we already experienced the warmth of Christian fellowship. Such fun!


About 28 young leaders from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia came together for five days of learning, fellowship, and dreaming.

Yes, dreaming!

Bishop Rudy Juan opened with his keynote about the connection of discipleship and leadership. Particularly, he said that as Christian young leaders, we needed to be mindful of three things:

  1. The VISION of the United Methodist Church: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  2. Giving VOICE to young people in the church: Speak up in a loving manner.
  3. Listen & Learn from the experiences of elders in the church, then add our own experiences to that.

Speaking of giving voice to young people, we also had a session on Young People’s Voices in the United Methodist Church, led by my good friend, Earlie Pasion-Bautista. It wasn’t a simple session by any means. It was done remotely via Skype! This is really my first time in a church event with a remote presenter. It worked out well, too!


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Support Young People’s Ministries Century Ride for Global Scholarship

A few years back, my boss Mike Ratliff started going on bike rides on his birthday to raise funds for different purposes. Instead of giving him gifts, he asked his friends to help him raise money for several projects. The other year, it was to help raise funds for international participants who will attend the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly, a once-in-every-4-years event for United Methodist young people all over the world.

This year, Mike’s “Century Ride” will help raise funds for the global scholarship fund of our office. Young People’s Ministries, in case you’re not aware, is the global youth and young adult ministries agency of the United Methodist Church. We have a grants program and a scholarship program that benefits young people who are living and studying in their own countries. Anybody from outside the United States could apply to receive the scholarship.

It’s a fairly recent Scholarship Program. Prior to this, most of the United Methodist Church’s scholarship programs were for students in the United States. Young People’s Ministries’ Global Scholarship program has helped young people from the Philippines and Africa among other places go through College.

Mike has committed to riding a bike for 100 miles on November 6, 2015. He has also pledged $100 so he My colleague Kelsey will ride for 100 minutes.

I am committing to ride my bike for 100 minutes.

You, too, can help support this effort. You can donate $100 or more. But if that amount is a little too high for you, can gather 10 of your friends to give $10 each and support this fundraising effort. If $10 still sounds too much, how about gathering 20 friends who will give $5 each? Or even 100 friends giving $1 each. We can be creative in helping support students around the world!

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YPM Kapihan (Nov 2014): Christmas Institute Edition

In November 15, 2014, I got together with several youth leaders, and youth workers to talk about the Christmas Institute. It’s easily the biggest youth ministry event in the United Methodist Church in the Philippines. On average, about 250 young people gather from December 26-30 in more than 50 Districts. That would translate to around 12,500 United Methodist youth who gather around the Philippines for fellowship, worship, study, and preparation for ministry.

We had a fruitful discussion as we talked about our own Christmas Institute experiences and how it has shaped our journeys as United Methodist Christians.


On the whole, the Christmas Institute is still an important part of the journey of youth in the UMC, but we need to innovate and come up with creative ways to make the CI harvest more sustainable and effective.

Here are some of the thoughts and ideas that the group came up with.

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Young Leaders Summit 2014: Days 3, 4, & 5

Issue in Focus: Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture with Rev. Pepz Cunanan

On Day 3 of the Young Leaders Summit 2014, the delegates went through another workshop on an important Issue in Focus: Climate Change and Agriculture. Rev. Jose Pepz Cunanan led the session and showed the delegates many different ways to organize a garden. He used a popular Filipino folk song, “Bahay Kubo” as a backdrop for the possibility of planting and harvesting many different vegetables in a small piece of land.

Our delegates from Laos found the workshop very, very useful because they are farmers. Rev. Cunanan also distributed some seeds that the delegates could use when they go back to their own places.

Rev. Pepz Cunanan, Workshop leader for "Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture" with the YLS 2014 delegates

Rev. Pepz Cunanan, Workshop leader for “Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture” with the YLS 2014 delegates

Visioning Session with Rev. Mike Ratliff

The Visioning session is probably my favorite part of the Young Leaders Summit since the first one last year. It’s just awesome to listen to the visions of young people for the church and for the Philippine society. Mike asked them to look at the History of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines, then the Present, and lastly, he asked the delegates to open their spiritual eyes and present what their visions are for the church in the future.

Rev. Mike Ratliff asking the YLS 2014 delegates about "What has shaped your church?"

Rev. Mike Ratliff asking the YLS 2014 delegates about “What has shaped your church?”

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Young Leaders Summit 2014: Day 1 and 2

What do you get when Methodist young leaders from the Philippines, Cambodia, and Laos come together? Lots of fun and awesome learning experiences at Pranjetto Hills Resort and Conference Center, Brgy. Sampalok, Tanay, Rizal. It was in the mountains, so we really a mountain-top experience, literally and figuratively.

What’s more, Rev. Mike Ratliff, Discipleship Ministries’ Associate General Secretary for Young People’s Ministries was also there, together with my colleague from Africa, Armindo Mapoissa.

Every activity and session during the Young Leaders Summit were meant to lead to the accomplishment of the following goals:

The objectives of this Summit are:

  • To help conference leaders identify the young leaders among them and invest in their further development.
  • To establish and develop relationships among young leaders in the Philippines.
  • To provide information on leadership development including perspective from our own culture and context as Filipinos.
  • To provide an avenue for sharing challenges and successes in ministry from differing contexts in the Philippines, allowing young leaders to learn from each other (ultimately strengthening ministries in the Philippines).
  • To allow young people the opportunity to identify the current realities of their church in the Philippines utilizing a framework of the Appreciative Inquiry and Future Search processes.

Day 1

Who’s Your Mary Rose?

We started the Summit with an Opening Worship with the keynote address of Mr. Jayjay Lizarondo, founder of Helping Overcome Poverty through Education (HOP-E). He challenged young people to work towards becoming God’s agent in building the kingdom of heaven here on Earth. He shared the story of how he met Mary Rose, a young child who was going through garbage for food and recyclable things at the dump site of Taytay, Rizal.

He created a short documentary about the life of Mary Rose and the other scavengers at the dump site. Eventually, he had partners that helped Mary Rose get out of a life of scavenging at the dumpsite. Along the way, Jayjay thought that he was changing Mary Rose. But it was the other way around, Mary Rose was helping him change his perspective toward God’s mission here on Earth.

Here’s the story of Jayjay Lizarondo and his encounter with Mary Rose.

At the end of his keynote speech, Jayjay challenged the young leaders to discover who their “Mary Rose” is and asked them to make a difference in such lives.

Day 2

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4 Reasons Why Yuppies Should Care about Philippine Politics and 3 Ways to Do So!

Compared with the occasional office gossip or showbiz issue, politics can be a conversation-stopper. It can be contentious and before you knew it, you’d be spewing one complaint after another. In this article, I’ll give you 4 reasons why we, yuppies need to care about Philippine politics, and 3 ways to do it.

Corruption is rampant in the country. You would probably think that after Marcos, we would have learned to be better at managing public funds & demanding greater transparency from the government. But still, we’re confronted by the many faces of corruption, whether they be called kickbacks, pork barrel, SOPs, PDAF, or DAP.

The sad part is, you often feel powerless over many problems and issues in the country.

As yuppies, we are busy and preoccupied, and we don’t want to hear negative things. We have enough negativity at work already. We don’t want to hear the negativity in government.

But if we keep quiet and accept things as they are, we become part of the problem.

It’s very easy to be cynical toward the government. But as yuppies, we cannot afford to do that. After all, we are part of this bigger community called the Philippines. That’s why we need to care and make our voices heard in Philippine politics.


Here’s are 4 reasons why we yuppies need to care about Philippine politics:

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4 Fears that New Graduates Have to Face

About 700,000 graduates this year will enter the workforce very soon. If you’re one of them, I’d like to say (with the voice of Morpheus) “Welcome to the Real World!”

A lot of these graduates probably have jobs now. But a greater number probably doesn’t.

Whether you’re employed or still waiting, actively hunting, here are 4 common fears to deal with.

Take heart though, if you face these fears, you’ll only become stronger and better able to build a fulfilling, sustainable life.

1. The Economy & Unemployment.

While the Philippines has a growing economy and we received a lot of positive vibes from the recent World Economic Forum, the unemployment rate is still high! In fact, it even increased to 7.5 in January 2014.

Almost a decade ago, the country had too many Nursing graduates. A lot of them ended up unemployed. But the others got creative & looked for jobs in different industries. Some of them became call center agents; others became Medical Transcriptionists, and still, others got additional training & skills so they can apply for new jobs.

Companies in the country still have a bias for graduates of the top Colleges & Universities. But even if you didn’t come from those schools, take an inventory of your skills & abilities and be confident. My book Start Up: Find Your Place, Engage the World. Sustain Your Life” helps you come with this.

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Stay with Your Parents or Go Independent?

If you turn 18 in the United States and other developed countries, most people expect you to move out, strike out on your own, and make something of yourself.


In the Philippines, even after 18-single or married, with children or none, a lot of young adults still stay with their parents. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Extended families aren’t all that rare in the country.

There comes a time when you may think of moving out of your parents’ house. If you’re a new graduate, you will face this question sooner, especially if your parents’ house is within Metro Manila. Those of us who came from the provinces, well, we don’t really have a choice, do we?

To stay with the parents or to go independent? That is the question.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Rent an Apartment Closer to Your Workplace

Back in 2011, I considered going back to a corporate job. But thankfully, I got stuck in traffic from Quezon City to Makati for 2 friggin hours! So, I told myself, “if this is what I have to go through daily, then I’d rather not go back to a corporate job.”

Thankfully, my job allows me to work from home, so that’s a real blessing (but more about that in a separate post). That’s why I don’t commute a lot. If I can help it, I’d like to limit my activities to places where there are LRT1 stations nearby. If I bring my car, I want meetings to be held within 10 kilometers of my house. But twice a month, I do a co-hosting stint at Family Matters: a radio program at 702 DZAS.

If you’re a yuppie, then you know EDSA, MRT, buses, and traffic like the back of your hand. You spend 8 hours per day in the office, 9 if you included the one-hour lunch break. But what if your office is in Makati and you’re residing in Bulacan? Or Laguna? Or Marikina?


Here are five reasons why you should rent an apartment closer to your workplace. Continue reading