The Manila Times, 06 March 2010 — My work as a sex and relationship columnist/sexual health advocate, naturally requires me to get acquainted with condoms. Over the years, there have been many encounters with the love glove, and before you start drawing your own conclusions, I should tell you that my intimate moments with the love glove have included: educational close to scientific encounters and trial and error moments to see what they’re made of, in a literal fashion.
I’ve seen condoms inflated and in different colors as if in a candy store. I’ve seen them used to clothe mannequins and as decoration. I even have a collection from other countries and studied how they use their packaging as a means to advertise safe sex. A condom expert sent me an interesting document on the raw materials of condoms and how they originate from tree sap. All this I do because I need to be knowledgeable and credible when I talk about sexual health. So I guess you can say that I do a lot of oral. And in my work, there are days when there are just too many condoms and so little time to hand them all out.
This was one of those ‘days’ that extended to one whole week.
On Saturday, there was Transitio 1945 hosted by historian and tour guide extraordinaire Carlos Celdran to mark the fall of Manila and the end of World War II. The whole Fort Santiago was illuminated with lights and contemporary art installations. Visitors came in droves, with banigs, picnic baskets and bottles of wine to watch flamenco dancers and take part in the highlight of the evening—lighting and setting off 120 spirit lanterns to commemorate the 120,000 people who died during that fateful day in 1945.
And in the middle of this revelry, girls demurely dressed in Maria Clara costume daintily and discretely handed out LICK condoms. LICK condoms are the latest product of DKT, Philippines who also makes Trust, Frenzy and Premiere condoms apart from a wide range of contraceptive devices and lubricants. As the name suggests, these condoms are flavored with real fruit flavors: wild tutti fruitti and juicy strawberry.
Dressed in a fabulous Maria Clara Filipinana gown made of what must be the finest piña and most delicate embroidery (graciously lent to me by Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines National Chairman Beth Angsioco), I joined the Maria Claras in their condom giving. It was a gown that forced me to sit up straighter and walk taller as I proudly handed out condoms to guests and gaily posed for pictures.
As you can imagine, it drew a lot of reactions from the guests. Most were amused at the sight of condoms being given out by ladies dressed as the quintessential figure in Philippine literature who embodied the virtues of purity and chastity.
It made an impact. Rather than passive acknowledgement with a curt nod, people took notice. “Wow, modern day Maria Claras” some of them said presumably alluding to the need for women to change along with the times.
Others laughed at the delicious paradox. All too familiar with Maria Clara as the paragon of virtue; here was a “replica” of her, handing out condoms and making a statement about the need for safe sex in this day of rising HIV numbers.
I’m sure if LICK condoms were made back then, Maria Clara would have “licked” it and Jose Rizal would have been mighty proud to adore a woman who was smart and sexy and most importantly, safe.
Then, I finally had the chance to meet Robin Padilla at the Trust Family Planning media event in Quezon City. As the new face and ambassador of Trust Condoms, Robin talked about the importance of family planning in the context of our 92-million and growing population, the need to get out of poverty and the desire of every parent to make a future for their children.
It’s no secret that I’ve been nursing a one-sided love affair with Robin since his Bad Boy days when movies like Barumbado and the classic Maging Sino Ka Man were making a killing at the box office. If fellow The Manila Times columnist Karen Kunawicz has a thing for Johnny Depp, then I have this thing for the Bad Boy—a “thing” which I have been harboring for more than a decade.
Back then, many questioned my “feelings,” relegating them to a schoolgirl crush, but I remained steadfast and true. I defended Robin saying he alone laid claim to the dream boy mix of bad boy-boyish charm. He was the embodiment of maginoo pero medjo bastos (gentlemanly yet roughish) or well, medjo bad boy.
And now, more than a decade later, he still has the power to make women of all ages, from all walks of life squeal with delight, tripping over one another for a chance to have their picture taken with him. He still has that oozing charm that can reduce even the most dignified heads of reproductive health groups to giddy, giggling girls.
After having her picture taken with him, one lady, head of a reproductive health group said, “I thought his star had waned”, referring to Robin’s hiatus from showbiz. She addressed her own doubt by saying, “I’m only beginning to understand his magic,” she sighed.
As for me, I wasn’t frozen into a stupor or rendered speechless at finally arriving at this moment that I had waited so long for. Who would have known that, years later, I would meet Robin because of a common cause—our passion for reproductive health?
I was at the sidelines observing this magic that enraptured and charged the whole room along with everyone in it. This charm was that was made more palpable by in his presence as compared to his image on the big screen.
And I too began to understand another part of the Robin magic—his humility. Others have star presence, an oomph that silences a crowd. Robin has all that, plus a sincere humility that is quite endearing. He obliged every picture, addressed every question and intelligently answered them with statistics and facts that he quoted from the National Statistics Office. He didn’t turn down any request, not even mine to wear the Sex and Sensibilities.com button. He pinned it on his chest and proudly posed for pictures wearing it.It is this sincerity that gives depth and credence to his call for family planning summarized as “Mag-usap, Mag-desisyon. Umaksyon. [Discuss. Decide. Act.]”
And lastly, there was Ignite Manila where I was given the chance to ignite, excite and arouse a crowd’s interest and passion for the website that I founded called Sex and Sensibilities or SAS. I talked about my dream and that of the other women on the SAS Editorial Board to empower women with information about their sexual health rights by making the subject sexy and sassy.
It was no small feat as each of the Ignite Speakers had to do the same for their respective passions in exactly five minutes, using 20 slides that auto-advanced every 15 seconds.
Several people approached me after the presentation telling me how much they believed in the same objectives. Norman Wilwayco, whose presentation I admired and cheered for, came up to me and congratulated me—an ultimate compliment.
It was a week of all things close to my heart: the realization of schoolgirl crushes, talking about personal passions among fellow enthusiasts of other causes and of course, condoms. (LICK condoms were also given out during Ignite Manila, in case you’re wondering.)
People often ask me why I do what I do. I tell them that it’s days and weeks like this that I live for and, ultimately, make me fall in love with my job all over again.
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