We tend to keep quiet about things that make us uncomfortable, but silence–society’s go-to strategy for handling “awkward” topics–is inadequate. This is why “Mga Batang Poz,” an iWant original series that aims to promote HIV awareness, is timely, relevant, and important – it has opened up discussions about things that we Filipinos still refuse to talk about, especially at home.
Starring Awra Briguela as Chuchay, Fino Hererra as Luis, Mark Neumann as Gab/Kenneth, and Paolo Gumabao as Enzo, the six-part series based on Segunda Matias Jr.’s novel of the same name brings to life four Filipino teenagers who find solace in one another after being finding out they have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Philippines has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Department of Health (DOH). Majority of these infections are also reported to be among young people aged 15 to 24, said the Philippine National AIDS Council in 2018. This year, DOH reported that 38 new HIV cases are reported daily, up from last year’s 32.
A few episodes into the series, viewers will find that “Mga Batang Poz” is much more than just an advocacy series promoting HIV awareness; it also addresses many of the things we “think” we know, and answers many questions that we may feel too awkward or ashamed to ask.
Here are a few things we learned from “Mga Batang Poz” that show that the series is a great way to educate parents and kids alike about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and even just the importance of using condoms:
(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)
1. HIV cannot be contracted by simply touching an HIV-positive person.
In the series, Chuchay’s best friend finds out that he is HIV-positive, but hugs him anyway.
Despite the fact that HIV can’t be contracted by mere hugging, kissing, or using the same things, however, people continue to act as though the disease is easily contagious. In this scene, Kenneth/Gab is left sitting alone in a carinderia, after customers left their tables, fearing that close proximity to him would get them infected with HIV.
Also wrong: Enzo’s mom instructs their family maid to separate Enzo’s dishes and laundry as a way to make sure the rest of the family does not contract the disease.
2. Using protection during sex should always be a top priority.
Allan, the man Luis had lost his virginity to, stresses that he must always protect himself.
RJ’s partner also calls him out for not using protection during the confrontation scene between him, RJ, and Enzo.
3. Sexuality is nonbinary.
Here, the four boys briefly discuss Kenneth/Gab’s bisexuality, showing that sexual identity transcends the labels of “gay” and “straight.”
4. It’s not only gay people that can contract HIV.
Just because you’re straight, doesn’t mean you’re safe. In the fourth episode, Gab’s girlfriend Via—loyal to her her beau—was diagnosed positive because her partner wasn’t as faithful as she was. It is also important to note that HIV-positive moms can transmit the virus to their baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. HIV may also be transmitted from blood transfusions.
5. Everyone has their own way of exploring their sexuality.
People are people—and people currently have a ton of resources, especially with the internet accessible as it is. Luis uses the app “Pcker” to meet people to hook up with, while Enzo uses an alter account on “Warbler” to express his repressed sexuality. The latter’s family finds out eventually however, and the confrontation leads Enzo to bring up his dad’s porn use.
6. Having sex with a minor, even though it is supposedly “consensual,” is sexual assault.
Chuchay’s episode is undeniably one of the hardest to watch. Only 15 years old, Chuchay is visibly uncomfortable when he is bribed by a man in his 30s and talked her into having sex, even when she tries to find an excuse out of it by simply asking where his wife is. Chuchay may have gone back to his abuser for more money, but still, he is just a kid who is being manipulated but wants to provide for his poor family.
7. It’s real and it’s happening.
Teenagers are having sex nowadays, and parents need to accept how their children’s lives operate so that they may lead them to a clearer, healthier path—one where they don’t feel that they’re alone or immoral. One thing we can do at home is talk about sex openly and advise our kids to always use protection.
All 6 episodes of “Mga Batang Poz,” directed by award-winning writer-director Chris Martinez, are already streaming for free on iWant.