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LOVE AFFAIRS

Justin and Art: Sharing LGBT love to the world

When Justin Francis Bionat met Art Leonil Defensor in 2014 via a dating app, things didn’t get off. But the following year, when they finally decided to try again, they’re proving that “love is sweeter the second time around,” Justin said. And now, after over a year of being together, they’ve become partners, so that their worlds – even if disparate – now blend.

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF Justin Francis Bionat

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Justin Francis Bionat “met” Art Leonil Defensor in October 2014, via a dating app. “I was still going to school at University of San Carlo in Cebu City, and he was a student of West Visayas State University in Iloilo City,” recalled Justin.

One time, when Justin went back to Iloilo (where his family’s home is), they decided to meet in a computer shop. But “that first time didn’t work out because I obviously had to go back to Cebu City (for my schooling), and I also already had a boyfriend at that time.”

Art can also vividly recall that moment when they first physically met. “Well, in my part, I’ve been in love with him since the day he started chatting with me,” he smiled. “It may sound weird but that’s what I really feel. This feeling (was there on that) day I met him.”

It is perhaps not surprising that in hindsight, even considering going out on a date just to break the other person’s heart by telling him that one’s already in a relationship is a sore issue for Justin. “When he found out that I had a boyfriend and it broke his heart… that’s probably my biggest mistake,” he said.

But Justin returned to Iloilo in April 2015, and – dividing his time between Cebu and Iloilo – even started going to school in West Visayas State University. Art was a dance student while Justin was a political science student, and “since our school isn’t really that big, I got to see him a lot. His friends knew about our ‘love story’, and they teased us, doing the teasing in hallways, in the nearby restaurants where I had lunch and even when I passed by their classrooms. I didn’t mind, though I just walked faster,” Justin said.

READ:  When love is gone...

Pass forward almost a year later, when the two chatted again on February 2, 2016. By this time, Justin already settled in Iloilo City after deciding not to pursue his education in Cebu City. He saw Art carrying flowers in Jaro Plaza; and that night, the chatting happened. “I guess that’s when we decided to give it a try one more time,” Justin said, adding with a smile: “They say that love is sweeter the second time around. I guess we just knew we were in love… I know I was.”



Now, after over a year of being together, Justin can say that “the best thing in our relationship is that we act both as each other’s partner/significant other/boyfriend, but also each other’s best friend. We welcome each other’s support and criticisms. I’m an overly active LGBT rights advocate and he is a dancer… we have our own worlds but we try to make sure that we get to be part of the other’s endeavors.”

More particularly, “I watch each and every performance he has, and he supports me during my events or speaking engagements,” Justin beamed.

Their lives have also started to “blend”. For instance, in December 2016, during the Pantatan Festival in Zarraga, a municipality in Iloilo, Art joined a talent competition and he danced with his friends. “What made it special was that he choreographed a dance that was LGBT-themed,” Justin recalled. “They won 1st runner up; I was the loudest clap in the audience, and I was so proud of him. I – of course – lent my favorite rainbow flag to them.”

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Largely because both are in the LGBT advocacy in Iloilo City, “we don’t really get discriminated… maybe because we are both empowered,” Justin said.

He admitted, nonetheless, that “it took a long time before his family and my family accepted us as a couple. I guess that was our biggest challenge: We wanted our families to be part of our relationship and not keep our love hidden. But I guess since we’re both advocacy-minded, we face (this challenge). We insisted and persisted; and we enjoy fighting for our rights, especially our right to love.”

This finding of someone to share one’s life with is something that the couple savors.

“I love everything about him,” Art said. “I have Justin in my life, and it’s all I really want – to have a guy like him. A guy who can accept my flaws. A guy who loves to cuddle with me every day. A guy who always understands me. A guy who keeps me always safe every day. And a guy who I don’t want to lose in my life because with him, I have the best of everything. I’m still in love with every piece of him…”

“Every single day I get to bring him to Jaro Plaza, where he rides a jeepney to Zarrage, his home town (located an hour away from Jaro). I can’t bring him home all the way every day, but at least I get to bring him to Jaro everyday… where I saw him with flowers, which started our relationship again.”

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And even as Justin and Art continue to relish what they have, they also happily share this to the world, particularly via their LGBT advocacy, providing a face of – yes – young love in the LGBT community. But much like other couples (hetero or LGBT), “I guess it is normal to dream of one day building a family together and even get married,” Justin said, adding with a laugh that “of course we plan to graduate from the university first.”

As for Art, the goal is to “conquer life together and to settle as a happy family.”

Exactly not unlike everyone’s goal when finding love…


"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." With this, this one writes about... anything and everything.

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LOVE AFFAIRS

‘Cyber affairs’ rupturing long-term relationships

A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that four out of five lawyers used evidence derived from social networking sites in divorce cases. In addition, it’s estimated that one in five divorces today have a direct correlation to amorous encounters and relationships cultivated online.

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Photo by Raj Eiamworakul from Unsplash.com

With the rise of digital technology, access to whatever hearts desire has become nearly instantaneous. It allows everyone to connect, for the cost of an Internet connection, with old friends and acquaintances – anytime and from virtually anywhere. While the positives are clear to see, a darker picture is starting to take shape: the rise of so-called ‘cyber affairs’.  

So, what’s behind the growth of these digital dalliances? According to author and speaker Tina Konkin, who runs a Newport Beach, California-based counseling program, Relationship Lifeline, one need to look no farther than interactions on social media or the internet.

A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that four out of five lawyers used evidence derived from social networking sites in divorce cases. In addition, it’s estimated that one in five divorces today have a direct correlation to amorous encounters and relationships cultivated online.

“The allure of cyber affairs for many is the minimal effort needed to engage,” said Konkin. “More often than not, we’re seeing these cyber affairs stem from a reconnection with people in their past, where individuals are essentially transported back in time and start to form a romantic bond through past experiences they’ve shared.”

Another driver of digital infidelity: the casual attitude and easy access to pornography. According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association, 86% of men are likely to click on Internet sex sites if given the opportunity. Furthermore, according to an AAML poll of 350 divorce attorneys, two-thirds reported that the Internet played a significant role in break-ups. More than half of those cases involved an excessive interest in online porn.

More than half of women who watch gay porn prefer it because it’s more ‘authentic’

“The overwhelming number of pornographic websites and chat rooms have played a significant role in disrupting the exclusivity of human sexuality,” said Konkin. “The low barrier of entry allows individuals to get what they want, when they want it. It’s become Pandora’s Box.”

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Although the conversation surrounding ‘cyber affairs’ may be uncomfortable for some, Konkin said that such dialogue is necessary because of the threats they pose to long-term happiness and growth. There is a need to raise awareness around the issue “to be a catalyst for those conversations and help people recognize these online encounters for what they are – affairs.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Strong sense of self? You’re more open to casual sex

In a gist: People with a more ‘interdependent self’, who mostly think of themselves in terms of their relationships with friends, families and communities, tend to have less casual sex.

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Image used for illustration purpose only. Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels.com

From what we pick from the menu to what gadget we buy, how we see ourselves influences many of our daily choices. But could sense of self also sway how quickly we’ll jump into bed with someone?

That’s what UK and US researchers were looking to find when they looked into the link between how much we let others define us and our fondness for hook-ups.

Why do some people prefer to flit from partner to partner with little commitment while others insist on something more long-term with their one true love?There’s a handful of possible explanations: culture, religion, gender and personal values all play a role. But “our self-concepts may be a key part of the story as well”, according to Prof. David Schmitt, director of The Centre for Culture and Evolution at Brunel University London, in Independent, Autonomous, and Permissive: Examining the Links Between Self-Construal and Sexual Permissiveness, published online by The Journal of Sex Research.

Schmitt said that “ndividual’s attitudes towards casual sex may be rooted in their self-concept. Those who view themselves as being independent of others are more apt to engage in casual sex.”

In a gist: People with a more ‘interdependent self’, who mostly think of themselves in terms of their relationships with friends, families and communities, tend to have less casual sex.

The main reason the study links independent selves with more casual sex is because independent types really value personal autonomy. They want to emotionally connect, but want these connections with less interference from their friends, families and communities.

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Meanwhile, interdependent people, who base their sense of self on their relationships, value their autonomy much less – maybe because they are more comfortable with others influencing their life choices. Or, the study suggests, their emotional closeness to so many others pushes them to shun casual uncommitted sex.

Researchers questioned 603 people from six different cultures. Taking into account different genders, ages, cultures, religions and levels of education, they compared people’s self-concepts and personal values with their sexual attitudes and behaviours.

“Interdependence and independence aside, one lesson is clear,” said Schmitt. “Whether it’s with one person or many, people desire at least some type of interpersonal bond and they will seek it with or without guidance from others.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Second dates: More important than your first one

Yes, the first date is important, but honestly, it’s the second date that gives one a true sense of the love potential.

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Yes, the first date is important, but honestly, it’s the second date that gives one a true sense of the love potential.

Dating can be a rollercoaster for any single out there. After meeting online or on dating apps, trying to decode those text messages and hopefully meeting the person, people tend to put a lot of pressure on the first date. It is easier to find the latest UK casinos than the right girl or boy for you.

It Can be Difficult to Know The Other Person at First

There are so many do’s and don’ts when it comes to first dates. You would want to ask about their hobbies and likes and do not talk about your ex. These are some of the rules that have been set in place. The idea of the first date is to make a good first impression.

During the first date, the first focus is on the tiniest details since you barely know the other person.
PHOTO BY JUAN PABLO ARENA, COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

However, if you’re one of those unlucky people who have kind of messed up on the first date, no worries, relationship experts say that it is the second day that actually matters. In simple terms, a first date is a pass or a fail test. The second date is arguably the real test on the date. It is on this day that one can discover every iota of realness from their date.

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It gives a chance to know a person without having the nerves on the first date. Helene Fisher, PhD biological anthropology and the chief scientific adviser of match.com told the Cosmopolitan that during the first date, the first focus is on the tiniest details since you barely know the other person. By the time you are on your second date, you already know him or her a little bit more, and would thus like them more as well.

Moreover, a second date allows you to get and dig deep into the conversation you’re having with your date. More often than not, first dates always end up feeling like job interviews in the process of knowing each other. However, on the second date, it is easier to jump off the Q&A and dig deeper into the conversation. This will allow you to be a bit more decisive into knowing whether your date is a yay or nay. Being attentive is key, as it is from this that you can learn your dates’ interests and values.

Sometimes in more often than not, it is crucial always to remember that sometimes it’s all about a slow burn. In a survey by OK Cupid, 79% of the guys will still pursue a relationship that they thought is great even if they didn’t feel the immediate fireworks with the other person.

A second date allows you to get and dig deep into the conversation you’re having with your date.
PHOTO BY ROSIE ANN, COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM

Making it Right With the Second Date

The brain works in mysterious ways. It should be given enough time to release all the necessary chemicals for love to ensue.

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So nobody should be in a rush to feel the sparks about the other, it all takes time. There are incidences where you might have felt fireworks on the first date but on the second date they quickly burn out. It is normal for the romance to start all slow, so don’t put off the fire before it even begins and just say yes to the second date.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

A few ideas for the scary second date

Here are a few suggestions for the scary second date.

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If your first date went well then you might be feeling a little nervous for your second one. Whilst the initial jitters are gone because you now know this person a little bit, you want to maintain the good impression. You want to ensure that the second date is as good or better than the first one. You want to live up to their expectations. Of course, this can be difficult if you’re low on ideas for things to do.

Here are a few suggestions for the scary second date.

Explore a local town or city.

If you have no ideas for your second date then maybe you should simply propose that you and your date go exploring. You don’t have to spend money to simply walk around and admire your surroundings. You could head to the park to relax and eat some food, go window shopping (or actually go shopping if your date decides they want something), and enjoy chatting with your date. It’s the perfect outing to have fun and give yourselves the chance to get to know one another.

Organize some games.

A great idea for the second date is to organize some games. This isn’t just a nice idea for a casual and fun way to spend your second date – it’s a great way to get to know somebody. You could play a game of cards at a local coffee shop, for example. It’ll be a good chance to see whether your date is competitive or not (and it’ll also be a good chance to see whether they play by the rules). But you might spend your second date at your apartment or house, so you could even get out a board game such as Twister if you really want to get up close and personal. Of course, if you want to organize a game that’ll impress them a little more than a deck of cards then you could try out an escape room. You’ll be frantically rushing around to solve riddles and puzzles before the timer runs out, and that’s a great way to see if you and your date work well together as a team. It really is a true test of how well you gel as people.

Meet up for happy hour.

Finally, you could simply agree to meet at your local bar for happy hour. You won’t have to blow your budget on an expensive meeting, and it’s an informal setting that’s perfect for you to continue to get to know this person. After all, that’s the most important thing on the second date. You might have liked the person in question on your first date, but you’re now trying to make sure that your initial opinion was accurate. Go to a fun bar, get some good deals on drinks, and get to know each other. It’s a good chance to talk and laugh. Keep the date simple. Wait for the fourth or fifth date before you organize a hot air balloon ride.

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Remz and Jessa: ‘Fight for your love’

Meet Remz and Jessa Roque, who – after meeting via Facebook in 2017 – decided to marry even without meeting each other yet. Not everyone agrees with what they have, but “ang alam namin, mahal namin ang isa’t isa at pinanindigan namin yun sa harap ng Diyos (We know we love each other, and God is the witness of our love),” Remz said.

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Remz Roque met Jessa in one Facebook group in January 2017.

“Actually, at that time when we started chatting, she was already eager to to meet with me,” Remz recalled, adding that “pareho po kaming OFW (we were both overseas Filipino workers): me in Dubai, while Jessa was in Taiwan.”

It wasn’t easy, Remz said, because of the time differences. But this may have served as their first challenge, since their desire to stay in touch forced them to make “adjustments in life,” Remz said. Jessa, for instance, had to wake up as early as 4.00AM “para lang makausap ako (just so she can talk with me).”

This made them closer, since “mas lalo naming nakilala ang isa’t isa (we got to know each other better),” Remz said.

In the end, this was also what helped Remz realize he already loved Jessa.

“While knowing her deeply mas lalo kong nalaman na mahal ko sixa at yung araw-araw akong masaya dahil sa kanya (I discovered I was falling deeper in love with her, and my every day was happier because of her),” he said.

That feeling was mutual, Jessa said, because “I found my day incomplete without his presence. Yung tipong napapa-smile na lang ako pag naaalala ko sixa (Just thinking of him makes me smile).”

The two nurtured their long distance relationship. And then – even if they have yet to physically meet – they decided to tie the knot by holding a commitment ceremony in the Philippines in February 2018.

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“Yes,” Remz admitted, “hindi pa kami nagkita when we decided to get married. Para kasi sa akin, gusto ko na maayos ang buhay ko at mangyayari lang yun kapag nagkaroon ako ng pamilya (we have yet to meet when we decided to marry. For me, I want to have order in my life and this will only happen if I already have a family of my own)”

Jessa has a child from a previous relationship, and this makes Remz happy, knowing that “yun ung bagay na hindi ko maibibigy sa kanya. Mahal ko rin yung bata tulad ng pagmamahal ko sa kanya (I can’t give her a child. I also love her child just as I love her).”

Both admitted that their decision was not met warmly by everyone.

In fact, even from other members of the :GBTQI community, “my partner also heard a bad comment,” Remz said, “especially that our wedding is just a ‘waste’ since hindi naman legal ang kasal namin (our ceremony has no legal bearing).”

But Jessa said that while “masakit na marinig ito sa mga kapuwa mo, hindi na lang namin pinapansin (hearing these may be painful but we just ignore them),” she said. “Nonsense rin naman (These are just nonsense).”

Both Remz and Jessa, instead, focus on the good: that they found each other, and are willing to work hard to nurture what they have.

It also helped that their families were accepting of their love.

READ:  When love is gone...

Looking forward, they eye to strengthen their (new) family. But for now, this means that they still need to work overseas; and separately, too.

That they found each other at all is considered a blessing by both, nonetheless.

Ang alam namin, mahal namin ang isa’t isa at pinanindigan namin yun sa harap ng Diyos (We know we love each other, and God is the witness of our love),” Remz ended.

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Identifying common relationship issues that modern couples face

Love can only flourish once you’ve stamped out your relationship problems and thrown them out of the window–but how exactly can you do this? It all starts with identifying the issues you have.

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Relationships between people can be tough to decipher. There are some unlikely couples out there and incredibly strange relationships between people that you would never have imagined together. It’s all love; something that we still have a hard time describing or putting into words.

However, love can only flourish once you’ve stamped out your relationship problems and thrown them out of the window–but how exactly can you do this? It all starts with identifying the issues you have.

Steps to Identify Problems

Before we get started, we need to identify ways in which we can discover relationship issues. There is advice such as this How to Get Ex Back guide that can teach you things about relationships, even if you’re not interested in getting a former lover back by your side. If you have lost a partner, then it can be a good starting point to help you identify why relationship issues occur and how you can fix them. The idea is to take a step back and gather as much experience as possible, read advice from other people in similar situations and ultimately use prevention as the best method of dealing with relationship issues.

Moving Too Fast

One of the most common issues in a relationship is moving too fast. Perhaps you or your partner are already talking about marriage despite only being a few months into your relationship, or perhaps you’re being pressured to have children. Trying to hurry along a relationship can easily add extra pressure on both sides and it’s damaging unless both sides are ready to make a move. It’s a confusing situation and it might make you question the future of your relationship, but it’s important not to rush things and to take things slowly. Always speak to your partner regarding big decisions and always have a mutual understanding.

Age Gaps

Age gaps can also be a common relationship issue. Some people believe that there should always be a small gap between both people in a relationship, but this isn’t as big of a deal as you might expect. Traditionally, people view these relationships as suspicious. For instance, if a woman is dating a much older man, then she might be called a “gold digger” and this could put some strain on your relationship. While there are likely some legitimate concerns (such as the age gap causing concerns for having children), it’s important to remember that age gaps are likely the least of your worries in a relationship.

Feeling Pressured Into Sex

Sex is one of those common intimate activities that couples engage in, but it can also become a source of stress and can contribute to a lack of self-confidence if you’re being pressured into it by your partner. Good relationships are built on trust, so if you feel like you’re being pressured into something like sex then it might be a good time to step back and sit down to talk with your partner.

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