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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.

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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.

Love Guides

The single’s guide to online dating

Are you ready to jump headfirst into the world of online dating? If so, this guide is for you.

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The world of online dating can feel intimidating if you’re just getting started as a single today. Whether this is your first time downloading a dating app or you’ve swiped casually for months now, there’s a lot to learn about this brave new world. The odds of finding a match through online dating are in your favor with 66% of users dating someone they met online.

Are you ready to jump headfirst into the world of online dating? If so, this guide is for you. Stop being intimidated by the possibility of finding your match online. It’s time to embrace this technology for the tool it is: a revolutionary way to connect with other singles in your area without the pitfalls of traditional dating.

FINDING THE RIGHT PLATFORM

When you’re first getting started with the world of online dating, you probably are overwhelmed with the sheer number of platforms out there today. Across the globe, there are more than 7,5000 online dating websites according to Online Dating Magazine. With so many options, it’s easy to get confused.

It’s time to embrace this technology for the tool it is: a revolutionary way to connect with other singles in your area without the pitfalls of traditional dating. PHOTO BY BRETT SAYLES VIA PEXELS.COM

How you choose a website for you will depend on a number of factors:

  • Are you introverted or extroverted?
  • Do you prefer to make the first move?
  • Are you interested in long-term dating or hookups?
  • Are you gay or straight?
  • How much work do you want to put into meeting others?
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There are no right or wrong answers. For example, if you’re looking for gay singles near you, you’ll probably want to choose a platform designed with your needs in mind. If you’re not interested in putting in a lot of work, at least at first, choose an app that focuses less on comprehensive matchmaking and more on first impressions. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a platform for you.

BUILDING YOUR PROFILE

The next step once you’ve decided on the right platform is to create a profile. This is where most newbies make the most mistakes. Realize that your profile isn’t the same thing as your resume. It’s also not your life story. You need to find a balance between introducing yourself and sharing what you’re looking for.

Here are the basics of a quality profile:

  • Username – You want your username to be unique, interesting, and relevant to who you are as a person.
  • Photos – Use clear, nicely taken photos that clearly show your face. Don’t be afraid to include photos of you participating in your favorite hobbies or sports if that makes sense for you.
  • Bio – Depending on your platform, you’ll have a lot of room to introduce yourself. Keep it to the point and genuine. Most people won’t read through a drawn-out profile. Remember you want to save some conversation for your first date!
  • Interests – What are you interested in? Make sure this is clearly shown on your profile so potential matches can get a feel for what you’re like. They also make great conversation starters.
  • Location – Don’t lie about your location. You want to meet singles near you, so don’t list that you live somewhere you don’t.
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Write your profile from a place of authenticity. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and also don’t go overboard explaining every part of your life. This should be a highlight reel. Talk about who you are, what you do, and what you’re excited about. People are attracted to passion, so let yours shine through.

Realize that your profile isn’t the same thing as your resume. It’s also not your life story. You need to find a balance between introducing yourself and sharing what you’re looking for. PHOTO FROM PIXABAY.COM VIA PEXELS.COM

MAKING A MOVE

Once your profile is live and ready to go, it’s time to start meeting your matches. Try not to be too picky, but also know your deal breakers. This is a great chance to chat online with some interesting people near you. Start a conversation and see where it goes.

When you’re ready to meet someone you met online, make sure you take safety precautions. No matter how much you think you trust them, they’re still a stranger. Always schedule your first date for a public place, and let a friend know where you’ll be at all times. Online dating can be great fun, but only if you take safety seriously.

FINDING A MATCH

It’s okay to just put yourself out there and have fun. That’s what online dating is all about. Don’t get hung up on the perfect profile or finding a 100% match. This is the best time to explore your options and get to know what you like and don’t like.

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If you’re not feeling a certain dating platform, just move on to the next one. There’s a platform for everyone, and you don’t have to settle for anything that doesn’t feel right to you. You never know. Your perfect match might only be a few clicks away.

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Top three 2019 relationship resolutions

Here are three top tips for couples who want to deepen their love connection and strengthen their partnership in 2019.

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Photo by @rawpixel from Unsplash.com

It’s that time of the year again, when romantic partners all over the world will be celebrating the new year together. With this, relationship expert Kailen Rosenberg – author of “Real Love, Right Now: A 30-Day Blueprint for Finding Your Soul Mate — and So Much More!” – said that those in relationships may want to consider “relationship resolutions”.

Nonetheless, while having relationship resolutions is great, “none of them really matter unless you have true admiration and respect for one another’s life journey to begin with. Celebrate where you have been and how the experiences in your relationship helped you both grow into the individuals and couple you are today — the good, the bad, and the not-so-gorgeous,” Rosenberg.

Rosenberg shares three of her top tips for couples who want to deepen their love connection and strengthen their partnership in 2019.

  1. Honor your relationship’s evolution: “Remember who you were and who your partner was when you first fell in love. Notice how the two of you have grown and changed into who you’ve become today. Look at the ways each of your souls have impacted one another and woken each other up. Today, you are in a place where you both know each other and yourselves better than ever before, and that never would have happened for either of you without the other.”
  2. Date each other again: “Next, it’s time for you to come together as two loving beings (‘grown-ups’) who have evolved to a new awareness. Believe it or not — yes — you can tap into the love you felt when you first met and start to date each other again.”
  3. Experience everything new together: “Even things you may have done a thousand times. How can your favorite wine taste different? How can the same restaurant feel like a new place? How can your partner’s body feel different when you make love? You have an opportunity to create a new, fresh connection with each other that has never been possible before. When couples reconnect in this way, they often find that their love is stronger than they knew and things don’t have to be as mundane as they had come to believe.”
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LOVE AFFAIRS

3 Things to remember when meeting your partner’s parents

When you meet his or her parents, play the role of the observer, then be ready to have an open, honest, and vulnerable conversation with your partner about both of your family histories later on when the time is right.

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Photo by ian dooley from Unsplash.com

The holidays = family time, that’s a given. And so, not surprisingly, many new couples will be meeting each other’s parents over the holidays, which can really be a nerve-racking event. That said, it’s also a very important step in any couple’s evolution.

Relationship expert Kailen Rosenberg – author of “Real Love, Right Now: A 30-Day Blueprint for Finding Your Soul Mate — and So Much More!”, and who is known for her work on the series “Lovetown, USA” with Oprah Winfrey, as well as the E! reality shows “Stewarts & Hamiltons” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” – shares three tips to keep in mind when you meet your significant other’s (SO’s) parents.

1. Be Yourself: Don’t focus on trying to impress your significant other’s parents. Be polite and gracious, of course, but above all be yourself. Feeling comfortable and at ease with your partner is one sign of a promising partnership. Let those feelings translate to an openness to truly being yourself when meeting his or her family. You’ll get more useful information about your relationship and your partner’s family when you interact openly and honestly.

2. Look for Clues: You will learn so much from seeing where your partner comes from in terms of past love role models. Are his/her parents married or divorced? Are they happy and healthy in their current lives and partnerships? How do they interact with each other? With you? With your partner?

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All of us are likely to play out some version of what we witnessed as children when we marry. If you or your partner is the child of divorce or marital dysfunction, it isn’t necessarily a relationship death sentence, though. It simply means your mutual awareness of it and willingness to work through it are vital to the health of your own partnership. When you meet his or her parents, play the role of the observer, then be ready to have an open, honest, and vulnerable conversation with your partner about both of your family histories later on when the time is right.

3. Listen to Your Inner Voice: When meeting your partner’s parents, pay less attention to any anxiety or nerves you may have about them liking and accepting you and pay more attention to your inner voice — that deep inner knowing that keeps you grounded and moving in a healthy direction with your life and your love relationships.

Is your intuition telling you that the relationships and communication you are witnessing in your partner’s family are something you can embrace, handle, or work through? Or is your “gut feeling” saying that something just feels off and you’re not sure you and your partner can overcome certain aspects of his/her family history or dynamic? Don’t rush to judgment; meet the parents, then give your inner voice time to let you know how it feels (how you truly feel) about all you’ve experienced.

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LOVE AFFAIRS

5 Relationship red flags you shouldn’t ignore

When your partner truly loves you, they not only have enough deep respect for themselves and for you not to lie to you, but they instead carry a need to always be open and honest — regardless of the outcome.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash.com

When we love someone, it can be hard not to get so wrapped up in our own feelings that we neglect to notice the relationship red flags waving right before our eyes.

Elite matchmaker Kailen Rosenberg – author of “Real Love, Right Now: A 30-Day Blueprint for Finding Your Soul Mate — and So Much More!” and is known for her work on the series “Lovetown, USA” with Oprah Winfrey as well as the E! reality shows “Stewarts & Hamiltons” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” – shares five key warning signs to watch out for that are clear indicators your partner just isn’t that into you and it might be time to move on.

1. He/she doesn’t ask how your day was.

If your partner can go through an entire day from sunup to sundown without asking you with genuine sincerity how your day was, this is a sign that you are most likely in a relationship with a person who is not only self-absorbed but is far more concerned about their own life experience than they are about yours. Asking a partner how their day went at the end of each day is a healthy and simple way to not only reconnect but also to lead into the discussions that follow, which can inspire closeness and intimacy on different levels.

2. He/she allows an entire day to pass without checking in to say hello.

When your partner allows an entire day to go by without checking in to say hello — especially if traveling (whether for business or personal) — one of two things is most likely happening: You are either dealing with a passive-aggressive partner who is angry with you and unable to express their feelings of disappointment or frustration in a productive way and therefore ignoring you, or they are literally just flat out not thinking of you. A partner who is in love with you — who cares about and respects you — has an innate desire to connect with you and hear your voice on a daily basis. This is not only to see how you’re doing, but also to make sure you’re okay, to say hello, and to share their day with you.

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3. He/she would never lie to you.

When your partner truly loves you, they not only have enough deep respect for themselves and for you not to lie to you, but they instead carry a need to always be open and honest — regardless of the outcome — in order to continue building a relational foundation of strength, trust, and security. If your partner is lying to you, this says more about them than it does about you.

4. He/she flirts with others in front of you.

If you are in a relationship with a partner who overtly “checks someone out” or downright flirts with another in front of you, not only do they not truly love you, but they also lack considerable respect, care, and consideration for you and your value in the relationship. If you stay with a partner like this, it’s time for a self-check with regard to why.

5. He/she ignores your feelings.

When your partner truly loves you, one of the clearest ways this can be seen is through the way they respond to your expressed feelings, especially when they are feelings of fear, disconnect, or anger. If your spoken feelings are unheard, dismissed, or mocked by your partner, this is definitely not love. In fact, it’s a form of emotional abuse, no matter how much your partner may tell you they love you. Many people will abuse a partner and their feelings while at the same time stating they love them. Love and abuse do not go together hand in hand. Abuse and addiction do. Abuse and control do.

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Thinking of getting married already? Stop!

Seriously: Before heading to the altar, find out how ready for love you (and your partner) really are.

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Photo by Alessandro De Bellis from Unsplash.com

These days, when Kailen Rosenberg — the author of “Real Love, Right Now: A 30-Day Blueprint for Finding Your Soul Mate — and So Much More!” and is known for her work on the series “Lovetown, USA” with Oprah Winfrey as well as the E! reality shows “Stewarts & Hamiltons” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” — sees a wedding happening, she doesn’t immediately think, “Oh, look at the beautiful bride!”

Instead, she said that she thinks: “Shit, I hope they know what they’re doing!”

This is because after introducing thousands of singles into relationships and healing over 100 marriages headed for divorce, Rosenberg found that they all had the same thing in common: 99% never knew who they were really marrying in the first place.

And so… before you say yes to the ring, the dress and a partner for life, Rosenberg encourages you to do these things first:

1. Find out how ready for love you (and your partner) really are.

“The most important step you can take toward experiencing a healthy love relationship is to become completely honest with yourself about who you truly are when it comes to relationships and your own love readiness,” Rosenberg said.

Dig deeper to discover what kind of “mate” you are – i.e. Life Mates, Soul Mates and Ego Mates.

“If your partner challenges you, drives you crazy — in the positive and negative connotations of this phrase — and he or she sparks your deepest passions, you are likely on the right track,” said Rosenberg.

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2. Confirm your compatibility.

For Rosenberg: “It’s not necessary to like all the same things or agree on everything, but there should be foundation of common interests and shared friendships that will allow you to grow into your new blended life together.”

3. Meet the parents.

You will learn so much from seeing where your partner comes from in terms of past love role models.

“We are likely to play out some version of what we witnessed as children, so you should be ready for that. If either of you is the child of divorce or marital dysfunction, it isn’t necessarily a relationship death sentence; it simply means your mutual awareness of it and willingness to work through it honestly and openly are vital to the health of your own partnership,” Rosenberg said.

The level of openness, honesty and emotional vulnerability each of you share in this kind of conversation is a huge sign of how open, honest, and vulnerable you will be within your own marriage.

4. Look for deal breakers.

“Don’t walk down the aisle if you’re not completely in alignment with your personal truth. Be honest with yourself: Are there any things about your partner that go against your personal value system? It’s okay to challenge yourself to open your mind and think differently, but don’t ignore warning signs for fear of losing the relationship. Identifying and addressing these issues now is essential to starting your marriage on the right foot. If you go into marriage hoping certain fundamental qualities of your partner will eventually change, he or she may not be the right person for you,” Rosenberg ended.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Keep your marriage alive in these ways

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If you are starting to worry about the solidity of your marriage, then you will probably be keen to do something about it as soon as possible. This can be a worrying and upsetting time when you feel that not all is certain anymore, and you might want to try and take direct action to make sure that you are going to lift yourself out of the dark times. That, of course, can often be difficult, which is why you need to try and plan for it as best as you can.

The best way to do that is to look into how you can be sure to keep your marriage alive and well, and that is what we are going to look at in this post. As long as you are considering the following points, you should find that you have a better understanding of how to keep your marriage alive and well.

Be Clear

First of all, you need to make sure that you are always as clear as possible with your other half about what you want, what your desires are, and what you expect from the relationship. You should also expect the same of them. When you are both capable of being clear in this direct way, it means that you will be able to expect much more from your marriage. That will then mean that you can seek a brighter future with it, which is ultimately what you should be looking for here.

By being clear on what you expect from a Muslim Marriage, a Christian marriage, an atheist marriage, or whichever, you know that you can both be on the same page genuinely in the future as best as you would hope to be. That makes a huge difference to the future of the marriage.

Be Honest

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You should also make sure that you are promoting honesty as best as you can in our marriage, as without that there is really not much hope for the relationship at all. If you find it difficult to be honest at all times, then you might want to think about trying to practice honesty a little more as time goes on. If your partner is patient, they should understand and at least appreciate that you are attempting to do that.

Honesty is essential if you want to keep your marriage alive, so it’s a good idea to make sure that you are engaging in it as best as you can at all times. If not, you might find that this causes some ongoing problems in your marriage which can be harder to fix.

Be Patient

Finally, remember that it takes a great deal of patience to be able to reside and be with another person in any setting, let alone in marriage. You need to make sure that you can continue to express and practice this patience even when it is most difficult. If you cannot, you will find that you struggle to keep the marriage together. This might be the most important quality, along with honesty.

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