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Malebox ONE: Uniting MSM in Davao City

Malebox was established in 2009 as a clan, so its intention was supposedly solely to provide a group to belong to for men who have sex with men in Davao City. But by 2011, when the group finally became Malebox ONE, “it became something more.” And for many of the members, it has become a family of sorts.

Malebox was established in 2009 as a clan (that is, an informal gathering of self-identifying gay and bisexual men who make use of available mobile technologies to stay connected), so its intention was (supposedly) solely to provide a group to belong to for MSM (or men who have sex with men) in Davao City.

But by 2011, after the group finally became Malebox ONE (after two past names, including just “Malebox”, were considered), “it became something more,” said former group president Nathaniel David.  The group is now “fashioned to create a holistic interaction among members who foster the four values (of) friendship, charity, leadership, and solidarity.”

Since the group’s inception, Malebox ONE has had numerous successful efforts. For instance, to deal with the stigma of HIV and AIDS in the community, “we have been helping in the awareness and information drive done by (Davao City’s) Reproductive Health Welfare Center (RHWC) peer counselors, and we encourage our members and other group/clan members to undergo the HIV antibody test,” David said. This is because there’s recognition that Davao City has long emerged as a place with a large number of the population getting infected with HIV. After all, an estimated 10 to 15 people from the city are getting infected with HIV every month.

“It’s everyone’s issue, so we need to face it,” David said.

As a community-based group, numerous challenges are being faced by Malebox ONE. For one, there’s the attendance. “The come-and-go nature of members is very common (in clans), and we face this too.” This highlights another concern, i.e. commitment of members, with “past events actually postponed or cancelled.” And then there’s the financial support received by the group, as “it has no regular funding to culminate community related programs that are in line with the purpose and objectives of Malebox ONE.”

But Malebox ONE’s people would rather focus on solutions.

On attendance issues, for instance, “constant communication through text messages to update the members has been done regularly. Small group bonding is encouraged whenever there is no official eyeball (EB) during a period of time. Malebox ONE’s VMG and core values are being reiterated every now and then to exterminate discrimination, character differences, and disorientation about the nature of the group.” Meanwhile, on finances, the group’s leadership is looking at the suggestion that members have their regular (whether weekly or monthly) dues to raise funds for future activities; just as membership registration fee is also being considered.

On what makes Malebox ONE different from other seemingly similar groups, David stressed that “unlike other groups, friendship here is not institutionalized. You can be what you are, adhering to your own preferences even as the members move in one accord through the Malebox ONE core values,” David said.  Also, “there is NO termination of membership because Malebox ONE upholds relationships that cut boundaries whether familial, societal, economical, educational, and spiritual.”

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Already, the group is eyeing at becoming more effective in the efforts it does. Aside from social gatherings (e.g. EBs), “Malebox ONE plans to engage the group in the community of people living with HIV (PLHIV) for it to be a social support group for them. And so each member will be properly oriented and educated about HIV, and the kind of social support needed by PLHIV. Members will be encouraged to embrace the stigma as an avenue to eradicate discrimination,” David said.  Also, condoms and lubricants are regularly distributed to members and other groups’ members to help in the efforts to curb the spread of HIV and other STIs.

For those interested to become part of Malebox ONE, newbies are encouraged to apply, after which they pass through the orientation process before they are presented as new members during the official EB of the group. As members, they will be included in the text messaging circulation, and can therefore become actively involved in the group’s activities.

For more information on Malebox ONE, coordinate with Nathaniel David at (+63) 9436890401.

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