Text by Riu Rodriguez and Anna Cruz;
Photos courtesy of Jerald DJ. Caranza, UP DIO

The Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA), spearheaded by its Gender and Development (GAD) Committee, organized a forum on sex, relationships, and well-being entitled (W)holesome Conversations: Prioritizing Wellness in Sexual Intimacy held last October 25 at the Engineering Theater, Melchor Hall.

With an overarching goal of empowering students, (W)Holesome Conversations aims to enhance participants’ understanding of their sexual health and to cultivate mindfulness in their words, actions, and decisions concerning sexual intimacy, banking on the reality that the mind is connected to their bodies.

FILE PHOTO: A student showing their pills as they participate in an ice breaker entitled “Bring Me: Wholesome Edition.”

In her opening remarks, Kat Estrella, UPD OVCSA GAD Focal and Overall Event Head, recalled an ACLE experience where a student asked, “why aren’t there any seminars or discussions on safe sex led by pertinent offices in the university?” This question made her realize that there was indeed a lack of spaces for students to have such conversations thus the need to challenge the conventional.

“Wholesome Conversations is our office’s attempt at mainstreaming conversations that are traditionally talked about in whispers. There should be no shame in such conversations especially if talking about it and seeking help will ultimately do good for us; will ultimately help us prioritize our physical and mental well-being,” Estrella emphasized.

FILE PHOTO: Kat Estrella, GAD focal of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, delivers her opening remarks.

Sex and relationship therapist Dr. Rica Cruz served as the keynote speaker. She dared the participants to let go of the concept of safer sex, and instead embrace “saner sex”ㅡ a better alternative in making informed choices on sexual interactions leading to much desirable experiences.

“Safer sex is just all about a person’s body or intercourse but saner sex is about your relationship with yourself, with your partner, and with the whole world,” she stressed.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Rica Cruz, CEO and co-founder of Unprude, talks about sane sex, relationships, and the well-being aspect of sexual intimacy.

Cruz also reiterated the importance of wearing protection at all times and getting tested regularly. “‘Who are you having sex for? Is the kind of love that you have the kind that you have to prove by using your body? Who am I doing this for?’” she added.

Her talk ended with an emphasis on how saner sex gives more space to everyoneㅡ “How we see sex profoundly impacts our society and culture…[na sa susunod na henerasyon ay] hindi na matatakot, hindi na mababastos, and everyone is respectful of each other. Which is what Unprude dreams. To see a society that is sexually respectful, sexually unashamed, and sexually safe. [To see people] who can embrace their sexual selves on their own terms”.

FILE PHOTO: (from right to left) Anna Villanueva of UP DGO, Pete Tan of LoveYourself PH, and Denden Parreño of UPD PsycServ are joined by Dr. Rica Cruz of Unprude for a panel discussion, and moderators Riu Rodriguez and Anna Cruz.

To further highlight the wellness aspect of the discussion, experts from different offices in UP and non-government organizations were also invited to take part in the panel discussion after the keynote speech. Dr. Cruz was joined by Anna Villanueva, a Feminist counselor from the UP Diliman Gender Office (UP DGO); Denden Parreño, a Psychosocial Support Specialist at the UP Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsycServ), and Pete Tan from LoveYourself Philippines. They integrated how communities of support and care can be fostered in the lives of sexually active individuals, as well as debunked stereotypes and stigma that come with these types of conversations.

Photo by Josh Competente of UPD OVCSA.

(W)holesome Conversations: Prioritizing Wellness in Sexual Intimacy is one of the events initiated by the network in celebration of first-ever UP Diliman Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (UPD MHPSS) Advocacy Month with the theme Thriving Together: Making Waves, Nurturing Minds.

Photo by Josh Competente of UPD OVCSA.