Sep 11, 2011

[Technicolor Musings] No Complaints For AJ (1982 - 2011)

Flickr: AJ Matela - Venus Raj and AJ Matela
Venus Raj and AJ Matela
by AJ Matela via Flickr.

AJ Matela, the man behind Bakla Ako, May Reklamo? and many other blogs, died this week. In another day, September 10, he would have been 29 years old. It still feels almost surreal to consider that such a distinct voice in the local LGBT blogging community is gone, but it is indeed true. I still seem to be surprising contacts with this news as waves of grief and support explore out across the social web. It was only the other week when Migs sent out a call for support given his on-going health concerns and despite a stellar fight on AJ's part, he finally passed on to that better place we're all meant to go to some time.

It goes without saying that it feels like his passing had come far too soon. But then these things happen, of course, and there's no real way around things. This is not to say that things have been wasted in any way - those who knew AJ would acknowledge how he had always lived life to the fullest. And beyond living such a fantastic life, he has also had the opportunity to touch so many lives.

I had already written a short tribute for AJ over on my LiveJournal blog, but I thought it appropriate to write a bit more at length about him for this week's Technicolor Musings post. After wall, what better way to remember such a well-known blogger than with a modest photo blog post as well, right? And we all know how much AJ loved photos.

AJ and FabPoT

I first met AJ because he was the officemate of my partner at the time. They were a pretty tightly-knit Training Group and thus they tended to call themselves the Fabulous People of Training or FabPoT. Thus I can't really talk about AJ about involving FabPoT since it was during such social gatherings that I'd encounter AJ the most. In those earlier days I had very limited interactions with him - I just knew him to be the wise-cracking guy who also had something to say about pretty much everything.

But of course being a somewhat "in-law" to FabPoT, it meant that I'd be bumping into AJ a lot more. Sometimes it was just a random night at Bed. Other times it would be a massive out-of-town beach trip. Or it would even be a more intimate gathering at our apartment or whatever. Thus AJ entered my life in a larger-than-life way, which I'm sure is how a lot of people felt when they first encounter him in the flesh.

AJ and friends

At first I'll admit he struck me as being somewhat shallow, however in time I'd realize just how wrong I was. But I don't think you could blame me - beyond his wisecracks, he always got involved in crazy photo shoots like the one above. Whether alone or with friends, he'd always have some strange new idea for some creative or alternative shot. Thus on our out of town trips together, I had learned to expect this to happen and prepared my camera to capture as many of those moments as possible. Later on he'd have his little Ernie doll with him to either pose with him or become the focus of the shot instead.

Crazy, I tell you. And this description hardly scratches the surface of the kind of person that he was.

AJ at Taste Asia

One of the few times that I had actually hung out with AJ at length without work friends was at the some of the blogging events held in the metro. He had invited me to my Taste Asia Blogger's event as well as my second, which was a bit of a surprise for me. It seemed like a surprise since I have to admit that I had not made much of an effort to get to know him better given the various social events that I had gotten dragged along with in terms of my ex-boyfriend's gimmicks and of course the FabPoT stuff. So this really surprised me, and I have to admit I really appreciated it.

Thus I finally got to know AJ better and appreciate that a lot of his wisecrack and jokes were more like a screen. It was a careful web he maintained - almost a juggling act that he had going on all the time. But if you were lucky enough, he'd let his guard down for a moment and you'd get to see more of who he really was. I can't say that I was fortunate enough to get a lot of such opportunities, but I'd like to think I got a decent number of them in time.

AJ at my 5th Anniversary Party

AJ is one of the smarter people that I've come to know in this world, thus the source of his lightning-fast wit. Comedy is never easy and good comedy requires real smarts. And of course he was also technically-proficient, as you can see in all the blogs that he maintained and of course the fact that his career involved the challenging field of instructional systems design.

But he was also a very good friend, one who had keen insight and made sure to get the facts for himself. He knew how to do the work and he never stopped looking for the answers he sought out. And he was a lot more sociable than I'll ever be, something that I suppose I'll forever envy. The fact that so many people have written (and continue to write) about his passing now speaks volumes of the impact he's had on so many lives.

The last time that I had seen AJ in person was at the old Bed before their big renovation. I was already with my current partner and thus I was initially wary of how I should approach him. After all, he was my ex-boyfriend's friend first and he even called him Ate, of all things. But then AJ surprised me yet again, as he seems to enjoy doing when people underestimate him who try to fit him into some stereotype. We had one of those rare moments of him being completely honest and he expressed what he thought about my current relationship with a short note on how things had ended with my prior relationship. He even mentioned how he had taken the time to read Tobie's blog in order to get to know him better given that I had decided to commit to him now. And in general he expressed his support, and I admit that meant a lot to me. I hadn't even asked for any of this - he had just come forward and started talking to me about all this admit the hustle and bustle of Bed on a Saturday night.

AJ was a strong individual, one who stood firmly on his own two feet and always made sure he could take care of things for himself and not have to bother other people. He was strong to the end and was fighting to the last as we all knew he would. But I suppose the world decided that it was time for him to finally get some rest and let others do the fighting for him for a change.

I was never really as close to AJ as I wanted to be, and I regret that. But I hope that his spirit lives on in all of us who knew him and counted him as a friend. May our words have the same intensity and fire that he carried in life and yet also the same flair and fabulousness that he brought along with him as well.

We'll miss you, AJ. Safe journey.

For those who wish to support AJ's family, check out the 1000 Volunteers for AJ Facebook page about how you can help contribute to the fund hoping to help address AJ's medical bills. For those who wish to visit the wake, you can check out Manila Gay Guy's post for more information.

1 comment:

  1. AJ will always be remembered for his line (and blog) "bakla ako, may reklamo?"