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‘No longer a dirty little secret’

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Jan 14, 2021 4:00 pm Updated Jan 14, 2021 11:27 pm

Love that is kept in the closet is like dirt swept under the rug. You know it’s there. And you know that many people think it’s dirty. Even if it is not.

YouTube sensation and funny celebrity vlogger Mikey Bustos, 39, and entrepreneur RJ Garcia, 35, swept the “dirt” under the carpet and came out in the open to tell all and sundry about their love affair. They realized it was love that they kept in their hearts and not some dirty stuff — so they broke free and dusted off the perceived misconception about their pure love for each other. The experience was cathartic. They became even more productive. And more in love.

“Finally, our relationship is no longer a dirty little secret,” says Mikey, reflecting on the joys they now enjoy after outing his now eight-year-old relationship with RJ. Mikey went viral in 2011 courtesy of the funny YouTube content he made for Chicharon ni Mang Juan. 

The modern world still has misgivings about same-sex love affairs. Judgment from the prying eyes is real. But where true love is lived and celebrated, discrimination finds its own death. Love wins. 

 Lovers in Paris: Celebrating their love in the City of Lights.

“Mikey and I met on Dec. 21, 2012, the day that many thought, according to rumor, was the end of the world,” chuckles RJ. RJ was literally the boy next door to the hotel unit where Mikey was also renting in Mandaluyong City. In 2011, Mikey left Toronto, Canada where he joined the very first Canadian Idol. He wanted to become an R&B singer. But he was meant for other things. 

“He was my neighbor. I found him kind of cute. I initiated our first meeting. ‘Do you drink beer?’ I asked RJ. The next thing we knew, we were at the little restaurant down the hotel having beer. In my mind, if it was really the end of the world, I might as well go down with a cute guy,” recalls Mikey.

The world did not end that day. But the following day, Mikey and RJ discovered a new world – together. It was love at first sight on both sides. 

However, they could not come out as a couple because of the “wholesome clause” in Mikey’s endorsements and TV shows. 

It was when they broke up in April 2019 that they realized so many things about their relationship. For the first time since they became an item, they did not speak for a few days. RJ went to Bali to sort out his feelings. Mikey went to his cousins in Baguio for some soul searching. But to two hearts that had pure intentions, pride eventually surrendered to love. That was the time both of them decided to come out in the open — on Easter Sunday of 2019, as if symbolic of rebirth, reawakening. 

The modern world still has misgivings about same-sex love affairs. Judgment from the prying eyes is real. But where true love is lived and celebrated, discrimination finds its own death. Love wins. 

They resurrected their love on that day and told their families about their relationship. Acceptance did not come in a heartbeat, but they did not wait for more than a day before their families supported them both. RJ’s parents, who had bakeries in Pangasinan, embraced his relationship with Mikey. On the other hand, Mikey’s parents (his mom is a retired hospital staff member in Canada while his father is a retired aircraft engineer) also welcomed their love affair. Their fears were conquered by the love their families gave them. They were ready to conquer the world. 

“For so many years, we couldn’t afford to have a decent photo together in public, in the places we visited for fear that people would discover our relationship,” says RJ.

“When I had shows abroad, we would always ask for two beds. Or we requested for two rooms because we were conscious about the opinions of other people. Now we are free,” adds Mikey. 

Mikey now enjoys his celebrity status courtesy of his three major YouTube channels.

His AntsCanada YouTube channel that deals with ants and other insects has 4.4 million subscribers with more than 450 million views to date. His Mikey Bustos Videos, the content of which is purely Pinoy comedy stuff, has 1.2 million subscribers. His Mikey Bustos Vlog, where he essays his daily life with RJ and their Chihuahua-Yorkie baby Cypher, friends and acquaintances has more than 250,000 subscribers. (Mikey took up Zoology while RJ finished Psychology.)

RJ, who eventually became Mikey’s manager, is also in charge of making “everything possible” for the contents of Mikey’s vlogs – including a helicopter in the shooting set. 

Online sources reveal that for AntsCanada alone, the YouTube channel generates an average of 350,000 views per day and that makes an estimated earning of $1,750 a day or $640,000 a year. 

Mikey is quick to point out that everything becomes possible because he has RJ to motivate him. Both of them have become more productive because their relationship is no longer in the closet but on center stage, ready to parry criticisms (which, according to them, thankfully are negligible), ready to be celebrated any time of the day. Freedom is king. 

But it’s freedom with responsibility. The two lovers never forget to do their “karma projects,” perhaps believing that to whom much is given, much is expected in return. Like RJ continues his Appledrive Project Inc., which he started a year before he met Mikey. Appledrive is an advocacy of RJ to promote healthy eating habits among urban poor and marginalized kids in different provinces. He literally gives an apple to each kid, most especially to the children whose concept of an apple is only from the alphabet chart tacked on the blackboard of their classrooms.

Mikey flexes the accomplishments of RJ. His Appledrive Project is so noble that other African countries have collaborated with RJ to do the same in Burundi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda. He’s in touch with them. And because of his advocacy, RJ was awarded BayaningPilipino by ABS-CBN and became the grand winner of “Heroes for Better” by Western Union,” he says, clasping the hand of RJ. 

Mikey’s love language is expressed through his loving touch. RJ expresses his love for Mikey through service. “I cook for him. I feed him. I’m always there for him. I love him,” says RJ. 

Mikey always melts in the shoulder of RJ. Such love.

The freedom to express their affections for each other liberates Mikey and RJ to continue to love one another. Now, they are no longer each other’s “dirty little secret.” They never were. After all, theirs is pure love.