April 23, 2024

In the continuing effort to showcase the talent of people with autism, the Autism Society of the Philippines, Autism Hearts Foundation in coordination with the Fashion Arts Autism Benefit (FAAB), and the Persons with Disability Affairs Office mounted on April 3 two separate events celebrating the 2023 World Autism Awareness Day.
One event is the launching of an art exhibit by members of the FAAB at the Manor and wearing of blue and lighting of blue-colored lights at the Burnham Lake.
Blue is associated with calmness and acceptance is the designated color for people on the autism spectrum. The color was popularized by Autism Speaks, an autism awareness organization based in the United States.
In speeches delivered by Mayor Benjamin Magalong, he said people with autism could live with dignity and need not be a burden to anyone if they are fully accepted and given support so they will have a chance to thrive in society.
“They have a right to live with dignity…they have to be given the right intervention and support so they can live a fulfilling life and contribute immensely to society,” the mayor said during the opening of the art exhibit at The Manor.
People who have been supporting the causes for people with autism also said that if more people allow those with special needs to flourish in the areas where they excel, they become productive members of the society and less dependent on their guardians or parents.
Camp John Hay Leisure Management Inc. General Manager Ramon Cabrera said it was only recently when he personally witnessed that despite their condition, people with autism can excel if they are provided with the avenue within which to showcase their intellect, talent, and skills.
In November last year, a mural made by people with autism was unveiled at the Manor as part of the hotel’s Enchanted Holiday’s event.
Cabrera said the mural, done by a small group and mentored by volunteer artists and teachers of SPED Baguio, was finished in only four weeks – proof that with proper guidance, they can accomplish something worthwhile.
“They have dreams. They want to be someone in the community someday. Those who are verbal are able to express their aspirations. And those who are non-verbal have become the voices of their groupmates who cannot speak. They want to be seen, they want to be heard. And I think they deserve to be,” Cabrera said and assured that The Manor, the Camp John Hay Golf Club, and the Camp John hay Development Corporation will continue to support people with autism.
CHJDevCo Chief Executive Officer Robert John Sobrepeña and his wife, Lissa, are supporters and organizers of the FAAB for the benefit of people with autism.
Cabrera said more people can be helped if the community, not just a small group, will help.
“There are many autistic individuals out there. We can only do so much. We need your help so that these autistic individuals get to as far as where they want to be. Because they can. We just need to believe they can,” Cabrera said.
The Manor Resident Manager Christine Cua added acceptance begins with changing our perception of “curing” or “converting” autistic people and instead focus our time, energy, and resources on accepting, supporting, and including autistic people and advocating for their rights.
“This way, we help enable our autistic people to claim their dignity and self-esteem, avoid being made fun of, and to become fully integrated as valued members of the community,” Cua said.
She said we in the “normal spectrum” need to discover and tap their strengths, provide opportunities to use these strengths, and make them more visible by including them in community events so that they and their families and us can meet halfway to make a better place for everyone.
Cua said the levels of acceptance and awareness about autism vary but said their common cause is they are aware that their condition should not be used as an entitlement, and hence should be given space to prove that they can be somebody.
“Let us give their parents that there is a kinder world when the time comes that they have to leave their autistic children behind. They are not asking for the moon. All they ask for is to be accepted, to be included. Let us give them a chance,” Cua said.
Councilor Art Allad-iw, chair of the committee on employment, livelihood, cooperatives and persons with disability, who also attended the exhibit launching at The Manor, thanked the groups advocating and supporting the causes of people with autism.
He said Baguio already has policies in place to safeguard and support people with disability, but he admits that more needs to be done for the sector.
“We need to realize the motto – No one should be left behind,” Allad-iw said, vowing to continue advancing the needs of PWDs through more legislations.
As support, Councilor Leandro Yangot Jr. donated easels and acrylic paints, while the Camp John Hay Golf Club donated P150,000 to the FAAB for its continuing project of training artistically-inclined people with autism. – Rimaliza A. Opiña