The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons on the autism spectrum disorder. We envision a society where Filipinos on the spectrum become the best of their potentials -- self-reliant, independent, productive, socially-accepted citizens of an Autism-OK Philippines.

11 February 2010

An elephant never forgets

By: Tiffany Tan, ASP Board Secretary

In 2008, Certified Autism Angel John Chua led a team of professional photographers and children with autism on their first photography workshop/exposure trip to Manila Zoo. 

The first trip dubbed “Shutterbugs at the Zoo” opened many doors that led to the nationwide project, “Colors of ‘A’ Spectrum”. One lasting impression that stood out was the children’s interaction with Manila Zoo’s resident 34-year old Asian Elephant, Ma’ali.

Children with autism were exposed to the different sites and sounds of the zoo animals. They also had a great bonding time with family members. This also opened an arena for discovery, as some of the children were never given the chance to hold a camera, let alone, take pictures. Some parents had apprehensions, fearing their child might not be able to handle expensive equipment properly.

We found some of the pictures these children took around the zoo. Some of them with the gentle giant, Ma’ali.

Henry with Ma 'ali

Ma' ali with Mike Almendrala at Manila Zoo (photo by Mike Ajero)

Ma'ali with the kids during their first photography workshop/exposure trip to Manila Zoo

Unknown to many, John has a special fondness for Ma’ali and would drive all the way from his home during his Sunday free time, pick-up Henry, a child with autism, and visit the zoo to feed Ma’ali her favorite sweet mangoes, oranges and popsies.

Yesterday, we received an email from Harvey (wife of John) urging people to show support for Ma’ali. She might be relocated to either Thailand or Tennessee. Both John and Harvey have created a Facebook account in honor of her – We love Ma’ali.

Elephants have long been observed to follow the same travel routes and even pass along genetic memories of directions and places to future generations. Elephants also have a high friendship skill with humans and in fact, do remember individuals even when separated for decades. (source: Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins, anthropologist)

They say “an elephant never forgets”. Hope this post will help you remember Ma’ali and the impact she made on children with autism.

If you are interested to know more about the Colors of A Spectrum Project, please write us at or call us at 7-903-5496.


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