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.

26 July 2010

Echoes of Hope

By: Tiffany Tan, ASP Board Secretary

July 18, 2010, SM City Sta. Mesa was filled with mall goers, family members having their merienda and bonding time with kids, others busy buying their groceries just beside the food court.

the audience of the Echoes of Hope Concert

Before 3pm, people grabbed the empty chairs in anticipation of the much awaited ASP Divas. Those without seats were content to stand as trio belted out “Emotion,” popularized by Bee Gees. Each tried to out-sing each other during their solo parts to the delight of the audience.

“Mga autistic ba yung mga kumakanta?” (Do the singers have autism?) One grandmother approached the ASP booth with this question. Apparently, her sister has a grandchild suspected to have autism. Many are unaware of the tell-tale signs or red flags of autism. Click here to know the signs.

“Magiging katulad ba ng batang kumakanta ang anak ko?” (Will my child be as good in singing, as them?) Children with autism have splinter skills, are informed by Teacher Mae Lesondra of GS Option House, Laguna. These skills are foundations therapists or teachers can build on; such as in the case of seven year old Sean Benedict Espinili. He was a hit with the crowd when he sang “Changes in My Life” and “May Bukas Pa.”

According to T. Mae, Sean tended to “verbalize”, but after one year of Voice Lessons, his diction improved, and voice is more modulated. Sean is now mainstreamed in Good Shepherd Learning Center. Last year, he enrolled in the school’s Voice Lesson Class. Another boy, Gabriel Nazareth, also from the same school sang “Can This Be Love” and “Home”.

PWAs Gabriel Nazareth (left) and Sean Benedict Espinili (right)

“Wag po Tayong Mawalan ng Pag-asa.” Posible po silang mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan – ang susi ay pagmamahal, pag-uunawa. (Let’s not lose hope,” said Peng So, ASP Vice President as she addressed the parents in the crowd. It is possible to give them a bright future – the key is love and acceptance.)

Thara Marie Santiago attributes her singing talent to constant practice and avoiding cold drinks. She sang her favorites, “All By Myself” and “One Moment in Time”. Thara believes in the difference she makes and hopes to inspire other children with special needs to do better and be better.

Vell Barria, one of the girls is now 14, a sophomore at St. Mary’s Academy. She posted on her Facebook page about her singing gig told fans she will sign autographs after her performance. She dedicated the song “Hero,” to her family and “That’s the Way It Is” to her fans. Vell says her most important possessions are her admirers and she believes in working hard to achieve her goals.

Nica EscasiƱas gave a versatile performance as she sang and strutted with Donna Summer’s “I Will Survive”. Aside from playing piano and guitar, her singing abilities have landed her to win several singing contests. On her second song “You Smile” she changed the last stanza to “SM Smile…I Smile”.

ASP Divas (from left) Thara, Nica and Vell

As the crowd dispersed after the performances, chairs were stacked, floors were mopped, tarpaulins folded and spotlights switched off, Autism Angels who work behind the scenes collected themselves for a simple mirienda by the food court. They chose to be here on a Sunday, to advocate for autism, to miss being with their own families; believing that Echoes of Hope will linger on.

ASP would like to thank SM Supermalls and SM Program on Disability Affairs for extending a barrier free environment to persons with autism – with understanding and acceptance.

Acknowledgments: Teacher Kismette Cepe – Master of Ceremonies, Teacher My Sorongon; Sponsors: Tokyo-Tokyo and Cyber Wigget; ASP Trustee, Ging Viado, Voice Coach Jenzen Turica.


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