The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

25 May 2011

My Kuya has Autism and I am his Hero

By: Cathy Genovia, ASP Volunteer


There are many stories available in the bookstores and even on the Internet. Some are fictional while others are true, and in my opinion, true stories often sell like hotcakes.


During my personal journey with families with autism, I have heard so many stories of parents and their ups and downs with autism: stories of older siblings taking full responsibility for the care of their sibling in the spectrum; other stories of siblings who felt unloved by their family and were jealous of their siblings with autism, who seemed to receive more love and care from family members.


One day, a particular story touched my heart. Then, another story unfolded which I personally witnessed.


1st story

After the celebration of the 15th National Autism Consciousness Week, some members of the National Working Committee, ASP staff, officers and trustees together with their family members had some rest and leisure time in Tagaytay Highlands. We were at a restaurant but were not yet dining; we were busy outside viewing the wonderful sight of Tagaytay with the famous Taal Lake and Taal Volcano.


Excited and taking pictures, we – adults – forgot about the time. Our Executive Director, Ranil Sorongon and his wife T. My planned on taking our lunch to another restaurant, so we were asked to get ready to change restaurants.


Suddenly, to our astonishment, we heard Gelo cry. Gelo is the son of ASP Treasurer, Evelyn Go who has autism. He is non-verbal and known to us as the “Gentle Giant”, for he is big like a giant but as gentle as a baby. Because it was almost lunch-time, perhaps he couldn’t understand why we had to leave the restaurant, instead of sitting down and ordering our food.


As expected, you could see pairs of eyes staring at us. Mouths were open and chatting, and although we couldn’t hear what they said, I know for sure what it was.


Some of the group had already left, so Mommmy Evelyn, younger brother Andrew, Yaya Helen and T. My took charge of convincing Gelo to leave the restaurant, using different strategies.


All of a sudden, Gelo joined a table with a large family at it and sat down as if he was part of the family. Younger brother Andrew said: “pasensya na po kayo, my autism ang kuya ko”. When she heard this, the lady at the table started to ask Gelo what he wanted.


Andrew with brother Gelo


The Go family then transferred to the other table and decided not to join with our group anymore, taking their lunch in that restaurant after all.


2nd story

For the second time around, 15-year-old Muneer, son of ASP Bacoor Chapter President Jan Peña, joined the 33rd Summer Camp of PVI’s Kamp Pagkakaisa. This time, he was not with Ate Thea but with his younger brother Millie who is now 11 years old, and who followed Muneer to Iriga City all the way from Cavite.


Ate Thea and Millie both had other schedules this time. It was their sibling workshop as well, so Muneer was endorsed to me by his mom Jan. On our 6th day in Iriga, the Peña family visited Muneer with plans of leaving Millie with his kuya to join the last days of the summer camp.


And as it was already the 6th day, the camp staff decided not to include Millie in the group as participant, so he became our junior staff member instead. Millie enjoyed walking around the camp site, wearing a PVI vest and helping the camp staff.


One night while we were in the middle of an activity, the electricity went off. All the staff were shouting: “volunteers ang mga alaga niyo hawakan”. Because volunteers were equipped with emergency kits inside the pockets of their vest, the area was lit up by many flashlights.


I was so touched when I saw how Millie hugged his brother as if to say: “don’t worry kuya, I’m here”. I immediately got out my digital camera and shot the heartwarming scene. It was one of the many moments that I will never, ever forget from my 8 years at PVI Foundation’s Kamp Pagkakaisa.


Millie hugged his brother Muneer


Indeed, true stories which contain unconditional love melt everyone’s heart. This is one story that will surely sell like hotcakes in all bookstores and leave a mark on everyone’s hearts and minds.

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