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.

03 June 2011

Sharing Hopes, Building Dreams in the Visayas

Living up to ASP’s slogan, “Sharing Hopes, Building Dreams”, Executive Director Ranil Sorongon embarked on a journey in the Visayan Region last April 15-28. He met with ASP chapters and supporters in Iloilo City, Kalibo, Roxas City in Region 6, Cebu City and Madaue City in Region 7, and Ormoc City and Tacloban City in Region 8.


Iloilo City

Director Sorongon met Barangay Captain and District Head of Arevalo, Ms. Celia Baylen, to discuss the possibility of holding an Autism Early Detection and Intervention seminar for Day Care teachers. Barangay Captain Baylen introduced him to the Local DSWD District Head. The following day, Dir. Sorongon gave a lecture on the Republic Act 9442, specifically on the discounts of Persons with Disabilities (PWD). The participants, composed of more than 40 Social Workers and Day Care Teachers, were delighted to hear updates on RA 9442 from a speaker coming from Manila.


Sorongon, along with his wife My, a special education teacher, also visited the house of a family in Arevalo District which has twin daughters with autism. The couple gave the parents tips on how to manage their children with autism and also for their support by becoming members of ASP Iloilo City chapter.


After the family visit, the couple proceeded to Kid’s Nook Integrated Learning Center in Jaro. There, they facilitated and acted as resource persons at the Family Support Group (FSG) meeting organized in partnership with ASP Iloilo City chapter and Kid’s Nook. The meeting was attended by more than 25 participants, composed of mothers, fathers, 2 siblings of persons with autism and 3 individuals with autism. Although the group was quite big for an FSG, everyone was given a chance to share. Parents and siblings were very open in sharing their issues and concerns with the group, who provided an atmosphere of belonging and acceptance in return.


Cid Boy, a college student with autism, rendered a song called “Amazing Grace” that touched the hearts of the participants. Marky, also a PWA, joined the group and shared some of his experiences as a high school student. Marky will be an incoming college freshman at the University of the Philippines in Iloilo City.


Kalibo, Aklan

The ASP Kalibo Chapter leaders, headed by chapter President Jun Aborka, treated Director Sorongon to a sumptuous lunch before the start of the formal meeting. Mr. Aborka spoke of the lack of professional service providers such as occupational therapists, speech pathologists and trained Special Education teachers, which he identified as a problem of both the chapter and the province of Aklan in general. The leaders also mentioned the public’s lack of awareness about autism and the chapter’s lack of funding. Mr. Sorongon offered to help by inviting occupational therapists and speech pathologist to give seminars and training in partnership with the chapter. He also encouraged the chapter to send their Special Education teachers to undergo intensive training on how to manage their students with special needs. The Autism Resource Center managed by ASP Laguna chapter runs a training program every summer.


Dir. Sorongon with ASP Kalibo Chapter Officers



The group agreed to conduct a film showing of “Alyana-A Study on Autism in the Philippines” to raise awareness on autism and to generate funds for the chapter.


Roxas City, Capiz

A day after his visit to Kalibo, Director Sorongon met with the officers of ASP Roxas City chapter at the house of Ms. Rechell Palmes, the president. Ms. Palmes made the special request that her house be the venue for the meeting because she just gave birth a month ago.


Dir. Sorongon with ASP Roxas City Chapter Officers


The group discussed the chapter’s issues and concerns, particularly regarding the participation and support of the members, the issuance of PWD IDs and the perennial problem of the lack of programs and services for children with disabilities.


ASP National assured the chapter of its support in providing ongoing guidance, referring professionals as resource persons and updating the chapter on the laws concerning Persons with Disabilities (PWD), particularly the Republic Act 9442, with a focus on discounts for PWDs.


Cebu City and Mandaue City

On April 25, Director Sorongon woke early in the morning to catch the first flight for Cebu City. Ms. Sandra Espina, the president of ASP Cebu City chapter, collected him from the airport and joined him for a series of meetings in Cebu City and Mandaue City.


After taking a short rest, Director Sorongon met with Ms. Heide Fajardo, the Executive Director of REACH Foundation. They discussed a possible partnership between ASP National and REACH in providing therapy services for less privileged children with autism in Cebu City. Ms. Fajardo was very enthusiastic about partnering with ASP in this endeavor. Sorongon will be submitting a proposal for the project to Children’s Hour.


Mrs Espina (in pink) with Dir. Sorongon (in green) visited the CSWDO of Mandaue and Cebu


After meeting with Ms. Fajardo, Ms. Espina and Dir. Sorongon then proceeded to the Mandaue City Social Welfare and Development Office to check on the implementation of Republic Act 9442, especially regarding discounts for Persons with Disabilities (PWD). They met Ms. Mary Ann Gestopa, a PWD herself and a secretary of the Federation of PWD of Mandaue City. She informed the visitors that the city has been implementing RA 9442 and just gave P500 financial aid to PWDs. There were around 1,500 PWDs who were issued the PWD IDs.


As it was almost 4 in the afternoon, and public offices are only open until 5PM, the duo then rushed to the Cebu City Social Welfare and Development Office. They were met by Ms. Virgie Piccio, the passionate Focal Person of PWD. Ms. Piccio was proud to inform the visitors that their office had already issued 5,205 PWD IDs. She also added that the Local Government of Cebu City gives P2,000 annual cash assistance to PWD.


Director Sorongon commended Ms. Piccio for accommodating them, even after office hours, and for showing her support for the endeavors of ASP Cebu City chapter.


After the three successive meetings, the duo ate dinner with Ms. Cyril Borja, the Treasurer of ASP Cebu City chapter and mother of an adolescent with autism. Ms. Borja reported the financial situation of the chapter after their successful Autism Regional Conference last October. Ms. Espina shared the activities they conducted particularly during the 15th Autism Consciousness Week in January and the 4th World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. They were delighted to share that through their regular activities, ASP is now being recognized in the city and the membership is slowly increasing.


The chapter plans to conduct regular monthly activities and is preparing to invite Ms. Lady Suarez, an Occupational Therapist from Manila, to give a seminar on Sensory Integration on July, in time for the celebration of the 33rd National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDRP) Week. Dir. Sorongon came up with an idea: to have an ASP Visayas Regional Office based in Cebu City to cater for the needs of the Visayans. Why not?!


Ormoc City

Upon invitation by Ms. Jing Codilla, the wife of the City Mayor of Ormoc City, and Ms. Ann Margaret Abanes, both mothers of individuals with autism, Director Sorongon braved the sea to reach Ormoc City by ferry boat from Cebu on April 26. Ms. Ann Margaret (or ‘Bea’) provided Sorongon with all the assistance he would need for a successful visit.


After a brief tour of St. Paul’s School SPED and Therapy Center, Bea treated Sorongon to a lunch with her Sped teachers and therapist. They then proceeded to the city hall for the launch of ASP Ormoc City chapter. Through the initiative of Ms. Codilla, the different offices under the Mayor’s office, headed by the City Social Welfare and Development, were mobilized for the activity. It started with a motorcade around the city, participated in by PWDs, children with all kinds of disabilities, their parents and care givers, and the city hall employees.


The participants preparing for the motorcade


After the motorcade came a forum at the city conference hall, with more than 400 participants. Ms. Codilla spoke for the first time in public as mother to a son with autism, bringing a ray of hope to other parents in accepting their children with disabilities. Director Sorongon gave an orientation talk on ASP and a lecture on RA 9442, focusing on the discounts for PWDs because most attendees were not aware of this law. Mayor Codilla gave the final message to his constituents; he told of his experiences with his son who has autism, how his family sought and made use of services in Manila and how he develops the social skills of his son by bringing him to different places and events. Mayor Codilla also shared his initiatives for PWDs and his plans to further expand the existing services, along with the Social Welfare and Development Office headed by Ms. Marietta Legaspi.


Ms. Codilla (inset) with the participants of the forum


After the forum, Director Sorongon met with the Mayor and Ms. Codilla, Dr. Margarita Saceda, Ms. Arlene Sia – the Special Education teacher, and Ms. Marietta Legazpi, to discuss the possible partnership between ASP and the City of Ormoc.


On the 27th, Dir. Sorongon conducted another orientation on ASP and RA 9442 for the parents and teachers of St. Paul’s SPED and Therapy Center, also in Ormoc City. The group, headed by Ms. Bea, was very eager to organize a chapter and to be affiliated with ASP National Office.


Dir. Sorongon with the participants from

St. Paul School's SPED and Therapy Center


Tacloban City

After taking a quick lunch and thanking Bea’s group for their hospitality, Dir. Sorongon traveled by van to his last engagement in the Visayas, Tacloban City, the home town of Ms. Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines.


Mr. Homer, a friend of Dr. Gie Abuyabor, the President of ASP Tacloban City chapter, brought Dir. Sorongon to the Tacloban Center for Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities (TCADD). Teacher Vanessa Abuyabor welcomed Sorongon and and showed him the TCADD facilities. He then proceeded to the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) to meet with Ms. Baltazar, the head of CSWDO, Dr. Abuyabor and Teacher Jill. Ms. Baltazar informed the group about their services for PWDs and about the cooperative of PWDs that they are assisting in order to help with PWDs’ livelihood. Dir. Sorongon updated her on the recent Memorandum of Agreement between Mercury drug Store Corporation and the Committee on Social Services of the House of Representatives about the implementation of a 20% discount on medicines, effective May 1 this year.


Dir. Sorongon with the Officers and members of ASP Tacloban City Chapter


The group then went to the Divine World Hospital for the chapter’s Family Support Group Meeting. More than 25 attendees, composed of parents, special education teachers, occupational therapists and speech therapists listened attentively to Dir. Sorongon as he discussed rights and privileges of PWDs as provided for in RA 9442. He also shared information about ASP’s programs and services and about how the National Office can help the chapter. Dr. Abuyabor was extremely happy about the presence and support of the members for this activity. Along with her officers, they will make plans to conduct regular activities for the chapter.


PWD is the poorest and most marginalized segment of the society. Children with disabilities (CWD) are not just poor and marginalized, but given their fragility and innocence, they are also the most vulnerable. Parents must be empowered to advocate for the rights and welfare of their children” said Sorongon. “ASP will continue to spread its wings like an angel and become a bearer of hope” he added.


Sorongon’s journey in the Visayan ended as he arrived in Manila, but the smiles and laughter of the children and the anxieties and triumphs of the parents will forever remain in his heart.

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