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.

28 May 2012

Third ASP Cavite SibsCamP: “We are 1/2 Cups”



by Thea Carmeli Peña, ASP Bacoor Chapter

May 19 and 20,2012 were bright and pleasant for the seventeen siblings who attended the 3rd ASP Cavite Siblings Camp Philippines or SibsCamP at Bede’s Place, Pueblocillo, Dasmariñas, Cavite. Bede’s Place, a mini-resort owned by Miss Evelyn Tarlit, a mother of a child with Down syndrome and herself a PWD advocate, has an elemental touch, with its ethnic and rustic decorations and landscape. We felt as if we were in a Philippine Survivor version of Pinoy Big Brother.

Those who made this SibsCamP successful were the hardworking and devoted facilitators: Ate My Sorongon, Kuya Buboy Samantela (senior sibling), and yours truly, Ate Thea Peña. Ate Kismette Cepe, active ASP Bacoor professional, served as the documentor, while Mommy Jan Peña stood as houseparent. Mommy Lyn Ebuña cooked our hearty meals and snacks that kept us psyched up throughout the games and activities. My brother Muneer who has autism played house assistant, since he loves fixing things and setting them in order. I am proud to say that we made a good team!

The arrival of the participants and the registration spurred the excitement and livened up the place at once. We had to greet the siblings as they in turn had to say goodbye to their families. We officially welcomed them and introduced ourselves with much enthusiasm. We observed that they sat in their own groups: the UP Camp Manila Chapter sibs and the Cavite Chapters sibs with the kids huddled together on one side and the teenagers in the other side. Obviously, they were still in their comfort zones and so, we encouraged them to know each other by having a grand time swimming in the pool as a bonding activity.

With the “ice broken” among them, we moved to Pueblocillo Clubhouse for physical activities. The place rung with laughter, cheers, encouragement and live action! Packs of candies awaited the winning teams, but of course the real prizes were the camaraderie and the fun elicited from the event.

Now that everybody was comfortable with each other, our siblings were ready to take their new found friendships to the next level. The sibs went through an activity that taught them the valuable elements in building healthy relationships with others, particularly with their PWA (persons with autism) siblings. It also paved the way for them to open their lives through group sharing. We arranged the sibs into three groups. I was in charge with the youngest ones with ages 8-10; Kuya Buboy tended to the 11-13 year olds; and Mommy Jan facilitated the eldest group, from ages 16-27. Diverse strategies used with the groups were successful in drawing out honest feelings and shared experiences of the sibs in relation to their PWA siblings.

After my youngsters shared their feelings, I couldn’t expect them to get teary-eyed and be sober because each of them were still in a gleeful state of mind, young as they were, and I must admit it was a little hard for me to get them to internalize. Nevertheless, they shared that they are proud, happy, and blessed with their siblings or cousins with autism. I also managed to encourage them to open up with distressing emotions such as anger, embarrassment, and frustration by sharing my own not-so-fun days and experiences with my brother Muneer.

The following day, we started afresh with an activity that served as the "initiation" into becoming the official Batch Three Cavite siblings. It was an hour of challenging dry run and sorting out until the sibs finally did the final act to perfection!

An expressed need by the sibs was to understand autism. With several activities done to them, the sibs were enlightened on the nature of autism which would help them accept the condition of their PWA siblings, and to like and love the PWA as they are.

The last session of the SibsCamP signalled the start of a new beginning for the sibs. Messages of love and well-wishes were exchanged as they braced themselves to go home with their parents and be reunited with their PWA siblings. Symbolic ceramic cups that read “½ cup” were given as a reminder of the 2-day event that would hopefully fuel or sustain them as they face realities back home. A tear-jerker matching pick-up line from a PWA to a sibling captured the essence of the 3rd ASP Cavite SibsCamP, “Ate, one-half cup ka ba? Kasi hindi ako buo kung wala ka sa buhay ko.”

It might be just another cheesy line, but for us siblings it has a deep meaning. This means that each of us and our brothers and sisters with autism need each other in order to survive and have a meaningful life. We are partners in this journey. As 11 year-old sib Jedi Garcia said, “Dapat natin silang alagaan mabuti, dahil kung tayo ang may autism aalagaan din naman nila tayo.” (We have to take good care of them because if we were to exchange places with them and we have the condition, they would doubtless take good care of us.”)

You may contact ASP Bacoor Chapter President, Ms. Jan Peña, at 0915 9857828.

1 comments:

Jan peña said...

Cavite Sibs, stand by for a get-together for more bonding and training! We hope to see you play a major role in our upcoming 5th Regional Conference on Autism where fellow Sibs will bring Hope@Home to many!

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