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.

16 July 2013

Harping on Christian’s music

Christian performs with Prof. Lourdes Gregorio at the UST Christmas Gala in 2010.

By: Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus

For almost 25 years now, Autism Society Philippines has showcased the various talents of persons with autism (PWA), including those who are musically inclined through its many events nationwide. Many of them are singers, pianists, guitarists and even drummers. But once in a while, we meet PWAs who play musical instruments that are rarely mastered even by most musicians who are not on the spectrum. Filipino child prodigy Tumtum Mendoza on the marimba, is one. And now, we have Christian Cordero Caragayan on the harp. Angels Talk collaborated this week with Maribu Caragayan, the mother of our harpist with autism, who is also a labor arbiter at the National Labor Relations Commission.


At two and a half years old, Christian already showed great interest in music, ranging from classical to contemporary. The toddler was so fascinated with musical records (33s & 45s) that he could pick out a particular one that he liked from a stack of records after his mother would hum the tune to him.

“I am lucky that Christian’s talent in music manifested itself in his early years. We just developed it,” according to mom Maribu.

The family first enrolled Christian at the Yamaha School of Music where he learned to play the electronic keyboard. He has also been taking lessons from professional accordionist Sam Lombardo since 2004, after his very supportive maternal grandmother bought a second-hand accordion for him. But it is the harp that Christian has learned to embrace dearly.

It was his grandmother’s dream to have a harp in her house. At age 12, Christian took harp lessons at the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra Music School of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Soon enough, he was already playing beautiful harp music to his Lola in her house.

Aside from his loving grandmother, Christian has the full support of his family that includes his parents, younger siblings Christopher and Catherine, aunt Lody who accompanies him to his music lessons when his parents are at work, and Yaya Frina who has been taking care of him since he was three months old.

“I was able to cope (raising a child with autism) because my family was all supporting me, emotionally and financially,” Maribu says.
Christian was also fortunate to complete his elementary and secondary education in a school that integrates special needs students in its regular classes. His school, The Community of Learners, gave Christian opportunities to display his musical talents, including playing the harp during his high school graduation ceremony at the Kalayaan Hall of Club Filipino.

Since then, Christian has participated in a number of summer workshops and student recitals of the PPO Music School. He also took part in various activities at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Among these are the “Arts Across the Borders” of the International Visitors Program Alumni Foundation, Inc. in cooperation with the embassy of the United States of America; CCP live auction for the painting exhibit of Raphael D.L. Gregorio; and the launch of a CCP and Net 25 TV program on world-class Filipino artists. He has likewise performed at the “Serenata” of the Parish Church of Santuario del Sto. Cristo in San Juan. Christian’s talent has also been featured at GMA 7’s “Extra Extra” and ABS-CBN’s “Magandang Umaga Pilipinas.”

Later on, Christian was accepted at the Music Extension Division Program of the University of Santo Tomas’ Conservatory of Music. He was blessed to have Professor Lourdes de Leon-Gregorio as her mentor throughout the years, from CCP to UST. This partnership was highlighted with a harp duet during the 8th UST Christmas Concert Gala 2010 at the UST Chapel.

“I underwent the emotional struggle of realizing that my child has autism. I even sought professional help where I learned that it is not the end of the world to have a special child.” Last June 26, as Maribu watched her son during his recital at UST’s Museum of Arts and Sciences, no one could be prouder of what Christian has achieved, not just with his harp.


ASP’s seminar on July 28 features one of the country’s leading developmental pediatricians, Dr Alexis Reyes, who will talk on “All You Need to Know about Autism” and expound on the concept of “The Medical Home for Persons with Autism.” Venue is at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City. Meanwhile, ASP’s monthly family support group meeting on July 20, will be facilitated by ASP national treasurer Evelyn Go. For details, follow ASP on Facebook, Twitter and blogspot.

This article appeared in print and online by Manila Bulletin on 15 July 2013.


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