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.

27 January 2014

To walk among angels

The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) has indeed made this year’s Angels Walk for Autism an event that will be long remembered for its relevance and scale.

Held last January 19 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City, the event attracted 10,000 participants from all over the Philippines. The large crowd filled the arena to the rafters − making Angels Walk for Autism 2014 the biggest autism advocacy event in the Philippines to date!

The event was a fitting start to ASP’s 25th year of advocating for the welfare and well-being of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. The ASP national leadership, headed by chair emeritus Erlinda “Dang” Koe and president Mary Janette Peña, unveiled its seven-point legislative and policy agenda for the first time.

The agenda, crafted from years of consultation and dialogue with stakeholders, includes mandatory developmental screening, comprehensive needs assessment, inclusive education, public servants with special skills, community-based rehabilitation programs, comprehensive sensitivity training for schools and workplaces, and creative mechanisms for funding. The society’s nationwide network of chapters will labor to bring these seven aspirations to reality.

Leaders of the government, the private sector and the autism community rallied behind the realization of the rights of individuals with autism, in observance of the 18th National Autism Consciousness Week (NACW). Senator Koko Pimentel, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona, Governor Jonvic Remulla, COMELEC Commissioners Grace Padaca and Rene Sarmiento, Human Rights Commissioner Coco Quisumbing, Pasay City Mayor Antonino Calixto, NCDA acting-executive director Carmen Zubiaga and the rest of the NACW working committee were visibly moved by the strength of the organization − both in their numbers and in their vision.

The “1Pangako” initiative, an on-line campaign to stop the use of “autistic” as a joke or insult, resonated with the leaders, especially with Comm. Padaca.

SM Prime president Hans Sy, SM Supermalls president Annie Garcia, Miescor president Angelito Bermudo, SM vice president for Operations Engineer Bien Mateo and Canon vice president for Consumer Systems Bong Serevo − all long-time ASP supporters − were amazed at how Angels Walk for Autism has grown in the last seven years. The heartfelt and generous support from these “archangels” from the business sector fuels the organization’s hope that inclusion of individuals with autism in more corporate workplaces will soon follow.

Representatives of professions who have become partners in the comprehensive assessment and management of Autism Spectrum disorders also witnessed the important advocacy milestone. They were Dr. Alexis Reyes for developmental pediatricians, Prof. Abelardo David for occupational therapists and Mae Sadicon for speech pathologists.

With 70 chapters nationwide, ASP members amassed in record numbers, with the province of Cavite fielding the largest contingent of approximately 1,400 participants. From as far north as the City of San Fernando, Pampanga to the recovering Tacloban City to the southern city of Zamboanga, member participants came in droves. ASP chapters like Cebu, Dumaguete and Davao, whose members were unable to travel to Manila, held local walks in solidarity with the national organization.

But the big story from the Angels Walk came from the people who, by entering the MOA Arena gates, experienced a kaleidoscope of emotions. There were tears flowing all throughout the program (from the prayer to the PWA performances, from the crimson stadium seat to the asphalt pavement around MOA) almost as much as the smiles from parents who warmed up to the upbeat Zumba and from the kids who were excited to experience the MOA Arena for the first time.

Universities, PWD organizations, government agencies as well as therapy centers, SPED schools and PWA families joined the festive stream of people in green as it snaked around the Mall of Asia’s spacious grounds. Store staff walked out of their establishments to wave flaglets, cheer and even embrace participants as they passed. Social media was afire with wonderful photos and words of love and hope.

Isiah Maru Deogracias, a younger sibling to a brother with autism, said it most eloquently. “This event is significant to me. This walk with my special brother, is just a step in the many walks I will have with him in this life. Hand in hand with my brother, the walk will not be weary as we are each other’s angels.” (

If this walk among autism advocates brought about a stronger resolve to be an angel to someone with autism, be it a sibling, professional, student, then this has truly been the most profoundly meaningful walk of all.

This article by Mona Magno-Veluz appeared on 27 January 2014 in the print and on-line versions of Manila Bulletin's "Angels Talk", edited by Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus.


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