At age 4, my first-born Ruben Guinolbay II (RG) was very hyperactive and exceptionally articulate. His preschool teachers suggested that I consult a developmental pediatrician to find out if he has a medical condition. Heeding the advice of the teachers, I decided to consult a devped who informed me that there was nothing wrong with RG. However, the doctor noticed that RG, like me, was hyperactive. The doctor claimed that considering RG’s age, he might eventually outgrow his hyperactivity. In February 2011, my younger son, Mariano Miguel Guinolbay (MM) was rushed to the hospital for a surprisingly high blood pressure of 160/100. He was very overweight and half of his face appeared disfigured. Upon the suggestion of the pediatrician who noticed MM’s irregular behavioral patterns, I visited Dr. Agnes Falcotelo who diagnosed MM and RG with autism. I was devastated. I could only say that my world seemed bleak and hopeless at that time.
As commonly experienced by mothers with young and rowdy children like mine, yayas come and go. The yayas simply cannot stand the hyperactivity and violent tendencies of my boys. Instead of expressing their emotions with words, RG and MM would simply tug at the maids’ arms or bite them. This is in addition to the behavioral problems they exhibit in school. I was often summoned to the Principal’s office because the boys were either bullied or did the bullying themselves. It bears stressing that one of the prominent traits of children with autism is the inability to socialize and lack of seeking to share enjoyment, interests and activities with other people.
On 01 April 2014, I decided to drop by the Taekwondo Central Gym to reminisce my Taekwondo days when life was a lot happier, simpler and without autism issues to deal with. I brought RG and MM to see if they would like to try the martial art. Having been diagnosed as hyperactive myself in 1980s, it did not come as a surprise that my boys will eventually inherit my personality traits including my love for Taekwondo.
It turns out that my children instantly loved Taekwondo and surprisingly excelled in it. Missing the sport, I decided to enroll too. The environment in Central Gym is very relaxing and conducive to friendships destined to last a lifetime. Our beloved coach, Ric Canlas is not only committed to developing young and talented athletes, he is very good also in motivating his students including children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism. I would say that Coach Ric is exceptional in instilling the basic Taekwondo tenets particularly Self-Confidence, Perseverance and Indomitable Spirit in my children. Immediately two months after RG and MM enrolled in Taekwondo, the summons from the Principal’s Office disappeared and both boys became more sociable and more confident in dealing with people. I noticed too that my children became happier and less violent. The grades improved and became more stable. Because excessive energy are spent every practice, RG and MM are able to sit down and focus more on their academic lessons. Their weight likewise became ideal and more stable. MM’s blood pressure does not shoot up anymore. He dropped several pounds. Further, I am happy to say that returning to my old passion changed my outlook in life. I became healthier and more positive in my work. Each Taekwondo session is an instant family bonding opportunity for the three of us. My sons not only gained their self-confidence, they gained a lot of friends and happy memories at the Taekwondo Central Gym as well.
In closing, I highly recommend Taekwondo not only to families with children medically diagnosed with autism and/or ADHD or to families who just want to have a nice family bonding time. To quote the words of Chungwon Choue, President of the World Taekwondo Federation during the Opening Ceremony of the third World Para-Taekwondo Championships. "The hope that Taekwondo brings is limitless. It knows no boundaries and is hampered by no disability.”
About the contributor: Atty. Marianne Aniñgat-Guinolbay. The writer is a 2nd Dan Black Belter. She works as an Attorney V at the GSIS Main Office. She used to be a member of the De La Salle University Taekwondo team for the period 1990-1993. She is currently an active member of the ASP Marikina Valley Chapter.