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January 27, 2015

Angels Walk For Autism aim high, fly high! The world’s biggest gathering of winged angels!

THE Autism Society of the Philippines made its attempt to be recognized as the world’s biggest gathering of winged individuals with its “Angels Walk for Autism 2015” held at the SM  Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Sunday, January 25.

“We are vying for the most number of people with wings which stands at only 1,200,” President of the Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP) Malou Magno Veluz said. 

The Angels' Walk for Autism 2015 successfully gathered its participants who literally wore "angels wings".An estimate of over 12,000 people wearing a pair of wings on their backs gathered at the SM MOA Arena for the Angels Walk For Autism 2015.

This community is also to set a Guinness Book of World Record on the largest crowd wearing wings on this occasion.

The current world record holder for the ‘largest crowd wearing wings’ is Germany with a total of 1,200 people. Mona Magno-Veluz, said that the number is already covered by ASP’s contingent from the province of Cavite and they have a total of 25 chapters that participated in the event.

Sunday’s event kicked off the National  Autism Consciousness Week, which has various activities for the entire week.

Donning an angel’s wings, SM Prime Holdings Inc. President Hans Sy led an estimated 12,000 participants, including people with autism and their families in marching around the MOA complex.

Carmel Almendrala, a member of the ASP’s board of trustees, said the annual gathering intended to raise consciousness on the autism disability as global statistics had projected one million autism cases in the Philippines.

“Autism Inclusive Philippines: Aim High! Fly High!” is the theme of the 2015 Philippine National Autism Consciousness Week. The Autism Society Philippines continues to inspire awareness, acceptance and inclusion of persons with autism (PWAs) in society and to promote action by the public and private sectors towards enabling PWAs to live with dignity, enjoy equal rights and access, function independently and contribute productively.

Sunday’s event kicked off the National  Autism Consciousness Week, which has various activities for the entire week.


The program last Sunday, started with the induction of officers of the stakeholder organizations - Autism Society Philippines (ASP), Philippine Association for Speech Pathologists (PASP) and the Occupational Therapists Association of the Philippines (OTAP).

This was followed by a special Autism-Inclusive dance presentation from The Heart At Play Foundation performers, the CUBS, DTOUR and the KIDZ LIGHTNING CREW.



Certified Zumba and Piloxing Trainer Donna Lim, ASP Chair Emeritus Dang Koe, SM Program on Disability Affairs Head Bien Mateo together with the executives of SM Cares led the crowd of thousands inside the Arena to an Auti-Zumba dance exercise.

Autism-Inclusive Dance Presentation with The Heart At Play Foundation

video

National anthem with children and adults with Autism

Opening remarks by ASP Chair Emeritus Ms. Dang Koe, and ASP National President Ms. Mona Magno-Veluz

Engr. Bien C. Magno, SM Program on Disability Affairs


Also present during the event were SM Prime Holdings President Hans T. Sy, ASP Immediate Past President Ms. Jan Pena, Diwa Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos Jr., National Council on Disability Affairs Director Carmen Zubiaga, Governor Paul Daza and wife Gigi.


SM President Hans T. Sy with the people from SM Cares

ASP Immediate Past President Ms. Jan Pena for the invocation


SM Program on Disability Affairs Head Bien Mateo for the Opening Remarks


Special message from Diwa Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar


Special Message from Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos Jr.

After the walk, more than half of the participants were  treated to a show featuring children with autism.

But beyond the Angels Walk for Autism’s attempt for a world record title is an underlying message of hope for an ‘Autism OK’ Philippines.

It is estimated that 1% of the world’s population has autism, that translates to around 1 million Filipinos but sadly, only 10% of people with autism are diagnosed properly and only around 5% receiving appropriate intervention. The over-all challenge being faced by people with autism are and have always been – acceptance and inclusion.

The Angels Walk has been conducted in partnership with SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Supermalls, since 2009.

The largest gathering ever recorded in support for the National Autism Consciousness Week that began in January 1996. The first-ever Angels Walk For Autism event was held in Roxas Boulevard in 2007 with less than a thousand participants.

What is Autism?

Autism is a sensory processing disorder. It affects how a person perceives what he sees, hears, touches, tastes, smells and therefore how hereacts to what he perceives. It is an organic disorder of the neural development because it affects the brain, an abnormal brain development from early infancy. It is a PHYSIOLOGICAL, not a PSYCHOLOGICAL condition.

The cause of Autism is still unknown, but scientific research sugest it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Autism is also a lifelong disability, no cure but it can be managed. Many individuals with autism have actually lived rich and fulfilled lives.

Repetitively stacking or lining up objects is a behavior sometimes associated with individuals with autism.

As autism is a spectrum disorder, skills and capabilities vary among individuals who are affected by this condition. With early intervention, passion and dedication, many have achieved success, while continuously managing challenges brought by their autism.

Filipino artists like Gabby Atienza, Lance ‘Tikoy’ Basilio, Tomas Perez Diaz, JA Tan, and Tumtum Mendoza, and from other countries, like Dan Akroyd (Canadian comedian, singer, actor from films like Ghostbusters and Satuday Night live); Daryl Hannah (American actress in Splash).

ASP President Mona Magno-Veluz and ASP Chair Dang Koe

“For the welfare of a maturing population of Filipinos with on the spectrum, care fro persons with autism must transition from the confines of the home and school to universities, businesses and workplaces. We hope to inspire awareness, acceptance, accommodation and appreciation of autism in all sectors of Philippine society.” said Mona Magno-Veluz, President of Autism Society of the Philippines

Veluz presented during the opening program ASP’s policy agenda which talks about basic principles of equality. Goals that ASP hope leaders in government and the private sector can consider seriously: 

A Law on Mandatory Developmental Assessment, institutionalized alongside newborn screening procedures.

Inclusive Education, most especially in the public education sector.

Public servants with special skills like occupational, speech and behavioral modification therapists and transition specialists (for public schools) and developmental specialists (for public hospitals).

Community Based Rehabilitation and Autism-Friendly Spaces.
Comprehensive Sensitivity Training for schools and workplaces.

Livelihood Opportunities

Creative reforms to help families to fund interventions for family members with autism like PhilHealth-supported therapy and 100% tax-deductibility of intervention expenses. 

After the program, the angels led by ASP Chair Dang Koe and SM President Hans Sy marched and paraded the grounds of SM Mall of Asia.

“Autism Inclusive Philippines: Aim High! Fly High!” is the theme of the 2015 Philippine National Autism Consciousness Week.

The Autism Society Philippines continues to inspire awareness, acceptance and inclusion of persons with autism (PWAs) in society and to promote action by the public and private sectors towards enabling PWAs to live with dignity, enjoy equal rights and access, function independently and contribute productively.

In a symbolic gesture of solidarity and hope, participants of the Angels Walk for Autism -- which kicks off the NACW commemoration -- are encouraged to wear angel wings. Our community will attempt to set the world record for the largest crowd wearing angels wings. The largest registered contingent wearing angel wings will win P25,000!

Aside from the Mall of Asia activity, similar gathering were held at Baluyan Towers in Tacloban and over at SM City Cebu.

Walk for autism. Autistic people with angels’ wings parade at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday to celebrate “Angels Walk for Autism 2015.” - Photos HERE.

Asp chairwoman emeritus Dang Koe said they were extremely thankful to SM for accommodating their cause.

“We cannot thank SM and SM Cares enough because through the years, they have never gotten tired  of being our partners,” Koe said. She said SM and its many malls and stores had become the most autism-friendly establishment. “We can say that SM is the most autism friendly center in all of the Philippines,” Koe said.

Bien Mateo, SM’s vice president for operations and head of the SM Disability Program, said SM shared the same advocacy with ASP.

It was an incredible sight! Kids and adults with autism with their families and friends, all wearing wings and even halos, marching together as one.

The Angels Walk For Autism was organized by the Autism Society of the Philippines and SM Cares.

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.

Photos HERE.

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