I had my blue shirt on yesterday at the SM Mall of Asia to support the celebration of the 8th World Autism Awareness Day here in the Philippines. Also, so I can be one with the SM MOA Iconic Globe as it turned blue at the stroke of 7 in the evening of April 6, Monday.
The World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated worldwide every year on April 2nd. This year’s global campaign carries the central slogan “Light It Up Blue” as a unique initiative where iconic landmarks, hotels, museums, schools, retail stores, homes and individuals are encouraged to wear blue, switch to blue lights or hold ceremonial blue lighting events in honor of people with autism.
Here in the country, SM Cares Program on Disability Affairs together with Autism Hearts Foundation spearheads the celebration of World Autism Awareness Day with a grand program at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall showcasing the artistic talents of a couple of young adults with autism.
Hosted by news anchor TJ Manotoc, the program focused on the advantages of hiring young people with autism. With their heightened abilities in pattern recognition, great attention to detail and logical reasoning, people on the autism spectrum are often more effective workers in some fields than those who are not.
This is probably the reason why two of the country’s most notable designers, Anna India Legaspi and Anthony Cruz Legarda took time to teach a select number of young people with autism to paint on piña cloth. Their finish products will then be exhibited via the Filipino Fashion Arts Autism Benefit Project for the whole world to see. A project made possible through the Autism Hearts Foundation in cooperation with the Unilab Foundation.
Present during the event were four of the five individuals selected to perform the task led by Best Buddies ambassador and Unilab Employee Vico Cham. The others that were mentioned were Nick Huang, Ralph Sy and Nina Bantoto (she was not able to attend the program).
The sad news is, according to UN reports, more than 80% of adults with autism remain unemployed despite their potential. And this is the biggest challenge that the Autism Society Philippines and its stakeholders and supporters are now facing.
SM Cares Vice President Mr. Bien Mateo, Autism Hearts Foundation Director Ms. Solinda Bautista and National Council on Disability Affairs Executive Director Ms. Carmen Zubiaga, expresses hope and optimism that with continued work on informing the public about autism and the potentials of people with autism – more opportunities would open up for them, specially for employment.
After the program at the SM MOA Music Hall, the group paraded inside the Mall of Asia complex before going to the SM MOA Iconic Globe in front of the mall for the ‘Light It Up Blue’ lighting ceremony. Turning the globe that once proudly bore the name of one of the biggest mall in Asia into a blue beacon of hope for all people with autism.