Archive for the ‘Notes’ Category


Autism in Media

October 11, 2013

ASP Flicker Photos

[Reposted from an article published by Dang Koe in Manila Bulletin last October 7  - Autism in Media]

A quick search of #autistic on Facebook or Twitter will show you a long list of updates which use the word as an insult or joke.

Mag Cruz Hatol, secretary general of Anak TV — an organization that is at the forefront of media education efforts and campaign to promote responsible and child-sensitive television — opined on what this phenomenon means for Filipinos as a society.

“Philippine media is replete with stereotyping for as long as we can remember. Actors and directors milked laughter from audiences through comic and oftentimes insulting performances that were shamelessly prejudiced against physical deformities and mental deficiencies. In fact, local media perpetuated the idea that if people who were physically or mentally challenged were not to be pitied, they were to be made objects of laughter,” said Hatol.

Furthermore, he said that it was media, more than anything else, which swayed the Filipino mind into thinking and accepting what was portrayed for them as “the normal.”

“It does not surprise therefore, that in small villages, one gets known by little monikers that point to peculiar traits of his physique. Consequently, the disabled either became the brunt of painful jokes (painful on the part of the subject), source of cheap entertainment (again at the expense and embarrassment of the subject) or because they were considered “punishment” for their parents’ former sins, were shackled or kept away from public view. Keeping them indoors meant avoiding the snickers of the community and lessening the chatter of neighbors who always conjectured that having bred children who bore some form of disability was nature’s way of exacting vengeance on the family for its infractions,” he added.

Angels Talk asked members of Autism Society Philippines what media professionals can do to build an honest and compassionate public perception of autism.

Len Macasaquit, mother of a 10-year old girl with autism, believes that “truthful, honest and more complete depiction of what people with autism go through should be pursued. Enough with physical manifestations as focus but instead explore what goes on in an autistic mind.” The HBO film “Temple Grandin” is a good example of what goes on in an autistic mind.

Raissa Marian Cruz suggested “more documentaries and interviews of families of persons with autism (PWA), instead of the usual portrayals in mainstream movies and TV series.”

Independent director, writer and researcher Mirana Medina describes her documentary “ALYANA” as a “concrete example of a film on autism that fully recognizes the PWA’s being; it tells the audience who they really are through testimonies of their primary caregivers, as well as through information coming from people directly handling them or working for their welfare. The shared experiences evoke empathy that leads to a better understanding of the PWA’s condition, and greater appreciation of their presence in society.”

Medina focuses her work on special children and persons with disability.

“It is my advocacy as part of a personal journey to make educational and informative films about them with the major aim of breaking attitudinal barriers. With that in my heart, any film form that I’ll shape up I know will, in turn, help shape the public perception of my subject. That way, I have the heavier role of making the society understand their condition, recognize their BEING and their potentials, NOT to pity but welcome them instead to the fold.”

She also agrees with another autism advocate, JC John Sese Cuneta, that “media professionals should first do proper and extensive research about autism spectrum before writing their reports or a new film/TV series.” This brings to mind a lot of pseudo-autistic TV/film characters that can mislead people about understanding autism.

Wikipedia reports that “television programs featuring characters with autism or characteristics stereotypical of autism spectrum disorders have become commonplace, most notably in sitcoms. Series such as “The Big Bang Theory” have been criticized for their depictions of characters with ASD traits as whimsically detached, one-dimensional characters.” On the other hand, recent TV-series characters with autism were given super powers! Jake of “Touch” who never says a word but can predict future events, and Gary Bell of “Alphas” who processes information as fast as any computer.

But even with well-researched TV shows/movies, autism cannot be pinned down by just one well-portrayed autistic character. People have to also understand that while we have a near-genius “Temple Grandin,” a Raymond Babbitt (from the famous movie “Rain Man”) with savant abilities in Math and memory, we also have Dafu from “Ocean Heaven” who struggles to learn basic tasks, and the non-verbal Charlie from “Black Balloon” who strips half-naked while running in the neighborhood.

As another ASP member Chel Gan wrote, “PWAs can be as varied as any group of people, which is exactly what media needs to show.”

Finally, advocate mom Aileen Ni pleads for her 20-year old son: “Media, including social media, must help in promoting public awareness about autism. Netizens should be sensitive not to use words like “abnoy, autistic” to associate with corrupt and evil public servants. Every medium must be used not to malign but to advocate for them.” And this is exactly what ASP’s online campaign “1Pangako” calls for. (http//


“Kids Three 21″

August 29, 2013

Now, it’s “KIDS THREE 21″! It’s my latest title for the Down Syndrome film that I am currently doing. The title keeps on changing. Not until the film is finished, expect changes.


“C21 KIDS”

August 26, 2013

From “Trisomy 21″ to “C21 Kids,” that’s how I am titling my film now. This refers to Chromosome 21 that causes Down Syndrome. We got over with the shooting of interviews of DSAPI officers last Saturday and their activity held yesterday in Subic, Olongapo in Zambales. The Down Syndrome Association is the only active organization working for the welfare of Children with DS. I met its founding member, Tony Pasia, current DSAPI President Elmer Lapena, Mr. Luis Harder, DSAPI member from Olongapo Ms. Cristy, Atty. Santos who also have a child with autism, and many other parents of children with DS in Castillejos and Olongapo.



August 22, 2013

I am changing my working title to “TRISOMY 21,” our docu on Down Syndrome, currently in the making.  Just finished my 3rd script draft this morning… Day 04 has been moved to Saturday instead of tomorrow. The shoot got cancelled because of the suspension of classes in the school where the shooting is suppose to be held.


“Happy People”_ Day 03

August 17, 2013

It’s Day 03 of the shoot for the docu on Down Syndrome that we started shooting last Thursday with interviews of nearly 10 Moms including a Lola of Children with Down Syndome. We reached Subic rather late in the afternoon on our first day last Thursday, while last night’s shooting ended at nearly 9 pm. Anyhow, questions for interviewees next week — to a geneticist and Down Syndrome President– poured out from my head the other night. A sped teacher from the public school where we held the interview yesterday morning was also held. It wasn’t originally intended to but since we are in a sped setup I took the opportunity to interview the teacher at Kalalaki School in Zambales.

Our working title is “Happy People,” Children with Down Syndrome being lovable and seemingly a happy lot. Well, that I personally experienced and remember when I was doing Alyana, my first film on sped children, when so suddenly from nowhere, while awaiting for Ms. Therese Macapagal in Cupertino to ask for permission to shoot there, a child with Down Syndrome approached me and stroked my hair as if she knew me from long time back. It happened to be my first time to set foot there. That was in 2006.


Shooting on DS Tuloy!!!

August 14, 2013

Tomorrow, we are going to start the making of the docu on Down Syndrome entitled HAPPY PEOPLE. This will supplement with the masteral thesis of my grandniece Eleonor Dominguez, a UP Sped student. I hope to meet the President of the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Mr. Elmer Lapena next week. He is one of my interviewees for the film. Our location tomorrow: Castillejos, Zambales.


Down Syndrome Film

August 14, 2013

Currently preparing for the Down Syndrome film project…hope it goes all the way to the finish line!

Can’t post my travelogue photos in the U.S. Just returned home from a 21-day visit there. Went to Wyoming and Dover in Delaware primarily to attend my grandniece’s wedding through the effort of a niece residing there. Afterwards visited Fort McHenry, Federal Court and Johns Hopkins Hospital [where my nephew Ronnie, his wife and son work] in Maryland, Washington D.C., [met librarian Diana Moore of Gallaudet University, saw the White House from afar; Washington Monument being renovated or something and the Lincoln Memorial, dropped by Smithsonian], Historical places in Philadelphia; Rats Restaurant and Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey; Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Malachy’s Church in New York, and finally took a 17-hour train ride from Wilmington, Delaware all the way to Chicago via Washington, etc on amtrak!!! Returned back to Delaware after 3 days via Frontier Airlines. However, the trip to and from home were via Delta Airlines. It’s good to be in the SKY zone!


A Mi Patria Joins Silent O and Ultimo Adios in Gallaudet University Archives

August 3, 2013

Last July 29, my family and I went to Gallaudet University located in Florida Avenue, Washington, D. C. to meet Ms. Diana Moore, the university Deaf Librarian Collections and Archives Head to donate a copy of “A mi Patria — 5 Selected Poems of Jose Rizal in Filipino Sign Language.” I also gave a copy of “Collection Building: Filipininana,” a compilation of my brother’s writings on Filipiniana. Ms. Moore toured us around the library and showed the exhibit on Peace Corps featuring the works of Deaf volunteers.

Edward Miner Gallaudet

Founder of Gallaudet University Edward Miner Gallaudet


With A mi Patria, I also gave Gallaudet’s Library a copy of “Collection Building: Filipiniana,” the last book I published on my brother’s compilation of writings on Filipiniana.


[L to R]: Tessie Juan, Even Dominguez, Diana Moore, MM; Behind are Angel Villafuerte, my niece Oying Villafuerte and nephew, Ronnie Medina

Gallaudet Souvenir

Souvenir from Gallaudet University Library and Archives

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Extraordinary / Hindu Wedding in America

July 29, 2013

I lived in Pune, India for three-in-a-half years but it was only last July 27 [US time] that I have actually attended an Indian wedding. The  irony was the fact that I witnessed the wedding in the U.S.A. Held at Dover Downs Hotel in Delaware, the wedding was between my grandniece, a Filipino-American, and an Indian descent-American. Both were born in America. As it was held in a hotel, the place was set up and designed to have a raised platform where the  bride and groom, their parents and the pandit could sit as the Hindu rites was celebrated. It was thus like watching a play. The music and prayers of the Indian priest made me nostalgic of India… Familiar with Catholic rites, watching the Hindu rites was an experience.

Liz-Nihar wedding2 Liz-Nihar wedding A Catholic wedding in the morning was first held in the church, followed by the Hindu wedding in the afternoon in a ballroom function hall. The grand reception was held at night. It was a BIG event for both sides. Touching and emotional “speeches” were delivered by each of the bride and groom’s fathers and a brother of the groom. Unfortunately, my camera battery ran out of power… [Note: I borrowed the photos and used here until I find my camera. Photos above by Angel Villafuerte; below is from the collection of the bride's sister]


Simple yet beautiful the bride was, hours before the actual Catholic wedding


Peaceful Delaware

July 26, 2013
MM_Pheasant Lane Delaware

In front of the house where I am now staying a couple of days after I arrived in Delaware last July 22.

“…Peace and Quiet and Open Air…” as the song goes… With few souls around it, I love the contrast from Manila metropolis where you’d see only crowd… teeming people, yes! and noise!! A cool change seeing lots of greeneries, Amish community and just pure landscapes!

Quail Run_Angel

My grandniece Angel. Kodakan kami


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