I attended the media screening of the film Yakap that gives the audience a glimpse of the lives of three special people. They are Evangeline “Gelli” Aventajado, a 4-year-old with Down Syndrome; Aaron Joshua “AJ” De Quiroz, an 8-year-old with epilepsy, Autism, and Global Developmental Delay; and Kevin Avelino, a 45-year-old with Global Developmental Delay. Emotional that I am, I ended up crying despite efforts not to let my tears roll down my cheeks.
And who wouldn’t? I found myself admiring, and empathizing with them and the people around them. Their stories were told without script, and simply from the points of view of their parents. Because everything is natural in the film Yakap, you end up appreciating life and the people in the film.
Everyone adored Gelli with her bubbly personality. I admire how her parents, Michelle and Nino Aventajado were accepting of their little girl’s condition. I am sure there are those who thinks that having a kid with Down Syndrome is a burden and curse. I totally feel them, especially Gelli’s mom, for thinking about her future.
Meanwhile, I was amazed at Kevin, who showed that he can still be a useful member of the community despite having Global Developmental Delay. He is very hardworking and is not afraid to take public transportation in Metro Manila. I also admire that he’s able to take care of adults with special needs.
My heart goes all out for AJ and hopes that more people could help him live more naturally just like Gelli and Kevin. Kudos to his mom who has embraced his son’s condition. It’s also good that she’s exploring available options for Kevin as far as learning is concerned.
It’s good that the film Yakap was made. It’s an eye-opener for everyone and I hope it would help Filipinos embrace differences, even if it goes beyond the normal. I grew up seeing people react differently when seeing people with special needs. Adults should be educated how to properly deal with such differences in a positive and non-degrading manner.
Good thing there’s The Center for Possibilities Foundation (CFP) founded by Dolores Cheng 10 years ago. The organization’s vision and mission revolves around inclusion, having a compassionate society that includes persons with special needs into the mainstream population. Even the way CFP is set up reflects this vision of inclusion. “We come from different backgrounds, different types of families and family lives, it represents how the world is,” Dolores points out.
CFP was created as Dolores came to terms with the condition of her son, Andreas, now 22 years old, diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay when he was 3 years old. “There were no support groups for his particular type of disability, I didn’t know where to go, who to see, where to find what I needed to know. I wanted to understand what it meant to raise a child with special needs. So I thought that maybe if I formed a group of my own, I would be able to ring a call to other people who might be in the same boat and need some help,” Dolores continues.
The CFP board is composed of finance expert Renato Reyes, educators Cynthia and Lito Gonzalez; restaurateurs, car enthusiasts, and civic leaders, Vangie and Dieter Jaehn; mommy blogger Michelle Ressa Aventajado, jeweller Geeta Chulani, producer Yvonne de Paula, co-parent of a special child Totoy Garcia, publisher Maricris Lim Pineda, accomplished netizen Mark Ignacio, and spiritual adviser Fr. Gerard Deveza.
For the past decade, CFP has engaged in teaching skills and promoting inclusion in underserved sectors through support groups, literature, film showing, and orientation. They’ve published books regarding persons with special needs and organized events such as special football tournaments that allow the athletic inclinations of the kids to shine.
The group’s biggest project to date is “Yakap,” produced by Dolores and directed by Danny Añonuevo. “More than a film, we are presenting profiles of true courage. Courage of the children whose disabilities are the only reality they have ever known, and who live their lives the only way they know how, in spite of curious stares, pointing fingers, and hidden smiles. And the courage of parents and family members who may have grown up thinking normal was everything but ended up learning that different can be the new normal”.
Jessie Lasaten composed the music for the film and Issa Gonzalez did the post production color grading. The 54-minute film Yakap is capped off by a music video with lyrics that Dolores wrote with music by Charo Unite. “Yakap” means to embrace. In line with CFP’s vision, we wish for all children with disability to be embraced into the mainstream of our lives and to be treated the way we treat each other — with compassion, respect, dignity and acceptance,” says Dolores.
CFP hopes to bring the film Yakap to different places for screening and generate more awareness for the need to respect the potential and promise of persons with special needs. “We would be very happy to do special screenings. We can visit schools and would be more than willing to tie up with community organizations,” she volunteers.
The group is currently working to build and operate Special Education (SPED) Centers for indigent communities, for children with special needs who are undiagnosed and untreated. They already opened the Sagada SPED Center. Later this year, they expect the Norzagaray, Bulacan SPED Center to start operating. The Tacloban and Sorsogon SPED Centers are scheduled to operate sometime in 2017.
The Centers are brick and mortar structures with tables, surrounded with stimulating materials, equipment, and learning tools that can be used to teach children the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Each SPED Center will be operated by a teacher trained in the SPED division of Reach International School.
“In many parts of the country, especially in remote areas, there is no government center dedicated to the identification, recognition, much less support and treatment for persons with special needs. Many special children are physically mature but have cognitive and behavioral challenges so it is imperative that we create centers of learning that can teach them some skills with which they can live with some form of independence and dignity,” Dolores explains further. Enrolling in the SPED Center is free, helping ease the burden of the cost of taking care of special children from the families. These centers will also include parent support groups.
Special screenings of the film Yakap may be arranged through CFP at centerforpossibilities.asia or call (02) 723-1242 / (0918) 888-1759. “Yakap” is supported by Rustan’s Commercial Corporation, Gruppo Mobili Philippines, Inc., AY Foundation, Inc., Royal Duty Free Subic, Marks & Spencer, Mamou Restaurant, Ralph’s Wines & Spirits, Rustan Marketing Corporation, Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc., Leslie Corporation – Clover Chips, Miladay, Orogem, The Phinma Foundation, Inner Peace Foundation Inc. Manila, Music Master (Music School & Recording Arts), nananadal Public Relations & Events Management, Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, Crossover 105.1 FM, and Retro DCG –FM – 105.9.