Nine individuals in the autism spectrum who are beneficiaries of the Fashion Arts Autism Benefit (FAAB) project of the Autism Hearts Foundation painstakingly worked hard to present an eight feet by eight feet painting in canvas, a diptych titled ‘Elkat: An Enchanted forest’ which is now in display at the Camp John Hay (CJH) Manor.
This mural is part of the CJH Manor’s Enchanted Holidays presentation to the public launched late November 12, 2022.
The artists lovingly worked for 6 weekends to complete their masterpiece which is also their first major collaboration under the guidance of Special Education (SPED) teacher and artist-mentor Yvonne Almazan-Malaga.
The 9 artists are proud products of art therapy sessions that begun in 2018 in what used to be the Lone Star Steakhouse inside Camp John Hay, with the help of volunteer artists including Robert Joaquin, Gladys Ann Labsan and Ged Alangui, among others, with the sustained support of Lissa Sobrepena, the chairperson of the FAAB project and a most valued heart of the Autism Hearts Foundation Board of Directors.
The 2-year art therapy program for FAAB Baguio beneficiaries should have culminated with the observance of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York in 2020 via an event that was supposed to showcase the artists outputs from the arts sessions, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the said limitation, the artists continued to hone their skills with the encouragement of their parents and the help of Alangui and Almazan-Malaga.
In April 2022, 2 of the Baguio FAAB artists, Justin Zambrano and Emarnel Pasana, along with their parents and counterparts from FAAB Kalibo represented their peers to the World Autism Awareness celebration in New York City’s Guggenheim Museum in the Philippines consulate office with a fashion show and art exhibit premiere of FAAB Philippines’ works of art.
Dr. Erlinda Borromeo, AHF founder and chairperson of the AHF Board of Directors, said that the partnership with the Sobrepena family dates back as early as 2016 when they first established the FAAB project in Manila, then later on in Kalibo, Aklan and then in Baguio in 2018.
At the height of the pandemic, AHF added FAAB Quezon City for their list of valued beneficiaries.
AHF’s founder is a Filipina grandmother of a child living with autism based in the United States. Since her grandson’s diagnosis, it has been her mission to spread awareness on autism and help others living in the spectrum to be able to foster a more inclusive community, especially in the Philippines.
CJH Manor general manager Ramon Cabrera expressed his gratitude to those who patronized the November 12, 2022 benefit dinner as the hotel has already become the country’s beacon of world-class service and fine guest experiences.
Not only to broaden awareness on autism, but the project aims to more importantly provide sustainability to help more individuals in the autism spectrum become productive citizens.