For the second year in a row, the iconic Smart Araneta Coliseum –known as the Philippine mecca of sports, entertainment and beauty pageantry – joined the international community in observing World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.
Also known as the Big Dome, its green gate was illuminated with blue lights just like other landmarks around the world including the Empire State Building in New York, the Niagara Falls in Canada, the Suez Canal in Egypt, the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, the Sagrada Familia in Spain and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The Light It Up Blue event, a worldwide initiative that coincides with the UN-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day, is a symbolic way of standing up with and understanding people living with autism.
No less than the newly crowned queens – proclaimed from among 40 official candidates on March 18 – graced the event as they aim to use their platform as titleholders to raise awareness on worthy causes like this.
“It’s a very enlightening experience. Thanks to the Araneta Group, we are able to participate in events such as this that not only educate us, but also allow us to give insight and awareness to those that we influence,” Miss Universe Philippine 2018 Catriona Gray said.
“Moving forward, we hope to continue to work not just with groups that champion autism awareness, but also other groups that focus on other PWD concerns,” she added.
“This is our first event as Binibini queens, and I am grateful because events like this allow us to lend our voices to our advocacies,” said Binibining Pilipinas Globe 2018 Michele Gumabao.
Gray, Gumabao and Binibining Pilipinas International Ma. Ahtisa Manalo, Binibining Pilipinas Supranational Jehza Huelar, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International Eva Patalinjug, Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental Karen Gallman and Binibining Pilipinas second runner-up Samantha Bernardo has been busy making media rounds after their coronation.
Also present during the event was Philippine Information Agency (PIA) director general Harold Clavite who stressed the importance of early detection of autism so people living with this condition will be given the proper treatment. He also vowed to use the agency to empower women and girls living with autism, the theme echoed in this year’s celebration as well.
Teachers Ma. Carmencita Guanzon-Borbon, Pilar Relovo Habito, Josephine Villareal Nepomuceno and Fredeswina Tantengco-Javier; Special Olympics Philippines executive Ma. Cristina Zafra Canizares; developmental pediatricians Dr. Joel Lazaro and Dr. Alexis Socorro de Leon Reyes; social workers Angela Marina Luna Pangan and Ederlinda Lumaad Salud; and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia were recognized for their efforts to raise autism awareness and help people with autism.
Philippine Association for Citizens with Developmental and Learning Disabilities (PACDLD) founder Octavio “Ogie” SA Gonzales was also given a posthumous tribute for his contributions to the cause.