IN TARLAC, the spotlight is on the special people who are now staging a unique art exhibit in time for the celebration of Persons and Children with Special Needs Autism Consciousness Week that is ongoing at the Museo ng Tarlac until Friday.
These special artists come from Anao town’s AMOR (Accelerating Minors’ Opportunity for Recovery) Village, a place conceptualized to be a center for Tarlac’s street children when it was built in 2008.
The exhibit, which features creations from indigenous materials, is a joint effort of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Tarlac provincial government.
Although the DSWD and the provincial government fund and maintain the village, donations to augment the supplies of the children as well as sponsorship of activities for their rehabilitation are badly needed.
Aside from street children, Amor Village has wards who are in the autism spectrum, blind, have cerebral palsy, multiple disabilities, seizure disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Children in conflict with the law as well as those abused in their homes are also accommodated at Amor Village on a case-to-case basis.
The village, in a sprawling 8,000-square meter compound, was one of the major projects of then-Tarlac First
District Rep. Monica Louise Prieto-Teodoro.
It was inaugurated on December 9, 2008.
It houses dormitories for children (around 105 as of today), both boys and girls, with a separate building for its playroom, special education classroom, library and psychology and therapy room.
Amor Village was initially intended to serve Tarlac street children alone but is now a national center for children and adults, too.
Some are even expected to spend the rest of their lives there.
And Amor Village has made palpable changes in the lives of its special residents.
There is Joshua who loves music. He sings while washing the dishes to the delight of his playmates and guardians. As part of his daily routine of proper hygiene and developing socialization skills, he is eager to show his musical talent whenever there is a chance.
Totoy, on the other hand, has a passion for the arts that found expression during a pilot-testing that showcased his artworks. He is also very sociable and carries out his tasks, happily inter-acting with those around him.
Then there is Rubel who likes to fix his bed upon waking up. He alone attends to his personal hygiene. He is very independent and moves around the village on his own. Rubel is blind.
Joshua, Totoy and Rubel go about their daily routine earnestly. Mess with them and there will be chaos, literally.
But Melba Vinluan, center head, said this is a thing of the past.
Amor Village management is closely coordinating with psychologists for child assessments and training.
“We don’t have to guard them all the time anymore as they have been familiarized with their routines and responsibilities,” Vinluan said.
“The beginning is usually crucial and hard. But after giving them enough time to become themselves and let them know they are loved and taken care of, they will be as kind as any ordinary person,” she added.
A municipality of distinctions
With Amor Village and the ylang-ylang industry, this 5th class 2,387-hectare municipality (the smallest in Tarlac province) now holds two national distinctions.
Mayor Betty Lacbayan told The Manila Times that her administration is supportive of Amor Village and its activities, especially those that bring pride to the town like the exhibit.