Just like the Empire State Building in New York, the CN Tower in Canada, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and even Niagara Falls, the Philippines’ iconic entertainment and sports landmark fondly called the Big Dome has been lit up blue for a good cause.
Last April 3, the Smart Araneta Coliseum’s main gate was lit blue in line with the global campaign to support World Autism Awareness Day (April 2 in the US), declared by the United Nations. With April being the World Autism Awareness Month, the “Big Dome Lights Blue” project supports the global autism community – a symbolic gesture behind a bigger aim to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of people with autism.
“Big Dome Lights Blue” was a joint effort of the Araneta Center, Inc., the Smart Araneta Coliseum, and the J. Amado Araneta Foundation, Inc. (JAAF), in partnership with the Philippine Associate for Citizens with Developmental and Learning Disabilities, Inc. (PACDLD). Prior to the ceremonial lighting of the Big Dome’s main gate, PACDLD held its first-ever Autism Advocate Awards at the Gateway Gallery on the 5th level of Gateway Tower, in recognition of several medical professionals and parents that have made advances and contributions to Autism Awareness and Advocacy in the Philippines.
A short program followed at the gate of the Smart Araneta Coliseum. PACDLD co-founder Ms. Felicite Jean Gonzales said a few words, and introduced special guest Mr. Rizalio Sanchesz, the Chief of Information, Education and Communications Division of the National Council on Disability Affairs, who also delivered a message of gratitude for the “Big Dome Lights Blue” effort.
Before the Big Dome was bathed in blue lights, a handful of children with autism and other learning disabilities, collectively called Kontra Gapi Plus, performed using Filipino ethnic instruments. Trained in art and performance by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the wonderful kids showed the audience that no disabilities could hamper their leading productive and creative lives. Their joyful performance and demeanor onstage proved an inspiration to all.
“We are proud to support this global awareness movement and the advocacy of acceptance of people living with autism,” noted Ms. Diane Romero, the Executive Director of JAAF, in her speech during the event. “Our founder, Don Amado Araneta, has always envisioned the Center to be a place that welcomes all, and our participation here signifies our commitment to his vision. Today, we light up the main entrance of the Big Dome blue to signify our belief that we can be partners to tireless groups like the PACDLD and the Autism Advocate Awardees in the movement towards acceptance, appreciation and protection of children and individuals living with autism and other learning disabilities.”
“Big Dome Lights Blue” is just one of the CSR activities of the Araneta Group in support of autism awareness. Future plans include activities in partnership with groups like PACDLD in disseminating information on autism, holding art and crafts workshops for kids with autism, and training frontliners in recognizing and giving proper response to people with autism.
The 1st AUTISM ADVOCATE AWARDS, April 3, 2017
PACDLD gives recognition to several medical professionals and parents that have made advances and contributions to Autism Awareness and Advocacy in the Philippines. In the Professional Category, awardees included Dr. Cornelio Banaag Sr., MD, known as the country’s “Father of Child Psychology”; Dr. Lourdes Carandang, PhD, one of the country’s foremost clinical psychologists; and Dr. Mutya San Agustin, MD, the founding president of the Philippine Ambulatory Pediatric Association; among others. In the Parents Category, among the recipients were Leticia Buhay, founder of the Maria Lena Buhay Memorial Foundation; and the late Benjamin De Ocampo, who spearheaded the Special Olympics for children with autism and other disabilities that began in 1984.