MANILA, Philippines — The newly crowned winners of this year’s Binibining Pilipinas joined forces on April 2 to observe World Autism Awareness Day at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Miss Universe Philippines Catriona Gray, Binibining Pilipinas International Ma. Ahtisa Manalo, Binibining Pilipinas Supranational Jehza Huelar, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International Eva Patalinjug, Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental Karen Gallman, Binibining Pilipinas Globe Michele Gumabao and Binibining Pilipinas second runner-up Samantha Bernardo graced the event as they aim to use their platform as beauty queens 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 will not only educate us, but also allow us to give insight and awareness to those that we influence,” 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.”
“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 Gumabao, who, along with the other Binibini winners, has been busy making media rounds after their coronation.
This was the second year in a row that the Big Dome’s green gate was illuminated with blue lights as it joined the international community in observing World Autism Awareness Day. Other landmarks around the world like 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 also participated in the cause.
People living with autism, their families, local government units and non-government organizations witnessed the event.
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. Last year, the Araneta Center showed its support with the “Big Dome Lights Blue” event, hosting performances by kids living with disabilities; a short talk by PACDLD (Philippine Association for Citizens with Developmental and Learning Disabilities Inc.) PACDLD founder Felicite Jean Gonzales, and the lighting of the Coliseum façade blue.
Director-General of the Philippine Information Agency Harold Clavite, who was present at the event, 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.
The Araneta Center, the J. Amado Araneta Foundation, and the Gateway Gallery also teamed up with PACDLD in feting autism advocates.
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. PACDLD founder Octavio “Ogie” SA Gonzales was also given a posthumous tribute for his contributions to the cause.