Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Stand Up for Down (Syndrome)
About five years old, she has a shy smile on her face. But she cuddles up to me when her mom asks that we both pose for a picture.
She stayed on my lap for a few more minutes until a man, about 35, comes forward and wants his picture taken, too.
Then a cheerful boy, wearing sunglasses like a rock star's, comes to the Big Brother booth and shows me his fake tattoos, all over his face and arms. When he spots the books, he looks over the cover, beams, takes a copy, and walks away. His grandmother runs after him.
These kids (and adults) with Down Syndrome, over 300 of them, are participants in this year’s Happy Walk—a yearly affair of the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines to commemorate the Down Syndrome Consciousness Month.
“Stand up for Down,” is how the event (now on its 7th year) has been dubbed. Activities include a 5-km walk around Megamall which culminates in a program that features a talent show, and a storytelling (by Regs of Alitaptap) of my latest storybook, Big Brother, published by OMF Literature under its Hiyas imprint.
I feel honored to have been invited to meet the participants and sign copies of the book, based on my personal encounter with someone dear to me with Down Syndrome—my cousin Tinoy.
In the book I wrote, “I have always believed that people with Down Syndrome can understand and feel more than we think they can.”
This belief has been reinforced after Happy Walk. People with Down Syndrome have the grace of innocence which we all lose at some point in our lives. They remain children, who—as our Savior said in Matthew 19:14b—“to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."