February, the shortest month of the year, unpacked big events in succession: Valentine’s day; Chinese New Year; International Book Giving Day; and lest we forget . . .
February is National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month in the Philippines.
Many people are aware of Down Syndrome (DS) as a condition that afflicts one in 800 live births in the world. But not many know that children with DS, God's special blessings, possess great potential to live normal lives.
That’s why Republic Act 157 proclaimed February as National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month, under the auspices of the DSAPI:
It is to give Filipino children with DS "a mantle of protection against abuse, violence, and indifference." Like you, me, and every citizen, they deserve dignity and respect.
These were the least we could do for my cousin Tinoy, born with DS.
He could speak only a few words and remained a child, but his parents never looked at him any differently. They were as proud of Tinoy as they were of their other children.
He was not kept at home, hidden from the world. This unconditional treatment rubbed off on everyone who ever met Tinoy—kith and kin alike.
In my visits with Tinoy when he and I were children, I taught him one word, ibon (bird), because he loved watching birds in flight. It took lots more visits and lots more practice before he could say, “uh-i-i-bon.”
What delighted me no end was, every time I’d see him (even a year or two apart), he would come to me and say, “uh-i-i-bon” and point to the sky.
These wonderful grace-encounters with Tinoy inspired the writing of “Big Brother” many years later, even if distance, time, and eventually his early death came between us.
It’s also a plea for those who’d chance upon the book to give kids with DS a chance to live full and decent lives.
I have always believed and felt, deep in my heart, that they could understand and feel more than we think they can—even if they remain as children while we grow up.
(Big Brother is available in all Philippine bookstores. It may also be ordered online through omflit.com)