Tabula Rasa (a short story)

We were acquaintances long before we were friends.
You disappeared; I clung too much. Then I disappeared; you loathed. You said too little; I said too much. You dreamt; I gave up. You chose, I wept for you; I chose, you hugged me. You brood; I complained. I loved; you hated.
I apologized; you apologized. Neither of us completely forgave.
Time passes.
Tabula Rasa.
We’re even.
I say something funny, you laugh; you say something interesting, I nod. I touch your elbow; you touch my arm. An old inside joke; a mutual interest. A passing look; an awkward smile. I say “well,”; you say “goodbye”
We were friends long before we were acquaintances.

I rarely do posts on feelings anymore, seeing as I feel too much and it just makes things really messy. But I got a quick outburst and this came up. Art. I consider it art, because it’s an expression of passion and emotion. And I think it’s a beautiful story, even if I do say so myself. The love and loss of friendship is always a complicated, tragic but beautiful story, summed up in the first and last sentences. What’s in between though, is the beautiful art behind it.

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Autism: Above and Beyond

When you meet one person with special needs, you’ve just met one. There are a lot of different others. -Gerard Joseph Atienza, Autism Self-Advocate

Today, I had the honor of meeting a passionate self-advocate of autism, a teacher, and a blogger, the “autistic big bro” himself, sir Gerard. He spoke for my former organization, the Ateneo Special Education Society, and afterwards I got to sit with him and talk. I’ve been following his blog for a while now, and I have to say, I’m a fan. He’s really quite inspiring. 20130715-002854.jpg

I became an even bigger fan when I got to talk to him. The quote above is just one of the beautiful things that he said in his speech. Our talk after his speech had a more personal vibe, and it was amazing how easy it was to talk to him, considering I don’t do well with talking to strangers, let alone people I idolize. He told me a lot of stuff about himself, and I felt that I could do the same, so I told him about my plans for studying Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy as a masters degree. He gave me some advice about it, told me that a background on special education would be helpful, seeing as it goes hand-in-hand with intervention anyway.

I had a similar conversation just this week with a neuropsychologist. She told me that maybe I should get a stronger foundation first on something more general, because ABA is a specialized field already. Long story short, I didn’t really take her advice. But now, to hear a similar suggestion from a person with autism AND a SpEd teacher himself, I am definitely reconsidering.

I’ve only met a couple of autism self-advocates in my twenty-one short years, but they have never ceased to amaze and inspire me. Sure, the neuropsychologist I talked to was very nice and had a lot of credentials, but there’s one thing she didn’t give off that the self-advocates did: passion. I’m not talking about the dramatic story-telling tear-jerking kind of passion, but simply the easy conversation wherein you can feel that, “this is something worth listening to.” I’ve had the same experience with a father of a person with autism, who was the first one to inspire me to pursue this career. He was simply talking about his son, and just quickly mentioned the need for more therapists in the Philippines, and he got me.

Autism advocates are amazing that way. They inspire without even trying. I asked sir Gerard what steps a self-advocate can take to show people that persons with autism are different, not less. He said, “well, this; by simply being me.” I don’t think I’ll ever get to cover how inspiring they are by writing about it. I’ve had a year-long thesis about that and it didn’t turn out so inspiring. I guess you just have to hear from them yourself, to get the feeling. This much I can say though, considering what they’ve been through as persons with autism, it would take a lot of strength, courage, and faith to keep fighting their fight. It’s not easy, but they do it, and they don’t just survive it, they shine in it, going beyond expectations and showing “ability over disability”; showing that they’re as human as you, me, and everyone else, that their condition does not define them.

Thank you, sir Gerard, and all the other autism advocates out there, for continuously showing the wonderful side of humanity, and for simply being.

Make Way for the Minion

Game reviews aren’t really my thing, which is weird for a gamer-writer like me, but once in a while I find a game that’s just too good that I have to write about it. Now this game is special, because after downloading it, I’ve been playing it for an hour now and it took every ounce of will in me to stop just so I could write about it.

Despicable Me's Minion Rush

Despicable Me’s Minion Rush

The new Minion Rush game, starring our very cute minion, Dave, was released just yesterday in the Apple app store and I’m not sure when on Android’s Play store. Now let me share a little something about myself. I usually play these games after waking up and before going to sleep, which means I play them lying down on my soft comfortable bed while resting the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy S3 beside me, which means I play while lying on my side, which would then mean that most of the games I enjoy playing do not involve tilting the device. I enjoy simple pressing games, no tilting. Games like Temple Run don’t really get touched in that dusty folder in my iPad.

crush those little minions!

crush those little minions!

I was a teeny bit annoyed when my little minion had to die first to find out that there were phases in the game where I was required to tilt the device. But hey, it’s cool. For normal gamers, this phase is just one of the awesome variety of phases in the game, which makes it exciting and fun. For lazy gamers like me who lie on the bed, well, it’s a little sacrifice to make to lie on our backs and tilt the device. I’m saying that this game is fun enough for me to get out of my gamer-comfort-zone.

ooh! shiny cars!

ooh! shiny cars!

There are other interesting phases in the game. You start out in the lab first, where the minions work with little rockets and despicable stuff. But then I was surprised when I found myself running into this black thing with nowhere to go. Next thing I know, I was up in the streets, with buses and cars! And then there’s the Vector phase, and plenty of other surprises ahead! If the ba-ba-ba-ba-banana collecting isn’t fun enough, the minion-bumping called “despicable actions” are sure to make you giggle. Or at least, smile a little.

Another adorable thing about the game is the losing part. Yes, losing is adorable. There are different ways to lose here as in any runner games, such as falling and bumping stuff. Well, the adorable part is that there are different “reactions” for each of these! If you hit a rocket in the lab, the minion cowers and covers his head! Adorable little things…

Gameloft has really outdone itself with this one! Amazing and detailed graphics will sweep you off your feet as you play for the first time. Ingenious quirks will meet you along the way. And the adorableness of it all will keep you playing for a long time. This is a keeper. Go ahead and download it now! Minion Rush. Thanks for reading, and munch on!

Medicine and Governance

Why is it that it takes years and years of training to become a doctor, and only a name to become a politician? Doubtless, most of us have wondered that before. And doubtless, most come up with the conclusion that, well, doctors hold our lives on the line. One mistake and the patient might die. Politicians though, they’re not holding scalpels to our chests, so it’s alright if they screw it up. That’s our self-centered view of the issue at hand. To us humans, our little lives are more important than the Nation, than the structure of the community that we all live in. Selfish but human.

Watching Grey’s Anatomy and Game of Thrones side-by-side can be quite interesting for two reasons. One: the amount of blood and gore can make you hide behind your sheets. Two: you can make a sort of comparative analysis on medicine and governance, and the people involved in them. the surgeons from Grey’s Anatomy undergo rigorous training, and make difficult, sensitive decisions to save lives.

Cristina Yang, M.D. (click for wikipedia page)

Cristina Yang, M.D. (click for wikipedia page)

Dr. Yang graduated top of her class in Stanford, practices non-stop, and works very hard to prepare herself for surgery. Joffrey Baratheon sits idly in his chair thinking about ways to torture people to prepare himself for ruling the seven kingdoms of Westeros.

While it’s true that when Dr. Yang made a mistake using the wrong kind of stitch on a patient, he died,

King Joffrey (click for wiki page)

King Joffrey (click for wiki page)

it is also true that when reckless Joffrey Baratheon couldn’t take a stupid little insult, he ordered his men to slaughter hundreds of innocents. People died all the same. But who caused more people to die? to suffer?

Game of Thrones is set on a different world in a different time, but take a look and you’ll see that their politics is no different from ours, here in the Philippines. Baratheons rule there, and certain names rule here.

I am not undermining the importance of medicine, or the training required for them. No, I am simply questioning why governance should be any different. Doctors hold individual lives in their hands. Politicians hold nations in theirs, nations with complicated structures, histories, and laws, nations involving millions of people. It’s just a wonder why the requirements for being a political figure is a whole lot less than a doctor’s.

Democracy, the current form of government we have, took years to establish. In fact, democracy is more than a thousand years older than our country. Its lifespan far out-ranks that of any man or woman. It has undergone lots of changes, improvements, to suit the needs of man, of society, of the nation. It is important. And it should not be left in the hands of people like Joffrey Baratheon, who think that they’re good enough to lead just because they have the Baratheon surname or because they’ve been sitting and watching their parents govern.

surgeryInterns and Residents of surgery do not get to operate solo until they’ve scrubbed in and assisted on several surgeries. They don’t get to perform surgery just because they’ve watched it done a lot of times. They need to practice, to prove their worth. Even attendings, the big-wigs, the ones who have gone through it all still need to prep themselves before every surgery. They need to know the patient history, what he ate, what he felt, and so on. See where I’m going here?

I doubt that people will actually and honestly see how much governance is as (or more) important as medicine. I, myself, find it hard to give a damn about what the senate is doing while I get on with my daily life sometimes. It feels foreign. It feels like it’s outside of my life, so it doesn’t concern me. But it does. And more than that, it concerns so much more than li’l old me. So no, I don’t want poorly trained Joffrey Baratheon to lead my long-established government, rule my nation of millions, or make decisions for the laws, institutions, and structures that affect my life. I want a well-trained surgeon (not literally, of course) to do that. Because our measly little lives are short-term compared to the long-term government that needs guidance and improvement, continuously.

So yeah, something to think about. Thanks for reading and munch on!

Daghang Salamat, Sugbo

Taoist temple (photo not by me)

Taoist temple (photo not by me)

Cebu, an island in the Visayan part of the Philippines is known for its rich historical landmarks such as Magellan’s cross and the Sto. Niño Basilica, and for other more aesthetically pleasing sites such as the Taoist temple and the butterfly sanctuary, not to mention the cute colorful jeepneys that go around town. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, and if you haven’t, well, it’s all over google anyway.

I just recently came from this wonderful place, and had a long mental list of things to do and see. However, upon arriving, I saw the most beautiful, most wonderful, most breathtaking sight Cebu had to offer, Forever 21 and Payless. SM Cebu was right beside our hotel and boy, did that change things. My plans went down the drain. Hey, I am turning 21. What better sign than that to shop at Forever 21? (Okay, I’m making excuses now.)

Radisson Blu hotel bedroom

Radisson Blu hotel bedroom

After that awesome first stop, I head back to the hotel room. We were staying in Radisson Blu.They have excellent WiFi connection, nice cozy lights, a bath tub, and a walk-in closet (I have a thing with walk-in closets, and no, I don’t think it’s a gay thing). Well, shopping–or rather, window shopping can be tiring. So I plumped in a warm relaxing bath, and just like the water, my adventure plans went down the drain.

So now that I’m back, I can’t help wondering if I wasted my trip. But then, I quickly pushed the thought aside. I’ve seen the Cebu sites many times as a child. Of course I don’t exactly remember all of it. I had a great time. And I finally got to ride a plane again after four years of being trapped in the busy life of college. I missed it. I missed accompanying my parents to these trips, even though I don’t understand much of what their doctor friends discuss. I missed the thrill of the plane’s take-off and landing, and the beautiful view from above. I even missed the airport, albeit its long lines.

All throughout high school and college, I made a lot of effort to do exciting things and (pardon the term) YOLO things within the cramped vacation breaks that I had. Now, with absolutely nothing to do, I find myself choosing to do the simpler things. Yes, I know, I’m getting old. But you know, it’s not so sad. We’re often told to “stop and smell the roses”. So, that’s what I did. That’s my version of “stop and smell the roses”, even though it may not be everyone else’s. Plans are just plans. More often than not, they fail. And sometimes they just don’t seem like the right plans anymore. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And there is absolutely nothing wasted in that day I spent in Cebu.

Thanks for reading! Munch on!

Red Velvet celebrates 1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013

Before anything, I’d like to invite you all to join this flash blog, especially if you have firsthand experience with persons with autism. To join: Publish your post in the following title format: “ [Your Blog] celebrates 1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013″, post it on every social networking site you have with hashtag #AutismPositivity2013 and share. Oh, and do submit here even if you don’t have a blog 🙂

Admittedly, I still find it hard to write about anything autism-related even after three months of not writing about it in thesis. So I’ll make this simple. I also can’t post any pictures because I didn’t really ask permission.

I’ve met quite a lot of persons with autism, and, to break the first stereotype, they’re not all the same! Quite the opposite, they possess a huge variety of skills, personalities, characters, and traits. Two common things though are, of course, the symptoms, and their self-advocacy.

It’s really inspiring, to see adolescents with autism fight for their rights. Hope. They have it, even if society around them does not. And they’re right. The autism spectrum disorders are disorders, not diseases. There’s nothing wrong with having it. Let me walk you through the persons with autism that I’ve met.

The first one that struck me is a teenage boy in one of the institutions I’ve visited. Let’s just call him Fred. Among other autism symptoms, Fred has a little speech impairment. But that doesn’t stop him from pursuing what he loves: music. He has a good ear for tunes. And what really amazed me was his guitar skills. He can play a whole lot better than your average neurotypical guitar player (me included). He can even play it on his back! Of course he has other talents, but wow, those guitar skills are really admirable!

Second is one of our thesis respondents. Let’s call him Jay. If you asked Jay to tell you about his autism, you better be prepared for a long speech about his life. It’s a pretty good story too. What I love most about Jay is his drive to let his story be known and accepted. He’s one of those self-advocates that can really make you want to join the cause. It’s inspiring to see such pride and dignity in an adolescent with autism.

Another respondent from our thesis is Nikki. She’s a diva. And I mean diva. She can belt out and sing the craziest tunes, and has amazing stage presence! Of course, being a diva, she also acts like one, which would have been annoying if she didn’t laugh afterwards and show you that she doesn’t really mean it. Raised without much proper intervention, she was put through some improvised “intervention” such as modeling for discipline. Goes to show that you don’t really need to “change” them. Truly, Nikki is an inspiring, sweet, light-hearted diva.

Mr. congeniality I call him, my friend’s brother. Though I wouldn’t be surprised why he’s like that, considering he has such cool and supportive parents. I’ve only met him twice, and only spent a few minutes with him, but that was enough to charm me. The fact that he can openly talk to strangers in a comfortable way shows that this friendly dude really is something! So, no, they aren’t really anti-social as the stereotypes say. Far from it.

Lastly, I know it’s bad to play favorites, but I can’t help it. I’ve been friends with this boy for two years now and I still get excited over the next opportunity to see him! Let’s call him Jude. My first encounter with Jude was a handshake and a formal introduction. Proof that persons with autism can follow some norms. Jude has many talents, more than I can describe here in this entry, but what’s special about him is the friendship that he offers. A sweet and charming boy, Jude always finds a way to melt my heart. Just last year, after not having seen him for a long time, I wondered if he still remembered even my face. Lo and behold, upon entering his school, he quickly stood up and greeted me by my first name. And in one of our organization’s events that I couldn’t attend, I was told that he even looked for me. Simply the way his face lights up each time we visit is heartwarming, and to be honest, the main reason why I decided to “specialize” in autism.

I can go on about these five people, or I can give even more, but I think this should suffice. After all, there’s no comparing first-hand experiences with persons with autism. It really is wonderful. To conclude, I’d like to tell each and every person with autism: there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Don’t let anyone bring you down, and most importantly, don’t bring yourself down because the people around you are fighting with you to show the world just how wonderful you are. You are different, not less. And with that difference, you can shine.

1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013 Flashblog Announcement

Thirty Days of Autism

We know you have been waiting… and we have been working and organizing behind the scenes. Now we are ready and we are excited to announce the theme for the second annual Autism Positivity Flashblog Event on April 30th, 2013: AutismPositivity2013button“1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013”

Last year hundreds of bloggers came together in a show of support and solidarity in response to an anonymous person’s Google search “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers”. The posts that came flooding in from all over the world were a beautiful example of the power of strength in numbers. With so much negativity still surrounding Autism and the misinformation and misconceptions that continue to abound, we invite each of you to share one, or two, or more “Ausome” things!

We invite all of you, anyone who is Autistic, anyone who has an Autistic person in their life and all who blog about autism to share a…

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