Miss World Philippines 2019 Michelle Dee has been appointed as the first goodwill ambassador of the Autism Society Philippines (ASP) in celebration of National Autism Consciousness Week from Jan. 20-26.
This is the first time that ASP has named a goodwill ambassador since the society was established in 1989.
“I grew up with two autistic siblings so this is a close issue and a close advocacy to my heart. I am here to send one message that autism is not a joke. It’s not something that we laugh about. Despite the fact that they are different, they also have feelings. We should understand them. Try to put yourselves into their shoes and it’s not a laughing matter,” said Dee at a press conference organized by the ASP in Quezon City Sunday afternoon.
Dee, who finished in top 12 of Miss World 2019 in London in December, announced she has tied up with a popular clothing company to help spread awareness on autism.
“Because of my relationships with endorsements I had, Bench is launching a campaign to spread awareness on autism. We are already finalizing the designs and colors. I sent them a proposal and a week later, they approved it. I think this will start a good influence in the Philippines because big companies like SM and Pancake House are all coming together to send one message that autism is not a joke,” Dee said.
During the Miss World pageant, Dee’s advocacy on autism made it to the top 20 Beauty with a Purpose project among the field of more than 100 candidates. “I didn’t expect it but I was hoping for it. That moment brought me to tears because our hard work paid off.
In October 2019, Dee and her family, including former beauty queen-turned-actress Melanie Marquez, and other siblings, visited the ASP headquarters in Diliman, Quezon City to show support for the organization.
“She (Michelle) has made a big impact on all of us in Autism Society Philippines, whose voices were amplified because you have taken our advocacy for autism acceptance, accommodation and appreciation to a global audience. We are thankful for the programs she has supported and the doors she has opened since becoming engaged with the ASP,” said Mona Magno-Veluz, president of ASP, during the press conference.
Veluz said that the ASP has outlined several activities in celebration of the autism consciousness event.
On Jan. 23, the Autism Works Program of ASP will award the Partner Employers of the Year 2020 for creating genuine, sustainable economic empowerment opportunities in compassionate workplaces nationwide at Legend Villas in Mandaluyong City.
This year’s awardees are Pancake House (COO John Amante) and Manulife Business Processing Services (Country Manager Mark Wolfrey) for best in class practices in inclusive employment.
The ASP will also present the Hans T. Sy Leadership Award in Autism Inclusion and Welfare to John and Harvey Chua of Adphoto.
On Jan. 26, the ASP Angels Walk for Autism – the single largest autism advocacy event in Asia which begun in 2007 – will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“Children with autism will perform ‘Tala’ with Michelle. There will be other performances which they really prepared,” said Dang Koe, ASP Chair Emerita. She is the Asean Prize Laureate for 2018.
This annual observance was made possible by President Fidel Ramos’ Proclamation 711 of 1996 – in inspiring acceptance, accommodation and appreciation of persons on the autism spectrum in society.
“One in 100 Filipinos are on the autism spectrum, translating to approximately 1.2 million of our countrymen,” said Veluz.