This story has been published in the July-December 2012 issue of the ASP Times, the official newsletter of the Autism Society Philippines. It details a gist of my life prior to my coming in terms with who and what I am as an individual on the autism spectrum, as well as before being in the autism advocacy movement.
Note: Some words might differ from between versions (in this unedited story, I used identity-first language; the published story was redacted to emphasize person-first language).
Hello, I am Gerard. I am a graphic artist, a writer, an event planner, a volunteer, an advocate, a future teacher, and an autistic adult. I go by different names: Gerard to acquaintances and classmates, G to friends, Jay to relatives, Joe to strangers, and THE IMPERIOUS DORK (I meant it in all-caps) to the online community. I am the second of four siblings; my dad is an OFW in Saudi Arabia, and my mom works as an official at the Department of Education.
I graduated at the De La Salle University-Dasmariñas with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, and am currently taking up my Certificate in Teaching Program (CTP) at the Philippine Normal University (PNU) so I can be a licensed teacher, something I have dreamt of since I was a kid. I had worked in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry as a call-center agent for two years, and while at it, running my freelance multimedia design venture known as THE IMPERIOUS DORK Media.
My journey in life has not really been that smooth. I was born a healthy baby, but I was not able to speak until the age of 5, and once I was able to do so, my first language had been English. As a kid, I loved reading a lot. Every year, my parents buy textbooks for school, and I read them as soon as they land home. My parents actually bought some encyclopedias, and I have read the entire sets a lot of times, which I still do to this day.
I knew for a long while that I am different from others, but I only realized that I have autism at the age of 23, and while my parents might have acknowledged that at times, my diagnosis is questionable as of the moment, and they have yet to accept my condition. I hadn’t been in a special school in grade school, and even if I had been enrolled in one way back high school, I was mainstreamed all my life. Though I excelled in academics, I experienced being bullied on a regular basis, which worsened as I grew older, all on the basis of my quirks and behaviors that seem “weird” to others.
Among the horrific tales of bullying that I’ve had include, but not limited to: having my things stolen, being insulted and called names, even being beaten by the entire class. Despite my elders telling me to ignore them, my principles were different. I fight back, not with fists, but with words. To get back at them, I wrote notebook novels depicting myself and my few friends as heroes, and my bullies as vicious and evil villains. I even once kept a list of my bullies, so I can imagine that I am inviting them over and blow them all up en masse. That, of course, was my wide imagination running, but the bullying continued on nonetheless.
Despite my achievements as a student, excelling in the classroom and even representing my school in various quiz-bee competitions (as a matter of fact, I was a grand finalist in the defunct LG Quiz), I was still bullied. One day, I’d had enough. I grappled one of my bullies to the ground, and punched him in the face. Despite being beaten by his friends afterward, I reported them to my mom, who asked that my bullies be suspended from school. Still, my self-esteem had suffered significantly, and it would take a long while for me to regain it.
College wasn’t really as sweet as it is supposed to be either. Although toned down significantly, I still faced ostracism and rejection among some of my classmates and colleagues. And the workplace experience, particularly at the BPO industry, can be bittersweet as well. Sometimes, I am faced with a lot of frustrations, many which induce my meltdowns. That, coupled with the fact that I didn’t really like what I was doing, had caused my performance at work to deteriorate, and eventually, I quit my job after two years at the workforce, to fulfill my dreams and realize my full potential.
I have heard about Autism Society Philippines a long time ago, as I have read tales of autistics and their families, but I joined after Angels’ Walk 2012, and that gave me a new hope. From that day on, I joined in different engagements with ASP, particularly in assisting and attending activities organized by the Cavite Chapters. It was during these activities where I realized my full potentials, and was able to showcase my talents to the community at large. It was also that time where I joined the PVI Foundation, and volunteered for their Kamp Pagkakaisa, a summer camp for children with special needs, and is still volunteering for their other activities. Also, in a sudden twist of serendipity, I was chosen to be Secretary of the ASP Bacoor Chapter, which I felt was a huge honor to be selected for such a role.
All of these engagements, together with my interactions with fellow autistics, garnered positive feedback from our constituents, with some parents telling me that I inspired them and their children and helped them have hope. That further inspired me to continue my studies and take up my CTP degree at PNU, so I can be a teacher for people with autism and other special needs. In the recent 5th Regional Autism Conference at Carmona, Cavite, where I happen to be an organizer as well as an autistic panelist, I even envisioned forming a brotherhood of autistics called the “Knights of Autism,” which is something like Kiwanis, the Jaycees, or the Knights of Columbus.
Well, I guess it’s a great start for someone like me, and I hope that parents, siblings, and even my fellow autistics will be inspired to be the best that they can be, and with the support of the people around them, they can be fully-functional members of our society.
To finally top this all off, let me introduce myself again with this: “Hello. I am Gerard, and I am a cute guy. I said ‘cute,’ because if I said that I’m good-looking, I’m already stating the obvious.” Have a good day, everyone!