Pinay pays tribute to 'mother's love' in public speaking tilt

by Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Jun 11 2011 02:13 PM | Updated as of Jun 14 2011 11:07 PM

LONDON, UK - Germaine Chuabio, a student of De La Salle University (DLSU), represented the Philippines in the annual International Public Speaking Competition of the English Speaking Union (ESU) held at the HSBC headquarters in Canary Wharf.

Chuabio competed against 81 national winners from 49 countries in a 2-day grueling competition.

The 82 competitors who were divided in 8 heats delivered their speeches on topics such as climate change, political oppression and overpopulation. This year’s theme was ‘Words are not enough.’

Chuabio chose to write about the subject closest to her heart. In her speech ‘A Mother’s Love,’ she talked about her twin sister Gillian and her mother’s love for a daughter who has special needs.

"I decided to write about this piece because I felt I wanted to write about my mother and my sister. By sharing the story, I wanted to inspire other families and other mothers with special children. And of course, I felt that the condition of my sister is in line with the theme--words are not enough," Chuabio told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau.

She added: "I dedicate this piece to all the mothers with special children because I know that having a special child could be a challenge. But I admire them for their strength, for their love, courage and the faith they put in their child. [That] is really admirable."

Germaine Chuabio rehearsing her speech at the Philippine Embassy in London.

 The 82 contestants were whittled down to 24 semi-finalists, and then down to 6 finalists. They were given 4 minutes to impress the judges and the audience on a range of topics.

The finalists were Jeon Kang from Korea, Germaine Chuabio from the Philippines, Luisa Cassar Pullicino from Malta, Sahil Sanjay Bhattad from India, Caleb Yaw Kudah from Ghana, and Xu Jiru from China.

After careful consideration by no less than 30 judges including 3 in the grand finals, they named Jeon Kang (Korea) the winner for his speech "Umm... I can’t teach?!" and Sahil Sanjay Bhattad (India) as the runner-up.

An all-expense paid trip to Buckingham Palace in November awaits the winner who will also receive the IPSC award from HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The Philippines has been named champion twice in the IPSC with Patricia Evangelista and Gian Karlo Dapul representing the Philippines.

"I think the best part about representing the Philippines is that I get to show how Filipinos are, what the Filipino culture is, that we are a group of people that is very accommodating and very hospitable. A big part of this contest is also socializing (with other contestants). It is about really showing them what a Filipino is," Chuabio said.

Below is the speech delivered by Chuabio in the 30th IPSC held in London during the last week of May.

A Mother’s Love
By Germaine Chuabio

When I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. So my mom bought me the first "Harry Potter" book and every single book after that. She told me that if I could read them all and learn a lot of words, then I might just be the next best selling author in the making. Well, 7 books later, I learned things like Wingardium Leviosa, but I'm still no J.K. Rowling. But at least, I won a free trip to London. And I think that's the closest I can get to a Man Booker Prize in my lifetime.

Truth is, whether you’re a writer or not, the number of words a person knows is important. Psychologists say that an average educated adult should possess 20,000 words and a 3-year-old -- 50 words. For most people, achieving these milestones is as natural as breathing. But you know, I have a twin sister who cannot talk much. Her name is Gillian. And for her, learning enough words has always been a big, big problem. Mom learned from a doctor, when Gillian was 4, that she is mentally handicapped. She is a special child.

My mom cried for Gillian. It was the most painful time in her life. But she got up, wiped her tears, and sought the help of a speech therapist. Eventually, Mom studied special education to personally teach Gillian. Still, it was not good enough. At 7, Gillian couldn't read and count. This time, Mom took a huge leap of faith. She took out all of Dad's savings, with his permission of course, and put up a special school so Gillian could be assured of a place to learn.

Gillian is still the lucky one. She has access to therapy and school. In my country, it is heartbreaking to note that there are more than 5 million children with developmental disabilities but only about 4% receive appropriate educational services. The rest still live in poverty. Marginalized children will not think of school when their basic needs such as food are not met. It does not help that state special schools are concentrated in the city of Manila far from the children’s homes. Moreover, these schools do not provide necessary services like speech therapy. Worse, one teacher handles a class that reminds me of a bag of assorted biscuits. You see autistic children mixed together with dyslexic children when in fact these two conditions have totally different educational needs.

This picture is not exclusive to the Philippines. It is the same story in many Third World nations even as special children are growing in significant numbers.

But is there hope for special children in developing countries? One solution that can be done is mother empowerment. Programs can be set up that instruct mothers to teach their children. For example, the Autism Society of the Philippines is a charity organization founded by 11 mothers with autistic children. They train even more mothers, teachers, and health workers in far flung areas of the country where special education services are nonexistent. Teacher Mom is a practical solution to a pressing need. In some cases, it can even transform mothers to become advocates and leaders who make a difference in our world.

To this day, my mom continues to teach my sister. But she has accepted her for what she is and for what she cannot be. At the end of the day, Teacher Mom is not just about teaching words. It is also about showing love.

Many special children may never be a J.K. Rowling. They may never learn enough words. But not everything that counts in life can be counted with words. A mother's hug, kiss, smile, laugh can mean so much more to a special child. Words are important, yes. But they are not enough without something as powerful and as unconditional as a mother’s love.