Dr. Celine Guillermo, The Woman Raising IDD Awareness
Advocacy

Raising Hope: Dr. Celine Guillermo On Helping Children With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities

Dr. Celine Guillermo wears Suki Earrings; Urban Revivo dress; Ganni shoes. Photo by Kim Santos, styled by MJ Benitez, hair by Patty Inojales, makeup by Apple Fara-on

Vogue Philippines celebrates International Women’s Day through “Raising Hope,” in a call for nominations of inspiring women. Read the story of Dr. Celine Guillermo, the woman advocating for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Nominated by Dr. Lance Sese

Tinatanggi, a word that means “to be denied” or “to be rejected,” can be easily switched to tinatangi, a word that means “most beloved.” Through the simple act of removing the letter ‘“g,” the meaning changes from rejection to acceptance, a mission that the Tinatangi Project aims to achieve for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). “Our goal is to remove all the discrimination and stigma in order to promote or develop the potential of these individuals,” shares Dr. Celine Guillermo, who is a child development advocate actively working on the Tinatangi Project. The project currently supports 100 to 150 kids at the Special Education (SPED) Center in Marilao, Bulacan, empowering them through community-based tools and activities.

IDD encompasses an array of developmental disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, and behavior disorders. Although children with IDD face challenges, Dr. Guillermo encourages parents to help their kids develop “abilities amidst their disabilities.” “They need holistic development, not only medical assessment but also therapy. But beyond all that, they need to know that they can do so much more,” she says. To support this, the Tinatangi Project collaborated with NoTwo PH and Katambal to produce Ang Aming Tinatanging Pamilya, a community-based interactive primer dedicated to the families of Filipinos with IDD.

Dr. Celine Guillermo wears Suki Earrings; Urban Revivo dress; Ganni shoes. Photo by Kim Santos, styled by MJ Benitez, hair by Patty Inojales, makeup by Apple Fara-on

In a single primer, parents of kids with IDD can learn more about how to support their children through interactive activities and tools. The primer also provides a directory of services for their children and even journal pages for them to take note of their kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Along with this, they also host bonding sessions for the parents and kids to help foster a learning environment at home, not just at school. “It’s also so that the parents could see their child’s potential and what their child can do and celebrate those small moments,” she adds.

After conducting a pilot test with 10 families in the community, the Tinatangi Project has produced 300 copies of the primer and is currently planning to distribute it in their local community. In the future, Dr. Guillermo hopes to develop primers for other areas in the Philippines in a bid to spread awareness, educate, and support children with IDD.

The strength of mothers and women

Although there have been great strides in mental health awareness over the past decades, Filipino parents still struggle with their children who have IDD. She recalls the story of a mother who had just discovered that her child had autism. “I remember her crying because she knows the potential of her kid, but she doesn’t know where to start,” she says.

In Bulacan, the Tinatangi project has grown and developed a community for parents with IDD children so that they can help support each other. “There are parents who find out that their kid has an IDD, and they would feel helpless because they don’t know what to do,” she says. “What I realized is that amidst everything, the parents and the community bring each other hope. They would talk to the new parents and tell them that everything is going to be fine and that their kid is going to be okay,” she says.

Dr. Celine Guillermo wears Suki Earrings; Urban Revivo dress; Ganni shoes. Photo by Kim Santos, styled by MJ Benitez, hair by Patty Inojales, makeup by Apple Fara-on
Dr. Celine Guillermo wears Suki Earrings; Urban Revivo dress; Ganni shoes. Photo by Kim Santos, styled by MJ Benitez, hair by Patty Inojales, makeup by Apple Fara-on

In the community, it is the mothers who never cease to inspire Dr. Guillermo. “It really amazes me how they can be creative amidst everything that they experience. They are able to see the light and joy in their kids,” Dr. Guillermo says. Having worked with female leaders in the global health aid industry, she shares that women’s strength and compassion can make all the difference in the world. “What I realized is that there is strength in a shared passion between women. In our community, most of the parents are women, and mothers are actually the ones who advocate for the kids,” she says.

As a woman herself, Dr. Guillermo also inspires other people. In nominating Dr. Guillermo for Raising Hope, Dr. Lance Sese writes, “She exemplifies principles that I find incredibly meaningful. Her commitment to this advocacy transcends her training in medicine and includes a very strong interest in research and community service.”

Visit vogue.ph everyday this month for daily features on inspiring women, as nominated by the people whose lives they’ve changed.

BY DAPHNE SAGUN. Photography: Kim Santos. Styling: MJ Benitez. Digital Editor: Andrea Ang. Makeup: Apple Fara-on. Hair: Patty Inojales. Producers: Bianca Zaragoza and Daphne Sagun. Set designer: Andrea Ang. Styling assistants: Teresita Gabat, Jia Torrato, Chelsea Sarabia. Makeup assistants: Jane Mission, John Glen Aquino. Hair assistant: Emma Hernandez. Production assistant: Patti Co
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