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Kings and queens

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Proms are usually held in February for junior or senior high school students, who get to dress up and socialize at the dance party. The typical promenade concludes with the naming and crowning of a “prom queen” and “prom king.” However, the prom I attended and witnessed last Friday was even better and more meaningful – all 36 girls and boys were crowned as sons and daughters of God.

Margareth Therese Zayco wasn’t just happy; she was ecstatic. She beamed as her parents escorted her down the red carpet toward the stage. Her excitement and joy were palpable as she swayed, jumped, and eventually ran to the stage, where a crown and sash awaited her. The sash proudly proclaimed, “I’m a Queen.” Halfway to her trip to the stage, she stopped by a table to hug a friend. This pure and spontaneous gesture made my heart leap for joy. The nine-year-old queen is talented too! She played the organ and serenaded the audience with “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” popularly sung by Elvis Presley.

Meanwhile, Alyssa Lian Panes was pretty in pink with pearls around her neck that added to her regal and elegant look. Like real royalty, she gracefully went around the reception hall proudly wearing her crown while holding a dainty bouquet of pink and white carnations. When I approached her, she waved at me like a little queen, charming and confident.

The usually shy Nigel Fernandez was having a blast dancing with his buddy Lucas Nolasco. Both were beaming with pride and happiness. Lucas was clapping along with everyone in the room as he was being crowned on stage. Eldred Basto blew a kiss to the audience, his eyes sparkling, as she posed before the camera to document her experience, while Renato Jesus Antonio Go gamely granted the crowd’s request for him to give them his “guapo” pose.

The kings and queens with Dr. Lowelyn Escalona of DepEd Bacolod, Dr. Mark Anthony Talatala, Yasss!, Anne Marie Makilan and teachers of Happy Baginners School of Learning in a fun group photo after the party.*
Alyssa Lian Panes waving at the camera while donning a crown like a true queen.*
Nigel Fernandez and Lucas Nolasco having fun at the party with teacher Lorenz.*

While the kings and queens were having the time of their lives, I was closely paying attention to their parents – the joy on their faces as they saw their children just having a great time, laughing, giggling, and enjoying every minute of being at the prom. I am more than sure they were the happiest that afternoon.

Anne Marie Makilan, president of Happy Beginners School of Learning and organizer of the event, was giggling while watching her son Gab being crowned. She cheered for every student who entered the hall and walked on the red carpet. Gab’s condition inspired her to advocate for children with special needs. She not only established a school for children who needed special education but also provided genuine care and support from the community. Her partnership with Dr. Mark Anthony Talatala, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, has resulted in many initiatives that focus on the well-being of atypical children.

Talatala reminded parents of atypical children to continue giving love, understanding, and patience to their kids. He urged them not to let opportunities for their children to reach their potential pass by and not to deprive them of experiences that will help them develop into productive members of the community.

“Whatever our journey in life is, we always take note that we step on the L-O-V-E, and we have love with all our minds and also with all our hearts. I would like to thank all the teachers, Ms. Anne, and the school, for always having the heart for these children. It is not easy. You, parents, also deserve a clap because at the end of the day, your children will never get this experience without your help. We also have to thank the love of our Creator that has been given to us. We may be struggling in life for certain reasons. We may be asking why we have children who require special care and attention, but always remember, at the end of the road, we are given bigger responsibilities by our Lord because we are here to learn that we need to give love and at the same time, receive love from our children,” he said.

Party time. Gab dancing with the rest of the kings and queens in the ballroom.*
Dr. Mark Anthony Talatala (left) putting the crown on Margaret’s head while Dr. Lowelyn Escalona (right) fixes her sash.*
Renato Jesus Antonio Go striking his signature “guapo” pose before a cheering crowd of parents, teachers and guests during the crowning ceremony.*

Precious Geronimo, school directress, said the “A Night with the Ladies and Gents” was held not only to give the students a chance to socialize and develop interpersonal skills but also to help them get used to gatherings and learn table manners, especially the proper use of utensils. “The activities that we design for students are intended to improve their confidence and make them more comfortable in facing and interacting with people. These are all necessary in preparing them to be part of the mainstream later on,” said Geronimo.

Dr. Lowelyn Escalona, Education Program Supervisor for Kindergarten and SPED, said activities of this nature are very helpful in developing children with special needs. “The very purpose and intention of having this program is for them to be integrated into greater society. We need to prepare them through these activities that neurotypical people are doing,” emphasized Escalona.

Sensory issues were set aside as God’s royalty socialized without a care in the world. They embraced the moment, enjoying food, drinks, dancing, and songs just like other children and teenagers would. Dressed to impress, they radiated authenticity and happiness. For me, this genuine expression made the event truly meaningful and successful.

I’ve never been to prom, so I’m glad I didn’t miss this one at 47.*

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