Write-up by Pilar Fernandez
Driving up to Northern Blossom was like riding an airplane. At the peak of the highway, we were cruising through a sea of clouds. The scenery was a dream, especially after the long, rainy commute from Quezon City! Until now, it’s hard to find the words to appreciate the view and, most of all, the people we were with.
We were part of a convoy of at least 15 cars traveling to the flower farm in Benguet for ‘A’ Spectrum, an annual photography workshop held by Autism Society Philippines (ASP) - Baguio Chapter and created by the late John Chua in 2008.
Impressed by our calendars, ASP had invited us to the event. They wanted us to produce a calendar that promoted the work of the 12 artists with autism in ‘A’ Spectrum. And, of course, we gladly agreed with them!
On the way to the venue, we rode with the Baguio Photographers Club who have been mentoring the participants one-on-one for the past nine years. Ompong Tan, the head of the group, even brought his dog! They were an easy and passionate bunch, loving their work and the people they do it for.
One of the ‘A’ Spectrum mentors, Olen, had posted a photo of Northern Blossom that changed the life of co-owners Melany “Lany” Ganayan and her husband. Because of Olen’s picture, tourists started pouring into the flower farm until it became a go-to getaway. With that, Lany gave special access to Northern Blossom to the ‘A’ Spectrum team, allowing them to use the location even when it is usually closed on Sundays.
The participants, aged from 12 to 29 years old, had the whole place to themselves! We watched them explore the colorful rows of flowers that lined the mountain from top to bottom. Even if the place was quiet and peaceful, it buzzed with excitement.
We only introduced ourselves and our 2023 Desk Calendar with ASP to the artists and their parents on the day itself. Knowing that we will feature the best picture of each photographer especially thrilled the parents. They were eager for their children’s work to be given justice. They were so happy with the project.
We understood their feelings very well and took in their warmth throughout the workshop. The mentors, students, and parents were one big, supportive family. Although we were new, we felt welcomed wherever we went. Talking to anyone was a breeze, and they spoke to each other like the best of friends.
The young photographers with autism were at home, so we tried our best to maintain the atmosphere. We kept our distance (most of the time) and silently admired the participants as they honed their craft and explored the beauty of nature. They were given the patience and creative freedom due to any learning artist. It was as clear as the sky that everyone embodied ASP’s vision of an autism-friendly society.
Joining the ‘A’ Spectrum workshop is an experience that we’ll always be grateful for. We are excited for ASP to continue their work in building a genuinely inclusive country.
More than our words, the photos in our upcoming 2023 Desk Calendar with ASP definitely speak of the bright future ahead if people with autism are given the chance to develop their talents.
We hope you understand what the project means to us: a celebration of young artists with autism and their gifts to the world.