Because My Hero Loves Me So Much
Rising Above Asperger’s Syndrome
by Paolo Payawal as told to Tess V. Atienza
Something was wrong with me, they said. I was a loner and barely talked — you could hardly hear a single word from me. I had tantrums, was violent and would cry for no reason at all. Because of my unusual behavior, my classmates bullied me and called me abnormal, special child, even mongoloid.
My parents brought me to a speech therapist, then to psychologists. They said I had Asperger’s Syndrome, bordering between a normal person and an autistic person. I was almost sent to a special school. But my parents said I might turn more violent if I got into a special school. Young as I was, I thought, too, that I could make it in a regular school.
With my parents’ support, I struggled to rise above my difficulties and live like any normal person. So here I am now, bearing testimony to God’s love and power over any difficulty or disorder.
Despite the diagnosis, my parents treated me like any normal child. Being the eldest of two children, I did not have special privileges. But I was given opportunities to develop myself. For example, because I love to sing, they enrolled me at the Center for Pop Music. I would always join the recitals and mall tours at the end of the courses I took. And through that, my self-confidence improved. My social and communication skills, which used to bother my parents, were enhanced.
My world grew bigger. I was no longer the loner that I used to be.
Growing Closer to God
In college, I decided to take up Business Management and Entrepreneurship in San Beda College. I wanted to have a business of my own.
College also gave me the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. We had a theology subject and our professor invited me to join his theological circle. I did, and we gathered for prayer meetings, organized religious dance competitions, and conducted outreach programs.
As I grew closer to God, I also developed patience and gained more friends.
I finished college, quite a feat for someone considered “almost” a special child.
Finding work was hard, but I prayed to God to give me a job that I could fit in, and He did. After being a contractual employee in two manufacturing companies, I am now working in Veterans Bank’s Global Remittance Division.
My Gifts — Music and Friendship
From being someone who hardly talked, I now have friends all over the world because of my love for music.
I am a fan of singer Jed Madela and I joined the Tribe of Jed (TOJ), originally a fans club that expanded into a community. Jed was then a budding singer in his hometown, Iloilo, when he won the grand prize in the World Championships of Performing Arts in 2005, besting over 3,000 contestants from 52 countries. Soon after, he became a hit singer in the local and international music scene.
I thrived and still continue to grow as a person in TOJ. Its members are decent people, mostly professionals and students, who support Jed Madela as a person and as a singer. Some fellow artists of Jed have also become members of the TOJ; one is Rachelle Ann Go who was my schoolmate in college.
We are bound by our passion for good music, which we found in Jed’s music, and it has spread into other creative endeavors. For instance, in July 2008, we had a fund-raising concert in celebration of Jed’s birthday, which benefited Arko ng Pilipinas (a home for abandoned children with special needs). Everyone in the community did his share in producing that concert. I sold tickets and served as an usher, which helped me develop my confidence in talking to strangers.
Months before the concert, I began attending the Feast through the encouragement of my uncle, Adrian Panganiban. On the Sunday before the concert, I attended the Feast and included in my Novena to God’s Love the success of the concert. My tribe mates were worried that only about 75 percent of the tickets will be sold, but in faith, I told them, “Let’s think positive. Let’s pray that the Philamlife Theater will be filled to its capacity.” True enough, at 4 p.m. of July 11, people started to walk inside the theater and, a few hours later, tickets were sold out. The concert was a huge success.
God’s Song for Me
An unexpected moment came to me during Jed’s birthday concert. As he sang the song, Glory of Love, particularly the line that goes like this, “I am a man who will fight for your honor, I’ll be the hero you’ve been dreaming of,” I felt it was God, not Jed, singing to me. And I found myself crying, touched to my core.
It was a conversion moment for me.
After the concert, I turned my life back to God. I’ve become more attuned to God and His work in my life. I have started to make plans for myself, to dream big and to do more for others.
I’d like to become a preacher, too, like my Tito Adrian, and to be a Christian recording artist. I’d like to build a Gawad Kalinga house when I have saved enough money.
During TOJ’s thanksgiving party for the success of the concert and our third anniversary, I led the recitation of the Feast Declaration of God’s Abundance (found in the Novena to God’s Love booklet) after the communion. It was my way of introducing the Feast to my tribe mates.
These days, I attend the Feast as much as possible. I’ve been inviting my singer friends, like Rachelle Ann, Jed and their co-artists in ASAP (a Sunday noontime show in ABS-CBN) to the Feast but since they have a show, they could not make it. What I do is bring them with me in spirit — by bringing their CDs to the Feast.
God, in His great wisdom and love, has filled my heart with a passion to share His love to others. I may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome or labeled as semiautistic, but He fought for my honor as His special child.
He is my Hero, my real Idol.
*This article was taken from Kerygma magazine February 2009 issue. If you want to subscribe to K magazine click here or call us at 725-9999.
Photo from pixabay.com