Press Release
September 18, 2006

'12 hours in memory of Gabriel'
Sen. Pia Cayetano leads fund-raiser for differently abled kids

Five years ago on September 19, 2001, nine-month-old Gabriel Cayetano Sebastian, youngest child of Senator Pia Cayetano and lawyer Butch Sebastian, succumbed to complications caused by a rare chromosomal disorder called trisomy 13.

Baby Gabriel was born deaf, blind and had a cleft lip and palate. He also had enlarged kidneys and a hole in his heart. Despite all these, he got to live much longer than most babies born with the condition who die within the first month.

Losing their son was devastating to Sen. Pia and Atty. Butch. But it also opened their eyes to the plight of similarly situated parents whose children are born with disabilities.

Last September 2, some 200 volunteers took part in the 4th '12-hour Run-Walk-Bike for a cause in Memory of Gabriel.' The activity has been staged annually in the last four years to remember Sen. Pia's 'brave little warrior' by raising funds for differently abled children.

To date, the activity has sponsored free cleft lip operations for more than 300 children through the Gabriel Symphony Foundation. It has also donated artificial eyes and hearing aids and supported scholarship programs for kids with disabilities.

The Foundation's growing list of beneficiaries include the Philippine School for the Deaf, Ephpheta Foundation Inc., Joseph Gulandi School for the Hearing Impaired and the Parent Advocates for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC). The Foundation has also teamed up with "Operation Rainbow" for 70 cleft lip operations this year.

This year's event spanned a total of 12 hoursfrom six o'clock in the morning to six o'clock in the eveningat the Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City. Volunteers joined by walking, running or biking around the village throughout the day, while sponsors made monetary pledges for each round or kilometer completed by each participant.

An interesting sidelight was when seven-year-old Jhonedel Fallarnawho has been completely blind since he was tworode a bike alongside Sen. Pia for several meters in front of the renowned St. James The Great Parish. It was a brief, touching moment for the crowd made up of event volunteers, parents and media members.

As one of this year's beneficiaries, Jhonedel, along with other visually impaired kids supported by PAVIC will receive artificial eyes from the Foundation.

At the end of the day, special awards were given to volunteers who topped the different categories by logging in the most number of kilometers.

Awardees included Joel Bodegon and Mona Valdes, who led male and female participants in the road bike category with distances of 242 kilometers and 85 kilometers, respectively. The mountain bike category, on the other hand, was ruled by Boy Cinco who logged in 240 kilometers.

Topping the walk/run/event were Mateo Macabe (72 kms) and Joy Rojas (64 kms) for the male and female categories, respectively.

Special awards were personally handed out by Sen. Cayetano to Maiqui Dayrit and Andy Reyes for completing an "Ironman distance" made up of a 3.8-kilometer swim, 180-kilometer bike and 42-kilometer run. The senator herself biked 97 kilometers and ran 21 kilometers throughout the event.

Citations were likewise given to 6-year-old Alyssa Maera Amahit ('youngest participant'), 51-year-old Cesar Guarin (oldest participant) and rising 11-year-old duathlete Jean-Pascal Halewyck ('early bird' award).

"This event started out as a small activity, mainly involving our relatives and close friends, as well as their friends," the senator recalled. "I still wasn't a senator then."

Eventually, the fund-raiser became a yearly activity as more friends and sponsors came in. This allowed the Foundation to support more institutions devoted to helping disavantaged children.

"We realized it does not cost much to have a cleft lip repaired at P7,500 per operation (around US$147 at an exchange rate of P51:US$1). Yet many children continue to go through life physically and emotionally impaired by the stigma of having a cleft lip. But anyone can help with a one-time donation that could change the life of a child forever," Cayetano pointed out.

"This yearly activity is our way of celebrating how my son's short life continues to bring new hope to differently abled children," she stressed. Indeed, Gabriel continues to live on through the many lives he has touched.

News Latest News Feed