Press Release
September 13, 2009

Pia runs to bring smiles to kids with "bingot"

On Saturday, September 19, Senator Pia S. Cayetano will temporarily set aside questions on whether she'll run for reelection in the Senate or as the vice presidential tandem of consistent presidential polls frontrunner, Senator Manny Villar.

Known as the "running senator," Cayetano is set to run with hundreds of sports enthusiasts and volunteers with one objective in mind: to literally "bring smiles" to children with cleft lip and palate (locally called "bingot") and other disabilities at the "7th annual 12-Hour Multi-Sport Celebration in Memory of Gabriel."

The day-long event will be held on September 19, Saturday, from six in the morning to six in the evening at the Ayala-Alabang Country Club in Muntinlupa City.

In the last seven years since losing her only son, Gabriel Cayetano-Sebastian, to a rare congenital ailment, the lady senator has organized the event through the Gabriel Symphony Foundation which raises funds to support differently abled children and those with life-threatening conditions.

"I consider this as the first birthday party that my son never had. We do this every year in remembrance of Gabriel and to celebrate how lives of underprivileged children are made better through him," said the multi-tasking senator, who is also a lawyer, entrepreneur and mother to two daughters.

Baby Gabriel was born with a cleft lip and palate, was deaf and blind, and had an enlarged heart resulting from a chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 13. Infants with this condition normally don't make it to their first month, but Gabriel lived on for nine months before passing away on September 19, 2001.

The fund-raiser will feature various sports events, including an all-women's triathlon, kids' duathlon, individual running events, group and corporate relays and an Ironman relay. Participants in said events will compete with donations as registration fee that will go directly to event beneficiaries.

Two of Cayetano's triathlete-friends, Maiqui Dayrit and lawyer Joey Torres, will raise pledges by completing their respective Ironman distances consisting of a 3.8-kilometer swim, 180-kilometer bike and 42-kilometer run for the entire 12-hour duration of the event.

Among this year's main beneficiaries are the Philippine General Hospital's Pediatric Neurosurgical and Craniofacial Operating Unit (PGH-PNCOU) and "Operation Rainbow" a tie-up mission with Australian volunteer-doctors who visit the Philippines annually to perform surgery on children with cleft lip and palate.

It may be recalled that the PGH-PNCOU made the headlines early this year after the specialty unit was almost shut down in January due to lack of funds. Surviving mainly on private donations, a situation which Cayetano blames on lack of government support for public health services, the PGH-PNCOU operates on children suffering from life-threatening defects such as hydrocephalus, meningoceles, encephaloceles and lipomyelomenigoceles. The unit serves indigent families whose families could not afford the delicate and costly surgical procedures.

On the other hand, "Operation Rainbow" has performed on 379 free operations on 286 patients with cleft lip and palate from 2004 to 2008.

According to, a cleft is "a birth defect that occurs when the tissues of the lip and/or palate of the fetus do not fuse very early in pregnancy." Babies born with a cleft lip (also referred to as a "harelip") have an opening an opening in the upper lip that can extend into the base of the nostril. A cleft palate, on the other hand, is an opening in the roof of the mouth.

The Gabriel Symphony Foundation also adds a new partner this year, the Cancer Resource and Wellness Community Foundation, or Carewell Foundation, which supports children afflicted with cancer.

The Foundation has likewise donated hearing aides to children in cooperation with the Philippine National Ear Institute and artificial eyes to blind children in partnership with the Parents Advocate for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC).

One highlight of the event will be an exhibition game of table tennis by visually impaired children supported by PAVIC.

Event schedules, mechanics and on-line registration forms are available on

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