August 2015



A pregnant massage therapist, a teenager helping her cancer-stricken mother seeking treatment, a group bonded by their love for singing. These are only some of the contestants who took part and won in the first singing contest for the visually impaired held at the SM North Edsa recently.


Charmaine Tonic, a 21-year old native of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro could not believe that she would be the first winner in the first Himig Tanglaw, a musical talent search organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Philippine Chamber of Massage Industry for the Visually Impaired (PCMIVI) in partnership with SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, Inc.

Tonic, a masseuse for the past two years who sang The Prayer during the contest, said she did not expect to win because her fellow contestants were all good and that she was five months pregnant with her first child. “This is totally unexpected because I heard all of them sing but I guess the Lord heard my prayers,” she said.


PCMIVI President Ronnel del Rio said the singing contest was conceptualized in order to give talented visually impaired individuals a chance to prove their self-worth to the community and society. “Blind people are relegated to mostly just being masseuse and that is unfortunate because many of us are talented and that is what we want to showcase today. That we can do other things rather than do massage,” he said.

He also lamented that even blind masseuse are being given a hard time finding work because of the issuance of an administrative order from the Department of Health (AO 2010-0034) which requires everyone, including all visually impaired, to undergo and pass licensing examinations before they are allowed to work as massage therapists.

“People with disabilities (PWDs) should be given all the support so we can be productive members of society and not just rely on dole-outs or the support of our families and friends. But they are making things hard for us that is why we have to look for ways to show to the world that we can do other things and be good at it,” he said.


He said they as many as 300 visually impaired individuals and groups from many parts of the country auditioned to be part of the contest but only 15 of them were chosen – eleven (11) for the solo competition and four (4) for the band category.

Del Rio added that for the next competition, which will be held in 2017, they plan to expand the search to cover more provinces to give everyone a chance to show their talent.

Fourteen-year old Jamie Ann Ladonga, who won third place in the contest said her winning would be a great help to her mother who is battling cancer. She said she has been singing in birthday parties and weddings to help in her mother’s medications.


Charina Limpiado, the lead vocalist of Sharp Troopers, the winner in the band category said they have been singing together as a group for the last four years. Working together in a massage clinic, they decided to form the group because of their love for singing. “We are really so happy for this opportunity because this is our first recognition as a group that we are doing something good,” Limpiado said.


Asked on what advice she could give visually-impaired individuals like her, Limpiado said to always strive and never to be afraid to reach their dreams. “We always work hard despite the challenges. This is what we love doing and we are prepared to go the extra mile to make our dreams happen,” she said.

Bien Mateo, Director of SM Cares’ Program for Disability Affairs, said their decision to host the Himig Tanglaw is a testament to SM’s commitment to provide all possible opportunities for PWDs to reach their full potentials.

“We all share the dream of inclusive opportunities to everyone, including our PWD brothers and sisters. We at SM Cares have been working hard to make that happen in every opportunity we can. This is one of our ways to show our support for communities.” Mateo said.


Del Rio, for his part, thanked SM Cares for being always part of their advocacy of promoting the rights of PWDs. “SM Cares has always been there for us and this is another demonstration of their valuable support to our cause,” Del Rio said.

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Mall book reading addresses low reading proficiency among Filipino youth

Reading proficiency has been one of the low points in the Philippine educational system as recent results of the National Achievement Test showed that mastery of reading is only 14.4 percent among grade 6 students and only 1.1 percent among fourth year students.

To help address improve reading proficiency as well instill the love for reading among grade school students, SM Supermalls recently conducted the National Children’s Book Reading Day at all of its malls all over the country.


The National Children’s Book Reading Day is conducted every year in the month of July in partnership with the National Book Development Board, Calidad Humana, Vibal and the Department of Education. It was held across all the 52 SM Supermalls and 4 SMDC Malls in the Philippines plus the 7 SM Malls in China.

Kicking off the event was the reading session at the SM Megamall where hundreds of grade school students from public and private schools attended.

Mandaluyong City Councilor Charisse Marie Abalos and magician Jervey Capili or more popularly known as “Flooch” read children’s books authored by Filipino authors that teach kids the value of friends and playing outdoors.

Across SM Supermalls nationwide, thousands of children simultaneously read children’s books from Vibal Publishing Inc., its partner in the book reading day.

Lani Garcia, a Grade 5 Math master teacher at the Francisco Legaspi Memorial School, who was present during the event, said it is important to teach children the love for reading because it is a vital component in a child’s development.

“I am very glad that there is a program for this in SM malls because this is an effective way to reach more children and instill in them the value and love for reading,” Garcia said.


Garcia said reading is without doubt the foundation of all learning and determines one’s success in school. She also cited a study which correlates proficiency in mathematics to reading proficiency.

“There have been studies which shows a relationship with reading comprehension to mathematics. Those students with poor reading comprehension have also poor performance in mathematics so it also helps that we instill in them the love for reading because the more they read, they better they build on comprehension, problem solving and creativity,” she said.

Garcia, who was part of the first batch of scholars of SM Foundation in the 1990s, said she has always been supportive of programs that develop the full potential of children. “And the fact that this is an SM initiative is something close to my heart because without my scholarship in the SM Foundation, I would not be where I am now,” she said.

Royston Cabuñag, Head of the SM Cares Program on Children and Youth, said the National Book Reading Day event is SM’s way of helping shape future leaders who will make a difference in the country’s future.

father&son enjoying sweet parent-child reading time

“This advocacy for reading is always part of our commitment to cultivate not just the love for reading but actually nurture the love for reading among our children. In this way we will help shape our future thinkers and leaders who will steer our country towards development in the future. The children’s book reading event is also one of SM’s ways of supporting communities.” Cabuñag said.