Darius Andaya's Blog

August 2, 2020

13 Wisdoms on your 13th Birthday - Repost

Posted in 2013 as a letter to Darryl. However, since he couldn't understand at the time, we hope he learned them anyway by the way we raised him. Updates will be on bold font -DSA

A family friend posted another status update online. It was a photo of her husband sleeping on the couch, with their newborn baby sleeping on top of him, rosy cheeks puffed up on his chest. That got me remembering the same kind of photo I had with Darryl 13 years ago.

I could still remember his sweet newborn smell, his warm, soft embrace, the occasional smile he would give as he played with tiny angels in his baby dreams. I often wondered what someone who has not seen or experience anything could be dreaming that it would make them smile. How could a mind so innocent and practically empty be processing things that they have no awareness of? But there it was. A tiny smile on a tiny chubby face. An act so contagious you can’t help but smile with him.

So how did he go from the soft, fuzzy, chubby, cuddly baby on my chest 13 short years ago, to this fully-formed young man who is almost as tall as his mom? Well, granted he is a bit delayed, but he is a young man none-the-less. He has the temperament of a young man, he has a crush, his voice has deepened, and he’s starting to value his privacy. The years crept up behind us really fast and without us noticing it, he’s a teenager.

I always feel a little sentimental at big birthdays, but this is extra special because he has been our baby for a long time. Even after his younger brother came, we still thought of him as a baby. I guess it’s time to realize that our baby has grown and we will not always be beside him to decide for him. So as he moves from the elementary school right beside our house to the high school a few blocks away, I would like to offer 13 things I would want my son to know and remember for his 13th birthday.

1. The more you want privacy, the harder it is to achieve it. With smart phones, the internet and other social media come bullies, hackers and all kinds of predators. Be smart. Do not put too much out there. The less you upload or share about yourself, the better it will be for you. Update: Remember your lessons regarding Cyberbullies. They are everywhere so don't trust anyone you just met online.

2. Accept who you are and all the special things you can offer. We are all different in our own ways and we are special in our own ways. Find out who you are and what you are good at and keep at it. These coming years won’t be the easiest. This will be the time to figure out your place in this world. Hopefully, it will be eventful and colourful with lots of funny and delightful stories to tell. We've just written a book about how special your are!I Too Can Be Special!

3. Personal hygiene is paramount at this age. Shower lots, brush your teeth at least twice a day and practice your great smile. You used to smile a lot but it’s getting frequently hard to come by these days. Please don’t lose that. People who smile get more friends. People who smiles but doesn’t brush their teeth, not so much.

4. Sadness is a part of life. We are here for you. Your mom, dad, sister and brothers will always be here to listen and comfort you. When you are sad, do not keep it to yourself. Find someone to share your sadness. Just letting someone know helps. We are always here for you, ready to listen,

5. Study hard. Others might learn faster than you but do not stop learning. Do not compare yourself with other kids. Compare yourself with your past self. If you can read and spell better that you did yesterday, then you’re winning. Win again tomorrow.

6. Things will not always go your way. Other people may want the same things you do and they may get it before you do. It’s ok. There will be things for you too. When mom and I were looking for our first house and we were denied the one we liked, we just said ok, and found a better one. Everything works out in the end if you’re willing to be patient and never give up.

7. Sports, like your taekwondo is good for you. Do not stop because you feel tired or bored. It’s all in the mind. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Keep yourself active and get your face off the monitor longer than 5 minutes. Those are there if you can’t get out of the house. If you can, get out and enjoy the sunshine.

8. Be flexible, but not too much. Don’t compromise yourself for other people. Be flexible enough to change with the changing world but not too much that you will let other people take advantage of you. If you are unsure, ask mom, dad, or your siblings, we will not steer you wrong.

9. Change your decisions if you need to. It might be irritating to other people but allow yourself to change your mind when new information comes in that affects your take on things. Do not stick on something just because other people think you should. They have their own agenda and the decision is not for them to make. If you want the banana, eat the banana, even if the monkeys are telling you to eat something else.

10. Words are powerful. Work on your speech above all else because this is how you’ll be able to express yourself to the world around you. Speak as if you are speaking to babies. Speak slow, enunciate and pronounce your words clearly. Your words might be clear in your mind, but what matters is that it comes across clear to the person you are talking to.

11. Girls are just like you. They have feelings, insecurities, and needs. Treat them with respect as you would treat your mom or your sister. I understand you feel certain things about them that you never used to have. Ask us if you want to understand them. We have been there. Your friends might think they know but they don’t. They are just as confused as you so don’t take them at their word.

12. Manners will always matter. Girls might say they want equality, but they still value chivalry. Boys may want to look cool by talking tough to you but when they talk to their boss or to their customers, they will always be polite. Open doors for people, say hi, smile back, shake hands, say thank you and excuse me, watch your words. Never lose your kindness.

13. We will always love you; absolutely, completely, unquestionably, unconditionally. Nothing will change that. There will be some things that we will not agree on but our love for you will be forever.

That’s it Thirteen for now. There is so much more but there will be other birthdays.

Darius Andaya Darius Andaya is a Certified ITF International Instructor and the Chief Instructor at the DSA Royal International Taekwon-Do. 604-355-0372.
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Published on August 02, 2020 23:28

July 30, 2020

The Canadian Dream

This is a speech I made in 2005 regarding the plight of immigrants in Canada. Reading it again, I see a huge parallel between our struggles and those of people with disabilities in terms of opportunities -- or the lack thereof.

Excerpt from I Too Can Be Special!, I Too Can Be Special! by Darius Andaya
"Though I learn not at someone else's timetable,
Given the chance, I will always prove that I am able,
To do things others, better capable than I can,
On my own special way, I can learn like anyone."

Immigrants ask for the same chance.

About half a decade ago, I, along with several thousand Filipinos, and several more around the world, received an invitation. On page 5 of the morning paper under the story that read, Peso plunged, ten year low, was a quarter page invitation. It was an invitation for all people with dreams and ambitions, knowledge and skills, for all those dreaming of living a life where everyone, regardless of where they were born, or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success. It’s unspoken promise resonating across the page and enticing everyone yearning for a peak at the so-called “American dream”, a taste of the bountiful western culture, a stroll along its advertised much greener pastures. It was an invitation to realize the promises depicted in Hollywood movies.

“Come, it said. Realize your dreams. Canada needs you.”

It was a personal invitation to Me! Me! Of course every other Filipinos who saw the ad thought so too. But the point was, Canada needed us.

And so we came. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, scholars, nurses, mechanics, technicians, anyone with anything to offer flocked Canada’s embassies, endured the endless lines and went through the grueling process of proving our worthiness of the Canadian promise. Many were called, but few were chosen.

Most of the chosen, were people who gave up good paying jobs, lucrative businesses, luxurious and comfortable lifestyles, just to have the honor of living and working in Canada. They were highly qualified professionals, who excelled at what they do and succeeded on their respective fields of expertise. Some of them studied from the best universities, trained using techniques and cases from US Ivy League Schools such as Harvard and Yale. These were the kinds of people Canada allowed to land on its shores.

“As long as we get approved, we’re ok.” Or so we thought.

Once here though, the promises and the dreams got blurry. Their fulfillment postponed, and for some ultimately forgotten. Suddenly, people who were once the cream of the crop on their trades are now scraping the bottom of the barrel for any work they can get. Jobs they once performed with natural ease are now as hard to come by as your favorite lottery numbers. They are not even given the chance to prove they can do the work. They are rejected just because they are newcomers.

Such was our holy grail. The ever-elusive “Canadian Work Experience”. Its not just work experience they wanted. They wanted Canadian Work Experience. But how do you get it when no one is willing to give it to you? How do you achieve the work experience when each and every one of those companies would only consider you if you have it already?

This is where the fastfood and service industry comes in. Thus, I have seen a dentist who worked for seven years at seven eleven. My friend, an engineer, a man who built some of the tallest buildings in Manila, now works at a grocery store as a stocker. Another one, a lawyer went home after working for 5 years at a burger chain, defeated, a broken man.

These men and women spent decades honing their minds, thinking those were their best assets to succeed. Yet these are the only jobs they could get. Flipping burgers, stocking cans, washing dishes: jobs that require a fraction of their knowledge, supervised by people half their age.

Of course not all immigrants stories are like this. There are the few who had families and friends here who assisted them in getting a job. There are those who were sent here by their employers. And of course there were those who by the grace of God simply lucked out just by doing the right things at the right time. Fortunately, I was one of those lucky people.

I do know however, that luck could only get me through the door. It was up to me to show what I can do, earn my employer’s as well as my co-employee’s trust and succeed in my career.

For most of us immigrants, this is all we are asking for. A chance. To be let in through the door. To let us prove our abilities. To let our light shine through once again.

I know some of you who were born Canadians are threatened by us. As if we were galactic aliens, here to consume every life force in this country, or at the least, every jobs. But we’re not. We are flesh and blood, with ambitions and goals like you do. Just as your great great grandparents did, when they first set foot on the shores of Canada. As I’ve heard, Canada was a land built from the blood and sweat of immigrants. They came from “Far and Wide” and stood on guard. They guarded such that only friends and people with noble intentions were allowed in.

We are in, we have noble intentions for this country, and now we are part of those, like you, who stands on guard for dear Canada. In a way, we are now as much a Canadian as every freedom loving, law abiding citizen of Canada. Our status may be landed immigrants, but in essence we are Canadians-in-training.

We, the new immigrants, are not asking for special favors, nor do we ask for preferential treatment. All we ask is a fair chance. Equal opportunity. I know it’s a risk some employers are hesitant to take. But that’s why we have tests. If we prove to be incapable, then let us go. But at least give us a chance.

Somewhere within us is a candle that burns bright during our successes, and dies down during our failures. At its brightest, we are able to help more people, thereby igniting their own light, which allows them to help out other people, and so on. At its lowest point, the light dims, flickers, until it is all but a tiny glowing ember.

Moving to a new country does just that; it dilutes your light until you are nothing but a glowing ember. You may have all the potential to burst into flame, but you need a gust of wind to get you started. Better yet, you need the touch of a flame from another source to get your flame going.

Now, some of you are employers, and some are thinking of becoming employers. When that time comes, you’re light will burn so bright and you will have the power to affect people’s lives. Spread some of that light our way. Give the immigrants a chance. And we’ll show you a light fueled by determination, ambition, and sacrifices. Such fuels flow eternally. The Canadian dream will remain a dream until its promise is fulfilled.

Darius Andaya Darius Andaya is a Certified ITF International Instructor and the Chief Instructor at the DSA Royal International Taekwon-Do. 604-355-0372.
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Published on July 30, 2020 11:03

July 29, 2020

Do You Want Him - An Update and a Repost

Originally posted at DSRF blog.

We were having our medical exam when we first learned about it. Six months before that, my wife and I made a huge decision to migrate to Canada and the medical exam is usually an indication that we have passed the initial evaluations. Finding out that we were at the final stages of the immigration process and to be told that we were having another baby, almost at the same time, was a double cause for celebration. It was a surprise, truth be told as it was unplanned, but we were happy nonetheless. My wife looked at me with a worried look and I quickly said, “Smile, the baby will know what you feel.” She smiled and very quickly, almost instantly, accepted that God has a plan for our family, and this baby was going to be a huge part of it.

Once we decided that the best course of action is to have the baby born in Canada, we moved quickly. We received our visa in January and landed in Canada by February so that he can be born as a Canadian. Looking back, I realized that this baby, at the size of a walnut, made us change our plans, our future, our very lives, just by the mere act of being.

Then he was here. I heard him cry, I cut the umbilical cord, I held him in my arms, I felt my knees buckle, I hugged my wife. We were so happy. When everything has settled down, the doctor faced both of us and in a calm voice asked us. Do you love your child?
“What the heck? Why is she asking this?” I thought to myself.

That was when she told us that our baby may have Down syndrome (DS). She said a lot of things after that but they didn’t matter much to me because in truth, they offended me. “Do you want to keep your child?” Who asks that to a parent? I realized later that not everybody says “Yes, I love my child. Of course we will keep him.” The questions were meant to keep the child safe and loved.
To keep or not to keep, that was the question. To us, the answer came easy. This is our child and no matter what, he remains our child and we will not abandon him because he was born different.

As much a challenge it was to raise a Down syndrome baby, as a new immigrant from a new country, while starting a new career and without any support from any relatives, I believe that our lives would never have been as full and enlightening without him. He broadened our horizons, and made us appreciate things that we take for granted such as the simple act of communicating and learning. What takes us minutes to learn, they take days. He will probably never learn to drive, but it makes me appreciate it more that I could.

My family also learned and became aware of our inner strengths as we endure all the sacrifices that we had to make to cope on the time, financial, physical, emotional as well as logistical complexities associated with raising a child with DS. We’ve become forward thinkers as well, planning on what will happen should we the parents are not here anymore. Thankfully, I am also blessed with three other children who I know would be supportive enough to include him in their plans.

It truly is a matter of perspective. If one would dwell on the negatives, the hardships the family has to endure seems numerous and insurmountable. However, focus on the positive, and everything becomes a lot easier. In our case, we choose to acknowledge not that we had him with DS but that we had him when we moved to Canada, and the full support of the government and other institutions were there for us. The medical system, the very nice nurse who helped us, the mountains of Christmas gifts we got from the Christmas hamper on our first Christmas, grants from charitable institutions, DSRF, all of these are things we would not have received had we been in the Philippines. We choose to believe that God gave us Darryl because he know we have so much love to share, and that we will love him and take care of him, DS or not.

There was a saying, “Worry not on things you cannot change...” My baby has DS, that cannot be changed. His life will presumably be linked to mine and my family’s, perhaps even forever. But my life is ahead of me. That I can control. If I live a full life and my life affects his, then he will live a full life. This is what I choose to believe in. Might not be true for all, but this is the truth for us and it is a truth my family and I wholeheartedly accept.

UPDATE: This events have since been chronicled on my book I Too Can Be Special! by Darius Andaya I Too Can Be Special!. It was a collaboration with my son Darryl (as the Illustrator) as I tried to put his thoughts into words the best way I can. He has also accomplished a lot of things since this article came out including becoming a World Champion in Special Needs Taekwon-do.

Darius Andaya Darius Andaya is a Certified ITF International Instructor and the Chief Instructor at the DSA Royal International Taekwon-Do. 604-355-0372.
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Published on July 29, 2020 10:23 Tags: down-syndrome

July 27, 2020

Martial Hearts - An Update

Darius AndayaOriginally posted March 3, 2013

“They might not understand you. They might not be able to do the techniques. They might get hurt. They might hurt someone else. They may become violent.”

These are just some of the reasons why some parents would not let their kids with Down syndrome learn taekwon-do. In actuality, the reverse is true.

Kids with Down syndrome have the most to gain from studying taekwon-do. The reasons these parents shy away from it are the very reasons why they should have their kids study it. They struggle with coordination. They have low muscle tone. They cannot express themselves clearly. They cannot protect themselves. In my mind, these kids are exactly the reason why any martial art was invented.

Darryl joined my classes when he was about 8 or 9. He had very low muscle tone and was very uncoordinated. But that weakness came with a high level of flexibility. He can kick very high, which is a very big asset in Taekwon-do. The key with him was time and patience. We practiced him slowly on his patterns, sometimes one or two steps at a time, 10 minutes at a time. It takes time, but he did understand and he was able to learn the techniques.

The atmosphere of respect and discipline enabled him to learn to respect people around him, both in and out of the training hall. Taekwon-do teaches one to kick and punch. However, an integral part of the discipline is knowing its proper use –which is ONLY for self-defense. In truth, as one becomes more proficient in the art, it becomes less likely that he/she will use it to hurt someone. This is true for everyone, even those with Down syndrome.

As for the risk of being hurt, how is it different from riding a bike, playing on the playground, or even playing basketball or volleyball? The risks are always there, yet parents think nothing of allowing their kids to do all of these activities. In taekwon-do, kids wear protective gear when they spar. More often than not, clubs use soft mats on the floors for added protection.

Darryl is now a blue stripe belt. Although he progressed slower than the rest of the class, his determination and perseverance never lagged behind. He was there at every class doing the exact same thing everyone else did. He worked hard and yet still able to return a smile for everyone willing to give him one. Recently, he competed at his first tournament, against mainstream students. No stress. No nervousness. Just a big smile in his face. He didn’t win, but the reaction from spectators was far better than a medal anyway. A black belt from another school sought us out just to shake our hands. He said Darryl was “amazing and awesome.”

Truly, if anyone has the heart for it, and the ability to capture hearts, it is Darryl. A heart full of discipline, respect, innocence and love. A true Martial Heart.

UPDATE: July 27, 2020

Darryl has since become a blackbelt, a recipient of the George Klukas Outstanding Achievement Award and a Two-time World Champion at the 2019 International Special Needs Taekwon-do Games held in NewZealand. He also started teaching Taekwon-do at the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation facility.

I Too Can Be Special! by Darius Andaya I Too Can Be Special!In June 2020, in celebration of his 20th birthday, Darryl and dad published the book, I Too Can Be Special! Darryl also illustrated this book.

Darius Andaya Darius Andaya is a Certified ITF International Instructor and the Chief Instructor at the DSA Royal International Taekwon-Do. 604-355-0372.
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Published on July 27, 2020 11:53