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'Boyet Challenge' Is Not a Harmless 'Pampa-Good Vibes' Gag
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  • In January 2019, the Autism Society Philippines (ASP) called out YouTube influencer Benedict Cua on Twitter for posting a "72-hour Boyet Challenge" video. The social media experiment, which began trending in December 2018, had Filipinos posting videos of their versions of imitating Boyet, the character played by Ken Chan in My Special Tatay on GMA-7 — Boyet is a young dad with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

    According to ASP, Cua has apologized in writing and via video and has since taken down the original post.

    ASP condemned "The Boyet Challenge" "as thinly-veiled instruments of ridicule of those who live with autism and intellectual disabilities, just as the Philippines began to the commemorate the National Autism Consciousness Week on the third week of January."

    After ASP released its statement where it called for kindness, it received questions and conversations via comments and direct messages. With ASP's permission, we've published ASP's responses below.

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    Why and how the "Boyet Challenge" discriminates against peope with developmental disability

    I like Ken Chan and his portrayal. Why are you against My Special Tatay?

    ASP respects the rights to creative expression of performance artists, writers and producers of TV and film in the interpretation of fictional characters who have autism and intellectual disabilities.

    We condemn the "Boyet Challenge because it uses traits of persons with disabilities for the purpose of comedic entertainment and social media notoriety. Sadly, this includes Chan (who joined and supported the "Angels Walk for Autism" years ago) who often slips into his Boyet character outside the context of his soap opera.

    Ganun naman talaga magsalita ang mga may autism. Uma-acting lang naman kami kasi fans kami ng show.

    When My Special Tatay was launched in August 2018, Ken Chan articulated his aspiration to be a "voice of people with autism." This made us hopeful that his portrayal of a man on the spectrum will inspire compassion and respect for persons with autism and intellectual disabilities as human beings, who do not deserve being spoofed in the name of comedic amusement.

    We would like to share a list of honest and nuanced portrayals of characters with autism and/or intellectual disability worth emulating: Alden Richards in Eat Bulaga's Lenten Special "Kapatid" (2017), John Lloyd Cruz in The Trial (2014), Gerald Anderson in Budoy (2012), Terence Baylon in Ipagpatawad Mo (1991), among others. We are keen on watching how Arjo Atayde's character with autism in The General's Daughter (2019) will be developed.

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    We commend actor Gerald Anderson for starting a foundation that trains dogs to serve in rescue missions and to act as service dogs to children with autism  after his show ended and without the intention to promote his television project. He also partnered with Kiehl's Philippines to raise funds that will provide free therapy for children with autism from indigent families.

    Wala pong masamang intention ang mga gumagawa ng challenge. Pampa-good vibes lang po ito.

    Ginagawa po ang challenge para magpatawa. Bakit po naging nakakatawa ang mga taong may kapansanan na nahihirapan magsalita o parang musmos magisip? Hindi po makatao na gamitin ang hirap nila na pampatawa! Hindi po makatao na gawing katatawanan ang kanilang kaibahan! Para po sa mga milyong-milyong pamilyang Pilipino na may minamahal na may kapansanan, hindi po ito nagbibigay ng "good vibes."

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     This is a harmless social media gag. It has no effect in real life.

    Here's an effect which can be measured by empirical data. With the popularity of the Boyet Challenge and its variations like the "Kapag lumingon ka ..." and the "This is my voice after watching #myspecialtatay" measured in post volume, likes, comments, reposts and number of compilations, it appears it is now acceptable to mimic persons with communication challenges in the name of entertainment and social media virality. The term "Boyet" is now an emerging euphemistic insult for anyone likened to persons with autism and intellectual disability — just search #boyet on Twitter.

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    As an ethnographic observation, the thousands of people who have posted this challenge expose a dark layer of society who think persons with disabilities are different, therefore less than them and are laughable. This perpetuates the culture of bullying that Filipino children and adults with autism and intellectual disabilities have to live with every day.

    This may be just a TV show or a way to rack up social media likes for some, but this is real life for persons with autism and their families.

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    We are free to express ourselves. We are protected by freedom of expression by law.

    The freedoms we enjoy as citizens carry obligations. We should not abuse these freedoms by infringing on the rights of others to exist with dignity. Persons with disabilities are protected by the Magna Carta of PWDs. Republic Act No. 9442 (the ammendment to RA 7277) protects PWDs (which include those with autism and intellectual disabilities) against ridicule and vilification. Violation of this law carries fines and prison time. Pursuit of legal action is an option the ASP is ready to take as a last resort.

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    What can I do to help the #no2boyetchallenge campaign?

    Send this FAQs to anyone in your sphere of influence who has posted a #boyetchallenge video. If you have made a #boyetchallenge video, delete it now. If you are a parent, please talk to your kids. If you are a teacher, please discuss this in class. If you are part of a student group, please create a campaign on campus. Take a stand! And read more about the Autism Society Philippines' "Pangako" campaign at http://bit.ly/1pangako.

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    There is no need to pick fights. Many who have participated in this challenge quickly recognize the disability slur once it is pointed out. Think of this as an opportunity to teach and inspire change. Peace to all!

    Mona Magno-Veluz serves as the national president of the Autism Society Philippines. She is a mom to three kids with her eldest Carl on the autism spectrum. Her passion propels her to write and talk publicly about disability inclusion and PWD empowerment. Find her on Twitter @mightymagulang.

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