Earlier this year, the “Search for Winners Against Asthma” was launched. This advocacy campaign aims to choose and recognize 10 young asthmatic achievers 30 years and younger who are outstanding in their respective fields despite having asthma and inspire asthma sufferers that they, too, can win against the disease.
During the launch, its three celebrity ambassadors were revealed to the public and they are Winter Olympian Michael Martinez, Journey frontman Arnel Pineda, and Kapamilya Drama Princess Kim Chiu. The three celebrities were chosen to become the faces of the campaign because despite the fact that they have asthma, they proved to everyone that they can excel in their respective field.
While Michael was training abroad and Arnel was on tour, only Kim was able to grace the launch. The “Must Date the Playboy” star shared with the members of the press and bloggers her ordeal with asthma and how she was able to conquer the disease even in difficult situations while at work (CLICK HERE FOR RELATED ARTICLE) or doing strenuous activities.
9 months after the launch, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced the winners of its Search for the Winners Against Asthma (SWAA) at the Makati Shangrila Hotel. The program which was held last October 7 was graced by international rockstar Arnel Pineda.
“We decided to target this particular age group because asthma is a common chronic disease of childhood leading to reduced activity, school absences, ER visits and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Gio Barangan, GSK Medical Director.
“It is also during this stage that young people are in the process of developing the necessary knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve their goals in life, and as such we want to let them know that asthma should not deter them from realizing their full potential,” Barangan added.
The SWAA is open to all Filipino citizens or foreigners with a permanent Philippine address that have been diagnosed as asthmatic by a qualified physician. The campaign received almost 2,000 entries nationwide.
The winners were divided into two categories: Category A (Youth Category) for 19 years old and below and Category B (Adult Category) for 20 years old and above.
All participants shared their own ordeals against asthma. These may be in various fields including Arts, Academics, Career, and Sports. They were required to answer the question: How did you Win Against Asthma? The screening committee then used the following criteria for each entry – Excellence in their Field or Category 50%, Evidence of winning over asthma 30%, and Online Votes 20%
After months of deliberation, the winners are finally revealed.
In the youth category of 19 years old and below, Christian Lacza, a student from Navotas City was judged as the grand prize winner.
Christian is one of the 2014 Kabayan Ten Outstanding Public School Students, and 2014 Ten Outstanding Youth Leaders of Navotas City. He was also an awardee of the 2010 Gawad Huwarang Kabataan of the Antolin Oreta Sr. Foundation and Gawad Modelong Kabataan: Galing at Dangal ng Malabon of the Arnold Vicencio Foundation. He is also the youngest recipient of the Orator of the Year Award in Navotas National High School.
“When I was young, my asthma attacks were so severe that my mother would have to bring me to the hospital almost weekly. This made me realize that if I cannot excel in physical activities, I have to discover and focus on my other strengths,” said Christian.
“Going to my pediatrician was a constant necessity, and she made sure I get the proper medication and treatment, but more than that she never failed to cheer me up and would always give me words of encouragement whenever I visited her.”
“Instead of letting asthma stop me I stopped asthma from interfering with my life as I pushed myself as a holistic learner– excelling in academics, student leadership and in various competitions,” he added.
The runner up winners in the youth category are 15-year old student and dancer Christina Chua; taekwondo twins Andre Rafael and Anton Joachim Montero; consistent student scholar Kenneth Angelo Bagay and Dave Andre Labaton who is also a taekwondo medalist.
In the adult category, incoming third year medical student Teesha Banta was judged as the winner. The 23-year old student from St. Luke’s College of Medicine, was a full scholar in her first two years of med school and graduated Cum Laude from University of the Philippines Los Banos with the degree of BS Biology Major in Wildlife Biology.
She is a lifetime member in two international honor societies but besides her academic achievements, she is also actively involved in community service. As an active Girl Scout, Teesha received two of the highest awards given by the organization– the Chief Girl Scout Medal and is one the 75 GSP National Young Awardees. She had represented the country in national and international events, specifically as an advocate and a National Peer Educator on Adolescent Female Health.
“Asthma runs in our family but symptoms of severe asthma began when I was in college, which, unfortunately, was also the time when I was so involved in my schoolwork and scouting. My mother, who is a doctor and is also an asthmatic, helped me through most of my journey by taking care of me and reminding me to take my medicines. Actually, because of my asthma, I had to temporarily stop med school because bed rest was advised. But it did not stop me from taking a part-time job as a high school Science teacher. Besides being a doctor, teaching was my second dream job”, Teesha narrates.
“Every time I have my asthma attacks, the only thing on my mind is to get well so I could go back to studying and become a doctor to prove that asthma should not stop you from pursuing your dreams.”
Teesha said she plans to become an OB-GYN or specialize in Pediatric Pulmonology so she could treat asthmatic children.
Her message to other asthmatics? “During our many asthma attacks, we may feel powerless and helpless. We do not have the strength that non-asthmatics have and it may feel like it is the end of our dreams, I had that feeling when I had to temporarily stop med school because of my asthma. Well, these are all lies. Our condition is but another challenge that adds more meaning to each of our achievements, an opportunity to push harder, aim higher, and be better persons and citizens of our country. Perhaps we were given this condition because we have the ability to turn these “setbacks” into “set-ups” of better things to come. We can defeat asthma and we can conquer our dreams!”
The other winners in the adult category are UP student Ianna Engaño an athlete, musician, artist and social activist; Yasmin Versoza a firefighter and member of the Marikina City Fire Truck crew; Christianne de Vera a triathlete; and Yliah Nina Bosch a registered nurse who is working as an Emergency Nurse Responder at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Part of the judging committee are Dr. Eileen Aniceto from Philippine College of Chest Physicians; Dr. Therese Leopando from Philippine Academy of Pediatric Pulmonologists; and Dr. Carmela Kasala from Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Inc.
The winners will receive the following prizes: Huawei P7 Smart Phone; Five Thousand (PhP5,000) worth of GCs from Folded & Hung and Twenty Five Thousand (PhP25,000) worth of Sodexo gift certificates.
“A lot of asthma patients have accepted lifestyle restrictions resulting from uncontrolled asthma as the norm, assuming that frequent symptoms, exacerbations and lifestyle limitations are an inevitable consequence of having asthma. With the Search for Winners Against Asthma campaign, we hope to encourage and inspire more young people to live their lives to the fullest and not let asthma prevent them from doing the things they love.” Dr. Barangan also credits Kim Chiu, Arnel Pineda, and Michael Christian Martinez for helping them spread awareness of this campaign.
“Kim, Arnel and Michael are asthmatics who have proven not only to themselves but to the entire world that they can take control of their condition and never let their asthma stop them from following their dreams and achieving success in their very competitive careers,” Barangan added.
For more information about the Search for Winners Against Asthma campaign, visit www.facebook.com/WinAgainstAsthma.