Young Cleft Palate Patients Shine Brightest at ‘World Smile Day’ Celebration

Franz de la Fuente | October 11, 2019

“Ang Diyos, hindi kaming ginawang pangit. (God made us all beautiful, in his image)” With those six simple words, Cheska, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, managed to powerfully speak her truth and shatter the ignorance of a bully’s cruel taunts.

The 12-year-old is very much an average kid. When not studying her lessons at San Joaquin Elementary School in Pasig City, she likes to color her activity books at home, or ride her bike around their neighborhood in Ligid-Tipas, Taguig City. Her mother, Maricel, occasionally gives her cooking lessons. As a result, Cheska is already capable of making fried rice (sinangag).




But despite her relatively normaly life, Cheska admits to having endured bullying and teasing as she underwent several surgeries to address her cleft lip and palate.

“Tinutukso siya [Cheska]. Hindi nila matanggap na may iba sa kanila na may kapansanan. Hindi nila maintindihan. Pero hindi naman puwedeng kada-bully, susugod ako sa school. Ang payo ko, ‘Maging matatag ka. Huwag mo nalang silang pansinin.’” (She gets teased. The bullies cannot accept nor understand physical differences. But, of course, I can’t rush to her school every single time she gets bullied. My advise to her is to be strong and simply pay no attention to them),” shares Maricel.

And that’s exactly what Cheska did.


One time, binully siya at nasa harap rin ako at sinabi niya [Cheska], ‘Ang Diyos, hindi kami ginawang pangit. Maganda kami. Kayo lang ang hindi makatanggap sa amin. Sabi ni Lord, lahat ng ginawa niya maganda. Maganda ako. (God did not create us ugly. We are all beautiful, and you simply cannot accept that. The Lord said everything He made is beautiful. I am beautiful.)




Celebrating World Smile Day

Cheska was among the 30 children with cleft lips and palates who found a good reason to flash bright smiles as they enjoyed an afternoon of fun at the recent World Smile Day Celebration organized by Aboitiz Foundation and Smile Train Philippines Foundation at Caf8.

Among the activities were face painting, group games, and stitching up their own plushies with Binibining Pilipinas 2019 winners led by Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Christiana Ganados.



World Smile Day, held every first Friday of October, traces its roots to the idea that “all of us, should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts throughout the world. The smiley face knows no politics, no geography, and no religion, and that for at least one day each year, neither should we.”

We in the Aboitiz Foundation are always thankful for the opportunity to make kids smile. We hope that you can also find joy in our activities this afternoon and be reminded that no one is ever too small to make a difference. I think in the simplest sense, this is what we really want out of all of our social development projects – to see a smile when we look at another person, and ultimately, build good and happy communities.

– Maribeth Marasigan, COO, Aboitiz Foundation

Smile Train Area Director Kimmy Flaviano and Aboitiz Foundation COO Maribeth Marasigan with Cheska and fellow Smile Train kids.
Smile Train Area Director Kimmy Flaviano and Aboitiz Foundation COO Maribeth Marasigan with Cheska and fellow Smile Train kids.

KINDer by Aboitiz: An Innovative Way To Help

Smile Train, an international children’s charity whose goal is “to provide every child with a cleft the opportunity for a healthy and productive life,” is an Aboitiz Foundation beneficiary through KINDer by Aboitiz, an Aboitiz-developed crowdfunding website.

We are grateful for our partnership with the Aboitiz Foundation through its donations campaign, KINDer. More than a website for crowdfunding, KINDer gives us the opportunity to reach more people and inspire them to be part of our advocacy of making more kids smile.

– Kimmy C. Flaviano, Area Director-South East Asia, Smile Train

Ganados, for her part, said: “Doing good is important—it is as important as taking care of ourselves. It is an honor and pleasure to be here with all of you.” 

Through a few clicks, KINDer users may browse through various campaigns, learn more about it, and donate to provide support–similar to what Netflix has done for movies and shows in terms of access and choice, and what Kickstarter has done as an effective funding platform in realizing creative projects ーin this case, to support a cause. As in the case of Smile Train, KINDer also welcomes partnerships with foundations in need of a fundraising platform.

From September 2018 to May 2019, KINDer raised nearly PHP1.6 million through more than 600 individual donors.