It takes true courage to embark on a profession that a mere mention of its name raises eyebrows and evokes confounded looks. It is similar to exploring uncharted territories, only equipped with positivity and faith. Until realization sets in that with that decision, that risk taken, life has become more fulfilling. Now, the only thing left to do is to make these territories known to more.
Ma. Rowena Arao-Ynion is one of those courageous few who took on the less travelled route. She took up a course not known to many Filipinos, and has been a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist. And as if that is not a challenge in itself, she also accepted the highest position in the Philippine Speech-Language Pathology scene. She is the current president of the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (PASP) and she shows Murphy Report her determination to let more people know about what they do and why they do it.
Can you give us a background of what Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) is?
I think it’s easier to describe Speech-Language Pathology, by describing what a Speech-Language Pathologist does. A Speech-Language Pathologisthelps children and adults with communication and swallowing problems. The key words are “help”, “communication” and “swallowing”. We see children with disabilities like autism, ADHD, down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. We also see adults with communication and swallowing problems due to stroke, Parkinson’s disease, as well as traumatic brain injuries, and other neurological concerns.
How is it to be a Speech-Language Pathologist in the Philippines?
Since I’ve been practicing for 23 years, I still feel sad because not a lot of people know what I do and what the profession is all about, but slowly we’re getting there. There are more Speech-Language Pathologists practicing now and there are more universities offering the course.
What are the most common misconceptions Filipinos have about Speech-Language Pathologists?
Some people think that we work with clients who want to become better public speakers or that we train them so they can work in call centers.
Why do you think Speech-Language Pathology is not known in the country?
Compared to other courses, Speech-Language Pathology is relatively young. The course started in the University of the Philippines-Manila (UP-Manila) and it was just in 1982 when they produced their first graduate, and it was a single graduate. We are happy that three other universities are now offering the course: University of Sto. Tomas (UST), Cebu Doctors’ University(CDU) and De La Salle Health Sciences Institute (DLSHSI). We’re hoping that they will be producing more graduates and more professionals in the field.
What drew you to this profession?
I knew about the course through an angel at the registrar’s office. Actually, I just got into it because I wanted to go into med. But when I was observing SLPs in PGH doing their job, it amazed me how they helped adults who have had stroke and that eventually they can talk. And when I observed patients being seen at the university, it inspired me to do something that I thought was different, but of course, I had to tell my parents that I’m not pursuing medicine anymore. I told my dad, he’s my idol in terms of passion for the profession, he has been a newscaster for the past 45 years. And so he couldn’t say anything when I gave him a letter. He was in the province, in Bicol, I gave him the letter and told him that I finally found the profession that I would be doing for the rest of my life. I told him, “I won’t be a doctor anymore. I’ll be a Speech-Language Pathologist.This is want I want to do.” And he supported me all the way.
In this profession, what do you think keeps the fire burning?
What’s good about the profession is its range. You can work with adults and children, and you’ll see a lot of cases. It’s like a box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’ll get. Sometimes, when you go into the hospital setting, you’ll see a case and it’s different. So, every day is different! You don’t know how the child would behave for that particular day. So I think that’s what has kept me going all these years. Of course there are bad days, but when you think about it, and when you try to realize what you can do for a client to elicit a particular response, then somehow, you get excited again. And then you just get going.
Not a lot of people know about your profession, moreover that there is an association for it. Can you tell us about the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists?
Our association, the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (PASP), is on its 25th year. Right now, we’re also happy to tell everyone that we are 300 strong. There are around 365 active members and that we are now more reachable to our clients. As a matter of fact, we are having our first national convention on July 23 and 24 at SMX in SM Aura and we are inviting all professionals, the doctors as well as the parents to join us to get to know Speech-Language Pathology better.
Aside from the convention, can you tell us more about the projects of PASP?
PASP has a lot of projects, primarily to help our members develop their skills. So we have a lot of continuing education programs. We have seminars and certification programs for them. It depends on what they need. We try to organize, as much as possible, on a quarterly basis.
Can you tell us about your position in PASP and how it has been?
I am currently the president of the association. Being the president, on its 25th year, is both an honor and a challenge. There were a lot of bumps along the way, but our team has kept its focus on what needs to be done.
What’s good about the profession is its range. You can work with adults and children, and you’ll see a lot of cases. It’s like a box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’ll get. Sometimes, when you go into the hospital setting, you’ll see a case and it’s different.
What are the steps PASP has been doing to increase awareness and better educate the people about your profession?
Currently, we are working with a lot of advocacy groups to help us reach out to our clients better. With associations like Autism Society of the Philippines, ADHD Society of the Philippines, and Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, Inc., so that we can work with our parents and clients in improving awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of children with special needs, as well as the differently-abled.
How can PASP be reached?
PASP can now be reached through www.pasp.org.ph. Through our website, our clients can check Speech-Language Pathologists living near their place. They can ask questions and they can also view the different activities we have, so they can be a part of it.
Are there SLPs in the provinces or are you all based in Metro Manila?
Most of the SLPs are still based in the National Capital Region (NCR), but slowly, we have SLPs practicing in provinces like Davao, Cebu, Baguio, Iloilo, Bacolod and Gen San. We are hoping that more SLPs will go back to their provinces and for those who are in the NCR to at least adopt a rural area or a province just like our Vice President who is practicing in Metro Manila, but she goes to Tacloban often.
The demand for your profession has been high, what has the association been doing to provide services to all especially to those located in the rural areas?
There are SLPs who are into community work, Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR). Of course, we want to reach out to more clients in the provinces, so right now, we are encouraging our SLPs to go back to their provinces or provide free clinics or free workshops to those in need. And of course one of our goals is to increase in number and we are confident that eventually we will be doing so, since all 4 universities will eventually be increasing their number of graduates, thus, increase the number of professionals in the future.
How do you see the profession growing in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I hope the profession won’t be misunderstood anymore and I hope that we will come up with a good number. A good number such that more clients would be served, especially in the provincial areas. A good number is also a good goal, so some of us can focus more on research or do more community work.
What are the future plans of PASP?
Since PASP is a membership organization, we would want to ensure that all our members are equipped with the proper knowledge and skills to serve everyone, and in the future we hope to increase in number. We also hope to continue working with varied advocacy groups and we hope to continue being advocates of our clients. And of course in the future, it would be nice to be working with more international groups.
Lastly, what do you want people to know about Speech-Language Pathology?
I want them to know that Speech-Language Pathology is a helping profession. We help children and adults with communication and swallowing problems. And it’s actually not an easy job, but witnessing a client, who was previously non-verbal utter his or her first word, is priceless. It’s not easy, but it is truly rewarding.
For more information about the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists and Speech-Language Pathology, please visit www.pasp.org.ph.
Interview – Jenette Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo
Videography – Cris Legaspi, Lisandro Molina, and M Espeña
Editing – M Espeña
Photography – Cris Legaspi
Text – Dane Raymundo