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October 27, 2004

Aga Muhlach continues advocacy for the deaf

From: Manila Bulletin - Manila,Philippines - Oct 27, 2004

Aga Muhlach is not keen on (TV) ratings. That is, even if his sitcom on ABS-CBN, "Ok Fine Whatever," is considered the most popular sitcom today.

Neither is Aga affected by the tag "Box-office King," because he has won the title twice (for his movies "Pangako Ikaw Lang" and "Kailangan Kita").

"Nakaka-flatter, oo," he remarked, smiling. "No doubt, nakaka-inflate ng ego. But when you get down to it, sabi nga, all a performer really owes his audience is a good performance."

As leading man, especially in films, Aga is considered the ultimate. No wonder that most leading ladies, especially those who've not had the chance yet to work with him, dream of one day getting paired with him.

Aga has a number of admirers (they admit they are his tagahanga) among the young stars. Bea Alonzo, for one, said in an interview (in "ASAP Mania") she would only consider herself popular if she has done a movie with Aga.

Heart Evangelista, who once appeared in a sitcom, "D'Body N D'Pilot," with Aga and Joyce Jimenez, stated (again, in an interview) that the convincing evidence that a young star has arrived as a star is after she has worked with Aga.

But more than just being an actor (he has acting awards to his name, too) and leading man to reckon with, what is admirable about Aga is his generous nature. Which obviously is what endears him especially to the underprivileged sector of our society, the deaf, in particular.

It is common knowledge that Aga helped organized STEAM (Special Team for Deaf Persons Foundation, Inc.), an organization which trains and educate deaf persons for future employment. For eight years, he chaired the foundation. He is now just the chairman emeritus, as he has decided to pass on the chairmanship to "one of them," Cromwell Umali, who was born deaf but is a college graduate.

Today, according to Aga, they have helped about 400 deaf get employed, most of them with Jollibee Food Corporation and of which he is the official endorser.

"Actually, ang originally ipinakiusap ko sa kanila ay mag-employ sila ng one or two deaf. But as expected, they found them to be as efficient as their employees na walang kapansanan.

"Grateful talaga ako sa Jollibee for the cooperation they are giving STEAM," he further stated.

Last Oct. 20, STEAM organized the 1st National Conference on Deaf Training, Employment, Advocacy and Management at the 32nd floor Jollibee Plaza in Pasig City. The theme of the conference: Hearing The Deaf: The Beauty of Transformation Through Employment Transition.

More than 200, mostly students, participated, which also consisted of participants from local government units, concerned government agencies, House of Representatives, Senate Health institutions, philanthropic organizations, academe, media labor, deaf community and their family support groups.

Aga, in his capacity as Chairman Emeritus of STEAM, delivered the closing remarks citing his appreciation to the participants. It is his hope, he said, that deaf persons, in time, will be able to make the transformation from dependence and mendicancy to productive contribution to the country's economy and society.

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