Michelle Dee receives leadership award for autism inclusion

Michelle Dee receives leadership award for autism inclusion and welfare

/ 03:10 PM April 23, 2024

Michelle Marquez Dee receives the Hans T. Sy Leadership Award for Autism Inclusion and Welfare. Image from her Instagram page.

Michelle Marquez Dee receives the Hans T. Sy Leadership Award for Autism Inclusion and Welfare. Image from her Instagram page.

Reigning Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Marquez Dee’s quest to raise the discussion on autism on the global platform has earned for her the Hans T. Sy Leadership Award for Autism Inclusion and Welfare, a distinction bestowed by the very group she aspired the help.

The beauty queen-model-actress accepted the recognition at the pre-show for the “Angels Walk for Autism 2024” organized by Autism Society Philippines (ASP) at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on April 21, where thousands of Filipinos on the spectrum and their friends, families, and allies gathered.


Dee, who utilized the Miss Universe platform to share her advocacy work on autism acceptance and inclusion, said the moment gave her butterflies in her stomach. “I’ve been on stage very many times, more times that I can count, actually even twice in this very arena. But for some reason today, ‘kinakabahan ako’ (I’m nervous). Not because I’m in front of so many people, but because I’m just truly happy to be here, truly happy to be here seeing all of your wonderful faces,” she said upon accepting the recognition from the person the award was named after.


“Receiving this award, the Hans T. Sy award, it really hits different because I’ve received so many awards in the past, but this award is given by all of you, all of you who have been the key to my success in this very wonderful journey,” continued Dee, whose advocacy work had also earned for her a “gold finalist” berth in the “Voice for Change” initiative by Miss Universe crown provider Mouawad with CI Talks during the 2023 global tilt held in El Salvador last year.

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She has been a long-time goodwill ambassador for ASP, and has worked with the biggest nongovernment organization on autism in the world years before she was crowned Miss Universe Philippines. “All of you have been the key reason to my success. And it shaped my life in more ways than one. It goes beyond any title or any crown because it’s our collective effort to make a positive change,” Dee said.

“I really have to thank two individuals [who] inspired me since I was young, and those two individuals are my two siblings on the autism spectrum, Adam and Mazenne,” she shared, while holding back her tears, with the two gentlemen seated with the audience.

Dee also expressed her gratitude to their mother, 1979 Miss International Melanie Marquez who also attended the event. “It’s because of them that I’m standing here in front of you, of course, my mother who taught me how to give back. And she taught me how to love unconditionally, thank you,” she said.

The autism advocate said the recognition serves as a reminder of “how far we have come and how much further we have yet to go.” She also encouraged everybody to never waver in their support for those on the spectrum. “Let’s make every small victory make the loudest and biggest waves all around the world. Because here we are making a society where everyone belongs,” Dee continued.


She, together with her mother and two siblings and ASP officers, rallied the participants in the walk that commenced after the show, and took them from the arena all the way to the Mall of Asia Music Hall, snaking through the commercial establishment’s pathways to encourage mallgoers to take part in autism welfare and inclusion.

“We are walking to remind everyone of acceptance, accommodation and appreciation. We’re walking to show that a kinder and more inclusive world is not just a dream, it is achievable. And we are making that happen step-by-step. We’re walking and we are here because of every small thing that we have done collectively,” Dee said.

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The reigning queen will relinquish her national title at the 2024 Miss Universe Philippines pageant’s coronation show, also at the same arena, on May 22. Fifty-three ladies are competing to succeed her.

Filipino-American sustainable fashion designer and advocate R’Bonney Gabriel, who was crowned as the 71st Miss Universe, will host the ceremony, which will also feature a performance from “Drag Race UK vs. the World” season 2 finalist Marina Summers.

TAGS: autism, Michelle Dee

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