Meet Herberg, special child

Here is a “feel good” pre-Christmas story to share with you, dear readers!

Meet Herberg Claus, “special child,” budding artist!

The son of Maeio and Josephine Claus has autism but it has not limited him from living life joyfully. We met Herberg at our First Saturday mass and breakfast fellowship at Carmel Church  Lipa several years ago. A quiet child, he joined all our activities happily nonetheless, with his mom Jops and his sister Marianne.

The artist, Herberg

We, “classmates” in Lipa, including Justice Elo Santiago, Glenda Barretto, Amy Pascual, Dr. Ramon Magsino, the late Ditas Lerma, Presy and Lita Bueaventura, Bambi Miras, Cielo Rivera, and Paz Weigand, took him as a co-devotee of the Mediatrix.

All Herberg wanted, his mother recalled to us, was to celebrate his “debut,” his 21st birthday, with ballroom dancing, wearing a suit at a hotel setting—the works!

"Four Women" was pencil-drawn and colored by Herberg in 2015 and recreated in acrylic in 2022 prior to his One-Man Art Exhibit. This best represents his Mom and her 3 sisters.

He must have had vivid memories of how debuts were celebrated after experiencing one with his Ate Marianne and after watching several Korean dramas, Jops said.

It was then decided, after having several meetings with Baldwin Kho, Herberg’s art mentor since 2011, to showcase his “artworks through the years,” as part of his birthday celebration. Some 37 pieces of his works done in different mediums from 2009 were selected for the one-man art exhibit. A boy on the autism spectrum, Herberg has indeed come a long way, not only in the arts but also in other aspects of life.

While he could barely speak a word at six, he can now read, understand, and participate in simple conversations. He can do basic household chores and he performs well in the job readiness program at the Independent Living Learning Center, where he studies. Thanks to his teachers, tutors, therapists, speech-language pathologist, and developmental pediatrician, who all have done wonders on Herberg’s potential and wellbeing, he is now more capable of doing things with minimum supervision and even surprises people surrounding him with his words and actions. He likes to sing, especially in the videoke, being familiar with most songs and even the singers. He can also identify most Filipino movie titles, their actors, directors, and the year they were shown.

A Marian devotee diligently attending a mass on the first Saturday of every month since he was a little boy, Herberg has an exceptional knowledge of most saints and their feast days, as well as of priests, cardinals, and bishops and their positions in the church and the names and locations of churches not only in the Philippines but in other parts of the world. His hobbies include watching rosary brigades, attending masses and novenas online and practically all other religious activities that he finds on TV, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels.  He has memorized almost every prayer and even several versions of Oratio Imperata for the Covid-19 virus.

At present, Herberg regularly does a 30-minute walk-exercise in the morning and swims on weekends or special occasions. He is also learning to play golf with the close supervision of his coach. 

This amazing young man, oozing with artistic talent, remains a sweet and caring boy to the people surrounding him, whom he openly cherishes with warm hugs and endearing smiles.

Herberg with the cotillion members, dancing to Rewrite the Stars (by the Piano Guys) and Permission to Dance (by BTS).

Acknowledging his desire and penchant for performing, the very special people in his life gave Herberg the chance to participate in a cotillion, something he has always been wanting to do. He started practicing two months before the event and, in only five sessions, he was able to perform a simple yet entrancing dance that made everyone in the room teary-eyed. The cotillion was followed by a modern dance, which continued to wow the audience, who did not expect yet another presentation from the debutant.  The whole event was a success with the presence of Herberg’s family and close relatives, friends, classmates, teachers, therapists, and physicians, and Herberg’s half-sisters Aimee Claus Leynes and Beulah Claus Reynoso, who are also so supportive.

Herberg goes to school at the Independent Living Learning Center in Mandaluyong City.