Filipino Sign Language Bill’s struggle for acceptance continues

Yesterday, I posted a Facebook status which says, “…. Filipino Sign Language struggle for acceptance continues… on November 27 at the House of Representatives…. ” This after the very heated argument which happened last November 19 during the Technical Working Group Sub-committee hearing on the discussion about the modification of the proposed Filipino Sign Language Bill. The “final” hearing will be held on the 27th.

Sub-committee Hearing

I was invited in the past two hearings representing our school, MCCID College. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. But it is imperative for me to participate on this one because I have already exhausted two excuses for not attending. :-)

I won’t mention most of what transpired, especially the debates which took nearly four hours. Cong. Antonio Tinio, principal author of the bill was very cordial and accommodating with all sides.

I was the first one who made an introduction as one of the resource persons. But I remained silent all throughout the proceedings. I won’t post any prominent names here except for congressmen, in order to respect their personal preferences. These are what I observed:

  • I’m sure some participants already noticed this. Every time a resource person comes in, he/she knows where he/she would sit in preference of his/her stand on the bill. I being an FSL advocate sat on the right side of the conference room near the front since I’m one of the early birds. So do most of the pro-FSL supporters! The “anti” FSL people were all conspicuously seated on the left! Was there a seat plan made or are we just all natural born psychics? :-)
  • A significant number of attendees, from the congressmen (paging, Cong. Rufus Rodriguez!) down to the deaf observers, still cannot distinguish the FILIPINO (language) from FILIPINO (group of people). Some of them are at a loss when they ignorantly pronounced that Filipino Sign Language means Tagalog language translated into sign language. One high-esteemed corporate head even mentioned about globalization. It is as if we dream of the Filipino Deaf becoming future Call Center Agents!
  • Two sign language interpreters were present. On the left, FSL interpreter while on the right, SEE with which some SEE advocates corrected the term as SIGNED ENGLISH Interpreters. But after careful observation, there were many instances when both of them were nearly signing identically! Is the SEE interpreter slowly switching to a much comfortable FSL or is the FSL interpreter making things easier by following English sentences in exact order? hmmm…
  • Some perceived that FSL is an anti-English language. That’s way too unfounded. All, and I mean ALL, Special Education Centers in the Philippines use English as a medium of instruction especially in the written form. Tagalog or Filipino language is taught sparsely. Some, including oral schools, scrapped Filipino subject altogether.
  • Quite a number of participants brag about their so and so decades of teaching the deaf or being deeply involved with the deaf community. Well, I guess the number of years of service won’t always make you a better servant.
  • When the voice interpreter code switched from English to Tagalog, some used that as a proof that FSL is indeed based on Tagalog. What a shameless exposure of ignorance!
  • Some “anti” FSL washed their hands into saying that they’re not really against FSL. They just don’t want it to be used as a medium of instruction in schools. But the proposed bill is not only confined in classrooms. It must be used in all media and services including courts, hospitals, government offices and TV news interpreting.
  • Majority of the attendees were from the academe. So the “fear” of FSL being used as the “sole” language in classrooms was loudly expressed.
  • The Filipino Deaf Community was raised up. Who can be identified as part of the community and who are those who are not? Who belongs to the big “D” and those in the small “d”? This “branding” of people is a tough nut to crack.

Now, what really excited me was that the heated discussions among hearing participants (including some deaf protagonists of course) spilled over to the deaf audience. I heard that during the first committee hearing, there was only one participant from the FSL group. As expected, he was succumbed by those who were not in agreement with FSL. And so he rallied the cause and the historic Deaf March for FSL bill transpired in the morning before the second committee hearing. FSL made a strong showing in round two.


But during this third hearing, the “SEE” group brought with them a group of their deaf supporters. So the so-called, pro-FSL and anti-FSL among the Filipino Deaf community “surfaced”. The real excitement happened when they gathered outside the conference hall after the session. It was there when they made exchanges of perspective about the cause. I cannot help but stayed on to see what their real sentiments were. When Cong. Tinio joined the discussion among the deaf groups, I volunteered to voice for him. Here is what I gathered:

  • The “SEE” deaf group were not TOTALLY AGAINST FSL. Some of them even signed in FSL. But what they don’t want is for FSL to be mandated in all schools. They only want FSL to be taught as one of the subjects and SEE to be maintained as the main medium of instruction. They simply don’t want FSL to be strictly imposed on them.
  • The “FSL” deaf group lightly argued that the law must be implemented and that FSL must be recognized in ALL schools.
  • Some asked if FSL will be implemented in all schools, will oral schools be included? How could that be? What about those who are late-deafened? Will there be exclusions on the bill? If that’s the case, then the essence of the bill, which is FSL for all will not be met.

In the end, the deaf community agreed to have further talks about the issues raised. What’s important is that they don’t close their doors into making their points heard. As for me, I still believe that FSL be recognized as a native language of the Filipino Deaf and must be taught during their formative years. But the Filipino Deaf must be given a choice. It is their right.

On to round four….. :-)

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    […] Filipino Sign Language Bill’s struggle for acceptance continues (deafphilippines.wordpress.com) […]

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