Deaf roles should be given to deaf actors

Last week, our country celebrated its “Deaf Awareness Week”, an annual event which we have been doing since 1991 when then President Corazon Aquino signed Proclamation 829. All schools for the deaf as well as government agencies are encouraged to promote the cause of deaf people in the Philippines.

Local media also participated in the awareness campaign. One of which is ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media and entertainment network, wherein one of their popular drama anthology “Maala-ala Mo Kaya” made an episode of a deaf letter-sender named CJ Reynaldo who was able to beat the odds by passing and graduating in the best university (University of the Philippines) despite his condition. See the video trailer/highlight below:

Prior to its airing late Saturday evening of November 10, the episode created a buzz in the social media within the Filipino deaf community. There were numerous sharing and commenting with ABS-CBN leading the way in Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We were all glued to the TV screen when it was shown. I even made an FB post about my experience watching it.

Screen grab of my Facebook post.

The story was very good and realistic. Hearing Actor Nash Aguas did a really swell job in portraying a very challenging deaf role. He acted very natural and convincing. With the support from her hearing mother played by the very talented Ms. Eula Valdez, the team really did their homework of studying sign language. Congratulations are in order for the MMK Group!!!

I am really satisfied with how they handled the story. However, what caught my attention was a Facebook post of a popular deaf actor and my friend Romalito Mallari after he watched the recent episode. He said,

Congrtz to CK’s story in mmk but i dnt accepted for hearing to be used deaf actor as a pretend person. I want see real new deaf actor. We proud of deaf actor. Sad! At least we watch u to make us inspired story. I hope one day deaf actor as well and we bravo u. Salute!

Romalito Mallari’s Facebook post

I have made a few blog posts about Romalito here when I promoted his movie “Dinig Sana Kita”. He is a very talented deaf artist. In fact, he even won a Best New Actor Award portraying the deaf lead role in this movie.

Come to think of it, his sentiment is right. Why did they not hire a real deaf actor to portray a deaf role? Perhaps the studio has its own valid reason of getting a hearing person to do a deaf role. But I felt sad and pitiful that deaf actors missed the only opportunity wherein they can work. Sure, they hired deaf actors to act as CJ’s friends and classmates. But their parts are too small and somewhat insignificant.

Facebook message conversation between me and Romalito

In the book, “For Hearing People Only, The Most Popular Handbook about the Deaf Community” of  Deaf Life Press/MSM Productions, Ltd, a question was raised.


“Do you have a problem
with hearing performers
playing Deaf roles?”

https://www.hpobook.com/q_and_a_sampling/DeafRole2016_2.html

For which the handbook author replied:

In the early days of Hollywood, Deaf roles were invariably played by hearing performers. Many of these characterizations were stereotyped (and would be considered offensive nowadays). Deaf actors and actresses began breaking into TV and film during the 1970s, scoring important advances—e.g., returning characters, lead characters, getting ASL-speaking Deaf performers in background roles. With these advances have come a demand for authenticity. A hearing performer who takes a Deaf role (typically with a crash course in ASL and Deaf mannerisms) is rarely convincing. Every Deaf role given to a hearing performer represents a lost opportunity. We believe that Deaf performers should be cast in Deaf roles.

American cinema and TV dramas are now providing significant opportunities to deaf actors. Who would never miss the Oscar awardee Marlee Matlin, CJ Jones of Baby Driver and the now famous child star  Millicent Simmonds of a 2018 sleeper hit, A Quiet Place? They all portrayed deaf roles.

ABS-CBN might argue that they have no time to train a deaf actor to do the role on such short shooting days, or they might have difficulty finding a Filipino deaf actor to cast in the role. But I don’t believe that they have fully exhausted their options on this.

As the book says, “Every Deaf role given to a hearing performer represents a lost opportunity.” I may also add that, “deaf actors portraying deaf roles not only provide work opportunities for them, but also advance the authentic awareness of the deaf people.”  

PS: A “Like Star” rating below for this post would be highly appreciated. 😉 😉 😉

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Filipino Sign Language now official

Filipino Sign Language for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Great news!!!

After more than two decades of convincing people that there exist such a language, the Philippines has finally recognized Filipino Sign Language as the true and living language used by the Filipino Deaf community!!! Pres. Duterte signed today Republic Act 11106 or the Filipino Sign Language Act!!! 😍😍😍

President Rodrigo Duterte

We were already believers and has been using/promoting Filipino Sign Language since 1991 when I was then a computer instructor for the deaf at CAP College Foundation, Inc. We were convinced by the explanation of our then Director Rosalie Macaraig who arrived from Gallaudet University. Cory Aquino was still the president then. We have been observing and studying the signs of the Filipino deaf community and we were very much convinced that they are using a unique yet highly developed signs which are distinguishable from American Sign Language.

Yet the struggles in pushing for its recognition was ginormous. The Department of Education and even the first public school for the deaf in Asia are the greatest stumbling blocks. They never believed that there exists a language commonly used by the Filipino Deaf. One of the compelling reasons why Deaf Ervin Reyes and I established Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf back in 1993 was to agressively promote FSL.

But we never lose hope. With the strong persistence of Philippine Federation of the Deaf, the yearly filing of House Bill by Congressman Antonio Tinio, painstaking researches of Dr. Liza Martinez and her group, the bonding together of like-minded colleagues to form Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters and the continued nurturing of the Filipino deaf community, the country has finally recognized FSL as the true and living visual language.

So, after more than five presidents later, it was President Rodrigo Duterte who signed Republic Act 11106 into law on October 30 and published on November 12 coinciding the Deaf Awareness Week celebration (November 10-16). Our dream has finally been fulfilled! Cheers to best times ahead for the Filipino Deaf Community!!!

Download the official law here:

Duterte Signs Filipino Sign Language Into Law – Abs-Cbn News 

Duterte Signs Filipino Sign Language Act – Philippine Daily Inquirer

Download Filipino Sign Language Font 2

MCCID FSL FONT complete
Learn Sign Language through your keyboard. Download the first ever Filipino Sign Language Font. You may freely use this font for personal or commercial use. However, a kind gesture of mentioning our school’s name would be highly appreciated. https://www.mccid.edu.ph
The MCCID FSL Font has all the equivalent alphabets and numeric characters that are used in finger spelling and hand sign. The hands used are similar to those with white gloves so special markings like fingernails and hand lines don’t appear. The characters are comic like to make the letters more clear and easier to copy.

MCCID FSL Font is different from other sign language fonts because it presents the uniquely Filipino signs of the letters “E” and “G”. Aside from that, it also has equivalent hand signs for 29 special keyboard characters including the ampersand (&), dollar ($), per cent (%), etc. A total of 65 characters are represented in signs.
MCCID aims for the font to be accessed and installed freely to anybody’s computers in order to promote the learning of sign language and increase people’s awareness in learning this special language of the Deaf people.

MCCID FSL Font 1.0 Features

  • MCCID FSL Font first version is only 135 kb.
  • MCCID FSL Font is a True Type Font. The primary strength of TrueType was originally that it offered font developers a high degree of control over precisely how their fonts are displayed, right down to particular pixels, at various font heights.
  • It can be installed into any PC with Windows Operating System as well as Apple Mac OS 10 and above. It has also been tested for Linux Based OS (Ubuntu).
  • Lower case and upper case hand letters are the same.
  • MCCID FSL Font is a Regular Font. It means you can convert each character into Boldface and Italics.
  • As a dingbat font, MCCID FSL Font does not appear clearly on font size lower than 90. You can better appreciate the font if you change the character size to 100 and above. 300 is the recommended font size.
  • Unlike the Gallaudet American Sign Language Font, British Sign Language Font or Braille Fonts, the MCCID FSL Font offers more than 50 equivalent keyboard characters except for the tilde (~), caret (^) and closed apostrophe (`).

MCCID FSL Font 2 Features

  • MCCID FSL Font 2.0 is slightly lighter at 101kb.
  • Aside from the True Type Font (TTF), MCCID FSL Font is now available in Open Type Font (OTF) which offers a more extended characters. OTF is a joint effort of Microsoft and Adobe and is now more commonly used.
  • The fonts are now with smoother and more realistic hands inside the white gloves.
  • MCCID FSL Font 2 now appears clearly on sizes above 60.
  • The fingerspell of letter “C” is corrected.
  • MCCID FSL Font 2 now offers 72 characters or an additional of twelve from the previous version. Special characters like 1/2, 1/4, division symbol and enye are added.

Download the font by clicking on the link below:

MCCID FSL Font 2.0

On vilification and unintentional act

This issue went controversial a couple of months ago and now that the dust has just settled in, we may be able to view it in a more level-headed perspective. I won’t be adding my own opinion on this matter lest I be accused of being biased although I do have already formed my personal leaning on the situation. I will just use this post as a timeline documentation on what transpired as of today (November 6, 2018). I will not include events that are unrelated to this. Let my blog readers form their own opinions based on this.

For purposes of clarity from among my non-Filipino and international friends, I would first introduce the two central characters in this mayhem:

Mocha Uson

  1. Mocha Uson – She is a Filipina singer, dancer, model, controversial blogger, and former appointive public official. She is also co-founder of the group Mocha Girls. She is also one of the powerful figures who actively campaigned for the election of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. She has a strong following in social media with nearly six million online followers of her Mocha Uson Blog. She served as a member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) from January 2017 through her appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
  2. Drew Olivar –  He is another Filipino social media blogger noted for his bold and impDrew Olivarrudent words and actions although he is a lot less popular than Mocha
    with not more than half a million followers. He posts mostly satire and video antics. One very important thing Mocha and Drew are in common is that they are both avid Duterte supporters. They even had a one hour radio program which is currently aired daily at DWIZ, “Tambalang Mocha at Drew”.

September 14 – Mocha uploaded this video in her Facebook blog as their opening spiel before the start of their radio show.

Note: I used the raw video footage from YouTube without some commentaries and other stuff so that viewers may not be influenced by them. I also did not put a subtitle-caption.

September 15 – The National Council on Disability Affairs Executive Director Carmen Zubiaga, created an FB group named “DEAF SECTOR STAND UP” in order to address the situation “with reference to the video making fun of sign language.” She invited all her friends who are members of the Filipino deaf community including myself to join the group and deal with the “insulting video”. Later on the group members invited lawyer-friends and other members of media to share their thoughts. Prominent people from the deaf community headed by Philippine Federation of the Deaf President Carol Dagami joined the group and they prepared a strategy on how to  file a “class suit”.

September 16 – The video was removed from the Mocha Uson Blog Facebook page after they were bombarded by numerous comment posts attacking the two and expressing their anger on the mockery and insult to sign language and the deaf community.

September 17 – Both Mocha Uson and Drew Olivar made a public apology in their Facebook posts. They also created a personal apology in video.

Note: I again used the raw video footage from YouTube without some commentaries and other stuff. I again did not put a subtitle-caption.

September 18 – Mainstream media and some politicians took notice of this and formed their own opinions. They also suggested sanctions against the two bloggers. These include Senator Nancy Binay, the principal author of Filipino Sign Language Bill, Senator Grace Poe and Bam Aquino. Also, premier universities like the  UP College of Education Student Council and Dela Salle College of St. Benilde made their official statements condemning whom they considered as an “atrocious act”.

September 19 – The Commission on Human Rights appeared into the picture by promising to conduct an investigation on the matter.

September 20 – Representing the Filipino Deaf community, Philippine Federation of the Deaf President Carolyn Dagani filed a complaint against Uson and blogger Drew Olivar to the Office of the Ombudsman for violating the RA 7277 and 9442 or the Magna Carta for the Disabled Persons,  RA 6713 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, RA 386 or the Civil Code of the Philippines and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Dagani and the rest of the deaf community were offended by what Uson and Olivar did in the video. According to the group, Olivar, in particular, made hand gesticulations and body movements, which from the perspective of fluent deaf signers are mere gibberish. For those who are unfamiliar with sign language, his actions can even be interpreted as sexual connotations.

September 23 – In a letter sent to President Duterte, Mocha Uson resigned her post as Assistant Secretary of PCOO.

October 3 – In front of the Senate hearing on the budget of the PCOO, Uson formally announced her resignation. She stated that the most compelling reason of leaving the government service was due to congress “holding her hostage for not passing the 2019 budget of PCOO if she would not appear on the hearings”.

October 5 – Despite her resignation, the Office of Ombudsman starts the probe on Mocha Uson’s Case.

For further reference, I included the link on Republic Act 9442 or the Amended Magna Carta for Disabled Persons and the separate Implementing Rules and Regulation here.

As a final note, I added below the  DZMM TeleRayo Radio discourse about Mocha Sign Language video controversy which prompted the Philippine Federation of the Deaf to file a case against the Ombudsman. The legal opinion of Atty. Claire Castro was explained here. This time, I added English subtitle for the understanding of the Filipino Deaf Community and my international readers.

There you have it folks!!!

PS: Since both of them will now be often mentioned by the deaf community, the Philippine Federation of the Deaf assigned sign names for them.

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