My Korean Experience with the Deaf
Last week, I was very much blessed to be part of the entourage of Filipino Deaf group who had a chance to visit the Soul of Asia, Seoul South Korea. For seven days, I was able to travel to one of the most sought after cities in the world.
Together with a mix of predominantly deaf delegation coming from Capitol City Baptist Church Deaf Ministry (CCBCDM) led by its Deaf Pastor Julius Andrada and his family, I experienced another exciting event in my life. Actually the nineteen-man delegation was composed of deaf students, staff, members and faculties of CAP College Foundation, CCBCDM and MCCID College of Technology. Well, the only common denominator is that nearly all of us are somehow connected with CCBC either as faithful attendees and sign language interpreters like me.
Ptr. Julius was with his wife and CAP SFD Registrar May Andrada together with two kids and their ward Lilet. Others from CAP were Ms. Revie Garcia, Harold Viray, Ylena Reyes, Michael Valois and Perseus Rendal. The last four are either students and alumni.
CCBCDM members were composed of Ptr. Rolando Landicho, Rodante De Torres and Jeremicah Penir. MCCID team who joined aside from me was Sir Ervin Reyes and Sir Jerome Marzan representing the faculty while Joanna Teves and Eleazar Fancubit came from the student group. Although Ptr. Julius selected the entire members of delegation, he gave our MCCID group a full hand as to who would participate.
Among the delegates, only six of us are hearing persons (May, Jules, Licca, Lilet, Revie and me).
Why are we there?
The Korean based Yewon Church, a rapidly growing Evangelical Christian church invited the Philippines to join in their third (?) World Deaf Mission Conference. Their aim is to spread the good news of God’s Word to the deaf people through the ends of the earth (That includes the Philippines). They already have a Philippine based Yewon Church. I believe they want to establish a separate Deaf Yewon Church through the able leadership of their Deaf Assistant Pastor Juwon Chung. Juwon is a Gallaudet University alumnus who is also a proud son of Rev. Chung Eun-Chu, Yewon Church’s Senior Pastor.
They invited the Philippine team and generously paid for all of our expenses. We are truly grateful to them for inviting us.
Korea and the Philippines
I wasn’t expecting much about the trip in terms of cultural differences. These past few years, there have been a deluge of Koreans who visit our country. They have virtually invaded our islands in terms of food (Kimchi restaurants are sprouting almost everywhere.), schools (I was surprised that in Licca’s elementary school, 50% of their population are Koreans.) and soap operas (Who can forget Full House, Endless Love Series, Jewel in the Palace and the now hugely popular Boys Over Flowers?). Latest survey shows more than one million Koreans have already visited the Philippines. So we have already been bitten by the Korean bug.
But then, I didn’t expect something exciting. Seoul is a beautiful and walkable city. Even at 2 am, my deaf team visited 7-11 Convenient Store which is a few blocks away from our hostel (Dreamtel International Youth Center) without fear of getting mugged. Then, we went to their famous spots like the top of the N Seoul Tower wherein one window was specially dedicated to Manila.
We were also treated to a cable car ride and experienced traversing the busy yet clean and hassle free Seoul highways and subways. Familiar faces of popular Korean actors donned every corner. How I wish the Philippines would be as clean as Seoul considering that Korea only became this highly urbanized more than thirty years ago?
As for the food, well, call me biased, but I never liked spicy hot meals. The first time I tasted their Kimchi, my stomach started to grumble in quick successions. I decided to refrain from eating some more for fear of having a hard time concentrating with my sign language interpretation.
In one of the Korean restaurants, the waitress motioned us to pour our rice on the soup. We immediately waived no. In another meal, one Korean lady explained to us that all the ingredients must be mixed in one bowl with red hot sauce on top. I’m not used to mixing food in one plate so we politely motioned her to leave us alone.
During our courtesy call with the highest official of their church, we were treated with a Korean watermelon. We felt a bit surprised and at the same time thought that we were cheap. You see, watermelon is one of the staple fruits in the Philippines. Everybody regardless of economic status can enjoy this delicious watery fruit. Later on I politely inquired about the way we were treated. Our interpreter defended that watermelon is very expensive in Korea. It was only served for very special guests and visitors. Ahhh, ok! I got it. Watermelon costs nearly P5,000 per fruit in their fruit stands compared to P50 here! 🙂
As for the people, they are lovely and gracious. But communication is still something to be desired. Only a handful of them knows English. It’s hard for us to ask the restaurant owners if they offer rice or chicken. Philippines is a hands down winner here. You can go anywhere here and still be understood by anyone including the street children.
One more thing. It’s very unethical to compare. But I observe that Filipinos are happier despite being lack of material things. Hooray for my beloved country!
Korean Deaf and Filipino Deaf
I thought that Asian countries are alike in many ways. I may also equate these perception for deaf communities. But I was mistaken. Probably because of the sign language. Koreans have their own distinct sign language which, I was told, was basically the same as the Japanese sign language.
Filipino Sign Language got its roots from ASL. Many South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong also got their roots from ASL. So Deaf communities from these countries can hit it well and fast. However, I cannot say the same with the Korean deaf. It might take quite a few more intense hours of conversation before we can have a decent understanding.
In learning a few Korean Sign Language, I found out that their hello’s, hi’s and goodbyes have the same sign. That sign can also be used to greet a deaf person in any time of the day whether morning, noon or night, much like the Hawaiian Aloha.
Although some of my deaf companions were able to hit it off with some Korean deaf, I cannot say the same for my Korean hearing friends. They have very limited English knowledge. I was only able to chat lengthily with Ms. Gloria Kwon, the Korean Sign Language interpreter and of course with Ms. Hanna Jung. They keep on apologizing about their limited English vocabulary. But they were remarkably good with English. However, I cannot know if they were able to faithfully interpret the Korean words into English.
To the Yewon Church led by Rev. Chung Eun-Chu and Rev. Choi Duck-Keun of Department of Deaf Ministry, thank you very much for inviting us to visit your beautiful country and blessed by the Holy Spirit from your messages. Special mention to our Deaf companion, sign language interpreter and tour guide Mr. Juwon Chung for being so patient with us. God bless all of you! 🙂
To my brother in Christ, the faithful pastor of CCBC Deaf Ministry Julius Andrada, we are truly blessed that you selected our school to be one of those that participated in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thank you and may the Deaf ministry continue to shine for the glory of God through Christ Jesus! 🙂