Yay! First 320,000 Visits!

Yehey! I reached another milestone in my blogging career! I reached my first 320,000th visits! Last week, I also gained another first; reaching 921 visits in one day alone, on February 20! And within that week, I also had three straight days of nearly 1000 visits!

Philippine General Hospital Facade
Philippine General Hospital (Photo courtesy of Hospital Map Online)

What’s unique about this sudden surge of visitors is that they did not come from my usual deaf related articles. It came from my copied post of “Humorous Stories from Philippine General Hospital“. This is about a funny collection of stories from doctors, patients and their families while being treated in the first government hospital built by the American colonizers in 1907. Most of the visitors, I presume are my fellow Filipinos. More than 3,000 people read this article this February alone!

My top referrer has always been Google Search followed by deafread.com, Facebook Page, WordPress.com and our school’s official website mccid.edu.ph which will undergo a major facelift this month.

Thank you very very much dear readers for being patient with me! On to my another milestone, 350,000th visitors! 🙂

Filipino Deaf Candidate asked to resign from Beauty Contest

This is again another act of discrimination against the deaf! Binibining Pilipinas is a national organization which holds the annual search for Filipina beauties who will represent the country in international contests such as Ms. Universe, Ms. International, Ms. Tourism and Ms. Supranational. According to their website’s FAQ, here are their requirements:

  • A single lady, 17 to 25 years old
  • A Filipino citizen, minimum 5’6” in height with pleasing personality
  • At least a high school graduate and of good moral character

Now, let us check the requirements of Christine Balaguer:

  • A single lady, 17 to 25 years old – Check!
  • A Filipino citizen, minimum 5’6” in height with pleasing personality – Check!
  • At least a high school graduate and of good moral character – Check!

I don’t see any requirement saying, Can hear and speak. Then why the hell was she asked to resign? She is already among the finalist and passed the batteries of test before landing into the top 34. Why? Why? Why?

Here is Rappler.com’s news article about this glaring discrimination published last month:

Deaf candidate Christine Balaguer removed from Bb Pilipinas 2015

Christine says being asked to resign by the organizers has left her ‘depressed’ because it was her big dream to be the first deaf candidate to compete.

CHRISTINE BALAGUER. File photo by Melvin Sia

CHRISTINE BALAGUER. File photo by Melvin Sia

MANILA, Philippines – Binibining Pilipinas Charities Incorporated (BCPI) has replaced Christine Balaguer in the official list of candidates for this year’s pageant.

Christine was announced as one of the 34 candidates last January 10 and was photographed in some of the girls’ activities. (IN PHOTOS: The 34 Bb Pilipinas 2015 candidates)

On her Facebook page, Christine said that she was asked by BCPI to resign, which made her “depressed.” She added that it was her big dream to be the first deaf candidate to compete.

Christine was replaced by Cannielle Faith Santos from Marilao, Bulacan. Christine previously joined Miss World Philippines 2014, where she placed in the Top 10. (READ: The Binibining Pilipinas 2015 returning hopefuls)

She is the second candidate to be replaced in this year’s list. Candidate #9 Kimberle Mae Penchon dropped the competition and was replaced by Maolin Yalung. – Rappler.com

Paging BCPI!!! Count this blogger as one of those protesting against this discrimination!

On Deaf and Relationships

Wedding Invitation Letter from my former student
Wedding Invitation Letter from my former student

Two days ago I received a greenish glittering letter from a former deaf student inviting me to attend his Catholic Church wedding celebration. Of course, I would also assume that he did not invite me just as a mere spectator. He, together with his mom, went to our school and hand carried the letter requesting me to interpret in his wedding this February.  I was out of the office that day. But I already knew his purpose because he is my FB friend and he already contacted me there.

I got excited when I received the invitation. The last time I interpreted in a deaf wedding was a couple of years ago. It was a civil one and held in the office of a police official/lawyer in Manila City Hall. Again, aside from interpreting, I also stood as one of the couple’s witness (Filipino culture’s Ninong sa kasal). Today they celebrated their son’s first birthday and again invited us in his baptism. But I begged off in attending because I already have prior commitment on that day.

Weddings are truly a wonderful event. It symbolizes sanctity and strength in a relationship. But does it actually seal the relationship? Does it help in keeping the bond between husbands and wives stick and last “till death do them part”? Now, what about deaf relationships? Does it hold true for them?

A week ago, I saw a Facebook post of an extremely happy deaf mother of a newborn hearing baby boy. She was very proud of her baby that she even posted hospital videos with the father. She was my student many years ago.

Unmarried Deaf Couple
Deaf Family

Her family was super strict that they don’t want her to end up with that deaf guy (who was her classmate) whom they believe has no future. So they never consented to their relationship. But were they able to prevent them from continuing their affair? Hugely! She remained unmarried.

Last Saturday, I attended a widely announced Deaf Expo in SM Mall of Asia. Even though I had to do tons of work on that day, I bought an expensive ticket and attended the event. One of my reason is to see the latest developments in technologies for the deaf. But frustratingly, there wasn’t any that was exhibited. But as a consolation, I was able to meet long time deaf students from as far back as few years from where MCCID started, in 1993!

I made a few chit-chats here and there, the deaf culture way. But what surprised me was that majority of my male deaf students were already separated from their deaf wives! Most of them had church weddings. I attended and even interpreted for a couple of them. Most of these men have stable jobs. Why then were their relationships did not end with the “happily ever after” way? I also thought that having a deaf-deaf relationship would be very successful because there won’t be any communication problem. And does religion have to do with it? These situations among deaf couples are truly alarming.

I politely asked them what happened. One guy said his wife wants to go abroad so she was secretly making contact with a deaf foreigner. She is now in another country with him. The other guy said her wife doesn’t love him anymore so she left. But she also left their child under his care.

Two weeks ago, one of my earliest deaf students visited the school asking for authentication of her credentials. She was one of those whom I’ve helped getting a job in the highest office of the country. She is very close to me. I asked her how she is. She said everything’s fine.  I then asked how his deaf husband is, she also said fine but with reservations. I did not inquire more. Later on, I found out that she confided with his former teacher where she revealed that they are already separated. Sheezz!

What went wrong? What formula works and what doesn’t?

One of my favorite deaf student whom I really admire for his wit and humor celebrated his simple birthday this week. He’s already in his early 30s but still unmarried. I jokingly asked why he is still unhooked. He replied, he’s already too old, his true love is already married to his deaf childhood friend and he enjoys being single. True enough, I have witnessed many of my deaf students remained single and they enjoy life. All of them are heterosexuals and some even sired children from other deaf girls. But is this the right path?

I have one deaf student who is inviting me to attend the first birthday of his son next week. He completely loves and supports his child. But not his child’s mother. So they remained unmarried.

I Love You Sign
I Love You Sign

Relationships are very hard to understand even for the deaf’s perspective. Were they properly informed about the consequences of their actions? I think so especially now with the rapid advancement of social media. Were they greatly influenced by others? I am inclined to believe so. Is there a moral deterioration going on among the Filipino deaf? I hope not.

Today is Valentine’s Day. This is the day where red roses and chocolates are bestsellers and “love is in the air”. Yet this is one of the most overrated celebrations we have. Can we have Valentine’s daily instead of just every February 14?

I may never fully understand the deaf’s psyche. But I always remind them to seek God’s guidance and always choose to be happy no matter what. 🙂

Yes the Philippines can become a deaf-inclusive country

Mr. David Lozada of Rappler.com made a very interesting and informative article about the inspiring activities of Deaf organization in Cebu led by my idol and Ashoka Fellows of 2015, John Paul Maunes. I copy-pasted it here. The original article which was published in January 27, 2015 appears here. Cheers! 🙂

‘There is a worldwide movement viewing deafness as a culture beyond hearing impairment, and the community of the deaf as a cultural and linguistic minority has become visibly accepted in global circles of advocacy’

REACHING OUT. GSVP executive director John Paul Maunes talks to a girl from one of their communities using sign language. All photos from GSVP  GSVP

REACHING OUT. GSVP executive director John Paul Maunes talks to a girl from one of their communities using sign language. All photos from GSVP GSVP

MANILA, Philippines – It all started as a high school volunteering activity that evolved into a lifetime commitment. Now, thirty-year-old John Paul Maunes is making waves of change for the deaf community in the Philippines.

Maunes, who has been serving as the executive director of the Gualandi Service Volunteer Program (GSVP) for the past 3 years, dreams of seeing a “deaf-inclusive” society where sign language is available everywhere.

“(A society where) deaf and persons with disabilities (PWDs) can freely communicate and understand each other and maximize each others’ potentials without bias and prejudice, where each person can freely exercises his/her rights in a nurturing and protective environment,” he added.

Disability, he said, is not just a physical limitation. It is an ever “evolving concept.”

“Disability is the direct result of the interaction between a person with PWD and the attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others,” Maunes, who co-founded GSVP in 2005, explained.

‘Breaking the silence’

GSVP’s main advocacy is to unearth and prevent sexual abuse of deaf women and children, which has risen to alarming numbers in recent years.

A 2012 report by the Philippine Deaf Resource Center (PDRC) noted out of the 213 known cases of deaf sexual abuse from 2006 to 2012, only 24% have court-appointed interpreters, 44% have volunteer interpreters, 21% have unconfirmed appointed interpreters, and 11% had no interpreters.

Most of the perpetrators were hearing males. Deaf female complainants struggle in court proceedings, according to the GSVP. This was how the “Break the Silence” (BTS) network of GSVP came to be.

BTS trains and mentors non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and deaf people’s organizations (DPOs) in strategic locations across the country to address the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

“It’s a functioning network where ideas, experiences, difficulties, and success stories would be shared with one another in order to affect change for the benefit of deaf children all over the Philippines,” Maunes said.

Policy changes

GSVP saw that one of the reasons why abuse of deaf women and children is not discussed is the inability of law enforcers to understand the victims.

This is why GSVP trained members of the local police, judiciary, schools, and social welfare officers in deaf culture awareness and Filipino Sign Language (FSL) trainings to improve the delivery and support for the deaf and provide accessibility to sign language interpreters in court.

The BTS Project has already empowered at least 2,000 deaf children and women, handled nearly 40 cases in court, and trained 1,000 stakeholders in communities since it’s founding.

In November 2013, Maunes led the establishment of the Information and Police Access for the Deaf (IPAD) program in partnership with the Philippine National Police in Region VII.

“This provides a deaf desk in police stations to give assistance for the deaf and improve and develop police skills in reporting and filing cases involving the deaf,” Maunes added.

Because of the breakthrough on the BTS project, GSVP was recognized as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) in the Philippines in 2013. It was also awarded as the first recipient of the Jesse Robredo Youth and Local Governance Award in February 2014.

Senator Bam Aquino, TAYO Awards chair, saw the importance of the BTS project, leading him to file 2 Senate Bills – SB 2117, which requires the use of FSL inset for local news program, and SB 2118, declaring FSL as the National Sign Language of the Filipino Deaf.

‘Cultural and linguistic minority’

Aside from the financial challenges, Maunes said the biggest challenge to his advocacy is the negative public perception about PWDs.

“Since nobody has been doing it, we had to pilot our programs. The absence of policies and laws in education and participation that directly benefit deaf people makes it more difficult,” he added.

Majority of government offices and agencies tasked to provide services for PWDs also see PWDs more as beneficiaries rather than partners and primary drivers in developing sustainable programs and projects.

“There is a worldwide movement viewing deafness as a culture beyond hearing impairment, and the community of the deaf as a cultural and linguistic minority has become visibly accepted in global circles of advocacy,” Maunes said.

“Unfortunately, government policies, particularly in education, have not kept up with the development of this progressive philosophy,” he added.

COMMUNICATING NEWS. John Paul Maunes interprets a news segment of a television network GSVP

COMMUNICATING NEWS. John Paul Maunes interprets a news segment of a television network GSVP

GSVP also advocates for deaf-friendly media. In 2005, the organization partnered with ABS-CBN to pilot the first ever television news inset interpreting to help increase awareness and access to information for the deaf. This led to regional stations of the country’s leading TV networks to provide deaf-friendly TV newscast with integrated FSL. (READ: How Pope Francis spoke to the deaf)

Ashoka Fellowship

Because of his work for the deaf community, Maunes was named as one of the Ashoka Fellows for 2015 – a global network of leading social entrepreneurs recognized to have innovative solutions to social problems.

“What this means is that I will have widespread access to social entrepreneurs and resources through Ashoka. The bonus is on how you make the most of these opportunities. As many fellows will tell you, you will get as much out of Ashoka as you put in,” he said.

Founded in 1980, Ashoka has over 3,000 fellows working in 70 countries, using the network as an accelerator of change. The first Filipino Ashoka Fellow is Girlie Lorenzo, founder of Kythe Inc.

For Maunes, the Ashoka fellowship will help him spread his advocacy.

“To be selected as one of the pioneering Ashoka fellows in the country gives me the advantage and the prestige to catapult my advocacy work and amplify current issues that we are lobbying for in society,” he added. – Rappler.com

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