Filipino Sign Language has finally landed in the Bible!
The Philippine Deaf Sign Language Association (PDSLA) in partnership with the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) launched an initial thirty-two of the well-loved Bible stories in Filipino Sign Language Video format during its dedication/launch held on February 23 at the PBS Ministry Center. They also distributed DVD copies of the stories for free to the guests and visitors.
Of the 32 titles, twelve are taken from the Old Testament stories while the remaining twenty are from the life and times of the Lord Jesus Christ starting from His birth up to the fellowship of His disciples. PDSLA and PBS formed the Filipino Sign Language Bible Translation Project in 2013 which aims to make God’s Word available to Filipino Deaf in a language that they fully understand.
In their brochure, PDSLA stated that the Deaf are one of the largest unreached people groups in the world.
“Deaf people have been without the life-changing words of Scripture in a language that imparts their hearts. We are joining a global movement among Deaf people who are translating the Word of God into their own sign language and seeing spiritual growth among those who previously struggled to know God.”
Why stories instead of Bible passages?
According to the group, Deaf people tend to understand best when communicated to with stories. Chronological Bible Translation (CBT) is being used by many Deaf translation teams in Asia and around the world. The format is used in order to help the Deaf understand three (3) Biblical foundations:
- Know God. How?
- Follow God. How?
- Serve God. How?
Using a video camera, lighting rigs and a green screen, sign language videos are produced including graphics and images to support the signs. The Old Testament Bible story selection starts with “God Created the World” up to “God’s Chosen Servant”. The New Testament Bible story begins with “Birth of Jesus” and ends with “Believer’s Fellowship”. The 32 stories are just their initial offering. Additional Bible stories will be produced in the years to come.
A Blessed Project Close to My Heart
Prior to this activity, I have been exposed to many Bible stories and Christian songs converted into sign language. I remember way back in the late nineties, there were tapes in VHS format as well as VCDs freely distributed by American missionaries and churches/organizations with established deaf ministries like Door International, Deaf Bible Society, and Deaf Missions which produce the Daily Devotions for the Deaf, an “Our Daily Bread” book written in Deaf way. But all of them are signed using the American Sign Language (ASL).
As a sign language interpreter of Capitol City Baptist Church (CCBC) for nearly three decades now and a native FSL user, I greatly long for a way by which the Bible stories can be explained so that the Filipino deaf can fully grasp and comprehend. However, I was very much constrained at how to go about this because there are many underlying constraints to consider like sign names of Biblical characters, better visual and gestural approach in expounding the story and faithful translation of doctrines and teachings.
Thankfully in 2013, faith-based leaders from the Filipino Deaf community met and discussed a better approach in spreading God’s Good news, one that would speak through their own language, the Filipino Sign Language. Aside from that, the group raised up goals that would touch all aspects of language environment such as linguistics and research, community and language development, deaf culture and church development training. PDSLA was born.
Since then, they invited same-faith individuals, church groups, institutions and other organizations to partner with them. Because of my close affinity with the group, I was very glad that they invited me representing our School Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf to join as a partner institution with which we are very much honored. Officers/leaders of the association, all of whom are my personal friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, include the Ptr. Julius Andrada of CCBC Deaf Ministry together with his lovely wife May, Deaf Pastor Brothers Mamerto and Nehemiah Cortez, Ptr. Albert Mercado and Ptr. Peter Ding Basa.
With the recent passing of Filipino Sign Language Act of 2018, projects like this would surely be a welcome addition to the growing number of FSL resource materials and teaching aids as well as advocates in recognizing and promoting this unique language that is very beneficial for the Filipino Deaf Community.
To know where to get free DVD copies of the Bible Translations in FSL or learn more about the group and would like to partner with them, you may contact them thru:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Address: 12 Big Horsehoe Drive, Horsehoe Village, Quezon City, 1112PH
Facebook of FSL Bible Translation: https://www.facebook.com/FSLBT