My TV Interpreting and Former President Aquino

Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III died on June 24. His ashes were laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park today (June 26). I already posted my condolences to the 15th president of my country on Facebook and also changed my temporary profile photo in honoring him.

My Facebook Condolences….

However, I won’t be focusing in detail on the events leading to his untimely demise nor the other activities that followed. What I want to share with you is how, “incidentally”, because of him, we had our first inset sign language interpretation of a President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on national TV in 2010.

I placed the word “incidentally” between quotes because the ex-president never had a hand on this. These are the collaborative efforts of the deaf community, deaf advocates, deaf institutions, and like-minded individuals in partnership with national TV stations. Worth mentioning is the tireless efforts made by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD), Dela Salle – College of St. Benilde which is one of the pioneer institutions in advocating for this, and most of my colleagues in the interpreting world. It just so happens that he was the president at that time. Although the bill on Filipino Sign Language started to make headway during his presidency, the actual law was in full gear and eventually signed into law on 2018 during his successor’s time, President Rodrigo Duterte.

As I was remembering the former president, I googled photos of me interpreting for him. I was very much blessed that I was chosen by the organizers from Dela Salle-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB) to be one of the first sign language interpreters assigned for SONA together with DLS-CSB Dean Nicky Templo-Perez. The National Council on Disability Affairs even documented the first sign language interpreted SONA ever, on their official website. The site says,

NCDA lauds GMA7 for its history making streaming news on President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) with sign language interpretation, last June 26, 2010. The Council cheered with thousands of deaf viewers this country’s  first-ever SONA, heard live  by thousands of deaf citizens through a sign language interpreter, thanks to GMA7’s  kapuso  network. Mr. Jojo Esposa interpreting through sign language the State of the Nation’s Address of President Noynoy Aquino.

Excited MCCID Training Director and PWAG President Remberto Esposa Jr. tipped off the Council day before the President’s SONA, that GMA7 News tapped him to interpret the event, most awaited by every Filipino here and in many parts of the world. For the first time, deaf Pinoys, felt one with fellow Filipinos with and without disabilities everywhere in the world, the same great pride over the new President’s humble but noble pronouncements. Loud and clear through the interpreter, they too applauded his marching orders to ban undue use of “wang wang” (sirens) and his call to fight corruption in his inaugural speech. Most of all, his “Kayo ang Boss ko” (You, the Filipino people, are my Boss), got the biggest public cheer of all.

P-noy's SONA with sign language inset.

P-noy’s SONA with sign language inset.

Original article appears here: Pnoy’s SONA Reaches Thousands of Deaf Pinoys Nationwide – NCDA

As I was googling for the actual interpreting on TV, I never found one. Only photos. However, I was very much surprised that I was interviewed by GMA Network, one of the largest media organizations in the country and saved it on YouTube. The interviewer candidly asked me if I was scared to interpret and what I would expect from this activity. I honestly said I was trembling because I don’t know what he would say. Also, the reporter asked what interpreting language I would be using, which I answered in Filipino Sign Language. She followed it up with a query if it is the same as the Filipino language. I explained to her that it’s not the same. FSL is a separate distinct language used by native Filipino deaf users. I added that we are just there to bridge the communication gap between the hearing world and the deaf.

Here is the YouTube link of the said interview:

Behind the Scenes: Sign language interpretation of the SONA

This activity was a trailblazer of sorts because, on the succeeding years, all TV stations broadcast the president’s SONA with inset sign language interpreting. With this, I can probably conclude that this is one of the former Head of State’s impacting legacy. Condolence again to the family of the late President.

Police Apprehends Suspect in Killing of Teenage Deaf

This gruesome killing of an innocent deaf man happened in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro in March 2019. Henry Orpia, 18 years old was brutally killed while on his way home after visiting his friends. He was also robbed of his cellphone and wallet. His killer, JV Datoon, was arrested with the aid of an informant who helped the police solve the crime.

Here is the re-post of the news article which originally appeared here.

TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines – The suspect in the killing of a deaf-mute in Calapan City nearly two months ago was arrested Thursday morning [May 23, 2019], police said.

Colonel Thomas Frias Jr., director of Oriental Mindoro police, said in a report that JV Datoon, 18, a farmer and a resident of San Teodoro town in Oriental Mindoro, was arrested for robbery with homicide in Barangay Balugo, Mansalay town, also in Oriental Mindoro at around 5:45 a.m.


Police used the warrant of arrest issued by Cefelene Goco, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 40 in Pinamalayan dated May 14.

Earlier police reports stated that Jemar brutally killed John Henry Orpia, 18, in Sitio LTO Upper in Barangay San Rafael in Calapan City. The victim’s body was found by a resident on March 29.

Police said the victim was on his way home from visiting friends when he was robbed and killed. His cellphone and wallet were missing.

Calapan Mayor Arnan Panaligan offered a P100,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest of Orpia’s killer.

Calapan City Mayor Arnan Panaligan has personally handed a P100,000 check to an informant.


Deaf Nyle DiMarco mistakenly offered a wheelchair

Well, talk about mistaken identity…. err… disability! I decide to post this article because it amuses me that even on this day and age, many people are still unfamiliar with the needs and identity of the deaf people. Even a very popular deaf icon was not spared.

“Apparently being deaf at an airport means I need a wheelchair.” – Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco is a famous deaf American model, actor, and activist. In 2015, he won the reality television series America’s Next Top Model Season 22 and became the second male winner and also the first deaf winner. Then in 2016, he and professional dance partner Peta Murgatroyd won in the ABC dance competition Dancing with the Stars Season 22.

Many followers do not realize this but Nyle comes from a deaf family. Specifically, his mother Donna and father Neal Thompson are deaf. So are both of his brothers. His fraternal grandparents were also born deaf. He also does not consider himself disabled by deafness and sees his media profile as an opportunity to bring awareness to Deaf culture. He views deafness as an advantage in modeling because he is accustomed to communicating without speaking. He believes deaf actors should play deaf roles.

In October 2015, DiMarco came out as “sexually fluid” when asked during an interview with Out magazine about his sexuality. It means he belongs to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Here is the entire repost article from Teen Vogue Website:

Nyle DiMarco Said an Airline Gave Him a Wheelchair After a Flight, Seemingly Because He’s Deaf

“Apparently being deaf at an airport means I need a wheelchair.”

When Nyle got off a recent flight, he tweeted that he was greeted with a wheelchair meant to help him get through the airport. However, Nyle can get around without assistance, so why was the chair waiting for him? Nyle posited that it might be because he’s deaf. “Not a clear video but apparently being deaf at an airport means I need a wheelchair,” Nyle wrote alongside a video of him walking up to the chair and greeting the person waiting with it. This was probably some sort of mix up, but just in case it needs to be said: Being deaf doesn’t mean a person requires a wheelchair. Nyle apparently had a sense of humor about the situation, noting that the person waiting with the chair seemed to recognize the mistake.

“Y’all should’ve seen the look on the guy’s face tho lmao, he knew delta made a huge mistake 💀💀💀,” Nyle wrote in a follow-up tweet.

For their part, Delta called the whole thing a miscommunication.

But Nyle isn’t the only deaf person this has happened to. In his Twitter mentions, others said they too have been greeted by unnecessary wheelchairs from different airlines. It’s unclear how or why this happens, as airlines have different processes for disabled people to get assistance. Delta’s website states that you can request different services if you are deaf or hard of hearing, and has a separate form for wheelchair requests. Meanwhile, others who do need wheelchairs said that they have had trouble getting them upon disembarking from flights on various airlines. In fact, much has been written about the barriers people who use wheelchairs face when traveling, including damaged wheelchairs and judgment and mistreatment ambulatory wheelchair users have reported.

Delta’s mistake is one of the funnier, innocuous snafus that Nyle’s been public about, but not all situations he encounters, seemingly because he’s deaf, are so lighthearted. Nyle has opened up about having to leave movie theaters because they aren’t accessible for deaf people, called out the occasions when deafness was used as the butt of a joke, and has combatted the “inspiration porn” videos that show deaf children hearing for the first time.

Teen Vogue has reached out to Nyle to see if he has comment on the situation.

You may view the news article from this link:

Happy 123rd Independence Day, Philippines!

My beloved country is celebrating its 123rd Independence Day today, June 12. We have been under the Spanish colony for 333 years and on that fateful day, our heroes decided that enough is enough. We need to break away from the slavery of the colonizers and establish our own identity.

Some leaders of each country greeted the Filipinos on its important day, one of whom is the personal greeting of current American President Joe Biden. After Spain, its the United States who took over and colonized our country until 1941 when the Japanese invaded us during World War II.

This year, Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf made a special message greeting and posted it in our Official Facebook and Instagram pages.

“Maligayang Araw ng Kasarinlan, Pilipinas”

The oversized head of a small girl donning an “I-Love-You” sign is designed by our deaf teacher Ervin.

Last year, we created two special greeting image posts.

Pilipinas Kong Mahal, Filipino Sign Language Font using 1-4-3 Hand Sign holding the Philippine Flag
Happy Independence Day, Philippines with the comic image of one of the Filipino Heroes who is also a Person With Disability, Apolinario Mabini

“Happy Independence Day to Us!!!”

Interpreting on a Pandemic Wedding

When this COVID Pandemic started wreaking havoc on our entire world order in February 2020, I decided to refrain from accepting any sign language interpreting services despite a few invitations from my colleagues in the community. This was mainly due to strict government protocols of not allowing people to go out unless extremely necessary, as well as fear of getting infected by this unheard-of virus.

To prove that my decision is right, my household is composed of two octogenarian parents and three deaf friends. They belong to the vulnerable sector when it comes to viral infections. And my fear surely happened when I contracted the dreaded virus this April and unknowingly infected my senior parents. Fortunately, my deaf friends were tested negative on the swab test. And even more, blessed miraculously when we were all healed and received a negative result on the re-swab test by May. Although I was not idle for the entire duration of self-imposed quarantine from 2020 until May, still I declined to accept interpreting jobs including the Capitol City Baptist Church Deaf Ministry where I have been volunteering every Sunday since 1996. It should not be a problem for me because interpreting is done online wherein you don’t need to personally go to the venue. You just set up your mini-studio at home. And with a high-speed internet connection, your video will be streamed together with the event in real-time. Still, I declined.

When this venue interpreting service call came up on May 12, I asked myself, “Should I or should I not?” The call came from Ms. Ruffa Saludo. I don’t know her personally but I know a lot about her deaf Dad Michael. He has been visiting our school since we transferred to San Mateo in 2011 because he can easily pass by it before going to his home. Michael has also been working at the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) for 31 years and has just retired a couple of years ago. As a Utility Personnel, he always took care of us every time we have a meeting and other activities in their office. I have not personally met her Mom Loretta whom I was pleasantly surprised was also deaf. Ruffa, a hearing person, requested if I may be hired to interpret for her Christian wedding with Max Suello on May 22.

Michael, Loretta and Me!

But after hearing that Ruffa wants her wedding to be very memorable not only to her but most especially to her deaf parents, I readily accepted the invite. I pondered, this will be very exciting because it’s my first time after more than a year of interpreting hiatus. Also, I’d like to experience firsthand what a wedding setup looks like following strict government protocol. Here are my observations:

  • The attendees and guests are very limited. Only ten persons were allowed at the venue. So the couple chose a garden wedding at “Delicere” in Marikina City wherein they can conduct the ceremony outside while the reception is done in the cozy restaurant inside the place. There is no need to transfer from one venue to another, say a church wedding and a reception in a restaurant. So only the bride, groom, their parents, the officiating Pastor, and his wife who also represented the principal sponsors, the Maid of Honor and the Best Man. I was the eleventh guest. All the friends, Principals, and Secondary Sponsors were able to participate in an online Zoom conference where they watched the ceremony live. “Social Distancing Protocol” was met.
  • All the attendees and guests wrote on the form on the door before entering the venue. “Contact Tracing Protocol” was met.
  • Alcohol was stationed on almost every corner of the venue including the restrooms. “Wash your Hands with Alcohol or Soap and Water Protocol” was met.
  • All attendees and guests wore face masks except during the wedding entrance parade. On the entire proceeding, everybody has face masks excluding the bride and groom. The officiating pastor from time to time wears the mask. I never removed mine during the entire ceremony even when I did sign-to-voice interpreting for both Michael and Loretta. “Face Mask Protocol” was met.
  • At the reception, we have seated one chair apart. Again, the “Social Distancing Protocol” was met.
  • Hugging, handshaking, and kissing except when the bride and groom doing it, was not allowed. Once again, the “Social Distancing Protocol” was met.
At the Wedding Reception….

Despite the challenges of having restrictions and the unusually few numbers of allowed guests which are saddening on occasions like these where joyful celebrations and parties are expected, still, the event was memorable and sweet. The newlyweds heartily thanked their online guests. The regular slicing of the cake, giving of wedding vows, wine-toasting, and of course, the sweet kissing after hearing the clinging of glasses, were still present. The solemnity and joy in celebrating this “once-in-a-lifetime” event were felt by everyone. Even the wedding souvenirs were timely, a black face mask and small alcohol bottle.

Wedding Souvenir Gift to Guests…

So to the newlywed couples Ruffa and Max Suello, congratulations and thank you very much for breaking my interpreting hiatus by inviting me to do sign language interpreting for your deaf parents. And to Michael and Loretto, congratulations too for having a sweet and loving daughter and from the message of Ruffa “I know that you are strict to me, that’s that only way you express your love to me, always waiting for me, preparing for snacks, for being industrious no matter what, because of your actions, I and my brother are now successful in our rights.

The Newlyweds with their parents, Ruffa’s brother, and me….

Best wishes to the newlyweds!

Side Note: Ever since my colleague and longtime friend Ma’am Tess Buenaventura suggested this to me during my first wedding interpreting experience wherein we were partners, I never accept interpreting service fees. She said that if the deaf bride/groom/parents are close to me, you may inform them that the amount you will receive instead be used as a special wedding gift for them. So after countless wedding interpreting services I did, I never accept payments including this one. 🙂

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