Issues, activities, experiences and technologies about Deaf People in the Philippines
I am a Filipino born-again Christian. I am also a hearing person and a sign language interpreter. I have been teaching the deaf since 1991. I use and teach Filipino Sign Language and help in the promotion of Filipino deaf culture. I head a technical post-secondary school for the deaf which trains them in any computer applications (web design, operation, pc assembly and repair, networking, programming, etc.)
I can only embed YouTube videos here. Sadly, Facebook videos may only be viewed inside Facebook. So I uploaded one video in our MCCID YouTube channel although it is unlisted. You may view more videos in their Official Facebook Page.
As a brief backgrounder, all the Bible stories are signed by deaf persons who are prominent within the Filipino Christian Deaf community. They are Ptr. Mamerto Cortez Jr. of Deaf Evangelistic Alliance Foundation in Laguna, Ptr. Peter Ding Basa of Assembly of God in Cavite and the husband and wife team of Ptr. Jose Irish and Joylyn Pascual from Bible Institute for the Deaf in Valenzuela City. Their signs, as well as a near accurate translation of the Bible stories in FSL, were reviewed and validated by Bible Translation experts from the Filipino Deaf community, the Asia Pacific Sign Language Development Association, Summer Institute of Linguistics Philippines and the Philippine Bible Society. As a partner-member, Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf also provided inputs and evaluation on the videos when their team visited the school in 2016.
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:
If you are a sign language interpreter in the Philippines, there is almost 100% chance that you are also a teacher for the deaf. Although there is a significant upsurge of interpreters due to an increasing number of institutions that teaches sign language lessons, still, the most readily available place to seek their services are in schools for the deaf even though only quite a handful of them is experienced and qualified.
With these conditions, situations may arise wherein you are compelled to wear either a teacher’s hat or an interpreter’s hat. It is certainly not at the same time. But what if you are in a situation where you want to wear both hats or even switch hats in midstream?
A month ago, one of our former deaf teachers in MCCID messaged me requesting for an emergency interpreting for our former deaf student. To protect his privacy and for ethical concerns, I will try not to mention anything that might reveal his identity.
Our teacher explained to me that the student’s mother died a few days earlier and is on the funeral wake. His father died a few years ago due to complications from alcohol abuse. Since the deaf is an only child, his aunt together with his uncle were the ones who took care of the funeral preparations. The aunt and uncle are siblings of his mom. They are also doing the legwork in processing their sister’s benefits and claims. His uncle and his family started living in their house when his father died. The deaf needs to know what is the cause of her mother’s abrupt demise and more importantly, what will happen to his future. Since no one in his family knows sign language, he is at a quandary. He needs someone to interpret for him clearly what was going on. So he requested for my service.
In our school, we conduct personal home visits to the families of our deaf students. As my former student, I am familiar with the situation of his family. When I went to the funeral the next day, I was greeted by his aunt and some of his relatives. She was very happy that I came and very relieved that finally, she can explain to her nephew about his situation through a sign language interpreter. With this, I safely wore my interpreter’s hat.
Now here is what I gathered. The deaf’s mother was a public school teacher for nearly three decades. So she is entitled to many benefits like pension, burial, funeral, etc. Aside from that, her co-teachers and school staff raised up a substantial amount of money as their contribution to the family. Her former students also collected money as a donation. She was a Philhealth member and has health insurance so her hospital bills were all taken care of. But what is highly significant is that her mother owns a sizeable parcel of land within the center of a highly urbanized part of Metro Manila where they have been residing since the deaf was still in his grade school.
The deaf confided in me that he was very much suspicious about what was going on. In fact, his friend messaged him through FB cautioning him about what his relatives might do with the property and money. He then suggested that the deaf consults a lawyer about it. What’s weird is that when the deaf showed the message to his uncle, he immediately took his smartphone away from him, scolded him while telling him not to believe whoever is advising him. I sensed that his relatives want to keep him in the dark.
At first, his aunt wanted to talk to me alone to inform me about the entire situation and requested me just to relay everything to the deaf. I refused. I want the deaf to be present when both her aunt and uncle explain everything. I told her that I was only called there as her nephew’s interpreter and they need to talk directly to him. They were adamant. So I started to talk loudly voicing what the deaf wanted in order for other funeral visitors to hear. Because of that, they had no other choice but to accept the deaf’s demand. We then started our lengthy interpreting session.
I don’t claim that I have vast knowledge about family code and jurisprudence. But with this situation, I believe that it is the child who should be the main beneficiary regardless of his disability. Upon further inquiry, I found out that the mother did not leave any last will and testament. But still, it does not negate his rights as the sole inheritor. Why are they not telling everything straight to the one and only heir of the family? I felt that they were trying to hide something from him.
I was very much egging to switch hats because I really felt that he was being taken advantage. As a teacher, I have the moral authority to give advice to my former student and remind his relatives about his rights which are guaranteed by the state. Besides, I was not expecting that they will pay me for my services which they actually did not. So technically, I can wear the teacher’s hat. But then, I still restrained myself and went there just to interpret. It’s unfortunate but it’s life. In hindsight, did I do the right thing?
Now, if you were in my situation, which hat will you wear?
Ilang araw pa lang ang nakakalipas, nakita ko itong isang Facebook post na nangangampanya tungkol sa “encouraging people to print and display a new symbol that represents both visible and invisible disabilities“. Na-curious ako kung ano ito kasi naisip ko na ang sektor na aking ginagalawan ay bahagi ng tinatawag na “hidden disability”.
Nang i-click ko ang kanilang official FB post, kinuha ko itong patungkol sa kanila:
#thinkoutsidethechair is a collaborative movement and campaign designed to challenge and change the current thinking around disabilities. This initiative seeks to inform, engage and educate to see all Australians live harmoniously in communities that celebrate inclusion and diversity in an effort to see beyond the chair because Not All Disabilities Are Visible.
Kampanya pala nila ito sa Australia upang ipaunawa sa mga tao na hindi lahat ng may kapansanan ay nakikita. Kasi kapag sinabi mo sa ibang tao na “may kapansanan”, ang unang unang sumasagi sa isip nila ay ang wheelchair. Sa totoo lang, pati nga ang kinikilalang simbolo ng kapansanan sa buong mundo ay ang taong naka-upo sa wheelchair. Yan na kasi ang nakagawian ng mga tao. Makikita mo yan sa parking areas, upuan sa bus at tren at maging pag pumipila ka pag may transactions ka sa gobyerno o kahit sa mga bangko.
Pati nga sa WordPress, pag-i-search mo ang salitang “disability” mga ganitong images ang lalabas:
Pero ang di alam ng ibang mga tao ay higit na marami pa ang mga uri ng kapansanan na hindi nakikita. Tuloy hindi nila alam kung paano nila pakikitunguhan ang mga may kapansanan ng maayos at hindi sila nakakasakit ng kapwa.
Kapag -igoogle mo ang salitang disability, lalabas ang ganitong resulta:
Different types of disabilities
deaf or hard of hearing
mental health conditions
acquired brain injury
autism spectrum disorder
Pag titignan mong maigi ang listahan na ito, isa lamang ang kapansin-pansin ang “kapansanan”. Yan ay ang PHYSICAL DISABILITY. Halos lahat ng kapansanan ay HINDI NAKIKITA. Isa na rito ay ang “deaf or hard of hearing” group. Maaaring ang “vision impairment” ay madali ring mapansin dahil kadalasan nakasuot sila ng dark eyeglasses o kaya ay gamit nila ang kanilang white cane habang naglalakad. Tatlo sa mga nakalista ay patungkol naman sa may kapansanan sa pag-iisip na isa ring hindi nakikita.
Ang maling akala ng iba ay ang naka-wheelchair lang ang kailangang pag-tuoonan ng higit na pansin. Kaya nilalayon ng campaign na ito na bigyang kaalaman ang lahat ng mga tao na gawing pantay-pantay ang pagkilala at pagbibigay ng tulong sa taong nakakaranas ng iba’t ibang uri ng kapansanan.
Sa grupo ng mga bingi at mahina ang pandinig, sila din ay dumaranas ng higit na diskriminasyon dahil hirap sila maka-access sa impormasyon na nakukuha sa iba’t ibang paraan. At ang pinakamasakit sa lahat, ni hindi man lang nila nakakausap ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay dahil karamihan sa kanila ay isa lamang sa bawa’t pamilya. Ang kanilang mga magulang at kapatid ay malayang nakikipag-kwentuhan sa isa’t isa at nagbabahagi ng kanilang mga pang-araw araw na activities samantalang ang mga deaf ay naisasantabi na lamang.
Pero pag titignan mo sila, parang mga regular na mga tao lang sila. Naalala ko yung isang nanay na inenroll nya ang kanyang isang anak na deaf, tinanong ko siya kung ilan silang magkakapatid. Sagot nya,
Yung panganay ko po at bunso ay normal. Sya lang ang hindi.
Ay, bigla ko syang kinorek ng malumanay. Sabi ko,
Nanay, normal din naman po yung isa nyong anak. Hindi lang po sya nakakarinig. Kasi ang kabaligtaran ng normal ay abnormal. Hindi naman abnormal ang deaf diba?
Sagot ng nanay,
Ay oo nga po. Pero mahal na mahal po namin sya. Igagapang po namin ang pag-aaral nya.
Sadyang mahirap talaga ma-identify ang mga kapansanan na hindi nakikita sa pisikal na kaanyuan. Sana iwasan na lang natin na sila ay kutyain o kaya ay pagtawanan. Maging sensitibo naman sana tayo sa kanilang mga damdamin at pangangailangan. Ituro na din natin sa ating mga anak na igalang ang lahat ng mga tao lalu na ang ibang naiiba sa kanilang anyo at kilos.
Kung nais nyong makibahagi sa kanilang kampanya, maari kayong pumunta sa kanilang website: https://thinkoutsidethechair.com.au/ Huwag nyo lang po kalimutang isama ang kanilang official tag:
Baka type nyo din i-share ang post na ito. Click nyo din po itong campaign poster na Filipino Version ng Campaign Badge, tapos i-save nyo sa inyong computer o i-post nyo sa po yung FB icon sa ibaba nitong post. May English Version po nito kung nais nyo. Ito po yung nasa ibaba. Salamat po!!!
Heads up Philippine sign language interpreters! The Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI) will be holding its 5th General Assembly from May 15-18, 2019 at Tagbilaran City, Bohol.
This year’s theme is “Beyond Filipino Sign Language Law: Moving Forward“. General election of new set of officers will be held aside from the assembly. This activity will also be in tandem with the 8th General Assembly of Philippine Federation of the Deaf which will also be held on the same date and venue.