Ignorance about Filipino Sign Language

The issue about sign language and the deaf community has sparked renewed attention recently in the Philippines. This was after viewing the second State of the Nation Address of our very controversial and unorthodox (talk about all the badmouth words) yet very popular President Rodrigo Duterte last Monday, July 24.

#fslsaSoNA2017
Photo courtesy of Ms. Naty Natividad, current Vice President of Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI)

I was assigned by PNASLI, the national association of sign language interpreters, to do interpreting together with Dean of College of St. Benilde and my “kumare” Nicky Templo-Perez at GMA-7, a regular or “suki”. Actually, it was in GMA7 where I first interpreted in SONA way back in 2010. This year, aside from the local private TV stations, it’s the first time the government TV Channel 4 aired the SONA with inset sign language interpreting. And they were very fortunate to have their interpreting right inside the halls of the House of Representatives itself where the actual action is happening.

However, they did not get their interpreters from the pool of PNASLI people. Instead they got the services of the Philippine Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (PRID), the oldest existing organization which trains and deploys interpreters in the country. As an alumnus and a proud product of PRID, I was truly excited that they have participated in such a momentous event. Interpreting in one setting is what I really dreamed of. I have been aspiring that all TV stations will broadcast the President’s SONA using one interpreter.

bamaquino
Senator Bam Aquino (Photo linked from the Manila Bulletin)

But I won’t be dwelling much on that. I would like to emphasize on the recent news coming from Senator Bam Aquino pushing for the Filipino Sign Language Bill in the Senate. He said he was grateful for the sign language interpreters during the SONA because of their efforts to deliver the message of the President to our fellow Filipinos who are deaf. Aquino is the author of Senate Bill No. 966 or the Filipino Sign Language Act, which seeks to declare FSL as the national sign language of the Filipino Deaf and “the official language of the Philippine government in all transactions with the Deaf.” He also mentioned that many saluted or lauded the interpreters for making the sign language available to deaf persons during the two-hour SONA.

It was a really welcoming news item. But then, a handful of people who commented on the news in social media were so distasteful and exposing their ignorance about sign language and its use. Someone even suggested that the Senator should focus his efforts on how he can assist the deaf by putting more wheelchair ramps! Talk about mixed disabilities. Still another guy recommended that the Filipino deaf use the internationally accepted American Sign Language (ASL) so that he can compete globally. Really? Why would the Filipino deaf need that? Are they applying as Call Center Operators or work overseas? Yet another one opines that supporting FSL is for the sake of Filipino pride and acknowledgement of its existence. Well, what’s wrong with that? He even emphasized that sign language is universal so there’s no need to create a new one. Does he really think that it’s universal?

Did you know that Filipinos have different names describing rice, our staple food? We have palay for unmilled rice, bigas for milled rice, kanin for cooked rice, lugaw for rice porridge, tutong for burned rice, bahaw for left over rice and sinangag for fried rice. You might also be surprised that each of these words have distinct Filipino Sign Language.

Another distinct difference between ASL and FSL is through fingerspelling. Look at the illustration below.

difference between asl and fsl in fingerspelling.png

I have met people who brags by saying they are well versed in ASL. But when I observed their signs, I can easily distinguish it from Signed Exact English (SEE) or Pidgin Sign English (PSE). So it’s either they don’t know what they’re talking about or they are plain ignorant. (Is there a difference?)

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Empowered Deaf Tricycle Driver!

instructions on where to drop off in Filipino

Empowering! This photo of a tricycle driven by a deaf man in Mexico, Pampanga is currently making rounds in social media. It already has more than 10,000 likes and nearly 2,500 shares in Facebook courtesy of Philippine Star as of this writing. Passengers can point to the location where he/she wants to drop off.

“Having such condition, he still works for his family. Such an inspiring person,” says Alyoza Malig Bondoc, the woman who posted the photo on Facebook.

I just wish they also posted the name of the deaf. Nevertheless, he’s truly amazing! 🙂

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!

Philippine Revolution with Deaf Actors

MCCID College students led by Thenejon Del Mundo and directed by Sir Moises Libot made a simple 6-minute video (with background sounds) about the heroes of Philippine Revolution. This is part of their Digital Video Editing Subject.  Film shooting was done at the hillside area of the campus. Enjoy! 🙂

Pope Francis and the Filipino Deaf

Pope Francis together with Filipino Cardinal Antonio Tagle make an "I Love You" sign to the Filipino Deaf in the audience.
Pope Francis together with Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle make an “I Love You” sign to the Filipino Deaf in the audience. (Photo taken from Facebook)

I am not a Catholic. But I’m one with the entire Filipino nation in welcoming the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis! He is such a charismatic and modern yet down-to-earth person. He advocates for openness and respect to others’ beliefs. He connects with everybody. I even made a Facebook post about his statement when asked about his comment regarding the recent attacks in France. He replied, “You can’t provoke. You can’t insult the faith of others. You can’t make fun of faith.”

He is now on his final leg here in our country for a five-day visit (January 15 – 19). He has recently cut short his trip in Tacloban City, Leyte because of the impending typhoon Amang. He will be officiating a mass at the Rizal Park later today.

I won’t be dwelling much about his itinerary because tons of news articles both locally and internationally had already done that. But what I want to highlight is the Pope’s activity touching the Filipino Deaf. Here are the three things I gathered so far:

  1. He made a genuine “I Love You” sign with a sincere smile, at the Mall of Asia Arena where he met with selected families and individuals.

    Here is another image of Pope Francis and Cardinal Tagle doing the "I Love You" sign.
    Here is another image of Pope Francis and Cardinal Tagle doing the “I Love You” sign. (Photo courtesy of Raph Torralba, a prominent Hard of Hearing who works at the Department of Foreign Affairs)
  2. For the first time, the three major National TV networks (ANC for ABS-CBN, TV5 and GMA 7) covered the entire activity with sign language insets. A power house cast of my interpreter buddies were all there to lend their speaking hands in order for the Pope’s message to reach out to the Filipino Deaf. The GMA-7 and ANC telecast were organized by volunteers from DLS-College of St. Benilde while the TV5 braodcast is an ongoing interpreting service of the company. They were all doing a swell job interpreting for the Pope. 🙂

    TV Screenshots of President Aquino's speech in Malacanang during courtesy call of Pope Fancis
    TV Screenshots of President Aquino’s speech in Malacanang during courtesy call of Pope Fancis (FB Photo courtesy of Ms. Rosario Dela Cruz)
  3. One of the three families who had an opportunity to express their gratitude for Pope’s visit comes from the Deaf group representing the Persons With Disabilities Sector. His name is Renato Cruz, a Cathecist and one of my friends from Philippine School for the Deaf and Catholic Ministry to the Deaf People. He was very fortunate to be chosen to personally meet and be blessed by Pope Francis. He told the Pope about his conviction as a deaf person in promoting the Catholic faith to his fellow deaf.
    Rene Cruz gives his message in sign language.
    Rene Cruz gives his message in sign language.

    Pope Francis personally blesses Renato and his family.
    Pope Francis personally blesses Renato and his family.

Truly, Pope Francis is the People’s Pope. He did not disregard nor neglect anyone. He embraced everybody including the Filipino Deaf. Mabuhay po kayo Pope Francis and thank you very much for visiting our country. 🙂

Update Photo:

Pope Francis waves to the faithful riding an iconic Filipino Jeepney converted into a popemobile on the way to Quirino Grandstand to officiate the mass.
Pope Francis waves to the faithful riding an iconic Filipino Jeepney converted into a popemobile on the way to Quirino Grandstand to officiate the mass.

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