Ma’am Aimee Coryell, an American Christian with a caring heart for the Filipino Deaf

maam coryell flowers

Three weeks ago, December 27 to be exact, her Master told this lovely “DEAF” lady, “Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord!” At 96, Rev. Aimee Ada Coryell went home to her Master…

I still remember how she proudly told me that she walks seven kilometers uphill to Deaf Evangelistic Alliance Foundation School (DEAF) in Cavinti, Laguna almost twice a month! These past years, advanced age has caught up with her. She can hardly even stand during her 93rd birthday. She was on and off the hospital while staying at a halfway house in Caloocan and attended by one of her deaf wards.

From Left: Ma’am Sarah Santa Ana of DEAF School in Palawan, me, Sir Cecilio Pedro of Lamoiyan Corporation (makers of Hapee Toothpaste) and Sir Salvador Cuare of DEAF School in Laguna

During her wake at Sanctuarium in Quezon City, I was blessed to fellowship with the man who took loving care of her legacy, Sir Salvador Cuare, the principal of DEAF School in Laguna. He still remembered me when we visited the school so many years ago. I confessed to him that I was there to honor and pay dear respect to a very wonderful Christian woman who has faithfully devoted her entire life preaching the gospel to those who cannot hear. A strong “Amen” was his thankful reply.

The Philippines, although Catholicism is the majority faith, has a significant number of other Christian denominations and groups. This also holds true with the circle of deaf groups. Many Catholic parishes as well as schools and laymen’s organizations embrace and support the deaf community. I have many friends who belong to these groups and I attended and fellowshipped with them at times although I don’t participate in their church activities. I am personally involved with non-Catholic Christian groups, specifically the Baptists and Evangelical churches. Ma’am Coryell belongs to this family.

Almost sixty years ago, or in 1961, a mother-daughter American missionary team (the late Ada Mable Corryell and her daughter Aimee Ada Coryell, staying in the Philippines and still serving the Lord through DEAF, Inc.) arrived from Japan and saw the urgent need in our country to help our hearing-impaired Filipinos and to share with them the Gospel. And so DEAF, Inc. was organized and registered as a non-profit organization in 1969 to formally educate the Filipino deaf.  (from Manila Bulletin column)

I made a few Facebook posts during her birthdays although I never attended in any of it. But I made it a point to be there in spirit and in prayers. I was one of the many many deaf and hearing people whom she has touched and have been influenced by her Godly words and actions.

Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf was one of the schools that Ma’am Coryell has graciously collaborated with. Among the many wonderful activities we shared was assisting her in the publishing and promoting of her four books, “The Basic Way to English for the Deaf” in 1996. We continue to use this as our guide book in our English and Sign Language classes.

The Basic Way to English for the Deaf

She even expressed her gratitude by adding this on the acknowledgement page:

Thanks goes to Remberto “Jojo” I. Esposa Jr. and family of the Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf Foundation, Inc. for the instructions and help they gave on putting the first book into the computer. 

Acknowledgement
Acknowledgement Page where Ma’am Coryell mentioned my name…

Although I was not able to spend a longer time with her unlike many of her deaf students in Laguna, those times I had with her were very fruitful and very humbling. Did you know that despite of staying here for many decades, she still cannot speak clear Tagalog? She can only utter perfect “PARA” to tell the jeepney driver to stop. I politely asked her why she never became fluent in Filipino. She confessed that she too has a problem with her ears. She is having difficulty hearing Tagalog pronunciations and diphthongs (sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable). But what she lacked in learning the local language, she compensated it with her love to the visual language of the Filipino Deaf.

I was blessed to personally experience how she has dedicated her life not just in educating the Filipino deaf, but also taking care of their physical well being. One time, I was with her in going to a government hospital in Quezon City to check up on a poor deaf girl who was confined there. She explained that there were no big hospitals in the province that are willing to accept her. That is why she took time to bring her all the way to the city. Ma’am Coryell also has no money during that time so she persuaded hospital officials by pledging herself as security for payment of bills so that they can attend to the deaf girl.

Alumni of DEAF School in Laguna who attended the wake
Alumni of DEAF School in Laguna who attended the wake

In behalf of the Board of Trustees of Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf, we humbly salute this wonderful woman of faith and courage serving Christ by giving education to the Filipino deaf. Thank you very much for offering your entire life evangelizing the Filipino deaf and making MCCID as one of your partners in bringing hope to them. We will continue to freely host the unofficial website of DEAF Inc. which was designed by our deaf students in 2006 as our own small way of saving her legacy for future generations who would like to search online about her wonderful works.

Deaf Evangelistic Alliance Foundation, Inc. Unofficial Website designed by MCCID Students

Link: http://www.mccidonline.net/deafinc/welcome.htm

 

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Deaf roles should be given to deaf actors

Last week, our country celebrated its “Deaf Awareness Week”, an annual event which we have been doing since 1991 when then President Corazon Aquino signed Proclamation 829. All schools for the deaf as well as government agencies are encouraged to promote the cause of deaf people in the Philippines.

Local media also participated in the awareness campaign. One of which is ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media and entertainment network, wherein one of their popular drama anthology “Maala-ala Mo Kaya” made an episode of a deaf letter-sender named CJ Reynaldo who was able to beat the odds by passing and graduating in the best university (University of the Philippines) despite his condition. See the video trailer/highlight below:

Prior to its airing late Saturday evening of November 10, the episode created a buzz in the social media within the Filipino deaf community. There were numerous sharing and commenting with ABS-CBN leading the way in Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We were all glued to the TV screen when it was shown. I even made an FB post about my experience watching it.


Screengrab from my Facebook Post

The story was very good and realistic. Hearing Actor Nash Aguas did a really swell job in portraying a very challenging deaf role. He acted very natural and convincing. With the support from her hearing mother played by the very talented Ms. Eula Valdez, the team really did their homework of studying sign language. Congratulations are in order for the MMK Group!!!

I am really satisfied with how they handled the story. However, what caught my attention was a Facebook post of a popular deaf actor and my friend Romalito Mallari after he watched the recent episode. He said,

Congrtz to CK’s story in mmk but i dnt accepted for hearing to be used deaf actor as a pretend person. I want see real new deaf actor. We proud of deaf actor. Sad! At least we watch u to make us inspired story. I hope one day deaf actor as well and we bravo u. Salute!

 

Romalito Mallari’s Facebook post

I have made a few blog posts about Romalito here when I promoted his movie “Dinig Sana Kita”. He is a very talented deaf artist. In fact, he even won a Best New Actor Award portraying the deaf lead role in this movie.

Come to think of it, his sentiment is right. Why did they not hire a real deaf actor to portray a deaf role? Perhaps the studio has its own valid reason of getting a hearing person to do a deaf role. But I felt sad and pitiful that deaf actors missed the only opportunity wherein they can work. Sure, they hired deaf actors to act as CJ’s friends and classmates. But their parts are too small and somewhat insignificant.

Facebook message conversation between me and Romalito

In the book, “For Hearing People Only, The Most Popular Handbook about the Deaf Community” of  Deaf Life Press/MSM Productions, Ltd, a question was raised.


“Do you have a problem
with hearing performers
playing Deaf roles?”

https://www.hpobook.com/q_and_a_sampling/DeafRole2016_2.html

For which the handbook author replied:

In the early days of Hollywood, Deaf roles were invariably played by hearing performers. Many of these characterizations were stereotyped (and would be considered offensive nowadays). Deaf actors and actresses began breaking into TV and film during the 1970s, scoring important advances—e.g., returning characters, lead characters, getting ASL-speaking Deaf performers in background roles. With these advances have come a demand for authenticity. A hearing performer who takes a Deaf role (typically with a crash course in ASL and Deaf mannerisms) is rarely convincing. Every Deaf role given to a hearing performer represents a lost opportunity. We believe that Deaf performers should be cast in Deaf roles.

American cinema and TV dramas are now providing significant opportunities to deaf actors. Who would never miss the Oscar awardee Marlee Matlin, CJ Jones of Baby Driver and the now famous child star  Millicent Simmonds of a 2018 sleeper hit, A Quiet Place? They all portrayed deaf roles.

ABS-CBN might argue that they have no time to train a deaf actor to do the role on such short shooting days, or they might have difficulty finding a Filipino deaf actor to cast in the role. But I don’t believe that they have fully exhausted their options on this.

As the book says, “Every Deaf role given to a hearing performer represents a lost opportunity.” I may also add that, “deaf actors portraying deaf roles not only provide work opportunities for them, but also advance the authentic awareness of the deaf people.”  

PS: A “Like Star” rating below for this post would be highly appreciated. 😉 😉 😉

Guys, I created this infographics on what to say or not to say in front or about a deaf person. It has a Filipino (Tagalog) translation at the bottom of every item. This practically sums up my entire advocacy on deaf rights. You may freely download this. Please share this so that people may become aware on how to deal with deaf people. Cheers!!!

What not to say to the deaf infographics

On Money and the Filipino Deaf

philippine peso

Yesterday, three elderly deaf people trooped to MCCID College in San Mateo, Rizal from their home in Manila, roughly two-hour’s trip by local jeepney. Since our school is closed for summer, all of our students are on vacation.  No one was minding the campus main gate so they simply entered the premises as if they are familiar with it.

My uncle who was going out at that time saw them entering the campus. Once they saw him, they immediately “ranted” in sign language as if they were looking for trouble. My uncle looked surprised and panicked so he hastily escorted them to the dorm house where the faculty lives and called my attention.

I am not that familiar with their faces but they knew me as an interpreter in a Baptist church. They introduced themselves, this time calmly, and explained their reason for sudden visit. They were looking for one deaf lady who is currently studying at MCCID. It was “extremely” important, based on their actions, that they need to meet her. I told them that the deaf lady already went home a week ago. She stayed in one of the rented houses outside the school. But her parents want her to stop schooling temporarily so she packed all her things and went home to their province in Central Luzon.

They all looked very frustrated when I informed them about it. One of them was so angry that she started ranting that they wasted precious time and money coming here but got distressed because they did not see the deaf lady. To pacify her, I gently asked in sign language the reason why it’s necessary for them to meet her. One of her companion, a more elderly man, explained that they need to get the money she owes him.

“Awww… really?”, was my reply. At the back of my mind, I was thinking that since they came all the way here and spent “precious time and money” just to personally meet her, she must have owned them big money! So I again followed up, “How much does she owe you?”

200 pesos! (roughly 4 US dollars)” “Say what? Did I hear it right?” So I again clarified. “200 pesos!” I nearly fell off from where I stand. If we sum up all the expenses they incurred in traveling here, it would amount to more than three times that money!

Again I inquired, “Was that all? Is that the total amount?” The other elderly deaf guy affirmed. He explained that he was very generous in helping other deaf who are needy so he proudly signs that they can freely loan money from him. I did not make any further questions about it because I might offend him although I was having difficulty hiding my giggle as to their purpose of coming here. So I just dismissed them by referring to my other deaf faculty Ervin and let him talk to them. They all ended up going home utterly disappointed.

How Filipino Deaf value their money

This situation reminded me of what I have experienced many times in the past. I’m not concluding that this is the norm in deaf culture nor just the Filipino deaf in particular. However, what I am saying is that this is not an isolated case.

Many years ago, the manager of a local fast food restaurant called the school and requested me to go there because two deaf are violently arguing inside the place. I found out that the deaf lady owes the deaf guy money. The guy was courting the lady and he always pay for their “date”. But when she told him the shocking truth that she does not love him, the guy got so pissed off that he took his wallet, showed her ALL his restaurant bills from their past dates and forced her to pay for all of it. A couple more similar situations happened to other deaf which I need to mediate.

When a deaf person owed money from another deaf, that amount is “carved in stone”, no matter how oddly small it is. One deaf who lacked money to pay for his fare asked his companion if he can borrow money. He promised to pay him next time. The deaf loaned him. But he kept on mentioning that over and over again to his face until he pays. The amount? Eight pesos (roughly 25 cents). I tell you, this situation is not uncommon.

Why is this happening?

We can probably trace this into how they acquire their money. Since a sizable number of Filipino deaf have no work, they often rely on financial support from their family. However, Filipino families having a member who is a Person With Disability don’t usually allot a budget for them. So earning members of the family can only spare a small amount to support their deaf relative. Thus, the deaf tend to hold on tightly to whatever small amount they receive.

As for the employed deaf, majority of them land in lower level positions like factory workers, clerks and rank and file government officers. Although quite a handful are in middle level positions, still most of them don’t have much money to use.

Deaf senior citizens are no exception. Most of them rely on support from their adult children. The government also don’t offer much of a relief for them.

Since deaf people are very mobile and communal by nature, they use up most of their finances from trips going to their deaf friends no matter how far they are.

Education is the key

In our school, I often explain to them the value of money and how they should strive to earn for themselves. The main reason why they study is for them to be independent financially. They also need to control their use of a very limited money that they have.

As more and more Filipino deaf earn for themselves, they are slowly moving away from being a “money miser”. In time, they will be able to share their blessings to others without overly thinking about anything in return.

 

 

 

 

Deaf VS Hearing, anyone?

Although some hearing people have occasionally bully deaf people because they feel that they are more superior than them. Deaf people on the other hand tend to exhibit their “pity-me” effect to the hearing people in order to get concessions. But pitting them against each other is counter-productive and does not promote rights-based approach.

I got hold of this image from a Facebook page of my friend who got it from another friend. I felt amazed at how the image-maker compared the Deaf from the Hearing. Here it is:

Image

I don’t know where he got this view. Probably he is deaf.  But I believe most of the statements of comparison are true. Based on this I can summarize that deaf people are more open, blunt and straight-to-the-point while hearing people are more subdued, respecting and mind-your-own-business type.

Dear readers, what do you think?

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