Who’s afraid of a deaf driver?

Well, I’m not! As long as I’m not riding on the vehicle that he is driving.

That was the response of a participant in one of the Deaf Sensitivity Training which I conducted many times. I asked the trainees that question before showing them a couple of images that I boast as “success stories of deaf drivers” who made ingenious innovations in order to communicate with their passengers, as shown below.

Deaf Driver in Pampanga

deaf uber driver from sulu
Photo from “The Story Pedia

Deaf drivers are one of the most careful and law-abiding drivers. Also, “The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) stresses that deafness does not in any way limit a person’s ability to drive a car or other vehicles.” I have experienced riding on deaf drivers many times. They are very cautious and too focused on their surroundings that they navigate the road very smoothly.

Still, the participant’s reaction is not uncommon. In fact, according to Axleaddict.com, around 30 countries worldwide don’t allow deaf people to acquire a driver’s license.  Although the Philippines was listed among those who permit deaf drivers, that is not the case among most of them who applies for a license. I have assisted a handful of deaf people in applying for a license either as their sign language interpreter or accompanying them when I applied for mine. Most of the time, they are turned down. The main reason? They cannot hear. This is a huge hurdle for them.

lto form.fw
Sample Driver’s License Application Form of Land Transportation Office (LTO) with emphasis on “WITH HEARING AID” as one of the conditions

One of the five conditions that must be met is that a person who has a hearing problem must be “WITH HEARING AID”. Since the majority of deaf people I know are either not comfortable wearing hearing aids or using them is useless because they are already severe or profoundly deaf (people who can only understand sounds through vibrations), they won’t qualify for this. One of the procedures that they must undergo first is a medical examination which just basically checks their eyesight and hearing capabilities. They would automatically fail on this.

Still, quite a few deaf I know, especially in the provinces, were able to overcome this hurdle by applying “under the table” so to speak. But this path is costly, illegal and often dangerous to the license holders because they are always extremely cautious about not getting caught. Otherwise, their license could either be revoked and not be returned or the police officers would give them a very hard time by giving them numerous violations. This has been a huge issue among the deaf community which they have been addressing for many years yet remained unresolved. Until now…

Introducing, ALYANSA NG MAY KAPANSANAN NA NAGMAMANEHO NG SASAKYAN AT MOTOR SA PILIPINAS or ALKASAMOPI for short! Let me translate their Filipino name into English, hopefully, I am right. It’s ALLIANCE OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES WHO DRIVE MOTOR VEHICLES IN THE PHILIPPINES.  According to their Facebook Page, ALKASAMOPI

… is a Non Government Organization whose MISSION and VISION is to promote the camaraderie, brotherhood and equal rights & opportunities among individual Person With Disabilities (PWDs) especially PWD Driver & Riders ( commuters)

One of our objective is to integrate the Persons with Disability (PWD) to the mainstream of society by promoting safety driving and riding to assist them to exercise their rights and privileges and most of all to promote the equal rights and opportunities for the service of transportation.

ALKASAMOPI Logo
ALKASAMOPI Logo

Its founding president is Joseph Delgado. As per their SEC Registration, its principles are

We are encouraged, empowered and have the full participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) Riders and Drivers to have a Non Professional Driver’s License and have a knowledge of Road Safety as a road users.

*We are passionate, innovative and fearless in the promotion and defense of the right and interest of Persons with Disability.

*We are accessible and responsive to our community needs in terms of accessible transportation and accessible facilities.

*We are collaborative and supportive in our relationship with the disability rights movement as a whole.

They accept all sectors with a disability who are either current holders of driver’s licenses or driving a motorized vehicle. But since many of their members are deaf, they formed a separate group for the deaf community riders with which our blog will focus. Its deaf group has its own set of Officers and the Board of Directors. Their president is Christopher Frando.

ALKASAMOPI Deaf Community Officers and Board
ALKASAMOPI Deaf Community Officers and Board (Link from their Facebook Post)

I have met most of them. But I have personal acquaintances with Michael Boholst (PRO), Daryl Desamparado, Daryl Pineda and Bryann Gregorio (Board of Directors). All of them are alumni of MCCID College and my former students. Most of them also attend the Deaf Ministry of Capitol City Baptist Church where I do sign language interpreting.

As enumerated in their brochure, ALKASAMOPI provides

  • PWD Awareness Sensitivity Seminar “How to Properly Approach and Handle a PWD”
  • Bloodletting project
  • Brigada Eskwela (assisting in the opening of school classrooms)
  • Giving free assessment for mobility devices
  • Giving free assessment for LTO concerns
  • Giving road safety seminar for PWD and Non-PWDs
  • Giving free safety driving and riding seminar
  • Fighting and defending PWD rights

I own a Suzuki Sky Drive 175 since 2014. I don’t often use it because my work is inside the school campus. So I let our deaf school utility Owen Domagtoy use the motorcycle to run some errands. However, he does not have a license. After helping him acquire his “student permit”, the next hurdle is for him to get his driver’s license. It would be very difficult for him to acquire it because he will need to go to a series of tests. Fortunately, ALKASAMOPI assisted him by giving him pointers and assigned a sign language interpreter during the test. Now, he is not worried about driving around because he already has a license.

Owen riding my bike pose together with ALKASAMOPI Deaf Members
Owen riding my bike (front) together with ALKASAMOPI Deaf Members
Deaf Group (including Owen) showing their LTO Driver's License
Deaf Group (including Owen) show their LTO Driver’s License after passing the test in September 2019
A personalized plate number is attached to the motorcycle to notify enforcers that the rider is a PWD and ALKASAMOPI member.
A personalized plate number is attached to the motorcycle to notify enforcers that the rider is a PWD and ALKASAMOPI member.

Aside from helping other PWDs, the group participated in assisting commuters during this COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown.  Below is the YouTube video they uploaded last April which ends with a prayer signed by their Deaf President Christopher Frando.

To get in touch with them, email them at alkasamopi2018@gmail.com or visit their official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Alkasamopi-Inc-102875361219347/

We understand that acquiring a license to drive is a privilege and not a right. But we also support equal opportunity for everyone, including those with disabilities. If a hearing person can avail of a privilege to use the road, with the latest technologies and an open mind from everyone, a deaf and hard-of-hearing person can also avail of that.

Mabuhay po ang ALKASAMOPI sa pagtulong sa mga Pilipinong Bingi na matupad ang kanilang pangarap na malayang makapag-byahe gamit ang kanilang mga sasakyang de-motor!

  • – PWD means Persons With Disabilities

Are deaf people deprived of their “mother language”?

Today, we celebrate “International Mother Language Day”. Held every 21st day of February as approved at the 1999 General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it was born out of the initiative of Bangladesh and has been observed worldwide since 2000.

UNESCO commemorates this day to the belief that,

in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others. [link]

This recognition centers on the observation that native languages are increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. Dominant languages have been emphasized excessively that modern kids were discouraged in schools to use the language they use at home. Aside from that, books and other written materials using their mother language were scarce and readily unavailable. Nevertheless, progress is being made in mother tongue-based multilingual education with a growing understanding of its importance, particularly in early schooling, and more commitment to its development in public life.

But what about those who are deprived of language acquisition? What about those who were not able to access their “mother language” the moment they were born? How do we address those vulnerable sectors, most especially those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing?

What is Language Deprivation?

Language deprivation means, exactly, a language that is taken away from people. According to Therapy Travellers Website, Language deprivation is

 the term used for when a child does not have access to a naturally occurring language during their critical language-learning years. [link]

Deaf children are the most affected because they are not exposed to a language that would develop their cognitive growth. A deaf baby has not received any language exposure during the critical period between ages 0 to 2.

To illustrate,

stick figure of parent asking a hearing child what he wants and replies with milk, milk, milk
The hearing parent asks his hearing child what he wants. The hearing child replies by speaking what he needs which is milk.

 

The hearing parent can readily communicate with his baby what he needs because they both have access to sounds and speech. A baby with no hearing impairment would easily acquire speech and language. Studies show that the brain forms more than one million new neural connections every second from age 0 to 5. This means that they can accumulate emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years. [link]

 

 

stick figure of a deaf child asking milk but the parent doesn't understand
A deaf baby asking his father to give him milk. But the father asks “What do you want?” because he does not understand the baby.

Now compare that with a deaf baby interacting with his parents. Since a deaf baby does not hear her parents, he does not understand what they mean. He cannot associate any actions to the words or phrases that come out of their parents’ mouths because nothing enters his ears. No matter what the baby utters, the parent cannot seem to understand him. Does he need to pee? Is he hungry? Does he want to go out? Is he sick? Does he want to play? Situations like this often lead to frustrations, irritations, and tantrums. Eventually, this leads to ignoring the baby’s needs and thus stunt his overall emotional and intellectual growth.

That is language deprivation.

 

 

Worldwide, over 5% has disabling hearing loss, roughly 466 million people. 90% of deaf children are born with hearing parents. This means that their parents are not familiar with or even aware of how to deal with having a deaf child. So, their tendency is to just give the deaf kid what they perceived he wants without affirmation that it was really what he wants. Worse, the parents would just let them be and do their own thing. Problems in the delay in language development would appear when they are already in school, work, communicating with others, and even self-confidence.

Baby Sign Language

Research has shown that early exposure to a first language will predict future language outcomes. The earlier he can acquire a language, the better he can succeed. And since a deaf baby can learn a language using his eyes, he should be exposed to sign language at the earliest possible time.  Because signed languages are the only languages that are 100% accessible to a deaf child, we can be sure that the child’s brain is receiving language input.

Stick figure of a parent teaching his deaf child the sign for milk
A parent teaches his baby the sign language for milk while at the same time mouthing the words milk and holding the feeding bottle.

Deaf children who do not learn to sign until later in life are more likely to process signed languages not as linguistic input, but as visual input, contrasting with children exposed from birth, who process signed language in the same region of the brain in which hearing people process spoken language. Scientists suggest that the best guarantee of good language outcomes for Deaf children is to establish Sign Language as a secure first language before a cochlear implant program (CIP) is considered.[link]

I created an infographic about this today as part of our Deaf Sensitivity Series. It was posted on the official Facebook page of our school for the deaf. As of this writing, it has been shared nearly 50 times. Feel free to download the image below. 🙂

infographic

You may also view a very informative video below created by Nyle DiMarco Foundation of the hugely popular “America’s Next Top Model” deaf winner.

Happy International Mother Language Day! 🙂

Philippine Actress Maine Mendoza clarifies misconception about deaf people

MANILA, Philippines — Popular Philippine actress Maine Mendoza has cleared a common misconception that deaf people have no voice.

In her Twitter account, the “Eat Bulaga” host reposted an infographic about deaf people.

“YES YES! Let me just clear this common misconception about deaf people. DEAF PEOPLE HAVE VOICES; but many prefer to sign (using FSL: Filipino Sign Langauge) because it is their first language and their right. Therefore, the term Deaf-Mute is not right dahil HINDI PO SILA PIPI, (because they are not mute)” Maine wrote.

maine tweet about deaf culture.fw

Maine stars as a sign language student in the upcoming film “Isa Pa With Feelings” with Kapamilya actor Carlo Aquino, who plays a deaf character.

 

Can a deaf person be a reliable witness?

I chanced upon an article in Nikkei Asian Review which exposes the misleadings done by hugely popular internet search engines Google and Baidu which forcefully directs us to “floods of advertisements and micro-targeted results” and recommended the use of lesser-known but becoming increasingly popular sites such as ByteDance of China and DuckDuckGo of the US. I got curious about these two alternative sites so I tried them out.

I opened only the DuckDuckGo site since the other one is only for the Chinese market. The screen looks like the minimalist web style of Google.com. But what’s strikingly good is what appears at the bottom of the search box which says “The search engine that doesn’t track you.”, the tagline “Privacy, simplified” and the popup box advising us that “Your data shouldn’t be for sale.”

I then tried typing “deaf Philippines”. I was pleasantly surprised that the top search was rightfully one of the first non-profit foundations that work to educate impoverished deaf in Bohol, followed by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf Wikipedia article which I created in January 2008 using my Wiki name Jomanila. Our school for the deaf landed in the top 20. However, I was a bit shocked that the hugely popular and limelight hogging college in Manila is nowhere to be found in the top 50 results.

Deaf on a witness stand
Deaf on a witness stand (not the actual event)
Google Photo courtesy of http://www.interpretereducation.org

Enough of the long intro. I like to focus on the article in Philippine Star Online Edition that did not even rank among the top results in Google which I only discovered in Duckduckgo. It’s about a case of a “deaf-mute” (a term used in the article which I so much disdain) person who became an eyewitness in the rape-slay of a single lady, Erica. Here is the entire story as narrated by a famous Filipino lawyer, Atty. Jose C. Sison which appeared in his column on June 27, 2017:

Deaf-mute witness
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) – June 27, 2017 – 4:00pm

All persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others may be witnesses in cases being tried in court. But are deaf mutes competent witnesses? What must be shown so that they can qualify as witnesses? These are among the issues resolved in this case of Erica.

Erica was single and working as a bookkeeper in a Credit Cooperative located in Manila. On the first working day of the year, she reported to the office bringing with her a camera to take pictures of her officemates for souvenir before going back to her hometown on the occasion of their town fiesta. At 5 o’clock, she left the office bringing with her the camera and P3,000 cash money for expenses in the celebration.

She arrived at about 7:30 pm and alighted along the highway about 300 meters from her house. Across the highway was a waiting shed with four persons inside, namely Andy and his brother Tony alias “Baba” because of his elongated chin, Rolly, alias “Boy Tattoo,” and Sergio, alias “Pipi” because he was deaf mute. The four just came from a beer house where they had a drinking spree with four other barkadas since daytime. They left when they got drunk going to a rice field. On the way, they pass by the waiting shed where Andy and Rolly took “Pidol” cough syrup.

Then Andy, Tony and Rolly left the shed when they saw Erica on her way home along a road which was very dark and silent and surrounded by tall trees and grasses. They asked Sergio to leave already. But instead of leaving, Sergio hid behind the bushes and trees, and thus saw the ensuing incident.

He saw his three barkadas caught up with Erica, as Rolly pushed her while Andy got her shoulder bag. Then Tony and Rolly pushed her against a tree and stabbed her several times in the neck. At this point Andy also joined the two and stabbed Erica until she fell down. As Erica was lying on the ground, Rolly pushed the bottle of cough syrup into her private parts aided by Tony. Then Andy hugged Erica who was still alive and resisting the assault. Together, they undressed Erica and successively raped her, starting with Andy, then Rolly and then Tony. As they take their respective turns in raping Erica, the two others were holding her hands.

After raping Erica, Andy took her bag, Rolly got her camera and cash money while Tony got her ring, earrings and watch. Thereafter, Rolly and Tony went to the rice field while Andy proceeded to the opposite direction.

When the already stiffed body of Erica lying on her back was found by the rice field owner the next day, and upon investigation by police investigators, the Provincial Prosecutor filed two Informations for rape with homicide and theft against Andy, Tony and Rolly.

Andy was arrested and arraigned first and pleaded not guilty. His brother Tony went into hiding upon learning of Andy’s arrest and was apprehended only one year later in the course of the trial. He also pleaded not guilty. But Rolly remained at large.

On five different dates of trial over a year, Sergio the deaf-mute eyewitness narrated what he saw through sign language interpreted by an expert who had 22 years of teaching experience in a school for the deaf, exposure in TV programs and had testified in five other previous court proceedings. So after trial, the RTC found the brothers Andy and Tony guilty as charged despite their denial and alibi that they were at home when the crime happened.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Andy and Tony contended that the RTC should not have given full faith and credit to the eyewitness account of Sergio who had no formal schooling in a special school for deaf mutes so that conjectures, surmises and inconsistencies in his testimony could not be discounted. They also attacked his character, claiming that he is a drunkard and a drug addict with appending case of rape.

But the SC still affirmed the RTC decision. The SC said that deaf mutes are NOT incompetent witnesses as long as they: (1) can understand and appreciate the sanctity of an oath: (2) can comprehend facts they are going to testify on; and (3) can communicate their ideas through a qualified interpreter. In this case, the interpreter is definitely qualified with a special training and education for interpreting sign language. The imperfections or inconsistencies in Sergio’s testimony do not detract from the credibility of his testimony much less justify its total rejection. What is material is that he personally knew the accused, was with them when the incident happened and had personally witnessed the rape-slay and theft three meters away from the scene. He did not waiver in the identification of the three accused despite the rigorous cross examination and positively pointed to them as the persons who raped and killed Erica and took her personal effects.

The character of Sergio and the pending case against him does not disqualify him from becoming a witness. For the test to measure the value of a witness’ testimony is whether or not such is in conformity to knowledge and consistent with experience of mankind.

The defense of alibi must yield to the positive identification of Andy and Tony by Sergio. Moreover the place where the crimes happened was just ten to fifteen minutes away from the residence of Andy. In the case of Tony his flight should be taken as an admission of guilt. There was also conspiracy among the three accused.

So they are really guilty as charged and sentenced to two death penalties upon each of them for the rape with homicide and imprisonment of 6 months to 2 years, 11 months and 10 days for theft (People vs. Tuangco et.al. G.R. 130331, November 22, 2000)

As per the narration, Sergio, the deaf witness did not attend formal schooling so he is what we call low-verbal deaf. He is also a hearing-friendly person judging from the buddies he accompanies with. But he is also very strong-willed, and unafraid to tell the truth even though the criminals were his barkadas and even if they counter-charged him.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines affirmed that a deaf person can become a competent witness so long as he/she believes in the sacredness of oath, understands the facts and, most importantly, CAN COMMUNICATE HIS THOUGHTS THROUGH A COMPETENT SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER.

So, to answer the title question, YES, the deaf can be a reliable witness. Oh, I just wish I knew who the sign language interpreter is so that I will hug him/her so tight and shake his/her hand congratulating his/her awesome skill and dedication. I hope he/she reads this article and contact me. 🙂

You can read the original article on the Philstar Online Edition page.

  • – Highlights and all caps mine

To wear a teacher’s hat or an interpreter’s hat?

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?

interpreter or teacher

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.

house visits
MCCID Conducts Home Visits to Families of Deaf Students

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?

On Deafness and Depression, [Deaf Youth Commits Suicide]

A couple of days ago (January 20), the entire Filipino Deaf Community (as shown in their Facebook reactions) was shocked when a twenty-five year old deaf committed suicide by jumping off JR Borja Bridge in Cagayan De Oro City at around 9:55pm of January 19. Ryan C. Lutching, a former student of La Salle University – School for the Deaf in Ozamiz City and an active member of a deaf group in Mindanao, left his smartphone on top of his red bag turned on showing his suicide note before killing himself.

Facebook post courtesy of Bryan Maglangit Mutas

Brian Maglangit Mutas first posted the incident on his Facebook account. In his photos, bystanders and onlookers were looking at the bridge where it happened. I guess no one was there to save him during that time. Brian also took pictures of the messages that Ryan posted on his cellphone. Ryan’s body was found two days later (January 21) washed away at Macabalan river shore.

Facebook post courtesy of Ms. Sarah Osorio Talibong

Messages on his phone indicated that Ryan was apparently talking to his “Bro” or brother and that he is ending his life because he is undergoing depression. He said that he misses his father who already died and he felt alone because his relatives and other family members never talk to him. My deaf friends told me that only his father knows how to sign. Ryan also mentioned that he got jealous of his male friends who already have relationships and they even teased him for being single.

Ryan mentioned depress three times.
Ryan mentioned “depress” three times (Only two appeared here because the other one was on the previous page.) Note: I blocked the names of other persons mentioned to protect their privacy.

Strangely, Ryan posted this cryptic image on the same exact date he died one year ago. Some of my deaf friends informed me that it was his father who died on that day.

Ryan posted this in 2018 on the exact same date he committed suicide.

Earlier this month, Bryan Velasco, a Filipino rock band Razorback’s drummer fell to his death from a condominium. He was 41 years old, and it was an apparent suicide. Velasco jumped from the 34th floor and landed on a canopy. There were no other injuries. The drummer went live on Facebook and filmed his death Wednesday morning.

What is depression?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is…

a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

A few decades ago, depression is commonly associated with being sad and grieving from say the death of a loved one, losing a job or ending a relationship. But now, scientists have found out that it is a medical condition that distinguishes it from just “being sad”.

Symptoms of a Person undergoing Depression

You or your loved ones show signs of depression if they are:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood for a couple of weeks or more
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • Having changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Losing energy or increased fatigue
  • Increasing in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thinking or mentioning about death or suicide

What about depression and deafness?

One reason why I made a post about this is to document the incident because, until today, mainstream news media hasn’t picked it up. The other is to inform everyone that depression is a serious condition that affects everyone, including deaf people. Studies have found that deaf individuals have higher rates of psychiatric disorder than those who are hearing, while at the same time encountering difficulties in accessing mental health services. These factors might increase the risk of suicide. However, the burden of suicidal behavior in deaf people is currently unknown.

Deaf people are more vulnerable to depression and suicidal tendencies because:

  1. Most of them do not have someone to talk to. As what happened to Ryan, his father passed away and he was the only one he can communicate with. Other members of his family do not know sign language. Lack of communication results in low self-esteem, delays in learning and isolation.
  2. It’s hard to share or talk about how deaf feels or thinks because they have a very small community. The deaf community is a very tight group. Everybody knows everyone. Telling one of them about your problem is like announcing it to the entire “nation”. This sometimes leads to embarrassment, negative branding and even becoming an outcast from the community.
  3. Many hearing people don’t know or understand Deaf culture. Some of them still perceive that deaf people are dumb (i.e. reading a broken English sentence), does not care about others (i.e. not mingling with other hearing people) and moves their hands and face like a fool (i.e. doing sign language and facial expression). These misconceptions often lead to teasing, discrimination and abuse.

I always love being with deaf people. I have no deaf relatives. But I have grown to love them for nearly 30 years. They are fun to be with and they basically “enjoy life”. But deaf people are primarily human beings who react from negative situations and emotions. They are more vulnerable to stress, mood swings and misery because of limited interaction with other people.

Sadly, as far as I know, there is no existing “Depression Helpline” in the Philippines that focuses on deaf people. The reason for this probably as enumerated above, is the lack of trained counselors/medical personnel who can sign fluently and understand deaf culture.

If you know of any deaf person who is experiencing depression, try to…

  • Tell him to talk to a friend, family, or someone he can trust.
  • Encourage him to visit a doctor and talk about his problem. The doctor will be able to check his mental health and discuss his next step. Remember to book an interpreter.
  • Be a friend. Learn sign language. Understand the deaf culture.

Doing this may save his/her precious life.

Filipino Deaf Video Blogger explains why FSL not PSL

Last year, Philippine President Duterte signed into law the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) Act. The Republic Act 11106 recognizes FSL as the true and living language used by the Filipino Deaf community. However, some people contested the name.

The issue: why use FILIPINO Sign Language, not PHILIPPINE Sign Language?

Glottolog, a comprehensive reference information for the world’s languages, especially the lesser known languages, listed the language used by the Filipino Deaf as Philippine Sign Language.

Screenshot of Glottolog

Also, SIL International, (formerly Summer Institute of Linguistics) lists the language as Philippine Sign Language. They even made an identifier code of ISO 639-3. These recognitions further strengthen the legitimacy of PSL as the right name.

Screenshot of SIL Code for Philippine Sign Language

In 2006, I became one of the editors of Wikipedia, the world’s largest free online encyclopedia. Using Jomanila as my editor name, I was able to create a few notable articles. One of which is “Filipino Sign Language” which I posted in February 15, 2008.

Screenshot of Wikipedia Article History

However in 2012, a certain tyrant and “feeling god” editor/dictator named Kwamikagami vandalized the article name by changing it into PHILIPPINE SIGN LANGUAGE. I humbly asked why the sudden change and explained my side. But he still defended his action simply because he is a “demigod” and he does not care for others’ truth. Because I cannot challenge his abusive “powers”, I just let him be. You may view our heated exchanges here.

Both Glottolog and SIL were used as bases for the Wikipedia article change from FSL to PSL. These supporting sites further strengthen the Wikipedia tyrant’s decision to change the name of the article. So the name got stuck for nearly five years. Minor edits and information were added but the name PSL stayed, until the law was passed. I added the information about the FSL Law in November 2018. Thankfully last December, a Filipino Wikipedia Editor named HaribonEagle927 moved the page to Filipino Sign Language after pointing it out in my talk.

Still, many senior Filipino deaf insist that PSL is the right term because this is what they were accustomed to. Some even invented the name PINOY Sign Language as a better term and created their own Facebook group in 2014 to support this. The group currently has 240 members.

That is why Aldrin Gabriel, a well-respected deaf video blogger and one of the founders/administrators of Filipino Deaf Vloggers: Feed, Awareness and Openness Facebook Group (FDVFAOG) decided to post his explanation about the issue. Aldrin, an alumnus of MCCID, happens to be one of my very best deaf students. He is a very creative artist, a local champion and Philippine representative in the International Skills Competition held in Japan in 2007 and the only Filipino Deaf actor who interpreted the “Mi Ultimo Adios” poem of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal in Filipino Sign Language.
Ultimo _ smaller file

FDVDAO Group is a closed invite-only Facebook group which now has nearly 4,000 members, majority of whom are deaf and hard-of-hearing. You can only post video blogs in sign language. Personal opinions and views of all the members is highly respected so bashing is not allowed. I was honored to be invited in this group.

You may view his ten-minute video in Filipino Sign Language by clicking on the YouTube link below. Aldrin’s explanation is very simple and straightforward. He even used a paper diagram to illustrate his point clearly. I added the English caption/subtitle for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the language. I am sure you will now be convinced that FSL is the correct name after viewing his video.

Cheers to Filipino Sign Language and the Filipino Deaf Community!!!

Note: He corrected the word AMERICA in his paper illustration to AMERICAN. Sorry for the error.

Did you know that Ma’am Coryell already recognized Filipino Sign Language?

Disclaimer: I am not an official biographer of Rev. Aimee Ada Coryell. I don’t know if she has one. But I certainly am not for one simple reason, I have only been with her for a very few short days. However, here are the significant details that I personally learned from fellowshipping with her.

Ma'am Aimee (left) and her mother
Ma’am Aimee (left) and her mother

After publishing my recent post about Ma’am Coryell and shared it in Facebook, I received an upsurge in my blogsite visits. I even had inquiries about the book and where to get it. So I decided to make a follow up post about this strong-willed American missionary by listing down three most significant trivia I learned about her. Here they are:

Did you know that…

1. … Ma’am Coryell has already observed and recognized the existence of Filipino Sign Language?

Long before the interest about a unique language used by the Filipino Deaf started to gather support in the mid-90s, Ma’am Coryell has already been using them since the early 1970s. As an American missionary and teacher, Ma’am Coryell is a product of the Peace Corp Volunteer Group that was stationed in different parts of the Philippines. She was a native American Sign Language (ASL) user and has taught this to the Filipino deaf.  As a founder of DEAF School in Laguna in late 1960s, she has strictly implemented the use of ASL in classes due to limited sign vocabulary. However, she has noticed that her students have been using signs that are distinctive to them and which has been slightly diluted with the signs used by deaf community living in Manila.

But because the Laguna school is somewhat isolated from the rest of the community, they have developed their own peculiar signs. That is why during the nineties, teachers for the deaf as well as sign language interpreters have categorized the educated deaf according to the community where they belong. Labels like “Laguna Sign”, “Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD) Sign or Manila Sign” and “Bohol Sign” have been widely branded.

Ma’am Coryell has already identified the inherent weakness of the deaf in accessing the written language that is why she included mostly ASL signs in her book “The Basic Way To English for the Deaf”. However, if there are words that she has observed that have signs commonly used by the Filipino Deaf, she incorporated them in her book.

Back Cover Page of the book “The Basic Way of English for the Deaf”

At the back cover of her book, notice the use of “G” hand which is gun shaped and the “T” hand. Both are Filipino Sign Language fingerspell. There are other “FSL signs” that appeared in her book. Although she did not name them as such because Filipino Sign Language has only been coined in mid-90s, she often refers to them as Philippine Signs.

2. … Ma’am Coryell does not know how to speak Tagalog?

I already mentioned this in my previous post so I will just copy-paste it here. 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.

3. … Ma’am Coryell is a speed typist?

On a manual typewriter, the average person types between 38 and 40 words per minute (WPM), what translates into between 190 and 200 characters per minute (CPM). However, professional typists type a lot faster — on average between 50 and 60 WPM. The rate is quite different in a digital keyboard which is being used in laptops and Personal Computers. Ma’am Coryell “boasts” of typing an average of 85 words per minute! Believe me, I’ve seen her do it.

She explained to me that as part of their training as a Peace Corp Volunteer, they are required to acquire and master skills that they can teach to their assigned country. One of them is using the typewriter to create reports, documents and even correspondents. She wants to accomplish things fast and perfect. I believe Ma’am Coryell is the only one who typed the contents of all four of her books.

I added an image of a manual typewriter here for the benefit of new generation of technology users who have never experienced, much less seen what we have been so much accustomed of using. My Dad gifted us one similar to this when we were still in grade school. This is one of his special gifts that we cherished a lot aside from the Kolski piano. He gave us tools to harness our skills. That is why I can type at least 65 words per minute.

If I may be permitted to quote Sir Carl Aguila, a former professor of Dela Salle College (now university), he described her like this,

Rev. Coryell is the closest thing the Philippines has to a “Mother Teresa.”

I couldn’t agree more… 🙂

By the way, for those who want to have a copy of her book, I am sorry that ours are already library copies. I’m not sure that they are still printing these books. But you can try to contact them to inquire through this:

c/o: LAMOIYAN CORPORATION, Km. 15 West Service Road, South Luzon Expressway, Parañaque City, 1700

or the school’s official website at: http://deaffoundationinc.com/contact/

HIV-AIDS Talk in Filipino Sign Language

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the into law in January 9 Republic Act 11166 or the “Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018”.

Under the law, the government is mandated to establish programs and policies and adopt a multi-sectoral approach to prevent the spread of HIV, and ensure access to HIV and AIDS-related services “by eliminating the climate of stigma and discrimination” on patients.

The Philippine National AIDS Council is reconstituted and streamlined to ensure effective implementation of the country’s response to the spread of HIV and AIDS among the population. It also provides penalties to people who will discriminate against HIV-positive individuals and enables minors 15 years of age to get tested for HIV.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque has lauded the recent signing as well as informed the public about the alarming rate of increase in persons infected with the virus. Latest data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed that 945 newly-diagnosed HIV cases were recorded in November 2018. This is truly a cause for alarm because it also affects the Filipino Deaf. I even heard of one deaf who died of complications due to AIDS.

Nearly a week ago, Outrage Magazine, the only publication dedicated to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) groups in the Philippines uploaded a series of videos in their YouTube Channel explaining the nature as well as how to get an HIV-AIDS Test in Filipino Sign Language. This to me is very timely as well as helpful in raising the AIDS awareness among the Filipino Deaf Community.

Pinoy Deaf Rainbow Logo
Pinoy Deaf Rainbow Logo

There are a significant number of deaf who belong to the LGBT community. They even organized a group called Pinoy Deaf Rainbow and has been participating in many related activities like Pinoy Pride and beauty pageants. I believe most of the actors that appeared in the Outrage YouTube videos are members of this group. They have and active Facebook Group Page aside from the YouTube Channel.

Here are the YouTube Videos from OutRage Magazine. Please click on each video to watch it.

1. Let’s Talk About HIV

2. Getting Tested for HIV

3. What Happens After You Get Tested for HIV

In behalf of this blogger, I warmly salute Outrage Magazine for creating these videos explained in Filipino Sign Language. I am very positive that these advocacy videos will enlighten our entire Filipino Deaf Community, not just the Deaf LGBT group.  🙂

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