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.

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. 🙂

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

Sign Language Interpreters Group announces 5th General Assembly

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.

For details please refer to the announcement poster below or email the group at philippinenasli@gmail.com. You may also go the our official Facebook page for further announcements. To register for the event, please click on this link: https://tinyurl.com/y7o4e2fv.

Kitakits po tayo mga terps!

PNASLI Poster Announcing the 5th General Assembly in Bohol, Philippines
PNASLI Poster

Interpreting 101: Directional Signing


me interpreting in an sm eventI have been interpreting in a church setting for most of my “Interpreting Life”. Church interpreting is my first love and still is, while school interpreting/teaching is my passion. The scariest is court interpreting followed by stage/events interpreting while hospital/clinic/doctor’s office interpreting is the most depressing (sigh).

DIRECTIONAL SIGNING simply means “moving from point A to point B.” It’s like going from this place to another place. You are establishing the starting location and moving to an ending location.

signing space
The direction of Signs and Signing Space as modeled by Deaf Moises

You can show a person moving from one place to another by mimicking a “walking fingers” going from your right side to the left. Your audience, in turn, sees the walking person going on the opposite; left side to the right. Remember that your audience sees you as a MIRROR. The opposite of your signs is viewed. You can also use this by including you as part of the “story”. You can make your walking fingers from your end (putting your hands near your chest) towards any direction.

moving from one place to another
Hand (person) moves from one place to another.

By directional signing, you can show “who did what to whom” through their movement. It shows the subject or the person talking and the act he is doing directing to another place.

For example, if I sign “money” and then I sign “give” starting near my body and moving the sign “give” going in your direction, then I’m signing “I will give you money,” or “I already gave you money.” This is the clearest and the simplest way of signing the action instead of signing each word “I – WILL – GIVE – YOU – MONEY”.

Let’s do the opposite. If I start the sign by holding the sign away from my body and most likely near you (or the person I am talking to), and then move the sign “give” towards me and ends near my body…that would mean, “You give me money.” Again, this is the most understood way of signing the action instead of signing each word “YOU – GIVE – ME – MONEY”.

Now, If I look at you (or an imaginary person I am talking to) and move the sign “give” starting from your position (assuming the person is on your right) and moves to the left, again assuming that there is a person on your left, then I am signing “Give the money to him.”

This “directionality” can be used for many situations that require actions. Here are some examples:

  1.  “May I borrow money?” The direction is from the person you are talking to –> going to you. “You borrow money from me.” is the opposite. You sign “borrow” start near you and goes out to the person you will lend the money to.
  2. Please help me.” The direction is from the person you are talking to –> going to you. “I help you.” moves in the opposite direction.
  3. I meet you/please meet me at…” You hold both index fingers in front of you pointing up, one finger near you while the other finger is far from you. Then the one finger near you moves smoothly toward the one finger far from you.  The index fingers symbolize two persons “meeting each other”. But you cannot limit yourself with just two persons. You can add three or more persons meeting each other by adding more fingers in each hand. So, your five fingers mean you, together with four of your friends will meet him.
  4. Please come in.” You must first establish the location where the person you want to “enter or come into”. If you want to come into your house which is right at your back, then use open hand face up pointing to the person you are talking to, then moving your hand to the direction of your house. It’s a very common gestural sign. Signing “PLEASE – COME – IN.” is a very inaccurate and confusing movement. Do you want the person to go inside (which is the sign for IN) your hands?
  5. Carry…“, “Take…” and “Bring…”. These three verbs are very specific in giving out directions.
      • “Bring” means to carry something towards yourself, or when the person making the request is at the destination.
        “Bring me your bag.” Sign “BAG” or point to the bag if there is one, then open hand face-up moves to start from the person you are talking to and going towards you.
      • “Take” means to carry something away from yourself, or when the person making the request is NOT at the destination.
        “Take this bag to Pedro’s house.” Sign “BAG” or point to the bag or hold on to the bag, then open hand face up, then add Pedro’s sign name, then sign house.
      • “Carry” means to move while supporting, either in a vehicle or in one’s hand or on one’s body. Use “carry” when the person making the request is NOT at the destination.
        “Please carry my bag to the car.” Sign “PLEASE”, then “BAG”, then open hand face up going to the direction where the car is located.

Cheers and Happy Signing!!!

 

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