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. 🙂

AI can turn spoken language into photorealistic sign language videos

Image from NewScientist

Newscientist website published an article regarding an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that “can produce photorealistic videos of sign language interpreters from speech could improve accessibility by removing the need for humans.”

According to the site, Ben Saunders at the University of Surrey, UK, and his colleagues used a neural network that converts spoken language into sign language. The system, called SignGAN, then maps these signs on to a 3D model of the human skeleton.

Although I consider this as a very remarkable development in AI, this technology may still be far off due to many aspects that need to be considered such as language idiosyncrasy, facial expression and idiomatic peculiarities. But what really worries me is my fear of eventually “removing the need for sign language interpreters.

Still this development is a step in the right direction. We cannot prevent advancement of technologies unless we suppress science. You may view the entire news article by clicking on the link below.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2261113-ai-can-turn-spoken-language-into-photorealistic-sign-language-videos/

Note: The website is a paid site. You need to subscribe to get unlimited access. 🙂

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Sign Language Interpreter’s e-Conference 2020 and Workshop

Are you a sign language interpreter, a student of sign language, an ally-advocate of the Deaf community, or just curious about what it takes to be a sign language interpreter?  We know you want to improve your skills in sign language interpreting and hopefully build a career as a sign language interpreter.

Quaranterps Rise Up

As part of this year’s celebration of International Day of Sign Languages, the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI) created an online event just for you. Dubbed, QUARANTERPS RISE UP Sign Language Interpreters e-Conference and Workshop 2020, this activity

is centered not just on skills but on the core fundamentals of being a sign language interpreter.

The event will be held on September 23-25, via Facebook Group  and September 26 via ZOOM. It will happen right at the comfort of your own homes. It is timely also that during this time we also celebrate the International Week of the Deaf.

Topics to be presented in the 4-day e-conference together with their respective facilitators are as follows,

Day 1 – September 23 (Wednesday)

  • Developing Signs for COVID-19 Terms – Yvette Apurado
  • Knowing Filipino Sign Language Law – Dr. Liza Martinez
  • Discoring the History of Sign Interpreting in the Philippines – Febe Sevilla
  • Profiling Filipino Sign Language Interpreters – John Xandre Baliza
  • Deaf Relay Interpreters – Marites Raquel Corpuz

Day 2 – September 24 (Thursday)

  • Interpreter’s Role Shifting Skills – Jeffery Bowden
  • Message Analysis Skills – Bayani Generoso
  • Voice Interpreting Skills – Nick Templo-Perez
  • Signed Song Performance Skills – Ace Dela Pena

Day 3 – September 25 (Friday)

  • Seeking Out Interpreter Mentors – Mike McMillion
  • Examining Interpreter’s Work with Authenticity – William F. Ross III
  • Understanding the Language of the Church vis-a-vis the Language of the Deaf – Michael Jose Autencio
  • Above Anxiety: Coping in the New Normal – Elmer Mores

Day 4 – September 26 (Saturday)

  • Role Shifting Skills – Jeff Bowden
  • Self-Monitoring Skills – Bayani Generoso
  • Making Ethical Interpreter Decisions – Naty Natividad
  • News Interpreting Skills – Junjun Sevilla
  • Signed Song Interpretation Skills – Ace Dela Pena

Although the e-conference is a paid event, you may click HERE to join for the FREE PASS via Facebook Group and via Zoom only on September 26. However, Here is the Rise Up Plan for the investment fee.

You may send your investment fee through these options:

OPTION 1: BANK
Deposit the amount to:

BPI Family Savings Bank
Savings Account Name: Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters, Inc.
Savings Account Number 5273-3516-73

OPTION 2: GCASH
GCash number 0915 591 0124
c/o PNASLI Treasurer Junjun Sevilla

OPTION 3: PAYPAL
Email: philippinenasli@gmail.com

REGISTER ON THIS EVENT BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK => https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSda5Wqex1eXMp9nDOpl4v6q2cT9N66BrT3Biwv0jUZSdV1fYA/viewform

To know more about the event and other details, please go to their official website at

QuaranTerps Rise Up

 

At a time when we are being QUARANTINED,
you’re a hero for choosing to RISE UP!

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

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