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

maam coryell flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Basic Way to English for the Deaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deaf roles should be given to deaf actors

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

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

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


Screengrab from my Facebook Post

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

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

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

 

Romalito Mallari’s Facebook post

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

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

Facebook message conversation between me and Romalito

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


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

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

For which the handbook author replied:

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

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

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

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

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

Filipino Sign Language now official

Filipino Sign Language for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Great news!!!

After more than two decades of convincing people that there exist such a language, the Philippines has finally recognized Filipino Sign Language as the true and living language used by the Filipino Deaf community!!! Pres. Duterte signed today Republic Act 11106 or the Filipino Sign Language Act!!! 😍😍😍

President Rodrigo Duterte

We were already believers and has been using/promoting Filipino Sign Language since 1991 when I was then a computer instructor for the deaf at CAP College Foundation, Inc. We were convinced by the explanation of our then Director Rosalie Macaraig who arrived from Gallaudet University. Cory Aquino was still the president then. We have been observing and studying the signs of the Filipino deaf community and we were very much convinced that they are using a unique yet highly developed signs which are distinguishable from American Sign Language.

Yet the struggles in pushing for its recognition was ginormous. The Department of Education and even the first public school for the deaf in Asia are the greatest stumbling blocks. They never believed that there exists a language commonly used by the Filipino Deaf. One of the compelling reasons why Deaf Ervin Reyes and I established Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf back in 1993 was to agressively promote FSL.

But we never lose hope. With the strong persistence of Philippine Federation of the Deaf, the yearly filing of House Bill by Congressman Antonio Tinio, painstaking researches of Dr. Liza Martinez and her group, the bonding together of like-minded colleagues to form Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters and the continued nurturing of the Filipino deaf community, the country has finally recognized FSL as the true and living visual language.

So, after more than five presidents later, it was President Rodrigo Duterte who signed Republic Act 11106 into law on October 30 and published on November 12 coinciding the Deaf Awareness Week celebration (November 10-16). Our dream has finally been fulfilled! Cheers to best times ahead for the Filipino Deaf Community!!!

Download the official law here:

Duterte Signs Filipino Sign Language Into Law – Abs-Cbn News 

Duterte Signs Filipino Sign Language Act – Philippine Daily Inquirer

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