Miss Deaf Philippines, anyone?

One of my super duper respected idols in deaf education here in the Philippines, Ma’am Julie Esguerra-Marvin sent our school an invitation to join a beauty contest spearheaded by her school, Philippine Institute for the Deaf (PID). I volunteered to post the invite poster in my blog. Here it is:

We would like to invite your DEAF BEAUTIES to join the 1st ever Miss Deaf Philippines on September 6 & 7, 2013 ! Please join us in the hope to empower today’s deaf women, and also to celebrate with us PID’s 25th Year Anniversary!

Miss Deaf Philippines promotional poster

What are you waiting for? If you are a Filipino Deaf who possesses beauty and brains, here is your chance to shine. You can show to the world that deafness is never a hindrance to achieving your dreams. The contest is open for 16-30 years old, high school deaf and must be in Manila during the pageant week. Email for registration form at missdeafphilippines@gmail.com. Deadline for registration is on August 16, 2013. 🙂


Maria Lena Buhay Foundation: To talk and be heard in the silent world

Very rare do I post schools for the deaf using oral method of teaching because as you may have already noticed, I lean towards the sign language side. But for this one, I really need to repost it because of the wonderful work their institution have achieved these past 25 years. This article written by Angelo Garcia which was posted on the Manila Bulletin is about the first and one of the few successful oral schools in the Philippines, Maria Lena Buhay Foundation. Enjoy! 🙂

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS — This group of musicians (above) may look ordinary but they are all deaf.
MUSIC TO THEIR EARS — This group of musicians (above) may look ordinary but they are all deaf.

MANILA, Philippines — After almost 25 years, Maria Lena Buhay Memorial Foundation, Inc. (MLBMFI) founder and executive director Leticia Buhay proudly says that the school’s graduates are now productive citizens of society, despite their hearing impairment.

“We have a graduate who is now an entrepreneur and owns a chain of coffee shops. Another one, who graduated as valedictorian, now teaches at a prestigious school. Another one has his own graphic design company,” Buhay shares.

This success, Mrs. Buhay says, can be attributed to the fact that they have taught their hearing-impaired students how to speak. MLBMFI is the first oral school in the country for the hearing impaired.

“We believe that every hearing impaired child has the capacity to learn how to talk. We already have proven that in our 25 years of service,” she says. “For me, it is harder to teach a class of five hearing impaired students than 40 hearing students. Mas mahirap kasi, you have to keep on repeating they only hear the word for the first time, especially the younger level. But as a speech therapist, the moment a hearing impaired utter a word, umaapaw ang aking kaligayahan. That’s what gratifies us all.”

Today, the non-profit, non-stock school has become one of the most valuable institutions in the field of special education.


MLBMFI was founded in June 1987 in honor of Mrs. Buhay’s daughter, Maria Lena or Lenlen, a Psychology student of Ateneo de Manila University who passed away due to cancer.

A speech therapist, Buhay gave in to the request of her patients’ parents to put up a school where their children could learn how to speak.

“The parents felt that since natututo na ‘yung anak nila how to speak, ayaw na nila sa sign school. Ayaw din naman nila sa regular school kasi there are 40 or so students baka mag lag behind. So they needed something special for them,” she recalls.

After planning, the school initially had 10 students and three teachers, including Mrs. Buhay. But by the end of the school year, the school already had a total of 26 students. Year after year, they added grade levels until they completed all levels from pre-school to high school. Since it was a non-profit school, they had to rely on sponsorships, donations and the tuition fees from students. Those who couldn’t GARCIAafford receive tuition subsidy.

When things became too busy and the responsibility too heavy for her, Buhay started getting sick. She was advised to close the school if she wanted to live longer.

“My children asked me to stop. But no, my commitment is there and I enjoy what I was doing. So I resigned from my job as a university professor to devote my time to these children. I was 50 then. I bargained with my children, we could open the preschool and grade school and call off the high school. Kasi the time when they reach Grade 6, nakakapagsalita na sila, many of them were mainstreamable. So lumiit na enrolment namin,” she recalls.

Today, the school caters to only 25 students from preschool to Grade 7 since they limit the number of students per level. They also accept full and partial scholarships, depending on the available sponsorship.


Mrs. Buhay says that one of the school’s main accomplishments is that they have shown parents of children with hearing impairment that there is another option other than just sign language.

“We made people aware that there is another option to help hearing-impaired children and not just to help them how to sign. In other words, there is an option to learn how to talk,” Mrs. Buhay explains.

She says that it is important that when a child is diagnosed with hearing impairment, he or she should immediately undergo speech therapy. The first five years of a child’s life is the most important period in speech and language acquisition.

“Normally a child at six months can already babble. But if after that period, the child has not spoken, there is a cause for alarm already. Speech is talking by ear. If the sounds do not enter your ear, if you do not hear anything, you will not be able to speak. That is why the children have hearing aids to magnify the sound. So parents can bring the child to a diagnostician for immediate intervention,” she advises.

Since MLBMFI students know how to speak they are able to communicate properly and they can do almost everything a hearing child can do. In fact, the school has its own rhythm band. A group of hearing impaired students can play different music instruments!

“We develop them holistically. We develop them socially, we bring them around town. We teach them basic skills like cooking. And they enjoy other activities like playing and listening to music,” she says.


Mrs. Buhay says that although the students may not speak clearly like hearing people can, the important thing is that they can be understood. One of the advantages of a speaking person with hearing impairment is gaining employment. Since they can communicate, they have bigger chances of being employed.

“If a hearing impaired person is able to talk, his chances of being employed will be greater. There are certain organizations and companies that employ hearing impaired,” she says.

“We have to accept it that this is a talking world. A great majority of us talk, only a few sign. If they are able to talk, it is easier for them to be mainstreamed and take their place, normally, in society where everybody talks. Your chances will be greater,” she says.

She admits that she doesn’t know what the future holds for them but because of her dedicated teachers and staff, she is sure that MLBMFI’s legacy will continue, even for the next 25 years.

A different kind of music

This is a repost from the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated December 5, 2011.

Ency Encinares was  brought up in a family of musicians.  His mother  sings, his father is a trumpet player and a brother  is a music teacher.

From this  sonata-filled environment, one would expect his  time and talents to lean toward more  music.

But Encinares prefers sharing his Sundays with  a soundless community as a deaf-mute teacher.

“For me, real music is the service that I give to our deaf-mute brothers and sisters,” he said.

Every Sunday, Encinares spends  at least three hours  teaching  sign language, mostly to  parents or relatives of deaf-mute children at the First High School for the Hearing Impaired in barangay Basak, Cebu City.

For five years  he has offered his service for free, showing  that no person is too busy to do volunteer work.

During weekdays, he works as  an executive assistant at the Coalition for Better Education (CBE), one of the partners of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation. On Saturdays, he pursues  postgraduate studies in business administration.

“No matter how busy I am, I always make sure that I don’t  leave behind my volunteer work,” he said.

Five years ago,  Encinares  was approached by a deaf-mute man inside a mall who was asking for  directions.  He could barely understand the man.  The encounter left an impact on Encinares.

He  enrolled in a sign language class at the University of the Southern Philippines Foundation. When he passed the three levels of the course and earned  a  certificate of proficiency in sign language, Encinares decided to teach.

“At first, I was hesitant to study  sign language because it looked  hard to learn but  I really wanted to help the deaf-mute community, so I persevered,” he said in Cebuano.

At home, the influence of a family  inclined to music was  keenly felt.

When a brownout would strike, for example, his  father would make the children sing.

His father, a policeman, is a  trumpet player in a  group of musicians.  His eldest brother is a music teacher at the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu,  and another sibling plays various musical instruments.

“Every time we had a program in school, my class would usually top  the intermission number. It’s  quite a challenge to impart music to a soundless community, but  it is also very fulfilling,” he said.

Encinares would have been a member of the award-winning University of the Visayas Chorale, but due to a conflict in practice schedule, he decided to let go and pursue his volunteer work with deaf-mutes and their family members.

“The smiles and the joy that radiate from their faces are my  melody.”

“That’s the best music,” he said.

As a Jaycee member in his college days, Encinares was introduced to volunteer work, participating in community projects such as feedings and  other outreach activities.

“So (volunteering) wasn’t really a hard thing to do. Music and teaching the deaf community are my passion.  I was able to blend with them in the spirit of volunteerism,” he said.

The learning experience, he says, goes both ways.

As much as the deaf-mute community learns from him, they also contribute to his personal growth.

“I learned so many things  by listening to them closely.  I learned how expressive, interactive and talkative they can be.   It made me more sensitive to people, especially to the deaf-mute, who needs a special kind of communication. This also made me a more responsible and cooperative person.”

The encounters have also underscored for him the value of  communication.

“We who can talk should learn to communicate well to lessen miscommunication. Because I can talk and hear normally, I have learned not to take for granted my communication skills,” he said. Fatrick Tabada/Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.


Deaf people working in Mindanao killer mines?

Happy New Year everyone! This is my first post for the year 2012!

Last Wednesday, I again accompanied my graduating students to vital government agencies to secure personal documents which they will use in applying for jobs after they graduate. MCCID has been assisting its graduating students in getting government documents for many years now.

Our first stop was getting their authenticated birth certificates from the National Statistics Office (NSO). I briefed them beforehand that I would only be there to escort them to the office and occasionally provide them some tips on how to fill up the forms. But actual applying for it would all be theirs to experience, including falling in a very long line.

landslide in a mountain in compostela valley provinceSo while waiting for them inside, a twenty-something guy approached me as I was giving instructions to my students in sign language. He taught I was also deaf so he signed to me. Surprised, I signed in return. I introduced myself politely although I hinted that he is also a hearing person. When I asked him if he can hear, he nodded. That was when we started introducing ourselves “normally”.

He begged not to disclose his full name. Being a Jehovah’s Witness exposed him to the deaf and sign language. He was at the NSO to get his birth certificate as part of the requirements in his job application.  When  he mentioned he was from Compostela Valley in Mindanao, I immediately asked him if there are deaf people working in the gold mines there. I want to know because of the recent news wherein a landslide in that province killed more than 30 persons. He claimed that there are at least five unschooled deaf adults toiling in the mines. He knew them first hand because in their religion, they are very faithful in doing house-to-house visitations to the deaf people. He was able to minister to some of them even for those who don’t know how to read and are unfamiliar with sign language. He felt sorry for them because their superiors don’t give them equal pay as compared with the regular mine workers even if they are exposed to the same dangers.

My next inquiry was if there were deaf workers who died in the recent landslide. He replied that there weren’t any deaf casualties out of the more than 30 persons who wasted their lives. This is a relief. But it’s still tragic that people, even those who cannot hear, must expose themselves to potential dangers just so they get a meager amount for their daily sustenance. I hope that the government would learn from this lesson and not to allow them to go back working in those danger zones.

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Solon urges Supreme Court to Allocate Funds for Sign Language Interpreters

Cong Teddy Casino
A lawmaker today urged the Supreme Court to create and allocate a budget for a court interpreter item under the judiciary who will be tasked to assist persons with disabilities while attending court proceedings.

The recommendation was raised by Rep. Teddy Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna) during the recent budget hearing for the judiciary.

Citing the study of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center (PDRC), Casiño said there are unresolved cases involving deaf children and other persons with hearing disabilities due to the absence of court interpreters during the proceedings.

“In one of the rape cases involving a deaf woman that was cited by PDRC, the complainant failed to narrate her story and those present during the hearing could not understand what she was saying,” Casiño said.

Casiño said that of the 53 cases of sexual abuse of deaf women reported over the past eight years; only 14 cases were actually filed in court. None have prospered.

Appearing before the House budget hearing, Supreme Court Administrator Midas Marquez said they had already met with the officials of the PDRC who assured them of their support.

“Pending the signing of the bill into law we will address the concerns of the group. We were informed that this is happening in many parts of the country,” Marquez said.

Casiño has filed House Bill 4631 instituting court interpreters for persons with hearing disabilities.

Casiño said the bill proposes a system that would be in place so that interpreters for the deaf would be present during government proceedings whether it is a police investigation, court or public hearing.

Citing the data from the PDRC, Casiño said one out of three women is a victim of rape while 65 to 70% of deaf children are victims of molestation.

“Of the 82 cases cited by PDRC, 67% of deaf complainants lodged rape complaints while 32% of deaf respondents were accused of theft. With the high incidence of criminal cases involving deaf persons, there is a need for interpreters,” Casino said.

The PDRC said the only existing policy covering cases of the deaf so far is Supreme Court Memo 59-2004, which requires that an interpreter be provided for the deaf when they testify in court.

However, the PDRC said the memo contains no specific guidelines on the choice and assignment of qualified and ethical court interpreters as well as guidelines on the actual process of interpreting in the courtroom.

The PDRC said there is no organized system for interpreting sign language in court rooms. Judges, lawyers and court staff also lack awareness in sign communication.

Note: This is a repost from the House of Representatives Press Release.

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