Interpreting from a Cellphone

One of my deaf students tagged me in her Facebook photo. In one of our House Visits wherein we interview the families of our deaf students in the comfort of their homes, a hearing parent who works in Dubai requested me to interpret her message appealing to her daughter to focus more on her studies. Since I cannot sign while holding the phone, one of my students volunteered to hold it for me. Cool! 🙂

Filipino Deaf’s Appeal to New Philippine President

Here are two videos of our Deaf Faculty in sign language appealing for the newly elected Philippine President Noynoy Aquino to do his promise and not to forget about the concerns of everybody including the Filipino Deaf Community:

MCCID Deaf Coordinator Ervin Reyes

MCCID Deaf Faculty Jerome Marzan

Reverse Interpreter: Ma’am Bethsaida Lumangyao-Villanueva

Election Awareness Campaign for the Deaf

Deaf Jerome shares his experience as a first time voter.

After the dismal showing of party list representative for Persons With Disabilities in the last May national elections, I asked myself, where are their supporters? Why is it that they never had any representation in the House of Representatives? When will their voices be heard?

The answers to my questions are connected to the problem currently faced by the Filipino Deaf Community. Based on my informal survey with our deaf students and the experience I had in the last election, I found out a very disheartening truth. There are very few deaf who are registered voters! In our current student population of 92, only 15 have actually voted, a mere 16% of the total. Now, how can the Filipino deaf be heard if they are not active citizens of the country?  How can they fight for their rights if they don’t even know their basic right to vote?

I explained to them how to fill up the New Voter's Registration Form.

In my informal survey, I asked them why they never voted. Most of their answers are, that they are not aware. Now why is that? They followed it up with a startling truth, that their parents don’t have time to explain to them. The members of their family simply ignored them. They reasoned out that it is very difficult for the family to assist them. So they stayed at home during election day.

Because of this, our school decided to launch its ““Election Awareness Campaign Program last July 31 at MCCID Lecture Hall. More than 50 second and third year deaf students attended the mini-lecture activity. This program will continue up to October 31, in time for the National Barangay Election, which will be held this October 25.

Since majority of the deaf community where I am involved with belong to the voting age, I really saw the need to empower them. I enumerated the many problems deaf people are encountering in the country like unemployment, inability to receive government services, closed captioning and sign language interpreting services and ignoring the 20% discounts on medicine and other vital services. I explained that by registering their vote, the government will become aware of the existence of the deaf community.

During the launch, I also explained to the students how to fill up the Application for Registration as well as the procedure and requirements for registering. I also gave a letter to the parents seeking their help in assisting their child when they register to their respective election offices. It’s time for the family to take part in the social awareness of their child.

I asked our Deaf Faculty Jerome Marzan to share to his students about his experience as a first time voter in the first automated elections last May. Other students also gave their experiences as well as problems they faced when their parents did not allow them to vote.

Here is the list of expected activities:

  • Voting Orientation – July 31
  • Voter Registration – August 3–15
  • Voter Awareness of Barangay Candidates (Barangay Chairman and Barangay Kagawad) – Campaign Period to be announced later
  • National Barangay Election – October 25
  • Ballot guarding and watching TV about elections – October 25-31

I know that this is not too big a work for us. But the outcome of these efforts would greatly help in supporting the cause of our Filipino deaf brothers and sisters in exercising their inherent rights. 🙂

Filipino Deaf’s First Automated Election Experience

Long lines at the corridor.

It has been a few weeks since we had our first automated election experience last May 10. Traces of indelible ink smudge are still in my left fingernail. All the senators and majority of the congressmen and other elected officials were already proclaimed by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). This by far is the fastest election we had since voting for our leaders began in the early 20s. I must say, despite the mud-throwing, killing, vote-buying and other election related anomalies that happened, still, this is the best thing that happened to my country.

Jerome Marzan, a deaf first time voter shading his ballot.

Now what about the Filipino deaf’s experience?

I won’t be delving into other disabled group, although I have seen some of them in my precinct as well as publicized in major TV networks. I will focus on my observation from the deaf’s perspective.

I was blessed to assist two deaf voters. The three of us who went to Immaculate Conception High School in Quezon City were: Deaf Ervin, who has been a registered voter since early nineties, and Deaf Jerome, a first time voter and me. Inasmuch as I want to help many deaf people, I can’t because of the distance between polling centers. However, I was able to monitor other deaf from my community the day after.

So at 9 in the morning, we walked all the way to the school which is adjacent to the Immaculate Conception Parish Church. Usually, public schools were used as election venue. But our barangay does not have a nearby government school, so the private school was tapped as a polling area.

The first thing we saw after entering the school was a long table booth on the side of the quadrangle which was teeming with people. The area was used to assist voters. There were also wheel-chaired people circling the place helping other PWDs on what to do. There were also a couple of bulletin boards where all the list of voters are stapled. Since we already verified our precinct numbers on the Internet courtesy of, we scanned through the papers with ease.

Now, the calvary starts when we went to the precinct venue at the 3rd floor of the school building. What’s unique in this election is that precincts are now clustered. Before, each polling place can accommodate from 200-400 voters. But in an automated system, a precinct must accept at least 1,000 registered voters. You could just imagine each room where 500 or so people are falling in line. The corridors are full. The sun’s scorching heat sips through the rooms. People’s nerves would certainly flare up.

I first assisted Deaf Jerome because he needs to vote on a different precinct. His experience was a lot better than ours. When I called the attention of the election officials that he is deaf, the lady officer asks if he can read and write. I was appalled by the questioning. I murmured, is that how they perceive a deaf person? Someone who doesn’t know how to read and write?

She was very cordial to us so I smilingly replied to her that he is a college graduate so he can read and write by himself. Their polling place was more orderly than the rest. They gave numbers written on small paper to each voter. They then asked them to sit on the nearby empty room and wait for their numbers to be called. This is what they did to Deaf Jerome. But what’s special for him is that, they asked him to wait in front of the door because he will be called soon. That’s a relief!

So a few minutes later, he was escorted inside the precinct, gave his ballot while alerting the rest of the Election Officials about his situation. So within 10 minutes, he completed the ritual of casting his votes with no hitch.

Sir Ervin and the Precinct Count Optical Scanner Machine
Deaf Ervin and the Precinct Count Optical Scanning Machine.

Falling in line usually takes place within minutes. In our case, Deaf Ervin and I lined up at 9:30 AM. We were able to cast our votes at almost lunchtime, AFTER TWO HOURS! When it was our turn, I asked the officials that we go together because he is deaf and I need to assist him. After that, everything went smoothly.

In Retrospect
I heard from some of my deaf students that they were assisted by the members of their families. However, a great majority of them did not vote. Next time, I’ll strengthen my “Election Awareness Campaign” to my students. I would even impose some kind of a penalty to those who failed to register. I would also seek the cooperation of their parents by signing some sort of a commitment that they would assist their deaf child in exercising their rights.

Unless the newly elected president and vice president are not yet proclaimed as of today, the clouds of doubt about the veracity of automation would still envelop the whole country.

Overall, the actual election procedures did not pose any barriers against the deaf people. It’s the dissemination of information and of course, the concern and care from the family which counts the most. 🙂

Thank you very much to the election officials of Precinct No. 4518a and 4537a for your help. Mabuhay po kayo!

Happy 2010!

MCCID Deaf Students and Faculty during the Annual Laguna Outing, January 4-5, 2010
Faculty Lunch in Laguna
MCCID Faculty (From Left:) Me, Sir Jerome (deaf), Sir Ervin (deaf), Ma'am Charmagne (hearing) and Ma'am Tina (deaf)

The past year has brought both hardships and triumphs in our lives. The weather was a disaster. The economy was in a see-saw. Most people say that they became poorer in 2009 than in the past years.

One good thing I love being with the Deaf (at least from those whom I am associated with) is that they are both pragmatic and optimistic. They love a good life. They might not hear some wonders of the world. Well, at least they are shield against some problems of the world. Majority of them believe that good things will soon happen.

Did you know that the phrase “And it came to pass…” appeared 452 times in the Good Book? We may not have everything. Our goals in 2009 may not have reached. We may look at the misery around us. But we know that God will see us through. Then we can look up, smile, and say, “It came to pass.”

Here’s to another blessed year given to us and another blogging year for me! Cheers and Happy 2010 from yours truly! 🙂

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