Deaf education in the Philippines, my retrospect

Philippine deaf education symbol
Since our country is currently celebrating a week-long event making people aware about deaf and deafness, methinks it’s appropriate to share with you how deaf activities stirred up suddenly these past two decades. I’ll call this era the fourth wave borrowing the term coined by Dr. Liza Martinez and Mr. Rafaelito Abat in their research paper.

Before I continue to raise some eyebrows out there, I should say first that I don’t claim I’m in authority on this. I’m a fairly new entrant in this advocacy because I only became involved in 1991. However, I have been one of those who were blessed to witness this sudden resurgence of attention over the cause of the deaf in my country. And considering that deaf education here dates back more than a century ago with the establishment of Philippine School for the Deaf in 1907 and the formation of Philippine Association of the Deaf in October 17, 1926 by Pedro M. Santos, the first and only deaf pensionado to the United States, my contribution is but a tiny dent on this long and arduous time line.

Based on my interviews and personal association with some of these remarkable people, the highlights of the history during the pre-fourth wave era are:

The strongest fuel that ignited this rapid interest this last two decades is the in-depth study and growing support for Filipino Sign Language and Filipino deaf culture. Strong advocacies generated by the newly formed Philippine Federation of the Deaf (1997) and the Philippine Deaf Resource Center (2001) have made credence on the need to recognize the indigenous language of the Filipino Deaf.

Now what better way to propagate these fuels than to funnel them through the radical and forward-thinking minds molded by newly-established post-secondary institutions to their adult deaf students.

The fourth wave started with CAP College School for the Deaf (CAPSFD) when it opened its doors in 1989. As part of the family of College Assurance Plan Group of Companies owned by Atty. Enrique Sobrepena, CAP SFD was created because of his desire to assist his deaf grandson Eric attain a degree course in an all-deaf school. They offered the first non-mainstreamed, non-sectarian, pure deaf degree programs and accepted their first deaf faculty (Julius Andrada) for higher education. The idea of Filipino Sign Language was first discussed and defended in the classrooms of CAP SFD while at the same time, the Department of Education dismissed it by simply calling it a bastardized American Sign Language. They also introduced the bilingual-bicultural approach of education with emphasis on deaf culture, a system which was taught by the school’s first director Ms. Rosalinda Macaraig which she learned from her studies at Gallaudet University. Ms. Macaraig is a former teacher of SAID before heading CAP SFD and currently a full-time instructor at Gallaudet. In effect, CAP SFD pioneered tertiary non-sectarian deaf education.

Although Miriam College started offering a certificate program for the deaf as part of their outreach for SAID graduates at almost the same year as CAP SFD, I don’t consider them the first. This is because back then, they only offered a mainstream program. It means deaf students sit on the same class together with majority of hearing students. I remember my brother used to teach computer subjects there. He told me that in one of his class, there is an interpreter sitting in front of two students while he lectures in front of the majority.

Deaf Evangelistic Alliance Foundation – LCCD and Bible Institute for the Deaf also offered college programs. But theirs are ministerial, Christian evangelism and pastoral in nature.

De La Salle – College of St. Benilde, a well-established hearing school, followed in 1991 by opening their School for Deaf Applied Studies (SDEAS). Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf came in third in 1993. Soon enough, few universities and colleges all over the country followed by offering mainstreamed programs and special education (SPED) centers sprouted in nearly every first class province. Deaf associations started to proliferate. There are also specialized deaf individuals that formed a common group like deaf artists, deaf painters and deaf sports clubs.

Companies also began to notice the deaf’s employment potential. Major firms like Lamoiyan Corporation, Jollibee Food Corporation and Bench Clothing Apparel now maintain deaf workers. Even Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took notice on the deaf’s employability by hiring a few of them in her staff.

Now for my reaction, after watching the recent docu-film Silent Odyssey which showcases deaf history in the Philippines, I noticed that there was no mention of CAP SFD. There was not even a passing-through scene of Mr. Andrada who was one of the successful products of LCCD and took his MA at Philippine Normal University, was the two-term PFD President, a deaf pastor of the biggest deaf congregation in Metro Manila, the first deaf college teacher, now its Deaf Coordinator, and a champion advocate of deaf rights. Even his hearing wife Mrs. May Gasataya-Andrada, a former principal at LCCD, high school teacher at PSD, a highly regarded FSL interpreter among the deaf community especially in court cases and now the Registrar of CAP SFD was not interviewed. I guess the filmmaker failed to make a thorough research on this. She did not give an accurate and fair treatment to the whole sector.

After learning sign language at PRID in summer of 1991, my first teaching assignment for the deaf was at CAP College. At that time, I juggled my teaching load between the deaf and hearing students at University of Santo Tomas. After a year, I decided to focus with teaching the deaf and became a full-time computer instructor at CAP SFD. It is in that school where I met the finest and most talented deaf graduates produced in the country like Dennis Balan, a professional photographer and Ervin Reyes, a multi-awarded web designer.

I totally admit that I got most of my information regarding the deaf at CAP SFD. These ideas gave me the desire and skills in order to put up MCCID. I owe a lot from working at CAP SFD for which I am very much grateful. I also know for a fact that DLS-CSB also got their idea for adding a program for the deaf from CAP SFD after seeing their officials visit the school a few times to learn its operations and attended CAP sponsored seminar-workshops. Some past and present prominent faculty of DLS-CSB SDEAS are formerly CAP SFD’s officials. So, I can categorically say that, if not for CAP SFD, there won’t be a DLS-CSB SDEAS or MCCID that sparked the Filipino deaf’s empowerment.

MCCID was also not included in the film. But I’m not sour graping because probably she does not consider our contribution to the sector that significant. However, I want to set the record straight. Let us give credit to where real credit is due. Marami pong mga tao na naghirap itaguyod ang kapakanan ng mga bingi sa Pilipinas at gumawa ng mga kapakipakinabang na bagay sa kanilang ikauunlad. Hindi lang isang institusyon. This is my own small way of recognizing them. 🙂

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine17


Deaf Group rallied against school’s closure

Good day readers! Sorry for not updating my blog for more than a week. I was assigned a week ago by our country’s Department of Education (DepEd) to evaluate contents of multimedia materials submitted to them. The DepEd received roughly 800 titles from different publishers worldwide. They categorized them into science, math, etc. They need to filter out the materials by removing those that we felt useless, outdated, out of context to Philippine setting/culture and of course, offensive ones. Once we approve the titles, the government will buy them and will be distributed to all public schools nationwide as supplementary materials in their classroom lessons. Two of us were assigned (together with Teacher Lyn Balana of Philippine School for the Deaf, my newfound chika buddy, hehehe) on the values education and sign language materials. We were “sequestered” for about a week in a cozy hotel in the metropolis. Sorry, I can’t divulge the titles (ASL for kids) that we evaluated because we signed a contract stipulating that we cannot in any way contact or inform the publishers in order to protect our anonymity and make unbiased decisions. 🙂

Deaf group bearing placards rally in front of school.
Well, enough of that. Last week I received a text message from one of my favorite deaf students Emil Zion Punzalan, asking me if I will join in a rally. I was anxious to know what it’s about. So I queried some more. He said that it’s about the impending closure of the Philippine Association of the Deaf Demonstration School in Makati City. Although I already have inside information about it, I still asked him, what’s his opinion about it. He said, they organized a deaf group to rally in order to stop the closure of a school for the deaf which has been existing since early 70s. He fully supports the move and again asked if I am. I replied that as much as I want to, I can’t because I have prior appointment with the DepEd. But I encouraged him to exercise his rights.

More than 100 officers, members and supporters of Philippine Association of the Deaf Inc. (PADI) held a rally outside the PAD compound to denounce the closure of PADI by Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) last June 2. They accused ALI of closing the school without due process. A deaf supporter said,

We want PADI to be open for the Deaf. PADI has become a part of our life. I hope Ayala will hear our plea.

Led by the PADI Board of Directors, the protesters began to assemble at Dao St. in San Antonio Village, Makati City as early as 8am. When the Board of Directors arrived, they proceeded to the gate of PADI guarded by security guards from Ayala. The guards padlocked the gate with metal chains to prevent the rallyist from entering the compound.

Facade of Philippine Association of the Deaf School in Makati City
Here are the arguments and counter-arguments of the move:

  1. According to Mr. Dindo Fernando, Head of Public Affairs and External Affairs Division of ALI, PADI is a sub-lessee of Samahang Katarungang Panlupunan Inc. (SAKAP) under the Contract of Sublease dated February 11, 1972. In 1996, SAKAP ceased operations and turned over their rights to Alay Buhay Center for Development, which became a new lessee.

    Pursuant to the Deed of Cancellation, the mother lease contract between Alay Buhay and ALI has already expired on July 5, 2006 and Alay Buhay turned over the leased property to ALI. Therefore, the rights and interests of PADI acquired over the sub-lease contract are also terminated pursuant to the deed of cancellation. ALI gave Community Innovations the rights for development of the said property.

  2. But PADI defended their stand. They clarified 3 things on the matter. The first one is the contract in which Fernando said that it already expired. As confirmed by Fernando that there’s an existing contract for 50 years, PADI said that the contract is not “expired” but “pre-terminated”. According to PADI, the Lease contract of SAKAP with ALI and subsequently between SAKAP and PADI was signed on February 1972 with 50 year duration. So therefore, the contract must expire on the 2022 and not July 2006 as claimed by Fernando. PADI claimed that they were not even accorded with a single communication on the matter and the worse is, the offer of financial assistance by Fernando to move-out is an off-shoot to ALI’s pre-termination of the Lease Contract.
  3. According to ALI’s statement, they are concerned, about alleged officers of the organization, continuing to occupy the property despite the cancellation of the lease contract of the property, as mutually agreed upon between Alay Buhay, the authorized lessee, and Ayala Corporation way back in July 2006. Ms Tabligan was present in the meeting with Alay Buhay and ALI representatives when the termination of the lease was discussed in 2006. The PADI lease is co-terminus with the Alay Buhay lease, therefore, also canceling the PADI lease. Current occupants continue to use the property without authority in the name of PADI for personal gain by renting it out to various entities and for paid parking.

Now, here is my stake. When I started out being with the Deaf, I have visited PAD school many times. I heard that the former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos gave her full support for the cause of the Deaf by raising funds to construct the building. The late seventies all through the early nineties were seen as the glory days of the association and the school. I remember the old Luneta (Rizal Park) Cafeterias were run by Deaf people from PAD. Numerous cultural and social programs were presented and PAD students were famous worldwide. They were invited to perform in many countries and reaped countless awards and recognitions. I’ve seen some of those presentations and, boy, they were really good despite their inability to hear. Some of the products of PAD school were my students and they are now very successful in their chosen fields.

I guess the inept system took its toll on PAD. Many great teachers were lured into greener pasteurs and migrated mostly to the US. The Deaf group were used and mostly abused by people that surround them. Suspicions and internal misgivings entered into the scene. People just cannot trust each other which led to its downfall.

There were a few moves to revive the ailing school and association. I was even invited to participate in one of those movements. But the virus has already creeped way too deep into the system. It’s beyond repair. That’s why the Philippine Federation of the Deaf was born in 1996 out of necessity due to inability of PAD to do its work.

I admire and respect those people who are still trying their guts in order to bring back PAD’s glory days, especially the Deaf group. But I know a lost cause when I see one. I just hope I’m wrong.

For more information, visit to get the latest and most comprehensive news about the issue. Photo courtesy of Mr. Raphael Torralba of website.

Blog at

Up ↑