Ervin Reyes, the Philippines’ Top Deaf IT Expert

This is the second of a series of features that focuses on famous or notable Filipino Deaf. It’s my way of recognizing their feats and showcase their successes all over the world.

Ervin Ruiz Reyes has been the Deaf Coordinator of Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf (now MCCID College of Technology) for over seventeen years. He observed that most companies focus on the disablity rather than the capabilities of the Deaf. They only focus on their “disability” and not think of their potential for the progress of their companies. I won’t be enumerating the achievements of this very successful yet humble deaf person. Let this collection of videos speak for himself.

This video was taken during the 6th International Abilympics Skills Competition held in New Delhi, India in November 2003. Ervin competed against top web designers from more than 32 countries for which he won the bronze medal.

 

This was Ervin’s 2003 interview on a national TV program Abs-Cbn’s Digital Tour.

 

Here is his 2007 interview by Abs-Cbn News advocating equal access to information for disabled persons.

 

This is the latest video of Ervin being featured on a national TV in 2008.

Here is a link on his lecture about IT education for the deaf during Philippine School for the Deaf’s centennial celebration where he is also a recipient of the Most Outstanding Deaf Alumnus Award. To know more about him, go to this article feature from Withnews.org – Internet for the Disabled and Poor.

“Because of the computer age, it is very sure that the world is getting smaller and smaller everyday. Communication barriers are slowly being removed. But now, the biggest problem to the Deaf’s acceptance into the hearing world is the hearing person himself.” – Ervin Reyes

If these proofs won’t be enough, then I don’t know what else to tell. Let his accomplishments serve as a lliving example for all deaf people out there. God bless, Sir Ervin! May your tribe increase. 🙂

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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. 🙂

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On teaching the deaf

Sir Jeff (left in brown shirt) and his deaf class
Sir Jeff (left in brown shirt) and his deaf class

A school for the deaf is unlike any other regular school. You can compare them based on many aspects. Even schools for the deaf also have varying degrees of difference.

One basic distinction is its class size. Hearing schools in the Philippines normally have a population of 50 or more per class, depending on how depressed the surrounding community is. Schools for the deaf rarely reach a number greater than fifteen. Philippine School for the Deaf, the largest and oldest public residential school for the deaf in Asia has a total population of more than 700 students from pre-school to high school. However, their class size never reach 20.

Another difference is the mode of communication. Regular schools obviously employ speech as a form of interaction. Some deaf oral schools also use it but generally, the teacher transfers learning through sign language. In our school, Filipino Sign Language is the medium of instruction although we often emphasize that English must be used in any written format. Our basic policy is that, students can sign whatever method or approach they like. They can use Signing Exact English, Pidgin Sign English, Manually Coded English, etc. Although I haven’t seen anyone using cued speech that doesn’t mean it’s not being used. However I doubt it will prosper unless someone invents a special hand code for every Tagalog phonology.

These two differences greatly affect how we handle our deaf class. At MCCID, we have seasoned deaf teachers like Sir Ervin Reyes who won numerous awards in computer contests both locally and internationally and Sir Oscar Purificacion who also works as a commercial billboard artist in another company. Since the subjects they teach were mainly skills building; computers, the Internet, multimedia projector and other teaching implements greatly help them in conveying information. We are truly blessed by their dedication and in constantly improving their craft. They serve as good role models to their students.

There are only two of us who are hearing teachers; Sir Jefferson Cortez and I. Even after being with the deaf for almost half my life, my sign language ability is nothing compared with what he has experienced. You see, Jeff is the eldest child of deaf parents. He practically lives in a deaf world. That’s why I salute him for embracing a wonderful culture that many skeptics still deny that it even exists.

According to his blog, Meet the Stranger, he always exhaust ways in order to connect with his deaf students. He said,

Isn’t it right that being a good teacher depends on his/her student’s mood? I guess that it’s true based on my experience. One thing I always keep in mind is how can I handle them or even encourage them to study their lessons very well even though they found the books tiresome, unexciting and boring to read.

He also noticed that deaf students get bored reading books. Printed there are just bunch of words with worthless meanings. However, they began to appreciate reading them through their interpreter. He explained,

But hey, do you believe that they love reading books through their interpreter? Whenever I gave them an assignment or homework about some sort of stories. Most of them loves “copy-paste” from the book they are searching about. When it comes searching their assignment through internet, all they have to do is to highlight what they are looking for then copy then paste it on Microsoft Word then afterwards, here comes the printer. When it comes to understanding their assignment, most of them comprehend on that picture instead of the information.

As an instructor, he has to explain every detail of their assignments and homework through Sign Language. They found their stories very exciting and fascinating. Their attention was aroused based on the many questions they throw on him. He finds them all friendly, loving and always had their warm-hearted and that is what he really like about them. So no matter what lessons you deliver, it’s how you deliver them that is important and the right attitude that you impart on them.

Mabuhay ka Sir Jeff! We are truly blessed having you on board MCCID. To all the teachers for the deaf worldwide, this blogger salutes you. 🙂

You may find other stories about his experiences through his WordPress blog.

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