Consultative Forum of SL Interpreters on January 9

To all my Filipino Sign Language Interpreters, here is your chance to air our concerns and at the same time have a good bonding time with our fellow terps. You are cordially invited to “Sign-On” A consultative forum with World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) Asia-Representative Etsuko Umemoto.

The forum will be held at CSB Auditorium, 5th Floor, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde at 2544 Taft Ave, Malate, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines on Saturday, January 9, 2016 from 8 AM – 5 PM.

Forum on SL Interpreters
Forum on SL Interpreters

To register online, click on this link See you there! 🙂


Perils of being a sign language interpreter in the PH

This article really touched my heart. Not because I personally experienced this, but because in spite of the difficulties and almost thankless job of giving voice to the deaf, we are still here serving them.

It’s really hard to interpret for the deaf here in the Philippines! The process of converting spoken words into signs that the deaf can digest requires a highly technical person with superhuman ability because you need to do everything in split second. But then most of the people out there from the parents of the deaf up to our government would even like to make our services free of charge all because of charity. Try doing what we are doing and see if your brains will get blown out.  Thank you very much to JP, my idol from the south, for exposing the plight of these unsung heroes, most especially my closest friends Liza Presnillo and Ma’am Liway Caldito.

Here is the article from Rappler which I copy-pasted here from the original site.

Sign language interpreting is a back-breaking job, but is also one of the most noble professions in the world. Without interpreters, deaf persons would be disenfranchised.

John Paul Ecarma Maunes
Published 10:30 AM, July 10, 2015
Updated 10:30 AM, Jul 10, 2015

BRIDGING THE GAP. The late Liza Presnillo in one of her many sign language interpretation engagements for TV.

BRIDGING THE GAP. The late Liza Presnillo in one of her many sign language interpretation engagements for TV.

The entire Filipino deaf community is mourning the untimely demise of veteran Filipino sign Language Interpreter Flordeliza Presnillo on April 8, 2015.

She battled breast cancer for nearly 5 years.

She was one of the founding board members of the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNASLI). She also pioneered the news inset sign language interpretation in Philippine television, as a news interpreter for TV5 since 2011. Her accurate and clear elucidation of information, including even the sarcasm and animated reporting of the Tulfo brothers, has gained her the respect of the Filipino audience.

Before her TV stint, she first became an icon in attending to the accessibility needs of the Filipino deaf community. She served as an interpreter in the academe, social events, national, and international conferences. She also helped individuals get through employment opportunities, medical and legal services.

Presnillo mentored a lot of aspiring signers and junior interpreters by molding them to become exceptional advocates for the rights of deaf persons. She also spearheaded a campaign for the rights and recognition of Filipino sign language interpreters.

She did all these despite her failing health.

In spite her dedication and undying sacrifice for the deaf community, she struggled financially and received no support from the government during her fight against breast cancer.

Same advocacy, same fate

Meanwhile, another advocate, had the same fate. Liwanag Caldito has been a teacher for deaf kids in Pasay for nearly 30 years, and yet, she was easily dismissed from work with only a small retirement benefit.

Her dismissal came after developing Parkinson’s disease. This, after a robbing incident while on board a bus on her way to school.

After losing work, she ran her own non-governmental organization in 2007.

Unfortunately, just a few months ago, she learned she has to undergo an operation for complications in her spinal disc. Caldito had to raise funds because the operation was too expensive.

She received no government support. All the help she got came from family and friends who rendered their services pro-bono.

These are just some painful misfortunes that sign language interpreters have experienced here in the Philippines. They also suffer from prolonged standing, carpal tunnel disorder, varicose veins, back and spinal cord injuries, among other degenerative health disorders caused by stress.

Many of them do not get paid at all times because they are stereotyped as volunteers or charity workers.


In courtrooms, sign language interpreters play a critical role in extracting precise information, especially whenever they handle cases involving abused deaf persons. At times, they may fall prey to death threats from abusers and syndicates. Some don’t receive security measures from the court or police, hence end up protecting themselves. Others are left with no choice but to withdraw from the case.

The most frustrating part is when they end up scrutinized by the court itself. This still happens even if the Supreme Court already issued a memo in 2004, saying that court administrators should approve requests of lower courts for the hiring of sign language interpreters. Contracted interpreters should be paid at least P500 to P1,000 per hour, including transportation and meals expenses per appearance.


People and institutions that benefit from sign language interpreters should ensure that the likes of Presnillo and Caldito are well taken care of.

They should be provided with work benefits like medical and hazard insurance, secured employment, and ample time to rest in between interpretations.

Those who benefit from their services should take the lead in advocating and institutionalizing the rights of interpreters.

Sign language interpreting is a back-breaking job, but is also one of the most noble professions in the world. Without interpreters, deaf persons would be disenfranchised.

Interpreters are known to sharpen their skills well because they are aware of the growing demand of this profession. There are only less than a hundred enlisted professional interpreters in the Philippines.

Unless the Philippine government implements policies and programs that truly recognize the critical role of interpreters by passing the Filipino Sign Language Act, the daily oppression and discrimination of interpreters will continue.

Unless the Filipino deaf leaders, advocates, and other stakeholders take stronger action on this issue, the Philippines will continuously lose modern-day heroes like Presnillo. –

John Pael Ecarma Maunes is a registered nurse and the executive director of Philippine Accessible Deaf Services Inc.

Examples why English is hard to Interpret into Sign Language

Do you think interpreting for the deaf is like a walk in the park? Think again. Duplicate words within the same sentence have different meanings. Some sounds differently, but are spelled the same. An interpreter must sign the correct meaning, not just the word. Now how do we sign the following?

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out and find the electrical lead.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. I did not object to the object.

10. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

Do you think you are having a hard time interpreting? You need to think only of English and ASL. But what about us Filipino sign language interpreters? Our job is more mind-boggling. We are more brain multitaskers than you. We must first understand what the speaker meant. Then we translate his spoken Tagalog to English. Then we convert it to Filipino sign language. Sometimes this process interchanges whenever it fits. Tagalog or Filipino language too has same words with double meanings.

The Tagalog word order is opposed to the English word order. We generally follow the VERB-SUBJECT structure. Now how do we sign these sentences?

1. Ang bata pa nung bata na bata nya.
[The child who belongs to him is still very young.] (Translation mine but can still have other meaning.)

The first bata means young, the second bata means child while the third bata means someone belonging to someone or his ward or sweetheart.

2. Paso na ang paso na nabili niya sa Pasong Tamo kaya siya napaso.
[The pot that he bought at Pasong Tamo is already expired that’s why he got burned.]

The first paso means expired, the second paso means pot, the third Paso is a street name while the last one means got burned.

3. Ang baba naman ng baba mo kaya ka pala bababa sa baba.
[Your chin is so low that is why you want to go down below.]

The first baba means low, the second baba means chin, the third bababa means going down while the last baba means down below or downstairs.

4. Ang tanda mo na para di mo matandaan kung saan mo nilagay yung tanda.
[You are already too old to not remember where you placed the marker.]

The first tanda means old, the second tanda means remember while the last tanda means marker.

5. Bababa? Bababa. (Elevator conversation.)
[Going down? Yes.]

English is a crazy language. Tagalog is even crazier. Sign Language interpreters have a mentally challenging job to make the meaning clear. Otherwise you won’t get the right information you need!

So to the deaf people out there, go easy on us. Our job is not easy. 🙂

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

Competence of Sign Language Interpreter

Supreme Court logo with signing hands

In my previous post about the court upholding the credibility of the Deaf witness, I also saw another important aspect that I feel must be emphasized on the decision the highest court of the Philippines made, the competence of a sign language interpreter.

Supreme Court decision states:

This Court, cognizant of the physical handicap of the eyewitness Silvestre Sanggalan, carefully scrutinized his testimony and noted that the same were made, on several occasions from July 10, 1995 when he was called for the first time to testify until July 5, 1996 when he was recalled for the purpose of cross-examination on behalf of accused Sonny Tuangco, in a candid and straightforward manner. While the Court observes minor inconsistencies in his declarations, these are not reasons to render his testimony incredible. On the contrary, it is well-established that minor inconsistencies in the testimony of a witness are indications that the same is not rehearsed and all the more should be considered credible. Thus, discrepancies in minor details indicate veracity rather than prevarication and only tend to bolster the probative value of such testimony.

This Court likewise evaluated very carefully, the qualifications and competence of Eva Sangco, the sign language expert utilized by the prosecution and found the same to be sufficient to put on record with accuracy, the declarations being made by witness Sanggalan on the witness stand.

According to Ms. Eva Sangco, sign language experts have different mode of communications. These are

  • oral method
  • simultaneous method
  • pantomine
  • reverse interpretation
  • speech reading
  • natural signs and gestures and
  • interactive writings which are more on dramatization and drawing illustrations.

In the interpretation of the declarations of witness Sanggalan, Eva Sangco employed the natural homemade sign method. Eva Sangco has undergone several trainings on this particular method.

Hooray for Ms. Sangco! God bless all sign language interpreters, our unsung and often unrecognized heroes. 🙂

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

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑