Deaf make a difference in 2nd PNoy SONA livestream

Guys, it’s SONA (State of the Nation Address) time once again! And for the second time, I was joined by other very skilled Filipino sign language interpreters in covering all the bases (TV coverage, cable news and Internet live streaming). Here is a repost from GMA News Online website.

Me and Dr. Therese Bustos of University of the Philippines
Interpreting the SONA for the second time at GMA News Online, interpreter Jojo Esposa gestures the president's speech, as alternate interpreter Therese Bustos waits for her turn.

Whenever the President makes the annual report to the Filipino people live from Batasang Pambansa every July, the deaf can only guess the government’s plans.

But that ended last year, when the State of the Nation Address (SONA) was simultaneously streamed online and delivered in sign language for the first time on GMA News Online.

Ensuring that all Internet users, including the deaf, will understand President Benigno Aquino III’s second SONA, GMA News Online featured real-time sign language interpretation of the speech once again on Monday.

Interpreting the SONA for the second time at GMA News Online, interpreter Jojo Esposa gestures the president’s speech, as alternate interpreter Therese Bustos waits for her turn. Roehl Niño Bautista

Deaf in the audience, Weng Rivera and Moises Libot
Deaf in the audience; Weng Rivera and Moises Libot

Giselle Montero, Partnership and Development Director of the College of St. Benilde’s School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS), stressed the importance and advantage of streaming the SONA online.

“It is a good venue for Filipinos everywhere, especially the deaf, to know the president’s reports,” said Montero. “Also, students are able to study the speech since the online stream is recorded and can be shared easily.”

Re-delivering the president’s report in hand gestures were Jojo Esposa from Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf, and Therese Bustos from the University of the Philippines.

“It was harder to sign the SONA last year,” said Esposa, who previously interpreted PNoy’s first report in July last year. “Since more graphs and charts were used this time, communicating the concepts in the president’s address was easier.”

For Bustos, the president’s “fast-paced” speaking was a challenge during the live re-delivery. “We process the speech as we hear it. At times, the president is already discussing a new topic while we were still signing the previous one,” said Bustos.

Live at the studio, interpreters perform the gestures in the presence of two deaf persons to check if their re-delivery can be understood.

“Facial expression is important in this form of communication,” said Montero. “Like in this speech, it can really stress the important parts.”

Members of the Deaf community are present in the studio to observe the sign language interpretation of the SONA and inform the interpreter if any signs are not easily understood. Roehl Niño Bautista

Knowing the government’s plans is just as important for the deaf as it is for people with normal hearing, according to Weng Rivera, president of the Filipino Deaf Women’s Health Crisis Center, communicating in sign language.

Rivera shared that since she was young, she never understood the president’s report clearly until the signing of the SONA started last year.

“It is disappointing though that there was no mention of persons with disabilities (PWD),” gestured Rivera, in reaction to the president’s address this year.

According to Montero, around 10 per cent of Filipinos have physical disabilities. Half of this number are Deaf, the proper term officially recognized by the United Nations.

“This number is probably an underestimate, since most families won’t admit in a census that they have members who are deaf,” added Montero.

The sign language interpretation of the president’s SONA, Montero shared, adheres to the terms set in the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Article 21 of the convention encourages “the mass media, including providers of information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities,” as well as “recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages.”

Going beyond the SONA interpretation, Montero hopes that the activity can be sustained and extended to newscasts.

“Other countries already accommodate captions in their newscasts,” shared Montero. Bustos also cited Rivera’s experience in Japan where deaf people are delivering the news in certain time slots.

“It was a long struggle for them,” commented Montero on Japan. “Hopefully, Philippine media can find a similar way to keep the deaf informed. It is their right as much as it it ours as well.” – YA, GMA News


Lecture: Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through Tertiary Education

I want to share with you about this invitation I got from a long-time friend of mine in the deaf community and an expert sign language interpreter (she’s a hearing person by the way) Dr. Marie Therese Angeline Bustos of the University of the Philippines College of Education.

The University of the Philippines Diliman College of Education will hold a Lecture series entitled: “Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through Tertiary Education“. It will be held on July 4, 2009, Saturday, 9:00am at the Benitez Theater. The special guest speaker is Mr. Riku-Heikki Virtanen, LL.M, a Deaf-blind human rights lawyer from Finland.

Here is a short description about the speaker:

Riku-Heikki Virtanen is a deaf-blind human rights lawyer from Finland. He has a Master of Laws degree from the University of Turku. His research focused on the right to work, reasonable accommodation and equality between disabled entrepreneurs and disabled workers. He serves as the vice-chairperson of Threshold Association, a human rights organization that promotes the rights of persons with disabilities and is the consultant and board member of the Finnish Deaf-Blind Association.

My Sandi Patty Philippine concert frustration

I have been preparing for this for months. As far as I know, Sandi Patty’s concert was only announced last November. After learning about it, I was so excited that on the next day, I withdrew a hefty sum from the bank while counting who am I going to be with. It’s my Mom’s birthday on the 13th so I might as well treat her together with my Dad in this once in a lifetime concert. And, since my whole family is a fan of hers, I bought tickets to all six of us. I also invited a very special friend and an esteemed colleague in the deaf world Dr. Therese Bustos, who took time to buy me a VHS tape of one of her live concerts in the US, to join us. I want to have this day so memorable that I bought pricey lower box tickets.

When we arrived at the Araneta Coliseum the night of February 7, we were wondering why was there no commotion. The lights on the gate were off. We went to the ticket booth. We were told that the concert was cancelled. Wow! Everybody was very much disappointed. There I was, feeling heartbroken that I wasn’t able to hear a glimpse of a glorious sound from heaven. 😦

After dining in at a nearby restaurant, we all went home. The first thing I did was google my way out of my frustration. I need an explanation as to why the concert was called off. Then, I got Sandi Patty’s official statement posted on the Becca Music (their official promoter) website:


“It is with the deepest regret that I must indefinitely postpone my concert engagement in Manila due to family obligations beyond my control.

I love the people of Manila and so looked forward to singing for them. It’s my sincere hope that I’ll be asked to come back sometime in the future.

Until then, please know that I am profoundly disappointed, but very grateful for everyone’s thoughts and prayers during this challenging time”


Sandi Patty

After reading this, I headed to my mail box and emailed Sandi. I poured out my sentiments and frustrations. We are really looking forward to watch her show. Sandi has been our constant inspiration and we love her songs very much. The first time she came to our country was in early 80s. We were still in high school then so we have no money to buy tickets. My sister and younger brother were so depressed when we weren’t able to watch her show back then. So I promised myself that the next time she would do a concert here, I would not miss it for the world.

My sister was the one who introduced Sandi’s genre of gospel music in my family. She bought Sandi’s first “Love Overflowing” tape. We were truly blessed by that cassette tape and we memorized all of her songs. My sister sang some of them including the “When the Time Comes” and our all time favorite, “We Shall Behold Him” (view YouTube video above) as special number on our home Bible Baptist Church. Since then we became Sandi’s fans. I saved money to buy all of her original tapes, vinyl and now CDs. I have an almost complete collection of her albums from “Lift Up the Lord”, “The Gift Goes On”. “Morning Like This”, “Make His Praise Glorious”, “Find it on the Wings”, “Another Place, Another Time” (my niece sang I lift my hands many times in church) etc. up to her latest “Songs for the Journey” . I said almost because some of her albums were not available here. My all time favorite album is her “More than Wonderful Live Album”. I was expecting that Sandi will be doing that here. Sigh 😦

Aside from her heavenly brand of gospel music, Sandi Patty sometimes use sign language on her songs. I read in one of her biographies that she often include a sign language interpreter in most of her concerts. She has a soft heart for the deaf people. One example is her wonderful rendition of “We Shall Behold Him” (see YouTube video).

I pray that she would again visit the country to share her brand of Christian music hopefully in my lifetime. Praise God for giving us Sandi Patty! We wish you well! 🙂

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