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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