Hearing people as the minority

As a hearing person, I always associate myself with the majority. Not that I want to. It’s the way things are. There are so many of us and so few of them, the deaf people I mean. Some linguistics and deaf culture analysts compare the deaf community with the indigenous people. Although native people mostly co-habit in a specific area which they have grown into, in contrast, the deaf community members are widely scattered and miles apart. They can only be considered as a “community” when they are gathered together to socialize.

That’s exactly what happened when I attended the 5th Deaf Bible Camp at Luzon Baptist Camp in Mariveles, Bataan last April. Close to 300 Filipino deaf youth and adults mostly from the Luzon island attended this yearly Christian activity. Although I already had a taste of these camp-style Christian deaf gatherings before, I haven’t experienced this huge based on deaf’s population perspective. By the way, the term “camp” here is a misnomer since we sleep on the comforts of dorms and double-deck beds and not inside makeshift tents.

I was with 30 of our deaf students including my trusted deaf brother Ervin Reyes. I knew that this number will be my nightmare in management and supervision. We were the largest delegation. Even though they are already young adults, most of them in their early twenties, still I will serve as both mouth and ears of the group for five days. Their parents gave unwavering trust in me. I tried to stay unperturbed. But the nightmare soon became a reality.

I won’t reveal here the details of the nightmarish incidents we encountered during those five days in order to protect the integrity of the whole Filipino organizing team and Korean mission group as well as the deaf people involved. However, I can’t help but become more wary and express my reservations on joining events like this in the future unless more careful planning and preparations must be properly done first. I’m not saying that they did not make some plans. I understood their situation. They never expected to have this much turnout. With gatherings as huge this, unexpected incidents are bound to happen. Still, God’s unseen hand made the whole event truly safe and successful. πŸ™‚

MCCID group formed the largest delegation
MCCID group formed the largest delegation

Praise and Worship Singing
Overall, the week-long camp was a challenging experience for me. During plenary activities at the main chapel, I became more attuned with the community. Suddenly, I realized that in this gathering, I was part of the minority! I didn’t feel that I was surrounded by people from another world. There were no musical instruments during “Praise and Worship” singing although a regular drum was sparsely used to get their beats. Still, you feel the presence of people reciting praise songs to God.

Deaf Singing Group
Deaf "Singing" Group

Sound system is of no use in assemblies like this. But the message of God’s word echoed loud and clear on all corners of the hall. And so do gossips. πŸ™‚ You can see signs being thrown fast from one side of the bench to the other side a few meters away without others being bothered. However, one slight turn, and bang, the message was not sent! Worst, some messages were received by wrong persons! tsk tsk tsk πŸ™

You think everything is happening on a deafening silent atmosphere? It ain’t so! You can still hear deaf people voicing some words or making some inaudible sounds. Intermittent clapping, surprised shouting and contagious laughs can be heard. Still, the silence is nothing compared to a normal noisy gathering of hearing people.

Hearing interpreters/participants (Standing): Teacher Leonor Vizoro of Deaf Christian Church QC and Teacher Jojo. (Seated): Teacher Maribel Tablo of Nueva Ecija Church; Teacher Loida Alvarez of Bethsaida Tiaong, Quezon and Teacher Anabella Cuachin of Legaspi City.
Hearing interpreters/participants (Standing): Teacher Leonor Vizoro of Deaf Christian Church QC and Teacher Jojo. (Seated): Teacher Maribel Tablo of Nueva Ecija Church; Teacher Loida Alvarez of Bethsaida Tiaong, Quezon and Teacher Anabella Cuachin of Legaspi City.

From the 300 or so participants, I estimate that there were only around 20 of us who can hear. We were not even 10% of the total attendees! Among the hearing people includes the children of deaf pastors, three hearing pastors for the deaf like Pastor Mario Tomboc of Pangasinan Baptist Church, Pastor Andy Yambao of Bataan Church and another Pastor Andy from Tarlac church who was in charge of the food preparation and of course Pastor Julius wife, Teacher May Andrada. Although I already worked with Ptr. Mario, Deaf Ptr. Julius and his lovely wife May, Deaf Ptr. Rolando Landicho of CCBC, Deaf Ptr. Cesar Castro and his wife Sharon and Deaf Counselor John Paulo, it was the first time for me to get acquainted with other pastors including deaf leaders like Ptr. Jericho Manalo of Nueva Ecija and Ptr. Mamerto Cortez Jr. of Quezon, the proud father of my blog inspiration Jefferson Cortez. Korean Deaf Mission Society was led by their Deaf Rev. Shon Cheon Sig. It was also a great pleasure for me to meet new hearing friends which instantly became my colleagues in the deaf world (please see photo caption). We shared our exciting yet oftentimes thankless experiences serving the deaf community.

I even suggested to Ptr. Mario that with this large gathering, we might be able to install a congressman representing the deaf people in the House of Representatives. He agreed with me.

There were times when the “hearing group” was too noisy doing their thing at the back of the chapel while programs were going on. But that’s just it. We were at the back, being sidelined while the main protagonists were in front doing their ministry. We believe that the congregation was not bothered by our “other activities” at the back since they can’t hear us.

But did we feel being neglected? Definitely not! This is their activity. Let them be in the forefront. We were just at the back waiting for their beck and call in case they needed our humble assistance. Actually they did made some close calls and we were there. We did our ministry. πŸ™‚

Yay! First 50,000 visits and Google Pagerank of 5!

More than two months and 18 posts later, I now achieved another milestone in my blogging career! Blogging career!?!! Based on my WordPress Blog Stats my blog had been visited 50,000 times! Hooray for me! hehehe

It might sound silly but coincidentally, the number five became a significant number here. Aside from reaching 50,000 viewers, this month is counted as 5, today is the 25th day, I received a total of 353 comments from my 159 blog posts with an average of 154 visits a day. And now, my Google PageRank was recently increased to 5! Five is not even my favorite number. πŸ™‚

My top viewers are still the Americans with 45% of the total although it has gone down by 3 points. My Filipino viewers remained at 33%. The rest came from other countries. I’m still not that popular among my countrymen even though I was able to blog a few times about issues specifically related to the Philippines. πŸ™

My top blog post remains about “Heather and Marlee” while my top vlog is still “Deaf Stress“. I’m also grateful to many readers especially those who considered my Retrospect on Deaf Education in the Philippines, my fourth highest post in terms of viewership, an established fact although many people still consider blog posts as an unreliable and inaccurate source. It was used by Eduphil.org Forum as one of their topics.

Going back to PageRank, Google explained that this ranking

reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.

So that’s why every time I add a new post, it automatically appears in Google search after less than an hour. The engine index my site on an hourly basis. Their algorithm perceived that my blog is important and would likely to appear on top of every search. Now, that’s cool! πŸ™‚ I just wish this popularity can turn into dollars. (sigh)

My top referrer is still Deafread.com since roughly 70% of my visitors are foreigners. My top five keyword searches are, in this order; Marlee Matlin, Heather Whitestone, Philippine School for the Deaf, Filipino Sign Language and Camfrog deaf. These are the words they typed on various search engines with which they landed on my blog site. Now, I was wondering why are there a few referrals from the keyword “Maricar Reyes”? hmmm…. πŸ™‚

On to my first 60,000 visits!

“Dinig Sana Kita” (If I knew what you said) Trailer

Guys, please watch “Dinig Sana Kita”, a touching love story between a deaf dancer and a rocker girl who became close to each other while staying in a Baguio camp. Learn more about deaf performers from Dulaang Tahimik ng Pilipinas (Silent Theater Philippines) and featuring a special appearance of the band Sugarfree. The Cinemalaya foundation chose this film as one of the Top 10 Finalists for this year’s Full-length feature category megged by award winning director Mike E. Sandejas.

The digital film stars the filmmaker’s daughter Zoe Sandejas and a talented good-looking deaf Romalito Mallari. Rome, as he was fondly called, is a veteran in stage plays. The last time I watched him perform was during the “Dulac, Leyte 1595” presentation at UP Church of the Risen Lord grounds in 2005 where he portrayed as a Jesuit priest.

Here is the theatrical trailer:

This film together with nine other Cinemalaya 2009 winners will be shown from July 17-26 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City. Let us support our very own Filipino Indie films. πŸ™‚

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My tribute to the First Philippine Website for the Deaf

MCCID Online 1997 Edition

Yahoo has finally pulled the plug on Geocities.com, the pioneering online free webhosting site. Started in 1994, this unique site makes users select a “city” in which to place their web pages. The “cities” were named after real cities or regions according to their contentβ€”for example, computer-related sites were placed in “SiliconValley” and those dealing with entertainment were assigned to “Hollywood”β€”hence the name of the site.

People visiting the site are now greeted with the simple message, “Sorry, new GeoCities accounts are no longer available.” Existing users can still access their accounts, but Yahoo has begun aggressively pushing them to its premium Web Hosting. Yahoo purchased the site in 1999.

This news may sound trivial especially to those who were new entrants to the Internet age. But for guys like me, this recent development has made me felt sentimental. I first experimented designing sites using the free service of Geocities way back in January 1997. During those times, Netscape was the undisputed browser of choice. I remember, I even made campaign emails and web forum comments against its fierce onslaught by Microsoft. Back then, web designing fads were putting running marquees, blinking gif animations, framesets and heavy Javascripting.

My First Animated Gif Design
My First Gif
One of the first sites that I dabbled was the Official Website of Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf which was then called MCCID Online. I can proudly say that in 1997, we were the first school for the deaf, probably even the first in Asia that went online. The site’s home city was in Athens. That is why its address was “www.geocities.com/athens/9385“.

I was pleasantly surprised and wondered why after more than twelve years, the site is still existing. They did not tear it down. The other sites which I created including my personal site were all removed by Geocities except for the one which I designed in 2001 for my family owned former computer school. After careful research, I found out that Yahoo retained those sites which back then, has many valuable outbound links.

Important articles and news items that appear in the MCCID Online website include:

That site has received a few awards including the Deaf Watch Awards and a nomination in the 2nd Philippine Web Awards. It was even used as a credible online resource information pertaining to deaf people and institutions in the Philippines by Deaf Child Worldwide, Asia Disability Japan, Google Directory Asia, Deaf World Ministries (Deaf Culture) and The Interpreter’s Friend. In one occasion, it was even used as a reference by Gallaudet University.

I remember back in 2005, an American-Canadian researcher of SIL International Ms. Hope Hurlbut visited MCCID together with our deaf alumna and a provincemate Ms. Gilda Quintua. She was conducting a survey on sign language used by Filipinos. She wanted to find out the variety of languages used by deaf people in every province. She informed me that she had no idea how to go about the research since she is not familiar with places in the Philippines. It’s a good thing that she was given a printed copy of the directory of organizations in the country which her superiors got from the Internet. At the back of my mind, I knew that the list came from MCCID Online which I was proven right! The printout came from our site. It became very useful for her. You can freely download her “Philippine Signed Languages Survey” on this link.

After 1999, I wasn’t able to update the site because I forgot its login name and password. In 2000, MCCID bought its own domain name mccidonline.net and transferred all the contents. However in 2006, the school’s domain became mccid.edu.ph in order to make emphasis on it as an educational institution. The school still retains the old domain (mccidonline.net). But it now houses websites designed by our deaf students for free. However, the school’s official website continues to provide and update a more comprehensive directory of deaf organizations, schools and entrepreneurs in the Philippines.

Now, why did I make this blog entry? Simple. I want the site to be remembered before it will be permanently removed by Yahoo from the face of the cyberworld. πŸ™‚

Marlee Matlin’s Scream

Marlee's Book, Photo taken from Jamie Berke's Site
Photo taken from Jamie Berke's Site

International Deaf Icon Marlee Matlin has recently published her autobiography “I’ll Scream Later”. She also guested at CNN’s Larry King Live which I failed to watch. (sigh)

Her book’s revelations about dealing with drug addiction at age 21 while receiving news of her Oscar nomination at the Betty Ford Center and being abused by her ex-lover and former “Children of a Lesser God” co-star William Hurt were shocking news. Mr. King threw two questions at her. One was about the reason why she wants to scream and the other was of course her turbulent and hurtful relationship with Mr. Hurt.

If I were also given a chance to ask her two questions, what would I tell her? Well, the first one is, “If Ms. Helen Keller has an Anne Sullivan, does Ms. Marlee Matlin have one?” I have always wondered at how she was able to “hear” and understand the hearing world. Keller was blessed by having Ms. Sullivan as her faithful mentor and best friend. She was both the eyes and ears of Helen. Was there a similar guiding angel in Ms. Matlin’s life?

My second question would be a bit controversial. “If a mother of a deaf child asks her advice on cochlear implants, what would she tell her?
I read from Brainyquote.com where Marlee said,

If I were offered a cochlear implant today, I would prefer not to have one. But that’s not a statement about hearing aids or cochlear implants. It’s about who you are.

I believe she has nothing against CIs. But if in the near future where technology became so advanced and almost a miracle that a profound deaf person can hear clearly, what would be her stand?

My first blog about Ms. Marlee Matlin in October last year became an instant hit. It was my all time top post generating more than 2,000 unique views. She has been my favorite and has always used her life as a role model for my deaf students.

Oh, how I wish someone would send me a complimentary copy of her book… I’m pretty sure it won’t be available in local bookshops here in the Philippines. I’ll add it on my wish list on top of my wish for her to visit the Philippines someday.

If Ms. Heather Whitestone was able to come to Manila and performed in front of the Filipino audience, why not Ms. Marlee Matlin? She would surely be a hit here. I was Ms. Whitestone’s sign language interpreter during her week-long stint in the country. It would also be a great honor and a dream come true if I would interpret for Ms. Matlin. I would then get a chance to personally ask those questions to her. πŸ™‚

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