Pushing the Filipino Sign Language

This is a repost from the Manila Bulletin article written by Angelo Garcia. Enjoy! 🙂

English: Filipino Sign Language Font
English: Filipino Sign Language Font (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MANILA, Philippines — As the country celebrates Buwan ng Wika this month, a sector of society that has been lobbying for the recognition of the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) is reiterating its call.

The Filipino deaf community is currently supporting lawmakers, through the help of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Party List representative Antonio Tinio and Rep. Teddy Casiño, in passing several relevant House bills to benefit their stakeholders.

Among them is House Bill (HB) 6079 which pushes for the declaration of FSL as the national sign language of the Filipino deaf.

HB 4121, on the other hand, pushes for the use of sign language interpretation inset in television news programs, while HB 4631 is a bill that would give access to sign language interpreters in Philippine courts.

As these Bills gain traction, leaders of the Filipino deaf community are optimistic about the progress they are making.

“Yes, we are very optimistic. The progress has beenvery tremendous especially this year. The same with FSL, we want the same mother tongue-based instruction in education. There’s a lot of research and a lot of work to be done. What’s important is we have strong support, we have a strong advocacy. We want to emphasize that the deaf people also need the help of the hearing community in this advocacy,” shares Raphael Domingo, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) Center for Education Access and Development (CEAD), Education Access for the Deaf coordinator.

THE UNIQUE FILIPINO SIGN LANGUAGE 

In 1907, the American Sign Language (ASL) was introduced to the Filipino deaf community through the School for the Deaf and Blind, now known as the Philippine School for the Deaf. ASL has since influenced FSL, the Filipino sign language.

“FSL is a unique language. It has its own grammar, structure, syntax, which is different from the spoken language. It’s also the mark of identity of deaf Filipinos,” explains Mackie Calbay, program coordinator of  DLS-CSB School of Deaf Education and Applied (SDEAS) Deaf Advocacy.

FSL is believed to be part of the French Sign Language family, the sign language where most sign languages are derived from, including ASL. But like any other language, sign languages differ depending on its use and the country’s culture.

“ASL has a big influence on FSL, which can be traced back to the history of the Philippines. In terms of grammar, there are differences and similarities between FSL and ASL. There are similarities in terms of hand shapes, positioning, hand location, movement, facial expression, and palm orientation. But the conversation and discourse are different depending on the culture. For example here in the Philippines,  we have a sign for flooding inside the house, a term ASL does not have because they don’t experience it,” explains Domingo, who is also a member of the Special Education (SpEd) Council of the Department of Education (DepEd).

He explains that the use of FSL by deaf Filipinos has increased through the years. In 2007, about 60 percent of deaf Filipinos were using ASL while 40 percent used FSL. Today, they recorded that about 54 percent of deaf Filipinos use FSL compared to ASL.

STRONGER SUPPORT FOR FSL

Rey Alfred Lee, president of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD), says that the Filipino deaf community did not even know that FSL existed.

“A lot of deaf people did not realize that they are using FSL. They know ASL but in reality they are using FSL. Naturally, if they are conversing among themselves they are going to be using FSL but if a deaf person would have to communicate with a hearing person, there’s an automatic switching of the language. So they would convert signing exact English (SEE). But if a deaf person converses with another deaf person then they will use the more natural language, which is FSL,” Lee says.

Lee, faculty member of the Filipino Sign Language Learning Program of SDEAS, says that most of his students, both deaf and hearing, are surprised to discover that there is an FSL. DLS-CSB SDEAS is known for its use of FSL and advocates the use of the local language in the school and community.

“The support for FSL is now stronger. The influence of the usage of FSL is slowly making waves. Hopefully in terms of the usage of FSL, it will come soon but we’ll have to work double time,” Lee shares.

FSL IN SCHOOLS

One of the main objectives of the deaf community is to push FSL in schools and make it the medium of instruction for deaf students. Most SpEd schools today use ASL. SpEd courses in colleges and universities also do not offer FSL in their curriculums

“The Special Education Council has made a proposal to hire deaf teacher assistants for hearing teachers who do not know sign language. The deaf assistants will facilitate communication in the classroom. DepEd is happy about that,” Domingo says.

Although Domingo says that SpEd teachers are not to be blamed.  “The SpEd teachers are aware of the need, however they are not readily accepting. We cannot blame them because the SpEd courses do not include FSL courses in their curriculum. So that means the SpEd teachers have no choice but to learn sign language by themselves. There are many organizations that don’t use FSL in their curriculum,” Domingo says.

Currently, the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) is designing an FSL curriculum for the SpEd course in higher education.

PFD will also soon work with the Japan Ministry of Education to further enhance FSL as a language. They are also in talks with the Professional Regulation Commission in licensing deaf teacher assistants to provide them with the recognition and right to benefits they duly deserve.

Domingo says that they are also now working on the curriculum for the deaf, in line with DepEd’s K to 12 curriculum.

PROUD TO BE DEAF, PROUD OF FSL

These deaf community leaders hope that more deaf Filipinos recognize FSL, their native language.

“SDEAS is advocating the use of FSL in the community. Hopefully, through that they could foster as sense of community and also promote excellence in deaf education.  FSL is best used to have better communication. We should be using a language we could understand,” Calbay says.

And they will not stop to work to further the cause of their advocacy. After all, the deaf community is fighting for their language, fighting for their identity.

“ASL, being a colonial language, we don’t want it to be propagated here. Out of respect for the deaf Filipino culture we want FSL to be used here. It’s where we belong. It’s part of our own language, it’s Filipino. That’s how we communicate and understand each other, because this is what we use. If some people don’t take FSL seriously, other countries will look down at us, where is your own language? We’re proud that this is our language, this is what we know. This is FSL,” Domingo says.

Discovering Deaf Worlds video interview with MCCID

Here is a video of an interview made by Davin Searls, Executive Director of Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) with MCCID Deaf Coordinator and one of the founders Ervin Reyes during his visit to the old school building in Cubao, Quezon City. The interview was made possible through the guidance of former MCCID trainor and Gallaudet University Graduate Christina Malay. Enjoy! 🙂

Deaf Teacher-Painter Meets his Modern day Good Samaritan

This is a repost from National Council on Disability Affairs Website. Enjoy! 🙂

A local businessman-artist birthday gifted himself as a sudden inspiration, by inviting deaf teacher-artist and 2-time International Abilympics gold medallist Jose dela Cruz, to sketch friends and show his works in his party. As his wish, Jose’s genius easily got noticed, but in a big way, by one man in particular, This standout corporate young Good Samaritan (GM), from a super affluent family in the country, humbly told the interpreter after buying 2 paintings, “Please tell Lolo Jose not to forget me when he is already famous.”

Jose with Mr. Good Samaritan
Jose and Mr. Good Samaritan

His words so touched Jose and there was no stopping a mutual admiration society, sort of, between the two. Parting with his 2 most intricate and “cherished” works, Lolo Jose knew Mr. GM had the nose for masterpieces. Still reeling from the compliments, Jose was given yet another message. “Tell him I will hang his works next to my Juan Luna and other famed masterpieces, please.” This he did, when he invited Jose and the interpreter to his house weeks after.
The Interpreter, like Lolo Jose, was just as moved by the young man’s show of nobility and respect. Once more, there was proof, that disability is no barrier to excellence, and ingenuity.

Mr. GM was so moved by Lolo Jose and vows to help introduce his works to his friends.
Note: To keep Mr. GM’s identity, we are showing his blurred image beside Lolo Jose, until he decides it is time to come forward.

Deaf persons want to be heard come elections

This is a repost from rappler.com website written by Voltaire Tupaz. 🙂

FIRST TIME TO VOTE. Azel Christensen, a deaf person, will vote for the first time and for the sake of her son. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz

MANILA, Philippines – They heard about the special registration for persons with disabilities (PWD) only a day before it was held, still reeling from the recent torrential rain and floods that hit Metro Manila.

But when the sun shone on Saturday, August 11, Azel Christensen and Ronald Yambao, both deaf persons, prepared to go to St Peter’s Shrine along Commonwealth Avenue, the registration center in the 2nd district of Quezon City.

It was an important day for them. Azel is 28 while Ronald is 40, but it will be their first time to vote come 2013 midterm elections.

According to the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, (PPCRV) of the nearly 9 million PWDs in the Philippines, about one-third, or 3 million, are qualified to vote.

What’s at stake

They brought their respective families. A single mother, Azel came with her one-and-a-half month old child. Ronald came with his wife and his son who is in grade 2.

“Im here to give my son a good future,” Azel gestured to the sign language interpreter, explaining why she registered.

She has been hopping from one job to another to raise her son. A college graduate, Azel has worked as a bartender and a computer graphics artist.

On Monday, August 13, she will start her 4th job as a helper in the warehouse of a local clothing brand.

She said she is working hard because she cannot wait for the support of her former partner who is also a deaf person.

Unlike Azel, Ronald does not have a job. Unable to finish his college education, Ronald said he has faced one rejection after another.

His sister has been supporting his family. But he dreams of opening his own grocery store one day.

For now, he would like to work. He hopes that the candidates he will vote for will give people with disabilities work opportunities.

“Iboboto ko ang mga good leaders; yung marunong mag-observe sa (pangangailangan) ng lipunan,” Ronald said.

(I would vote for good leaders; those who are sensitive to the needs of society.)

Express lanes

The day-long special registration went smoothly for Azel, Ronald, and 8 other PWDs.

Three nuns from the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Elizabeth walked them through the registration process. They also served as sign language interpreters.

Lawyer Sheila Rafanan, a Commison on Elections officer in Quezon City, said that only about 10 PWDs have registered today. In the 2nd district of Quezon City, 59 PWDs have registered so far.

Rafanan attributed the low turnout to transportation problems, the floods and the incessant rain that pounded Metro Manila recently.

Rafanan encouraged PWDS to register until Oct 31, 2012, the end of the registration period. She assured the PWDs that “express lanes” have been provided for them in all Comelec field offices.

The Comelec has promulgated the following resolutions that would benefit PWDs:

Resolution 9149, a measure which creates express lanes for PWDs during registration
Resolution 9220, a measure which allows PWDs to have assisters when registering and voting
“As Filipinos, they have the right to vote. They should exercise their right,” Rafanan said.

But Sister Dawelyn de la Cruz, one of the nuns who accompanied the PWDs, wished they were given ample time to mobilize more PWDs.

The PWD rights advocate said she was only informed about National PWD Registration Day a day before it was held.

Since 2011, this is the second time that the Comelec, in partnership with PPCRV and the PWD group Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AUP-PINOY), organized a special registration for PWDs.

The PPCRV noted that only a total of 803,518 of the PWDs have registered to date. – Rappler.com