Deaf Extremes

>> Monday, January 25, 2010

On one hand, there are the deaf people who grew up feeling different and limited, instead of special. They're the ones who are not supported by their families, who don't have a chance of realizing their strengths and other abilities, who have not embraced their deafness. Most of them are probably those born into families that are not well off but even moneyed families can be in denial of a child's special needs.

And then there are the Deaf, those who have given every opportunity to learn, explore and interact with their world on their own terms. They're sent to the right schools, supported in their activities, etc. They're the ones who, even if they may not have that supportive (or understanding) a family, have embraced their deafness and special needs and decided to keep moving forward, get the help they need, and rely on themselves and the Deaf family they have.

I have mentioned before about how the Deaf are empowered to seek help, and usually they really do need help. Well, like what I said, 90% of the population in CSB are on scholarship. Some of them even had haphazard schooling because their parents were in denial or didn't want to invest in them. I've told of two incidents where a Deaf sought help because she was feeling faint from hunger, and another of a Deaf who partied with his Deaf fellows and then with us FSL students while, all that time, he knew he'd have to ask for help in the end because his bag has been ripped and wallet stolen. I think few hearing people would be partying like that if they don't know where to get transportation money. Chances are, we'd have approached someone for help the very first chance we get, like borrowed from a friend, before we go on with our day.

Not the Deaf!

A parent of a Deaf 12-year old told me that she laments about how her daughter would sometimes bring home someone just expecting that her Mom is okay with feeding that stranger. Another parent of a Deaf child told me that his daughter is also very vigilant about forcing him to contribute to anything and everything. They cannot pass donation boxes or people asking for alms without his daughter insisting they give. He says his daughter loves Red Cross and shows up for any calls for volunteers.

A Deaf person does not hesitate to ask for help. In fact, i'd even say that they have this blind trust that it will be given to them. And they also do not hesitate to help, perhaps because they know how it is to need help.

There isn't that general shyness and "what will they think of me?" in the Deaf. And I love it about them and really hope more deaf will become Deaf, an empowered non-hearing person who still contributes to the world.


Filipino Sign Language Classes

>> Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This is a repost.

I advocate sign language. But most videos available that are fun and make it cool are American/Western and may confuse a typical child. After all, we don't have snow, are not really fans of pears and use local things like duyan (hammock) or eat rice and viand instead of bread.

I am also advocating Filipino Sign Language with the hopes of helping more Deaf be given equal, however different, opportunities as hearing folks. It is just a crime not to tap their strengths and abilities or expect them to contribute the same way hearing people can.

By the way, Filipino Sign Language is a combination of American Sign Language and Filipino cultural gestures.

Anyway, if you're for either or just want to pick up a new skill, Filipino Sign Language classes at DLS-College of St. Benilde are ongoing till Jan. 22, 2010. Just approach the FSL booth along PEN-MLC hallway between 10:00 AM-5:00 PM. You can also contact them at 526-7441 to 47 local 131 and e-mail .

What to expect when signing up for a class?
1) Ms. Ana is Deaf. It can be quite intimidating trying to ask questions but the general steps have been printed already and she will point to them. They also have pen and paper ready for you to write questions on.

2) Keep your questions/sentences short and simple. The Deaf don't always get big words, don't care for perfect grammar and the right articles/tenses/sentence construction.

3) You will be shown a list of possible class schedule and asked to write your name (and number rank according to preference). They won't open a class until there's at least five students willing to enrol.

4) Last term, tuition fee was P2,200 I think (P200 for the orientation for incoming FSL 1 students). Anyway, prepare at least P3,000 (P2,000+ for tuition fee and P450 for CSB ID).

5) If there are enough students already, you may be advised to pay enrolment fees already. If not, you can still enrol at the start of classes.

6) There would be at least 10 class sessions.

7) Prepare to be surprised about how rich Deaf culture is, and how empowered Deaf people are.

My FSL 1 classmates and I are enrolling for FSL 2 and our schedule will be Saturdays again, 9-12.

See also:
Baby Sign Language FAQs
Why Baby Sign Language?
Deaf Festival at CSB 2009


Ana Kristina Arce's Speech

Here is the trasncript of Ms. Arce's, CSB's first Deaf Magna Cum laude graduate, speech at their commencement ceremonies. It is both illuminating and inspiring.

Brother President Victor Franco FSC, Vice Chancellors, Assistant Vice Chancellors, Deans, Administrators, Faculty, Parents, Sign Language Interpreters, Guests, fellow graduates, and the Benildean Community, Good Morning.

Let me begin my speech with this passage from the Holy Scriptures, found in Jeremiah 18, and I quote …"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it". In pottery, the potter places a mold of clay on a table and the potter turns it around carefully. Using his hands, the potter will repeat the process several times until he gets the perfect shape. As hands are important to a potter, hands are also important to us, Deaf persons. Our main source of communication is through the use of our hands, we talk and express ourselves through them. And just like the potter whose hands make the perfect creation, we also hope to get the best if not the perfect performance for ourselves using our hands. With our hands, we can go places, change lives and make a difference.

I was born Deaf, and when my parents discovered this, like most hearing parents of Deaf children, they felt that the only way for me to survive was if I learned to speak and so they enrolled me in different oral schools where I had to wear hearing aids and learn how to lip read. I was enrolled in four different oral schools and we tried to find something workable that would fit. I tried my best in these schools but still it wasn’t easy for me to adjust. And then my parents thought of trying it out in a school for the Deaf and they enrolled me at the Philippine School for the Deaf where sign language is used as the medium of communication. I quickly adjusted and started doing well in my academics, and received several awards in grade school and I was also the class valedictorian of my batch. I was also an achiever all throughout high school and even if I transferred to a Deaf private school during my senior year I still managed to finish with academic honors.

And then came College, during my first year I was enrolled in another college where Deaf and hearing college students were together in class. I found the experience to be more saddening than exciting. I often cried because my hearing classmates would exclude me in meetings and group projects, maybe because they thought I will not be able to understand them and communicate with them. I struggled to adjust and tried to show my hearing peers what I can do but they never gave me a chance to prove myself to them. Do you want to feel useless? I’m sure you don’t and neither do I or any other Deaf person for that matter. I tried to think that maybe my classmates were doing this because they have big hearts and are trying to understand me and make things easier for me, but I ended up frustrated and I was the one left trying to understand them. Before the end of the first semester, I had set my mind to move to another school, this time, one that offers a program for Deaf students.

And so it was through the efforts of my mother that we found DLS-CSB’s School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies. At DLS-CSB, SDEAS especially, not only did I find an academic institution, but I also found an environment where teachers and other members of the community welcomed us. I felt loved and cared for, and I felt that the school was like a family. I learned that I am a Deaf person; the word, Deaf, being spelled with a capital D, which means that I am identified, not merely as a person who cannot hear, but as someone who is part of the Deaf community, partaking in its unique culture and natural sign language. And with that, I believe that one of the best fruits of education is our ability to understand and change people’s attitude about the Deaf and other Persons with Disabilities, and that is what SDEAS’s education has given me. Our Benildean education has developed us Deaf persons into persons of dignity, integrity, and with a deep sense of spirituality, and we are now being given the chance to become productive members of society.

If you go around the different high schools for the Deaf I am sure that all of the students there will say that they all wish to go to college. However, very few schools offer quality education and those that do, are expensive schools, and most of the Deaf cannot afford to pay the high cost of tuition and fees. And aside from that most people, sad to say even some parents of Deaf students, assume that because we are Deaf we cannot succeed in college so better not send us to school. For students like us, going to school is no walk in the park. We often need to rely on kind-hearted teachers and interpreters to understand the lessons. Getting an education is a big challenge for us.

And so I am thankful to DLS-CSB for opening its doors and welcoming the Deaf regardless of our disability. We have learned so much from this school and we can now proudly say that we are complete Deaf persons and we now embody the teachings of Saint Benilde Romançon.

I especially wish to thank Br. Vic for his utmost concern for the Deaf and his big heart by increasing the number of slots for Deaf scholars from 30 to 60 students starting the school year of 2008-2009. My sincere thanks and appreciation to all of you hearing students for your willingness to interact with us and for making us feel that we are not an isolated group and that we can also be active participants in school activities and be a useful bunch of interesting students. That we, the Deaf students, are your peers…your equals.

At this point, allow me to make an appeal to all the hearing students and guests of this occasion. We may be Deaf persons but we can also do anything you can do, except hear. Communicating with our hands should not make a difference. We live in one country, one world. That means we also long for respect, inclusion in accessibility, and acceptance with dignity. We are not a different breed because of our disability. We also want to live in a society where people will not stare or frown at us or treat us differently. We are also human beings and we are similar regardless of our disability. Please allow us to show you what we can do; please, believe in us too. Let us prove to you that yes, the DEAF CAN. Dear fellow graduates, I hope that when you have established yourselves in the companies you are working for, or if you have successfully put up your own business, please remember the Deaf Benildeans who may need your help in advocating our skills and capabilities, remember us and other Deaf graduates who may have the talents and potentials to be a part of your companies and contribute to its growth.

To all our teachers, you are part of this achievement we are reaping today. You painstakingly taught us all the tools we would need to make us productive individuals and showed us the way towards academic independence. You instilled in us the core values of upright citizens and we will forever treasure our years with you in our hearts. To our parents, thank you for your patience and perseverance, for your selfless understanding of our endless needs, and your unconditional love and care that carried us through our countless years of struggle to get the degree that we received today. My utmost gratitude go to my own parents, Ramon and Vilma Arce, who loved, cared, and gave me all the support that enables me to stand before all of you today. We, the Deaf students, also wish to offer our sincerest thanks to all our interpreters with generous hearts, who are willing to serve the Deaf in assisting us in our communication needs.

I would like to enjoin my fellow graduates, especially my hearing batchmates, to always keep the Benildean Core Values in our hearts. Guided by these values, we can definitely scale to great heights. Let us never forget the people who made our presence here possible. Let us always remember the values of sharing and selflessness so that when we look back, we can proudly say that we lived a meaningful life and we made a difference in the lives of other people.

Graduation is not the end. It’s only the beginning of another journey towards a higher level of learning. Don’t be afraid to dream, for it can be the first step to achieving our goals. Always remember that with patience and hard work, success will be within our reach. The biggest challenge for all of us is to overcome our fears and uncertainty.

For those of you who still have doubts about your potentials, let me and my Deaf batchmates be the living testament of what we can all become despite our limitations. In previous years, only a handful of Deaf students would graduate every year. Today, 25 of my Deaf batchmates received our diploma, the biggest number so far, and this is a testament of our four years of struggle to attain our academic degree. I am probably the first Deaf Filipino Magna Cum Laude graduate, and I am not saying this to brag about my achievement. I am humbly sharing this with you to thank God, my potter, for molding me, His clay, into a wonderful human being. I believe we can reach our maximum potentials no matter what challenges we face in life, because God is our potter and we are his clay.

To all my fellow graduates, Congratulations and Good Luck! Remember to always be Proud To Be Benildeans and to always live Jesus in our hearts.

Thank you and good day. (Source)

Here are the videos:

It was a true breakthrough for the Deaf community when Ms. Arce proved that the Deaf can be achievers as well. All that is needed is for them to be given a chance to succeed in ways they know how, not on our (the hearing) terms. Hopefully, this really inspires other Deaf students and opens up the eyes and hearts of parents with Deaf (or differently-abled) children.

There is much more gain in celebrating uniqueness than focusing on differences.


FSL Graduation - 57th Batch

>> Monday, January 18, 2010

Last Saturday, SDEAS held the 57th Graduation Exercises for Filipino Sign Language students at CSB. Levels 1-3 all presented signed songs, the teachers gave Special Awards (I got most confident and active for my level, haha) and they awarded 1st, 2nd, 3rd places for Receptive and Expressive Skills (I was 2nd in Receptive, 1st in Expressive). Then we enjoyed our potluck feast.

I wish I can share our dance/signed number of "I Can See Clearly Now" but there was a 'technical problem' while it was being recorded, hehe.

most active and conident per level

1st place, expressive skills, Level 1

graduating class, level 3

graduating class, level 2

graduating class, level 1

making the FSL sign, which is like the "i love you sign"

my batch, we're moving on to Level 2!


Love Language - Filipino Sign Language Filmercial

>> Sunday, January 17, 2010

Romeo Catap is an FSL Level 3 student in DLS-CSB who thought to undertake the production of a film to promote Filipino Sign Language.

Ana Kristina Arce (the model in the video) is the First Deaf CSB student to graduate magna cum laude last year.

Watch the short filmercial here and fall in love with FSL!


My Journey Continues

I have decided to continue my journey into the world of the Deaf this year of 2010. I am enrolling for Filipino Sign Language classes (Level 2) next week and look forward to ten or so Saturdays of learning Filipino Sign Language, interacting with the Deaf and hopefully ridding myself of shyness to practice signing. Hopefully, I will also get to interact with other deaf people, not just CSB students.

I started out in this journey because I was advocating Baby Sign Language for hearing babies. Jaymie Pizarro's classes were a tad expensive for my tastes so it was really kismet that i'd learn that De la Salle - College of St. Benilde was holding affordable FSL classes as part of their advocacy. Who knows, maybe someday, I will get to teach the same with them.

My dream right now is to bring beloved tales to deaf children as signed stories. But there is that obstacle of not having every deaf child learning FSL. But still, I trust that this is a step in the right direction.


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