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SO’s Last Quarter Trail

November 30, 2009

Deaf Awareness Week is usually celebrated annually every November but this year it wasn’t that much felt because we were informed that the Department of Education has not issued a memo regarding the holding of celebrations. The reason probably why CSB Auditorium was fully packed especially on the last day of their week-long 15th year celebration. With or without a directive from DepEd, DAW has become an annual occasion most awaited for by the Deaf community. It must be noted however that DAW is an event being prepared by the hearing organizers. SDEAS DAW celebrations is something being initiated, manned, and organized by Deaf leaders themselves.

Nevertheless, the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) led by its president Rack Corpuz managed to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week by holding a showing of Silent O in Baguio City last November 19. Julius Andrada, first PFD president assisted Rack in facilitating the event.

(Below)  Q & A after the screening. PFD President Rack Corpuz answered many questions mostly relating to sign language issues affecting the sector

As always, reactions were raised because of the real issues tackled in the film: Filipino Sign Language, oralism and importance of sign language to Deaf people as explained by World Federation of the Deaf President Markku Jokinen, and the fact that sign language is an index to their identity as a cultural linguistic minority group.

Five days later, on the 24th of November, Silent O was shown for the benefit of Support and Empower Abused Deaf Children (SEADC). Its showing at UP Manila in the fully-packed viewing room elicited good reactions from the hearing UP-Camp students, despite the fact that they may

Q & A after SO showing, UP Manila

not handle any Deaf in their career. At least they must have realized how important sign language is to Deaf people and that forcing them to speak may not really help them to fully realize their capacities. It can never be doubted that sign language is the “language of the Deaf” and forcing them to speak and listen may hinder their full growth as Deaf persons should they try to adapt themselves to the hearing world. One student says she found the film enlightening. As pathologists, learning the cultural viewpoint of deafness might have given them a better understanding of Deaf’s unique world with its own language and culture. As they are being taught to correct, improve, probably address speech problems and defects, acceptance of the equality of sign language with spoken language must have been something they found very new, if not, surprising.

What I am happy about was the presence in the showing of sign linguist Dr. Liza Martinez, the most revered and respected hearing person by the Deaf community and considered to be the strongest voice and advocate on the use and recognition of Filipino Sign Language (FSL) in the country. Her positive reaction to the film was encouraging, and to me akin to an “imprimatur” as she pronounced before the UP Speech Pathology students her “verdict” on SO which she finally saw for the first time:

The film is a very significant contribution to information and to advocacy…I never thought I would see in my lifetime an interest in documentary by filmmakers who actually worked with the Deaf…I think when you walk out of here, you will remember this film and you will remember all the sentiments, the attitudes which were presented in it. Take home a sense of history, I think it is very strong in the film; a sense of diversity of the Deaf community; and continuing vision on things which are still to be done…I hope that you enjoyed, and learned, and most of all—you have taken it into your hearts what you have seen tonight.

(Front row) Dr. Liza Martinez in long sleeved-blue, printed blouse before the Q&A portion

I actually wanted Dr. Martinez being a sign language expert to be among the first to watch and comment on the film before any public viewing but because of her poor health then, she was unable to do so. I also wanted her to be in the film, either as a primary source of information or a consultant, unfortunately she declined for some personal reasons. It must have been a blessing afterall because with Dr. Liza in SO, people still advocating for ASL or SEE may prejudge SO as Dr. Liza’s vehicle to advocate for FSL. The fact that whatever you see in SO were all part of my real odyssey, products of my own research and own experiences largely earned while learning FSL and direct mingling with the Deaf and hearing persons who worked and continue to work for the welfare of the Deaf, others can say anything—good or bad—about it. So far, good and encouraging remarks, more than bad reactions came from Deaf and hearing audience. But SO should simply be taken as a hearing person’s journey into Deaf Filipinos’ world anyway. SO was just my means, my own vehicle to share what I saw on my way to the innerworld of the Deaf. SO is—as I have trying to aim at—a bridge that would connect us, hearing people to the Deaf. Later, I will post my treatise on the issue of “exclusion” or being “left behind” in my films as I walk my way to whatever destination I am led to.

Going a little more back in time, SO’s showing in Taguig City last October during the Cinemanila International Film Festival maybe considered a failure somewhat, but not completely so, if the measure would be based alone on the number of dozen people who came to watch it. It is because the 100% positive and favorite reactions that the film got from them quite offset it. An American viewer commended it to such an extent that he even offered to pay for its fee, if I would be willing, to enter it in a California fest in the US. The success was also due to the presence and full support of Deaf leaders, comprising the newly-formed fellowship organization of 7 Deaf groups called Deaf Pinoy Kaleidescope, and Ana Arce, first Deaf magna cum laude from CSB-SDEAS who also joined us to give a short and inspiring talk before the show. According to those who came, their friends could not come for the following reasons: due to schedule [sked was after 7 pm and held during a weekday]; accessibility or distance [Taguig is not in the city center; many Deaf live in Manila or Quezon City]; many have already seen SO in the many showings held at College of St. Benilde; documentary genre is not as preferred as narrative film feature, and, unfortunately, hearing audience, other than those in the family with Deaf are not ready to enter an “unknown territory.”

Nonetheless, the CineManila showing was a success and a big triumph for the Deaf community, considering the fact that finally, and for the first time in Philippine Cinema history, a Deaf Cinema program has been put up by an international film festival here to highlight Deaf presence in cinema.  For once, Deaf as lead characters or subjects in films got attention. Kudos to Dinig, Puntod and River of Dreams! I heard recently that more films with Deaf characters are on the grind…or about to grind. To those who will follow our trail: present Deaf people as real, not cardboard characters or laughing stock. Truly enter their world, and you’ll find many wonderful people.

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