Daily Prompt: Journey with the DeafMay 28, 2013
Have you ever imagined yourself in a journey with Deaf individuals?
Well, I never did until one day, seven years ago in 2006 when I decided to formally study sign language with the hope of communicating with them. As part of my research for a docu that I wanted to do about Deaf Filipino Culture, I thought it would be wise to learn their language first. That was the start of my journey in the Deaf world. What made me decide to choose them as my subject is another story. Suffice it to say that there’s no turning back, no regrets at all to have spent my time with them.
One of the most memorable, and surely one of the happiest and enjoyable time in my life happened on my first day in the sign language class. On that day, all of us hearing students were required to ACT AS IF WE WERE DEAF, that is we were obliged not to speak a word – from morning when the class started up to our dismissal time in the afternoon at 5. To communicate with the Deaf, we had to gesture, act things out or make even the funniest facial expressions to be understood. Last resort would be writing on paper to “talk” with a Deaf buddy assigned to us, or use the celfone as a handy tool to communicate as well. Even during our lunch break, when we went to McDo Restaurant, the session continued. We ordered our food using gestures, hands and facial expressions. The instruction was do anything except speak! It was truly exhausting not to be able to speak for 8 hours. Saliva got dried up. Noticeable during those “trying” hours, I felt that the sound around me switched off as my full attention focused on my Deaf buddy. With the ambient sound seemingly off, all the people except my Deaf buddy defocused. My full attention was on him because there was that need to understand what he was trying to tell me. I have never laughed as much as I did on that day nevertheless. It was great fun!
For a year, I had Deaf teachers; got exposed with their culture, and came to know what their societal concerns and needs are. During those years, I met many intelligent and talented Deaf in the sector and worked with some of them both as participants and co-workers in my film. In my journey with the Deaf, they eventually became part of my being. I have learned a lot from them as I came to understand, no matter how little who they are and how important their natural language is. Together, we have worked and eventually made the first docu on Deaf Filipino Culture and Language [Silent Odyssey / 2008] as well as the first-ever interpretation in Filipino Sign Language of our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal’s [1891-1896] selected patriotic poems [A mi Patria / 2011-2012 / in four language versions]. Both films became a vehicle to relay the need to respect their person, and recognize Deaf’s linguistic human rights.
In several of my journeys with special people, I have learned that inequality and discrimination will never exist, if only we look beyond the so-called “disability”, be it physical or intellectual.