SO Premiere

A journey into the Deaf world
as reported by Raphael D. Torralba raph_torralba@hotmail.com
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 12:44:02

The long wait is over

The long wait for Filipino Deaf is finally over as Silent Odyssey, a documentary film on Filipino Deaf in the Philippines, was shown last September 20 at the University of the Philippines (UP) theater.

More than 1000 watchers, composed of Deaf and hearing people, trooped to the venue.

Ana Kristina Arce, the Deaf top 9 in Benildean Honor Roll, hosted the event. It was followed by welcome remarks of Joanne Rochel Nepomuceno, President of UP Special Education Council and Dr. Belen Calingacion, Chairperson of Speech Communication and Theater Arts of UP.

“Two years ago,” says Nepomuceno, “the UP Special Education Council successfully collaborated with Mirana Medina in the UP screening of Alyana, the first Filipino feature- length documentary on Autism. This year, the UP Special Education council once again joins Mirana Medina as she continues her advocacy of promoting the ideals of special education.”

The film’s director, Mirana Medina, gave her introduction to the film. Much to the surprise of the watchers, Medina delivered her speech using sign language.

The film showed everything about the Deaf Filipinos
The film has shown everything about the Deaf Filipinos- the sign language, issues, discrimination, their rich history and culture.

It brought out the Filipino Deaf’s sentiments towards hearing people, narrated the key people and institutions that shaped the Philippine Deaf history, introduced the word “audism” which means Deaf oppression and presented the successful Filipino Deaf such as Dennis Balan and Gilda Quintua. Both are Go Negosyo awardees.

It also showed the events such as 15th World Federation of the Deaf Congress in Spain with the theme “Human Rights through Sign Language” and the celebration of the entry into force in the Philippines of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Markku Jokinen, the President of World Federation of the Deaf, explained the word “oralism”, the use of hearing aids and cochlear implants and the importance of sign language, most especially the Filipino Sign Language (FSL).

Filipino Sign Language as an important part of the film
The FSL has been the important part of the film because Filipino Deaf nationwide was asked in the film which sign language must be used and the difference and conflicts between FSL, American Sign Language and Signing Exact English.

The journey leads to a realization that the Deaf are disabled and impaired by society’s failure to understand and accept their language and culture as an ethnic group, disregarding their cultural needs as Deaf persons by not providing the bridge of communication which aggravates their linguistic isolation.

That “Deaf can” is no illusion but a reality which can shame those who think of themselves as superior just because they can hear.
Feedback from the watchers

At the end of the movie, the film was given an ovation as most of the watchers like the film.

Both Deaf and hearing people who watched agreed that the film is the best tool for Deaf awareness. Some admit that the film touched them.

Charina Ibo, a graduating psychology student, the movie gave her a way to better understand the life of the Deaf especially that she is a psychology student.

“The movie was very enlightening, especially for a psychology major like me. It gave me a way to better understand the life and the needs of the Deaf in the country. It challenged a hearing person like me to utilize what I have and what I know to help the Deaf make their voices be heard,” she said.

For Jose Sales, a Deaf Finance Officer of Katipunan ng mga Maykapansanan sa Pilipinas Inc., the film showed the true identity of the Deaf.

“The movie reflects the real identity of the Deaf, its own community, culture and language. All those that were said in the movie are not just a tell-tale story but a true story of the Deaf. Superb and inspiring,” he said.

For Arce and Rex Goda, the film showed them that FSL should be in important part of Filipino Deaf culture.

“I felt a touch in my heart because Deaf community uses FSL where they evolved a long period FSL is our first sign language,” Arce said.

“I hope that FSL should spread soon to all the Deaf in the Philippines so that we can have our own sign language,” Goda said.

“An encouraging material of advocacy and in promoting the rights of the Deaf people”

Most of all, the film is all about Deaf advocacy.

“Silent Odyssey is a true landmark in the advancement of the cause of the deaf community. Hopefully, it will serve to enlighten more people and inspire us all to work towards one goal: equal opportunities for all individuals,” said Nepomuceno.

“An encouraging material of advocacy and in promoting the rights of the Deaf people,” Sales said.

[For some photos, see the sub-page “SO Trail.”]


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