On the second week of February, my educational documentary on our hero, Apolinario Mabini, PULE: Utak ng Rebolusyon / Brains of the Revolution, primarily made for the Deaf sector was previewed in two different venues — at the main office of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in Manila; the other at Maximo Viola Hall in the city of Malolos, Bulacan. Both cities are featured in the above docu, as they played very important roles in the history of the Philippines at the turn of the century. It covers the period from the time the American naval squadron entered the Philippines to engage in a War with the Spaniards in the Battle of Manila Bay [May 1, 1898], up to their finally taking over the sovereignty of our country  in a manner detested and strongly objected by Mabini, subject of this documentary and Chief Adviser of the First Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo. The Filipino Revolutionaries were actually already winning the War with Spain when the U.S. entered the Philippine soil. The two powers connived to hold a Mock Battle on August, 1898, followed by the signing of a treaty in Paris stating the handing over of the Philippines to the U.S. Our diplomat was not allowed to join, although by that time, the Filipino revolutionaries already declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. With a Constitution readied by a national assembly and approved by President Aguinaldo, the First Philippine Republic was inaugurated on January 23, 1899. Mabini’s defiance over the American sovereignty of the Philippines led to his being sent to Guam by the Americans as an exile.
Through the years, it became clear that the Americans posed in as friends at first, and then later turned into a foe having realized the strategic importance of the Philippines in the Far East. American soldier, William Grayson fired the first shot that started the Filipino-American War on February 4, 1899.
It was on a Monday, February 7, that the O.I.C. Director of NHCP, Dr. Rene Escalante and the NHCP researchers viewed the film. I requested them to watch it before showing it to the general hearing public in August in commemoration of the National Heroes Day. I wanted feedback from “experts,” or those in the actual field. I wanted to align, if ever there was misalignment with the facts that they are providing the people so that there would be no confusion in the minds of the viewing students. Fortunately, we had no data clashes. The researchers only particularly reacted to some of the photos that I got from the Mabini Shrine in Tanauan, Batangas like the picture of Mabini Standing, and the reproduction of artist Angel Cacnio’s painting entitled “The Capture of Mabini.” I was informed that the previous photo does not belong to NHCP but to a certain Mr. Kevin Cruz. Nonetheless, I emailed him as soon as I got his address from an NHCP personnel to inform him about my use of the picture, and sent him clips where and how the photo was used – not more than 30 seconds in totality. I have yet to write Mr. Cacnio. Moreover, one other researcher suggested if I could change the photo of Mabini shot allegedly in Guam. The issue he said is that it was not Mabini who was in the picture. However, I am keeping it since there is an existing photo with accompanying caption which says: The Guam Museum written above it [see below]. The better copy of the photo, or the one I used in the docu was reproduced from the NHCP Museum in Tanauan. As the issue has not yet been resolved whether it was really Mabini or not, I would still keep the picture. In fact, it was because of that reaction that I researched again for the copy of the photo that I got from filipinoamericanwar.com
This is the photo I am referring to. Notice on the top right side of the photo which states: The Guam Museum, and the words on the caption “….Mabini, along with 35 other Filipino patriots, WERE HERE [all caps mine – and that refers to Guam where Mabini was exiled] from 1901 to 1903.
One thing that struck me was their reaction to the insets of Filipino Sign Language [FSL] interpreters. Although the NHCP viewers were briefed before showing that the film was designed for the Deaf, and therefore would have FSL interpretations, they still wanted the traditional inset — small, in a box and kept in one corner. [I manipulated the image sizes and movement of the interpreter within the frame].
Though I found their reaction to it as quite surprising, I just rationalized as I was going home that perhaps for historians and researchers who are more interested and concentrated on the documents, data and message, the presence of sign language interpreters provided much distraction to their senses. And considering the language elements, and there are three: Filipino narration, English captions and FSL interpretation, that comes alongside the aural music and sound effects, and the visual elements simultaneously being presented, the need for mind processing is a bit more than the usual film with no textual and visual gestural elements involved. Discerning what language to give importance to also comes to the fore.
For hearing people unfamiliar with sign language, it is understandable that for them it meant nothing, and therefore, would pose only as solid distractions. In the end, they suggested if I could make another version with the traditional inset for FSL interpretation. Of course, that would be by now impossible as the chroma background and the FSL interpreters are in composite form. Besides, it would defeat my own purpose and advocacy: that is, to give the Deaf Filipino sector access to information, and the other important objective of promoting the use and recognition of FSL in the Philippines which up to now has not been given attention to by the government. Most importantly, that was the very reason why DLS-CSB School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies partnered with me in the realization of the film — its primary target beneficiaries are Deaf people. In fact, before showing it for the first time to their students, a preview was also conducted, at that time, in the presence of Dean Nicky Templo, the FSL interpreters, some faculty staff — Deaf and hearing, and the Deaf participants themselves with the sole purpose of agreeing of disagreeing regarding the image sizes and presentation of FSL in the film.
The importance of FSL in giving Deaf access to information can be gleaned from the reaction to the film of Myra Medrana, Deaf choreographer of the Silent Steps. She said:
“I’m truly happy and grateful to Mirana for doing this film on Mabini in Filipino Sign Language. This is a wonderful project for the Filipino people, especially for us Deaf as we come to learn more about our history and our heroes. Looking back, I remember when I was little, my father would give me paper money to buy stuff and I see these faces of they say heroes whom I knew nothing about. Although they were taught in school, I only remember very little facts about them because they were not clearly explained in sign language. Much of the information back then were not that much accessible to the Deaf unlike today.
To be honest, history to me is blur. And it’s unclear not just to me… but to most Deaf especially the poor and the marginalized because of the very limited access to education and information. I only slowly began to understand it clearly when I got to work with Mirana, initially in the “A Mi Patria” project [Rizal’s Poems in FSL], and now in Project Mabini. During the production, we went to Batangas and learned a lot about Mabini — that despite his disability he was able to contribute immensely in our country’s fight for freedom and independence. Somehow, this film has inspired us so much to be like Mabini.
Now, the Filipino Deaf community is fighting for FSL, our natural language to be recognized as official sign language in the country. This film is a great advocacy towards that goal and I appreciate Mirana’s effort in including Deaf artists and talents to show to people the beauty and richness of our OWN language..the Filipino Sign Language. I hope more films like this will be done for the benefit of the Deaf community so that they too will learn about our history.”
O.I.C. Director of NHCP and DLSU History Professor, Dr. Rene Escalante [seated] with the NHCP researchers and other staff; MM in blue
Anyway, that stress be given according to Dr. Escalante regarding the importance of the Separation of Church and State issue, I greatly considered and appreciated. But as to the non-linear timeline of events, I am still keeping the sequence that I currently have. Lest I forget, the woman seated beside me said she liked the treatment, the creative interpretation.
My thanks to Dr. Escalante and his staff for sharing their time to watch, react and give their comments re the docu. A particular sector’s reaction does differ. Shown two days later to another group consisting of educators, heritage advocates, a local historian, tourism and cultural workers, including a staff from NHCP-Malolos in Bulacan reacted also positively but with better appreciation of the FSL use. [This I shall take up in my next blogpost].