Posts Tagged ‘ASL’


Deaf Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines Used FSL

November 8, 2014

Sometime last year, I visited Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. with my relatives. I had an appointment to meet its librarian Ms. Diana Moore. I previously had email communications with her because of her interest to have a copy of “Silent Odyssey,” my documentary on Deaf Filipinos for their library collections.

My relatives wondered how communication would go between me and the Deaf guard. It didn’t bother me a bit that I do not know how to sign ASL [American Sign Language]. Whether I would be understood or not, I used Filipino Sign Language [FSL], visual gestural communication and finger spelling. I was understood. For me, that was a “big” accomplishment since I only have basic knowledge of sign language. It was my first time to “talk” with a Deaf American.

Anyhow, at the time we visited the library, there was an ongoing exhibition of the Peace Corps activities worldwide. They were active here in our country especially in the 70’s. Ms. Moore led us to the exhibition place.


Gallaudet Univ Librarian Ms. Diana Moore leading us to the Exhibition Area


I was surprised to know that FSL was used by some Peace Corps members. I have always believed that they only used American Sign Language primarily because they are Americans. At the time that they started coming here in the 70’s there were no formal studies yet with regards the existence of Filipino Sign Language. I was mistaken in my belief when I read one of the testimonies displayed.

PC in favor of FSL

Recognizing the use of FSL by a Deaf Peace Corp volunteer surprised me. I used to think that they only promoted and used ASL and SEE [Signing Exact English]

Signing Exact English [SEE], the type of sign language Peace Corps volunteers introduced and popularized here is still being taught and is being adopted up to now by Miriam College, and by most schools in the Philippines, especially those that are handled by hearing teachers. However, from the 90’s FSL started to get popularized and is currently being advocated by majority of Deaf Filipino leaders as the natural sign language of Deaf Filipinos. The number of FSL users continue to grow as they become aware of their Deaf identity as a cultural-linguistic minority group.

It took me more than I year before I managed to write about this. I was only reminded again when I saw the photos above as I started looking for my travel files to review the shots for a music video that I am preparing for a family reunion tomorrow. My balikbayan relatives from Maryland who brought us to Washington D.C. are here. So, tomorrow, we’ll have fun reminiscing the long walks we did over there, as well as in Baltimore and Pennsylvania through my travel videos.


Silent Odyssey’s Back! Learn About FSL History! Be Inspired-“Listen” to WFD President!!

November 8, 2012

The issue on the use of sign language in the Philippines is a-burning! Which one should be the national language of Deaf Filipinos: Filipino Sign Language [FSL] or Signing Exact English [SEE]? a survey asks. The question seems irrelevant. Tinatanong pa ba ‘yun???? Anyhow, my position has always been clear, and I have since been upholding especially after making SILENT ODYSSEY that FSL should be given recognition as Deaf Filipinos’ national sign language. That is what the majority of the Deaf is clamoring for. And that includes Deaf whom I interviewed [with interpreter’s help] not only for Silent O but out of curiosity —in Zamboanga City, Palawan, Dumaguete City, Bohol, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Pampanga regarding their choice of what sign language to use. They said that they are using American Sign Language and SEE in schools, but they prefer to use FSL when they “talk” among themselves. Some said that as Filipinos, they should use FSL.

I personally have nothing against SEE, as a course in the Deaf educational curriculum – because I think that it is also important for the Deaf to know that such “language” exist, and can be useful for them when it comes to learning the English language – its structure and proper use. But that’s my personal opinion. Deaf teachers and FSL hearing advocates may disagree with me but if I were Deaf, I would love to learn and would welcome it as “another” language – a secondary language though, not otherwise, or the way it is being practiced now.

The initiatives of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center, the Philippine Federation of the Deaf and other institutions in their advocacy for the use, recognition and adoption of FSL in schools being the natural sign language of Deaf Filipinos is gaining more and more support recently as lawmakers finally listened to Deaf Filipinos’clamor for FSL recognition, a big leap and a just reward for the time and efforts that they have spent for years towards that end. The future is very bright for our Deaf…

As a hearing person, I used to think that finger spelling is sign language because that’s what my first Deaf friend taught me. And since I managed to communicate with him using it, my idea never changed until I studied Filipino Sign Language in SDEAS as part of my research in the making of SILENT ODYSSEY. Only when I had crossed the “barrier”, that is, by studying FSL that I came to know how strongly the need for their human linguistic rights to be respected is. In understanding FSL’s root and origin, and recognizing what the majority of Deaf Filipinos themselves want, NOT WHAT the hearing teachers want for them made me stress in the docu, FSL’s importance in their lives, the reason why I allotted a lot of time to the FSL segment. In addition, WFD President Markku Jokinen explains that “Deaf use their eyes to listen” and sign language is important to the Deaf because they can communicate even from a distance compared with someone who is using hearing aid. And by having their own sign language the Deaf distinguish themselves from others in the PWD sector. That makes them unique, and because of that they should be treated as a cultural-linguistic minority group. Anyway for FSL users,SILENT O raises their self-esteem and gives them clearer identity as Filipino; for SEE users, well! a negative feeling that evokes anger in some, maybe… or simply misunderstanding and denial having the colonial mentality— probably–that the use of English make them superior over FSL users.

On November 10, 12 and 14, SILENT O will be back to add further knowledge in the minds and consciousness of Deaf students re their history, language and culture. Contact Mackie Calbay for more information.

Let’s continue in supporting House Bill 6079!!!


FSL Should Be the National Sign Language!!!

November 2, 2012

Excerpts from the article of Michael Tan, under the column Pinoy Kasi about Filipino Sign Language. Posted yesterday, November 1, this was forwarded to me by a friend today.

“….Two of my former students, Rej Cruz and Perpi Tiongson, asked if I could publicize the advocacy efforts of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf and the Philippine Deaf Resource Center for the passage of House Bill No. 6079, which declares Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the national sign language. Specifically, Rej texted to say there would be a march to Congress on Monday, Nov. 5 (meeting point: Philcoa 8:30 a.m.), to rally support.

Sure, I texted back, I’ll make an announcement in my column. But something else happened that convinced me to do an entire column on FSL, which, it turns out, has two meanings in the Philippines.

Sign language

Let’s deal first with FSL as Filipino Sign Language. It seems commonsensical that FSL should be the national sign language, right? But no, the proposed bill is  facing strong opposition from an ASL (American Sign Language) camp arguing for the retention of the status quo, which privileges ASL over FSL.  This includes the Department of Education requiring the teaching of Signing Exact English (SEE) in schools for the deaf.

It’s amazing how our debates and intramurals over language in the hearing world find parallels in “bingi culture” (the thesis topic of Rej Cruz). As with the “English-only” proposals of some of our schools, the ASL lobby says our deaf need to know ASL to survive in the world. But that presumes the rest of the world uses English and ASL, which just isn’t true. …

[To read the full article, click: FSL]

Yes, there will be a rally come Monday, November 5. Do join us!!! I’ll just join the SDEAS group in Philcoa as it’s too early for me to go to CSB at 7am.



The Joy of Sharing_Advocacy filmmaking

October 27, 2012

Sense of fulfillment. Joy of sharing ideas and information. Psychic rewards. They are not BUY-products. But they are what I earn and my gains whenever I manage to finish ONE advocacy film. Since it’s always a struggle for me to make a film because of lack of means and support, a TRIUMPHANT feeling automatically wraps my being when I finally get to publicly show and share it to the society, specifically meant for our people.

That is what even my best of friends cannot understand and find quite difficult to accept. Making personal films that advocate for a cause – not to entertain them but to present realities that tend to separate us from the marginalized sector that I focus my lens on. However, sharing my experiences to those who do not even know me but are spongy enough to absorb and go deeper with me as I traverse different worlds that lead to their appreciation and learning at the same time is JOY.

In the two-day seminar-workshop on visual research methods that I attended day before yesterday, I talked about my films that focus on autism and deafness in the Philippines; my historical documentary with anti-war sentiments, and showed snippets from a commissioned short film on Non-Handicapping Environment that touches on persons with disability problems because of partial or non-compliance of the Philippine Accessibility Law. With the currently raging issue on what sign language to use in the Philippines – whether Signing Exact English [SEE] that fully uses American Sign Language [ASL], or Filipino Sign Language, an ASL-influenced sign language form, Silent Odyssey, made four years ago, becomes quite relevant as it stresses on, and upholds/advocates for the use and recognition of FSL as the national sign language of Deaf Filipinos. Pounding more on the issue is the first-ever interpretation in Filipino Sign Language of five nationalistic and most popular poems of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal [1861-1896]primarily made to provide Deaf access to information.

The decision to take and pursue the film making path that advocates for the cause of sped/PWDs – subjects which some of my friends find gross – was caused by Alyana, the docu sparked by a niece with autism. They used to ask, “Why don’t you make drama films with known “stars”? Ahh! What can be more dramatic and poignant than dealing with real lives, real people? Anyway, they finally got tired and quieted down.

There are no pecuniary gains from advocacy filmmaking as I’ve earlier said. It’s just enjoying a more meaningful existence for oneself, and yes, the joy of being able to share the experiences from the long, sometimes arduous journey of having to run after people considered “Others” by narrow-minded individuals. It’s a give and take process. I learn, then share knowledge, thoughts, and feelings. It’s a point of no return.

Advocacy filmmaking, anyone?