Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’


Daily Prompt: Journey with the Deaf

May 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.

Shoot with Silent Steps

Shooting with Silent Steps, an all-Deaf student playgroup at DLS-CSB School of Deaf and Applied Studies where I studied FSL. Here, I worked with Deaf photographer / videographer Dennis Balan.

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.

Shooting at the Plaza Park in Calamba

“A Filipinas” is one of the five poems of our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal forming part of A MI PATRIA / To My Motherland

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.


Daily Prompt: Call Me Ishmael / On “The Prophet”

January 6, 2013

“Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn unto his own day, had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese for his ship that was to return and bear him back to the isle of his birth.”

AlmustafaAbove is the first sentence from Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”, the one book that I said I’d take along with me in case of fire. But when our house actually caught fire, I was not able to do it because I was not home when it went aflame and completely down to ashes in 1998.

The first sentence alone speaks of patience, determination, hope… Kahlil Gibran is described as “a romantic mystic and visionary; he preached love, beauty, freedom and redemption in his works.”

I used to have a hardbound copy of The Prophet that I bought in India when I was studying there;  that’s where I first encountered Kahlil Gibran and his book. What I have now is a just a newsprint edition. What is important nevertheless is having with me the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran’s prose poems beautifully accompanied by his own illustrations. The Archer On different topics when the People of Orphalese ask him on his wisdom between Birth and Death, he speaks about Love, Marriage, Giving, Eating and Drinking, Work, Joy and Sorrow, Houses, Clothes, Buying and Selling, Crime and Punishment, Laws, Freedom, Reason and Passion, Pain, Self-Knowledge, Teaching, Friendship, Talking, Time, Good and Evil, Prayer, Pleasure, Beauty, Religion, Death.

I particularly liked what he wrote on Children. In part, he writes:

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward and tarries with yesterday…”


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?