What If… I Didn’t Go to the United States (and Enter My Life in Non-Deaf World)

Episode 75 – Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 (7019)

US adventure

On June 28, 2005, 11 years to be exact, I was ready to leave from a house of my host family in Talladega, Alabama in the United States going to the airport. I didn’t cry though, but it was the saddest part to me because, after 325 days of stay with lots of most memorable moments that I never forget, I would go back home to the Philippines. Like what last Kerygma Conference 2015 said, “I’ll be coming home.” My wonderful experience at the U.S. brought me and my life so memorable when it was my very first time to go and to stay there for one year (less than a year though). During my one-year stay in the U.S., there were so many unforgettable moments happened in my life. As an exchange student, I had an obligation to study in an American deaf school for one academic year (as a senior or equivalent to fourth year high school in the Philippines). This, however, would be my last time to study in a deaf institution because right after the exchange program, I would be transferred in a non-deaf school (for the continuation of my final high school year at home) making my life changed into a new direction and environment. And that’s what I’ve been right now (the rest is history).

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It’s me (far left) with other exchange students at Birmingham International Airport preparing to go back home after one year stay in Alabama, U.S. on June 28, 2005 (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

In the past 11 years since my life was moved from being “deaf” (or “Deaf World”), there were so many changes happened in my life. Having friends (as well as my former college classmates) who are non-deaf rather than my old deaf friends, studying in a non-deaf school, working with non-deaf people, and communicating thru talking rather than using sign language were the examples that changed my life from so-called “Deaf World” that I had been belonged for 11 long years (1994-2005). I didn’t know if this was just a coincidence that after my wonderful life in the U.S. my life was changed into a new environment or just really things happened. I was confused during the time when I was “new” in this “world” where I socialized with non-deaf people rather than deaf people that I had been for a very long time. And I was wondering if I was not transferred to a non-deaf school right after my U.S. experience in mid-2005, would my life be changed?

Oh well, there are a lot of explanations that I’ll tell you in this episode. It’s just confusing though, but I’ll tell you: what if… I didn’t go to the United States being an exchange student then after transferring to a non-deaf school didn’t happen also? Let’s see how the things that might be happened if ever I haven’t done these right now.

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Refuse to apply for the exchange program

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There’s a story how I became an exchange student. In February 2004, during my third year high school (junior), my teacher-adviser advised me to apply a scholarship for the exchange program. I was little bit excited though because I had no idea what the program was for during that time. But in later days, I tried to take the application by the help of my mentors at Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD). And the rest was history. Dream came true for me to go to the United States to study as an exchange student. But I just imagine what if I didn’t apply for the exchange program?

Hmmmm… I remember my elder brother (who was preparing to go to Saudi Arabia to work there as Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) during the time) who told me that he refused to let me apply for the exchange program. He knew I would become older to graduate high school. I was 17 then and would 18 if I graduated in 2005. But the average age of graduating high school students during the time was 16 (in non-deaf schools). So, I would be 19 when I graduated high school (which was really happened to me in 2006 but not in PSD). If I followed the advice of my elder brother to not apply the scholarship (or whatsoever), my entire present life would be changed forever! And that’s what I’m telling you in the next possible scenarios.

My worst “nightmare” may be not happened

During the time when I was applying for the exchange program, I was “dating” with a deaf lady (just called her, “Miss M” and I don’t want to mention her real name because she’s already “buried” in my present life). However, my “relationship” with her was ruined with her controversies. And the worst part during my life in the “Deaf World” was happened in June 2004 (I don’t want to mention what really happened), and it was followed by the worst accident happened in my life in the next following month (as a sign of “karma”). During the course of the worst episodes in my life, I had almost withdrawn my application for the exchange program while it was already processed after the incident (I had a protest against some teachers who favored the deaf lady who had been “dating” with me before).

My past “nightmare” already happened in my life just few months before I went to the U.S. But I wondered what if I didn’t apply for the exchange program then the worst incident also didn’t happen? There were so many changes that supposed to be happened 12 years ago.

My “dating” with “Miss M” was my terrible mistake. I didn’t know why I fell in love with this kind of lady who was popular at school during that time. But if I didn’t have a “date” with her, things would be changed in my life forever! And just one more thing that almost possibly happened when my exchange program ended and I would go back PSD to continue my studies as fourth year high school, she would become my new classmate as well as my new “rival”. This was almost happened (as I was preparing for a possible peaceful “negotiation” with her) when I came back home in July 2005. But fortunately, I was transferred from PSD to a non-deaf school for the continuation of my fourth year high school. The possible “friendship” with that deaf lady didn’t happen as she would be forever villain in my life.

But there was a 50% chance that, if ever, she would be my classmate in fourth year high school at PSD. The best way was that if I didn’t apply for the exchange program. Of course, I would graduate high school with my fellow deaf classmates in 2005, and I would become class valedictorian for sure. However, when I was passed for the exchange program and obligated to go to the U.S., chance to become a valedictorian (or top 1) would be not so high because of having a classmate with “Miss M” who was consistent first honor in her class (with the support from her teachers as a part of being “favoritism” in school).

I would graduate high school and college with my deaf classmates too early

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If ever I didn’t go to the U.S. for the exchange program, I might graduate high school with my long-time deaf classmates in March 2005. Unlike in my reality, I graduated high school, not once but twice! This was because my high school graduation at Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD) in May 2005 was not accredited in my originated studies at home (or in short, Philippine education curriculum), so that I need to continue my fourth year high school in my home country (thanked God, I didn’t back PSD where I studied there for 10 long years, but rather I was transferred to a non-deaf school).

But if this reality, which was already happened a decade ago, didn’t come in my school life, I might graduate high school at PSD (with honors, of course) with my long-time deaf classmates a year earlier than my real timeline where I graduated at International Montessori School (IMS), a non-deaf school located near home, in April 2006. And I might continue my college education either in College of Saint Benilde (CSB, in Taft, Manila) where most of my former deaf classmates had studied there or elsewhere (but I was thinking I would have possibly studied in a non-deaf school within Laguna area after my high school graduation in PSD as per my mother’s advice). If ever I studied at CSB with them, I might graduate college with them (around late 2009 or see a graduation video from CSB below) rather than my real timeline where I graduated at Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) – Santa Rosa Campus in May 2010.

In this archive footage, Ana Kristina Arce was honored as Magma Cum Laude as she was the one with her other batch mates (where some of them were my former PSD classmates) to be graduated on their course School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS) at CSB. If ever I studied there, she would become my college classmate with my long-time PSD classmates where some of them were my now-former TENT allies. She had studied one school year ahead of mine (although she left PSD after her third year high school), but she was enrolled at CSB late around 2005 (I don’t know about her story because I was no longer belonged to the so-called “Deaf World” back then). Because she was so smart, however, there might have some “competition” between us for the topnotcher if ever my participation of the exchange program in the U.S. didn’t happen. In my real timeline, neither Miss Arce nor “Miss M” would have become my classmate in a deaf college.

And I might get a job too early right after college graduation. However, most of the deaf people have their hard times to find their job because of some sort of discrimination at workplace (many companies refuse to hire deaf people because of miscommunication). Even though I had advantage over my fellow deaf friends (I’ve clear hearing though) and I could enter big-time or multinational companies for my job, it might be not enough for me to have accompanied deaf friends at the workplace. If ever I applied some companies who accepted deaf employees after college, I might not know about my job being graphic artist in Alabang and Mandaluyong and even in my present work in San Pedro.

Just imagine if this “alternate timeline” was supposed to be happened, I might not meet most of my college classmates who are non-deaf at PUP-Sta. Rosa and the happenings (good or bad) that I’ve done. I would never meet my pretty college classmates (just called them as “Cutie Chinese” and “Chubby”) who became my crush, and later one of them became my enemy sadly. And the worst incident in Post-Deaf School era (involving with “Cutie Chinese” and her family) would never be also happened in 2009.

Tent & Co. might not be disbanded

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My deaf friends from PSD who were the members of Tent & Co. on our final meeting, July 30, 2004 (Photo courtesy from Tent Archives)

My long-time classmates would be still my classmates in PSD if ever I didn’t apply for the exchange program in 2004. My friendship organization, Tent & Co., would be still existed up to high school graduation (or even in college if I would enter CSB). I was the “founding chairman” and leader of the organization that some of PSD teachers thought it was a “fraternity”. Three of its members were admitted at CSB for the course of SDEAS while the other members decided to enroll other deaf colleges or even discontinued entering college. If ever I didn’t go to the U.S., the organization would be still around even after our college graduation, and my existing members, as well as my other deaf friends, might be still intact in our communication and friendship.

Unfortunately, in my reality, my leadership in Tent & Co. was not present to my fellow members when I was in the U.S. leaving them to be graduated from high school by March 2005. And when I came back home, our friendship was still existed but not enough to sustain as one group because of distance (three of them were at CSB while I still studied high school in a non-deaf school in Laguna), lack of communication (I didn’t have own cellphone back then because I was just a “poor” kid), and my present environment (“Non-Deaf World” rather than their “Deaf World”). These caused my organization to be dissolved in early 2006.

My unforgettable moments in the U.S. might not happen

If ever I refused or withdrew my application to go to the U.S. for the exchange program, many of my most memorable moments in the U.S. might be missed. Studying at ASD, as my host school, might never happen, and the events that I had done at ASD might also never occur like my participation in the Academic Bowl where we won Southeast Regional tournament and competed in the National, the ASD Prom where I attended without any date, and my love admiration to the one of deaf friends.

Also, the wonderful moments with my host family – the Woolmakers might not happen if ever I didn’t go there for the exchange program. I might not know them especially to my host mom who was a PSD alumnus. I might not study at ASD and the American school system, and also I might not learn about American culture. And I might not be able to meet other exchange students from other countries (besides of my fellow Filipino exchange students).

Having deaf sweetheart might be existed

And yeah, my “past” love life would have been existed by having a deaf girlfriend if ever I didn’t transfer to “non-deaf” world. I would have still fell in-love with someone who is deaf. Unlike in my present situation where I have many friends who are non-deaf, I might still be a friend of most deaf people around and having a crush to a pretty and younger deaf lady. That might be strange though if I had many deaf friends in my adulthood rather than non-deaf friends that I have right now.

In my past when I studied at PSD during elementary and high school, I had so many dates with some deaf girls who were still students (mostly studying their school year later than mine). But most of them were older than me even though I had some crushes that were younger. And if ever I didn’t go to the U.S. for the exchange program or I didn’t leave PSD (or literally, “Deaf World”) to transfer to other schools (or “non-deaf” world), I might have crushes to some deaf girls around.

If this might happen in my “alternate” timeline, I would not have any feelings to some of my former college classmates before. I might not meet one of them living in the same place as I am, and our friendship that became worsened because of “non-sense” controversy might not be happened. I also might have not gotten a crush to my chubby classmate who had an old suitor, and having “Cold War” against her in 2007 and 2008 might not be happened. And having a textmate that later we had our long distance relationship for three years might not be happened if I would remain with my deaf friends in their “world”. Also, the 7-year love drought might not be happened. If I got a deaf girlfriend earlier than what I had done in the past 7 years of being single, I might be happy for my love life. I remember in mid-2009 when I had a date with a deaf lady who was my crush at PSD. But I declined her to be my girlfriend because of her religion and being “too conservative” despite of being young and beautiful.

However, there are some disadvantages for having a deaf girlfriend if happened in my present life. Because of her deafness, she might have hard time to communicate using sign language while we’re holding hands. I’ll explain about this scenario in my future episodes.

Timeline 2004-2016 Alternate 1

Timeline 2004-2016 Alternate 2

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It has been 11 years since I came back home from my most memorable and most wonderful experiences the United States, and it has been also 11 years since I left from the “Deaf World”. If these didn’t happen in my life, there might have many changes and situations that I would encounter. I would not be the same as what I am right now.

Thankfully, I had already moved on from the past when I was in PSD especially the worst episodes in my school life prior to my adventures in the U.S. I already forget these “nightmares” from the past, but I really miss the experiences that I had while I was in the U.S. for almost one year. I wish I will go back there to have my “second chance” to see what I had been 11 years ago. But there will be a long, long process before I’ll be able to go there, you know, applying U.S. visa, expensive airfare, stay-ins, etc. I’m just a “poor” guy (but not really poor or below of middle class) that I can’t afford to spend like these.

But despite of difficulties (in financial) and my loveless situation right now, I learned a lot of lessons that I got from being an exchange student and being a student studying in a deaf institution. And as I’m growing older, it’s time to explore more things that I’ve not yet seen or experienced in my life.

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