Meeting Deaf People in Post-Deaf World Era

Episode 104 – Thursday, November 10th, 2016 (7254)

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These people are belonged to their “Deaf World” where I was once belonged. (Photo courtesy from deaf-e-news.blogspot.com)

Last October 2nd (that’s actually a long time ago), when I was about to prepare to serve for Media Ministry in The Feast SM Santa Rosa, I saw a group of students who surprisingly communicated using their hands, as in they used sign language because they’re deaf. After the session, I was hesitated at first to meet some deaf students; however, I just met some of their teachers and staffs from Ephphetha School for the Deaf Inc. in Santa Rosa, Laguna. When I was introduced by some of my Feast friends to them, I just talked with them both oral and sign language only few minutes before they left the cinema. However, I didn’t meet the deaf students who already left. Although I have knowledge to use sign language, it’s somewhat obsolete in my present life in “Non-Deaf World”.

Anyway this week, the deaf community (where I was belonged before) holds the long-week celebration called Deaf Awareness Week (DAW, anu daw? Hehehe). It is held around second week of November of every year (November 10 to 16) by the virtue of Proclamation No. 829, and this observance aims to support public awareness for the deaf and hearing-impaired people. When I was studying at the Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD), I was the one to participate the celebration every year from 1994 to 2003. In fact, in 1998, I joined in a quiz bee contest with other deaf students from different deaf institutions competing against non-deaf students during the DAW celebration in Mandaluyong where we didn’t win against them. However, since my life was shifted to “Non-Deaf World”, the DAW celebration has been no longer involved in my life right now.

But since it is Deaf Awareness Week for my [old] deaf friends out there, I’ll discuss this episode about my meetings with deaf people in the Post-Deaf World Era (or since July 2005 right after I came back home from being exchange student in the United States).

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2005: Meeting with My Former Deaf Friends

When I came back home from the U.S., I thought my school life would be the same as what I had before I left in 2004. But many things were changed. I was surprisingly transferred to a non-deaf school to continue my high school (fourth year), and my deaf classmates and schoolmates in PSD were no longer the same as before. Few days after my homecoming, I visited PSD, my old school where I studied for 10 long years, to see some of my former teachers, advisers, and staffs. On July 8, 2005, I showed up to come back PSD and met them. Most were happy to see me again, but some were somewhat displeased and saddened because of my (controversial) transfer to a non-deaf school from PSD. That was my final time to visit PSD campus, and I’ve never visited the place again.

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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)

Although I started to increase my non-deaf friends, I missed most of my deaf friends (including my close classmates who had been members of Tent & Co.), so I visited College of Saint Benilde in Taft, Manila to meet my former PSD classmates. They missed me so much when I showed up to them (thankfully I got access to enter the campus even though I was not a CSB student). They really missed me as their former classmate, but there was somewhat awkward because they were already in college while I was still studying in high school (thanks to the non-accreditation where my high school graduation at Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD) was not counted) and the confusion of sign language where they still used Filipino Sign Language (or others referred as Sign Exact English) while I was influenced to use American Sign Language. I visited some of my former deaf classmates, I think, twice of thrice. The last time when I visited them at CSB was around November 2005 during Deaf Festival. Since then, I’ve never shown up to them again due of long distance and lack of communication (frequent text communication and Facebook were not so norm back then).

2006: My Former Deaf “Sweetheart”

Before I started to study at college (but in non-deaf school), I had a chance to see one of my former deaf “sweethearts”. Early June 2006, I went to Pasay City for the meeting with “Empress” (not her real name). I waited outside PSD campus (I couldn’t enter due of hesitation and some teachers might spot me) until she and her classmates went out. I talked with her and her classmates about my life in the U.S., and I asked her about her studies in PSD where she was already in high school. Although she was one of my deaf “sweethearts” when I was in PSD, my history records about our “dating” from the past are already void and declared as illegitimate (by the way, she’s NOT my first girlfriend though as per clarification).

However, I didn’t meet her (or any other deaf friends) again for three years because of being focus in my college studies and, of course, bonding with my non-deaf college classmates.

2009: “Dating” with “Empress”

250-deaf-optimised-2Unexpectedly, “Empress”, my former deaf “sweetheart”, got a contact to me (thru Yahoo! Messenger – I don’t know if somebody still use this right now because it’s already obsolete) when I rented a computer with my classmate. She intentionally asked me if I still “loved” her. Because of my love frustration, I just answered her that I was still “in-love” with her. So, we set up our “date” few days later for our [infamous] “love comeback”.

On June 2009, we met at Mall of Asia in Pasay where I was surprised that she looked so pretty, young and nice-dressed. We had our “date” together for almost a day inside the mall where we ate, walked around, and had sightseeing. This was the time when I was so happy because of being accompanied with her together, and it was nice. However, there’s something wrong why I got a “date” on her despite that I was no longer in “Deaf World” like her and going back to the “past”. And she was somewhat weird, although she’s pretty when I met her, because of her “weird” religion (other than Catholic) that’s why she’s too conservative. Our meeting that we had a “date” was the final time when I met her in person. She tried to contact me thru text messaging, and even she “threatened” me after my unconditional “break-up” from her as I offered her to end (or demote) into friends. Days later, I decided to cut my communication with her (leading into excommunication), and since then I have never heard any news or information about her (the last time I heard about her was that she’s already a mother). The “date” that we had last June 2009 is considered “null” (or illegitimate) in my history books.

2010: Working with Deaf Entrepreneur

Few weeks after my college graduation, I was hired by a deaf entrepreneur, who is a PSD alumnus, to work in her travel agency. It was my first time to work with a deaf person like her together with her assistant who knew sign language (although she’s not considered as deaf, she could hear despite of the lost of her voice due of illness). During the time when I started to work on June 2010, I felt I just came back to the “Deaf World” (referring as version 2.0) because two of my co-workers are deaf that we could use sign language as our form of communication. However, my job stint in a deaf travel agency didn’t last long.

Because most of the tasks that I worked were too far from what I’ve learned in Information Technology course back in college, I was almost dismayed and confused; in fact, I was back and forth going around the polluted areas of Mandaluyong, either thru walking or commuting, so that it caused me into ill for days until I decided to give up my job duties. Although it was not considered as my first job after college graduation, I regretted because my friendship with my deaf boss didn’t stay long. I was jobless for few months after I resigned until I found my first ever job in Alabang in October 2010.

2014: Meeting with My Host Family (After 9 Years)

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It’s me (center) with my foster mom, Lyn Woolmaker and her son, Austin during their visit in the Philippines on January 9, 2014.

As the year 2014 was begun, I received from my host (or foster) mother, Lyn Woolmaker, who is also a PSD alumnus, on Facebook that she and her only son, Austin, would visit in the Philippines for their vacation. And it was a chance to meet them again after 9 long years when I last met them in the U.S. And on January 9, we finally met in a place in Alabang to talk about our personal lives and happenings after I came back home from being exchange student and being their foster son in 2005. And, of course, because Lyn is deaf and also studied at PSD in 1960s, I used sign language for her with her deaf friend to communicate. It had been a long time that I didn’t use sign language to communicate deaf people. But thankfully, I still had some knowledge in sign language. That was the only time that we met personally while they were in vacation in my beloved country (or rather her beloved country).

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In June 2014, I had an opportunity to see the people with disabilities (PWD) in a job fair in Quezon City. I just went there to meet my friends from National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) and to help some materials for the job fair. When I was there, I spotted some of my former deaf friends, as well as my former PSD classmates, who walked around to apply for their jobs. One of them was my former “best friend” in PSD for 10 long years and also a member of Tent & Co. I spotted him as he was still thin as before, but because of hesitation (or I just spied him), I didn’t meet or get closer to him personally. That was my last time when I saw him in person (we don’t have any contacts or communication as of now because he’s already in my “past”).

Since most of my friends right now are non-deaf, my life has been now belonged to them – their “non-deaf” world actually. And my old deaf friends, mostly my former classmates from PSD, are now considered as my “past” or simply… forgotten in my present life. Although I have only few deaf friends (mostly from Alabama School for the Deaf including my foster mom, Lyn Woolmaker) who have stayed in touch on Facebook, almost 99% of my current friends, either personal or thru Facebook, are non-deaf. That’s why using sign language with deaf people is now considered as obsolete because of the different world that I’m now belonged.

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My frequent personal communication using sign language and oral/speech in the last 20 years.

In some places in Laguna, I sometimes spotted some deaf people around (I knew them because of their sign language) in mall, in the streets, or in the supermarket. They’re just special more than other ordinary people. But I was the one of them before because I was once belonged to their “deaf” world using sign language and without any voice that I hear. But since July 2005, I’m now belonged to the world where most people lives in the normal life. And my old life as being “deaf” is now considered as my forgotten “past”.

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