Although volunteer sign language (SL) interpreters Catherine Joy Villareal and Reiner Blas cannot make a career out of interpreting, they said that they feel a need to bridge the gap between the “hearing world and the deaf world.”
“If wala ang interpreter, wala ang bridge, they will not be able to know and get [the information] clearly,” said Villareal. “This is an advocacy and we love doing it."
Villareal, a physical education teacher, has been interpreting for about 14 years. She discovered her love for the language after being assigned to a sports program for persons with disability. Having a deaf nephew added to her drive to learn sign language.
Blas, a full-time pastor with the God is Good Christian Church, said that he wanted to learn sign language so that he could tell the deaf that God loves them.
“I could not communicate with them [at first]," he said. "It left a burden in my heart so I thought to myself if I get an opportunity, I will learn sign language."
Blas, who would also like to have a ministry for the deaf in his church, has been an interpreter for 16 years and says that interpreting well is a skill that has to be developed.
“It is not a joke to interpret. [Just] because you know sign language [it doesn't mean] you can be an interpreter," he said. "We serve as the bridge between the hearing world and the deaf world. Without it, they will be isolated."
He added that being an interpreter is not just a public service, but is also one way of serving the Lord.
Knowledge is power
Rey Alfred Lee, president of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf, said that having SL interpreters during national events, such as the President’s SONA, empowers persons with disability.
“We really need to have access to information. If just the spoken word [is available], how would the deaf know the things happening around us? If there is an inset or interpreter, then the deaf can have knowledge,” Lee said as interpreted by Blas and Villareal.
Asked about the President's promise that the monthly pensions of persons with disability will soon go up to at least P5,000, up from the current P500, Lee said: “This is good news for us deaf people…This is a good development.”
He added that representatives from the deaf community will have a short dialogue with ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio on Wednesday to discuss House Bill No. 6079. The bill aims to declare the Filipino sign language as the national sign language and the government's official language in all transactions involving the deaf. The bill likewise mandates the use of sign language in schools, broadcast media, and workplaces.
The measure is pending at the House of Representatives' social service committee.