BY RUTH COLLANTES REYES
[Health Today Philippines, July 2012, pp. 74-75]
FRANSISCO GOYA AND LUDWIG van Beethoven were deaf, Frida Kahlo had mobility impairment, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder are blind, James Earl Jones had a speech impairment, and Tom Cruise is dyslexic. But their disabilities didn't stop them from contributing creatively through painting, musical composition or performance arts.
Opening doors or windows
Art can make the deaf hear, the blind see and the physically disabled dance. For Jose Rizal's 150th birthday, director Mirana Medina created a film translating Rizal's greatest poems using Filipino sign language. Featuring deaf actors Aldrin Gabriel, Mark Steven Gaspar, Romalito Mallari and Jorelle Faytaren, Mi Ultimo Adios in Filipino Sign Language elevated Rizal's work to a whole new level.
The choreographer for Mi Ultimo, Myra Medrana, is deaf herself. Medrana is also part of Dulaang Tahimik ng Pilipinas (DTP), a dance group whose mission is to provide the deaf with a sense of responsibility, professionalism and self-confidence. Medrana is also the adviser and choreographer for the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde's dance club, Silent Steps. DTP and Silent Steps get into the rhythm by feeling the vibrations of the music through the floor when they perform. Happy to be doing a job she is clearly passionate about, Medrana feels that she's passing on her love for dancing and instilling confidence in her pupils, who balance their studies with dance practices.
Purification Elks Villaruz dreamt of a career in the field of medicine, but when she was diagnosed with cancer after experiencing pains in her leg, which had to be amputated, Villaruz's dreams were crushed. She admitted that it took a while for her to regain her composure and to feel positive about herself. When she did, she discovered that even if she was bound to a wheelchair, she had a knack for ballroom dancing. The arts gave Villaruz the chance to express herself and also make her feel positive about her life. These days, Villaruz is willing to pass on her love for ballroom dancing to fellow amputees.
The creative soul
The arts make disabled people see past their disabilities and realize that they can do things they never thought they were capable of. It also gives them a sense of purpose and a path to dream. It creates wonders for their self-esteem. When they know they can do it, they push themselves to the limit, not because they have to, but because they want to show everyone what they can do.
Aside from acquiring self- confidence, they also do their families proud when they see them perform or create artworks. With peer support, alongside the encouragement of their family, the disabled will feel that they are able to do something with their lives. The arts can also be their source of livelihood and sustenance.
Rommel Agravante, a recent Fine Arts graduate majoring in painting at University of the Philippines-Diliman and the father of three hearing children, is also deaf. Starting out as a self-taught artist, he began drawing when he was just 5 years old and decided that it would be his lifelong passion. Agravante is renowned for drawing life-like artworks and is the founder and president of the Filipino Deaf Visual Art Group. The group is comprised of members who share a love for the visual arts: painting, printmaking, photography, drawing and so on—gaining the means to communicate their feelings to the world and create a way to support their families.
Glimpse into another life
Art is everywhere, not just in museums but also in everyday life. That shirt design you were admiring? The tattoo on someone's back? The mural on the expressway? That's art. At best, art has always been an expression of oneself. Even though most people can only imagine what life must be like for the disabled, you can
catch a glimpse through the song interpretations and artwork of the deaf, feel the beat of the music with the graceful dancing of the physically-impaired, and see the lyrics float in front of you as the blind sing their melodies. Life is full of miracles and should be lived fully, like they are doing.
Forms of art such as music, painting and drawing, and in today's modern age, photography and graphic design, are seen as windows to the soul. It is for everyone to see, touch, hear and experience. Art is for everyone, even the disabled.
Are you ready to take the plunge in to the wonderful world
These people can help you:
Dulaang Tahimik ng Pilipinas c/o Myra Medrana
(0917) 486 3754 (text only) DTP will be holding auditions for deaf students.
Purification Elks Villaruz
(0933) 409 6876
Filipino Deaf Visual Art Group cio Rommel Agravante
(0927) 834 1310 (text only)