The deaf can hear the love

The well-received ‘Musical Reflections.’ The performers were hard-of-hearing youngsters.

By Vicky Potenciano-Vitug

It was a Broadway-style performance with Filipino children and young adults,

singing, dancing and acting. But for the unaware, they would not suspect “Musical Reflections” — streamed online on March 18 —  had a cast of mostly deaf children!

It was a surprise for me to see that the deaf could perform like professional singers and actors. I was in awe as I watched them.  It must have taken tremendous skills and efforts to train this group of wonderfully gifted performers.

The Philippine Institute for the Deaf (PID) — — which produced “Musical Reflections” has made it possible for many children to get past their hearing disability, communicate with their families, and, for some, to be able to perform in public.

Watching the production brought back painful memories of a deaf-mute friend. Her attempts at speaking only caused her hurt and invited ridicule from others because all she could produce were slurry, incoherent mumbles. If only she was still alive today, she would have a better chance at a decent quality of life.

Currently, there are more than 8 million deaf children in the Philippines, many of them coming from poor families, according to PID.  

The author with friend Julie Esguerra-Schaffer, who founded the Philippine Institute for the Deaf, in honor of her mother.
One-on-one speech therapy for PID students.

I did not realize that deaf children are usually classified as “handicapped” or “deaf-mute.”  I thought it is an unfair classification because not being able to hear does not mean they cannot make sounds with their voices.  The problem is that they do not know how to make sounds (utter words) because they do not get feedback from anyone regarding their sounds (or speech).  Hence, there is no way to correct themselves.  However, proper speech training and support can address that need. PID’s Speech Therapy seeks to help them do that.

PID was the brainchild of my former classmate and friend, Julie Esguerra-Schaffer. It was her loving tribute to her mother, Sergia Esguerra, who was a well-known deaf educator.  

For the past 33 years, PID has operated a Speech Therapy program seeking to dispel the notion that deafness is a liability.  PID is equipped and staffed by experts who can teach and enable students how to speak.  They believe the hard-of-hearing deserve an equal chance to live, grow, and prosper like everyone else.  Their graduates are living proofs.  

Josh Raymundo, who was born profoundly deaf, opened the virtual musical and introduced himself intelligibly. He was the first and only deaf student who passed the entrance test and interview at the University of Santo Tomas and finished a Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science. He passed the Civil Service Board Exam and is now a licensed Librarian. The Letran University in Laguna hired him immediately. He then took the available opening at the National Library of the Philippines in Manila to be closer to his family.

Another PID alumni, Carlo Paa, is now the manager of Lechon Republic, a restaurant in Singapore. He is an athlete and excels in swimming, cycling, and basketball. He also dabbles in photography.

PID’s, one-on-one Speech Therapy has been highly successful, but not everyone can afford it. To help with the cost, PID produced “Musical Reflections.” Musical stars like Martin Nievera, Lani Misalucha, Jed Madela, Yeng Constantino, Alden Richards, Darren Espanto, and K Brosas volunteered their services for a worthy cause.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime to the students, to be able to perform with musical stars and in front of so many people, including their families who were proud to see them shine on stage. They performed well, with poise and confidence, and the show was received well by the online viewers and public in general. The kids’ tenacity, and bravery in accepting with fortitude their challenges were outstanding.

© The FilAm 2021

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