What we ought to know about Filipino Sign Language
[This is the first in a series of INQUIRER.net’s special reports on the Philippine Deaf community and Filipino Sign Language.]
On the International Day of Sign Languages, Sept. 23, we celebrate the Philippines’ national sign language, Filipino Sign Language (FSL).
Documentation of FSL dates back to 1604 in Leyte. Through the centuries, FSL has had outside influences, such as from American Sign Language (ASL). Nonetheless, it is a unique language that emerged from the Filipino Deaf community and is an integral part of its identity.
To learn more about FSL, its origins and about the Deaf community, watch our video report featuring the students, faculty and researchers of the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde:
Equal rights with FSL
FSL has been recognized as the national sign language of the Filipino Deaf through the Filipino Sign Language Act in October 2018. The law mandates that FSL be used in transactions with the Deaf and as the language of instruction for Deaf learners.
Communication remains as the main barrier of the Deaf to accessing equal rights and it hopes to change this with the FSL Act.
“Through this law, accessible communication will be available to us and in turn [it will] open more [opportunities.],” George Lintag, vice president of the Philippine Federation of the Deaf, Inc., told INQUIRER.net. “We will be able to make informed decisions, enjoy life and meaningfully participate in the society on an equal basis with others.”
Despite the passage of this law, the Deaf continue to fight for their rights, especially regarding education and being taught in their mother tongue.
“There is no specific mention nor implementation plan of FSL in the present K to 12 Department of Education Order (D.O. 21, series of 2019) despite the fact that the K-12 Law, Early Years Act, and FSL Act mandates the use of FSL as the medium of instruction for Deaf children,” Lintag lamented.
He stressed, “FSL is the natural language of the Deaf Filipinos and the language that they can understand and identify the most.” JB