Posts Tagged ‘filipino sign language’

pop goes the world: son of a breach

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today18 August 2011, Thursday

Son of a Breach

Artist Mideo Cruz’s decision to affix a wooden phallus on the image of Jesus Christ as part of the deliberately provocative imagery in his “Politeismo” has led to an entire nation’s revisiting of its cultural notions of religion, art, politics, and the separation of church and state.

The discourse on the topic has become voluminous and will inspire many future theses and dissertations. Fresh insights into the issue may still be gleaned, especially when the artwork in question is compared cross-culturally to other art or media works.

Consider this: Mideo’s “Politeismo” may be seen as a “breaching experiment”. In that sense, it parallels the work of comedians John Safran and Sasha Baron-Cohen that deliberately seek to disturb, distress, and overthrow popular conceptions of what is normal and what is not.

In social psychology, a breaching experiment “seeks to examine people’s reactions to violations of commonly accepted social rules or norms.” It is often a class assignment in sociology and anthropology classes. A professor of mine at the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Mass Communication is wont to post Facebook statuses that provoke reactions, which he then studies. For instance, he once changed his relationship status to “single”. We all know that he has been happily married for several decades. His post unleashed a torrent of comments which he proceeded to dissect afterwards using the appropriate communication theories. I believe he had a good chuckle over that.

Safran questions the boundaries of religion and race. In a now-famous skit, he knocked on the doors of Mormon believers in Salt Lake City, introducing himself as an atheist “missionary”. An elderly man tells him crossly, “I’m a bishop in the LDS church.” Undaunted, Safran asks, “Have you considered atheism?” The look on the man’s face is priceless. Then there was the time he applied for membership in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, conveniently omitting to tell the KKK Grand Dragon that he was half-Jewish. The resulting exchange when he is found out is a valuable glimpse into the nature of discriminatory organizations.

Sasha Baron-Cohen, operating some years later in the same vein, took the shock attack to a different level with his heavily sexualized “Borat” and “Bruno” film characters. With “Bruno’s” naked penis given close-ups on wide-screen, the viewer is forced to face his/her own attitudes to the public depiction of sex in a non-pornographic context.

“Politeismo” breached prevailing cultural norms on what art is and how religion should be treated in art. It is a violation of norms that shakes up our definitions and expectations of behavior. Religious sentiment is so deeply embedded in Filipino culture that this particular artwork generated intense emotion not often manifested for other matters. This is the reason the controversy is still in the news. As far as “scandals” in this country go, it’s long-lived.

Would a continued breaching of these norms lead to a change in the way we define “normal”, “sacrilege”, and “art”?

Is this what our society is afraid of – the possibility, even the inevitability, of change?

Final takeaway? If you don’t like it, ignore. Says mandala artist Stephanie Smith, “It is always your choice how you spend your energy.”

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University of the Philippines College of Arts & Letters professor Joey Baquiran is reminding the public of the UMPIL (Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas) activities later this month.

In addition to the reading on 25-26 August of papers by various scholars on Rizal’s works (mentioned in my July 14 column) at UP-CAL’s Claro M. Recto Hall, the UMPIL members’ convention on August 27 will feature the Panayam Adrian Cristobal (public intellectual lecture series), a booklaunch, literary forum, and the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas awarding rite which honors “Filipino writers who have produced outstanding works and have dedicated their lives and talents to the development, propagation, and promotion of Philippine literature.”

The first lecturer of the Adrian E. Cristobal Lecture series was poet Gemino Abad. The 2011 lecturer is National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario. His book Rizal: Makata (Anvil Publishing, 2011) will be launched after the lecture.

The Writers Forum topic is “Social Realism and the Writing of the Contemporary Filipino Novel” featuring fictionists Mario I. Miclat (author of The Secret of the Eighteen Mansions), Genevieve Asenjo (Lumbay ng Dila), and Edgar Samar (Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog).

The 2011 Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas awardees are Herminio Beltran (Poetry in Filipino), Fanny A. Garcia (Fiction in Filipino), Elmer A. Ordoñez (Essay in English), Crisostomo Ilustre (Fiction in Iluko), Maria Luisa S. Defante-Gibraltar (Fiction in Hiligaynon), and Sze Manchi (Poetry in Chinese). Paz Verdades M. Santos will receive the Gawad Paz Marquez for Outstanding Educator in the field of literature and The Varsitarian of the University of Santo Tomas the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg.

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Perpi Tiongson wrote in response to my July 7 column on Mirana Medina’s Rizal films in Filipino Sign Language: “…FSL does not have its roots in American Sign Language or Signing Exact English, but dates all the way back to the 17th century…Archival documents dating to 1604 relate how Spanish Jesuit priest Raymundo del Prado used signs in the catechism and baptism of Deaf men in Dulac, Leyte. This is the earliest record of signs being used in the Philippines, although signs may have existed long before this.

“ASL came to the Philippines only in the first decade of the 1900s (more than 300 years later) during the American colonization, and heightened its influence on FSL in the 1960s with the coming of Peace Corps Volunteers…Thank you for the time and I hope you can extend courtesy to the Deaf community by correcting this misinformation.”  ***

“Politeismo” closeup from the artist’s public Facebook page. John Safran image here. Sasha Baron-Cohen, as himself (left) and as “Bruno” (right), here. Prof. Baquiran’s photo from his Facebook page. Dean Miclat here.

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pop goes the world: rizal films in filipino sign language

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 7 July 2011, Thursday

Rizal Films in Filipino Sign Language

Did you know that films are being made in Filipino Sign Language (FSL)?

The development of FSL has its roots in American Sign Language and Signing Exact English. Among the filmmakers who have used FSL in their works is Mirana Medina, who advocates for autism and deafness causes. She studied FSL at the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.

I “met” her via my column about Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary last month, after she had emailed me her comments. Her interest in Rizal stems from her having been the researcher and film editor of “Rizal sa Dapitan”, a film produced more than ten years ago. Combining this interest and her advocacies, she produced a Rizal-themed film in FSL – “Mi Ultimo Adios”, which was launched last June 21 at DLS-CSB.

Mirana says: “Mi Ultimo Adios” in FSL is the first real translation or interpretation of Rizal’s poems in FSL. It wasn’t a literal interpretation at all. It was poetic in treatment. [University of the Philippines professor and poet] Vim [Nadera] helped us out [with that].

“I know deaf people who are capable of expressing themselves beyond the “usual” signing, [so] I made it a point that sessions between a hearing poet – Vim – and my deaf FSL consultant Raphy Domingo were arranged. We were lucky that Dr. Marie Therese Bustos of UP Special Education Area [an authority on FSL] helped us…the time we met to hold a deaf audition, she was there to interpret.”

To view the film trailer, search for “Mi Ultimo Adios in FSL” on

Mirana plans to produce four other Rizal-themed films in FSL – she says these are “”La Juventud Filipina”, which has already been shot but needs additional images; “A Las Flores de Heidelberg”; “Canto de Maria Clara”; and the [other] one will [be called] either “ Mi Primera Inspiracion” or “Mi Piden Versos”.”

July being National Disability Month, arrangements are being made to screen “Mi UItimo Adios” in Mandaluyong City on the 22nd. On the 16th, her film on autism – “Alyana” – will be shown at the Benitez Theater in UP-Diliman.

Mirana is now busy editing the film “Asiong Salonga”, directed by Tikoy Aguiluz.

To learn more about Mirana and her advocacies, visit her blog at

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Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, in the English translation by Harold Augenbraum and published by Penguin Classics, are now available at Fully Booked. I picked up what the salesclerks told me was the last copy of the Noli last weekend, but there are still many copies of the Fili left.

The books are also available in a Kindle edition at for $11.99 each. No affiliation with either merchant, I just wanted to let fellow Rizal-philes know about this particular translation.

The only other English translation I’ve read is Leon Maria Guerrero’s, which is fantastic, and iconic to generations of students. I’ve read several chapters of the Augenbraum, and so far I’m happy.

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I received several questions in response to my column last week on e-book publishing. Here’s more on the matter from Flipside Digital Content chief executive officer Anthony de Luna, on the origins and services of Flipside:

“Incessant prodding from authors in the academic and trade publishing communities made us decide early in the year to remove local barriers to the newly-paved e-book avenue that leads to international distribution and readership. Having serviced only foreign clients as a business process outsourcing company specializing in the publishing vertical in our 12 years of operations in various configurations, Flipside reluctantly offered e-publishing on the digital rights management-secure and economically viable platforms of Amazon Kindle, iBooks (iPad), and Barnes & Noble Nook to local authors and publishers.

“Flipside’s goals going in were first, to educate, and second, to enable those who would like to take advantage of technology’s contribution to solving the insurmountable international distribution challenge for Filipino content. It was a pleasant surprise to find a few local companies that already had their feet wet in e-ink–Vee Press of Vibal Foundation for general publishing, Bronze Age Media for comic books, and Salt & Light Ventures for the Christian publishing community.“

Can authors publish DRM-secure books on their own?

“Yes,” says Anthony, “Amazon has Kindle Direct Publishing, Apple has iTunes Connect, and B&N has PubIt! Whether you are an author with one essay or a publisher with a 2,000-title backlist, stop reading now, leave Facebook for a few minutes and sign up with them.”

Do you approach publishers or authors?

“We approach publishers first in an effort to achieve the information waterfall-and-echo effect. We let them know that they can expand distribution and increase revenue from their frontlist (active titles), and bring their backlist (out of print, out of distribution titles) back from the revenue grave without cost.

“We approach individual authors of note, as part of our goal to educate, to generate interest from and stimulate fact-finding by the publisher and author communities at large. In addition, we also reach out to deserving self-published and unpublished authors. Unsolicited submissions are subject to review for editorial quality and international commercial or academic value.”

Anthony answers other questions on the “Flipside Digital Content” Page on Facebook, which you can visit to find out more.

E-books are the present and the future of book publishing. Through this channel, Jose Rizal’s works from the late 1800s are made accessible to a new generation of Filipinos and to the rest of the world. This should give encouragement to local authors who have despaired of getting published the traditional, ink-and-paper, way. ***

Image of Mirana Medina here. Slide of Mi Ultimo Adios here

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