SignWriting in the Philippines

Marian and Nana Dumitra are missionaries with Torchbearers Austria*. Marian is a CODA (child of Deaf Adult) from Romania (Europe), and Nana is trained as a teacher/dorm parent for the Deaf.

The Dumitras moved to the Philippines in May 2001 to work with DMI (Deaf Ministries International). DMI has a school for the Deaf with dormitory, farm and hearing clinic in Ligao (near Legaspi in the Bicol region). DMI wanted to start a new Church Ministry Department and had called the Dumitras to do that.

After three years in country Marian was called to become church coordinator for DMI in the Bicol region. There are four small churches for the Deaf. Marian’s main goal is to train and encourage the leaders and to enable them to reach out to other deaf. He is leading church services, bible study groups and training sessions for the leaders; he is also teaching college level sign language classes for hearing students.

Filipino Sign Language (FSL) has a very strong influence from American Sign Language (ASL), some Deaf even go as far as saying that only ASL is true sign language and FSL is just some kind of home gestures. Also there is a strong influence of Signing Exact English (SEE) which is used in most of the schools for the Deaf in this country.

Research conducted by Liza B. Martinez, Ph.D., a hearing Filipina who trained in sign language linguistics at Gallaudet University in Washington, D. C., Philippine Deaf Resource Center** and Philippine Federation for the Deaf*** showed that there is a true Filipino Sign Language.

Especially during bible studies and leaders training it soon became apparent to Marian and Nana that the deaf could not understand the Bibles that were available (easy English), so the Dumitras began translating Bible verses.

The next problem they encountered was, that many of the Deaf in the provinces are not able to read English or translate signs into English words. So the question was how to write the translated verses.

Then the Dumitras heard about Steve and Dianne Parkhurst’s work in Spain; see SignWriting in Spain.

Within a few weeks they started working on a dictionary for FSL using SignWriter DOS 4.4 This dictionary now contains about 440 entries which over the next few months need to be transferred to SignPuddle.

When the Dumitras started to translate more of the Bible, they soon realized that they needed help. This they found with SIL/Wycliff Bibletranslators in the Philippines. The translation is being done in collaboration with SIL, Mrs. Hope Hurlbutt is the translation consultant. The plan is to do the Bible translation (Bible parts) using SignWriting.

Right now the Dumitras are working on the dictionary, teaching Sign Language Classes for hearing students, training some deaf to read and write SignWriting. They also started to adapt the SW Lessons by the Parkhursts to fit into the Filippino context.

Even though all this is only part of their ministry to the Deaf, it nevertheless is a lot of work. They are still praying for additional workers both deaf and hearing.

For more information please contact:
* Marian & Nana Dumitra, P. O. Box 81, 4500 Legaspi City, Albay, Philippines,

** Philippine Deaf Resource Center, Inc., 27 K-7 Street, West Kamias, Quezon City 1102, Philippines, Phone: (632) 9218521

*** Philippine Federation for the Deaf, 31-B San Jose Street, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City, Philippines, Phone: (632) 4485927

For more information, contact:

Marian & Nana Dumitra

P. O. Box 81,
4500 Legaspi City,
Albay, Philippines



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