Effective communication is key in every household, yet it is hard to practice this even with our loved ones. This is significantly harder for parents with Deaf family members. The DSWD Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino surveyed that approximately 30,000 households have deaf members (Sintos, 2020). Even if this community comprises a small part of our population, it is essential to give them importance and equal rights, and San Roque National High school exemplifies such. This high school currently has 75 students with disabilities, with hearing disabilities compromising more than half of these learners. To efficiently accommodate the students' needs, the institution adheres to an inclusive education program solely for learners with disabilities, also known as Special needs education (SPED). Further, the school has committed to demonstrating Filipino Sign Language (FSL), providing translations in video lessons, giving importance to math subjects, and hosting FSL training programs for parents. Despite these, parents still have difficulty communicating with their deaf kids due to not being thoroughly accustomed to using and understanding sign language.

With this in mind, a select number of the SPEED’s Publications Pool members interviewed Teacher Nica from San Roque National High School in order to garner more insights on the importance of learning Filipino Sign Language (FSL) and understanding the culture of the deaf community. Throughout the interview, Teacher Nica pointed out specific instances of how the inaccessibility of FSL in the Philippines is detrimental to the relationships these deaf individuals form not only with their families but within society as well.

On communication between parent and child

Human connection is facilitated through language and communication. As such, these allow for self-expression and therefore have the power to nurture the relationships we build with the people around us. In all forms, language fundamentally serves to empower. With this, how can deaf individuals effectively express themselves to the people around them?

In the Philippines, Filipino Sign Language (FSL) is used. The use of sign language in the country can be dated as far back as to the Spanish occupation and was further developed after American Sign Language (ASL) was brought to the Philippines by American Thomasites in 1907 (Mendoza, 2018). As years passed, FSL slowly took its roots and became a complex product of ASL and other forms of signing such as Signing Exact English (SEE). Despite its rich history and cultural context, FSL is still largely inaccessible in the country. Aside from deaf individuals and SPED teachers such as Teacher Nica, only a small percentage of the Filipino population knows how to use FSL (Mendoza, 2018). With this, one of the biggest challenges that deaf individuals face is communicating with their immediate family, especially their parents.

When asked how the parents communicated with their children, Teacher Nica stated that most make their own signs to represent a picture or a word. While she sees this as neither good nor bad, she reminds us that it would be much better if the parents learned how to sign. A deeper and more meaningful connection can be developed within parent-child relationships if the parents know how to communicate freely with their children through FSL. For instance, conflicts are easier resolved when both parent and child are communicating in a language they both understand. As Teacher Nica noted, dealing with conflicts is much trickier especially if the parent cannot use FSL properly. The children often feel misunderstood and invalidated by their parents. With this, most children shared that they prefer being in school because they are surrounded by people who can use and understand FSL.

On inequalities experienced by Deaf individuals in and out of the classroom

Aside from the communication challenges Deaf individuals face, they also often experience inequalities when interacting with people outside their community. Teacher Nica stated that her deaf students are often taken advantage of by hearing and able-bodied individuals. She shared that no matter how much awareness they spread within and outside of San Roque, the farther her students go outside of their area, the more challenges they face. There are instances wherein the children are shouted at by drivers for not hearing their car horns. Some drivers even get out of their cars to confront the student. Aside from this, some students also experience bullying. As a countermeasure, Teacher Nica helps her Deaf students process these events. Usually, she would use a ‘deaf model’—a deaf individual—to mimic a ‘What Would __ Do in this situation?’. Aside from this, they also hold training sessions that simulate these types of instances to help Deaf individuals manage and learn how to stand up for themselves.

Importance of math subjects in developing life skills within deaf individuals

When asked about the importance of math subjects in developing life skills within individuals, Teacher Nica mentioned that it is important that these students are able to learn about money matters, because even we who are able to hear are not taught to save properly or how to open a savings account. According to her, “Most of the students are able to understand, while most have a hard time with simple math skills.” which is why it is important that these skills are strengthened. She gave an instance of when this scenario took place; according to her, one of her students rode a tricycle where the pamasahe was PHP 50. The student gave the driver PHP 100, but he did not give back the change. She said that math skills and reading comprehension are important to be taught to Deaf students because those are the basic subjects that everyone should learn. As an educator, she believes that it is important for these math skills to be taught at an early age because these are lessons that can guide them in the future, as well as their day-to-day encounters with different people.

Perspective as an educator teaching deaf individuals

In regards to how communicating with FSL affected her relationship with her students, she said, “I know how to sign, but sometimes I have a hard time being receptive. But since I know how to sign, I am able to give them support and guidance. Pag nagalit ako, kailangan ko ito i-proseso ito sa kanila para maintindihan nila; may deeper connection. Alam ko yung frustrations, pangarap nila sa buhay, etc. Ito yung gustong sabihin ng mga bata sa kanilang parents but hindi kaya dahil hindi nila maiintindihan.” She adds that it can be a heavy responsibility for her especially because she and her students are almost the same age, but she is able to guide them like a parent should.

A Call to Action

To this day, the Philippines still has a long way to go in regards to providing inclusivity and awareness towards the Deaf community. This is why it's imperative for the government and Filipino people to take concrete and efficient actions that will shine a light on this community in order to raise more awareness and reduce any occurrence of ignorance and harassment. One program Teacher Nica hopes that would be present in the Philippines is the implementation of free elective programs for learning sign language to further bridge the gap between the deaf community and hearing individuals. Considering how these measures are done and given importance abroad, many others, including Teacher Nica, duly hope the Philippines finally takes the same courses of action and garners the urgency to purposefully raise more awareness towards the life, culture, and personal experiences of individuals from the Deaf community. From all this, it's not only the responsibility of the Philippine government to shine a light on this community, but we also must take a stand and use our voice to shine a light on this community and learn and educate others about them because any call to action is already one step closer a more free and inclusive community.


Mendoza, A. (2018, October 29). The sign language unique to Deaf Filipinos. Cnn. https://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/2018/10/29/Filipino-Sign-Language.html?fbcid

Sintos, M. (2020). Psychological Distress of Filipino Deaf: Role of Environmental Vulnerabilities, Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Functional Social Support. Asia-Pacific Social Science Review, 20(3), 1–14.