The Palawan Deaf Culture Center (DCC), which is funded by the Korean government, gives free job training to people who are hard of hearing.
DCC Director In Young Roh noted that training opportunities for the hearing impaired are needed to help them become more productive members of society.
“Dito sa Philippines, alam naman natin sa government when it comes sa support sa persons with disability, wala. Na-notice namin ‘yong buhay ng mga persons with disabilities, especially sa mga deaf, kulang sila sa mga training. Dahil walang training, walang opportunity (In the Philippines, we are aware that there is no government help provided for people with disabilities. We have observed that people with disabilities, especially deaf people, lack training. There are no opportunities because of the absence of training),” she said.
The vocational training, which started in June, was supported by the Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute (KODDI).
The DCC started to offer the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) for both hearing and deaf individuals to bridge the gap in communication with a corresponding certificate after the training. The center noticed that Filipino interpreters do not possess certificates nor licenses in FSL, unlike other countries with schools for sign language interpretation.
In partnership with the Puerto Princesa School of Science and Technology (PPSST), the deaf students were then taught how to make coffee and cook to improve their skills.
“For the deaf, sign language is important. So, for example, ang learning nila not only sa spoken language at saka sa written language sa English. Kung ma-notice natin, very poor talaga ang vocabulary nila so ‘yon ang purpose ng training. Also, for the hearing naman ay pag-bridge ng communication, both hearing and deaf (For the deaf, sign language is important. For example, their learning in English-spoken and written language is poor. If we notice, their vocabulary is poor, which is the target of the training. It is also to bridge communication for both the hearing and the deaf),” she said.
After the skills training, students will undergo a 1-month on-the-job (OJT) training program for skills enhancement. The DCC targets producing skilled workers for cafés and restaurants in Palawan. So far, it has already trained some 20 students in June.
“Sa buhay talaga ng mga bingi, gusto rin namin ipakita na the deaf can. Hindi kami nali-limit because of our disability and we can stand on our own. And also sa family din na maging aware din sila na ang mga bingi they can. They can contribute din sa society (In the lives of deaf people, we also want to show that we are capable. We are not limited by our disability and we can stand on our own. Also to make the family aware that deaf people are also capable and that they can contribute to society),” she emphasized.
Even though they can’t hear, deaf people have a strong sense of sight and are sensitive to movements.
“Ang senses namin ay very strong kahit ‘yong panlasa namin ay malakas din, isa ‘yon sa strengths namin, (Our senses are very strong, even our tastes are strong, that is one of our strengths),” she said.
“Sa deaf naman, ang mata namin mabilis, mabilis kami maka-notice. For barista and cookery, I think ‘yon ang mga strength na maibibigay namin. Sabi nila magiging challenge ang communication that’s why ito ‘yong nag-udyok sa amin to promote Filipino Sign Language para rin sa communication. To be aware na may mga bingi rin sa community natin, (To the deaf, our eyes can easily notice things. For baristas and cooks, I think that is one of the strengths we can provide. They say that communication will be a challenge, which is why we are being pushed to promote Filipino Sign Language. For them to be aware that there are also deaf people in our community),” Ju Won Chung said.
Due to the face-to-face setup, the class schedule has been moved to a late afternoon schedule to give students time for their classes in school. As additional help to students, the DCC also sends the students to their houses after classes.
The program aims to reach about 500 deaf individuals in Palawan by the end of the year. Putting a deaf cultural center in Korea was In’s dream, but she pursued this dream in the Philippines after moving to Palawan in 2019.
Her professional experiences are rooted in her advocacy for empowering deaf individuals. In 2012, she started a business with a Korean government agency, Korea Employment Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and also entered the Graduate School of Social Welfare at Ewha Womans University in 2018.
The DCC aims to establish its cafés and also bring free training to other towns in Palawan. Another vocational training to be included by the center is massage training for hotels, catering to the demands coming from tourist arrivals in Palawan.
Meanwhile, there will be Koreans visiting Palawan to attend the three-day youth camp with the local deaf community from September 6 to 8 at the City Coliseum.