99th Baguio Charter Day Anniversary Issue
99 thoughts on Baguio's Centennial
Esther someone else like her?
A tribute to those who care for Baguio
A pasture of hope:
Good Shepherd Convent
Through the barriers of silence & isolation
They're loved because they care
The man called morris
Teacher volunteers:
Pathways to Higher Education
My best teacher
Indigenous women and a cooperative
Two Baguio families are local visionaries
Top 10 reasons why getting a Baguio education is worth it
Conversations with Gaia
Winning Photos
99th Baguio Charter Day Cartoon
by: Arturo Abrena Jr.

It is one of the noisiest rooms in a building along Session Road. There’s the scrape of chairs against the floor, the blaring message tone of cell phones, grunts that pop out from the throats of people who cannot monitor their own voices, the thwacks of hands slapped on the table to attract the attention of someone who is looking the other way, and the hard sounding, uninhibited rumble of deaf laughter.

Something else is different about the people in this room.

Standing in front of the crowded room is a man in his forties, his hands and fingers fluttering in the air. Those who are seated gaze at him with such intensity because if they glance away for a second they are likely to miss half a sentence. The speaker and his listeners do not speak.

Their hands wave, point, and slice through the air in an excited manner as they communicate through a visual-gestural system called the sign language. But Renato Mariano stands out among the rest.

Bobbie, as he is fondly called, is the leader and teacher in the Center of the Deaf located at the third floor of Antipolo Building. Here, deaf people gather every Sunday afternoon for fellowship, to learn emerging signs and idioms of Filipino Sign Language, to plan for projects, and not the least, to listen with their eyes once more to Teacher Bobbie as he makes his own commentary on the day’s Gospel reading.

Beyond isolation

An ear specialist would say that Bobbie is “hearing impaired” or “deaf.”

Bobbie prefers “Deaf” to describe his cultural identity, and he signs the word “deaf” by sticking a thumb on the ear and flapping the hand down like a door. Deafness is a sensory deprivation which denies an individual the vital stimulus of sound and the spoken word. The silent world of the deaf individual — the isolation of a person unable to make free and “normal” contact with hearing people — can be a tremendous barrier to his full participation in life. But Bobbie would have none of the terror and immense social isolation imposed by the absence of hearing. His hands would put it in the word order of sign language, “I, same eagle, powerful, fly high” — a sentence that when translated literally makes strange English but is perfectly grammatical in Filipino or even American Sign Language.

Teacher Bobbie spent his elementary days at Baguio SPED Center, then he was placed in mainstream classes at Baguio City High School. He went through a crash course in special education at SLU in the mid-’90s and computer training at STI. He attends the annual Philippine Catholic Congress on Deafness and attends lectures on Deaf Education. He’s even tapped as a resource speaker and facilitator in sign language seminars in the academe.

A source of inspiration
Indeed, Bobbie has risen above his handicap. Starting as a teacher aide in the school of the Brothers of Charity in 1990, he has metamorphosed into a person whose passion is teaching. When asked what he finds in teaching, Bobbie would answer in the syntax of his language, “I, patient, love, teach, the Deaf.”

Teacher Bobbie is regarded with genuine respect by his colleagues. In fact, because of his native fluency with the language of signs, he understands better the manual communication of deaf children. In addition, he has a realistic grasp and insight into the problems of deafness. He is a source of inspiration to the Deaf, someone they can identify with, and whom they can easily relate to.

As a committed and dedicated teacher, he helps build high-quality care and services for the deaf, not only in school and within the deaf community but also in the mainstream. He has been instrumental in the humane and holistic development of his students by meeting their need to belong and establish a deaf culture, the need to develop Christian values via sign language interpreting in Church, and by involving them in community activities such as the Earth Day Celebration and programs for persons with disabilities.

With Bobbie’s remarkable achievements, he has proven that Helen Keller was wrong when she said that the problems of deafness are deeper and more complex and a much worse misfortune. To Bobbie, he should not be described in terms of his disability or pathology, but as an individual belonging to a linguistic minority.

Yes, Teacher Bobbie has so much to offer to those who grow in silence and isolation. With deaf education and technological development advancing hand in hand, his dreams for the potential of the deaf that would otherwise be bound and gagged in language-less silence are being freed.

Laurent Clerc, the first deaf teacher in America, has this message to all the “Bobbies” of our time:

“Every creature, every work of God, is admirably made. What we find fault in its kind turns out to our advantage. We can only thank Him for the rich diversity of His creation.”

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