MANILA, Philippines – With a theme promising allies and members of the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community to #RiseUpTogether, this year’s Metro Manila Pride March had big shoes to fill to provide a safe space to all 25,000 people who attended the event.
During the event, there was a person standing on the left side of the stage, seemingly dancing along to songs and making hand signs with exaggerated expressions. It was the sign language interpreter of Metro Manila Pride, who was there to help everyone, including the deaf community, #RiseUpTogether. (READ: Get the message: Signs that caught our eye during Metro Manila Pride 2018)
For 3 consecutive years now, Metro Manila Pride has been featuring sign language interpreters on stage for pre- and post-march activities. This year’s celebration at the Marikina Sports Center on June 30 had 3 sign language interpreters – all from the Philippine National Association of Sign Language Interpreters (PNAS) – who helped people from different sectors, especially people with disabilities (PWD), have the same immersive experience of Pride as everyone else.
Bayani Generoso Jr, one of the sign language interpreters of Metro Manila Pride 2018, explained, “I just feel that this is an inclusive event and in order for it to be inclusive, [it should] also include the PWD sectors."
Generoso has been interpreting for Metro Manila Pride since it first started including sign language interpreters on stage 3 years ago. He had also interpreted for Vancouver Pride in Canada for the last 5 years.
He first ventured into sign language interpretation when he worked at a bank. He had a deaf coworker who would have a sign language interpreter during meetings.
“I was captivated by this interpreter, and I felt I wanted to do that. So, my deaf coworker who was also my friend, encouraged me to quit my job and go full-time. So I did and now I’m here,” he said.
Sign language interpreters John Baliza and Roni Abat are new faces in this year’s Metro Manila Pride.
Baliza, who’s been interpreting for 18 years now, was supposed to continue his studies in medical school when he decided to drop out and study sign language. “I found [my] calling as a sign language interpreter,” he said.
Abat, meanwhile, has been interpreting for 10 years. As a child of a deaf adult, interpreting became second nature for her family.
For those who are interested to study sign language, Baliza encourages studying it in the mother tongue. “That’s the natural language for deaf people. As interpreters, we are advocating for the usage of Filipino Sign Language [because it is the] mother tongue [of the] Filipino Deaf community. So I would really encourage hearing people to learn sign language, so they could be like allies of the deaf community.”
Get to know the sign language interpreters of Metro Manila Pride 2018 with this video. – Rappler.com