'Terp': Sign language expert in pres'l debate opens up


MANILA – Netizens may disagree as to who dominated the second round of the Comelec presidential debate last Sunday, but for them, there were other winners that day, including the tireless sign language interpreters.

Sign language interpreter JP Maunes is not new to working for television, but last Sunday's event, due to its national significance, was no simple task for him and two others.

''Back pain overload! Ha ha! We arrived at the venue at around 1pm and stayed there until the program ended. But I am really okay,'' Maunes, who calls himself a ''terp'' (short for interpreter) told Esquire Philippines.

"It was not that stressful because it's not our first time to sign on TV. There were three of us, so we took turns per segment and the other terps were coaching me to ensure that we didn't miss any important information. It was more challenging than stressful—TV interpreting is the Mt. Everest of sign language."

Maunes said he and his fellow interpreters allotted two weeks to prepare for the debate, conducting consultations with members of the deaf community on which gestures are most suitable for conveying certain topics.

"During the debates, I was monitoring the feedback from our deaf viewers via social media and text messages to ensure that we provided the highest quality of interpreting that the deaf community deserves," he said.

Maunes added that working for last Sunday's event was particularly tricky as the candidates were often interrupting each other.

''Obviously, when everyone was spontaneously talking to each other together, I had to keep myself composed and focus on what I could understand,'' he said.

Maunes, founder of the organization Philippine Accessible Deaf Services, is hoping that the Filipino Sign Language Act and the Filipino Sign Language in Broadcast Media Act would soon be passed in Congress.

''We felt it was least prioritized. That’s important, because recognition of Filipino Sign Language as a national language for Deaf Filipinos is the core of the human rights advocacy for the Deaf community,'' he said.

''Without sign language interpreters, the society will be in shut off for every deaf person."