At 9 years old, Bryan watched his dad climb trees and get honey from the bees. He thought how brave his father was to face these vicious little creatures that hurt so much when they stung and yet he loved the taste of honey. But the problem was, Bryan didn’t know the words for father, honey, or bees because he was born deaf and had never been to school. Bryan, his father, and four siblings lived in a rotting little thatched hut with no bathroom high in the remote mountains on the island of Bohol where the tiny Tarsier monkey is found in the Philippines. His mother passed away a few years back from cancer. His father’s honey collecting was only occasional work so that his income barely kept the family fed. Actually eating a little rice with only salt once a day was pretty common.
Bryan had figured out that when his father pantomimed a water dipper being poured over his head it meant he wanted him to take a bath or blew into his cupped hands as though they were breathing life into glowing embers it meant he wanted him to gather firewood. They had about 20 homemade signs they had invented but beyond that, he was clueless as to what his father or bothers and sisters were saying or wanted. Sometimes his father would get red in the face and was obviously very angry, but usually he did not understand why. When his father had been drinking too much coconut wine he would sometimes hit him with a stick and he didn’t understand why. He also could see that his dad sure did love those roosters that he would take to fight other roosters once a week.
Each day Bryan’s siblings would go off to school and he longed to go with them. He had tried going a couple of times but could not understand the teacher and the other children at school made fun of him, even throwing stones at him just because he was deaf. Bryan chose the relative safety of his home and to stay and watch the chickens and pig in peace and isolation. Inside, he silently sobbed as he yearned for the loving touch of his mother. He just wanted to be understood, he wanted a place to belong, and he wanted to find his voice.
One day a strange lady came to visit their home in the jungle. She was a teacher of the Deaf at one of IDEA’s supported schools and had heard of a young deaf boy in a remote place that was unschooled. The teacher and the father talked for a long time as she tried to convince him that Bryan could learn to read and write and get a good job some day if only educated. It was a tough sell because the father had never been to school. At first he was hesitant,. . .” Who would take care of the household chores? How could we afford to get him back and forth to school? Was he even capable of learning?” The teacher then promised that IDEA would find an American sponsor who would help with the education expenses so he finally agreed to at least give it a try.
When Bryan and his father first came to see the IDEA sponsored school they saw the other deaf children laughing and playing and talking with their hands. Bryan couldn’t believe his eyes! He didn’t even know there were other children just like him. They were reading and writing, they were communicating with each other. Most of them lived together in a dormitory home building on the school grounds with dorm parents during the week and traveled home on weekends to visit their families. Everything was so strange and new; indoor plumbing, food at every meal, electricity.
What was all this? And so many children living together in one place. It was easy to make friends. The other children quickly accepted him and invited him to play. The dorm mom was so loving and caring. It was nice to have that kind of attention again.
It wasn’t long before Bryan was settled in. He loved his new home, his new friends. On weekends he would travel home to visit. Unfortunately things were not so good at home and his father was still not convinced of the value of Bryan’s schooling. When Monday morning would role around the father would not allow him to return to school. Bryan’s teacher could not accept the waste of this young boys life so again and again she would make the long and difficult journey to talk to the father and bring Bryan back to school. After several years of this and at the young age of 11, Bryan made a very tough decision. He decided that if he wanted the life he dreamed of he was going to stay at the dorm on weekends so he would be assured he would be able to continue his schooling. He loved his dad but he also had a new deaf family that loved him and that understood him. If Bryan continues with his studies and commits to the hard work he has the possibility of a very bright future.