Silence Speaks

Published March 20, 2018, 12:05 AM


By Cecilia S. Angeles


Dennis Rhoneil Balan

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He is special because he talks to his clients through finger signs, gives directions by body language, explains and clarifies everything by facial expressions and sounds from his mouth and lips.  And his clients understand him fully. They follow his instructions to the letter. The result?Picture-perfect shots for them.

Dennis Rhoneil C. Balan, born deaf, is not only a photographer but also a videographer, a dancer, a stage actor, an international and local award winner in arts.  A versatile photographer, he has covered debuts, graduations, pre-nuptials, weddings, portraits, and urban landscapes.  He organized the Teatro Silence Pilipinas (TSP) which performed in eight cities in the United States and six countries in Europe. He was awarded the Most Outstanding Deaf Achiever for Culture and Arts in 2001 and also won a National Gold Medal in photography.  In the same year, he represented the Philippines in the International Abilympics where he won a bronze medal in photography as well as winning a number of local photo contests.

Photography has stirred more his interest when he was often invited to cover some occasions like wedding, birthday, meeting, baptism and other social gatherings. To help him in this expanding activity, he employed friends and fellows in his group with the same speech or hearing impairment.  Clients kept coming, so he added video services.  Now he enjoys photography, he equally enjoys it also as a lucrative source of income.

Dennis was also a participant in the FPPF photography workshop and he is now reaping the fruits of what he has learned from the seminars. He even recalled Vic Sison’s interesting tips in shooting portraits.  “In 2007, I was among the five persons with disabilities (PWDs) recipients of the Go Negosyo’s Most Outstanding Entrepreneurs Award,” he claimed with pride.  “Being deaf and mute, I focused on photography which not only gave me a means of living but also gave me an opportunity to improve my passion.  I found my niche in the world which is both financially and intellectually rewarding.”

Despite being deaf and mute and lacking formal studies in photography courses offered in universities, he has found photography a worthwhile activity and a good source of income. He has been a commercial photographer for almost 15 years already despite his physical handicaps.  His passion and commitment to photography made him win outstanding awards in photography but more importantly opened for him opportunities to work as the official photographer of big commercial companies, many of these are also owned by businessmen with physical impairment.  He even conducted a successful wedding photography workshop among his colleagues with similar disabilities through the Visual Gestural Communication. He was creative enough to require the participants to apply their learning in compositions that display intuitive and innovative styles.

He looks as healthy, as happy, and as physically normal as any photographer who aims his camera anytime and anywhere he spots a good subject. He displays a happy or pouting face when he peeps at his captured images.  But Dennis is different. You can’t hear him.  He can’t speak.  But you can understand what he says with the motion of his fingers, movements of his lips, expressions of his face. Yes, he is deaf and mute, but you will be happy looking at his pictures as they speak and convey genuine emotions coming from the heart.