We’re celebrating National Children’s Book Day on July 21 (annually, the 3rd Tuesday of July) to commemorate the publication of Jose Rizal’s “The Monkey and the Turtle” on Trubner’s Oriental Record in London.
Every year, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) spearheads this celebration, and there’s lots to look forward to this year, starting with this blog tour.
This week’s theme is:
Hulyo 7 – 13: Paboritong Aklat
Ano ang paborito mong aklat pambata at pangkabataan? (Kailangang isinulat o iginuhit ito ng isang Pilipino. Maaari namang maglista nang higit sa isa pa.)
I have always have a hard time choosing favorites from the current selection of Filipino children’s books, so let me talk about my Filipino childhood favorites, instead.
Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there weren’t as many Filipino titles for young readers as there are right now, but I was privileged to have grown up in a house of readers (we often got books instead of toys), and to have attended schools that put a lot of stock into reading.
First on my lineup are two books that are still in print, both by the late great Rene O. Villanueva, one of the pioneers in children’s book writing in the Philippines.
I remember watching “Ang Pamilya Ismid” (co-written by Villanueva with Ramoncito Serrano) on the TV show, “Batibot” — there was a segment where they would read a story aloud while panning through pictures from the book — and after the show I was begging my mom for a copy of the book.
It’s a story about two pig families from neighboring houses, one rich and one poor. The rich family is “Pamilya Ismid,” because they were total snobs, begrudging their poor neighbors even the smell of their sumptuous food. “Pamilya Ismid” gets its comeuppance when robbers break into their home and make off with all their possessions, and the neighbors quite kindly help them out.
“Emang Engkantada at ang Tatlong Haragan” features three young hooligans, Pat Kalat, Pol Putol and Paz Waldas, who get a lesson in taking care of the environment. This was one of the most beat up copies on my childhood bookshelf, because my brother and our playmates always liked role-playing the story, taking turns playing the destructive kids and the powerful fairy.
(Some years ago, Ang INK made life-sized rubber foam sculptures of beloved Filipino children’s book characters, and guess who I worked on — Emang Engkantada! I’m still trying to locate a picture; I’ll update this post once I find one. )
Rene O. Villanueva made a huge contribution to the children’s book industry we have today, and I was glad for the opportunity to illustrate one of his books many years ago, and participate in a tribute exhibit in his name.
The next book on the list is “The Amazing History of Elang Uling” by Nick Joaquin, which I discovered in our Grade School library.
I was a mainstay at the library, because even though I had half-day class my parents soon gave up on fetching me on time — I was always disappearing for hours in the library (mainly sneaking into the older kids’ sections because I soon grew bored with the primary section of the library)! So I ended up reading to my heart’s content at the library while waiting for my older sisters to get dismissed from class and we could all go home together.
Elang Uling is a Filipino Cinderella story that came in an oversized book with lovely illustrations. It was in the Room-Use only section of the library and I read it every so often through the years. It’s out of print, and I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere, but I’ve never given up on the dream of owning a copy of this book (Book fairies, pretty please?).
The final book on the list is a book called Juan and the Asuangs by Jose Aruego, who, when I was in third grade, actually came to visit our school and taught us to draw — I think this was when I made up my mind to illustrate children’s books someday, and I was quite affected when I learned of his passing some years back.
The book, first read aloud to us on the occasion of Mr. Aruego’s visit, was published in the US, and is a wonderful adventure of a boy named Juan, who makes his way through a forest and encounters creatures of Philippine lower mythology — tianak, kapre, manananggal and more!
Over the years I’ve gradually built up my Jose Aruego collection — I have at least eight of his books already — but alas, no luck with this one! I do hope I at least get to read this again someday.
This blog tour will continue for the rest of the month on this blog in celebration of NCBD2015.
I’m also taking part in two other events for NCBD, the Philippine Children’s Book Summit and the Children’s Book Fair — will post more details soon!