7 Filipino Children’s Books I Want for My Child’s Library

What are your favorite children’s books?

Hi, friend! Welcome and welcome back to the blog.

From stories of kapres, engkantos, and nuno sa punso to make us unruly Pinoy kids behave, to fables that instill lifelong values, to short stories, novels, and film scripts that help us face or escape our daily realities, no one can deny the power of stories and storytelling in shaping the minds and lives of people. Societies, too, grow from stories, passed on from generation to generation, and these stories shape myths and legends that define us as a people, as a nation.

I am a staunch believer in the power of stories.

In this blog, I share some of the storybooks that I want to read to my child when she is at the right age and can understand and appreciate them.


AKO AY MAY KIKI (I Have a Vagina) written by Glenda Otis and illustrated by Beth Parrocha, is a two-part children’s book that tackle genital cleanliness and body autonomy. Filipinos do not openly talk about private parts, at least with a straight face; we love to make jokes instead. Who would expect that these will appear in fiction, let alone illustrated children’s books?


AKO AY MAY TITI (I Have a Penis) (Lampara), written by Genaro Gojo-Cruz and illustrated by Beth Parrocha, came before Ako ay May Kiki and presents genital care for boys.

As a feminist parent, I feel quite capable of talking about these to my daughter without malice. But as a school librarian, I know the power books hold on children. Once they see something on print, they will know that it is important.


PAPA’S HOUSE, MAMA’S HOUSE (Adarna House) by Jean Lee C. Patindol (writer) and Mark Salvatus (illustrator) tells the story of a broken family, and how being in a broken family does not always mean children are loved less.

My husband and I have been married for only two years, and as Roman Catholics do not see ourselves separating anytime soon. (Who knows what will happen in the future? Haha.) But once our little one grows and gets exposed in the real world, she will find family set ups that are different from ours, and she will know that she has to understand and respect that.


ISANG HARDING PAPEL (Adarna), written by Augie Rivera and illustrated by Rommel Joson, tells the story of a child whose mother was a political detainee during the years of dictatorship. The book is filled with flowers and play it is actually gut-wretching. Isang Harding Papel is part of the #NeverAgain bundle put on sale by the publishing house that ended up in red-tagging by sitting government officials last May.

My husband and I were not born yet during the Martial Law years and did not experience the documented horrors and atrocities of the period. But we know that it does not mean none of those happened. We want our child to develop empathy for people who suffered from human rights violations.


DALAWA ANG DADDY NI BILLY (Billy has Two Daddies) (Tahanan) by Michael P. De Guzman (writer) and Daniel Palma Tayona (illustrator) took a decade to be published. It shows a boy with gay fathers and the ostratization their family experiences from the people who they expected to be respectful.

Homosexuality is normal, and families that are not composed of a mother, a father, and a child are normal. I want Sprout to know that we are not judging others’ sexuality. More importantly, if someday it turns out one of us has a different sexual orientation, we as family will support them.


KUNG DALAWA KAMI (If There were Two of Us) (Adarna) by Lamberto Antonio (writer) and Salvador Gernale (illustrator) is exactly the book that made me a “bad” Catholic for supporting the many different facets of reproductive health. It is about a first-born child who remnisces the more affluent time before their parents had so many children.

I know that there will be people who will ask Sprout why she is an only child, and I want her to understand the answer from my perspective.


ANG BONGGANG-BONGGANG BATANG BEKI (The Fierce and Fabulous Boy in Pink) is a story by Rhandee Garlitos and illustrated by Tokwa Salazar. It could be the first children’s story to introduce an effeminate character, and questions why we have to assign roles and characteristics in terms of gender instead of allowing people to be who they want.

I want our child to know that in our home, she is free to be who she is and enjoy the things she wants.

My Sprout is 10 months old, and she is only interested on books to chew on. I’m definitely excited for her to be at an age when we can read these stories together, but for now, I will start building a home library that will help me raise a feminist.

13 Quotes for Working Moms

One place suits one person, another place suits another person.

(Beatrix Potter, 1918)

Hi, friend! Welcome and welcome back to the blog.

I really love how The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, Beatrix Potter’s adaptation of Aesop’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, ended. Instead of judging that one way to live is the better choice, the characters realize that they simply have different tastes, and their tastes are equally valid.

The same goes for moms. Whether someone is a stay-at-home mom or a working mom does not make one a better or worse parent. Neither has it easier, especially in a society that will judge you no matter your choice. In the end, we have reasons for choosing how we live, and we have to stop comparing ourselves to other moms.

In this first blog, I have compiled 13 of the most beautiful and inspiring quotes about, by, and for working moms. You can pick the one that resonates most with you and make that your personal reminder that, dear working mom, you are doing a great job.


CATHERINE REITMAN

“We should go after our dreams and not be apologetic about it, but it’s scary. Whether you want to work or not, you have to do what makes you a fuller person. You have to love yourself.”


SHONDA RHIMES

“If I’m pursuing my goals, my kids are seeing me at my best. I am filled up, I am happy, I am not feeling empty, depleted, and therefore resentful about the fact that I’m missing out. I don’t want them to feel like I’ve sacrificed, I don’t want them to feel that burden. I always remember that a happy working woman is a happy mother.”


CANDANCE ALNAJI

“You are not a bad mom because you go to work each day. Similarly, you are not a failure because you left your career altogether. Choices regarding work and family are personal – there is no one-size fits all method. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.”


SHARON MEERS AND JOANNA STROBER

“A happy mother is a good mother, and if work makes you hum, your whole family sings along.”


SERENA WILLIAMS

“Knowing I’ve got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don’t have to play another match. I don’t need the money or the titles or the prestige. I want them, but I don’t need them. That’s a different feeling for me.”


KATIE COURIC

“Get rid of the guilt….When you’re at one place, don’t feel bad that you’re not at work; when you’re at work, don’t feel bad that you’re not at home.”


MICHELLE OBAMA

“For me, being a mother made me a better professional, because coming home every night to my girls reminded me what I was working for. And being a professional made me a better mother, because by pursuing my dreams, I was modeling for my girls how to pursue their dreams.”


HODA KOTB

“I want her to know something that I feel is important. I love work. I love her and I love work, and I want her to know work’s a good thing. It’s not something you’re dragged off to.”


TORY BURCH

“As a working mother, I know that women can be both professionally ambitious and deeply committed to their families.”


ALLISON PEARSON

“It’s not wrong to be passionate about your career. When you love what you do, you bring that stimulation back to your family.”


MARY MCCORMACK

“I think it’s good for moms to work. I have three daughters, so I like them to see me working and doing something I’m passionate about.”


ANNABEL CRABB

“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”


KERRI WALSH JENNINGS

“The balancing act of motherhood and a career, and being a wife, is something that I don’t think I’ll ever perfect, but I love the challenge of it.”

xXx

One place suits one person, another place suits another person. For my part, I prefer to stay at home. But we will not survive on my husband’s current income, and so I am a working mom.

-End-

5 Completely FREE Ways to Celebrate Children’s Book Month

Hi, friend! Welcome to the blog.

And just like that, half of 2022 has passed. It’s July 1 and with it comes… National Children’s Book Month!

For the whole month, we are celebrating the timeless stories that shaped our young minds and, thus, played a huge role in moulding us into the adults, and more importantly, the society, that we are.

Our Sprout is only ten months old, and still has no interest in books (except to tear and bite off the pages). I hope that when she grows up, all my reading will pay off and she ends up loving books as much as I do.

For that to happen, she should be surrounded with lots of good books. That is not a problem for me as a school librarian: I literally work in the midst of storybooks.

But then I know that for some families, books are a luxury. There are more basic needs – food and shelter – to be addressed with their hard-earned money. After all, no one will buy a book before buying bread, right? Erm… right?

I hope that other children can also have the opportunity to grow up listening to and reading stories that nurture their imagination and enable them to see a bigger world. This is the purpose of children’s books, and this is the power and influence that we are celebrating this month.

In this blog, I list five COMPLETELY FREE ways to celebrate National Children’s Book Month.

1. VISIT YOUR PUBLIC LIBRARY

Philippine public libraries are FULL of children’s books. They also hold storytelling sessions for kids. I am sure that children’s librarians will be really active in their outreach activities this month, so better maximize that. Public libraries are totally free for everyone.

2. CHECK OUT E-BOOKS.

Stories that do not have exclusive intellectual copyright belong to the public domain and may be read free of charge. Also, the Department of Education* has published various teacher-made storybooks on Globe E-Library and LRMDS portal. You may ask the help of your public school teachers to access them. (Look for “Si Kasanag at ang Huling Bakunawa” and thank me later!) DepEd storybooks are also available in the YouTube channel of BLR-LRMS.

3. CREATE TIKTOKS ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND MENTION THEIR AUTHORS/ILLUSTRATORS

In my line of work in resource development, I have learned to appreciate the hard work and passion that authors and illustrators put in their works. They deserve so much appreciation and love. After all, without them, we will have no storybooks to read. If you’re lucky, the creator/s of your favorite book, or their living relatives might notice your TikTok.

4. ASK YOUR ELDERS TO TELL YOU STORIES FROM THEIR CHILDHOOD

Some of us may remember pleading our grandparents to tell us the same stories over and over again when we were children. You may want to revisit those stories and see them with brand new eyes.

5. WRITE YOUR OWN STORY

Finally, and most importantly, write your own children’s story. The world will never run out of stories as well as audiences for these because, as Yuval Noah Harari said, “Humans think in stories, and we try to make sense of the world by telling stories.” Who knows? Maybe yours will be one of those children’s books sold in book stores and read in libraries!

How about you? Do you have other ideas on how you can participate in celebrating children’s books in your home or school?

Happy National Children’s Book Month and may the odds be ever in your favor.

-End-

Bella Mackie: How to Kill Your Family (2021)

I used to think I was not like other girls because I prefer crime over romance. A study by Vicary and Fraley (2010), however, revealed that more women consume true crime books than men. I have not read the full journal article – I do not like or have spare moolah to pay right now – but it turns out I am exactly like other girls.

Whether it is to learn survival skills or in lieu of acting out revenge fantasies against the patriarchy – lol, not lol – my consumption of the true crime genre has stood the test of time. I remember being a 90s child glued to the likes of Kapag may Katwiran, Ipaglaban Mo! and Calvento Files, on free Philippine television. Sometimes, I wonder if I made the wrong decision to pursue the librarianship profession when deep in my guts I know that I want to be surrounded by blood.

Do I sound like a lunatic? Well, I would like to think I am not made to be a criminal. All my love for true crime stems from my strong sense of justice. Again, lol, not lol. In all my fantasies, I have always been the detective.

Maybe this is why I cannot empathize with the villain protagonist and narrator of Bella Mackie’s How to Kill Your Family. For me, murder is murder, regardless of who you eliminate.

The story is written through the eyes of Grace Bernard, a working class young woman whose life was screwed by the patriarchy from conception. It is a book (or is it a diary?) written during her incarceration for a murder she did not commit.

Grace lives for one purpose: to annihilate the entire family of the father who abandoned her before she was born. She orchestrates a series of ridiculous events – which, to be honest, are so unrealistic and largely dependent on luck (Grace is very lucky) and white/pretty/thin privilege – that would lead to the death of her grandparents, cousin, uncle, stepmom, stepsister, and eventually, her father. She also plans to make a claim of the family fortune and live happily ever after with a dog.

Now, I found her motivation shallow. It is just not unique. She and the Artemises were not a family. They did not have any relationship. Most of them did not have anything to do with her; they were just being themselves – entitled, out of touch, ultra-rich. I think she just needed an excuse for her need to kill.

As a character, Grace is extremely unlikable. First and foremost, she is a murderer. Then, she is a narcissist. She is judgmental and mean. She berates others and thinks she is better than everyone. She exploits people’s weaknesses and kindness. She is self-absorbed. She is a “pick-me”. She seems incapable of emotions. She is quite possibly a psychopath and in this case, could be genetic. I mean, most of us have had hard lives, but most of us do not become serial killers. It is hard to like someone who likes nothing in the world.

But her unlikability is quite possibly intentional. She is, after all, a serial killer. We, readers, are not supposed to sympathize with her. Normally in fiction, main characters have some sort of a redemption arc. Not Grace. Until the end she remains a horrible person, to the point that you think she deserves what she got – no matter how disappointing and anticlimactic in turns out.

And SPOILER ALERT, it is disappointing and anticlimactic. The whole novel is already hard to read, since our villain protagonist rambles a lot. But the last few chapters were just, I don’t know, meh. I’m probably the minority here but I liked the meh-ness of the ending. I liked it just because Grace lost and because she can’t get away with it. (I can be mean like that.) In a twisted way, that is still justice.

Of course, I allowed myself to feel a bit of sympathy for her. It is just unfair that she was the one who worked hard, only for the final act to be stolen from her. It is like toiling over a birthday cake and then you went out to change, only to come back to see your office mate singing the Happy Birthday and lighting the candle for the boss. But then Grace is possibly a psychopath so I think she kind of deserves it.

One thing positive is that the book could well be a textbook for social justice warriors. You need reasons to eat the rich? Read the book. You need to justify why you need to fvck the patriarchy? Read the book. You need to keep the flames of your anger burning? Read the book. You need reasons to make fun of influencers? Read the book. It talks about social problems. It even goes as far as recommend a list of feminist and social justice readings (which I will unfortunately have to buy because our local libraries suck).

By the way, the cover is nice. On the outside, it is pink and pretty. On the inside, it is madness and chaos. Like Grace. Like all of us, really.

Yoko Ogawa: The Memory Police (2019)

It wasn’t even darkness. There was nothing, nothing at all, no air or noise or gravity – not even me to experience them. Just overwhelming nothingness.

I finally got to write about The Memory Police. I had finished reading a couple of weeks ago but I cannot muster up the courage to write. I can’t out of fear. Out of sadness. It is not just about the book but what it means, right now.

The Memory Police tells the story of a woman who lives in a place where things disappear. Once in a while, the people in this unnamed place wake up somehow knowing that something has been “disappeared” and they must remove every physical representation of these ideas. Then, because these objects no longer existed in the real world, any memory, any attachment, any idea that they once existed eventually ceases to exist.

Or, maybe it is the other way around. The first to disappear are the feelings and memories people harbor for these objects before the physical evidences are forgotten.

Regardless, one by one, things disappear.

But in a world turned upside down, things I thought were mine and mine alone can be taken away much more easily than I would have imagined. If my body were cut up in pieces and those pieces mixed with those of other bodies, and then if someone told me, “Find your left eye,” I suppose it would be difficult to do so.

The book does not explain how or why or if this is a science experiment on the people in the island. What we, the readers, are given is that it is what it is. No one asks. No one resists. It just happens. It just is.

Here and there are special cases who, for some reason, are unaffected by these disappearances. Perhaps it is in their genetic makeup, but they do not forget. These people are in hiding. They cannot reveal their ability – rather, inability, or risk being taken by The Memory Police. One of these individuals is the narrator’s editor, R, who our narrator hides under her floorboards to protect against authority. Through writing, R helps her regain, or at least keep, the memories that have disappeared and are disappearing.

“I don’t know whether that’s the right word, but I do know that you’re changing, and not in a way that can be easily reversed or undone. It seems to be leading to an end that frightens me a great deal.”

For me, to properly review this novel requires a bit of distance and, as of this moment, I do not have that. That is why this is hard, painful, and scary. To be exactly at a time when truth is distorted and erased through propaganda and disinformation, an overwhelming majority denying history, The Memory Police cannot be just a book I have read for leisure. Rather, it is a diary, and I am the author.

I found myself shaking in different, numerous parts of the story. The similarity between the book and what is happening in reality is scarily accurate. They say life imitates art and I agree. How far are we from a time when Orwell’s 1984, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Ogawa’s The Memory Police are not simply works of fiction?

Or are we in that dystopia now? And in which part?

Our memories have been battered by the disappearances, and even now when it’s almost too late, we still don’t realize the importance of the things that have been lost.