I am not the type to pay attention to foreigners making content about the Philippines. (You: Oooohhh… a “I’m not like other girls” type.) But when Neil Gaiman captioned his retweet of Rappler’s news on the red-tagging of Adarna House’s sale of its books on Martial Law by sitting government officials, I was alarmed.
Adarna House was accused by Alex Paul Monteagudo of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, of “subtly” radicalizing children against the government. Lorraine Badoy of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict called the publishing company “demonyo” for allegedly “planting hate and lies” in the hearts of its young readers.
I promised my husband that I will refrain from writing about Philippine politics in this blog. But as a librarian and a reading advocate, whose love for books was influenced by Adarna House, I take offense.
The bundle consists of five illustrated storybooks that tell about Martial Law in the Philippines. Here are brief summaries of the books:
ITO ANG DIKTADURA
Idea at titik: Equipo Plantel; Guhit: Mikel Casal
A translation from Spanish, “Ito ang Diktadura” is a non-fiction illustrated book written during the times when many countries in the world are under dictatorship. It describes the general environment under these autocratic regimes and shows Ferdinand E. Marcos among other dictators.
SI JHUN-JHUN, NOONG BAGO IDEKLARA ANG BATAS MILITAR
Kuwento ni Augie Rivera; Guhit ni Brian Vallesteros
“Si Jhun-Jhun” is one of the five books that tell about different important periods in Philippine history, created in collaboration with UNICEF. It is a coming-of-age story of a boy whose family was torn apart by human rights violations.
Kuwento ni Russell Molina; Guhit ni Sergio Bumatay III
How can a counting book ever radicalize its reader against the government? Because this just a picture book with a few words. The words are terms and phrases popularized by the People Power Revolution of 1986.
THE MAGIC ARROW
Story by Bolet Banal; Illustrations by Korinna Banal
“The Magic Arrow” is a beautifully illustrated magical story of a king who repressed his kingdom and got defeated by one man’s bravery.
ISANG HARDING PAPEL
Kuwento ni Augie Rivera; Guhit ni Rommel Joson
A personal favorite, “Isang Harding Papel” is a story of a child whose mother is a political detainee. It shows how a mother’s love can grow hope and happiness in the midst of darkness.
I am adding this short comic book although not included in the original bundle:
Russell Molina and Kajo Baldisimo
“12:01” is the story of a local band who experienced the horrors of Martial Law on a night they accidentally violated the curfew.
How are these books radicalizing children against the government? Is the Philippines:
- in a dictatorship
- in an abusive dictatorship
- going to be in an abusive dictatorship
again? If not, why should the government be offended? Why should the government be afraid?
Perhaps NICA and NTF-ELCAC should listen to Imelda Marcos:
Perception is real; the truth is not.
Buttttt I digress. Instead, let us read this beautiful poem by Alberto Ríos in 2017:
DON’T GO INTO THE LIBRARY
The library is dangerous—
Don’t go in. If you do
You know what will happen.
It’s like a pet store or a bakery—
Every single time you’ll come out of there
Holding something in your arms.
Those novels with their big eyes.
And those no-nonsense, all muscle
Greyhounds and Dobermans,
All non-fiction and business,
Cuddly when they’re young,
But then the first page is turned.
The doughnut scent of it all, knowledge,
The aroma of coffee being made
In all those books, something for everyone,
The deli offerings of civilization itself.
The library is the book of books,
Its concrete and wood and glass covers
Keeping within them the very big,
Very long story of everything.
The library is dangerous, full
Of answers. If you go inside,
You may not come out
The same person who went in.