Are Adarna’s Books on Martial Law “Radicalizing” Children Against the Government?

“Not good.”

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.

EDSA

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:

12:01

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.

xXx

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.

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.

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-