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.

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-