The stories of all but one of these twenty five characters are told in Filipino (with parallel English translation), while the only one that is told in English comes with a parallel Filipino translation. This helps children identify with the characters. Reading should be able to connect children with themselves, not only in terms of their own situation but also in terms of their own. Filipino, the national language, is a language the children understand (much more than English) so it helps catch and keep their attention, thus supporting their captivation with what they are reading. After the vernacular, it is a language that is commonly used in the children’s daily lives, whether directly in interpersonal communication or vicariously through media. Reading stories in this language is like listening and talking to people around them. For children, reading the stories of their favorite characters in a language they understand is like hearing themselves (and the people they know) speak language (Cambourne, 2000; Dumatog and Dekker, 2003; Ocampo, 1997, 2008; Paratore, 2002).
Children’s Filipino Identity
In addition, the Filipino-ness of the characters and their stories helps children identify with them. For reading to be meaningful and engaging, it should be able to connect children not only with their situation and language, but also with their culture (Ocampo, 1997, 2008). Reading the stories of these characters captivates the children because it connects with them as Filipinos. They reflect the Filipino personality and character which spring from the core value of kapwa. Kapwa is shared inner self or identity. It determines one’s pagkatao (personhood). Pagkataong Pilipino (Filipino personhood) upholds this shared identity and the shared humanity that is founded on it. Kapwa lies at the very foundation of psycho-moral and social values that Filipinos hold dear and inculcate in the young, the same ones that permeate their daily lives. Kapwa has two categories: ibang-tao (“outsider”) and hindi ibang-tao (“one of us”). Interpersonal relations with an “outsider” are characterized by pakikitungo (amenities/civility), pakikisalamuha (“mixing”), pakikilahok (joining/participating), pakikibagay (conforming), and pakikisama (adjusting); while those with somebody who is “one of us” are characterized by pakikipagpalagayang-loob (mutual trust/rapport), pakikisangkot (getting involved), and pakikiisa (fusion, oneness, and full trust). Aside from the core value of kapwa, there are two pivotal values: pakiramdam or pakikipagkapwa-tao (shared inner perception) and kagandahang-loob or pagkamakatao (shared humanity). The value of pakiramdam or pakikipagkapwa-tao (shared inner perception) acts as a pivot in interpersonal and behavioral domains. This heightened awareness, sensitivity, and feeling for another is central in surface values. Surface values reflect the Filipino disposition in interpersonal relationships and are classified into two types: confrontative and accommodative. Confrontative surface values primarily function to effect change in the status quo, either on an individual or a collective basis. These confrontative surface values are bahala na (determination), lakas ng loob (guts), and pakikibaka (resistance). On the other hand, accommodative surface values basically work for the maintenance of the status quo, either on an individual or a collective basis. These accommodative surface values are hiya (propriety/dignity), pakikisama (companionship/esteem), and utang na loob (gratitude/solidarity). Behavior patterns associated with such accommodative surface values are biro (joke/tease), lambing (sweetness), and tampo (affective disappointment). Meanwhile, the value of kagandahang-loob or pagkamakatao (shared humanity) is basic or pivotal to the socio-political values of karangalan (dignity: internal dangal or self-respect and external puri or praise/accolade), katarungan (justice), and kalayaan (freedom) (Enriquez, 1992).
When Chenelyn gets sick and can not perform her duties as usual, the family she is serving realize Chenelyn’s worth not only as a househelp but as a kapwa (shared identity). She is then shown kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) through the provision of medical care and a break from work. Moreover, from being ibang-tao (“outsider”) treated on the level of pakikitungo (amenities/civility), she is considered hindi ibang-tao (“one of us”) and shown pakikiisa (oneness) in her mission of keeping cleanliness and order in the house by the family who henceforth share in the performance of housework. Pilo can jokingly play taguan (hide-and-seek) with the members of the household because they are hindi ibang- tao (“one of us”). He treats them on the level of pakikipagpalagayang-loob (rapport/mutual trust). So even if any of them feels tampo (affective disappointment) or sama ng loob (resentment), all will eventually be well because they are not different from each other, as they all make up the “us” that makes them one. Filemon does not mind all the namecalling that others do to him because of his weight and size -- they are ibang-tao (“outsider”), while his parents and classmates who are hindi ibang-tao (“one of us”) love him. He also exhibits karangalan (dignity): he shows dangal (self-respect) by appreciating his worth as a person in relation to his body and his ability, no matter what other people say; and he also receives puri (praise/accolade) from some people who approve of his soft, squishy, warm, cuddly, strong, and sturdy body, and recognize his acting ability. Juan Tamad gets what he deserves. It is an indictment of laziness, a trait that is not valued in one’s loob (inner self/being) nor in that of a kapwa (shared identity).
There is neither karangalan (dignity) nor kagandahang-loob or pagkamakatao (shared humanity) in laziness. Laziness is frowned upon even by those who are hindi ibang-tao (“one of us”) -- like one’s family and friends -- though they are already treated on the level of pakikipagpalagayang-loob (rapport/mutual trust). Juan shows lack of pakiramdam/pakikipagkapwa-tao (shared inner perception) by selfishly doing only what he wants (idleness and play) instead of helping his mother or heeding his friend. So he gets his comeuppance in the end. Raquel is buo ang loob and shows purposiveness and intentionality in bravely and optimistically facing a deadly illness. Despite this illness, she exhibits dangal (self-respect), inner strength, and will that allow her to face her condition with confidence and resolve - and even manage to shine in her cousin’s eyes. Pilandok, a personified mousedeer, shows his pagkamakatao (shared humanity) by coming up with a way to help the people in their pakikibaka (resistance/fight) against the cruelty of the rich and powerful Datu Usman. He is able to do this because has lakas ang loob (guts) to confront a mighty one, consequently actualizing his magandang kalooban (good inner self) and facilitating the social good of his kapwa (shared identity), particularly the townspeople. These oppressed people are hindi ibang-tao (“one of us”) to him so he shows pakikisangkot (getting involved) in their lives and in their struggle against their leader and pakikiisa (fusion, oneness, and full trust) in their aspiration for katarungan (justice) and kalayaan (freedom).
Greedy and wily Matsing gets his comeuppance from kind and trusting Pagong who treats him as hindi iba (“one of us”) and so is palagay ang loob (characterized by rapport/mutual trust). The punishment that personified Matsing gets in the end shows that personified Pagong’s (or any other being’s) kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) should not only be reciprocated, but appreciated. Personified Peles has everyday walks and day-long wanderings even if he has nothing to eat. This is hardly a life with karangalan (dignity) – and he soon gets tired of it. So he decides to turn over a new leaf by exerting himself and using his brawn and strength. He consequently experiences the happiness not only in reaping the fruits of perseverance, patience, and hard work, but also in getting recognized for it. With his new life, he now has dangal (self-respect) and is worthy of puri (praise/accolade). Personified Langgam embodies not only hardwork, thrift, and foresight but also shows the paninindigan (conviction) to go against what a friend (who is hindi ibang-tao, or “one of us”) wants. Langgam is palagay ang loob (characterized by rapport/mutual trust) that his friend Tipaklong will not feel tampo (affective disappointment) or sama ng loob (resentment). He also exhibits kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) when he helps personified Tipaklong, a kapwa (shared identity) and a friend in need. Rosamistica’s kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) to kapwa (shared identity) in greater need than her (mother and child) is rewarded. She receives money which serves as a springboard for yet another act of kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) -- she shares it with other kapwa (shared identity) in need (beggars), with whom she breaks bread. But more importantly, she earns her kalayaan (freedom) from her unjust aunt and uncle when she decides not to return to their house, where she has been practically imprisoned, treated not as a kapwa (shared identity) but as a slave. With her new-found freedom, she now has the capacity to live a life with karangalan (dignity). Reckless Kas gets the punishment he deserves for being without pakiramdam (shared inner perception) to those around him. His complete disregard for them shows that he does not have karangalan (dignity) and does not do pakikipagkapwa (shared inner perception). So he consequently ends up in a junk yard, all broken and down, but without any caring kapwa (shared identity) to show him kagandahang-loob (shared humanity). It is a fate no Filipino wants for a kapwa (shared identity). Ang Tatlong Haragan (like reckless Kas) behave irresponsibly, not minding the consequences of their actions on their environment and their kapwa (shared identity). Because they lack pakiramdam or pakikipagkapwa (shared inner perception), Emang Engkantada gives them a sensitizing punishment that makes them dama (feel) firsthand the worst possible effects of their deeds. This makes them realize their mistake. Through Emang Engkantada’s kagandahang-loob(shared humanity), they turn over a new leaf and learn to do something with karangalan (dignity) -- caring for their environment. Despite his size, Pandakotyong has lakas ng loob (guts) to try his luck elsewhere and confront what comes his way because he believes in his worth as a person with dangal (self-respect). He is buo ang loob and does not hesitate or back out from any challenge, no matter how big or difficult. His pakikibaka (resistance) against and resulting victory over those that disturb the peace are good not only for himself but also for his kapwa (shared identity).
Later, his courage, intelligence, strength, and determination even in the face of uncertainty receive puri (praise/accolade) and he is given the parangal (honor and recognition) of a kingdom to rule as a reward. Mariang Alimango’s unflinching devotion to duty despite the suffering it causes her points to her kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) to her kapwa (shared identity) -- her stepmother and stepsisters -- even if they do not treat her in a similar manner. Like Rosamistica, she is rewarded with kalayaan (freedom) from her unjust, slave-like situation not only to attend the ball like her stepmother and stepsisters, but also to start a new life in the palace. And also like Rosamistica, with her new-found freedom, she now has the capacity to live a life with karangalan (dignity) so different from the oppression she used to suffer. Ampalaya does not have pakikipagkapwa (shared inner perception) – and this lands him in dire consequences. Instead of welcoming his kapwa (shared identity) -- the other vegetables -- and peacefully co-existing with them, he declares that he does not need them and even desires to be better than all of them. He does no pakikitungo (amenities/civility), pakikisalamuha (“mixing”), and pakikilahok (joining/participating). What he does do is unacceptable in a community -- he steals from his kapwa (shared identity). This selfish act is without karangalan (dignity) and katarungan (justice) so it is punished. The punishment teaches Ampalaya a lesson and makes him mend his ways. Mariang Sinukuan shows that in a community, one should not do another any harm, be violent, or disturb the peace as none of these promotes the common good. She punishes Lamok for an act that causes all three, an act that is devoid of pakiramdam or pakikipagkapwa (shared inner perception). Og Uhog is offended by the biro (joke/tease) of a classmate, whom he meets for the first time. It is not appropriate for her to do so since she is ibang-tao (“outsider”) with whom he is not palagay ang loob (characterized by mutual trust/rapport). That this girl who makes fun of him ends up with uhog (slimy snot) at the back of her dress is a kind of poetic justice. It is not good to make fun of a kapwa (shared identity), as it shows lack of sensitivity to his feelings and absence of pakiramdam (shared inner perception). Lola uses her prized possession for the good of the community. Her kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) to her kapwa (shared identity), is shown when she uses her extraordinarily long, thick, and strong hair to save her community from one typhoon after another -- buo ang loob, never once wavering nor losing hope that she will succeed. Lola’s dangal (self-respect) as a person does not so much lie in what she has, but in what she does with it for the common or greater good. Selfish Pikpakbum is punished for not showing kagandahang-loob(shared humanity) to a kapwa(shared identity) who is hindi iba (“one of us”), his own brother.
Nevertheless, Tiktaktok (personified like Pikpakbum) demonstrates pagkamakatao (shared humanity) by helping save his brother from greater harm. Elusive and magical Ibong Adarna is caught by Don Juan not because of his intelligence or agility, but because of the kabutihang-loob or good inner self (kindheartedness) he shows to a kapwa (shared identity) in need, who then helps him not only to catch the bird to cure his father but also to restore his brothers to life. His kind act is a sign of kagandahang-loob or pagkamakatao (shared humanity). Seeing the hardwork and feeling the fatigue of his parents in their relentless efforts to feed him, Carancal leaves his home behind to look for his fortune, vowing to give his parents a good life. He has pakiramdam (shared inner perception) for his parents who are hindi ibang-tao (“one of us”). So he decides to do the most makatao (humane) thing he can think of -- leave home to spare his parents anymore suffering due to his big appetite. He ends up doing the heroic act of killing a giant that has been terrorizing a town, and he gets puri (praise/accolade), recognition, and reward for it -- a big house and land for his parents to till.
Carancal shows that heroism and one’s dangal (self-respect) as a person do not lie in one’s size, but in how one uses kagandahang loob(shared humanity), ability, and talent to contribute to the common or greater good. Butsiki’s efforts in maintaining cleanliness in herself and in her surroundings are contradictory to what other pigs do. But she is buo ang loob in her desire to change the status quo. Like Raquel, she exhibits dangal (self-respect), purposiveness, intentionality, inner strength, determination, and will in confronting a difficult situation. She also exhibits karangalan (dignity) in being true to her words by actually doing what she asks others to do, and in doing all these for the good of her kapwa (shared identity) whom to her are hindi iba (“one of us”) and her community. In the end, even if she is unjustly punished by those protecting the status quo, she receives the greater katarungan (justice) of being proven right by history and getting the parangal (recognition and honor) of being sainted. Duwende rightfully punishes the greedy husband and wife couple for taking advantage of and plotting against their illiterate young servant. Instead of showing him kagandahang-loob (shared humanity) as a kapwa (shared identity), they lie to him, steal from him, and even imprison him. In the end, the boy Tias finally gets his kalayaan (freedom) from his unjust masters when he leaves them to go to the province to study. Like Rosamistica and Mariang Alimango, with his new-found freedom, he now has the capacity to live a life with karangalan (dignity), in contrast to his previous oppressed state. Finally, Teo shows the pagkatao (shared inner identity) that elders want to develop in children. He exhibits strong pakiramdam (shared inner perception) and his dealings with his kapwa (shared identity) are characterized by kagandahang-loob (shared humanity). He leads a life of karangalan (dignity), which is so appreciated and approved by others (especially adults) that he gets puri (praise/accolade) and parangal (recognition and honor) for it (Enriquez, 1992).
These characters and their stories reflect and affirm the values Filipinos hold dear. They exhibit the Filipinos’ profound solidarity with each other, which is founded on a shared inner self and an extended sense of identity. They reward the good and the right and punish the bad and the wrong accordingly, not only on the interpersonal level but also on the socio-political level. In so doing, they highlight the best in the Filipino character that should be nurtured in today’s children and cultivated in the generations that will come after them.