Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Annual Lampara Books Seminar 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

Illustrator of the Month: Tinsley Garanchon

The blog's Illustrator of the Month is Tinsley Garanchon. She is the illustrator of our upcoming books, the Bulilit Books, published by the Nutrition Council of the Philippines Publishing Corporation (NCPPC). 

1. How did you approach the illustrations for the Bulilit Books?
Since these are revised versions, the challenge was to create a modern approach yet retain something familiar to all the readers, local touches such as landscapes and interiors. Also, keeping the art in continuity. Timeless in a way.

2. What medium are you most comfortable using when illustrating books for kids?
Digital. If given an opportunity for art’s sake, I'd like to try traditional sometime.

3. As an Inkie, how does the organization help you grow as artist and as a person?
The profession of an illustrator leads you towards a solitary lifestyle but there are times, it's also helpful to have a set of like minds who share the same dreams and goals that can help and support you.

The organization’s direction is to keep this presence known that there is a group gearing towards the progress of children's book illustrators in the local and international scene.

4. Five art works that inspired you to illustrate for kids.

Nila Aye
An illustrator, hailing from the UK. Nila is the epitome of  retro.  Her bright, graphic illustrations which appear in various magazine and publications gives a nod to colorful, retro works.


Lorelay Bove
Found her works by chance online. Not only she works in the animation industry, she also worked with book illustrations where I was drawn into her works. Bright, colorful, flat and retro.
She also has an interesting background story. Lorelay comes from Spain, her dream was to work in Disney Animation and guess what, she did! Her personal story also inspired me to believe.

Neysa Bove
Her works have some similarities with her sister, Lorelay. But what draws the line to distinguish hers is the focal point of her works is the character in the artwork which has a feminine and more whimsical approach to it.

Found an illustration of Dric’s in an art book which featured illustrators from South Korea, China and Japan. What had me look up to his work was his choice of colors and before, I wasn’t as adventurous in exploring various palettes from vivid hues or pastel tones. Unlike now, I would try to try different color combinations and  see how would it set a tone for an illustration.

Mary Blair
As a child, I had childrens’ books from Disney. When I got older I was able to learn more about this one illustrator that stood out as an influence. Mary Blair did a lot of visual development during the earlier years of Disney films, she also designed the look of an amusement ride in Disneyland which we know as Small World aside from taking in other illustration jobs in publishing and advertising.

Websites of Artists and Sources of Images:

Nila Aye -
Lorelay Bove -
Neysa Bove -
Dric -
Mary Blair -

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Convo on Phonetics and the Whole Language Approach 1 of 2

A friend who is based in the US sent me a private message three years ago asking for my opinion on phonetics and the Whole Language Approach. After three years, I am making the "big reveal" in the blog. Let's call my friend, Mommy LPM. She asked the question so she can teach her then 3 year old daughter the basics of reading.
Mommy LPM: Zars, I need your opinion about phonetics and whole reading approaches. One is an old school approach while the other is a constructivist approach. Which one is better? I'm teaching my 3 year old how to read and I'm confused which one to use. Btw, where do teaching sight words fall under?

ZarahG: You can start with whole language for your daughter. The advantage with whole language is that, you are building on experience and context if reading wholistically. This way when she reaches an age where she shows signs of decoding readiness, she can do basals or word attack skills. Good luck and have fun! One of the greatest joys of parenthood is to see and hear a child read aloud!

Mommy LPM: Thanks. We're still in the process. Clueless where to begin because I was never a Pre-K teacher.

ZG: Read signs and logos when you shop around town. Sing songs and chant nursery rhymes. Keep talking to her at home on routines and stuff you do together. Read aloud picture books with her. If there's tv and iPad at home, engage her in conversation. She's acquiring language at this point and her brain is like a sponge! So soak her up on language experience activities. Involve the senses, too: play dough, water games, plant in the garden. Do some process activities with her: zipping up her coat, up and down, lacing her sneakers, shower time is a learning experience too.

Mommy LPM: I see. So my husband and I were actually doing some of the things you've mentioned like the STOP sign. I actually posted names of things around the house such as CLOCK, TABLE etc. I let her play and she likes it so much. Still she can't read on her own yet. Am I rushing her?

ZG: Emergent reader pa lang siya. Relax. Show her the wonder of the world with words

Part 2 will be about Whole Language teaching and resources for parents and teachers in the K-3 levels.

Max Flew Away Bookmark

Bookmark of our new book, The Day Max Flew Away (Lampara House, 2017) made especially by Mennie Ruth Viray
Thanks to Jomike Tejido for the amazing paintings on banig (native mat) as canvas.
So excited for this book!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dear Nanay: How It Came To Be

An article about my creative process in writing Dear Nanay (Gagatiga and Flores, Lampara House, 2013). This article will appear in MirrorsWindowsDoors this month since the website features the Philippines, Philippine diaspora and the Overseas Filipino Worker in Philippine Children's Literature.

Dear Nanay: How It Came To Be
By Zarah C. Gagatiga, on her experience, reflections and creative process writing an OFW story for children.

I was born in Manila in 1974. Two years after the declaration of Martial Law. I grew up an only child until I was twelve years old. Our household was small but my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family lived next door so cousins flitted in and out of the family compound. Nanay* Leony, my maternal grandmother, ran a sari-sari* store that sold everything from safety pins to San Miguel Pale Pilsen. There were also Tagalog comics for rent. I read them after school as part of my recreatory reading list. We had a garden abloom with flowers all year round because Nanay Leony knew what to plant during the dry and the rainy seasons. Her vegetable garden produced root crops, tubers, herbs and spices, and greens that often ended up in a dish on our dinner table. Trees grew in the backyard: coconut, mango, banana, palm, santol,* tamarind, camias* star apple, atis,* to mention a few. 

Everyone knew everybody in the neighbourhood. I played with my cousins and the neighbourhood kids. I walked with them to school. We heard mass on Sundays. On lazy summer days, my cousins and I would take naps in the afternoon. We would wake up to late noon snacks of ginataan,* turon,*porridge, kamote* fries or biko* , especially cooked by our favourite aunts. There were stories and songs to share until it was time to watch Voltes V and Mazinger Z. We were heartbroken when these TV shows were cancelled. We were too young to understand what it meant.

When the rains came, we bathed. When big storms brought in the flood, we waited until the water receded. The nearby creek would swell and this gave us a  reason to launch our homemade paper boats. Water leaked in easily in the paper boats, so we would either swim or catch fish next. We got lucky on some days to bring home Gourami and tilapia. No one dared bring home tadpoles since none of us wished to bear the brunt of our grandmother's wrath. Fishes were alright. Frogs, not so.

I could say I had a happy childhood. My world was safe and secure from the violence and horrors of Martial Law. My parents and the adults in my family tried their best to keep life simple yet abundant with laughter, songs, stories and playtime. They surrounded us with the basics, enough space to move about and the freedom to express oneself, though, controlled at times. But unexpected events in life, big or small, can throw anyone off balance.

Liza Flores' study for Dear Nanay
The Philippine economy collapsed at the onset of the 80s and this prompted my grandfather to work in Saudi Arabia after an early retirement from the Philippine Navy. A year after, my father, who was at the time an esteemed public school teacher, followed suit. My grandfather and my father became Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

I wasn't spared from the effects and repercussions of Martial Law at all. At nine years old, I accepted my mother's explanation of the situation. Papa will bring home dollars. Savings for a better future. Never mind the long years apart. Sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. Nanay Leony who was pragmatic and practical, a survivor of World War II, took it all in her stride. But I got a sense of their longing and loneliness. There were nights when my mother cried herself to sleep and Nanay Leony kept singing sad Bicolano songs. It was a confusing time. The Sanrio toys, dolls and cool gadgets from Saudi Arabia did little to justify the empty chairs at the dinner table, especially on birthdays and during Christmas. After two years working abroad, my father decided to go come back home for good. This filled me with joy, but it took me a while to reconnect with my father.

It is this experience of growing up with an OFW parent that is the backdrop of Dear Nanay (Lampara House, 2013). But it was my trip to Singapore in 2002 that was the lynchpin for the poem that became a narrative in verse and eventually, a picture book for children.

My attendance at the 2nd Storytelling Congress in Singapore that year allowed me to meet and interact with Filipinos working away from home and their families. There were professionals working in the IT industry and the Library and Information Science sector. I met teachers and professors, domestic helpers and labourers. I was even mistaken for a household help by the immigration staff when my host from the National Book Development Board of Singapore bade me a tearful farewell at the airport. The immigration staff asked if she was my boss and I, her domestic helper. I said no, she is my friend. The immigration staff gave me a warm knowing smile. I told her the truth, of course, but I knew she had a different context to my answer.

Liza Flores' narrative layering included Nanay's job not mentioned in the original poem.
In the airplane, the economy class was filled with Filipino men and women all noisy and eager to get home. They all carried bags and boxes of pasalubongs*. Many spoke in Tagalog but there were a few chattering in Bisaya and Ilocano. While many of the passengers slept and some quietly talked to each other, I wrote a poem in my notebook about a child missing her OFW mother. A week in Singapore had made me homesick. I missed my husband and two kids terribly and wished they could have joined me on the trip. It was that moment I recalled my own childhood growing up during the last stretch of the Martial Law years. I remembered my father and grandfather, my mother and Nanay Leony and what they had all sacrificed. I was in awe of the courage of the Filipino overseas worker, but saddened by the reality that one of the many reasons why they leave home is  due to the economic and cultural problems caused by twenty years of dictatorship.

Dear Nanay is illustrated by the amazing Liza Flores. Using paper cutouts as her medium, she added visual layers to the story by depicting spreads that show gaps and distance, longing and loneliness, through empty rooms, calendars and time pieces. I did not reveal nor mention Nanay's profession in the narrative verse, but I particularly liked Liza's take on her as a chef. Not all OFWs are domestic helpers. Nonetheless, our book shows the reality children face in light of a parent leaving home to work abroad.

One of my favorite illustrations in the book.
I still grapple with the question of what is more important for a parent to do: to provide for his or her children’s needs by working abroad or to stay with the family and endure the economic and political hardships, as well as the social injustices of living in a developing country like the Philippines. I console myself with the thought that, despite this reality, there are still opportunities for Filipino writers and illustrators to tell stories and that there are people in the Philippine book industry brave enough to create and publish stories for children depicting the plight of the Overseas Filipino Worker.
atis - sweet sop, custard apple 
biko - rice cake 
camias - tree cucumber
ginataan - food cooked with coconut milk, like porridge or sweetened stew of tropical fruits, sticky rice and gluten
kamote - sweet potato
nanay - mother
pasalubong - homecoming treat
santol - wild mangosteen
sari-sari store - convenience store
turon - banana fritter

Friday, June 16, 2017

#milclicks of the Week: MIL MOOC Unit 1 - What is Media Literacy

 Here are my notes and take away from Unit 1 of the MIL MOOC I am currently enrolled in. Unit 1 is on Media Literacy.

* Me thinks: MIL are skills necessary to understand media and information so we can construct and reconstruct meaning and message; communicate it in the context we know and in the medium we are confident in using. In the process, MIL requires us to be responsible creators and consumers of information because, as a tool, media's breadth is far reaching.

My notes:
- Media are vehicles through which something is transmitted. That something can be information in text or visual representation.

- Media are agents that transmit our shared values, knowledge and information about society and our own ability to act on that knowledge as citizens. There it is. A collective and communal interaction.

- Media is the FOURTH ESTATE. An institution responsible for the maintenance of good governance. Purpose of the FOURTH ESTATE = watchdog of democratic government. When this is corrupted and hold bias, citizens use alternative media which are blogs and social media to critique mainstream media. This alternative media comprised of blogs and social media is called the FIFTH ESTATE. But even social media is used to spread fake news and alternative facts.

Take away: If Media is an institution of democracy the same is true about LIBRARIES.

My engagement in this unit prompted me to look at Media Literacy from other sources. 
What is Media Literacy?  This video is made by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility of the Philippines. Presents ethical practices of media practitioners and why media plays an important role in democracy and nation building.

Media Literacy and 5 Key Questions in Understanding Media Messages I liked the 5 Key Questions. It can be used to evaluate media messages, values and information transmitted through media.

Creating Critical Thinkers Through Media Literacy A TED Talk by Andrea Quijada, executive director of the Media Literacy Project.

More links on Media Literacy and Media Education -  #milclicks Online Reading List

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Hero and The Trusted Sidekick: Teachers and School Librarians Working Together

As a school librarian working in an IB school, I have attended a good number of workshops and conferences on school librarianship. And always, I taken away loads of learning and insights that improved my personal life and professional practice. One of my favorite take aways is the concept of teacher librarians and classroom teachers working together to improve students aptitude and uplift their attitude towards life.

Though I have known and recognized the relevance of this partnership between teacher librarian and classroom teacher years before working in an IB school, it is only now that I am working in the Beacon Academy that I actualize it.  This experience is something I wish to share with my colleagues.

So, when Evelyn Nabus, President of the Association of Librarians in Laguna Province (ALLP) invited me to do a workshop for the ALLP on Media and Information Literacy, I said yes.

Inspired by Dianne McKenzie's article on the role of the librarian as a Trusty Sidekick,  I thought of ways to merge this with the topic given to me by ALLP.  This is the result:

The Hero and the Trusted Sidekick:
Teachers and School Librarians Working Together for the
Conduct of a Media and Information Literacy Program for K-12 Learners

Several researches show that when teacher and school librarian collaborate and work together, students learn better and learning becomes more authentic and meaningful. Test scores increase and students gain confidence in doing school work and accomplishing tasks that are challenging and complex. The goal of this training workshop is for teachers and school librarians to revisit their unique roles in the teaching and learning process so that they can establish a partnership that inspire collaboration in the planning and implementation of a Media and Information Literacy Program.

Specifically, the objectives of the training workshop are:

  1. To identify techniques and strategies that lead to collaborative work between teacher and school librarian;
  2. To review current Media and Information Literacy (MIL) standards and programs;
  3. To determine areas of collaborative work when planning and implementing a MIL program;
  4. To draft a MIL matrix of skills that can be used as guide in developing the library collection and resources; in providing readers and reference services; and in conducting user education programs.

The training workshop is for teachers who are teaching MIL in the senior high school as well as teachers in K-10 who are interested in MIL. Librarians servicing K-12 learners will benefit from the training workshop since activities are designed for the improvement and honing of critical and creative thinking skills as applied to library work and program management.

Note on the title of the training workshop: the training workshop’s jump off point is the role and relationship of the hero and his/her sidekick in popular culture. This metaphor will be used to amplify the value of the sidekick to the hero’s journey.

Teachers have always been referred to as modern day heroes. In myth and in literature, heroes thrive and survive through the aid of a trusted sidekick who gives encouragement, cheers them on, picks them up when they fall, sometimes, carries the ring of power for them or casts a spell to open a locked door. This is the symbolic role of the school librarian to teachers. It is a role we haven’t fully talked about or explored, but, it exists like an elephant in the room. It’s about time we see the elephant for what it is and eat it, piece by piece.

Prepared by: Zarah C. Gagatiga 5.17.2017

Because Love Can Save the World

The dedication was included pre-Wonder Woman viewing. Kudos to Eugene Evasco for the Filipino translation!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

#KwentoRP612 2017: The Earth Diggers

And when all of their work in the killing field has been done, the earth diggers cleaned their tools.

Atoy drew water from the artesian well. Luis, his older brother, started rinsing their spades and buckets. Instantly, the clear basin of water changed color. Blood mixed with the color of earth. Atoy could still remember the first time he and his brother took on this job. He couldn't bear the sight and the stench of dead bodies that littered the killing field. He puked his guts out. He couldn't eat for days. The images of severed heads, limbs, disemboweled body organs and rotting flesh haunted him in his sleep.

He watched how his brother cleaned their tools while whistling a happy tune. Where does he draw this happiness? He wondered. He can still manage to chirp like a bird when there is nothing but death and destruction all around.

"Put the tools in the shed." Luis ordered. "We will take the same route going home."

He did as he was told. As they walked the path towards home, they turned right to a clearing where the old school house still stands. No one goes to school anymore. Like Atoy and Luis, the children and young people of the village had to find work to stay alive for their families and for their own skins. They were lucky to be born flat footed. They were spared of work in the battle fields where many of their friends have already died.

Here in this old school house, Luis could play the old guitar he found in a cabinet in the principal's office. Here in this old school house, Atoy could retreat to the reading room to read. It helps him remember a time when dreams are free and his desire to make them come true is a possibility. Some days, he would simply smell the books and the scattered paper all around.

He picked an old storybook. On its cover is an illustration of a smiling monkey carrying half a banana tree on its back. Behind it is a turtle with an even bigger smile on its face. He knows the story very well. He started to read anyway. Then he discovered a few missing pages.

Someone else has been here.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

From the Archives: #KwentoRP612 2016

I don't know what to write for this year's #KwentoRP612. 

I don't even know if I can participate this year, because, my plate is already pretty full. In fact, there are days when I don't know what task or work to prioritize. I feel spent and spread out thinly sometimes. 

But I believe in #KwentoRP612. I have great faith in the Filipino artist. I think artists and creatives need to continue to use the power of social media to influence and inspire others. 

For now, here's a rundown of the flash fiction and poetry I wrote for last year's #KwentoRP612.

The Little Sparrow - inspired by a real life event when Zoe and Papadoms found a bird that fell from its nest. I love birds and I see them as a good metaphor for freedom.

Papa Mia - Bullying and social adaptation hinders a child's growth and freedom to express one's self. Play can be a means to bounce back from challenges and helps children deal with difficult emotions. Play, either structured or free, eases many burdens. Play sets us free! It is also one of the ten basic rights of a child.

Midnight Monologue - is a poem about leave taking and how one's independence can be a personal responsibility.

Untitled - on exclusivity and how it enslaves and limits people.

Tay, Inom Tayo! - a father and son share a few beers to settle on a decision to leave the country for better opportunity abroad.

Not bad. 

Let's see what I can harvest this year.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

#KwentoRP612 2017

Erica Gonzales has set up #KwentoRP612 over at Facebook. #KwentoRP612 is the celebration and commemoration of Philippine Independence by Filipino writers and creatives. Last year, it focused on flash fiction but, this year the social media campaign extends its reach and width to other art forms.

Below are the details of this year's #KwentoRP612:

Event: #KwentoRP612 2017

Dates: June 10-12 (Saturday 12am to Monday 12mn), 2017
Content: FB-length and Twitter-length fiction,poetry,art,and komiks (both original and fan-type), as long as they are Filipino in theme

Genre: All are accepted! (literary,romance,speculative in all stripes, parody, comedy,etc etc)
Feel free to post whatever you have here, or to hashtag so we can share it (remember to set the individual post to 'public' so we can all see).

It's that time of year again when we tell the world through good art and literature that (even with everything going on around us that we disagree with), we are proud to be Filipino. Please share the word.

*shares of material made for RP612fic is perfectly okay, btw. This place just helps to be a safe space for all, especially writers.

Update on Book Project: Bulilit Books 2017

I posted on the blog last April 2017 a slide presentation on a new book project with the Nutrition Center of the Philippines Publishing Corporation (NCPPC). Click the link to recall and view the cover pages again.

The project, dubbed by NCPPC as Project LEARN, is aimed at rewriting and revising the Bulilit Books, a series of books for children and their parents, that were published back in the late 70s and early 80s. There are more than a dozen books in the series that cover themes of good nutrition, Filipino values, arts, culture and history. For this installment, three books from the series were picked for revision, namely: Beybi Bibe; Miyawing Kuting; and Magbilang Tayo. 

Three things make this book project special.

1. The new series include books translated in Cebuano and Hilgaynon by the award winning author, MJ "Xi Zuq" Tumamac.

2. All three books went through a process of research and development, consultations and Focused Group Discussions with readers and the intended audience of the series. That is why, there are activities included in each book for teachers and parents. These activities are applicable to the classroom setting and homeschooling learning experiences.

3. The new series is a collaborative effort by the creative team of writers, illustrator and NCPPC. Working with Darrel Marco on this book project has been a delight as he lent new perspectives to the revision process.  NCPPC has been very supportive of the project too. Respecting our creative and artistic freedom and trusting our working styles for the success of the project. Tinsley Garanchon is the illustrator of this installment of the series.

As lead of the creative team, I have seen the proofs and the dummy books. Beautiful! They are off to the printer now and we hope to see the books launched in July. And personally, I hope the children we wrote it for would love the books as much as we put our love into making it.

Convo on Makerspaces 3 of 3

Here is the last installment of my convo with Micaela Ramos of Big Pond Enterprises on Makerspaces.
MR: Kung may time po ako baka pwede po ako bumisita sa library niyo ma'am 😀 para makita ko yung Makerspace niyo in action 😀 kasi kadalasan po iniisip 3d printers agad or complicated tech pag gagawa ng makerspace sainyo po simple langreplicable, doable 😀 kaya po ako na-attract.

ZG: Sure pero, vacation na namin.

MR: Will you continue it po sa next school year?

ZG: Yes. Mga STEM practitioners kase ang nag start ng makerspace

MR: Totoo po.

ZG: Public Librarians adapted it in their services and programs to help promote STEM and make the library a hub for learning. School librarians adapted it also. Kase, makerspace is perfect instructional tool for K-12 learners.

MR: Bakit po siya naging perfect ma'am dahil po sa skill set na na-dedevelop? Or as a "practice-ground?" for students?

ZG: Yes. As well as independence and ownership of one's learning. It is also a form of play. We learn a lot thru play, especially for students learning STEM concepts.

MR: True po.

ZG: I also believe in contextualization (of learning).

MR: Ano po ang ibig sabihin niyo sa contextualization Ma'am?

ZG: Context ng learner.

MR: I see po.

ZG: Contextualize learning activities and experiences based on learners needs and modalities

MR: Parang ang Makerspace po ang venue para po doon? tama po ba?

ZG: Yes. It's not the Makerspace that's the bida. It's the learner.

MR: Very good point po.

ZG: So the design of the Makerspace must be contextual to the learner's exeperiencesThat's how I see it. That's how I do it.

MR: Nabago po ang understanding ko sa Makerspace thanks to you Ma'am. Very good points po. Siguro po kasi masaydo po akong nakafocus sa Makerspace itself rather than the real purpose of the space. Ma'am thank you very much po for engaging in a conversation with practically a stranger. Salamat po for entertaining my questions and for your invaluable insights. I hope we could collaborate in the future! 😀Now I have another way of looking at Makerspaces.

ZG: Small thing. Welcome!

To follow is a write up on the Makerspaces I set up in our school library.

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