Friday, May 12, 2006

Eco-environment stories

My search for recommended books to read and use as models for writing eco-environment stories had been pleasurable and surprising. I am amazed at the abundant titles of eco-environment stories that can be found in our Filipiniana collection. And I have not begun looking for foreign titles, yet. Just imagine the many books teachers and moderators of writing could use if only they have easy and quick access to these learning materials. My loyalties still lie on libraries, of course. But, if these titles are neither available in school nor public libraries, they are most likely in bookstore shelves.

Now here is the first batch of books. I have identified three of them and if they are not in your collection yet or the library's the bookstores offer them in very affordable prices.

Reyes-Velaso, Penny. Are you the Forest King?. Quezon City: Pangea Books, 2000.

A young boy wanders and wonders who could be the Forest King. His curiosity led him to discover a lush beautiful forest inhabited by creatures big and small. These animals and plant life make up the delicate balance of nature. Written originally in English, the book had been translated in the Filipino by Rev. Fr. Rene B. Javellana, SJ. Illustrated using collage technique, Velasco used dried and pressed flowers, leaves and seeds.

Aside from ecological balance, readers will also see the value of smallness and how it can be beautiful. One tiny seed is a promise of greater things. One tree make up a vast forest where wildlife and plant life can flourish. Akin to this promise of growth and abundance is a responsibility to nurture and nourish, to heal and protect the forests that contributes to our sanctuary, the planet Earth.

Teachers and moderators of writing can focus on the relationship of man to his environment. Very so often conflicts arise given this relationship since man's needs can be answered by the animals he has tamed and the plants he has tended. They can explore on the problems and solutions that man must grapple with when using natural resources, water or land. Choices and consequences are also starting points to write stories involving man and his external environment. To move further, teachers and moderators can use real life examples in the community or news and information items found in the dailies and pamphlets.

Villanueva, Rene O. The Zimbragatzees of the Planet Zing. Quezon City: Lampara Publishing House, 2002.

This story won Villanueva his nth Palanca for Children's Story. Known in the Philippine Children's Lit circle as a versatile and prolific writer in Filipino, Villanueva surprisingly wrote in English, proving once again his great achievement in this craft and his competent skill.

Villanueva writes about a planet, much like our own, but inhabited by fun loving Zimbragatzees. They are creatures blessed with long, sensitive noses. Each Zimbragatzee is known for its unique nose. No nose is alike and the same. It does not only function as an organ for olfactory, but it is their identity as well. They were a happy lot, until one day, they had a sneezing fit due to the growing pollution of their planet. The effect was devastating. Their noses became smaller and smaller until it disappeared. It took them awhile to solve the problem and to face the consequences brought by their decision to modernize.

Jason Moss lends his whimsical and playful illustration that is very effective in extending the reader's context of story.

What does this book tell teachers and moderators of writing? It shows how cause and effect can be used as structure for plot development. Losing one's identities over the choices and decisions we make is a jarring theme that applies not only to the self, but to the community and the world in general. What made this book truly empowering lies in its denouement. Change and salvation is possible with hardwork and determination.

Magnuson, Robert. The Spectacular Tree. Quezon City: Lampara, 2001.

Magnuson's first book is a triumph on writing and illustration for someone who claimed that his writer's block is the greatest block of them all. In his book, he enunciates the multiple meanings of being "spectacular". Each one can be great. The key is to look inside one's capacities and abilities. True enough, just like in life, one can achieve and accomplish with the knowledge of one's strength and weakness.

By emphasizing collaboration, dependency and co-habitation, the book is a good read to remind young and old alike that each creature in this world needs another. No man is an island so they say.

Given these three books as my initial recommendations, it is clear that eco-environment stories can be about relationships, biodiversity, responsibility and self discovery. Gone are the "gunaw" stories. Should there be an element of the fantastic, it should be written as magical as its genre. And that skill will take time to master and polish.

So begin with the basics. Look for significant human experiences. Writing eco-environment stories can be anchored on the fundamental laws of nature. Give and take. Building homes and habitats. Greatness begins with small things.

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