Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Boy Who Touched Heaven
Book Review of The Boy Who Touched Heaven story by Iris Gem Li, illustrations by Serg Bumatay III. Published by CANVAS & Adarna House, Copyright 2007
When Heaven Is Close Enough To Touch
By Zarah Gagatiga
So the saying goes that a picture paints a thousand words.
Last year, CANVAS, a non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness in appreciation of Philippine art, culture and the environment, and Ang INK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan ), the first and only organization of Filipino illustrators for children in the country, selected artist and illustrator Sergio Bumatay III to render a painting that would serve as the inspiration for an original children’s story that would celebrate Philippine environment and culture.
Bumatay’s piece was then used to call on writers from all over the Philippines to enter CANVAS’ first Elias Dakila Chidren’s Storywriting Competion on Environment and Culture.
With a little help from the eighth Wonder of the World – the Banaue Rice Terraces Iris Gem Li, a young Business Adminstration student from the University of the Philippines, was adjudged the winner as she shaped a story about an Ifugao boy who dreams of touching heaven. Smitten by the heavenly bodies that adorn the sky during the day and at night, the Ifugao boy thought of ways to make his dream a reality. Li’s telling of the young Ifugao’s adventures and mishap is both funny and ridiculous. Child readers would find this appealing since their natural response to humor is still unblemished by life’s ironies and realities. The young Ifugao is the epitome of every child, curious, daring, irrepressible, unafraid, makulit.
Aptly titled as The Boy Who Touched Heaven, the story goes beyond the fulfillment of a young boy’s whim and fancy. It resonates to older readers as well, particularly to adults because; it carries a theme that bespeak one of life’s many tenets – that what we perceive as an unreachable heaven is right in our very own home. Indeed, finding one’s happiness and rediscovering the simple but lasting joys that family and home can offer is as close to touching heaven.
Apart from the theme, the humor and the plot that is easy to follow, and the storybook is truly a delightful read because of the cultural elements presented in the colorful and playful illustrations of Bumatay. Readers, young and old, need to know and see more of the country’s ethnic tribes, their children and their culture, for they are part of what makes this nation great. Bumatay‘s colors are as vivid as the brave Ifugaos’ woven cloths; as alive as the region’s dangerous, but beautiful landscape. The artwork’s authentic detail further enriches the cultural experience as he included little items that are unique to the Ifugao such as the necklace of beads, the nose flute and the ornament worn on the head by male Ifugaos.
Here’s looking forward to more culturally inspiring stories in the future.
CANVAS, now in its third year of advocating Philippine culture and the arts through books with stories written and illustrated by some of the country’s best young artists and writers, co-published The Boy Who Touched Heaven with Adarna House, the leading publisher of storybooks for children today, and Ang INK. The story may be read online at the CANVAS website (www.canvas.ph), and is available in bookstores nationwide.
Zarah Gagatiga is a school librarian. She is currently the coordinator of the Grade School Learning Resource Center of Xavier School. She is a board member of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) representing the sector for librarians. Visit her blog at http://lovealibrarian.blogspot.com.