Monday, May 31, 2010

Batang Bayani Books Launched @ Museo Pambata

Last May 29, 2010, the Old Manila section of Museo Pambata was full of kids and grown ups who are kids at heart. It was the launching of the Batang Bayani Series, a book project by Museo Pambata and KUTING. The series has four stories: Song of the Ifugao by Agay C. Llanera; Hands that Bridge by Perpi Tiongson; Palette of Dreams by Liwa Malabed; and A Reader's Story by Bong Oris. Photographs were done by Jaime Unson. Carla Pacis and Augie Rivera lent their editing expertise. Daniel Tayona worked on the book design.

In a nutshell, the books tell about children and their heroic image. Despite limitations in resources and opportunities, they rise above these challenges to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the way they know how.

Nina Lim-Yuson, president of Museo Pambata proudly presented the four titles in the series. If not for the generosity of sponsors, the book series would not have seen publication. Nonetheless, Museo Pambata and KUTING are looking forward to the next batch of stories on kids and their heroic deeds.

Perpi Alipon-Tiongson signs as a storyteller from the Alitaptap Storytellers Philippines read excerpts from the books. Seated at the back are (L-R) Maricel Montero, Museo Pambata ED, Liwa Malabed, Bong Oris, Agay Llanera and Jaime Unson.

Percy Gapas of Alitaptap reads from Liwa Malabed's story, Pallete of Dreams where a young lad overcomes poverty to develop his talents in the visual arts. Apart from Percy and two more Alitaptap tellers, Tricia Mae Kitong, the twelve year old Hudhud chanter from Lagawe performed a stanza from the Ifugao epic. Her performance impressed everyone!

The books are a great read! I had tears in my eyes reading all four one after the other. Book reviews to follow!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

From TNL to NLP

Filipinos are fond of acronyms. The funny thing is, we could establish context and comprehend its meaning with the use of acronyms. Philippine Librarianship is not spared of this phenomenon. PAARL; PASLI; PPLI; BFL... the list goes on. One of the more familiar Philippine Librarianship acronym, TNL (The National Library) is now known as NLP (National Library of the Philippines.

Here's information on the change of name.

RA 10087, An Act changing the name The National library to National Library of the Philippines was signed into Law by Her Excellency President GMA on May 13, 2010.

RA 10087 consolidated House Bill 199 sponsored by Honorable Edgardo M. Chatto and Senate Bill 1152, sponsored by Honorable Senator Mar A. Roxas of the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture.

Important feature of this Act are:

Sec. 2 "All references to the Bureau of Public Libraries in laws, executive orders, rules and regulations shall henceforth be understood to refer to the National library of the Philippines."

Sec. 4. "Any law, presidential decree, issuance, executive order, letter of instruction, administrative order, rule and regulation contrary to or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act is hereby repealed, modified or amended accordingly."

In the midst of this change in name, will the NLP's identity change too? The eternal optimist, I'm hoping for better things to come (scratches head).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Highlights From the PESI Differentiated Instruction Workshop

Another successful teacher training workshop!

The Differentiated Instruction workshop I had with clients of Phoenix Educational Systems Inc. was a blast! The teacher participants were energetic and participative. Surprisingly, there were librarians in the audience too. I met Jackie and Marci from St. Mary's School, Caloocan. Both are school librarians who read my blog! I'm so glad to meet them, readers of my blog, in the flesh!

L-R Jackie, Me and Marci

My workshop consisted of two parts - input session and workshop session. It is during the first part where I discuss theories and content. In the second part, workshop activities are done and presented. For this teacher training workshop, I gave an input on the basics of differentiated instruction with a focus on strategies and techniques. The main strategy in focus is PESI's Dramatic Learning.

Teachers were divided into small groups. Each group were given different activities to do and to present afterwards. Activities were taken from the Dramatic Learning Package of World Book Online. The picture below shows one group did a skit on The Country Mouse and The City Mouse. The other groups did poster making activities, vocabulary and grammar, venn diagram and news reporting.

A teacher holds up the poster they did to illustrate the difference between city life and country life. A lot of cooperative learning took place as each member in the group assumed roles. They came up with good outputs. They were so engrossed on their projects. I'm so proud of them!

The activities likewise gave the teachers an opportunity to use World Book products like the WB Encyclopedia, Online resources, dictionary, almanac and other fact books. This teacher reads the World Book World Mythology series in line with their group assignment to retell the myth of Prometheus and his gift to man.

As expected, teachers in the higher levels (grade 6 to high school) presented a more serious piece. This group worked and rocked a scene from Prometheus Bound ala reader's theatre. The lead was portrayed by Teacher Bryan, a big voiced guy who teaches high school English in Arellano University.

I'll be posting more photos in the coming days because the teachers were eager to see their projects online. We'll keep you posted! They really rolled up their sleeves and delivered! PESI gave them a week's freebie on trial to use World Book Online and its resources. Bags and umbrellas were also raffled off. Needless to say, all of the teachers went home happy!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Developing Creativity Through Storytelling Workshop

My storytelling workshop for teachers last May 25, 2010 at Create Learning Paths School in Merville, Paranaque was so much fun! The teachers had been working on their content outlines for days and the workshop I did with them was a breather.

I gave a short in put on creativity and why it needs nurturing in the field of teaching and instruction. Storytelling is one avenue where creativity could be developed and enriched. So, as activities for creativity, I gave them voice and body movement exercises. I also presented different strategies in telling stories.

The CLP teachers tried their hand at making storytelling flashcards which they used in their group presentation. The other group showcased a reader's theater of the fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper. At the end of the workshop, the teachers wore smiling faces. The thank you card they gave me were filled with sweet and inspiring words. Ang saya maging kwentista! Oh, the perks and delights that go with storytelling!

Differentiated Instruction Workshop for Phoenix Educational Systems, Inc.


Differentiating Instruction

Hall, Basia. Differentiated Instruction: Reaching All Kinds of Students. Research into Practice

Tomlinson, Caro Ann. Mapping a Route to Differentiated Instruction. Educational Leadership. Vol. 57. No.1 Sept. 1999.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Librarian as Folklorist

Working on the book, Tales From the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Folk Stories with Dianne de Las Casas, has given me the opportunity to be exposed to the social and cultural diversity of the Philippines. In books and first hand interaction with Pinoys, I experience face to face the variety of beliefs and influences that flavor the Filipino psyche and way of life.

For one, Pinoys in general are reticent at sharing their stories, personal ones and those in the oral tradition. Perhaps a certain amount of time is needed for them to share and openly talk about it to a friendly stranger. There are but a few who would tell in great candor the learned and heard stories of old. Despite this, it has made me realize the need to further storytelling as a way to preserve images.

Coding and writing them down is one way to posterity. Then again, the oral tradition is a dying art. There is a need to resurrect the performance of tales and folk narratives to truly say that a culture is alive and well.

For the next couple of weeks, I will be heading back to university libraries, the National Library of the Philippines and yes, the Cultural Center of the Philippines for further research.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Scholastic Asian Book Award

Passing this on to SLIA's readers --

Have you written a children’s story that is inspired by Asia? The National Book Development Council of Singapore and Scholastic Asia are jointly launching the Asian children’s book prize. The award is called the Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA). Deadline for entries is 2010 December 31.

For more information, go to

Thanks to the Philippine Chapter Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators via Beaulah Pedregosa Taguiwalo, Regional Advisor and Dominique Garde Torres, Asst. Regional Advisor

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bohol Island Day 1-3 (May 15-17, 2010) Part 2

From island hopping, we went inland to discover more of Bohol's splendor. The day's itinerary were as follows: Tarsier, Chocolate Hills, Man-Made Forest between Bilar and Loboc, Floating Restaurant on the Loboc River, Baclayon Church and the shrine of Pacto de Sangre.

It was a long drive inland but leisurely and relaxing. Our first stop was the Tarsier zoo. Finally I saw them, live! They were so small indeed. They clung to the branches in huddled repose, eyes wide and bulging, fingers wrapped securely on a tree branch.

Dianne and I said our goodbyes to the tarsiers. Mang Jerry our driver and tour guide of the day, brought us to Chocolate Hills. The road was paved but windy. It sort of reminded me of Baguio because there were big boulders that flank the road left and right. According to Mang Jerry, Bohol rose up from the bottom of the sea. That's not impossible as all islands are volcanic and most are formed under the sea where forces of water, air, fire and earth combine. See how magnificent this universe is!

It's no wonder that the Chocolate Hills were formed. It's nature's way of having fun, really. Just imagine if these hills developed into mountains, then, there would have been a mountain range in the Visayas. But no. The universe did not allow it. So now we had a wonder of the world to behold. The hills do look like chocolates as the foliage turns brown in the sun. Dianne was thinking, how come there were no chocolates for sale around? Peanut kisses were a plenty. Perhaps it's time to make a choco-peanut variant as homage to the Chocolate Hills.

Next stop was the Butterfly Sanctuary at Bilar. We were entertained by Jobert, the guide there who gave us an amusing tour of the place. The butterflies were beautiful. All butterflies in the garden are endemic to Bohol.

On our way down to Loboc, we passed by the Man Made Forest which is five hectares wide. Mahogany trees were planted by students of the Holy Name School of Bohol. They've been doing this for forty years! Dianne was reminded of the US when we stopped for a short while to take pictures. It was a cool spot.

We drove further down to Loboc River to have lunch at the Floating Resto. It comes with a singer cum guitarist. There was a part where the raft paused so that guests and tourist would be entertained by local community for some singing, dancing and banduria serenade. The whole community of Brgy. Gotozon did a fantastic job at performing traditional dances. I have not seen folk dancers do the tinikling since I was a kid. Bravo!

The final leg of the journey was the Baclayon Church and Museum. It is the second oldest church in the Philippines. The Jesuit fathers built it in 1727 out of wood. In time, the Augustinian Recollects took over and renovated the church in to its current state. It's made of coral stones taken from the sea. The adjoining museum is another interesting site and sight. I could not say they're doing a great job at preservation and conservation efforts though. The church was named a national historic site in 1994. With a flourishing tourism trade, the Baclayon municipal government or the LGU of Bohol could at least find ways to finance its restoration, especially the artifacts that has been corroded by the salty sea air. It doesn't help that Baclayon Church faces the sea.

Speaking of care and respect for historical sites, Filipinos need to be educated on this matter. I am embarrassed at the lack of historical pride and cultural appreciation among my country men. Napoleon Abueva, National Artist, made the sculpture of Pacto de Sangre, the one that stands in front of Baclayon Church. Abueva based his work form another master, Juan Luna, who painted the Pacto de Sangre when he was in sojourn in Europe. Tourists would climb up the sculptures and pose wacky faces between Urdaneta and Legaspi. I did not see any foreigner doing so, just Pinoys.

Despite this, the tours and sight seeing in Loboc, Baclayon, Bilar and Carmen were highly educational and leisurely. Now I've so much to share to my own children, the kids I teach and the colleagues I interact with. From mountain to sea, there are so many things that bind these archipelago together - love for family, generosity, simplicity...and a need to know more deeply beauty of these islands.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bohol Island Day 1-3 (May 15-17, 2010) Part 1

A day after the Sagada adventure, Dianne and I had a day's respite with our respective family and friends. It was an opportune time to sort out stuff and things needed for the next leg of the journey -- Bohol! From the mountains of Luzon, we headed down south to the seas of the Visayas. We reached Tagbilaran on Saturday morning, May 15, 2010. The sun was shinning, the sky so blue and the sea! It glimmers and glistens. In thirty minutes, we were at Alona Pyramid Resort. It was a striking contrast to our Sagada days yet, we were welcomed with the same friendly smiles and warm greetings from the locals. These islands are as diverse and varied as a jar of jelly bean candies but each is flavored with a delightful sweet taste.

We took it easy the first day and decided to go island hopping and sight seeing the next day. Dianne hired a bangka so we could see the dolphins and snorkel. At 7.30AM we were out in the open sea. Once in the middle of the sea, the dolphins made their appearance. They were so fast! You have to carefully watch for them for they disappear too soon. After a few rounds, we headed to the island of Balicasag for some snorkeling.

A starfish I found on the shore of Balicasag. I threw it back to the sea where it belongs.

My first snorkeling experience was a disaster. In Balicasag, we were blessed with a competent guide, Sinio, who taught me how to use the snorkeling gear first. On the small bangka, he gave me instructions on how to use it; made me breath using the tube before going down to the reefs. Dianne was a snorkeling pro. Growing up in Hawaii sure has great advantages.

With the help of my life vest and Sinio's assuring words, I was snorkeling in no time. He allowed me to hold his hand as he led me to the rope that marks the drop off - the end of the coral reef. It was awesome! The reef was teeming with marine life. There were parrot fishes, blue devil fishes, clown fishes (Nemo) butterfly fishes and small yellow fishes that come near snorkelers. I was up close and personal with nature once again. I thank God for giving me this life and this wonderful world!

Once the snorkeling was over, we headed to the island to rest before going to another. There at Balicasag, Dianne met some local islanders selling jewelry. It was the children who were more than endearing. For a few minutes, Dianne played with them and told them stories. Too bad, we had to leave for Putod island. At Putod, we met vacationers too - a Polish couple, Pinoy balikbayans and their friends from Siliman University. They were having a grand time as well.

By lunch time, we headed back to Panglao island. We set up our laptops at the resto to work. Yes, it's a working vacation. We have a book to plan, write and finish. The moment was perfect to note observations and list down insights. All these will fuel inspiration for Tales From the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Folk Stories!

Sagada (Day 3)- Conquering the Sumag-ing Cave

The third and last day of our Sagada adventure began as early as 7.30 AM when, after breakfast, we met Mang Jimmy, our guide from the Fidelisan trek. He was our guide for the day in the caves. The Sumag-ing Cave is the easiest cave to explore according to the Tourism Officer. It's what they recommend for first timers in Sagada because it was a cave that could be conquered by city people like us.

He was kidding us! Just when we thought that the Fidelisan and Bomod-ok Falls trekking was an adventure of a lifetime, the Sumag-ing caving experience made us hang on to dear life. Imagine going into a primeval cave with nothing but nervous excitement! The caving in Sumag-ing was an adventure like no other.

Apart from Mang Jimmy, Inug-ay, another guide for the caving tour, assisted us, Team Sagada. By now, we were at home with Mang Jimmy and his uncanny sense of humor. He is no match for Dianne though, who topped his every teasing with a joke or two of her own. Needless to say, it was a fun and fearless caving expedition. I have to say, Team Sagada is made up of go-getters and non-quitters. So, as we all groped in the dark, bending, kneeling, creeping, groping on rocks smudged with bat's dung, we have enough courage and the will to go on and to let go of our fears.

L-R Dianne, me, Lucky Galvez, Ailen Claudio, Jerome Ramirez, Jovel Lopez and Yumi Pitargue. Go, Team Sagada!

Such was the bravery of the "bagets" as they exchange humorous tirades at each other and played word games that kept us all amused despite the darkness that surrounded us. If the Mang Jimmy - Dianne de Las Casas battle of the wits was a show of their own, Lucky and Jerome were in a word war as they descended the cave. They dished out "cave" words at each other. Cavernous. Creepy. It was very entertaining. When we reached the drop off, we all needed to go down a knotted rope. Mang Jimmy deftly showed us how. We followed like dutiful students. The reward, more stalagmites and stalactites; fossils on the cave walls and the cold gushing water!

By this time we were already barefoot. We took off our footwear so we could use our feet better. The soles of our flip flops and sneakers were liable to slips and falls. On the second drop off, we had to step on our guides' knee to go down. Holding Mang Jimmy's hands and stepping on his knee was an embarrassing moment. If only I was twenty lbs. lighter! My insecurity radiated to other members of the team that slipping a few steps was inevitable. To this, Yumi simply said, It's not too bad to die in a bikini .

When we reached the dead end, we were simply thankful for surviving the way down. The way up was another story. But what was there to fear? Going up was not as bad as the trip down. Really.

We had guides who were experts. They know Sumag-ing like the back of their hands. I give credit to Mang Jimmy and Inug-ay for a job well done; for keeping us safe; for showing the way; for holding up the light and placing them on areas that made us see the beauty of the cave; for their patience and sense of humor. To the guides, Mang Jimmy and Inug-ay, thank you! Thank you! Thank you for leading us back to the mouth of the cave alive and enlightened.

On our way back to the poblacion, we dropped by a road where a cliff holds three hanging coffins. We went down a mountain side one more time to see the burial caves. Then we rushed to our lodgings for a quick shower. We had to catch the 1PM bus ride back to Baguio. Most of us needed to be back in Manila the following day.

I have to say that the two nights three days stay in Sagada was an adventure of a lifetime indeed. I got in touch with the Igorot in me. I'm Ibanag, but I've always been in awe of them. My respects for the Igorots and their kin increased a hundred fold. To the Igorots who are very much a part of the Filipino culture and history, I derive inspiration from your ingenuity, inventiveness and resiliency. I live in a beautiful country!

The Ganduyan* Museum in Sagada

It was in the late afternoon when I found myself looking for Christina Aben of the Ganduyan Museum. I was expecting to meet a young woman in her early thirties or forties. Instead, I met a wizened Igorot woman who spoke impeccable English.

Ms. Aben is the collector and oral curator of "everything" inside the Ganduyan Museum. She led me to the stairs and at the foot of it, we took off our shoes. We entered sacred ground. What greeted me was a room full of artifacts from the Cordilleras. It was awesome!

Ms. Aben began with her bead collection. These are her own collection which she started in the 1970s. The beads came from the lowlands at a time when the Igorots traded with outsiders and foreigners like the Chinese, the Indians and the Arabs. There were alligator teeth and mother of pearl shells in her collection. Such things were not found in the Cordilleras. She has a money belt, a warrior's purse and all sorts of beaded necklaces from different tribal groups of the Cordilleras. There I learned that beading patterns differ from one ethnic tribe to another. One could tell who's from the Kalinga, Nabaloi, Ifugao or Igorot. We moved on down to the men's accessories. From pipes to caps (used as pillow and water cup) and woven g-strings, anklets and armlets to warrior's garb, she has it on display. Most intriguing to me are the amulets and snake vertebra believed to increase the warrior's physical and internal prowess.

The display of spoons and drinking cups for wine are varied in size and kind. Men and women drink. For a man who has cheated on his wife, the wine cup is passed behind his back. When this happens, the cheating husband is kept away from the wife to be cleansed by the shaman. How the cleansing was done, I failed to ask. Next time, I will and yes, I'll blog about it.

For the Igorots, status are issues they treat with utmost importance. There are clothing that the rich could wear but the poor could not. The kitchenware were made from wood and metal, some from animal bones. But these are also classified by social class. Prince or pauper, the tribal Igorot does not wash their plates. Kamote, which is the staple food of the highlanders, atsara, meat and fish dishes were served on plates but the left overs, grease and stain from these viands and food were scraped. Washing was unheard of because of the scarcity of water. Water from the well was a precious resource meant for drinking, cooking and other activities for sustenance.

The divide between the affluent and the indigent persisted among ethnic tribes, however, in this modern times, these belief system no longer matter. Then again, in death, this division in social classes is still observed.

The Igorots hold many beliefs and symbols. Among the many, it is the lizard or the gecko that stand out. These animals bring forth luck and longevity. Doors, scarves, table runners, accessories are decorated with these cold blooded insectivores. Even the warrior's shield has a gecko or two. What I found most interesting among the many weapons on display is the concave end of the shields. It is meant to trap the enemy at the neck. Then, the warrior goes for the kill by chopping his head off. There goes the fabled head hunters of the Cordilleras.

For a typical city slicker, the whole thing would appear primitive or simply a mere memory of the Cordillera's pagan past. But for me, a city slicker, the Ganduyan Museum's collection and exhibit is a testimony to a unique but dying heritage that is a part of these islands. All seven thousand seven hundred of them!

At the end of the lecture, Ms. Aben shared that the museum is her life's passion. A cancer survivor, she has pursued the arts and is continuously doing so. Hats off to people like her. Long live the Ganduyan Museum!

*Ganduyan is the Igorot name of Sagada

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sagada (Day 2)-Fidelisan Rice Terraces & Bomod-ok Falls

I got a better look of the poblacion in the morning - the parish office and church, St. Theodore’s hospital, the souvenir shops, the surrounding mountains, the halo-halo stand and the local people. It was a bright and sunny day. We were ready to trek Fidelisan for Bomo-dok Falls.

For an affordable fee of Php 1,250.00, we hired a van and a guide to trek down the Fidelisan rice terraces and to bathe in the pools of Bom-odok Falls. Excitement was in the air. Dianne was wearing his hiking sneakers. She brought along a walking stick and wide brimmed hat. I have my camera ready.

The city people that we are, we were so cocky! Mang Jimmy, our guide, showed us the three-kilometer trek from the top of a viewing point. Yeah, we tell him. We can do that. And we did!

We crossed the rice terraces down winding paths and rocky terrain. The view of the mountain was fantastic. Clouds hover above us. The sky was so blue under our heads. The landscape magnified our irrelevance. Man is but a speck in the vast universe and he is free to do what he pleases in it. The rice terraces are truly a wonder of the world! The red earth and the palay that grows on them are firmly held on by rocks at the edge to prevent erosion. According to Mang Jimmy, the rice terraces in Banawe do not have such support. The Mountain Province terraces are sturdier than the Ifugao counterpart. With rocks or none at all, this Igorot invention and ingenuity is unparalleled. Though rice terraces can be found in Vietnam, China and Japan ours flourish on the rocky mountainside.

Contrary to textbook information, rice is not the only crop that grows on the terraces. Kamote, cassava, cabbage and lettuce are planted year round along with other root crops. I read somewhere that natural irrigation, rain and spring water keep the rice terraces green and growing. The rain that prevented us from caving and trekking yesterday was proof. The natural spring water that gushes out the mountainside was another. There were plenty! And what musical sounds they make! The Fidelisan rice terraces were so alive! Half way down the terraces, we met kids who ran ahead of us on the steep path like mountain goats. They were barefoot and nimble. Such was their friendliness to tourists and strangers that Yumi, one of our companions, befriended a few and took pictures of them. They made the tiring and challenging trek to Bomod-ok Falls fun and playful.

Along the way, carabaos graze on a grassy field by a stream and pools of water litter our path left and right. Little fishes, minnows, I’d like to think, and tadpoles swim in their small watery world. Then we heard the gushing of strong water. We were a few meters away from Bomod-ok Falls. Finally, we saw it. The Big Falls that the Tourism Officer recommended for us to see. It was not Niagra, but it was majestic in its own right. The force of the water was overwhelming. The current down river was strong so we selected pools and spots to dip in. Our cameras were on hand for photos to put in our Facebook accounts.

It was refreshing to be there. I sat between two rocks and allowed the water to massage my aching back. Heaven! Dianne swam in the pool and played with the kids we met earlier. She played ‘Nanay – Tatay’ with the boys. In return, she taught them ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly Jam’. Mang Jimmy, our guide left us to enjoy the afternoon. Our companions, Yumi, Jovel, Lucky, Ailen and Jerome took pictures and waded in the cool shallow waters. After an hour, we headed back to the poblacion. The trek going back was double the challenge! Yet, we made it.

Lunch that late afternoon was at Grandma’s Yellow House. We met an Igorot woman by the name of Lilian on our way there. She carried a clump of kamote vines on top of her head. She gathers, plants and sells them at the market place. If the harvest is good, she goes down to Baguio to sell more. We invited her for lunch. She declined, but we insisted. It is typical in the province that everyone is a relative to another. Lola Lilian is the perfect example. She met her grandson (twice removed) at the restaurant and her nephew by the automotive shop. Over tea (mountain tea), I asked if she told any stories to her fifty grand children. She nodded her head but could not remember or share any. Perhaps the language was a barrier. I'm not H. Otley Beyer who lived among the Ifugaos for sixty years. Beyer was an Americam anthropologist who studied and wrote about the mountain people’s way of life, customs, rituals and traditions. He included folklore collected from the locals. Sadly, his writings are in a repository somewhere in a big university in Australia.

While the “bagets” headed back to the rest house, Dianne and I continued exploring the poblacion. She went to St. Mary’s Parish and did her own research. I went to the Ganduyan Museum. Having met Dean Bocobo, the writer and scholar from Manila earlier that morning I heeded his advice to see Christina Aben of the Ganduyan Museum.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Paglaki Ko Gusto Ko Maging Manunulat o Illustrador ng Kabataan

The Paglaki Ko Gusto Ko Maging Manunulat o Illustrador ng Kabataan Room (When I grow Up I Want to be a Writer or Illustrator for Children) of the Museo Pambata gets good PR. Read it here. Ronald Lim did a good job on writing the piece.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sagada (Day 1)

The roads to Sagada are winding and treacherous. If not for the breathtaking landscapes and the beautiful rice terraces the six-hour road trip from Baguio to Sagada would have been uneventful. Dianne and I snapped pictures all the time. We got great shots! But, that was just the beginning of our Sagada adventure.

Upon arrival at the poblacion, we immediately met Manang Julia, the landlady at St. Joseph’s Resthouse. She’s such an easy person to talk to. She gave us great discount to our lodgings as well. Thanks to Roderick Ramos, my friend and colleague, who inspired me to go to Sagada with Dianne in the first place.

There were seven of us city slickers, six from Manila and one from New Orleans. We were tourists in a place where time moved in slow motion. No rush. No hurry. It was so easy to tell us apart, what with Dianne and her strong American features standing out the locals looked and wondered. Then, with a knowing smile, we were labeled in their eyes – lowlanders. Yes, the Sagadians were a friendly lot but they keep a certain distance from new comers. We were welcomed and were treated rightfully though. Then again, I could not help but feel like a stranger in my own country.

At the municipal hall, we talked to the assigned personnel at the information center for tours and registration duties. A minimal fee is needed to do this – only 20 pesos and you could pick your choice of Sagada adventure. While the idea of trekking, caving and seeing the sights fermented in our minds, our stomachs got the better of us. So, we headed to the nearby Masferre Café for a late lunch. The restaurant is family owned. Eduardo Masferre is a Spanish Mestizo known for his photographic art of the Cordillera people. His photos chronicled and depicted the Cordillera way of life and culture. What could not be described in words, Masferre captured in photos. Some of his photos were exhibited on one wall for costumers to look and see while waiting to be served. His son, the youngest (I think) manages the restaurant. Patricia Masferre, granddaughter of the master, waited and served us lunch.

It must be the twelve-hour bus ride, the sleepy mood that enveloped the locality and the long wait for lunch that made us lethargic. We canceled the afternoon’s activity for a few hours of rest. We wanted to hit the caves in the late afternoon but a downpour kept us in our rooms. Dinner was at Café St. Joe. The cold climate made me order another mug of mountain tea. This became my staple drink in our three days and two nights stay in Sagada. I was not the only one who fell in love with the tea. My companions bought dozens of mountain tea packs for home and pasalubong.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Updates on Tales From the 7,000 Isles Book Project

Dianne de Las Casas is in town for a series of workshops. Scholastic Philippines sponsored her five workshops in Bulacan, Batangas and Manila. All were smash hits!

We're off to Sagada tonight for research and folk lore collection on the book we're putting together. Then we'll fly to Bohol in the Visayas island for more research. And a bit of sea, sun and sand.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Author of the Month: Astrid Tobias

On May 9, 2010 a good friend of mine is celebrating her birthday in heaven. Astrid Tobias, writer and life's consummate lover is SLIA's Author of the Month. Liwliwa Malabed, our common friend, shares these wonderful memories of Astrid. She also did this beautiful portrait of her.

Astrid is a Salanga Prize winner and Palanca Awardee. She has left a handful of storybooks, media projects and a host of advocacy in culture and the arts.

Recall the first time you met her.
Yikes. I didn't like Astrid the first time we talked (but I did like her hoodie jacket with ears!) around 9 yrs ago. She asked me a question and I was still answering her first question when she launched in to another question! Then when i tried to answer her second question, she turned to another writer in our office (Agay, I think) and she talked to her instead! Hahaha. Yan, ADHD nga.

How well do you know Astrid as a writer/author? You may discuss her writing style, the creative process she underwent, her craft and choice of themes in writing stories for children.
She can come up with wonderful stories overnight. When I told her that her story (MALANG) was chosen for the Crucible project, she was so surprised because she just wrote it overnight!

What's your favorite Astrid Tobias story? Please explain.

Bayong ng Kuting. Kasi KUTING. Two years ago, Astrid and I were in Pililia, Rizal for a training. We saw three black kittens abandoned by their mother and we decided to take them home. In the process of putting them in the box, Astrid was bitten by one of the kittens. The story Ang Bayong ng Kuting reminds me of THIS story.

What do you think is Astrid's greatest contribution to Philippine Children's Literature? Or what legacy did she leave us - colleagues and friends in the industry?
Astrid was always in a hurry and when she left, we understood why. She made us take a look at our life and go do things we've always wanted. To quote her: Gogogo!

In Children's Literature, aside from KUTING, she also worked for children's media where kids write, produce and direct. She held workshops all over the country, teaching kids how to use the video camera.

How can we, in the industry, keep Astrid's memory alive?

Keep writing, and maybe teach kids what we know. Hold workshops for them.

Any message you wish to say or give her?

Hay. I'm thankful for the last two years I shared closely with her. To my headhunter and go-getter: bitin pa ako (I want more), but I'm happy with all those moments (pig-out moments, massage+obernyt-kina-danggit moments, ukay moments, planning world domination moments). I'm trying to gogogo, instead of tsakana (later on) and next time!

*Art Angel, a TV show for kids, will air Astrid's story Bayong ng Kuting today at 9AM.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Librarian on School Tour

Apart from writing folk stories for Tales From the 7,000 Isles, I had the great opportunity of visiting schools over the past couple of weeks. I did workshops and training sessions to teachers in preschool, grade school to high school.

At The Raya School, I gave a session on evaluating and enjoying children's books. The module I made for them was entitled Bravo! Books! where in teachers immersed themselves in local and foreig picture books and chapter books for kids and teens. The reading influences of the Raya teachers are impressive. Collectively, they grew up in a print rich environment where books were accessible to them as well. The challenge now is for them to be more conscious in making better choices on books to use in the classroom.

Last Thursday I gave a Library Open House for grade school and high school teachers of St. Mary's Angel's School of Valenzuela. The library was set up like a "tiange" where teachers browsed through the resources available for their use in teaching and instruction. But before they perused the resources available to them, I provided input on the role of the library and the librarian in their lives as teachers.

Before the month ends, I'll be in Teacher Tin Canon's school in Merville, Paranaque to give a creativity workshop for her teachers. For interested schools and institutions on the workshops that I do, you can get in touch with me via email -

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Call for Manuscripts: Adarna House Line-Up for 2010

From the Adarna House email network --

We are looking for manuscripts to complete our line-up for 2011. We welcome stories of any topic, but are currently particularly interested in storybook manuscripts that deal with math, reading, health, environmental awareness, legends, heroes, historical events, special topics (death, peace, adoption, autism, children's rights), and Filipino values (love of country, pagmamano, po at opo, colonial mentality, and value of freedom, language, culture, and history).

Submit three (3) copies of your original manuscript typewritten on short bond paper accompanied by a one-page literary bio-data. On the first page of the manuscript, indicate its genre (short story, nonfiction, poetry, etc.) and the literary contest/s it has won, if any.

Address your submissions to Ani Almario, Product Development Manager, ADARNA HOUSE, 2/F FSS Bldg., 20 Scout Tuason cor. Scout Castor Sts., Brgy. Laging Handa, Quezon City 1103. Submissions have to be accompanied by a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope to facilitate return after being screened. Manuscripts may be dropped off at our showroom, or sent through post. No manuscript submissions may be sent over e-mail.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dianne De Las Casas Live in Manila

Learn the craft of storytelling from one of the award-winning professional storytellers in the US and a book author too!

Scholastic brings you Dianne de Las Casas on a limited engagement on the following dates:

May 5 (St. Paul College Bocaue, Bulacan)
May 6 (Canossa Academy Lipa, Batangas)
May 7 (Development Academy of the Philippines, Ortigas Center, Pasig City)

Time: 7:30 am to 12 nonn
Registration Fee : 50% discount or P650.00 per participant only for Scholastic partner schools. Regular fee is P1,300 which includes handouts, books and snacks.

To register, call us at 900-1537 or 628-4487. Hurry! Limited seats only.

To know more about Dianne, visit

Invite your friends too!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dear Librarian: SLIA's REPLY for Making the Right Decion

Here's my take on Confused Freshman's dilemma. Prof. Cabbab gave his piece of advice in a previous post.

Dear Confused Freshman,

LIS was not my first choice of a college degree. I wanted to major in English under the Bachelor of Secondary Education program at the Philippine Normal University. It was my mother who convinced me to take up LIS instead because, very few major in the discipline. It meant that I have little competition and bigger chances to get a job. She was right.

I love books. I love reading. I love being and socializing with people. If you, like me, have an affinity for all three – books, reading and people, then that’s a good start to base your choice in transferring to LIS. Other than these, LIS could offer you the following jobs or possibilities after graduation.

a. You can work as a librarian in a school, college, university, corporate and/or government agency.
b. You can take on a job as an IT specialist.
c. You can be a content developer.
d. You can work in a publishing house as indexer, abstracter or a subject specialist who prepares bibliographies and thesauri.
e. You can be an archivist and work along side historians and researchers

The good thing is, you can be anyone of the afore mentioned professionals here or abroad. Yes, LIS professionals are WANTED in the Philippines and the world.

As for your study habits, I think this is an area you need to improve on. I further suggest that you take some test on your learning styles and modalities so that you would know how to conquer your weakness of late submissions. If you’re succeeding in your sibling’s outsourcing project, there must be something about it that gives you constant and automatic motivation. Know what it is and use it to help you survive college and life in general. It would do you a lot of good if you seek your college’s guidance counselor especially with your academic history.

I’m all for a college degree, but you know, if a four year course is not for you, then there are options. I know of successful people who took TESDA (skills) courses and they’re happy, financially and personally. The important thing is that you know who you are, what you want and how to get it. Your confusion is a good start to self-discovery. Don’t quickly jump into another course. Instead, reflect on where you are at the moment and plan a strategy. You are not young forever. Time waits for no one, besides.

The good thing is, you are blessed with free will. Use it well. You’re free to follow the advice I gave you and that of Prof. Cabbab’s. At the end of the day, however, it’s what your heart’s desire that matters.

Do you know your heart’s desire? Do you know your passion? *Follow what it is and life will reward you!

Good luck and God bless,

Ms. Zarah

*From General Iroh of the Fire Nation, Avatar the Legend of Aang: The Last Airbender

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Puerto Princesa City Tour

In the afternoon of April 29, 2010 Dir. Lou David and I went on a city tour of Puerto Princesa. We visited The Crocodile Farm, the Butterfly Garden, Baker's Hill, the Mitra Ranch and yes, the city's market. We rented a transportation to bring us to these places. The drive was slow but sure. There is a speed limit for all means of transportation in all of Palawan, so our guide told us. Signs on speed limit litter the road side. Needless to say, we reached every destination safe and sound.

The good view of the country side was an added treat. The temperature was searing hot, but with plants and tress in abundance, the warm weather in Puerto Prncesa was not as offensive compared to Manila. Our guide told us that Palawan is far from any fault line. Typhoons rarely visit or pass the islands.

The places we went to were the usual tourists fare. The skeleton of the giant crocodile displayed at the lobby of the Crocodile Farm museum was amusing. The fearsome reptile was caught with half a fisherman's body in its mouth. Five years later, it died in captivity due to stress. The Butterfly Garden was currently under construction so there was little to see. Mitra's Ranch offered us a breath taking view of Honda Bay. Baker's Hill boasts of the best hopia in town so I bought some for pasalubongs. At the market place, we bought fresh dried fish. Yes, fresh. The catch from the sea is immediately preserved. Cashew nuts are aplenty too. Roxas, the town next to Puerto Princesa is famous for its cashew trees. I got some for the hubby because nuts are his favorite snack.

If time would have allowed us to visit the Underground River, we would. But Dir. David and I have full schedules the following day. Now that gave us another reason to go back to Puerto Princesa some time in the near future.
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