Monday, October 31, 2016

Book Review: A SEAL's Pledge

A SEAL's Pledge (The SEALs of Chance Creek, #3)A SEAL's Pledge by Cora Seton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The plot is really very simple: boy meets girl, they fell in love at first sight, another boy comes in the way as well as the girl's family and conflict after conflict arose. What redeemed them all, surprisingly, is boy number two's conscience, the leaders' morals and wise advice, and the amazing support of girl friends - proving once again that keeping your blood sisters close enough can do wonders to your hair, make up and sanity.

What worked

What I think worked for me was to witness Samantha's journey in finding herself. Being away from her family made her realise that she can do so much more. She found out her potentials by staying in Base Camp as an arranged bride to Curtis. But, even that didn't work out since it was Harris who fell in love with her. An icing on the cake, so it seems. Harris, on the one hand, learned how to fight for what he believes in with a little help from Curtis. I wonder what would have happened if Curtis didn't give way for Harris over Samantha.

What did not work

Curtis. I felt he was used as anti-hero turned hero in the story. Which only heightens my curiosity if he will ever find love. Now, that is something to look forward to in the coming books in the series.

Over all, I enjoyed reading this light, contemporary romance. It has a good mix of the personal battles of the characters set with in the backdrop of more pressing issues of a society at large.

View all my reviews

Aklat Awards 2016: Most Favorite Writer (Lampara Books)

Vote for your favorite writer!
This is a shameless plug and campaign for votes!

I am nominated as one of ten writers for the Most Favorite Writer award in the Aklat Awards 2016 of Lampara Books. Go to the Aklat Awards 2016 Survey Form to vote for me, or for your favorite writer of picture books and story books for children. The survey closes on November 8, 2016. I wouldn't really mind if you vote for another writer, but I am campaigning not just for me but for my friends who are in the list too.

Over in Facebook, the reception I received on the Aklat Awards 2016 Most Favorite Writer has been mixed. Many agree and are game on this ala-beauty pageant cum popularity contest approach to recognising writers and their body works. There are those who find it inappropriate for writers to be pitted against each other in such a fashion. Those who have fans and who are actively visible in social media have the edge over the ones whose works can only speak for themselves. While this is true and may seem unbalanced and yes, not a very good measure of a writer's works, a past experience taught me that writers are brands too.

I was told by a top sales manager of one of the international distributor of children's books in the country that I am a hard sell. I am small, dusky, unfashionable and, at the time, I was FAT. My surname is non-commercial.  On face value, the sales manager did not find anything interesting to sell about me or on the work that I do. That was in 2010. I have published academic papers already; done workshops abroad; was the PBBY president; consultant to a number of NGOs on literacy training and school library development; and one of the few school librarian bloggers in the Philippines with a blog that has a strong readership. And yet, this sales manager was outright in saying that I am not "sellable". As a writer and public speaker, the sales manager did not think that he could market my expertise as a brand that people will buy.

Of course, I was offended. To this day, I have nothing to offer but my genuine love for books, reading and telling stories. I have lost weight because of a medical and health issue, but I remain small, dusky and unfashionable.

My body of work as a writer reflect my own personal struggles and issues as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. My first book, Tales From the 7,000: Filipino Folk Stories (Libraries Unlimited, 2011), co-written with Dianne de Las Casas is my homage to my mother land. It won us an award in 2015 as a World Storytelling Resource in Tennessee, USA. Big Sister, my book with Ruben Totet de Jesus as a top ten Kids Choice Finalist in the National Children's Book Award of 2016. It's been a good run, really!

I think I pretty much know where my heart is and where my head should be.

But this popularity contest is something I am taking a bite out of the marketing game of book selling. I still want to know if that sales manager, coming from a very commercial context, is still right about me.

I may not win here, and that's alright. I will go on doing what I love and what I know I do best.

Friday, October 28, 2016

At the Academy This Week: PCNC Evaluation Visit and Halloweek

At the PCNC HQ: Do I look nervous? Nah!
This last week of October at the Academy can be described in three words: busy, crazy and fun!

After our week-long term break, we geared up for the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) visit by evaluators who looked at our governance and operational functions. I am the designated secretariat of this endeavor, a task that I accepted back in 2013 during our first evaluation cycle. Call me a nerd, but I did enjoy the experience despite my nervousness at handling the certification process for the first time. Giving it a second shot simply sweetened the experience. I did learn a lot about myself from it all. I appreciate the help of colleagues and setting up the logistics of the visit. I honor the trust given to me by the leadership of the Academy.

The PCNC evaluation exercise is similar to accreditation work where documents are pre-examined, assessed and evaluated. It is taking stock, weighing in on accomplishments and charting pathways to further growth and improvement. This year, I can say that the way we do things at the Academy leads us to clearer pathways of achieving goals. Improvements are very evident. Everyone in the Academy is set to put forth their best foot forward. Morale is high and there is a gaining confidence among the staff and work force. This happens to a community with a leadership that was able to set directions and communicated a well defined purpose of being at a most crucial time of transition.

Needless to say, the PCNC visit went smoothly. I don't know how things will turn out as a result of this certification visit but the day ended on a good note.

With Mayen Lopez, singing buddy, friend and colleague
That is why, on the following day, I came to school dressed as a minion! Cheers to honest hard work, integrity and the spirit of bayanihan!

Our Halloweek celebration kicked off last Wednesday, October 26. The students came in costumes, scary ones and horror themed attire. Teachers were game too. Locker areas were decorated with Halloween themes and the staff office set up a crime scene investigation in the receiving area. The Student Council had an array of activities that included teachers and staff too. Our plates are full with work and academic requirements to finish, but we know how to humor ourselves once in a while.

The long weekend is upon us and this gives us another chance to rest and recoup all our energy needed to finish the term. And then, it's Christmas!

2016 Teens' Top Ten by YALSA

From my inbox sent by Teen Read Week (ALA):

Now through December 31, 2016, teens aged 12-18 can nominate their favorite titles to be considered as a 2017 Teens’ Top Ten nominee via the public nomination form. Book title nominations submitted in the current year will be used for consideration of the following year’s list of nominees. For books to be eligible for consideration, they must be published between January 1– December 31, 2016.
And here is the video of this year's nominees!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Letters that Inspire Me to Keep Writing

The grades one and two students of the ELC of Brent International School Manila wrote me letters! I will reply to them as soon as possible. Sharing with you some of the letters of the kids.

Thank you Ms. Tamayao for sending these letters! Thank you for being the bridge between my books  to your children in Brent!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Author Visit at Brent International School Manila and Some Writing Tips for the Grade One Students of the Early Learning Center

With Ms. Tamayao and her staff at the ELC Library
I was at Brent International School Manila last week for an Author Visit. It was my first at Brent ISM and it was their first time to host a Filipino author. Thanks to Ms. Tericel Tamayao who invited me to visit and to talk to students in the Early Learning Center (ELC). The event was a lot of fun! Lampara Books, my publisher, displayed and sold my books during the book fair since the event was part of the Booklatan sa Brent, a three day bookish event highlighting Filipiniana.

My program was very simple. I did an author talk and told stories. What made it really special was the question and answer portion of the program. One of the grade one teachers asked me for tips on writing since they have a unit on writing a personal narrative. My answers were very practical.

I told them to:
1. Write everyday. Keeping a journal helps me in generating ideas as well as maintaining the brain ready for writing. My blog is my online journal. I have a notebook I carry with me every day where I write random thoughts.

2. Write what you know. My stories come from personal experiences.

3. If words are difficult to come by, draw! Do some art.

4. Talk. Conversations help me a lot because writing involves a lot of thinking. Keeping all the ideas in your head can get stuck there and it will stagnate. Talking to someone helps in shaping ideas and in the growth of stories.

5. Listen for feedback even if you are only beginning with an idea for a story.

A letter from one of the grade 1 students of the ELC of Brent ISM. Happiness!

Sadly, the time was too short to tell them more. So, here are some additions that may prove helpful.

a. Just write. Making your story  neat and clean can be done later on.

b. Having said this, remember that writing is a process. It begins with pre-writing; the writing of the story; revision and editing; and publishing. Much of what I said in 1-5 are pre-writing exercises. Here is an infographic to further help you in becoming aware of the writing process. Your teacher and parent can be a big help in helping you follow through the steps. This would mean that you would be spending a good amount of time when writing your story or a topic that you like.

c. A story has three basic parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. In your personal story, ask yourself what happened first. After that, what was next? Was there a problem? Was it solved? How did you feel? At last, tell us how it ended.

Once a grade one student of mine wrote about eating a delicious cake. His story went like this:

BEGINNING - I ate a piece of chocolate cake. It was yummy!

MIDDLE - I drank a glass of milk. My tummy hurt. I went to the bathroom and threw up. I felt awful. Mom made me drink a lot of water and I took a medicine.

END - I rested for a while, then, I farted! I felt better.

When I read the story with him, we were laughing. I asked him if all the words work well in each parts. Guess which word we changed during the revision stage?

d. Keep an open mind when your family, your teacher and friend send feedback or comments. Some comments are good and many are given so you can write better.


Writing is not easy, but it can be enjoyable. I love writing because I have stories to share. When I share stories, I realize I am not alone. I get to understand myself better and at the same time, I take in the perspectives of others. How similar we all are! This only goes to show how, despite the differences among people of color, race, religion and culture, we share the same humanity. We are all humans. We are all peoples of the world.

Share your story! Start writing!

Infographic Source:

Zarah Gagatiga conducts one-on-one writing workshops for K-12 and runs writing camps in the summer. The 2017 calendar is open for reservations. Get in touch via

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Interpersonal Relationship in Reference Services

Karen and Andrew role play the reference communication process
As I was preparing my training module on Reference Services for the Effective Librarianship @Work Conference in Southville International School and Colleges, I realized that librarianship is a people oriented work. There are the tools and the technology that librarians use in establishing systems and structures to operate day in and day out. The end goal of this endeavor is to service people, receive feedback from them and develop stronger systems and efficient structures that will address the community's context, enrich their culture, hone their personal skills and professional competencies.

This is why, in my presentation, I went back to Ranganathan's Law of Library Science (1931) and included my Library Concepts (2012). I did discuss and share best practices, but I invested a good amount of time on Interpersonal Relationships, Active Listening and how these topics and concepts can be applied to the reference communication process.

We had role playing activities. One role playing session involved volunteers to show the reference communication process to the bigger group. Another one was done as a big group where participants gave suggestions on how to answer the reference query of a professor/teacher.  It was an amazing session! There were engagement and involvement. The participants were a combination of young and seasoned librarians. I think the activity afforded them learning opportunities.

With young LIS professionals of Southville International School & Colleges
As a workshop facilitator, my objective is not only to present my topic as my field of expertise, but I also make sure that the participants are learning together as a community.

Congratulations to the library staff of Southville International Schools and Colleges! I see and meet them every year in October for this annual event. They are growing as a team! Thank you to Mr. Eric Ramos who, in his own unique way, mentors me to become a facilitator of learning by throwing challenging topics on my path. Good luck to all your endeavors, librarians of Southville! More power!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Books and Coffee at the Quezon City Public Library

During my term break from the Academy, I managed to conduct two workshops for librarians. One was for the librarians of the Quezon City Public Library (QCPL) and the other was at Southville International Schools and Colleges' Effective Librarianship at Work.

For this post, I am going to concentrate on telling you about the workshop I did with the QCPL librarians.

I conducted a basic bibliotherapy workshop with them since they were keen on helping out of school youths in Quezon City. The QCPL main library is supervising 19 Barangay Reading Centers and each has a staff assigned to run programs and services for children, teens, adults and senior citizens. What I did was to give them a 101 Bibliotherapy session. It was a touching moment. The morning was filled with sharing of insights and ideas on how they can put together a homegrown Bibliotherapy program. The QCPL librarians were all engaged.

I was further impressed when they served us coffee from the Library Cafe. Yes, the QCPL has a cafe inside the library. The Iriga Public Library has a coffee shop too. I visited Iriga a long, long time ago and I am mot sure if the coffee shop is still there. Nonetheless, this coffee shop is a sign that more and more, librarians and libraries are beginning to embed itself in the community.

QCPL also had a reading superhero in the persona of Heneral Basa. Their librarians conduct outreach programs in Quezon City and in different provinces. They donate books and help communities establish reading centers. If you have old books, I recommend you donate it to the QCPL! They will surely know what to do with them.

Before I left for home, the QCPL librarians gave me and Darrel Marco (he was with me that day!) a glimpse of their future! They showed us their new building being built with in the compound of the Quezon City Hall complex.

Congratulations on this good news, QCPL! May your example bring inspiration to many!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2017 PBBY Salanga Prize Call for Entries

Taken from the PBBY website:

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) is now accepting entries for the 2016 PBBY-Salanga Prize. The contest is co-sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and The National Library of the Philippines (NLP). The grand prize winner shall receive Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos and a medal. Prizes will be awarded in an appropriate ceremony to be held during the celebration of National Children’s Book Day in July 2017.


  1. The contest is open to all Filipino citizens except those who are related to any PBBY member up to the third degree of consanguinity.
  2. Stories should be intended for children aged 6 to 12 years old. The plot and the sequence must be capable of sustaining an illustrated book of 28 to 32 pages.
  3. Entries may be in Filipino or English.
  4. Entries must be in hard copy, double-spaced, on short bond paper. Maximum length is five (5) pages.
  5. A contestant may send in more than one (1) entry.
  6. Each entry must be signed by a pen name only. Five (5) copies of each entry should be placed in an envelope, on the face of which only the pen name of the contestant should appear.
  7. Together with each entry, contestants must submit a second envelope, on the face of which the pen name shall appear. This must contain the contestant’s full name, address, contact numbers, a short literary background, and a notarized certification from the author, vouching for the originality of the entry and for the freedom of the organizers from any liability arising from the infringement of copyright in case of publication, and affirming that the entry or any variant thereof has (a) never been published nor (b) won any other contest i.e. that it has never won 1st, 2nd, 3rd, honorable mention in any other contest or otherwise been awarded a medal, a citation, or included in a publicized list of meritorious entries to a literary contest.
  8. All entries must be sent through snail mail to the PBBY Secretariat, c/o Adarna House, Inc., Scout Torillo cor. Scout Fernandez Sts., Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City.
  9. All entries must be received by the PBBY Secretariat no later than 5:00 p.m., December 2, 2016.
Grand prize and honorable mention winners shall be subject to a bidding process to be facilitated by PBBY, to determine which publisher/s will publish their winning stories.
The winning story will be the basis for the 2017 PBBY-Alcala Prize.
For more details, interested parties may contact the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, at 3526765 local 203 or email pbby[at]

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Book Review: A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes, #2)A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The murder, the mayhem and the magic continue in book 2 of the series. As Elias and Laia set forth to save Darrin from his prison cell in Kauf, new characters are introduced and old ones resurface. The plot turns in varied directions eliciting surprises and WOAH moments. I can't wait for book 3!

What worked

The very obvious chemistry between Elias and Laia thickens even more adding a romantic flair to the entire series so far. However, two things come between them: Keenan, who will be a great surprise at the end of book 2; and that greater mission to save the world. I love the women characters as they all can kick ass and then some. Even Laia, despite her poor judgement of her emotions, is turning out to be a mature character in the series. Dear me. So I hope Ms. Tahir keeps this development of the lead character.

I love the Kehanni, Mamie Rila. She knows the power of storytelling and how stories can influence and move peoples. Her meeting with Elias was touching. By the time she was done telling her story, I was in tears for she was not only telling stories to save the world, she was telling the story of her son to save his life. What sacrifice!

Afya Ay-Nur lived up to my expectations. I was sad see to Izzy go. And it looks like Shaeva, being a female jinn has more to reveal in the future installments. Keris is consistently ruthless and Cook is proving to know more than she lets on. Ms. Tahis has, indeed, some more tricks up her sleeve.

In this array of amazing women characters, it is Helene Aquila who turned up to be more than what I expected her to be. Yes, I fell for the mistake of underestimating her. The Blood Shrike's journey and growth as a key character was not easy at all. Thus, becoming the Empire's inner strength is a position well deserved. It would be exciting to see how she interacts with Marcus and Keris. And Harper too! Haha. I am hoping for another pairing here.

While the women got their share of the limelight, Elias completely transformed into the hero he is becoming to be. A master of light and dark, a conqueror of death and a protector of life. He is Elias Veturius. He who walks among the living and the dead. Messiahnic archetype? I am so stoked to find out.

What did not work

The violence. There is so much.

But I suppose, this is essential to a novel, a series that is trying to show the best of humanity in a time of chaos, darkness and conflict.

As a reader, I am staying on for the ride.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Story Corps: The Bookmobile

Here is a short video clip about the impact of books, reading and libraries to the poor and the marginalized.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bibliotherapy 101

A new presentation on Bibliotherapy which I designed from two previous PPTs. It was made by Darrel Marco and we presented the PPT and conducted the workshop at the Quezon City Public Library, 2016. 

Meeting Friends Old and New at Perps, Binan Laguna

I was happy to have been a guest of the learning community of the University of Perpetual Help, Binan Campus. I was there for a talk on blogging. My audience were students of the College of Education which included LIS students in the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have been neighbors with Perps for a few good years but it was only last week when I learned that it is the only university offering BLIS (Bachelor of Library and Information Science) and MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) in Laguna.

Perps peeps! Friends and colleagues from the UPH learning community.
I am thankful to Dr. Lindie Masalinto for inviting me over. I enjoyed my lecture since I felt the genuine interest of the students present in the audience that day. According to the Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Remedios de la Rosa, the talk is part of their Alternative Learning Program (ALP). I do believe in alternative learning because it is a non-traditional way of reaching out to learners. Formal education is meritorious, providing theory and conceptual framework to student learning. On the one hand, I think, ALPs provide the "action" part in formal education. I paraphrase John Dewey's philosophy that it is in doing where we learn much. What do we do now with the experience? This where reflection comes in, and yes, another opportunity to act on reflections as learning gateways.

Learning is indeed a lifelong process.

At the Beacon Academy, where I gave them a tour of the campus
Before my talk, my hosts brought me to the main library. I was impressed at its physical layout, arrangement and over all appearance. The staff were friendly; the reading area is spacious, well lighted and had sufficient ventilation. There is a corner for research made evidence by books in the reference area and the rows of computer terminals hooked to the internet. Headed by Dr. Elizabeth Malabanan, the library and its staff are poised for accreditation in the coming days.

As my neighbors, Dr. Lindie, Dr. Elizabeth and Ms. Pam brought me back to the Academy. There, I returned the favor. I gave them a tour of our campus. There were talks of further collaboration and resource sharing. After all, that's what neighbors and communities do. It is only a matter of time when we shall meet again to find ways on how we can network and help each other out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pangalay and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa

Our library has her book: Ukil, Visual Arts of the Sulu Archipelago
It was a dream come true!

I met the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa last September 28, 2016. She and her dance troupe, the Alunalun Dance Circle, were our guests in the Academy. The week they were in school was our Filipino Week celebration. She and her dancers introduced to us the Pangalay, an indigenous dance from the Sulu Archipelago that predates Islam and Christianity.

Pangalay is a beautiful dance! It is meditative, natural and spontaneous. When I tried it out, I felt I had a good workout. Breathing in and out as the feet move while knees are bent, accompanied by motions of the upper body going up and down is an exercise in coordination, concentration and synchronicity of the whole body. The hands need to move as well in basic figure eight motion. It's not an easy feat as it requires a listening, for of all, to the inner rhythms of the body and the conscious self.

During the question and answer portion, when the dancers have all danced and mesmerized us, we learned that, other than being Pangalay dancers in the troupe, they lead normal lives like the rest of us. There is a UP professor, a gym instructor, a Zumba dance instructor and students who started learning the dance at an early age. 

Madame Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa is 73 years old. She started learning the Pangalay in 1969. She has dedicated her life to keep this tradition of culture, oral history and dance education alive and well. I am humbled to have met her. I am inspired to continue this work of promoting culture and the arts to young people.

The Pangalay is timeless. Motion in stillness. Stillness in motion
If this is my insight, I wonder what our young people thoughts are? I hope they will be able to find their passions and turn it into something good to develop themselves and help others grow too.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Picture Book Month and Picture Books In A High School Library

Our Learning Support Teacher, perusing picture books in the library
As I am now working in a high school library, my collection development program is based on the needs of high school learners as well as their reading interest and developmental levels. There is the curriculum to refer to and I often use it side by side with my selection and acquisition procedures. Pedagogy and instructional philosophy are contexts I latch on as I grow and develop the collection.

So, if you visit our small library, you will find the required General Collection, Filipiniana, Reference Collection, AV and Online resources, and Fiction Collection. Over the years, I have acquired a good number of graphic novels and picture books too.

Yes, our high school library has them.

I think, picture books are important in our high school library because, we involve our students in the process of creating them. While many of them grew up reading picture books, knowing new titles and classic ones help them in creating their own. A few years back, our school project was the creation of picture books for K-3 readers. We called it Early Readers Online. We have started a good collection of stories made by our high school students. The stories in the collection are used by our students during their tutorials with K-1 students of Loma Elementary School. You can view them online through our school website. The link is here: The Beacon Academy: Community and Service.

Picture books are useful tools to teach a second language too. Our learning support teacher uses them to introduce Filipino to our foreign students. Illustrated story books about the Philippines add to context building in learning the Filipino language. The techniques and strategies to learn a new language are many. Using picture books is one of the strategies as it inspires the learner to create one.

Speaking of picture books, Picture Book Month is just around the corner. It is an international celebration of picture books and reading. It is an advocacy started by the sparkling, Dianne de Las Casas, award winning author and storyteller.

Back in 2013, I was part of the gang as one of its champions. Read more about it here: Picture Book Month 2013. This year, another Filipino creative made it to the list. Isabel "Pepper" Roxas is a 2016 Picture Book Month Champion! Head on to the Picture Book Month website! You will discover a wealth of resources to use in your library when you promote reading, picture books and literacy in general.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

PPT: Be Heard! Be a Blogger!

Live Blogging: Be Heard! Be a Blogger Talk at the Uiniveristy of Perpetual Help

I am in the University of Perpetual Help, Binan. I am demonstrating a live blogging session as the participants take their "break". It has been a very fruitful morning: we played a game, watched videos, and listened to inputs - my own and feedback from some of the participants.

This talk, Be Heard! Be a Blogger is part of the university's Alternative Learning Classes.

I love participating in ALCs, because, I believe that ALC sessions enrich the formal learning experiences in the classroom. I have very young participants in the audience: students of Library and Information Science as well as Education majors. I will post more photos and insights in the coming days. Soon!

For now, I go back to my demo-lecture!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Be Heard! Be a Blogger!

I will be giving a talk on blogs and blogging tomorrow at the University of Perpetual Help, Binan. I will use this video as one of my resources.

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