Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today is National Children's Book Day!

It was in the third Tuesday of July when Jose Rizal's The Monkey and the Tortoise was published in Trubner's Oriental Record in London. History accords it as the first Filipino folk tale to be published in an international periodical. It would be important to note that, The Monkey and the Tortoise was dedicated by Rizal to his nieces and nephews. Translating and adapting two stories by Hans Christian Andersen (I can only remember The Ugly Duckling), Rizal seemed bent on leaving a legacy to his nieces and nephews, as well as to young Filipino people. 

Stories are legacies. Stories bridge time and space. Stories bring peoples together. Stories build communities.

And so today, the PBBY leads the celebration of the National Children's Book Day. Remembering Rizal. Continuing a legacy. Bringing people from all walks of life together.

This year's theme is Laging Bago ang Mundo ng Libro. Institutional members like the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Museo Pambata and the National Library of the Philippines have all scheduled activities for parents, teachers, librarians, book lovers and children's literature advocates. The PBBY partnered with the National Book Development Board for the second staging of the Philippine Children's Book Summit. A Syorytelling Festival and Illustrators' Fair are events included in the summit's program. It will be held in the GT Toyota Asian Center in UP Diliman.

If you are free today, drop by the CCP for activities and join us in the awarding ceremony of the Salanga and Alcala Prizes. The NLP will run a three day conference on Young Adult Library Services in Naga City on July 20-22. Museo Pambata has scheduled a storytelling workshop to be conducted by Kuya Bodjie Pascua on July 22 as well.

Happy NCBD! Laging Bago ang Mundo ng Libro!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Lighthouse Diary Entry 1: Collaborative Work

It was our first day back at work in the Academy. The day started pretty much, chill (borrowing my daughter's vocabulary) with the head of school welcoming us all and introducing new faculty. I always look forward to the HOS's SONA. One would find nuggets of wisdom in his speeches and addresses. If one listens well.

This year, he walked us through the Academy's accomplishments of past school years and identified the achievements of the recently concluded academic year.  A necessary exercise to frame the next step of the journey. Setting directions. A time for reflection. A Janus moment. 

Of the many things that struck me from his presentation, it was his use of two symbols unique to the Academy namely, the mobious strip and the Griffin, our school mascot. Finally. We have a metaphor for which to use and anchor upon our goals and our dreams. For when we grope in the dark or doubt ourselves in moments when mistakes and failures come our way, we only have to remember that learning is a continuous journey and that the Griffin's courage, intelligence and strength can see us through.

Go Griffins!

In the afternoon, we had our first Academic session. Our Dean of Faculty assigned a design challenge activity that required us to create a moving robotic face out of popsicle sticks, folders, papers, masking tape, glue and other art materials we can get our hands on in nearby cubby holes and neighboring offices. This was a collaborative work of five to six people in a group. Our group had the slight advantage because we had the Design/Art Teacher in our midst. Lucky.

The long and short of it, we had fun working together and insights from the activity were aplenty! Indeed, there are many ways to approach a task and to solve problems creatively. 

What I like to focus on for this blog post is the aspect of collaborative learning and teaching that can be drawn upon from the Robotic Faces activity. It had been easy for us teachers to work together, to go along with the process as planned, to listen, to give way, to respect and  to watch how things would proceed organically. I think this dynamic is already in place among the faculty of the Academy. Yay! Kudos to the school leadership team!

But, children and young people may have a more challenging experience working in groups. A certain level of maturity is required to work well with different people. Then again, collaborative learning leads to that exactly - an opportunity to grow in mind and in heart as each member of the group take on roles, work with others to achieve a goal, to meet an objective or to complete a task. Communication skills are vital. A project is the object of collaboration. 

To structure a collaborative learning activity, here are some recommendations.

Set roles before or after presenting a task, a problem or a project.  Roles can be: facilitator, scribe, reporter, gopher, time-keeper, devil's advocate, cheer leader, researcher, and analyst. These roles may change depending on the collaborative task or project. Identifying each role and the contribution he or she can bring to the table help facilitate the process of competing the project. 

Think-Pair-Share is a strategy for collaborative learning. Students think through on their own the task or the project assigned to them. Working individually in gathering data to solve a problem or initially identifying steps to complete the project. A student finds a partner or work with one as assigned by the teacher. They share their data, findings, discuss the better course of action, plan and then solve the problem or perform the task.

Another strategy is the Jigsaw Puzzle. More cooperative learning in approach, but can be adapted into a collaborative learning experience, the Jigsaw Puzzle is aimed at allowing students to work on tasks and projects from their context and cultural backgrounds. These students are then grouped together to share and partake in a discussion of their output and how it fits in a bigger piece. The literary circles is one example of a Jigsaw Puzzle, I think. More about it in a future post.

The Fish Bowl technique can be used as well but for a specific task like discussions on topics of ethical and moral issues. A group inside the fishbowl discuss the topics. A group outside of it records the discussion and take notes of the dynamics in the smaller group. It can be a pre-writing activity that allow students to think in a group. Both groups, the one in the fishbowl and the one outside of it will benefit from the discussion. This technique can be a research strategy as well. Good to use in gathering of data, documentation, valuation and evaluation of information generated in the discussion groups.

Like all teaching strategies, I think the success lies in the teacher's creativity and competence when he or she plans and implements them in the classroom. But of course, the better teacher would know specific strategies to use based on students goals and needs.

Here are websites and links to explore on collaborative teaching and learning.

Jigsaw Puzzle - https://www.jigsaw.org/

That's it for today. Until the next entry in The Lighthouse Diary of Zarah G, your friendly teacher librarian and reading companion!

Friday, July 14, 2017

PPT on Storytelling as Truth Telling

To be delivered and presented in the Annual Lampara Books Seminar on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Priming Activity 2: Media and Information Literacy

Priming Activity 1: Media and Information Literacy

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Media and Information Literacy Matrix of Topics

A Media and Information Literacy (MIL) matrix of topics I put together as product of my practice and research when preparing for training workshops on MIL for school librarians.

Please properly attribute and appropriate my work as source when you use the matrix. I would also appreciate an email or a message informing me that you used the matrix.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Post Script on Teacher-Librarian Collaboration and MIL Workshop for ALLPI


It's been a week since our workshop on Teacher and Librarian Collaboration and Media and Information Literacy. Thank you very much for making the workshop a meaningful experience for me. As always, I learned from the experience as well. Your presence and cooperation pushes me to improve my training module and the approach I can use the next time I get to do a similar workshop.

Among the many insights I gained from our workshop last week, it is the concept that MIL is a process - something we can work on together in steps and in progression. And while you may be connecting the dots on what you gained from the workshop with actual practice, I am sending these links your way to further enhance, enrich or support your understanding and competencies in MIL.

Read on! Take note. Write down your questions or what struck you along the way.

If you are new to assessment and the tools necessary to undergo diagnoses of skills and competencies, I recommend this PPT by Marjorie Pappas (2009). In her presentation, she explains the different kinds of assessments and the tools that are appropriate for each one. I particularly like the strategies and graphic organizers she identified for self-assessment not only on IL skills, but on creative and critical thinking skills applied in communication arts.

For specific rubrics and criterion based assessment tool on IL, here are three websites and links to each of them.

Information Literacy Skills Assessment for Students 
This assessment on IL is a free online assessment tool designed by the Kent State University Libraries. All you need is to get an account, verify it and you can use the assessment tool, known as TRAILS, for one-on-one, small group or class sessions.

Information Literacy Value Rubric for Projects and Finished Research Work - 
This is a PDF of an IL rubric to assess students' achievement on IL skills applied in creating and communicating a project or a research work. The PDF can be downloaded for free.

RAILS Rubric Assessment of Information Literacy Skills is list of assessment tools on IL skills and its sub-skills. You need to log in to get free rubrics and even contribute your own. Of the three, this is may favorite because, I am able to choose which is applicable for my students, my workshop participants and colleagues who need my help and assistance.

That's it for now. Do give me feedback or ask questions on the links I recommended.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Translator of the Month: Eugene Evasco

Eugene Evasco, Palanca Hall of Famer and Salanga Prize Winner, is the translator of our new book, The Day Max Flew Away (Gagatiga and Tejido, Lampara Books, 2017). In this interview, he talks about his style and approach in translating stories in English text into Filipino. Read further on as he shares books that influenced him to write for children and his five dreams for the growth and development of Philippine Children's Literature. 

Book cover of The Day Max Flew Away
1. How do you approach translation work?

I have three approaches in translating literary texts for children. First and foremost, I must produce a text that will not sound like a translation. I have to make the translation of an English text “originally written” in Filipino. Secondly, though I have to respect the original intent of the author, I must assert my own voice and style in the translation. My style in translation is trying to write the text like my own work. Thirdly, and most importantly, after translating the text, I have to make sure that the product is child-friendly or readable.

2. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a translator of children’s books?

One of the biggest challenges is translators of children’s books in the Philippines are marginalized. Some are not acknowledged properly in the book production. They are not even considered as co-creators of the book. Another is the language problem. Translation is supposed to be a process to make the text accessible to Filipino readers. But in my experience, there are cases that some readers, young and old, are struggling to understand the Filipino language.

Title page, where Eugene Evasco is appropriated as translator
3. Among your published works, what book is the most meaningful and why?

Pintong Maraming Silid (The Door with Many Rooms) is a personal favorite. It is beautifully illustrated by Leo Kempis Ang. It is our ode to books and our testimony to the power of reading.

4. Five books that influenced you to write for children.

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White- I personally asked my publisher, Segundo Matias, Jr. of Lampara to buy the foreign rights and publish my Filipino translation. This book taught me how to write in a lyrical way, using concrete images. Rene Villanueva’s Ang Unang Baboy sa Langit and Nemo, Ang Batang Papel. The Philippine Folklore series of Damiana Eugenio
is a gold mine of stories. I adore Mayroon Akong Alagang Puno by Carla Pacis.

5. Five big dreams for Philippine Children’s Literature.

-More handsomely-produced children’s books using high quality paper and binding, outstanding design, and thorough editing. We need to package our products properly.

-We need more radical, unconventional, and brave texts for children.

-Philippine children’s books should be visible in the world market. We need agents to sell our book in the international community. We never ran out of talent. We must invest in marketing our books.

-A book museum and research center focusing on Philippine children’s books.

-Establishment of a Children’s Laureate or the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in our country.

Eugene Evasco is a panelist in the 2nd Philippine Children's Book Summit on July 22, 2017.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Museums and Art in Public Spaces (2 of 3)

And so, our visit to the Ayala Museum was a rich experience of Philippine art, culture and history. The affordable fees allowed me and my daughter to view permanent exhibits with new additions in multi-media format and current ones that are relevant and accessible to visitors of all ages. An ongoing exhibit is Revolutionary, showcasing the talents and masterpieces of Julio Nakpil and Nick Joaquin. Don't miss it if you are in the neighborhood. Entrance is free for this exhibit in the Ayala Museum.

And now, we go to Quezon City.

Our visit to the Ateneo Art Gallety was accidental. We went to the Rizal Library in the Ateneo de Manila University campus (ADMU) for a different reason all together. Our walk to Gonzaga Hall at lunch time led us to the Gallery. That day, Manga Hokusai was on display! Zoe reads manga and watches anime. How can we resist this opportunity? 

Katsushika Hokusai created manga using block prints and the pages were stitched together by hand. His prints of the wave over Mt. Fuji is already an iconic image not only in Japanese manga but also in pop culture. Known as The Great Wave, it is a piece of work that is both magnetic and kinetic. The wave has a character of its own, like a water monster with claws ready to seize anyone and anything on its path. 

Before leaving ADMU, Zoe and I took pictures of the installation art in the campus. She particularly liked the cluster of bamboo poles. It looked perfect for a game of hide and seek. I liked the animal sculptures and the bench in between them. It seemed to invite me to sit down, to play with my imagination and to wonder. But, I didn't. 

Looking back, I think that is the whole point of the art works. I have been to the ADMU campus many times and I always get that feeling of youthful abandon each time I see these art pieces. Pause. Sit down. Breathe. Imagine. Wonder. Live.

Plet Bolipata Borlongan, thank you!

When I visit the ADMU campus again, I will take the artist's invitation to simply be. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Museums and Art in Public Spaces (1 of 3)

In three weeks, Zoe and I will be back at school. She begins year 10 in the Academy and I carry on as teacher librarian. We are ticking the list of to do's one at a time and counting the days till the first day of school begins.

One of the activities we have ticked off our list is to visit museums. We have been to the Vargas Museum in UP Diliman, the Ateneo Art Gallery in Ateneo de Manila University and the Ayala Museum in Makati. All three museums are accessible to us with affordable entrance fees. As a matter of fact, I only paid Php 125 for Zoe and I went in for free in the Ayala Museum. 

Teachers only need to present their school IDs for free entrance to the Museum. So, if you are a teacher or a librarian with a faculty status, just make sure your ID says so, bookmark Ayala Museum's web page and follow the Museum's Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts for updates on workshops and new exhibits. The permanent displays never fail to mesmerize. The current ones are just as amazing. 

I have seen the Gold of Ancestors three times and this recent experience of looking and viewing at the artifacts made me more proud of my history, my heritage and my place in the world. Pre-colonial Filipinos (is there a better word or a term that is historically appropriate?) were already trading with the rest of the world and making art! The exhibit on textiles and indigenous weaving touched me so because the Gaddang people were part of it. One of my cousins in my father's side medntioned to me ages ago that we trace our lineage to the Gaddang. I will definitely go back and spend more time in that part of the Museum. Something about weaving, the meeting of the warp and weft, and the idea that man is a bridge between heaven and earth appealed to me. I find it strange how pieces of woven cloth moved me in ways I can't fully explain yet. I will keep this feeling on tab and park it in memory. In time, I will be able to connect the dots.

Another permanent display that engaged us was the Diorama Experience. I don't know about Zoe, but this exhibit is perfect for amplifying concepts in history like timelines and cause and effect, as well as human nature and the changing thought processes of each age and era. We missed the virtual reality on Rizal, but Arturo Luz's paintings and sculptures delighted us. It was simple but elegant. Unpretentious but classy. Less is more, indeed!

We went in at 11AM and came out at 1PM. Our minds and hearts were full. Our spirits lighter. We were hungry at the end of the visit that's why we had a heavy snack right after. That's the good thing about Makati. It makes everything accessible for everyone. 

Next post is about the exhibits in Vargas Museum and the manga exhibit in the Ateneo Art Gallery.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Day With Librarians of Laguna Province

My seminar-workshop on teacher-librarian collaboration in designing and implementing a Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Program with the Association of Librarians of Laguna Province Inc (ALLPI) was a success! There were 25 participants excluding the officers of ALLPI who came from private schools, public schools and colleges in the cities and towns of Laguna. Majority of the participants are first timers in a seminar-workshop on media and information literacy. This gave them reason to listen very well to my lecture and to follow the activities of the workshop. I felt their eagerness and enthusiasm in understanding the supportive roles they play to teachers and school leaders in the learning community. I think I gave a good introduction on this topic as well as presenting to them the basic concepts of MIL.

A few hours after my workshop, my Facebook feed received notifications of posts and tags on photos of the workshop. I did my own posting and I was happy to get a message from one participant saying that, "she always learn something new every time she attends my workshop." That is actually one of my goals in every workshop I do. One participant sent me messages over at Messenger today asking questions to clarify some points and concepts on MIL. Another' asked for my slide presentation and list of sources. Of course, ALLPI did an evaluation of the entire workshop but it is the direct feedback from participants that interests me more.

I do hope this is not the last MIL workshop I would do for ALLPI. In fact, I hinted on doing a part two. Let's see how things go because these things take time to grow and develop. Since MIL is a process oriented activity, something that can't be learned over night, I sure hope that there will be a follow up activity to the training.

The seminar-workshop was held at the Toyota Motor School of Technology in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: Issued to the Bride: One Sniper

Issued to the Bride: One Sniper (Brides of Chance Creek Book 3)Issued to the Bride: One Sniper by Cora Seton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Getting an ARC of Cora Seton's book is always a pleasure to read and to write a review afterwards. The third book in the Brides of Chance Creek led me to familiar grounds, predictable troupes and plot lines and as usual, a comforting HEA (happily ever after). Not complaining. Going back to Chance Creek is like having coffee with friends I haven't met in a while.

In this book, Hunter and Jo went through all the motions necessary to end up HEA. The story stays true to its message of partnership, gender equality, compromises and women empowerment. Though, what I like about this series is Hunter's journey to redemption. It was his own and he was brave to face his demons that has haunted him for years. Thanks to Jo, love at first sight and the error of his ways. He was given a chance to begin life anew.

And when love is real, it does find a way.

It is now the General who baffles me. How his pride has gotten in the way of loving his daughters. The mysterious ways of his wife does little to make him go back to Two Willows. I wonder what big surprise Cora Seton has at the end of the series?

View all my reviews

Monday, July 3, 2017

Teachers and School Librarians Working Together for Student Achievement

This is a work in progress! Collecting and curating all my blog posts on teacher-librarian collaboration for Tuesday's training workshop. And for future endeavors. Blogs can be used as archiving, documenting and referencing tools.

Teacher-Librarian Collaborative Activities:  Library Scavenger Hunt
LSH 2016

Teacher-Librarian Collaboration Lesson Plans & Mini-Lessons
Lesson Plan on Information Literacy: Teaching the Big 6 Model (2006)
Dear School Librarian In Action: Library Skills Instruction for Prep Students (2012)

Teacher-Librarian Collaboration: Dynamics, Functions, Purpose and Roles

The Beacon Academy Library Packet for Teachers - A promotional material for inspiring collaboration with teachers (2012)

School Librarian as Collaborative Teaching Partner Five ways to make collaboration happen (2015)

Grade 9 English: Preparing for Personal Project
Grade 9 English: Preparing for Personal Project
A recent post on teacher and school librarian collaboration, where I worked with the English teacher in planning a mini-lesson on Search Strategies for Grade 9 students (2017)

Friday, June 30, 2017

NCBD 2017 and Voice of the Teachers

On Sunday, June 25, 2017, I was a guest in the radio show Voice of the Teachers. It goes on air at 1PM-2PM every Sunday at DWDD Katropa Radio 1134 kHz. It is hosted by an intrepid team of teachers and trainers namely, Sir Robert Peter "Bobby" Sagun Ancheta, Teacher Fe Mutallano LustaƱas, Sir Jet Ramos and Teacher Herman BriƱas. 

I was one of the four guests that afternoon. Each of us talked about our advocacy and field of expertise. Teacher Julia shared the findings on her research about factors that contribute to the migration of Filipino teachers for greener pastures. Sir Mike and Miss Abigail are professional trainors, teachers of teachers and allied professionals. It was an enjoyable and insightful afternoon!

With hosts and guests of Voice of the Teachers Radio Show

When it was my turn to talk about the Annual National Children's Book Day (NCBD) and the granting of the Salanga and Alcala Prizes, everyone in the room was all ears. It was their first time to know about the NCBD and the writing and illustrating prizes that the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) confer to the winners. When I told them about past awardees, honorable winners and the books that bear the Salanga and Alcala medals, their faces lit up in delightful familiarity. The titles I mentioned were Alamat ng Ampalaya, Chenelyn! Chenelyn! Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Lola! and Bruhaha! Bruhihi. 

The hosts, most especially, knew these stories and I was surprised as well when each host gave a summary of the book they are familiar with. They recalled these stories with fondness, like it was a part of their childhood years, a bygone age of  innocence and wonder. Such is the magic of stories and the enchantment that readers of all ages find in Children's Literature! 

Thank you to the hosts of Voice of the Teachers! Thank you to Teacher Marose Lagunsad for endorsing PBBY to the show as guest. It is always my pleasure to share and speak of our advocacy and literacy campaigns. 

On July 18, 2017, the awarding ceremonies of the Salanga and Alcala Prizes to this year's winners will be held at the CCP. On July 22, 2017, the second Children's Book Summit will take place in GT Toyota Asian Center in UP Diliman. Two sibling activities are also up on schedule that day. The Illustrators' Fair and the Storytelling Festival are two events for kids age 5 to 12 years old. These events are free and are being made possible through the collaborative efforts of the PBBY and the National Book Development Board (NBDB).

Happy National Children's Book Day! Laging bago ang mundo ng libro!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Priming Activity: The Hero and the Trusted Sidekick

Priming Activities help participants prepare themselves for a workshop or a learning encounter. For the facilitator, activities that prime the participants into the workshop help him or her establish a context that would make the experience more meaningful for them. On a personal note, I always put the participants above the topics for discussion. My goal is to meet them where they are at and that is a tall order for myself in a one-day workshop. But that is why I love designing and conducting workshop. I set high expectations upon myself so that I can learn from the experience too.

For the Hero and the Sidekick workshop, here are the priming activities for the participants.

A. Complete the following sentences:

I am attending the workshop because ____________________________________.

I want to know how __________________________________________________.

I want to understand __________________________________________________.

Your answers to Priming Activity A is your entrance pass to the workshop. Write your answers on a small sheet of paper with your name on it. I will collect the sheets of paper with your name and answers on it at the start of the workshop.

B. Read the blog article School Librarian: Every Educators Trusted Sidekick by Dianne McKenzie.

Go to this link:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/school-librarians-every-educators-trusty-sidekick-dianne-mckenzie. If this doesn't work, copy-paste the title of the article on Google's search box.

Write down what struck you while reading the article. If you have questions about the article, write them down too. Your answers will come in handy during the BUZZ GROUP sessions.

C. What to bring on July 4:

- an open mind and a positive attitude
- a schedule of work flow for the day
- a brief job description of your work as school librarian
- existing program on Media and/or Information Literacy, if your library has one 
- existing library instruction program, if your library has one
- for teachers: a sample lesson plan on any subject
- for school leaders: principals and academic coordinators bring a sample 3-5 year development plan that includes the library's growth and development along side the school's 

For questions, send me an email via zarah.gagatiga@gmail.com. If you are done with activity B, you may share it with me by sending your answers using my email address. Have fun everyone! See you on July 4!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Author of the Month: Darrel Manuel Marco

Telling stories! Reading aloud! Doing what he loves!
The blog's Author of the Month is Darrel Marco. He is a librarian, storyteller, reading advocate and an adventure-seeker. He goes around the country to tell stories and spread the love of reading. He also has presented papers about libraries and children's literature in Finland and Japan. A lover of life, long adventures and literacy!

The three books in the Bulilit Books series are his first books to be published by the Nutrition Council of the Philippines Publishing Corporation (NCPPC). I am proud to have worked with him on this project. I wouldn't be surprised if one day, we get to see more books from Darrel!

1. Describe the experience of writing your first books

I have been told a million times that it is hard to write children's books. 'Children's stories are more challenging because you have to think of the appropriate language!' 'You always have to consider the contexts of your readers, especially if they're children, it's hard to write stories with sensitive topics.' Thru writing Bulilit Books, my first-ever books soon to be published and read by many, it is true. Writing children's books, or any book, or writing in general are never a walk in the park.

When I was invited to become one of the writers for Bulilit Books, I immediately threw in my blue chip and shouted "I'M IN!" without considering the odds. After all, I have big trust in my writing team, who mostly have experience in writing children's stories (both have won writing awards). Joining a writing team proved to have advantages -- two heads are better than one (!!!) -- and that much of brilliant grey matters give birth to a lot of ideas. Now this is where collaboration, teamwork, and compromise come into play. I appreciate the open communication between our team -- from the storyboards, to the illustrator's studies, revisions back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, and I learned to love Google docs, where we got to collaborate and share ideas.

Darrel in his element: sun, sand and sea!
My favorite part in the whole process got to be the Kid Test. I am not new to the world of children's literature as I have been a librarian and storyteller for a time now, but during this part of the writing process, I took a step back and used my writer's point-of-view. It was a big realization for me that the kids are very critical of what they hear and what they read. They are also very particular with details up to the smallest dot and a misplaced pot. Kids can really tell and they tell it to you bluntly, point-blank without batting an eyelash, nary a smile. Alongside these comments from the kids are the feedback and reviews from the many focus group discussions we have conducted with the teachers and other stakeholders. Indeed, it was a walk in the park. THE. JURASSIC. PARK. But all of those deemed to be very helpful in all our revisions and notes for future projects. After all, it is when we make mistakes that we truly learn [thru feedback, mentoring and constructive criticism, of course.]

As a storyteller, I am used to telling stories from books made by different writers. This time I believe as a writer, it is my stories that will tell who I am.

2. Where do you draw inspiration in writing stories?

It is always the innocent look in a kid's eyes whenever they hear me tell stories that continues to inspire me to tell and eventually write my own stories. Stories are magic. It's the ooohs and aaaahs, the laughter and sadness, the excitement in a kid's eyes that tell me -- Yeah! Push! Go Go Go Para sa Bayan! It is also our vision to inspire more Filipinos, children and adults alike, to read and love reading, and eventually, to write their own stories. Each of us has a story to tell, and these stories can conjure magic. Magic that can teach us compassion, empathy, and love (always!)

 Bulilit Books 2017
3. What are you most excited about the Bulilit Books?

How our kid partners from the Kid Test will react when we show them the before and after of the books. Plus the fact that it will be read and told in Hiligaynon and Cebuano! How exciting!

4. Five books that inspired you to become a writer

I'll make this short:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I was Bod, lost and did not know where to belong until I found a family.
The Percy Jackson series! by Rick Riordan - I would love to write a Filipino version of this
Oh The Places You'll Go! (or everything) by Dr. Seuss - play with words! The Filipino language has a lot!
Love you forever by Robert Munsch - heartwarming and heart-wrenching
Sandosenang Sapatos / Papel de Liha - books where Filipino traits are being highlighted

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pilgrim's Pit Stop: Examen Prayer Apps

I started writing for the Magis Deo Newsletter nine or eight years ago. I took a hiatus for more than two years, I think. But, I am back now. Thanks to a divine intervention, I was inspired once more to write on a regular basis. Thanks to Magis Deo for allowing me a space to write once more in the Newsletter.

Last June, Pilgrim's Pit Stop debuted with an article on the anniversary of my Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) last April 2016. For the July issue, being the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola on July 31, I write about the Examen Prayer and three mobile apps that assist and help direct anyone who is willing to do the Examen.

I was first introduced to the Examen by Fr. Jean Desautels SJ. I signed up for the 19th Annotation where he was the spiritual director. I was in my third year of employment at Xavier School at the time and having attended the yearly Ignatian Retreats provided by the school, I felt I needed to deepen my prayer and enhance my prayer life with more meaning and verve. There was also the Consortium required for all newbies. I attended this in the middle of the school year and oh my, how it rocked my soul! I didn't remember praying for God to disturb me, but He did at a time when I seemed to be demanding so much from my relationships and from life, in general. Yet, happiness had been an elusive dream. The Consortium was my spiritual baptism of fire. Looking back, it was there where my spiritual journey began. I will share about this sometime soon on another platform or issue of the Newsletter.

Now, for the apps. These mobile apps on the Examen Prayer are produced and created by the Loyola Press, JesuitPrayer.org and The Prodigal Father. These three apps are: the 3 Minute Retreat; Jesuit Prayer; and the EXAMEN Prayer App. All three follow the five steps of the Examen and all can be downloaded for free in mobile phones, laptops and PC, and tablets and iPads. An internet connection is needed to download the apps, of course, as well as Google Play for Android and iCloud or iTunes for iPhone users.

The Examen Prayer App is made by The Prodigal Father, Fr. Michael Denk. It has an introductory video where Fr. Denk instructs users of the app through the Examen. Of the three apps, it has a space for journaling which can be shared to one's spiritual director, confessor, spouse or a trusted friend via email. It includes a social media channel for sharing on Twitter and Facebook. Of course, the choice to put up one's prayer petitions out there is a personal choice. The app is password protected. Users of the app can set the alarm as a reminder to do the Examen twice in a day.

What I like about this app is the space for journaling because I can go back to it to review my prayer journey, my prayer petitions and resolutions, and the grace received for each day.

The Jesuit Prayer is an online ministry of the Jesuit Midwest and Jesuit West in cooperation with the Spiritual Outreach through Leadership, LCC. The app presents the scriptural reading and Gospel for the day, then lead users of the app to Ignatian Reflection and Ignatian Prayer. There is a separate space for the Examen, prayer cards and a link to the Pope's Prayer.

The 3 Minute Retreat is the creation of Loyola Press. It lives up to its name. It is short, sweet and simple. Yet, it follows the five steps in the Examen. Of the three, this app is something I recommend for people starting out in the Examen. The Examen is a prayer technique that is not easy to do, but when done regularly and if the person is willing, then, he or she can start small and build up towards longer prayer time.

If you think these apps on the Examen can help you, why not try it out. There is nothing wrong with the traditional way of praying the Examen either. I think the beautiful thing about Ignatian Prayer is that we are able to meet God where ever we are in our life cycles and life journeys.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

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 - http://www.nilaaye.com/#/brownlow/
Lorelay Bove - http://www.lorelaybove.com/
Neysa Bove - http://neysabove.blogspot.com/
Dric - https://www.instagram.com/dric/
Mary Blair - http://magicofmaryblair.com/maryscorner

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 abcya.com 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
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