Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Publication News: Bookwatch and Ino the Invincible

As the month of July ends, allow me to share with you these wonderful publication news!

My article in Bookwatch gives readers an idea on the status of Storytelling groups in Manila and selected regions.

One, my article on reading, writing and storytelling groups in the regions can be read in Bookwatch, Vol. 21 No. 3. Bookwatch is the official magazine/folio of the National Book Development Board. Because it is July, articles in this issue are all about Philippine Children's Literature. Read up on the growth and development of children's books in the regions and books for kids that tackle difficult and controversial issues. This issue of Bookwatch also has a catalog of the Best Reads National Children's Book Awards winners from 2010 to 2016.

Check these titles! Do you have these books yet? The Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) is scheduled in September and all our local children's book publishers will be there to sell old favorites and new harvests! You have a month or so to save up and schedule a trip.

Speaking of the MIBF leads me to share with you the second news. Ino the Invincible, my book with Jonathan Ranola and Lampara House rolled out of the printers in time for the National Children's Book Day celebration in Iloilo!

Thank you, Lampara House!
Last Sunday, July 29, 2018, during the Salaysayan at Museo Pambata, I finally saw it and laid my hands on it.

Oh joy!

The story of Ino is inspired by my former students in Xavier School and their love for basketball. Many of the characters in the book, including the teacher, Mr. Modelo are drawn from real life. Basketball is an essential activity where boys and girls can develop skills as well as sportsmanship. The sport can also render them the growth of healthy relationships with each other.

The sport is in itself, a story. For many Filipinos, young and old who are fans of basketball, this book is for you!

Do visit the blog for details of the launch, book signing and workshop during the MIBF in September. I hope to see you there, friends and family!

Monday, July 30, 2018

The National Library of the Philippines is On the Move (1 of 3)

Since the #NationalNonLibrarian controversy erupted early this year, the National Library of the Philippines (NLP) remained mum. There were no press releases (PR) after a short television interview given by its acting/assistant Director. It seems that, as of writing, the issue has died down.

Life goes on. For everyone.

While a few bemoan the lack of PR, both on the issue in question and about the programs and activities that the NLP implements (there are select photos and posts on Facebook by NLP librarians on library events but, nothing official), they continue on. I think the silent treatment is a classy response to all the hulabaloo. Being quiet can be a good shield against the media hounds.

But let me tell you this, the NLP is on the move!

By conducting training workshops in the development of mother tongue books and teaching materials, the NLP is reaching out to different communities in the regions. Since 2016, a core group of librarians have visited provinces and partnered with the local government units to activate the children's library services of the public libraries. One way they do this revitalization is by telling stories, conducting workshops, training teachers and librarians to craft and create stories in the language of their home, family, community and locality.

I have seen them in action last summer for I was an invited trainer and facilitator in the NLP's workshop in developing materials in the mother tongue for teaching and reading in Cagayan De Oro, Misamis Oriental. The NLP librarians I met and spent two days of training were quiet workers who, like you and me, are learning constantly as they practice the profession. What's more, I met leaders in the NLP who show a genuine concern for grass roots development.

Sometimes, we need to go out of our comfort zones to see a bigger perspective of the world. Once in a while, we have to burst our own bubble and bravely enter another's to listen and to see their world. Only then can we truly understand, not just others, but our selves too,

My one-day workshop along side the NLP leaders and librarians was, on different levels, an enlightening one.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Graphic Novel Review: Dead Balagtas Tomo 1

Dead Balagtas Tomo 1: Sayaw ng mga Dagat at LupaDead Balagtas Tomo 1: Sayaw ng mga Dagat at Lupa by Emiliana Kampilan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Of course I picked up Dead Balagtas because of the hype.

My verdict: it is a trope I have read before.

Geography and the changes brought by natural phenomena affect and define our identity. Babaylans are historical figures and it’s not surprising to find her or him in the opening pages of the novel. The use of folklore and legend to frame the role of women and to foreshadow conflicting views on gender roles and expectations is deliberate done. I have seen and read these ideas and concepts before. The graphic novel did not open up wonders nor rekindled memories, either painful or precious.

I did not find Emiliana Kampilan’s agenda new nor fresh, especially her gimmick of wearing a bayong with a smiley. I wonder if she has ever done comprehensive research on the history of the Makapili, the founders of this group and its leaders who, according to historians, have all but impeccable integrity. To dedicate the book to the nation while looking at her photo wearing a bayong to hide her face sends the wrong message, at least, to me.

One good thing I can say about Dead Balagtas is its timely message on relationships. Love wins. It’s about time readers, young and old like me, get to read and see more LGBT represented in Philippine literature.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Dear School Librarian In Action: Research and Choosing a Topic

Sharing with you, dear readers, the email exchanges I had with Vin del Rosario. In a previous post, I blogged about his inquiry on research and choice of topics. My reply to him is below:

Hi Vin,

Where are you completing your MLIS? What have you found so far considering some primary research you have read? What are your topics or issues of interest?

I can give you my list, but research is more effective and meaningful if it comes from the research’s inner intent, desire and curiosity.

He replied back:

Appreciate your immediate feedback.

Sa UST po.

Am a school librarian (dito po sa neighbor nyo sa Laguna BelAir Science School).  I've been browsing papers on makerspace, new K-12 curriculum and IL, etextbooks, reading remediation and corporate social responsibility of school librarians (for sick children in hospitals), and visibility of librarians and work inspiration.

Parang interesado din po ako sa millennial librarians (pero I cant connect it with any issues/gaps/problems).

Pero sa lahat po, it's the visibility of librarians that is closest to my heart.  But I can't "connect" it with something more relevant.

Salamat po uli.

And finally my answer:

Visibility of librarians in what way? Is it on image? Perception? Relevance of school librarians in teaching and learning communities? Librarians and leadership, specifically, school librarians as literacy leaders and advocates.

Will it benefit your search for a topic if you look at concepts outside the LIS discipline and connect it with ours. Like, will a knowledge of pedagogy help school librarians become visible and relevant to the learning community? Here, you will look at the status of school librarians in several schools and learning communities. What schools have had successfull visible librarians? Why are these librarians visible in these schools? Is it because the librarians know the pedagogy and thus, contributing much to the teaching and learning process. Or is it because these librarians are leaders - they can manage themselves, relate well with colleagues, have a sense of business acumen, and learns constantly. And sometimes a big question can be a good start to polish a research topic:

Why is it that librarians know their worth in a learning community but the learning community does not? 

Try the mind mapping approach to widen and limit your inquiry process. Then step back and see what you have made. Look at connections in macro and micro issues and topics. Do a lot of readings as well. This goes hand in hand in choosing specific topics and issues. Be patient. Research takes time as it is exhausting. 

Here’s hoping that Vin has found a topic since he thanked me for the brain storming we had over email. This goes to show how conversations are a big help for researchers and that, research, when taken as a means of communication, is never an isolated endeavor.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Dear School Librarian in Action: Research and Pressing Issues in LIS

I received an email from Mr. Vin del Rosario who is a School Librarian and pursuing his masters in Library and Information Science in The University of Sto. Tomas.

Hi Ms. Zarah,

I have a terminal paper to work on as a requirement for MLIS. You came to my mind. If I may, I wish to know what you think are the pressing issues, current concerns, and/or info gaps in our profession.

I chose to ask you because I look up to you. Salamat po sa oras.

I will post my response and exchanges between emails in the next few days.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

My Five “Practical” Tips for Aspiring Writers of Children’s Books

This was the question asked of me by my friend and collaborator, Darrel O. Marco: what practical tip can you share if you want to write a children's book?

First, answer the question why write a children’s book? Define your purpose.

Second, do you have the heart of a child? Know who you are as a children’s book author and respect the audience you are writing for.

Third, how much do you love stories and storytelling? Commitment, dedication and discipline to the art and the industry can trump talent.

Fourth, LISTEN. Listen to kids, your audience. Listen to yourself and discover or
nurture the child with in. Listen to others when they critique or review your work. It will help you grow!

Fifth, have friends and we’ll write books! It’s a journey. A process. And you cannot traverse the path on your own. Reading and writing are not solitary acts.

He asked for one, I gave him five and shared insights. Of the five tips or points for aspiring writers, it is the fourth tip and insight I find most relevant.

Oh, and here’s one more - keep on reading and writing. Read anything you can get your hands on. Write anything under the sun! Don’t be afraid. Just do it. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The 2016-2017 Best Reads National Children’s Book Awards

The Best Reads of 2016 and 2017 NCBA Winners are:

Auri Asuncion Yambao. Makati City. Tahanan Books. 2016

...imagine children reading this book aloud and creating quite a ruckus. Everything about this book is fun - exactly how great childrens books are supposed to be.


Kora Dandan-Albano, Beth Parrocha-Doctolero, Fran Ng (translation). Mandaluyong City. Anvil Publishing, Inc. 2016

“Habulan” can thrill, can entice, can capture.  It is inviting and enchanting to almost any reader.  It can make the heart pound. It can tickle the mind to look if a creature follows closely behind. 

May Gulong na Bahay

Genaro Gojo Cruz, Paul Imbong, Quezon City. Vibal Group. 2016

The team of “May Gulong na Bahay,” from writer and illustrator tandem to the publishing group, is able give us a rather special book.  Here is a book that strikes a good balance between simple, colorful illustrations and accurate, interesting use of language that, together, is able to appeal to its target audience and sustain their attention from start to finish. 

Si Kian

Weng Cahiles, Aldy Aguirre. Quezon City. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. 2017

The book “Si Kian” with it’s dreamy watercolour illustrations and a story that weaves a life tapestry of a simple joyous Filipino boy with a bright future ahead of him. The dream is cut short and turns into a nightmare with the senseless murder of Kian.

A Long Long Time Ago 
Michelline Suarez, Joonee Garcia, Divine Reyes, Benjo Catindig. Makati City, Tahanan Books. 2017,

Nakakaaliw at magaan ang pagkabuo ng aklat akma sa mambabasang milenyal. Kasaysayang nailahad para sa kabataan.

Hari ng Komyut 
Lisette Daluz. Quezon City. Adarna House. 2017

Hari ng Komyut puts into the spotlight the trials and challenges Filipinos encounter in our public transport system in a way that is lighthearted and comic -- but still drives a serious point.

Rob Cham. Quezon City. Adarna House. 2016

For a wordless comic book to be good, the artist has to maintain the balance between what information is given and what is kept hidden for the reader to interpret on their own. Lost has found that balance. 

Bong Redilla. Quezon City. Adarna House. 2016

Isinabuhay ang nagdaang panahon sa mundo ng kabataan sa probinsya ng Pangasinan gamit ang malikhaing dibuho, at paglalahad. Nakakaantig ng damdamin ngunit nakakatuwa.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

An Interview With Rev Cruz 2018 Wordless Book Prize Winner

Here is an interview with Rev Cruz, 2018 Wordless Book Prize Winner. He does not consider himself an artist having no degree in Fine Arts. But his attitude and disposition about art tells us otherwise.

How did you learn about the Wordless Picture Book Prize?

Winning the PBBY Alcala Prize is one of the most important distinctions that a children’s book illustrator can aspire to. It’s been an annual tradition for me that as soon as the winner for the  PBBY Salanga Prize is announced, I download and read the winning manuscript and hope that I have enough inspiration and most importantly, time and effort to participate in the illustration contest. I was lucky enough to have two entries chosen as Honorable Mention. When the Wordless Picture Book Prize was announced, I recognized it as an
opportunity to share my own stories and not just interpret someone’s. Being a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, I saw how we were encouraged to join the contest.  

Tell us something about Pibò?

It is a story about Pibò (being a wordless picture book, I would like to let the readers and the storytellers decide what Pibò is) and his adventures. He meets unique characters whom he befriends and travels through exotic environments until he finds what he was searching for. It is a story about friendship, belonging and sacrifice.

Pibò has been brewing in my head for years now ever since I started painting with coffee (being a coffee enthusiast). I created a character based on coffee beans, calling them coffee monsters, and I painted and even made sculptures of them. I intended Pibò as a unique coffee bean, a “peaberry” searching high and low to be reunited with his batch of coffee beans, his family.

What is your creative process for Pibo?

Since Pibò has been “brewing” in my head for years, creating several paintings with the character interacting with other characters and environments. There was no narrative at first. These paintings served as key scenes in a sort of journey. So creating a narrative was a matter of “connecting” these key scenes by filling it in with additional pictures that adds meaning to the key scenes and pushes the narrative forward.

One of my favorite key scene was when the characters meet the narwhal. At first it seems like a random thing when the narwhal shows Pibò a toothbrush and he’s confused with what to do with it. People who are knowledgeable about the nature of narwhals should be able to realize that the “horns” of narwhals are not really horns but are actually tusks or essentially and oversized tooth! The toothbrush actually makes sense as Pibò cleans it!

Who are your role models in your discipline or community? Why?

I realized that creating a wordless picture book demands a unique sets of skills that is different from just illustrating a picture book. For this, I looked into the works of Bill Thomson (“Chalk”), David Wiesner (“Flotsam”), Marla Frazee (“The Farmer and the Clown”) and Aaron Becker (“Journey”) as inspiration.

For children’s book illustration, I’ve always been a Maurice Sendak fan. I’ve always considered being a member of AngInK as a privilege being able to mingle with Beth Parrocha-Doctolero, Jomike Tejido, Liza Flores, Robert Alejandro, Totet de Jesus, etc. people I look up to and aspire to.

For children’s book literature, I love reading Rene Villanueva, Luis P. Gatmaitan, Eugene Evasco and Genaro Gojo Cruz, etc…

Who are you, as an artist?

This is so hard to answer I did not graduate with a degree in Fine Arts or any related course. So I’ve always felt inadequate as an artist, even hesitating to recognize myself as an artist. (In fact, I am a physical therapist by profession) But it has always been my passion to make art. I love making people happy and inspired when they see my art. As much as I can, I just create art in whatever form it is. Gawa lang ng gawa ng feeling ko na maganda. 

*Photos are protected by copyright. Please ask permission before downloading and attribute as necessary.

An Interview With Harry Monzon 2018 PBBY Wordless Book Prize Winner

Harry Monzon, winner of the PBBY Wordless Book Prize, shares with us his creative process, his role models in the industry and the benefit of recklessness.

How did you learn about the Wordless Book Prize?

I saw the call for submission for the Wordless Book Prize shared in the Facebook page of our org Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK). 

I joined because there was a deadline. I got some ideas for a picture book that lay formless in some of my notebooks and thought the contest is a good way of finishing something. Even if it didn’t win I’d still feel fulfilled that the little scrap of idea was turned into something. 

Tell us something about Pagkatapos ng Unos ?

Our country catches an average of 20 typhoons each year and noticed there aren’t much that is written about this experience in this format. 

Before the call for the wordless picture book was announced I was already thinking of a story inspired by the virtues of the people who were able to piece their life back together after a calamity. 

Pagkatapos ng Unos is a story about the circumstances that we cannot control and how it can affect us is dependent on how we respond to it. In the story, for instance, the main character was left immobilized after losing his paddle. Had he not free the boat from the weight of his possessions he’ll be trapped in his own uncertainty and fear. 

What is your creative process for Pagkatapos ng Unos?

I keep sketchbooks filled with fragmented drawings. I usually open these when I’m looking for something to work with. I found two sketches from two different pads that almost have the same imagery and remembered they go well with the type of story I wished of completing. 

From those pieces I began creating more sketches that were similar in spirit, but did not really mind at that point if they made sense. After that, I outlined the story. 

I took a break from it and did other things for a while. Taking my head away from it allowed me to adjust my vision and get a clearer view of what I’m doing.  

The observation of other wordless picture books familiarized me with how they work. Some of the wonderful books that I came across are The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee and Pool by JiHyeon Lee. The absence of words transcends these books from their intended narrative. And because there is no one way of interpreting what is happening in the pictures they can form an intimate connection with the reader. 

I wasn’t really keen on how I would end the story but focused more on how the scenes affect the ones next to it. I really think the planting in the end is cliché but with all the environmental issues we are facing, our nature’s deterioration is an inescapable fact. The tree is also used a countless times as a symbol for growth, and most of the time growth is a gift you can expect from having to go through a tribulation. 

Who are your role models in your discipline or community? Why?

When I decided I wanted to pursue illustrating for children I often look at the works of Serg Bumatay. With all the details he put in his illustrations, you can easily immerse yourself in the story and find something different every time you go back.

I also follow the works of Jon Klassen. His works may seem minimal at an initial glance but there are nuances that can be endearing if you look closely. 

Aside from them there’s a lot of talented Filipino artists that I drew inspiration from.  

Who are you, as an artist?

There are countless instances where anxiety held me back from creating something. There’s an apprehension that what I'll do will turn out bad. But I realized that the bad is necessary to step up. 

Going reckless has its own bright side. I often repeat artworks that I’m not contented with. Sure, there’s a waste of time and resources but there’s also the reward of being better than I originally was. 

*Photos are protected by copyright. Please ask permission before downloading and attribute as necessary.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

On Volunteers and Library Volunteerism

I received a questionnaire on volunteerism in the library and for the library. Sharing with you my answers.
  • What does volunteerism mean to you?
      Volunteerism is one’s participation in people empowerment, community building and             the upholding of social justice.
  • What are the benefits that you see: 
  • if a library professional engages in volunteerism? (self being involved in volunteerism); and 
The LIS professional, when involved in volunteer work, grows and develops personally and professionally. He/she contributes to community building and becomes a part of a bigger mission other than himself or herself. It makes the ego smaller and the heart expands. Values like mutual trust, respect, empathy and compassion are nurtured within the person and promoted and shared to others.

  • if the community that the library serves engages in volunteerism in the library? 
When a community supports its library, the library becomes a stronger institution of freedom, social justice and human rights.
  • What are the challenges that you see:
  • if a library professional engages in volunteerism? (self being involved in volunteerism); and 
Volunteerism is internal. It comes from a desire to heed the call of a universal good. It comes from a need to be a part of the wider community. It is also a call of duty. If a person is unaware of this desire or need, he/she will not volunteer. 
  • if the community that the library serves engages in volunteerism in the library? 

There are willing volunteers in a community and one challenge is to inform or educate them about the library’s role in the community, in nation building and why it is an essential institution that upholds freedom, social justice and human rights.

How does the community perceive the library? Their perception, experience and knowledge of a library will reflect the kind of volunteer work they wish to do for the library. I have met many library volunteers who love books and reading, but they do not particularly see or understand the role of the library. Libraries are venues where people practice good citizenship. There are library volunteers I have met who volunteers in book donations. That’s it. They have to be informed that their love for books and reading do not begin nor end with book donations. 

I think, libraries who have identified a strong sense of volunteerism in their communities can create, plan and implement a library volunteer program that will further the growth of the library, the community and their own personal and professional lives as well. 
  • Have you experienced being a volunteer? Are you volunteering right now? Tell us your story.
Yes. My work and involvement in PBBY is volunteer work.
  • Have you experienced setting up a Library Volunteer Program in your Library? Are you running a Volunteer Program right now? Tell us your story.
      No. But, I provide our Community, Action and Service Coordinator of descriptions of               services and library programs that our students can sign-up as volunteers such as, the
       Early Reader’s Project, Classroom Library Set-up, Pop-Up Library, Book Drive and
      Book Reviewers Corner. This one has evolved into a website that was designed and made        by one of our grade 11 students. 

  • We hope that you can share ideas/advice on how to keep the spirit of volunteerism alive in the library field. Any suggestion?
          The librarian and library staff need to be volunteers, first of all, and be advocates of                  volunteerism.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

More Musings on My Journey in Mother Tongue Based Instruction

I often integrate Mother Tongue Based Instruction in my storytelling workshops and reading skills teaching for teachers and librarians, especially if the venue is in the province or in the regions. I got this insight while being a part of Sa Aklat Sisikat's team of facilitators and trainers (circa 2006 - 2016). Of the trainings I had, four remarkable experiences stood out:
1. the 2012 IASL Regional Conference in Bacolod because that was where school librarians saw the importance of oracy and oral tradition in language development and that, by conducting read aloud sessions and storytelling, librarians and libraries contribute to language acquisition and development; 
2. the Storytelling Workshop in Cagayan Valley, Tuguegarao because, participants created their own story flash cards in Ilocano, Ibanag and Itawis; 
3. the Naga Workshop by EDUCO and ADARNA HOUSE where teachers and librarians created mini-books and they wrote their stories in Bicol Rinconada;  
4. the Storytelling Workshop I had in Mindoro last May 2018 because, I met Teacher Ann Lee Masongsong who learned the mother tongue of the Mangyans so that she could teach them.
 5. the recent Story Creation I had in CDO as organised by the NLP because, it was the first time I used the Language Experience Approach in teaching mother tongue, as subject and skill. I first heard of LEA in UPD, in Dr. Hermosa's class, saw it used by Sa Aklat Sisikat Master Trainers and I was inspired to use it with Zoe who was, at that time, a struggling reader. 
But, in retrospect, it is Teacher Dina Ocampo who allowed me to run a workshop on Storytelling where I was able to use the Tandem Telling Technique during the Summer Institute of Linguistics 2009 teacher training. I learned of this technique back in 2002 when I attended the Storytelling Congress in Singapore.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My MTB-MLE Journey: The Road Goes Ever On!

The Creation and Production of Mother Tongue Books

One of my friends in the publishing industry has taken interest on the Bulilit Books-Project LEARN Series. I have these questions answered as requested. Sharing it here in the blog, because, sharing is caring!

1. Could you tell me more about the NCPPC? What prompted them to revive this series in Filipino and translate them into Cebuano and Hiligaynon? 

The NCPPC is a foundation and has two main thrusts: nutrition and health education. For more than four decades, they have been publishing materials and teaching resources to help parents, teachers, daycare workers and social workers in the nutrition and health education of children. They have bread products too that are packed with micronutrients. They have adopted public schools in Luzon and Visayas. While feeding kids age 3 - 10 years old, they provide training and instruction on good nutrition, health and hygiene to parents, teachers and community workers (daycare and social workers). In conducting the training, they have modules, reading materials and resources designed and published by their teams, staff and commissioned professionals.

Because health and well being is developmental and systemic, they thought of reviving the Bulilit Books, circa 1976-1982, to address the mental, moral/ethical and values development of children. Thus, they planned PROJECT LEARN.

PROJECT LEARN is a project that is aimed at creating books for k-3 learners addressing reading skills and comprehension development and the MTB MLE program of the DepEd. It has three phases: research and development; writing, editing and revising; and post-production.

The adopted or recipient schools of NCPPC were the first to acquire the books as part of the foundation's programs on good nutrition and health education. They are also selling the books in different markets.

2. How are they being distributed? Retail? Government purchases and donations? School adoption?

The adopted or recipient schools of NCPPC were the first to acquire the books as part of the foundation's programs on good nutrition and health education. They are also selling the books in different markets.

3. Now that the books have been produced, what challenges do you face in terms of sales and distribution?

NCPPC does not have a marketing team that sells in the open market like Lampara. Since it is a foundation, they have limited budget for this kind of distribution. The most that they can do is to have DepEd approve the books as supplementary materials so that schools, public and private alike, can buy them. News is, the Bulilit Books-Project LEARN Series is on the second review by the DepEd. Hopefully, it gets approved!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mommies Who Read To Their Kids, Succeed!

Photo credit to Mommy Val P. Thanks so much!
When Nico, our eldest told us last month that he and his friends who from ConChords, the a cappella group they formed nearly two years ago, will compete in the A Capella Championship 2018 in Singapore, we racked our brains for ways to raise funds. Planning a trip abroad in a month is a financial nightmare in our case. These things take time, right? So, it must be a generational thing for Nico to surprise us. The experience has been stressful, but fun and exciting. Ah, what the young learn from their elders and vice-versa. 

Long story short, we did crowdfunding, solicitations from family and friends and fund raising. 

I sold my books, the Bulilit Books-Project LEARN series, to raise funds and amazingly, all the Filipino versions I bought have all been sold. In the process, I get comments and feedback about the from friends who supported Nico through this fundraiser.

Mommy Jet was impressed with Magbilang Tayo. She bought two sets as gifts to a nephew and to one of her godchildren. How she missed having a toddler and a young reader, she said. If the book elicits that kind of response, our writing team must have done something write! 

Then there's Mommy Magie, a college friend who bought five sets as gifts too. She gave a set to her daughter's best friend who was, at the time, celebrating her birthday. How timely! Her youngest was so happy receiving the books as well. It must be the personal messages I write to readers. It is something I enjoy doing as well for I believe that authors build relationships with their readers. What's more, I wish to convey to my young readers that when they open the pages of the book, they interact with the story. 

Mommy Val bought eight sets for the same purpose as Mommy Magie. Her son's birthday was within the week when she bought the books from me. The books are give aways and tokens for her son's classmates since he will be celebrating his birthday in school. Here's hoping his classmates enjoy reading the books!

A note from Mommy Shine. How touching!
And then, there's Mommy Shine who first knew my work through Big Sister (Lampara, 2014). She learned of my book sale in Facebook. As a mother of two, she is serious in raising kids who read. She reads to her kids regularly that's why she has a good knowledge of children's books and literature available in the market. When we had our meet up, she told me how her daughter could relate to Big Sister. Oh, I know how it is since I am a big sister too, I replied. And we had a good chat on parenting and reading, and learning and managing time for ourselves as women and for the home we keep. 

This fund raiser has been a fun. Tiring yes, and I had to put aside a lot of work for the summer. But that's how it is with being mom. No regrets. 

My appreciation goes out to all the mommies who bought my book. You, ladies, really know what to do with my books. This makes me one happy author!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Illustrator of the Month: Ara Villena

Because the 2018 National Children's Book Day is a week away, the blog will be featuring the Alcala, Salanga and Wordless Picture Book Prize winners. Here is the interview with Ara Villena, the 2018 Alcala Prize winner. She is also the blog's Illustrator of the Month.

How did you learn about the Alcala-Prize?

I first learned about the Alcala Prize when I was applying for Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang
INK) back in 2014, because Ang INK’s application process is often, if not always, based on the PBBY-Alcala mechanics.

I remember, back then, I also submitted my Ang
INK application artworks to the contest, just for the heck of it. I mean, the requirements were the
same, so why not, right? Obviously, that didn’t get noticed at all, but I got into Ang INK anyway, so, hooray!

What is your creative process for May Alaga Akong Bakulaw?

May Alaga Akong Bakulaw is a beautiful story – I fell in love with it as soon as I read it. I think the story was something like a journey: an uplifting journey towards the rediscovery of love, towards hope, towards light. So, more than anything, I wanted my artworks to be able to radiate that feeling too.

I began sketching the three artworks side-by-side, trying to create cohesive story that could somehow stand on its own (I’m not sure if it does, but I hope it told its own story, in a way).

I also wanted to illustrate the journey that the Bakulaw went through using color and composition, as well as through the Bakulaw’s physical form. From a ragged, hairy creature, he eventually turned to the smiling Tito Robert, who crossed from his dark yard over to the little girl’s colorful world. And of course, the little girl was instrumental to this transformation – constantly reaching towards Robert like a little source of light.

And then so, after figuring this all out, I began to paint!

Ara Villena's rendition of May Alaga Akong Bakulaw

Who are your role models in your discipline or community?

I’m not sure if I have any particular role model but I definitely take
inspiration from a variety of illustrators.

First and foremost, however, is the artist who got me into children’s book illustration in the first place: Shaun Tan, an illustrator from Australia. His books, such as The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Arrival, catapulted me into the children’s book world.

The Red Tree, in particular, got me through some difficult times in my life, and it was through this book and Shaun Tan’s work in general, that I sort of found where I want my works to go: in a world of journeys towards hope. And the magic of it is, I believe children’s book illustrations transcend age – just like how Shaun Tan’s work did!

From there, I made conscious effort to find out more about the local industry: I took a class in Panitikang Pambata under Eugene Evasco, a children’s book author, who introduced me to a whole spectrum of children’s books in the Philippines. This was before I became part of Ang INK. And then I became a part of Ang INK, and I got to know even more artists!

Ever since then, my awe for Filipino talent grew exponentially. Artists like Beth Parrocha, Kora Dandan Albano, Sergio Bumatay III, Aldy Aguirre, Aaron Asis, Jericho Moral, and the late Jason Sto. Domingo, are just a few of the brilliant artists I admire because of their great techniques, wonderful storytelling, and their ability to capture the hearts of their viewers, (including mine). Our country is brimming with talent, and that’s enough to inspire me to continue illustrating.

Villena's bright eyed view of the world is reflected in this art work.
Who are you as an artist?

I’ve always believed in the power that even the littlest of lights can bring to a world of darkness. I’d always say, if you could just cling to that glimmer of hope, cling to it, no matter how small it is, then things will be alright.

Of course, the concept is disputable, but, I’d rather believe in it than give up.

So, if I or my artworks could bring that little bit of light, if I could be that light then that already fulfills much of who I want to be as an artist.

Ara Villena will be awarded a medal and cash prize on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
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