I started in 1998 with the story "Ang Lumang Kumot ni Lola." I wrote it then entered it in the PBBY Salanga Writer's Prize. Luckily, it was given a special citation that year. I took that win as a nudge that I should pursue writing for children. I never stopped writing ever since.
My background is really advertising. I write copy (text) for numerous print ads and television spots. So it's also like telling stories in 30 seconds or 15 seconds. So the shift from writing copy to creating children's stories wasn't a leap. I actually use what I learn in advertising when I write for kids and vice-versa. It's a fun process.
2. What was your inspiration in writing Anong Gupit Natin Ngayon?
"Anong Gupit Natin Ngayon?" is a combination of two experiences -- first, as a child growing up and visiting the barbershop with my mom and dad and second, as a father bringing my daughter to her own haircut sessions.
As a child, I remember sitting in the barber chair and devouring pages of Funny Komiks (remember those?) in between snips. Those times, I think, were my most creative moments. Just being alone with your thoughts and your comics. You can let your mind explode with ideas even if you're stuck to a chair. And I remember imagining different hair styles then. "What if" moments come to you when you let your mind fly and wander.
As a father, my heart aches every time I think of the time when my little daughter inevitably grows up - old enough not to need her dad to tag along. She would finally make her own decisions, in hairstyles and in life. So I guess I wrote this story also for parents. Moments such as these are fleeting. Embrace them and hold on tight as long as you can.
All my stories are my babies. I gave birth to them. So it is really hard to choose.
4. Describe the "creative process" you went through when writing Anong Gupit. Did you undergo the same experience writing your other books?
I really do not follow a strict process when it comes to writing. Writing is like a journey and I seldom take the same route twice. I allow myself to lose my way sometimes. But all my stories start with an idea. I don't think you can ever begin writing a story without an idea. What is it that you want to say? Where do you want to take your readers? And what is it about your story that would make them sit up and listen? If you can answer these questions THEN you can start the trek.
I still see myself creating stories that celebrate the Filipino spirit. Stories open the eyes, minds and hearts of Filipino children. Books are the best vehicles to encourage kids to get to know themselves better. And it is important that they read ABOUT themselves in the pages. There are still a lot of Pinoy stories that are left untold. I hope to continue championing this cause.
6. Short message please, for teachers, parents and children who read your stories.
To the parents --- the best stories are YOUR stories -- stories about your childhood, about your family, about your community and about your life in general. These are the best stories because you are part of them. Pass them on to your kids. These stories are your legacy. Also, don't forget to read to your kids. And don't forget to open a book too. The culture of reading starts in your own home.
To the teachers -- we need new writers and storytellers and I really believe that you are primed to take on the challenge of creating wonderful stories for kids. Jump in! Take the leap!
Thank you for your support and for making my stories come alive with every telling.
To the Filipino child -- open a Filipino children book today and read all about you. You have always been our inspiration and we hope to return the favor and inspire you back with our stories.