Multi-awarded illustrator Sergio Bumatay III relates to us his story of creating May Darating na Trak Búkas, a poetry book written by Rio Alma (pen name of National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario).
Some of Sergio’s works include Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu!, Tuwing Sabado, Ay, Naku!, and Tight Times. Many of these are awarded with local and international honors, such as the Philippine Board on Books for Young People –Alcala Illustrator’s Prize, the National Children’s Book Award, and the International Board on Books for Young People-Sweden Peter Pan Prize.
May Darating na Trak Búkas is one his latest offerings. Now, a Sambat Trust school library has a copy of this book, thanks to Sergio's kind donation.
First of all, thanks for the copy of May Darating na Trak Búkas!
You’re very welcome! I hope kids will love it as I did in creating the book.
Surely, they will! Can you tell us a little more about this wonderful poetry book?
We really wanted to make the book special and beautiful, as you can see from the printing and binding, and of course with the heartwarming content. A hardbound children’s book is very rare locally, and it’s like holding a real work of art, only in book form! It’s our “gift” to kids.
It says on your blog that the book started with Rio Alma writing a poem based on one of your works. Can you briefly explain the process that followed?
It actually started with one of my sketches. We experimented on the “reverse process” of creating a book: coming up with images first as inspiration for the story. In this case, I made several drawings, from which I outlined the imagery to form a storyline. Then the publishing team asked Sir Rio, which I’m very grateful that he found time, to write a poem inspired from the imagery.
What were the pleasures and challenges in the process? And was there a difference between illustrating a poetry book and storybooks?
It was a pleasure creating the book because I was given a lot of room for creative expression. That independence means I can offer a lot of ideas to make the book more beautiful.
Illustrating a poetry book can be a bit more experimental than picture storybooks. For me, that is more fun.
Poetry is really fun! But there are only a handful of poetry books for Filipino children. How does May Darating na Trak Búkas contribute to the growth of this genre?
I think that by offering a beautiful book, both inside and out, many kids might learn to appreciate the power it has to transform and inspire imagination, and hopefully treasure a book forever.
What book projects can we expect from you? Are we going to see more poetry book illustrations?
Hopefully, I can make more poetry books or books with lesser words. I would like to come up with my own wordless book someday.
And any message to the teachers, students, and librarians who have now access to your wonderful book?
I’m just grateful that they appreciate my perspective in illustrating. I hope that they will be able to share that magic to many kids and people in general as possible.
The National Library of Singapore was teeming with people on 3 June 2015. It was the first day of the Writers and Illustrators Conference, one of the programmes of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC). AFCC is a gathering of creators for children from Asia and other parts of the world.
This year’s AFCC opened with Candy Gourlay’s keynote address on why Asia needs more writers for children. Ani Almario also talked about Adarna House’s experience in publishing children’s books in five Philippine languages, while Andrea Pasion-Flores introduced Jacaranda Agency in a panel on working with literary agents.
During the breaks, I chatted with Cheeno Marlo Sayuno, Rommel Joson, Jhoan Medrano, and Maria Gabriela Aparentado. The four of them were participants in the Writers and Illustrators Retreat, which happened at Bintan, Indonesia days before the conference.
I spent the rest of my day listening to Fred Chao’s sharing on producing comics with 'mature' themes; Michael Heyman’ lecture-workshop on nonsense literature; and Ying Chang Compestine’s experience in working with several literary agents.
And the day ended with a celebration of Singaporean creators and books for children since Singapore is celebrating its 50th year of statehood.
I started my second day with Sarah Odedina and Allison Norrington’s talk about transmedia publishing. They looked at the trends in digital publishing and social media and how these affect creators for children. Then I listened to Anushka Ravinshakar, who reacquainted us with the uses of humour in children’s works.
I skipped some sessions to check out the books at Closetful of Books, the bookstore for the event, and Adarna House and other booths of Asian publishers. I met there Dr. Rosario Torres-Yu and her daughter, Karina Yu, Pamela Imperial, and Jonathan Rañola, whose illustration was exhibited at the library’s gallery.
I then sat in the first AFCC debate, which featured Shirin Yim Bridges, Christopher Cheng, Sarah Odedina, and Nury Vittachi. Each of them opined on the topic, “Asian readers deserve better than translations of Western works.”
Christopher Cheng and I had to rush down the building for our panel with authors Reenita Maholtra Hora and Golda Mowe. He became our new moderator, since Ken Spillman couldn’t make it that day. Reenita shared how she infused traditional Indian mythology in her latest YA novel, while Golda explained the intricacies of the Iban culture of Borneo present in her novels. I closed the session (and my day) with a short presentation on creating picture books for indigenous children.
On the third day, I decided to listen to several YA authors. AJ Betts shared her experience in writing about love without the cliché and the melodrama; Elaine Forrestal presented her process of writing the historical YA fiction, Straggler’s Reef; and Reenita Maholtra Hora and Suzanne Kamata talked about writing across cultures.
I also sat in Wendy Bink’s talk about making the most of one’s published work by sharing how she marketed one of Australia’s well-loved characters, Stripey, and Sally Murphy and Genevieve Sarah Loh’s session on reviewing works for children.
During the break, I sneaked in the children’s section of the National Library. It houses a lot of books and educational materials partitioned according to types and ages. (I hope to see a library for Filipino children as organized and beautiful as this.)
I then went home after two days, bringing the books I bought and the insights I gained in the different aspects of creating and producing for children.
Renowned Filipino author of children’s books Augie Rivera recently released his new title, Isang Harding Papel. Through his generous donation, Sambat Trust beneficiaries are now enjoying this wonderful story set during the Martial Law Period.
Augie Rivera is a founding member of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting, a group of Filipino writers for children and young adults. Some of his books include Alamat ng Ampalaya, Magnificent Benito and His Two Front Teeth, Alamat ng Sibuyas, Batang Historyador series, Elias and His Trees, Ang Lihim ni Lea, Mantsa, and XILEF. His works, including translations, are recognized by several award-giving bodies.
He was Head Writer for several educational children’s shows like the award-winning and long-running Batibot and Art Angel. He also wrote for the political parody news program May Tamang Balita, children’s fantasy drama series, One Day, Isang Araw, musical variety show Party Pilipinas, and educational game show Picture! Picture! Currently, he is Head Writer for various programs of GMA 7/GMA News TV, including the award-winning and long-running infotainment show Ang Pinaka, review show Pop Talk, profile show Tunay na Buhay, and science show AHA!
Firstly, thanks for donating copies of Isang Harding Papel.
Can you tell us the story behind this story?
I originally wrote this story in 2000 for a series of historical fiction for children called Batang Historyador (published by Adarna House and UNICEF in 2001; still available in bookstores) featuring stories of Filipino children from five significant eras in our history: Pre-Spanish, Spanish Occupation, American Occupation, Japanese Occupation, and Martial Law years.
Isang Harding Papel was supposed to be my story for ‘Martial Law’ but I changed my mind and opted to write a new story instead, set before Martial Law or the First Quarter Storm (FQS). This was Si Jhun-jhun, Noong Bago Ideklara ang Batas Militar. It’s a story of Jhun-jhun and his older brother who was involved in rallies and demonstrations before the declaration of Martial Law.
So the Hardin story has slept in my ‘baul’ (wooden chest) for 14 years. Last year, I read it again, did some revisions, and submitted it to Adarna House. They showed it to the EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC) and this became their next book project.
What important aspect or insight from that period that you think kids nowadays should know? How is this reflected in the book?
One of the most important skills that children need to develop is the coping skill necessary in dealing with changes and unexpected events in life. In Isang Harding Papel, the child character Jenny has to grow up separated from her mother. She has to make sense and learn to cope with all these difficult changes happening in her life, of course with the support of her mother and grandmother.
As this story is a historical fiction, how did you manage being descriptive of the period’s milieu while making it accessible or relatable to present child readers?
When I wrote Isang Harding Papel, there was a conscious effort to make the story not too hardcore or in-your-face ‘taas-kamao’ but rather focus more on the character, to make Jenny believable and childlike, so other children can easily relate and empathize with her. Through Jenny’s story, I hope that the present day child reader will get curious and will want to know more about the history and the conditions and struggles of children during this dark period in our past.
How is this book different from your other historical fiction works, especially from Si Jhun-jhun, Noong Bago Ideklara ang Batas Militar?
The inspiration for Jhun-jhun was an imagined scenario—a street scene after a violent rally dispersal vis-à-vis the children’s street game of ‘tumbang preso.’ Isang Harding Papel, on the other hand, is loosely based on the real life experiences of Jenny Cortes, a cousin-in-law whose mother was a political detainee during the Martial Law years.
As with my other historical fiction for children, a lot of research went into the making of this book. Aside from interviewing my cousin who gladly shared her experiences with me, I also interviewed other people who grew up during Martial Law, and read several books on the topic, before I developed my story.
I’ve always been a history buff, so I really enjoy writing stories like Isang Harding Papel. Plus I also grew up during Martial Law so it was an opportunity for me to look back at my own experiences and use them as details to add more nuances and texture to the story.
The style, medium, and technique used in the illustrations of Isang Harding Papel are superb. How did you work with the illustrator?
I just had an initial meeting with Rommel Joson, the illustrator, and Adarna House to discuss the story, where I brought a prop— a sample makeshift flower made from tissue paper by my wife. Other than that, there wasn’t much collaboration. Rommel pretty much did his own thing. I know he did a lot of research too, and it shows, and I’m very happy with the new layers and meanings his illustrations gave to my story.
And any words for the teachers, students, and librarians who have now access to your book?
Actually, one of the reasons why I decided to revisit the story and submit it for possible publication is in reaction to the many revisionist takes in our history being spread now on social media, i.e. that Martial Law wasn’t so bad etc, etc. One way to counter this is by educating our children about history.
We should stop ranting that children nowadays have ‘no sense of history.’ As Martial Law babies who are now grownups and some are now parents too, it is our responsibility to let them know about our history. Ikuwento natin sa kanila ang kasaysayan.
I think that in the K-12 curriculum, as early as grade 2, lessons on nationalism, human rights, and even Martial Law are now included. That’s good. This book hopes to do its share by giving teachers, parents, and librarians a springboard when discussing with children what actually happened during this most difficult time. The lessons of the past will help young readers develop a deeper love of country and love for history.
Award-winning author and illustrator May Tobias-Papa shares with us the story of her story, Araw sa Palengke!
May Tobias-Papa is a founding member of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING), the group of Filipino writers for children, and Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK), the organization of Filipino illustrators for children. Her works include Can We Live Without Trees?, The Luckiest Girl in the World, Christmas in February, Estrellita: The Little Wishing Star, Tuldok, among many others.
Araw sa Palengke, illustrated by Isabel Roxas and published by Adarna House (2008), was named as one of the Best Reads at the 2010 National Children’s Book Awards (NCBA).
How was Araw sa Palengke conceived?
It was the happy result of circumstance. My publisher, Ms Ani Almario, had wanted a book to introduce kids to the market. I happened to have this picture book story in my head about the first time my mom brought me to the market when I was 3. That week that I got the email from Ani, my mom and I had been poring over my baby albums. My son was already about two that time and I had just quit my teaching job at UP [University of the Philippines]. As we reminisced, my mom told me the story again, of how her suki put fruits, and kakanin because they were so amused with me and my little bayong.
Since Araw sa Palengke is a picture book, the illustrator played an important role in the creation process. How was your interaction with illustrator Isabel Roxas?
I wrote two drafts for the book, which were subjected by Adarna to a survey among schoolchildren. My first draft was the one chosen by the kids. After this, Ani asked me to submit studies for the approved story. I am a published illustrator of children’s books but I opted out. For many years I had worked as an art director for advertising agencies, and I knew from the start, even as I was writing the story, that Isabel Roxas’s style was perfect for the book. A little girl drawn in Isabel’s style danced with a little yellow bayong in my head, and she had this tiny voice. The story practically wrote itself. My desire for Isabel to illustrate the story was greater than my desire for another chance to write and illustrate a book.
What did winning a National Children’s Book Award for Araw sa Palengke mean for you as a book creator?
It feels special to be cited. When I wrote the book, I had no idea it would resonate the way it did with readers. To me, it was just a straightforward recollection of my first experience in a market. Of course, I had to reconstruct the experience, and I did it methodically, structuring it based on the five senses, and in this order: sound, smell, touch, taste, sight.
The language was intentionally plain, unembellished. The National Children’s Book Award is different from the other awards for literature or illustration for children’s books in such a way that it recognizes all the quality effort that goes into one book—the writing, the illustration, the production, and how all of these work well together. My worry about a lot of Philippine children’s books had always been that the fancily-written and lavishly illustrated stories do not genuinely appeal to kids as they do to teachers, critics, or students of literature or art. I like writing and illustrating books that authentically connect with children. The NCBA reassures me that books like the ones I like to help create will prevail somehow in children’s book industry which has been a bit commercial of late.
A Day in the Market is the book app version of Araw sa Palengke. How does it feel seeing your story in a new platform?
Having come from advertising, I am always appreciative and cognizant of the power of emergent media. As a mother of a young child, I saw the potential of the book app in teaching. I was a very willing guinea pig for Adarna’s first book app.
What future book projects can we expect from you?
I have long wanted to do chapter books and a graphic novel. I have several notebooks with ideas for them. I also have offers to write for some publishers. So many things, though I couldn’t find the time to get around to doing them because of my other projects (that are not related to children’s books). I’m afraid I can’t really talk about the books I want to write, because, at the rate I’m doing, somebody might beat me to them, hahaha.
And any words to Sambat Trust’s readers?
It is inevitable; a book always transforms you that you are never quite the same person who opened and then closed the book. Whether it’s a step away or kilometers away, you are always in a different place, with a different point-of-view, for sure.
Message in the Sand, a beautiful marine conservation-themed book that inspires children to change the world, is just one of the award-winning stories given to children throughout the Philippines by CANVAS, a non-profit organization celebrating Philippine art, culture and environment.
Through its Global Giving project, CANVAS aims to give away one million books to one million children.
The book giving was part of Sambat Trust's World Read Aloud Day celebration in selected Tanauan City schools, Batangas.