by KB Meniado
My beautiful country, the Philippines, is made up of about eight thousand islands. To portray, let alone discuss, the abundance and diversity of our people’s experiences is a challenge so great it might just take another hundred of lifetimes before we get to the bottom of it.
But there’s always trying, and so witnessing how our creators and the local publishing industry as a whole continue to make a dent on that, be that individually or as a collective, is always inspiring. Whenever I see the range of locally authored and published books available for sale not only at book fairs but also online, I can’t help but feel this kind of profound hope that we (including the readers—most especially the readers) are actually contributing to propelling our country’s sense of nation and development.
Now, as someone who started reading as a kid (and I believe that helped me and many others turn out okay so I always advocate for the habit to begin at the youngest age possible), seeing more children’s books being released and distributed is particularly exciting. Having the young ones—and older ones, because let’s get real, parents and ates and kuyas and the entire family tree must also play their roles—pick up these books about themselves and their cultures and their towns and provinces will help them understand their strengths and differences, and explore how these can be of use to address the disparities and eventually—ideally—realize the supposed shared goals as one Filipino nation. *pauses to take deep breaths* It is in this light that I share the following books as a reminder that all this has been happening for some time now, and that we should celebrate it so that it persists.
Pipisin the Pangolin written and illustrated by Rachel Shaw (Luzon)
The author is not Filipino (but still a Filipino at heart), but her book carries an important message that not a lot of us put a prime on—the conservation of the Philippine pangolin, one of the eight pangolin species in the world. Also sometimes called ‘scaly anteaters,’ the animal found only in Palawan is endangered. And if you follow environmental news, then you’ll know that hunting, slaughtering and transporting pangolins is rampant in the province. This book may help in understanding why it is crucial to save, protect and appreciate not only the pangolin but also the rest of our fauna treasures. Get a copy / Visit the author’s website / Follow Pipisin
Another book worth your time: Ti Dakkel Nga Armang (Ang Dambuhalang Alamang) published by The Storytelling Project
Insoy the Timid Bawa written by Glory Moralidad and illustrated by Daniel Tinagan (Visayas)
I’ve had the opportunity to meet the author recently, and I have to say that I truly admire her courage and perseverance of bringing Western Visayas culture into the spotlight. This book, a story about bawa (sometimes a pet chicken of a mythical creature and other times a mythical creature itself; shape-shifting and can also be invisible), highlights facing adversity and dealing with bullying—lessons that people of any age can benefit from. Plus, since the supernatural is something many Filipinos tend to believe in (or respect or be afraid of, depending on who’s talking), it’s entertaining and educational to explore as this belief is an integral part of the Filipino life. Follow the author on Instagram
Another book worth your time: Si Kalipay ug ang Kinagamyang Tiktik (Kalipay ug ang Kinagamyang Tiktik) written by Christina Newhard, illustrated by Happy Garaje and translated by Jona Branzuela Berin with thanks to Edgar Godin and Haidee Palapar
My Muslim Friend written by Mary Ann Ordinario-Floresta and illustrated by Joanne de Leon (Mindanao)
We’ve featured other works by this author (see here and here), and I continue to commend and recommend her stories that are based in and about Mindanao, particularly about religious differences and war and peace. This book, in particular, quickly became dear to me because to this day, I still encounter people who have misconceptions and sweeping generalizations about our Muslim brothers and sisters—that we can’t possibly have meaningful connections with them, and so on. To have this land on children’s hands and hearts—a true-to-life story about Christian-Muslim friendship, respect and acceptance may not be so difficult to achieve. Get a copy
Another book worth your time: A Boy Named Ibrahim written by Sitti Aminah “Flexi” Sarte and illustrated by Aaron Asis
If you have more recommendations—and I know that’s for sure since there are many ongoing efforts everywhere, please leave them in the comments section below. ☁️