This is part 2 of my brief review of selected award-winning Filipino children’s books.
Hating Kapatid by Raissa Rivera Falgui and Fran Alvarez deservedly won the 2014 Best Reads for Children at the 3rd National Children’s Book Awards. The story revolves around the lives of two ant siblings who always had to divide food between them. And yet one of them always gets the bigger portion, breeding confusion, resentment and sadness. The book tackles what true “hating kapatid” or fair sharing is all about, the importance of empathy and kindness as well as effective communication and honest confrontation.
I also loved the way it incorporated popular sumptuous Filipino snacks in the story.
Si Ching na Takot sa Dilim by Aleli Dew Batnag and Paul Eric Roca won the Gintong Aklat Award 2000 for Children’s Book Category. The story happens during one night in the life of Ching, when his mother left him alone in the house for a few hours. It was dark as there was no electric power, and he is afraid of the dark. Ching’s fears led him to imagine all sorts of scary entities around him.
What makes this book so delightful is the way it makes us share with Ching’s journey of discovery, as he begins to look at things in a deeper way, little by little as the magic and wonder of the darkness is revealed to him. An excellent book to teach us about paying attention to one’s surroundings and overcoming one’s fears.
Nemo, Ang Batang Papel by Rene O. Villanueva and illustrated by Haru H. Sabijon is another strange and beautiful book that deserves its numerous awards: it is the 1994 Grand Prize Winner of PBBY Illustrators’ Prize, Grand Prize Winner of PBBY-Salanga Prize as well as First Prize, Short Story for Children (Filipino Division) at the 1992 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. This is the story of Nemo, a child made of paper who envies all the real children, for he can see that they can frolic, laugh, and run. His wish is granted but he sees that real life is so much more different.
The book is quite sad and touching in the way it shows ordinary innocent children struggling in their every day lives. All they dream about is having loving parents, a comfortable home, happy school and enough food not to be hungry. Yet despite showing the painful social reality of being dirt-poor in the streets of the Philippines, the book is also positive and hopeful. I loved how it shows the core of love and kindness in every child’s heart, no matter his/her circumstances, the fragility of life and the beauty of dreams. Oh, and the use of Filipino language in the writing is quite poetic.
The illustration is really marvelous, no wonder it won the top prize:
Here’s a sample of the poetic wording, love the rhythm and the rhyming:
Not surprisingly, Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Lola by Rene Villanueva and illustrated by Ibarra Crisostomo won the Best Children’s Book National Book Award for 2002. The book talks about a grandmother who has magical hair that is extraordinarily long, so long that it reaches other villages, and the efforts of the whole community to take care of it. The hair proved quite useful during a super typhoon.
The story is a wonderful metaphor about the importance of women (or a matriarch) in nurturing and protecting a community. It shows us how and why Filipinas are strong, not only for themselves but for the community. It’s a great and simple story that celebrates the power of womanhood and sisterhood, as well as their courage and resilience. The book is written in two languages, Filipino and English.