Stories written by children for children
For this boy from Dagupan City, his mother is no ordinary person but a superhero.
And for this girl from a remote Kankanaey community in Mountain Province, there is nothing better than a father’s unconditional love for his daughter.
These are the story lines of two books for children—written by children.
“These are the stories that made an impact and to which most children could relate to,” said Grace Soriano, 28, who, together with her boyfriend Rey Bufi, 32, are spearheading the publication of this kind of children’s books.
Soriano and Bufi are founders of The Storytelling Project (TSP), a literacy advocacy program.
“(TSP) aims to make reading an enjoyable experience for children,” Soriano said. “Our creed is to provide storybooks for every Filipino child, build a library in every Filipino community and raise a nation of learners.”
After giving up their jobs in a telecommunication company in 2011, they decided to spend time in remote communities to tell tales. They stay 21 days to a month in one place, narrating stories through animated presentations, visiting households, and encouraging children to create and write their own stories.
On Dec. 14, 2014, TSP launched its first two storybooks, both written by children who used to just listen to them.
One of the books, “Super Labandera,” was read to a children’s community in Rosario town, Cavite province, last Dec. 20, 2014.
Super Labandera is a story of the cheerful neighborhood laundry woman, who has special powers and weapons—a laundry brush, tub and “palo-palo” (wooden paddle for beating)—against the dirty clothes in Sitio Buer.
One day, the woman falls ill and the neighborhood is faced with loads of laundry. To save the community, her son takes care of his mother until she gets well.
In the end, the son realizes that Super Labandera is not only a hero but his own “Super Nanay (mother).”
The story was written by Jim Mark Carolino, 13, who in real life is a son of Alma, a laundry woman herself. The boy joined a TSP workshop in Pugaro District in Dagupan, a city in Pangasinan province, in November 2013.
“It shows us how much a parent is willing to go through for her family. It also teaches us to appreciate the everyday heroes around us,” Bufi said, in a phone interview.
The other book was written by Aprille Joy Trigo, a 12-year-old Kankanaey whom the TSP met when it went to Sitio Pactil in Monamon Sur, Mountain Province, in December 2013.
Trigo retells the story of “Uligmaya,” a hunter’s daughter who keeps an eel for a pet.
One day, Uligmaya’s father discovers the eel and cooks the pet for meal. This breaks her heart, so she goes away until she meets a crocodile and pleads that the reptile eat her alive.
Realizing what he had done, the father goes after his child. He finds the crocodile and asks it to spit out Uligmaya. He asks for her forgiveness and she does.
“It is actually a folklore in their tribe but has never been written,” Soriano said. “But Aprille said it’s also the story that her father used to tell her whenever he left for work in the mining site so she would not cry.”
Trigo’s father died in an accident at a mining site when she was 8.
“I first teach them the basic elements of a story. Then ask them to write down a paragraph of a (story) topic, give it back with questions, and so on, until a story is put together,” said Soriano, who coauthored Super Labandara.
With the help of Soriano and Bufi’s friend, Ilocano fiction writer Ariel Tabag, the TSP edited each story into a 28-page children’s book. Super Labandera was illustrated by Yan Birog and Uligmaya by Moe Ordoña, and was colored by Tara Singson, all of them TSP volunteers.
Both stories were written in Tagalog, “but we are planning to have them translated in local dialects (in Dagupan and Mountain Province),” Soriano said.
TSP and Saniata Publications have already printed 1,000 copies of Super Labandera, while funds are still being raised for the printing of Uligmaya.
In cooperation with Fully Booked, Super Labandera will be put on sale this month for P150 each. Part of the proceeds will go to the young authors’ educational funds.