Best Reads from the Philippines at the 3rd Asian Festival of Children’s Content ~ by Tarie Sabido
May 26 to 29 was the 3rd Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in Singapore, and this year the festival highlighted children’s books from the Philippines! The Philippine booth at the festival showcased the six winners of the 1st Philippine National Children’s Book Awards along with other fiction and nonfiction picture books from leading Philippine publishers Tahanan Books, Adarna House, Bookmark, Lampara Books, Anvil, and CANVAS. I am very happy and proud to report that visitors to the booth oohed and aahed over all the book illustrations!
One of the featured panel discussions at the AFCC was “Trajectories and Themes in Children’s Literature from the Philippines,” with the popular and award-winning children’s book creators Russell Molina (Philippines), Jomike Tejido (Philippines), Candy Gourlay (UK/Philippines), and Isabel Roxas (US/Philippines). With joy and verve, Russell, Jomike, Candy, and Isabel set up for the audience a window to the Philippine children’s literature scene. Russell announced that it was more fun writing children’s books in the Philippines because the entire community loves stories and participates in storytelling. Some of the stories the Filipino community loves to share are about our modern-day heroes: hardworking overseas Filipino workers and the families they support in the Philippines. Jomike introduced the wide variety of illustrations for Philippine traditional picture books (legends and folk tales), contemporary picture books, informative picture books, and pop picture books (urban culture-based picture books). In the Philippines, illustrations for children include everything from fine art that also appeals to adults and intricate collage, to abstract art and digital work this is e-book and app-ready.
Candy told the story of how she learned that she shouldn’t write what she knows, she should write who she is! For years, Candy wrote stories that did not feature the Philippines or Filipino characters. These stories were all rejected by publishers in the UK and she was not published until she realized that being Filipino was part of what made her an interesting writer, and that a story with a distinctly Filipino perspective is a special story. Lastly, Isabel talked about her advantages and disadvantages as a Filipino illustrator in the US. Her advantages include the Internet as a great equalizer, all the uncovered territory in picture books, and of course, her unique Filipino point of view. Her disadvantages include her lack of a network in the US, greater competition, and readers’ lack of exposure to Philippine culture. Fortunately, the whole world now has greater interest in Asian languages and cultures, due in no small part to all the excellent and exciting talent coming from Asia. Talents like Russell, Jomike, Candy, and Isabel!
Other AFCC sessions with Filipino speakers were: Jomike’s fun paper folding workshop, Isabel’s very helpful tips for beginning illustrators, Candy’s presentation on how she used myth and magic in her successful debut novel Tall Story, popular blogger Blooey Singson’s presentation on the art and science of writing online and print book reviews, and Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal’s lectures on picture book selection and how the book blogging network can be used as a classroom resource.
If you are curious about the joi de vivre and diverse talents of Filipino authors and illustrators, please check out our children’s books online – and at the Philippine booth at next year’s AFCC!
I leave you with Candy’s wonderful “Filipino heavy” AFCC video:
Tarie Sabido is an English teacher and editor in the Philippines. She blogs about children’s and YA books at Into the Wardrobe and Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, and writes for Kwentillion, the Philippines’ first YA science fiction and fantasy magazine. Tarie was a judge for the 4th Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (CYBILS) and the 1st Philippine National Children’s Book Awards.