Not a Goodbye
It was with mixed emotions (a pinch of sadness, a glob of nostalgia, and a dollop of happy remembrances) that I wrote finis to the “Oh, Mateo!” series of storybooks about a brave boy named Mateo.
This extraordinary eight-year-old kid, who lives in Pangasinan, and I went through lots of exciting, and sometimes horrifying, times together for a total of 15 books in 11 years.
All that is now over.
It is not for lack of sequels. I have lived long enough to write a thousand and one more adventures, but . . .
An idiom sums it up: “All good things must come to an end.”
And author Frank Herbert says it better: “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
The story of “Oh, Mateo!” will officially stop with the launching of the last and 14th book in the series at the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) next month.
Book No. 14 is: “A Flood of Kindness.”
It is not a swan song. It celebrates the coming together of all the characters that played a part in all the books. They unite spontaneously, in an unplanned reunion of sorts, for something so dear and so important.
As she wonderfully did in every "Oh, Mateo!" book, Beth Parrocha-Doctolero (What a privilege to have partnered with this artist extraordinaire!) once again makes Mateo, and all the characters who touched his life, come alive—one last time.
I say it is not goodbye because the storybooks will still be printed every year for new readers (and there will be a Mateo Devotional for children, also illustrated by Beth, to be launched this year as well). It is more of a pause, a pregnant one, for an author, who had incessantly sought for the next challenge, the next surprise, and the next conflict to impart values among young readers through "Oh, Mateo!"
I will forever be connected to all these young boys and girls (many may now be grown), and their parents or teachers, who found a friend in Mateo. It is my prayer that the lessons they discovered, and learned from, have become a part of their daily lives. I am grateful to those who followed Mateo's adventures through the years—since the stand-alone “The Magic of Apo Mayor,” which began the series in 2001.
I have the deepest affection for all the schoolchildren who chose Mateo as one of their 25 most-loved Filipino storybook characters in a survey by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) a few years back. I am indebted to all the unnamed behind-the-scenes Hiyas cast of characters: editors, back-up editors, book designers, typesetters, printers, translators, puppeteers, storytellers, and booksellers, who all played roles bigger than mine backstage.
Book No. 14, “A Flood of Kindness,” demonstrates how we can love our neighbors and the town (or city or country) where we were born. God has put each of us in a certain place, where He lets His grace take root and flourish to bless others through us.
Like the title of the book, and the recent spate of rains, our heavenly Father floods us with kindness. He doesn't ever write finis to grace.
(The 33rd MIBF runs from September 12-16, 2012, at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. All "Oh, Mateo!" books will be sold at discounted prizes at the OMF Literature booths, aisle K. I will be there for book signing on the 14th. Please come and join me for a chat.)