In 1925, long before I was born, Severino Reyes—founder and editor of the Tagalog magazine, Liwayway—started writing Kuwento ni Lola Basyang (stories of Grandma Basyang) for the magazine and used Lola Basyang as his pen name.
Lola Basyang is a character similar in form and function to Mother Goose. In his lifetime, Severino, wrote 400 of such stories about kings, love, and enchanted places.
Twenty five years later, Severino’s son, Pedrito, revived the Lola Basyang stories in comic book form, with illustrations by Maning de Leon, Jesus Ramos, and Ruben Yandoc.
For another 25 years, these stories were made into movies that became box-office blockbusters.
As a little girl, I had my own Lola Basyang—my Lola Cionang, mom of my mom. She would retell some of those stories (re-published in Bannawag magazine, the Ilocano version of Liwayway), embellished with her experiences and punctuated with Christian values. Often, she would tell her own stories, making them up as she went along.
For years, since I started writing children’s stories in the year 2000, when asked what made me begin writing stories for children, I flip-flopped from one answer to another. It varied from “it’s just an accident to it’s fun” because in truth, I didn’t know why. My most common rationale was, “Stories for children is a category in the Palanca Awards which charms me most because it inculcates love for literature and family values among children.”
(My first children’s book won first prize in this writing competition; all my six Palanca awards are for this category.)
But I think I found the real answer when my family spent some time at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, a heritage resort in Bataan this time last year. It is a village of restored Spanish-era houses with cobblestone roads near the beach.
There I came upon Lola Basyang. Serendipity! And memories came flooding back.
It was she, or rather, it was my Lola Cionang’s story-telling prowess that made me fall in love with children’s stories—and now, writing them myself. Why, we’re kindred spirits!
It’s mind-blowing how the grace of childhood leads us to our charmed choices in adulthood.
This Bible verse found in Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) has the words for it, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”