Book Talk with SAS

Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation”(SAS)—roughly translated, books make you shine—is a non-profit professional Philippine organization that promotes the love and habit of reading in Filipino children.

To do this, SAS runs a 31-day Reading Program for all 4th grade students in partner public schools. “We donate 60 of the best Filipino children's storybooks to every Grade 4 classroom included in the program.” What a blessing that among the 60 books, some are mine.

After 31 days, these students are then required to show their parents, through a play or any kind of creative presentation, what they have learned from these books.

I have always been charmed by SAS' advocacy because “love of reading” is what I advocate, too.

The photos show the public school teachers representing NCR, Regions 1, 2, & 3 who participate in the SAS program.

They were grouped for a seminar one Saturday by SAS and in this event, I was invited to give an inspirational talk on how I write for children. I took the chance to speak on how grace enables me to do what I do.           
The teachers were gung-ho about books, about inculcating the love of reading to their students. They were collectively grateful for what SAS is doing for them in this area.

I was just as grateful for being invited to participate in this worthy endeavor.


Interviews on 702 DZAS

DZAS is at the other end of the world—from where I live. On a good day, it would take me two and a half hours to get there. On a bad day, well, forever.

But the long trek caused by infuriating traffic is worth it. As soon as I arrive, I get lots of smiles and looking after. “Are you comfortable?” “Can I get you anything?” “Coffee?’ “Juice?” “Tea?” “Newspapers?” And then my friend Tito Dok, Bing, representative of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and Misha of OMFLit arrive with goodies.

DZAS always teems with grace.

“Wan Dey, Isang Araw” is the reason I go there. It is a children’s program—aired every Saturday from 9 to 9:30 in the morning—jointly mounted by CCP and the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY). First there is a storytelling by a member of Alitaptap (Association of Philippine Storytellers) of the featured book. Then Tito Dok, host of the show, interviews the author.

That particular day, I was interviewed on three books to be featured for three Saturdays.

While I waited for my schedule, I was invited to hop over to another booth for another program. March is International Women’s Month so I was asked questions about women issues.

What I enjoy most about taped radio interviews is that you have the latitude to speak your mind. Plus you can re-tape moments which turn awry. Plus, plus you need not worry about how you look. Nobody sees you.

Okay, in this case, someone took photos. So my friends in cyburbia . . . here’s how those interviews took place. Just a few mikes and people talking to them.

The excitement is not in the booth, it’s on the air.


Soon to be a Butterfly

How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Science can explain it in great detail, with flawless logic.

How caterpillar Adrian (at one year and 10 months) will turn into a butterfly will defy logic. Everything is, and will be, by grace. And it is also by this same grace that we (although far away) can be a part of this metamorphosis.


Painters in the Family

I keep wishing a day had more than 24 hours so I could paint. At the moment (and most of the time) my plate is full with writing. I am not complaining; nothing delights me more than writing. But painting is wonderful, too. So although I am not a very good painter, I enjoy splashing and dabbing colors on canvas.

My problem is time, the lack of it.

That's why when I received these photos of Adrian, I was thrilled. Not quite two years old, he seems to love painting as I do. And he has the time that I don't have. With Adrian, I can now paint vicariously.

When he comes for a visit in April, I will make sure he and his grandma will have some time to jointly paint a masterpiece.


Genghis Khan's gone?

Tony treated me to Mongolian barbecue at lunch today and, it never fails, with this dish I remember the legendary Genghis Khan.

For me, he was (past tense) the face of Mongolia. Plus, of course, our own Mr. Shooli (the fictitious Mongol, performed and made famous by TV ad director/actor Jun Urbano in the movie Mongolian Barbecue).

My image of Mongolia morphed into something nice and new when I met the three Mongols who wanted to be writers and therefore came to the same writers’ conference I attended in Thailand.

They were nothing like Genghis Khan or Mr. Shooli. They looked like the old friends I keep—warm, earnest, with a sense of humor that brings sunshine to a stormy day.

They ate the same food, sang the same hymns, prayed to the same God, spoke of their families, and shared their grace experiences.

Over breakfast, they regaled us with Mongolia's horrendous cold weather, which could go 56 below zero! They spoke of their government’s effort to encourage their small population of 2.7 million to grow faster: free lands for every citizen and other eye-popping incentives.

Mongolia is a real nice place with real nice people.

Born at an ancient time (1100’s), Genghis Khan has no photos. But the art piece above, currently in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, is the closest depiction of him that is generally accepted by most historians. It is also how people like me imagine him, and all Mongols, to be.

He is unlike my new friends—Timothy, Dugermaa, and Pastor Mojic—in every way, but they have one thing in common: they are all warriors.

Genghis Khan fought for and won lands and people. My three new friends from Mongolia are soul warriors.

After they shall have become honest-to-goodness writers (their written works published), they will win more hearts for our Savior.


Stand Up for Down (Syndrome)

About five years old, she has a shy smile on her guileless, innocent face. But she cuddles up to me when her mom asks that we both pose for a picture.

She stays on my lap for a few more minutes until a man, about 35, comes forward and wants his picture taken, too.

Then a cheerful boy, wearing sunglasses like a rock star's, comes to the Big Brother booth and shows me his fake tattoos, all over his face and arms. When he spots the books, he looks over the cover, beams, takes a copy, and walks away. His grandmother runs after him.

These kids (and adults) with Down Syndrome, over 300 of them, are participants in this year’s Happy Walk—a yearly affair of the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines to commemorate the Down Syndrome Consciousness Month.

“Stand up for Down,” is how the event (now on its 7th year) has been dubbed. Activities include a 5-km walk around Megamall which culminates in a program that features a talent show, and a storytelling (by Regs of Alitaptap) of my latest storybook, Big Brother, illustrated by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero and published by OMF Literature under its Hiyas imprint.

I feel honored to have been invited to meet the participants and sign copies of the book, based on my personal encounter with someone dear to me with Down Syndrome—my cousin Tinoy.

In the book I wrote, “I have always believed that people with Down Syndrome can understand and feel more than we think they can.”

This belief has been reinforced after Happy Walk. People with Down Syndrome have the grace of innocence which we all lose at some point in our lives. They remain children, who—as our Savior said in Matthew 19:14b—“to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."

(Note: "Big Brother" is a Palanca-award winner in the Short Story for Children category.) 



David worshiped God with trumpet, harp, timbrel, and cymbals. That was the argument used by the advocates of drums in our church in the early 90's.

The older members were adamant, “Drums are too loud.”

But the youth group was growing and the pressure to purchase drums grew to such an extent that the conservative (okay, aging) minority finally cried, "Uncle."

Now, I sit in the last pew at the back to save the drums of my ears from total ruin.

The call of drums is not exclusive to city slickers. Country folks have embraced the musical instrument with as much zest. As you can see, this kid—half blind—plays the drums he made himself.

When this photo was flashed on screen by our pastor during his sermon on "Worship," I was chastised. It haunted me for days, and made me reflect on how, settled in the back pew, I worship the Lord—He whose grace saved me from eternal death.

How should we praise and worship God? On our knees with our eyes closed, in a solemn manner? Or on our feet with our hands raised, in a celebratory manner? Churches are debating this. David’s way in Psalm 98:4 is, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!"

Had I seen this photo when we were quelling the clamor for drums, I'd have purchased the drum set myself.

But then, again, worship is not about drums or ear drums, is it? It's all about being one with God—and the spirit (as shown by this boy) we bring into it.

P.S. I have since moved to the second pew up front.