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A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: A Harvest of Mindanawon Children’s Books 

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1.      Ya Pagkatu-ang na Banwa: Kwentong Tagakalu mula sa Malita, Davao Occidental
Text by Tagakaulo Mission Members, Illustrations by Aldy Aguirre, 2019
Published by DO62 Indigenous Peoples Education Partnership Initiative, Dela Salle Philippines, 2019)
(Still to be approved by the NCIP for distribution)

2.       Dako nga Yahong sang  mga Uajpmg sang Batchoy (Malaking Mangkok ng Batchoy)
Story by Jennie Arado and illustrated by Rayah Dizon-Maniago
Published by Alamid Publishing House (Aklat Alamid), 2021

3.      Etong, the Kalagan Storyteller 
Story by Randy A. Tudy and Ida G. Today, illustrated by Crisalyn M. Basing
Published by For Jesu College, 2022

In the ongoing 2nd Mindanao Book Festival (extended until Saturday, June 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at SATMI Classrooms 5 and 6, Redemptorist Compound, J. P. Laurel St., Bajada, Davao City), three children’s books compete for attention from those viewing the exhibit. With these three publications, one gets to see the range of possibilities for children’s books that cover the richness of Mindanao’s history, culture  and contemporary realities.

Given Mindanao’s unique “multi-nation” identity in relation to the rest of the Republic, being constituted by regions and islands of different ethnicities, languages, cultural heritage and faith traditions, would-be authors have a minefield to dig stories from. The interplay of the ethnicities across the Moro (with roughly 13 ethno-linguistic groups) , Lumad (with 18) and settler-migrants’ communities (representing practically all provinces across the country) and sprinkling of migrants from all over the world, provides a rich tapestry akin to the handwoven t’nalak or other handwoven fabrics.


These three books reveal this complexity: Ya Pagkatu-ang is mainly in Tagakolu and Pilipino (but also has Cebuano-Bisaya and English translations), while Dako nga Yahong has Hiligaynon and Pilipino texts and Etong is in three – Kalagan, Cebuano-Bisaya and English. The stories range from the mythic origins of the ancestors (Ya Pagkatu-ang’s Creation story and Etong’s Origin of the Kalagans)  to historical narratives (Etong’s Big War ni Leling) and contemporary life in relation to food (Dako’s Batchoy). 

The illustrators’ drawings and medium used  also manifest the richness of the cultural heritage from where the stories arise: Ya Pagkatu-ang’s images are in soft pastel watercolors showing the beauty of the Tagakolu landscapes and their material culture, Etong’s illustrations are in much brighter hues appearing very much like children’s crayon drawings and Dako nga Yahong are cartoonish with kids with round-headed faces of round eyes. Clearly, the illustrators made sure to synchronize their drawings with the context of the stories!

While there are a few names that are credited for these books, the fact is that these are stories arising from narratives handed down from generation to generation through centuries of story-telling or imagined based on actual experiences of entire communities. Ya Pagkatua-ang lists down those who narrated the story which were later transcribed, edited and translated by the members of the Malita Tagakulo Mission (especially Fr. Joey Evangelista MJ, Marites Gonzalo and Wilma Garcia) including:  Ruben Ancho, Bakleg Danyol Macatunao Bakleg Tiala Laginan, Bakleg Masama Ompao, Bakleg Sunggalingan Tayawan, Bakleg Santo Macatunao, Rondo Bongi, Robinson Ompao and Angelito Bongi.

Etong, on the other hand, is a story imagined by the authors based on immersion and interviews among Kalagans in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur. It situates a Kalagan boy interacting with a classmate who is a descendant of Cebuano migrant settlers. The authors, however, failed to name their respondents.  Dako nga Yahong lists down not just those who had  a direct hand in producing this book but the individuals who “have been part of the different stages of this book’s publication” namely:  Boon Lauw, Royal Ramos Rossel Audencial, David Jayson Oquendo, Mary Ann Ordinario and Beth Parrocha as well as the parents teachers and students of the writer and illustrator.

Through the efforts of these writers and illustrators, we now have these books that in themselves are ways of doing a “cultural mapping” that children would find stimulating. But as with films that are produced to cater to kids, even parents and guardians are never old enough to also enjoy reading these books. The child in all of us would always favorably respond to the rich imagination ensconced in simple story lines and line drawings of children’s books. 

It has been a lament among a number of Mindanawon writers, authors and journalists there have been far too much Western materials available in our bookstores and libraries and not enough written by our very own. And those available by Filipinos mainly emanate from the Republic’s center where Manila-based publishing houses have monopolized the issuances of these children’s books. Even if some of them have appropriated stories from Mindanao’s cultural reservoir, these are still lacking in context. On the other hand, being born and raised in the Mindanawon context, Mindanawons can easily write from within their local contexts.

Twenty-eight year old Jennie Arado of Koronadal City (L) and illustrator Rayah Dizon-Maniago of General Santos City (R) finally meet face-to-face for the first time on Monday, 13 June 2022 at the opening of the 2nd Mindanao Book Festival in Davao City. The two were introduced through online meetings by Aklat Alamid, publisher of their award-winning book, “Dako nga Yahong sang Batchoy,” one of 59 Mindanao books published during the pandemic (2020 to 2022) and among those collectively launched last Monday. MindaNews photo by YAS OCAMPO

Children’s books produced by Mindanawons are still in its infancy and we credit those who have paved the road. And now we salute  the Tagakaulo Mission Members, Aldy Aguirre, Jennie Arado, Rayah Dizon-Maniago, Randy A. Tudy and Ida G. Tudy, and Crisalyn M. Basing for expanding further the literature that would delight children not just of this generation but the future Mindanawons still to see the light of day in this part of the Orient!

(Note:  Unfortunately, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has not yet authorized the Malita Tagakolu Mission to have  Ya Pagkatu-ang na Banwa released for distribution. So the reader will have to wait until it is officially released. Etong, the Kalagan Storyteller is not for sale for the moment as the limited copies are to be distributed to the Kalagan children. Dako nga Yahong sang Batchoy are available for those interested to order copies. Contact Alamid Publishing House).

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is Mindanao’s most prolific book author. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). Gaspar is a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]

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