children’s illustration

Pictures and Words

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My friends and I gave a talk at the Philippine Literary Festival held at Raffles Makati last August 30, 2015. With me in the panel were Liza Flores, Ray Sunga, and Sergio Bumatay III. We were a bit surprised by the turnout; we actually expected maybe ten attendees tops.

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Liza Flores gave an introduction about our organization Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan and talked about her process for her recent book “My Big Sister Can See Dragons” written by Rocky Sanchez Tirona and published by Canvas. The book’s development underwent the usual process that a children’s book goes through in the Philippines, wherein a publisher commissions an illustrator to provide images for an existing story. Liza’s illustrations for the book were all large scale papercuts mounted on wood. During the book’s launch, the illustrations were exhibited at the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum.

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Sergio Bumatay talked about out his process for his book “May Darating na Trak Bukas” (literally translated as “a truck will arrive tomorrow”) written by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and published by Adarna House. Serj’s experience on the book was a bit different since it didn’t originate from a previously written text. Instead, Serj was asked to develop several studies that can serve as inspiration for a new story. From the studies, Adarna House chose one image for Virgilio Almario to base his text on.

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Ray Sunga narrated his personal experiences in being a children’s book illustrator, as well as his process, and his inspirations. He gave insights into what we as illustrators experience in the Philippines (notably how you can’t live on illustrating children’s books alone).

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I talked about my research on word and picture interactions in picture books as well as my learnings from a writers and illustrators workshop I attended in Bintan, Indonesia (more about this in a coming blog post). The point of my presentation was underscore our role as co-storytellers in picture books, a fact that many in the local industry may have glossed over because of the preeminence of the purely written text as primary sources of stories.


The idea of teaching visual storytelling and visual literacy in general seems to be in its nascent stages in the Philippines. Personally, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that parents shy away from stories that are purely pictorial or at least with very few words. I don’t have the facts as to how visual literacy is being taught in Philippine schools nowadays, but I hope illustrators will have a greater role in shaping the conversation in the future.

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“One Mighty, Awesome, Incredible Rescue”

The Manila International Book Fair is just around the corner (it’s happening on Sept. 17 – 21, 2014) and I’ve been busy finishing a children’s book for OMFLit under their Hiyas banner. The book is called “One Mighty, Awesome, Incredible Rescue” and it’s a retelling of the Exodus story written by Yna Reyes.

The book is currently being rushed to press to make the Book Fair, but here’s the cover art as a preview.

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Never Forget

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I’ve been busy these past few months working on an upcoming children’s book entitled “Isang Harding Papel” set during the 1970s – the Martial Law years. Written by Augie Rivera and published by Adarna House. The book will be coming out soon.

As with all period stories, research is essential; not just textual research but visual as well. Protest pictures were relatively easy enough to find, as well as images of the infamous Metrocom that truncheoned protesters into submission; but the smaller things proved a bit problematic. For example, what did the National Highway known as EDSA look like before ugly gigantic billboards sprouted up and blotted out the sky? What did the old propaganda billboards of President Marcos and Imelda Marcos look like?

Tight timelines only allowed me internet research with Google image search providing the bulk of the reference pictures. Some sites were particularly useful to my research, though. The blog site The First Quarter Storm Library had a lot of protest images during the early 70s while the flickr site by Gorio72 had loads of bus images and advertisements from various decades in Philippine history.

I was also able to grab some reference pictures from the long out of print book “The History of the Burgis” by Mariel N. Francisco and Fe C. Arriola published in 1987. Here is a little glimpse inside the book.

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For more information about Martial Law and its victims, here’s a link to the Martial Law Memory Project initiated by online news portal, Interaksyon.

I have always been fascinated with this era in Philippine history and it amazes me that in just two decades after Ferdinand Marcos’ exit, people’s feelings about Martial Law are slowly changing from outrage to ambivalence, and for some even fondness. More stories have to be written, movies filmed, and pictures made about our past so that we won’t easily forget.

Lastly, another book that was useful in my research is a pictorial account of the EDSA Revolution – the bloodless revolt during February of 1986 that toppled the Marcos regime. I was only 7 at the time of the revolution but I had vague memories of seeing the coverage on TV and the fervor of those heady days spilling onto our school.

Here are some images from the book:

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Vote for Guardians of Tradition at the Filipino Reader’s Choice Awards!

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I just found out that Guardians of Tradition, the book that I helped design and illustrate, was nominated for this year’s Filipino Reader’s Choice Awards.  Online voting  is currently open until Sept. 6, 2013.

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The book is nominated under the Children’s Picture Book Category along with a lot of other terrific children’s books, a majority of which were made by my friends. What is surprising though is that Guardians of Tradition  is the ONLY NON-FICTION children’s book in the category.online_ballot

I hope Filipino readers out there can find time to check out the book and vote it in the Filipino Reader’s Choice Awards. You can vote HERE

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Published by Adarna House, Guardians of Tradition was written by the late Mae Astrid Tobias, photographed by Renato S. Rastrollo and illustrated by me. The book features the recipients of The Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan – an award created in 1992 through Republic Art no. 7355  honoring and financially supporting those who have devoted their lives to keeping the practice of traditional Philippine folk arts alive.

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Eleven artists who have excelled in weaving, carving, performing arts, literature, textile and pottery have been profiled along with concise descriptions of their chosen art form.

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These individuals embody the cultural tradition of the Philippines and sadly, some of them have already passed away.

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The book also features little activities for children related to the art form of the profiled artist.

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I was glad to work on the project because the book is a great primer for anyone interested in finding out a little bit more about our country’s indigenous art forms. Props to Mae Astrid Tobias for writing this book and a load of thanks to Adarna House (special mention to publisher Ani Almario and artists/designers Eli Camacho and Borg Sinaban) for making the project happen. I hope a lot of kids eventually get to read it.

Guardians of Tradition (The Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan) is available the Adarna House showroom at Scout Torillo corner Scout Fernandez Streets, Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City 1103 Philippines and at all National Bookstore Outlets.