’Tis the seasonto be reading

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Of course, my wife Neni Sta. Romana Cruz has to add her own suggestions for holiday reading, she being no less a passionate book lover than me. I am yielding today’s space to her, perhaps slightly under duress.

With all the conversations about our students’ dismal performance in math, reading and science at the latest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (OECD-PISA) results, am I oversimplifying matters by saying, I told you so. If our students are nonreaders, can they really get anywhere, even just to the next grade level?

But I do not mean to be on my soapbox at this time of the year, just excited to share what’s on my TBR (To Be Read) list which mysteriously grows each time. Here are the titles for readers of all ages on my bedroom desk awaiting my attention, all proudly written by Filipinos.

Rene Villanueva’s Bum Tiyaya Bum, Illustrations by Sergio Bumatay III, English translation by Angela Narciso Torres, Tahanan Books for Young Readers. Move over, Mother Goose and the nursery rhymes of our colonial-influenced childhoods, for here comes our very own Philippine nursery rhymes and verses, a major project of the most talented children’s book writer, the late Rene O. Villanueva. There is so much fun promised in this book – as Rene urges us to do, let’s rediscover our own brown childhood. “Konting bato, konting semento, Monumento.” Consider that a starter.

Hanapin ang Sagot: Ano ang Batas Militar? by Aldy Aguirre, Margarita Santos, Ergoe Tinio, CANVAS (The Center for Art, New Ventures, Sustainable Development).  This is a most unusual approach to the topic, geared for children. What I find unusual is that on the copyright page, there is the general invitation to please copythat, though because it is an elaborately designed book, with the straight historical data related to those dark and horrible years of repression, somehow softened as a fun “Sipat-Sining” page is interspersed. Not easy to spot the details either, as the art of Aldy Aguirre is often dreamy and illusionary.

Way Way Out There by Cat S. Komiket. This charming graphic novel with even more charming full color illustrations refers to that place out there where big things reside. This was selected as one of two children’s books in the 2023 Ravens List of outstanding books housed in the International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich, Germany.  Its inclusion stands to reason, with the growing worldwide interest in the Graphic Novels/Comics genre, aside from the book’s quality.

The Perfect Tree by Glory Moralidad, illustrated by Danielle Florendo, self-published. This is commended because it is self-published in Jaro, Iloilo, written in Hiligaynon and English, a boost for regional publishing and also because it is the only other children’s book selected in the 2023 Ravens List for the IYL in Munich. It is about the narra tree, one thought to be the perfect one.

Pista by John Patrick F. Solano, illustrated by Allyana Leizel Lopez, Adarna House, 2023. Not your regular fiesta story because the author turns this bilingual book into a counting one, but not your regular counting book, either. It becomes tricky and slightly complicated because the reader is asked to count the feet of the animal fiesta guests, ending with “How many feet would you see if the squid and the octopus joined in the pabitin?”  Solano has happily made it his advocacy to write children’s books slanted towards math, his way of making the subject friendlier to the young.

How to Raise Your Child by Gigo Alampay, illustrated by June Digan, CANVAS, 2023. A timely reminder for parents and teachers, a book with lovely art in full color and the barest of text so laden with meaning. Excerpts from some pages: “Fill your books with home and art, so your child will grow up surrounded by wonder and magic… Set your child’s imagination free… by letting your child be.” Does anything else need to be said?

The Heart of Summer: Stories and Tales by Danton Remoto, Penguin Random House SEA, 2023. A collection of 19 engaging stories on life’s ebb and flow. Described as a novelist with the heart of a poet, Remoto is always interesting reading because of his memorable characters and elegant language.

Remoto has outdone himself because aside from his remarkable fiction output,  his two prior publications were his English translations of two Philippine classics for Penguin Random House SEA.

Banaag at Sikat/Radiance and Sunrise by Lope K. Santos. Santos was a Tagalog language writer, best known for this, his 1906 socialist novel, and for his contributions to the development of Filipino grammar and Tagalog orthography. The novel is recognized as the most prominent novel in the Golden Age of the Tagalog Novel in 1905-1921. At that time, socialism was new in world philosophy.

Mga Ibong Mandarangit/The Preying Birds: A Socio-Political Novel  by Amado V. Hernandez. Ka Amado, who was eventually honored as National Artist for Literature, completed the first draft in his isolation cell while in detention for rebellion for five years. This novel echoes the social realism in the novels of Dr. Jose Rizal. Ka Amado points out something familiar even today, that the ruling class would like to preserve the status quo to protect their vested interests.

These two novels in translation are part of the Southeast Asian Classics series of PRH SEA.

Happy reading, happy discovery of what our Filipino authors have to offer.

*      *      *

Email: [email protected]

vuukle comment



  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with