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  • Keana A. Labra

Filipino Children's Literature, Tales, Fables, and Oral Traditions

Even with the push for progressive and multicultural children’s literature, it still required a bit of searching to find a Filipino children’s book. I could not even rely on my own resources, as I was not brought up on Filipino stories. When I asked my mother why she did not read these stories to my siblings and I, she answered, “I don’t know. I think I just told you what I remembered.” Even after hearing her response, I could not recall any of the Filipino fables she told me as a child, and I did not have a single copy of any type of children’s book from my childhood.

Keeping my mother’s words in mind and a desire to find work deeply rooted in tradition, I came across The Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories.

This compilation presents Filipino tales from oral tradition, previously passed from mother to child. Whether referring to the phrases, names of the characters, or setting, each story is distinctively Filipino. Despite the distinguishing factors, the stories still hold universal childhood themes of good overcoming evil or children outwitting corrupted adults.

Liana Romulo’s retelling is whimsical and easy to digest; I found myself completing each story in less than ten minutes. Granted, I did consume these stories reading it in my head. The stories are definitely meant to be read aloud; and, the illustrations are an elevation of the experience. Joanne de Leon’s masterpieces would delight and excite any listening child. The soft watercolors add life to the magical creatures and blurs the line between reality and fantasy.

Romulo’s work comprises of solely children’s literature. With an array spanning folktales and fables to basic Tagalog, she provides a source for native Filipinos and Filipinos living elsewhere, such as the States, to learn and share the culture with their children and others. de Leon’s work parallels Romulo with a list of Filipino children’s books. Her art remains light and refreshing, with the watercolors appearing to leap off of the page.

The thirteen stories weave together seamlessly and establish a magical realism in which it feels as if these characters do exist and the events are just a part of history. The underlying theme all the stories share is the importance of friendship, camaraderie, and togetherness, which mirrors the actual prominent and influential value the Filipino culture holds towards family.

Children can learn from stories written in cultures outside of their own. This allows for children to become familiar with and accepting of those who differ from themselves. In this tumultuous political times, it is important for us to realize not only our similarities, but the strength that lies in diversity.

I may not have grown up knowing these stories, but if I ever did have children, I would like to expose them to Filipino children’s literature. Despite my upbringing in the States, I find myself feeling a sense of kinship with these stories. These stories traditionally told from Filipino mother and child can be told even outside of the motherland and with those of different ethnic backgrounds as well. Being Filipino American to me means looking back at the past and learning from my parents’ generation and those before them and looking to the future and what our children can take with them to better themselves and the world.

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Keana A. Labra - Milpitas, CA Contributor

Utilizing her background in English Literature, Keana would like to learn more about Filipino literature and history to bring an understanding and awareness to the culture. As a Filipino American, she is interested in further researching the impact of the feminist movement and how it affects Filipino tradition. She would also like to uplift the Filipino Americans who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. She hopes to encourage fellow Filipino Americans to participate and immerse themselves in the Filipino culture. Her hobbies include watching anime and reading manga..

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