“We [Filipinos] have stories worth telling.”
This is what author Gloria Moralidad wants writers, especially self-publishers, to remember as they write Filipino children’s books.
Last month, the National Book Development Board (NBDB) announced that two Philippine-published children’s books were featured in the White Ravens 2023 selection -- one of which belongs to Moralidad and her illustrator Danielle Florendo.
Chosen by the reputable Internationale Jugendbibliothek were the Philippines’ “The Perfect Tree” by Moralidad and “Way Way Out There” by another author, S.Cat.
The selection featured 200 notable children’s and young adult books from more than 50 countries and written in almost 40 languages.
PRODUCING THE PERFECT TREE
Even before it was hailed internationally, “The Perfect Tree” bagged recognition on the national level too. The book became a finalist at the Catholic Mass Media Awards. According to Moralidad, the book took five years to finish.
“The Perfect Tree,” which revolves around a Narra tree that died and was replaced by a metal tree that soon polluted a whole village and turned it into a “barren wasteland,” highlights environmental issues.
The book also prides itself on an artistic visual, thanks to its illustrator’s watercolors and digital technique that made the story come to life.
What’s special about Florendo and Moralidad’s duo is the passion they share in producing tales that help and serve children.
“Illustrating for children is something I have been passionate about since I entered the industry after graduating. When Glory messaged me and asked me to be her illustrator with the manuscript of The Perfect Tree, I took it immediately since we shared a passion and interest for the conservation of the environment as a children's book topic. Books still hold an important place in our community,” said Florendo.
Moralidad also shared what it’s like to dream about producing a personal story someday. “I grew up surrounded by books and it has always inspired me to write one, my own, someday. I remember being serious about writing children’s books in 2015.”
ON WHY FILIPINO CHILDREN’S BOOKS MATTER
Filipino books are very diverse. Florendo, who painted visuals in the book, believes the country with this rich background can talk about anything and everything under the sun.
Local writers also have stories worth telling, not only for readers, who are willing to be taught and amazed, but also for subjects waiting to be represented.
Author Moralidad devotes most of her time to a local NGO she founded in Iloilo City called “Bata Ako Ph.” For the most part, she credits the organization for fueling her desire to write.
"I have always had an affection for children. Writing stories for the children I serve in the community cemented my resolve to write for children’s books," she said.
In her mission to promote the Hiligaynon language through literature and supporting children in Iloilo, Moralidad got into deep roots and saw the real impact of education through community initiatives.
“There are over 100,000 non-readers in the country. These children don’t have access to books,” she pointed out.
Her group’s service observed improvements in children’s confidence, school standing, and overall well-being.
“For the abused children we served in social welfare, I saw how reading improves their return to the community and how books can rehabilitate them too,” said Moralidad.
Artist Florendo also believes books are “conversation starters on how the world works,” adding that it’s important for these learning materials to be accessible to children in any way– in print or digital.
CELEBRATING THE INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION
Despite not being able to hear the news on time due to their busy schedules, Moralidad and Florendo still find delight in seeing their work be acknowledged everywhere.
“It [means] a lot more, given this is a self-published book from the region - Iloilo City. And, since the book was bilingual, the book was set just around Iloilo City. So, to be recognized is a huge win not only for Iloilo, but for self-published authors, for the children’s book community, and the country as well,” Moralidad explained.
This was supported by Florendo, who believes the book’s recognition is “a great honor” especially with their small team.
November is both Children’s Month and National Reading Month. It’s the best time to have kids sit with books and have their imaginations dance with words and learnings that come with reading. It’s also the best opportunity to honor Filipino creatives, who do not just pave the way for international libraries to recognize Filipino books, but also promote culture and literacy in everything they do.
Like most children’s books, “The Perfect Tree” can be bought online and in various local bookstores in the country.