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Francesca: Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! Book Review and Interview with the Author & Illustrator

About the Book & Why We Love it:

Francesca: Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! is a charming children’s picture book about a birthday party for a young girl named Francesca. It is translated in both English and Tagalog and introduces the concepts of numbers 1-10, colors, some clothing pieces, and Filipino party traditions.

Author, Cel Tria, and illustrator Gel Relova, did a beautiful job of creating a bright, joyful book to teach children basic Tagalog vocabulary with a theme that is so relatable to children.

Not only is this adorable book available in softcover, but you can also get an interactive e-Book version of Francesca: Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! Philip & Ana Publishing took it a step further and made it possible for children to listen to the narration of the story (by Nikki Gil-Albert) in both English and Tagalog, but to also have the capability of interacting with the words and pictures on mobile devices. Having the touchscreen capability and hearing repetition of the words in English and Tagalog strongly reinforces learning and the retention of the words. This is such an innovative Filipino children’s book! How many Filipino children’s books can you name out there that currently do this?

Want to see inside the book?  I made a video walk-through of the e-Book and softcover.  Get a closer look at the features of Francesa  on our IGTV video post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzTmCqRggi7/

Interview with the Author – Cel Tria

Q: Where did the inspiration come from to create Francesca?

A: “Francesca is a work of fiction but I’ve drawn from our various experiences as a family.  I was inspired by both our daughters and also by the people we’ve met along the way.

I loved how Gel, the illustrator, captured the multiculturalism of the guests.  I described the ethnicity of each character and they all turned out so well!  Regarding the games, I remember the first piñata with strings that I bought, and I thought that it might not be as exciting, but it is definitely safer!  We never had pabitin in any of our kids’ parties yet, but both my husband and I recall having participated in them as children.  

And look at this photo, notice the similarities with the balloons page.  We had a celebration with just 3 guests because the table for the tea party only had 4 matching chairs!  But it was fabulous anyway and the kids had fun and they became best friends.

This table setting served as an inspiration for Francesca’s celebration.

The spread on the food table is what you would typically find in Filipino celebrations everywhere. 

Friends of Philip & Ana Publishing enjoyed replicating the first page of Francesca for this book event.

Q: What other work have you written?

A: “I’ve written the next book in this Francesca series.  (Yes, it’s a series!) I’m excited about that and the creative process.  We’re about to start the illustrations.   It’s so much fun imagining the scenes, communicating those visions to Gel and then seeing her wonderful interpretations.”

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be an author? 

A: “Originally, when we were living in the States, I was hoping to import books and make them available to the Filipino community because we ourselves found it difficult to access this kind of materials for our children.  Then when the iPhone/iPad came out, I thought that would be a good medium too, with sound and interactive features.  I encountered setbacks in trying to bring in existing content in either format though.

One day my husband suggested that I could make my own, that maybe I should write a book.  It took a while for this to sink in, but when it did I thought it was a marvelous idea. I loved reading since I was a kid and had been writing for school papers.  The possibilities of creative writing were delightful!  That was around 2013 when I started, and by then, we have moved to Australia. ” 

Q: What are your favorite genres of books?

a) To read: “When it comes to adult genres, I am now more inclined to read non-fiction.  Recently, I really liked books by Gretchen Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell, I appreciate the fascinating information presented based on lots of research.  I’m happy to admit though that I love children’s fiction and still read them! (For research, wink, wink!)”

b) To create: “So far, I’ve only written children’s picture books, but I’d like to try my hand at chapter books as well, and adult fiction and non-fiction.  However, I think I’ll always love the process of creating picture books because it’s so great to see imagined scenes manifested in lovely illustrations.”

Q: Will you tell us more about Philip & Ana Publishing Company? (How it came to be and what you hope to do?)

A: It is a publishing company registered in the Philippines, started in 2016 by 5 Filipina founding directors, including myself.  We mostly communicate online because of our locations, 3 different regions in the Philippines, Japan and Australia.  The goal is to promote the love of reading and learning, create content that celebrate the Philippine languages and culture and other cultures of the world, and give back to the community.  We dream of many more Filipinos enjoying the habit of reading, wherever they are in the Philippines or in the world.  We want to help children who are not so privileged get access to books and find joy in them.  We hope you can support us by purchasing our books.  Give them as gifts!  Tell your family and friends! 

(Available on: iBooks and Amazon)

Q: Any upcoming projects and/or events that people can look out for?

A: “There are two projects that we’re working on right now, one is by a Filipino author who lives in New Zealand, about the best friend that a kid could ever have and the other one is the second book in the Francesca series.  Both are being illustrated by Gel too.  Watch out for them!” 

Q: Where can people learn more about you? 

A: “You can find us on Instagram @philipandanapublishing, or on our FaceBook page “Philip & Ana.”  We also have a website, www.philipandana.com .”

Interview with the Illustrator: Gel Relova

Q: Where did the inspiration come when creating the illustrations for Francesca? 

A: “When I started working on this book, I researched traditional Filipino birthday parties here in the Philippines. I remembered some of the games that we played when I was young, the colorful piñata and toys inside small plastic bags (like yo-yo’s and jackstones!) which were strung on 4 by 4 wood called Pabitin. I tried capturing those fun memories and imagined how it would be for Francesca.”

Q: What other work have you illustrated?

A: “I have been illustrating for various Philippine companies and publishing houses for a few years now. They’re mostly for books, magazines, print ads, and other materials. I also collaborate with other illustrators for exhibits here in Manila. You can view some of them on our org’s website at ang-ink.org.”

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be an illustrator?

A: “My childhood consisted of Disney animated movies, cable TV cartoons and Japanese manga. As a kid, I was always trying to draw and copy them.  My sketchbook was filled with drawings of Ariel and Jasmine, Lisa Franks, and the whole sailor squad. When I became a teenager and I still had the same passion that I’ve had for drawing when I was little, I then decided that I wanted to create my own artworks for a living.”

Q: Where can people learn more about you? 

A: “You can see some of my works at fisheecalamari.carbonmade.com or you can follow me on Tumblr.”

Cel & Gel were chatting, talking and collaborating over the internet for almost two years before they met up in person. This photo was taken during that first meeting, a few months after all the illustrations for Francesca were completed.

The Quarreling Kites

Summary

The Quarreling Kites, the Palanca-award winning children’s book, was written by Lin Acacio-Flores and illustrated by Hermes Alegre. It is a tale of a father and a son flying two kites, a big one, and a small one. It starts off describing the rivalry and competitiveness between the two kites. Bigger and stronger versus smaller and faster.

We see the push to be better than the other:

“I’m better than you are. I’m bigger and stronger.”

“That doesn’t mean anything. I’m smaller and faster.”

“Hah! You call that flying?”

It goes on to show the gradual transformation from the competitive spirit and rivalry into encouragement and friendship between the kites.

“C’mon, little brother … You can do it!”

Alongside these two characters are the father and son bonding through flying the kites. Kite flying is a beautiful activity to share with someone.

It is an interesting way to show a parallel between two pairs of characters whose stories intertwine throughout the book.

The Quarreling Kites is overall a beautifully illustrated story showing the rural landscapes of the Philippines and a tale showing the development of appreciation and respect for others.

About the Author & Illustrator

Lin Acacio-Flores has written several articles and other books, including A Child’s Treasury of Philippine Christmas Stories,  When I Cross the Street … (Kapag Tumatawid Ako Ng Kalsada …), and Modern Heroes for the Filipino Youth. She shares her passion for children’s literature as a member of the association, KUTING.

Hermes Alegre loved spending his days flying kites with his father as a child, so the story of The Quarreling Kites is near and dear to his childhood. He illustrated other children’s literature including Bahay Kubo and The Mats, which earned the 1995 National Book Award for Children’s Literature. In addition to books, Mr. Alegre has featured paintings of Filipino maidens and golden landscapes in many gallery exhibits.

Activities

A fun extension activity is to make and fly a kite. There are so many different types of kites to make, from different types of materials to different kite styles.

Below are a couple of links to helpful websites showing how to make various kinds of kites:

Learn Kite-themed Tagalog words

Reading about kite flying is a great way to introduce Tagalog vocabulary for kites and sky-related words.

We created a one-page printable that introduces five sky & kite-themed words in Tagalog. Your child can draw a picture using the suggested Tagalog/English vocabulary words. Depending on their ability, they can trace the word (if you pre-write it for them), copy the words, cut out and glue the words. Then practice saying the words aloud while pointing to the pictures.

Featured Fil-Am: Ria Pretekin

This month, we are featuring the amazing Ria Pretekin – educator, counselor and coach. She is a Filipina American mom of two, originally from Los Angeles and currently lives in the city of Chicago. Ria’s passion is to create community through cultural awareness. She is helping her children discover their Filipino American identities through adventures and storytelling.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background. 

A: I am a Filipina American. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, the first few years of my life in HiFi (historic Filipinotown).   Both my parents were born and raised in the Philippines and came to California in the late ’70s. 

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture? 

A: That there is so much beauty and richness to our culture. To be Filipino is to almost be a mystery because we don’t really fit into any category. We are Asian Americans but our culture is so heavily influenced by the 300 years of Spanish colonization. I read the book the “Latinos of Asia” by Anthony Christian Ocampo and that book helped me understand how Filipinos are the invisible Asians.

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community?

A: I started a blog and Instagram (@urbanohana) to begin documenting my family’s adventures. I want to help educate others on what it means to be Filipino American and to help shift the narrative of American history to include the many amazing contributions of Filipinos to this country. I want to share the beauty of our culture through my stories and through the family programming I am hosting. 

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A:  My children and my parents. I want my children to know that they are Filipino American as well as half Jewish/white. I believe it is my responsibility as their mother to help pass along the stories of their ancestors down to them so that they may understand their roots. It is also just as much about my parents and honoring their legacy, who they are, and the country that they came from.

Q: Any other additional thoughts you want to share that we didn’t ask you yet?

A: My family is a multi-generational, multicultural, interfaith family. I am trying to ensure that my children are exposed to both the Catholic faith, Jewish faith, and Filipino culture. I am so fortunate to have my parents living with us, which is very nontraditional in American norms but common for Filipinos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Related post: Latkes & Lumpia – Learn more about how Ria celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas with her family, for a beautiful blend as an interfaith celebration). 

Upcoming Special Event

June 27 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Conversations & Cocktails (at Storefront Events in Chicago, IL):

Join Ria Pretekin & WE Events to discuss Raising Cultural Awareness in Families. An amazing panelist of women in Chicago will share stories and start the conversation about race, culture, and raising cultural awareness with intentionality. Their hope is to build a positive awareness of diversity in the community. If you are interested in an evening of discussion, journaling, and cocktails, find out more about the Conversations & Cocktails event here.

Follow Along & Learn More about Ria:

Featured Fil-Am: Sunday Garcia

We are honored to become acquainted with Sunday “Sunny” Garcia, who is making a name for herself blogging about Filipino American culture and soon to be releasing a Filipino and Filipino American apparel line. 

Q: What is the story behind your name?

A: My name is Sunday Garcia. My great grandmother was named Domingo, and since I was born on a Sunday, my mother named me after her. My nickname is Sunny.

Q: Where do you currently live? Where are you from?

I live in Yuma, AZ, born and raised. My husband and I were living in the Phoenix valley recently for over 12 years but just moved back to our hometown to be closer to our family.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background. 

A: My mom is Filipina. Her side of the family is from Angeles City and we are Pampangan. My father is French, German, Scandinavian mix and he was an American airman on Clark Airbase in the Philippines. That’s how he and my mother met. My parents moved to the states after following friends, in which they moved to small town Yuma, Arizona taking my then 4-year-old sister. My mother, second eldest of nine children, was the first to move to the states in her family. She later helped some of her immediate family members obtain their U.S. citizenship and make a life here in the U.S. through family sponsorship.

Growing up, we spent many holidays and family vacations with our Filipino side of the family in California (the San Bernardino area) mostly gathering around the table, eating pancit, lumpia, shrimp, tilapia, sinigang, lechon, adobo, and many other cultural foods depending on the celebration.

Locally, my mother was one of the first members of the Filipino-American Association in Yuma, and helped build the organization to what it is today with over 300 members.

Through the years, I participated in the local cultural events such as the Annual Santo Niño Fiesta! I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines when I was 7, but left early because Mount Pinatubo erupted (circa 1991), and I have not been able to make a return trip since. My only regret about my culture is not knowing the language. While visiting the Philippines when I was young, I learned a few words to get by running my grandmother’s candy shop based out of her home in which kids would come buy candies and treats after school. I still remember this experience quite clearly, almost 30 years ago! 

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture? 

A: I am an avid learner of our culture, and I want people to know that the Filipino culture is rich and vibrant, as many other cultures are, as well as unique in its own right. I want people to respect our culture by acknowledging and understanding the special intricacies of the many islands, languages, history, food, cooking, traditional dress, and the kind nature of Filipino people in general.

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community?

A: In hopes of contributing to the Filipino American culture, I have been writing and storing a collection of personal blogs on experience and culture over the past 10 years – primarily focusing on Filipino American culture and my personal/family’s experiences. These blogs are intended to bring and inspire cultural awareness to others. With the help of social media, I use my personal blog via WordPress.com and also often post photos relating to our culture on my Instagram profile from Filipino food, traditional events such as the Santo Niño Fiesta held in my town each year, and sometimes Filipino news, facts, history, etc.

And, more recently, I am in the process of launching a t-shirt and apparel line promoting Filipino and Filipino American culture. The t-shirts are geared towards women for now, but I plan to later have apparel for kids and men. The t-shirts are digitally printed designs that I have designed myself and consist of symbols of our culture such as the sampaguita and the Filipino flag sun. I am also including a print design for people of mixed race, “mestizos”, which is the reason for the name: “MestizCo Apparel”—hoping to officially launch within the next 30 days!

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A:  My inspiration comes from many spaces. First, my mother and the Filipino side of my family has inspired me to discover more about our culture, which is why I pursued a minor in Asian Pacific American Studies during my baccalaureate degree program. While in the program, several of my professors inspired me to continue to study our culture and demonstrate the importance of understanding positive promotion of culture through reading, writing, speaking, and bringing awareness. I would say that is where most of my inspiration lies.

 I try to blog every few months on culture. But my t-shirt line, MestizCo Apparel, is set to launch end of June! 

Follow Along & Learn More about Sunday:

Blogs/Facebook/Instagram/Website information:

Cultural Blog Site: Pinay Sunday in the City

MestizCo Apparel (officially launching soon)

Mother’s Day Tagalog Activities

Mother’s Day is coming up and we have some activities for how you can show these special women in your lives you appreciate them while learning some Tagalog and Filipino culture.

Read the Filipino Children’s Book, “Cora Cooks Pancit.”

“Cora Cooks Pancit” is an adorable story about Cora, a young girl, who wants to cook Filipino foods with her Mama, but is usually sitting on the sidelines. She finally gets the opportunity and not only feels like such a grown up cooking alongside her Mama, but she learns more about her family roots, making her Lolo’s pancit recipe. Learn more about the book and author, Dorina Gilmore, in our Filipino Children’s Book Corner post.

A fun activity to do with your mom or lola is to cook pancit with her or for her (if you learn to do it with another family member).

If cooking isn’t possible at this time, enjoy a plate of pancit from a local restaurant or from a family or friend who can make a delicious pancit dish.

Fil-Am Learners Printable Activities

Show your mom (ina) and grandma (lola) how you feel in English and Tagalog with the following printable activities.

Tagalog/English Mother’s Day Cards

Mother’s Day Writing & Craft Activity

Below is a Tagalog/English Mother’s Day Writing Prompt and Craft to learn Tagalog vocabulary to describe your mom or grandma. There is an accompanying writing activity and a paper craft, which would go well as a thoughtful gift.

Mother's Day Tagalog Writing Craft

“Cora Cooks Pancit” by Dorina Gilmore

Book Summary

We are over the moon to share this month’s featured Filipino children’s book, Cora Cooks Pancit, written by Dorina Gilmore and illustrated by Kristi Valiant. It is a charming tale about a young Filipina American girl named Cora, who loves the smell of the Filipino dishes her Mama cooks and longs to cook in the kitchen, just like her older siblings. Instead, she is usually sitting on the sidelines, doing “kid jobs” like drawing in the flour or licking the spoon. She finally gets the chance to help her Mama and chooses to cook pancit, a Filipino noodle dish. Not only does she get to the opportunity to do the “grown-up” cooking tasks, but she learns about her Filipino heritage through her Mama’s storytelling in the process as well.

Why We Love the Book

My children and I love Cora’s determination to cook with her Mama. We appreciate the representation of a Filipino family in the story. Being able to see a family that looks similar to ours is very special and close to home. I also personally adore the bonding between Cora and Mama in the kitchen. Food is iconic for bringing Filipinos together. We admire the author’s introduction to the Filipino culture through Lolo’s story and how Mama passed on stories of the family heritage to Cora. My children thought it was also charming to see the dog in each picture bringing toys to Cora, wanting to play with her. It brought a realistic family element seeing each member of the book interact with one another.

Interview with the author

We had the chance to interview the talented author of Cora Cooks Pancit, Dorina Gilmore. Learn more about this amazing woman below and be sure to look out for a special treat for you in this post.

Q:What led you to write Cora Cooks Pancit?

A: As a child, I was a voracious reader. I was also looking for books about kids like me. I saw very little if any representation of kids from Filipino or mixed-race backgrounds. As a writer, I longed to fill this void. I also grew up in the kitchen with my mama, my grandmas, and aunties. My grandma Cora was an amazing cook and I wanted to preserve this recipe and the memory of cooking together.

Q:Tell us a little bit about your cultural background. 

I’m from a mixed-race family. My mother’s side is mostly Italian with some Jewish and Armenian. My father’s parents immigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii. They were Filipino, Chinese, and Polynesian. My parents were very intentional to share these cultures and celebrate them with our family. 

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture?

A: Filipino American culture is a rich blend of Asian and Latin roots with an island flare. Food is central to our cultural identity. Despite economic hardships in the home country, Filipinos pride themselves on generous hospitality and inviting others to the table. I grew up experiencing the food, music, dance, and art of the Philippines and learning about others. 

Q:What and/or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A: My children inspire me to keep writing. I have three daughters ages 7, 10 and 13. I want them to have books that express the cultures and experiences that are familiar to them and that teach them about others. I believe books help us navigate life and trials. They give us examples and instill values in us.

Q: Where can people find you and learn about your work?

A: People can see more of my books at www.DorinaKidsBooks.com and follow me @DorinaGilmore on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest or Dorina Lazo Gilmore, Author on Facebook.

Sign up for the newsletter www.dorinakidsbooks.com where Dorina shares her publishing news, children’s book reviews and a FREE Christmas advent book list with you.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share with our audience?

A: I want readers to know that their purchases have power. The more they share books with others and request them at the library and bookstores, the more you will see a demand for books about Filipino Americans and others in publishing. We need you!

A Special Treat for you from Dorina

Dorina would love to send any of our readers a signed, personalized copy of Cora Cooks Pancit for $10 plus shipping. (Here is a link to her Contact Page where you will see a contact form and her e-mail address. You can let her know you are a part of the Fil-Am Learners community).

Where to find out more about the Illustrator, Kristi Valiant

Website: http://www.kristivaliant.com/Kristi_Valiant/home.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kvaliant/

Instagram: @kristivaliant

Featured Fil-Am: Danielle Colayco

We are excited to get to know and feature Danielle Colayco, a leader and advocate of healthcare for the under-served community. Let’s take a peek into the life of this influential leader of Komoto Family Foundation.

Q: Where do you currently live? Where are you from?

A: I currently live in Southern California. I was born and raised here.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background.

A: My parents were born in Metro Manila, and we are a multi-racial family which includes Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, and British ancestry. My four older brothers were all born in Manila. My parents and Lola then immigrated to California, where my sister and I were born. All of my siblings and I grew up speaking English at home. Our Lola spoke Tagalog to my dad and English with everyone else. She is also fluent in Spanish (Castilian). As a Southern California native, I took three years of Spanish (Mexican) in high school, so I can now speak like a toddler.

Now that I have a child of my own, I’m inspired to reconnect to my Filipino roots and learn basic conversational Tagalog along with my daughter. I’ve also recently learned to cook Filipino foods at home, including my Lola’s pancit bihon — but I add my own twists. For example, I’m too lazy to wash an extra pot. So rather than boiling the noodles separately, I just add stock to the same pan with the noodles and vegetables so they can soften while cooking. I do have to confess that when I was a small child, I didn’t love a lot of Filipino food. I thought American cheeseburgers and pizza were the most delicious foods, because all of my friends at school were eating those things. I was embarrassed to bring our food to school for lunch, so I begged for Lunchables and peanut butter sandwiches instead. Only when I became an adult and started to build more self-confidence did I start to appreciate and reclaim my own culture. It’s a method of empowerment and healing from our colonial mentality.

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture?

A: One out of five Filipino-Americans is multi-racial. One of our most frequently asked questions, particularly from other Asians, is “what are you?” If we respond “Filipino,” typically the follow-up response is some form of “oh, so you’re half.” One time, somebody literally told me, “You’re not what I expected.” So, for my fellow mixed-race Filipinos, I’d like to share with you our Bill of Rights by Maria P.P. Root, PhD, a fellow multiracial Filipina: https://www.safehousealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/A-Bill-of-Rights-for-Racially-Mixed-People.pdf     You get to decide how you identify, regardless of your racial composition or whether you speak the languages of your ancestors. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not Filipino enough, or that you’re “only half.” You are a whole person, and you are enough. Full stop.

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community?

A: I run a nonprofit organization called the Komoto Family Foundation, whose mission is to improve access to healthcare services from pharmacists for under-served communities. One of our key communities includes the farmworkers of Delano, California. If you’ve ever eaten grapes before, chances are that they were grown and harvested by the people of Delano, which also happens to be home to over 7,000 Filipinos. Perhaps the most famous is Larry Itliong, who led the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) in the Delano Grape Strikes of 1965. He convinced Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the Latino farmworkers to join forces with the Filipinos to fight for fair wages and humane working conditions. (There’s an excellent children’s book written by the late Dawn Mabalon and Gayle Romasanta:Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong

These days, many of the growers have partnered with the Central Valley Farmworker Foundation (CVFF), whose mission is to improve the quality of life of farmworkers. We collaborate with CVFF to bring health education to the farmworkers during their work hours in the fields. Because of several factors including social conditions (low incomes and educational attainment, immigration issues, language barriers, etc), the farmworkers face a number of health concerns including diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies. One thing we’ve noticed is that our health education materials are typically translated from English into Spanish to accommodate the 70% Latino population, but very rarely do you see anything translated to Tagalog, Ilokano, or any other Filipino language. When I attended a talk by Dr. Mabalon last year, she mentioned the erasure of the Filipinos within the majority Latino population of Delano — which explains why Cesar Chavez is so well-known but Larry Itliong is only recognized by some. Part of her legacy as a historian was to bring visibility to the Filipino community, and I’d like to help continue that in her memory.

It starts with engaging the community in their languages (our staff includes native Tagalog and Ilokano speakers in addition to Spanish speakers, and we have started translating our materials accordingly), but it also includes speaking to the unique health challenges of the Filipino community. How do you tell a Filipina with diabetes that she needs to stop eating white rice, when it’s such a staple of our diet? Maybe it starts with incremental changes, like reducing the portion from two cups to one, and encouraging her to replace that volume with some gulay.

We also need to start breaking the stigma around mental health and sexual health, because these are literally life or death issues. Most of us have either been personally affected or know somebody who has been affected by depression or anxiety, as well as unintended pregnancy — and yet, these issues are completely taboo in many Filipino families. Some of this stigma is related to our colonial history, in which our indigenous practices around sexuality were considered sinful by our Spanish colonizers.

In addition, the suppression of normal emotions like sadness or anger is common in many Filipino families. The concept of walang hiya has resulted in the silencing of those who suffer from mental illness, those who have experienced an unintended pregnancy (especially teen pregnancy), and those who are not cis-gendered and heterosexual. This needs to change, and it starts with our generation beginning to talk to our kids about mental health and sexual health in age-appropriate ways. If our kids are lucky, they can find a trusted adult to talk about these difficult issues (e.g. a teacher, coach, doctor, etc), but wouldn’t it be great if our kids could also feel safe turning to us for that help?

Finally, we need to harness the power of our Filipino resilience so that we can rise above our risk factors and find strength in our community. Our people have survived over 400 years of colonization by Spain, Japan, and the United States, and we all have stories of suffering — but we also have stories of family, faith, and healing in the wake of adversity. Part of the work I do as a pharmacist in the for-profit sector is engaging key family members as part of the healthcare team along with the patient, and other healthcare professionals. It is crucial to acknowledge the patient as a whole person and part of a whole community, rather than just treating their disease. By engaging communities, we healthcare professionals can start to become much more effective as healers.

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A: My daughter inspires me to be a better person because I believe in leading by example. The most important lesson that my husband and I can teach her is to treat all people with kindness and to think about how to make our community a little bit better. Usually, that involves alleviating human suffering. This can be achieved in both big and small ways. Right now, the superhero stories are very popular, where you hear about “chosen ones” doing grand gestures to “save the world.” But not everyone has the means or the ability for that.

I also think that the savior narrative is problematic because it doesn’t acknowledge the agency of the communities who are being “saved.” These folks are protagonists in their own stories, too. Instead, if the rest of us would focus on our local communities and just do one small act of kindness per day, it would be so much more transformative. This desire to make incremental, positive changes is what led me to pursue a career in healthcare. My parents made that possible through their unconditional love and by financing my education. My dad told me once, “Your mother and I will do everything within our means to help you chase your dreams,” and they have done that for all six of their children. Because of their personal sacrifices, I feel that it’s especially important to make sure that their efforts were not in vain.

Follow the Instagram links below to see some of Komoto Family Foundation’s work:

Partnering with CVFF to help the farmworkers of Delano

Partnering with CVFF at the Central Valley Pruning Competition

Komoto Family Foundation Reproductive Health Fund    

Guidance on how to talk to kids about their bodies, consent, sexual health, and mental health

Create a Creature Activity: (Tagalog Numbers, Colors, and Clothes Review)

Imagine you met an unusual, unique, and special creature. What did it look like? What was it wearing? In this activity, you will be creating a creature! Let your imagination soar. Think about what its name would be, how many eyes, ears, arms, legs does it have? What color is it?

The “My Creature” printable is a great way to review:

If you have not yet encountered those lessons and activities, be sure to also check them out to build your vocabulary. (Click on each of the concepts above to go to each post).

The downloadable printable includes two versions depending on how much writing your child can do. Get the printable in our Free Tagalog Printables Resource library. Click here to login OR sign up here to subscribe for free.

Feel free to also take the creature “beyond the page” and build the creature using other craft supplies such as construction paper, clay, paint, playdough, Playfoam, popsicle sticks, googly eyes. Here is an example below.

Happy creature designing!

Taglish Postcard Activity

Taglish Postcard

In this activity, you will be writing a postcard to a family or friend, pretending you are taking a vacation somewhere you have been (or would like to go). The introductory page teaches you sample Tagalog phrases to include in your postcard message. There are two versions included (One with pre-typed fill-in-the blank sentences and another with just a blank message for you to write your whole letter). 

First, download the Taglish postcard from our Free Tagalog Printables Resource library. Click here to login OR sign up here to subscribe for free.

Directions to Assemble the Postcard:

After reviewing the Introductory pages and Tagalog phrases, choose which type of postcard you will create first (whether it’s the blank one or the one with a pre-typed message). Cut out both rectangles.

Glue the back of the picture portion of the postcard to the back of the letter portion.

Now you have your postcard ready to write in and draw a beautiful picture of the location where you have “traveled”!

Tagalog Travel Activity: My “Maleta” (Suitcase)

It’s summertime and many people are traveling and going on vacation. What a perfect time to learn Tagalog words all about traveling.

Activity: My “Maleta” (Suitcase)

This first activity teaches you the vocabulary words for items you possibly would pack in your suitcase. Here is a four-page printable for your child to learn the names of common items to pack, a suitcase to “pack” these items in, and two packing lists (one with English translation and the other is Tagalog only).

First, the child will decorate his/her suitcase (or “maleta” in Tagalog).

The next step is to color the items and cut them out. Review the English and Tagalog words for the travel supplies.

One by one, the travel supply will be placed in the suitcase and a dry erase marker can be used to check it off on the list. Once the child is comfortable, the Tagalog only Packing List can be used.

It can be printed on regular 8.5″ x 11″ paper. It will be more durable on cardstock or if the papers will be laminated. For repeated use, the packing lists can be slipped into one of these reusable dry-erase pocket sleeves.

Ready to take off with a fun activity to learn travel supplies in Tagalog?

Get your printable Maleta/Suitcase activity in our Free Tagalog Printables Resource library. Click here to login OR sign up here to subscribe for free.