Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), the largest business-led NGO in the country, in partnership with book publisher The Bookmark Inc., celebrated National Reading Month last November by launching the Marawi Storybook Series in an event known as “iRead4Peace.” These are four children’s books intended to help the children of Marawi recover from their traumatic experience during the siege of the city last year.
Written in both English and Maranao, the storybooks were based on real-life accounts of survivors and translated into fiction by known authors to make them more appropriate for children and brought to life by professional illustrators. The books were donated to the Department of Education-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to improve the reading skills of children as well as for peace education and trauma healing.
HELPING HEAL THE WOUNDS OF WAR
The four books in the Marawi Storybook Series communicate distinct values aimed at helping children cope, heal the wounds of war and adjust to their new lives.
“The Day the Typhoon Came,” written by Carla Pacis, is illustrated by Viel Elijah Vidal and translated into Maranao by Ana Zenaida Unte-Alonto. The setting is in Lake Lanao, which is rich in diversity with different animal characters. During a strong typhoon, the animals help each other to find shelter and safety. The typhoon represents the terrorist attack on Marawi and the animals symbolize the people of Marawi who are of different religions, ethnicity and social status.
“Water Lilies for Marawi,” written by Heidi Emily Eusebio-Abad, illustrated by Shelette Gipa and translated into Maranao by Jalillah Gampong Alonto, shows how, sometimes, children know better than adults how to cope with war by bridging differences in faith, culture, or even social status by true friendship and understanding.
In “Marawi Land of the Brave,” author Melissa Salva tells the story of Amir, who loves hearing tales from his brother Farouk about his native land, especially the ones about the Maranaos’ bravery and skill in battle. When the brothers’ peaceful lives in Marawi were upended by terrorists, it was Amir’s belief in his proud heritage that kept him resilient. Because of their relationships with Allah, nature, and the people around them, they have a sense of purpose and hope. Kathleen Sareena Dagum made the watercolor illustrations while Lawambae Basaula-Lumna translated into Maranao.
“Lost and Found: A Song of Marawi” is Randy Bustamante’s narrative poem about falling back on family through the kindness of strangers during the siege. The poem has two personae, or voices, who are telling two parallel stories that meet at the end. Ana is a six-year-old girl stranded in Marawi with her pregnant mother. Amin is a husband and father who is trying to get into Marawi to rescue his elderly father. Their stories complete each other and reveal the power of kindness to help find what is lost. Tristan Yuvienco provided the illustrations and Zaman Macapaar-Guinar translated the story into Maranao.
“PBSP partnered with us for the storybooks because they wanted to help the children of Marawi, not only to cope but to adjust to their new lives after the siege. There were a lot of news reports at that time but we didn’t want that. We felt the people had enough and that the stories were told not from their point of view but from people outside Marawi. This makes the interviews that PBSP conducted with the evacuees very important,” explained Anna Maria Tan-Delfin, general manager of The Bookmark, Inc.
“Through these storybooks, we hope to not only build a culture of reading but also help these young survivors rebuild their lives. Moreover, we aim to use these to shape the continuing dialogue on peace and development in Mindanao,” said Reynaldo Antonio Laguda, PBSP Executive Director.