Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Reading and Book Review Inventory for 2016

I have listed down the book reviews I have posted in the blog for 2016. Over at Goodreads, I have 13 books recorded there that I have read this year. Not bad, but, I need to do more.

February 2016
Romance Books
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

March 2016
After You by Jojo Moyes
Wrap Them, Store Them, Peddle Them: The Filipino Way

May 2016
The Power of Habit
Mommy Loves You Just the Same

June 2016
Rebel of the Sands

July 2016
Toffler and Friedman
Breaking Barriers by John Couret

August 2016
What Things Mean

September 2016
Ember in the Ashes

October 2016
A Torch Against the Night
A SEAL's Pledge

November 2016
Issued to the Bride: One Navy SEAL

December 2016
Mistletoe Misconduct (Portland Storm Series)
Holiday Hat Trick (Portland Storm Series)

Monthly 1st Post of 2016

Here's keeping up with a blog tradition of posting first posts of each month of 2016.

January: Movie Review of #WalangForever 
We watch a movie every Metro Manila Film Festival. Last year, our movie of choice is #WalangForever. 

February: UP FLIPP's Seminar and Unconference
The format of the seminar lent engagement and more discussion among peers and colleagues. More of this because the method is proactive, collaborative and collegial.

March: Book Trailer for Big Sister
Lampara Books, my publisher, made a neat book trailer for Big Sister, my fourth stand alone picture book.

April: The Hourglass Model of Research
The month of April was research month at the Academy. I blogged about the processes we went through to standardize and formalize research instruction. 

May: The Challenges of School Librarians in the Senior High School Program
This is a post I need to go back to and further explore. Young Adult Library Services in the Philippines is an area of growth and more discussion.

June: A Thesaurus of Philippine Children's Literature
An interview I had for Tericel Tamayao, librarian at Bent International School Manila.

July: Of Dreams, Innovations and Memories
One of the best workshops I attended in recent memory! The insights I gained from attending the NBDB series of workshops last July were important ground work for my practice of the profession.

August: #griffinsread: The Reading Journey
An infographic I made for our reading guidance program in school.

September: Illustrator of the Month: Ruben de Jesus
A feature on Mr. Ruben de Jesus, illustrator of Big Sister

October: Be Heard! Be a Blogger
A short video clip I used for my lecture in the University of Perpetual Help, Binan Campus

November: The 2016 Picture Book Month
I am a Picture Book Month Ambassador  and this year, I was website administrator too. It was a lot of fun reading and interacting with the 2016 Picture Book Month Champions!

December: Hosting an Author Visit Program
My tips for librarians who are planning for a successful Author Visit Program in their schools and learning communities.

My top three favorite among the twelve posts are:
1. The Challenges of School Librarians in the SHS Program
2. Of Dreams, Innovations and Memories
3. The 2016 Picture Book Month

I invite you to read on the 12 posts. If you are feeling generous, let me know what you liked best by posting a comment or sending me an email/message.

Friday, December 30, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Movie Review: Tiktik (Repost)

Because Erik Matti won Best Director for Seklusyon in this year's Metro Manila Film Festival's Gabi ng Parangal, here is a review of Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles which he directed back in 2012. This review is a repost from October 2012.
Titktik: The Aswang Chronicles
GMA Films and Agosto Dos
Directed by Erik Matti

I saw the full trailer of GMA Films' Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles a month back when my family and I watched an APO Hiking music inspired movie. All four of us were impressed of the powerful visuals of Tiktik that we have the movie scheduled for a Halloween viewing. We did as planned and we were not disappointed.

For one, it's the kind of movie that did not make us think. I mean this in a good way.  For me and hubby, it was a perfect leisurely watch since we both work in places were thinking is the name of the game. For Nico and Zoe, exams had just ended, so goodbye thinking cap.

It was hard not to enjoy the movie. We  marveled at the visual texture the movie evoked since it made the setting, time and place characters too. There were scenes that grossed out our youngest (Zoe) but the campy tandem of Ramon Bautista and Joey Marquez made her forget the gory scenes. By itself, it is a good movie with a decent script since we shared our aswang stories to our kids' undivided attention and interest before retiring for home. I can't endorse it as an aswang movie for all families, but it will definitely rekindle old horror tales from long ago. The conversations that come after watching a movie is precious. This sharing of after thoughts rarely happens (in families) anymore.

Two days after watching Tiktik, my daughter asked me this, "Ma, talaga bang may aswang?" (Are aswangs real?)

I replied, "If you can think about it, what makes you say it is not real? The thing is, an aswang can be a metaphor or a symbol of evil. It can be the evil inside of you or in your environment. And like Makoy and Nestor in the movie, you just don't surrender to evil easily. You have to fight it to overcome it. Sometimes, it takes a while to fight it out with our aswangs and the aswangs that dwell around us."

She has not asked me since then. Happy Halloween!

Photo source:

Preview: Book Project 2017

Around March of 2016, I began a research and development project  for one of the leading foundations in the Philippines. It is a book development program which the foundation commits to finish by 2017. After a three month long R and D, I pooled together a team of creatives as approved by the foundation's board members. I couldn't fully reveal the entire project yet, but here's a study by our illustrator whose work in progress makes me super excited to share with you all!

Any guess on what the story is all about?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Author of the Month: Lauren Macaraeg (2 of 2)

Here is part 2 of Lauren Macaraeg's interview where she shares her favorite books and her plans for the next writing adventure!

What is your top five children's book?

1. The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis – I've always wished to discover a magical wardrobe that would transport me to Narnia!

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – What an incredibly detailed world Tolkien built! I can almost imagine that hobbits are real... and that I have a hobbit ancestor from way back. Hahaha.

3. Bible storybooks for kids – I liked to pore over colorful illustrated Bible story collections while I was growing up. That's why Bible story characters are just like childhood friends of mine!

4. Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang by Severino Reyes – Lola Basyang's stories were a big part of my childhood, thanks to one of my favorite kiddie TV shows! That's why it was a treat for me to discover this collection of Lola Basyang tales in college.

 5. The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence – This vibrant book series combines some of my favorite things to read about: ancient Roman history (yes, I'm geeky that way!), mysteries, likable characters, and references to gross things (yes, I am isip bata that way! Lol).

Lauren with peers and friends in Lampara Books during the Aklat Awards 2016
What is the book you wish you have written?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Actually, I wish I had written the entire The Chronicles of Narnia book series!

It has all of the elements I love about children's fantasy literature: Magic, talking animals, an imaginative story, unexpected plot twists (it was the first fantasy series I read as a kid so it was a huge surprise for me that the wardrobe was a portal to Narnia), lovable characters, a worthy villain (or in this case, villainess!), exotic food (I've wished for so long to taste Turkish Delight). And one awesome Lion!

If it was possible to be transported to a fantasy world, Narnia is the first place I would choose to visit.

Quo vadis, Lauren?

My wish is that I may make other people smile as many, many people have also made me smile. I hope to accomplish that in my lifetime, both as a writer and as an individual.

I want to make a difference, whether it be a big or small one, as long as it is a positive one. Our country is going through dark and difficult times. Many people are experiencing darkness in their own personal lives. Even if I am an imperfect person with an imperfect life, I wish to be even just a small light for the Lord in the middle of that darkness. I would like to be a beacon of hope to others in the same way that others have been a beacon of hope to me when I experienced my own dark times.

I only have one life and I want to make it count. I have no guarantee that I will succeed in my life goals, but I want the chance to at least try. And to have a lot of fun while trying!

Lauren Macaraeg can be reached and read online through these sites:


Author of the Month: Lauren Macaraeg ( 1 of 2 )

Wacky Lauren having fun by the pool side.
The blog's Author of the Month is Ms. Lauren Macaraeg. Lauren recently won in the Aklat Awards 2016 as Most Favorite Writer for Children. In this interview, Lauren tells us of her goals and dreams as a children's book writer, the journey she took to become one and the euphoria of being voted as Most Favorite Writer for Children in the Aklat Awards 2016.

Why write for kids?

I write for kids simply because I love children's books. My fascination with kids' stories was born when I was a little girl and is still very much alive now that I am a kid pretending to be an adult.

There is magic and beauty in children's books. I am amazed at the ability of whimsical stories to whisk us away to new worlds and transform our view of the seemingly ordinary world.

There is also a form of truth and raw honesty in kids' literature that draws me to it. I rarely see pretentious writing in books for children. Perhaps it's because it's useless to try to impress young readers by using big, fancy words or gimmicky writing techniques. You need to tell children an interesting story, create characters they can relate to, and make them laugh or cry. Kids will simply like a book or they won't.

I also like how good children's literature manages to acknowledge that problems, pain and challenges exist in the world, while giving hope to us readers at the same time. Books were an important part of my childhood because they gave me happiness and hope. That's why I want to create books that will also bring new generations of kids hope and joy.

How did you come to be a writer for children?

I started practicing to be a children's writer when I was just a little girl. I used to sew and staple pieces of paper together to make my own books. It wasn't surprising that I became a bookworm because my parents encouraged me to love books. My mom Uni literally surrounded me with books since I was a baby. My dad Boy used to ship me boxes of poetry books while I was growing up.

However, I started to seriously consider becoming a writer for kids only when I was in college. I took up a children's literature class with my college barkada and I enjoyed it so much that I also enrolled in a children's writing class the next semester. Both classes, which were taught by Ms. Cyan Abad-Jugo, developed my writing skills and my appreciation for kids' literature. The epic brainstorming sessions with my creative, funny college friends – the Totaleclipsers and the Manangs - sharpened my wit and imagination.

Kindred spirits: Aspire to be to inspire others!
My involvement with the Special Education Society of Ateneo (SPEED) is another major factor that led me to become a children's writer. I was a volunteer teacher for children with special needs for most of my college life. (In case you're wondering, I don't have any formal training in special education. It was just something I loved to do). My time with the kids developed my creativity and deepened my wish to make a difference in the lives of children. My special needs students are actually my main inspiration in writing my book Sinemadyika.

I first started to write professionally when I worked for an educational publishing company. Practical matters led me to set aside writing, at least on a professional level, and work in a different field for several years. However, while I was recovering from a tonsillectomy years ago, one of my closest college friends, Pow, encouraged me to try freelance writing. With the guidance and help of my best friends and fellow writers, Pow and Jo, I started to write again on a freelance basis.

One writing attempt led to another until I eventually joined the 1st Annual Lampara Books Children’s Story Writing Contest in 2011. One of the perks of winning the said contest was having my story Sinemadyika published by Mr. Segundo “Jun” Matias and Lampara Books as an illustrated storybook in 2013. So you can say that a throat problem and a tonsillectomy led me to become a children's book author. Haha! God really works in weird, mysterious ways.

What does winning in the Aklat Awards 2016 mean to you?

It's an answered prayer in two major ways.

It's an answer to an important question! I asked the Lord earlier this 2016 if I should continue to focus on writing or to focus on something else in 2017. I know I may seem confident, but there are times when I get discouraged as a writer too. I totally didn't expect God to answer my question in this wonderful, unexpected way! For me, my surprise blessing of winning at the Aklat Awards 2016 is an encouragement for me to keep writing. 

Congratulations, Lauren!

It's also God's way to grant my wish of bringing joy to people through writing. I used to struggle with depression, although it may not be obvious to people who know me as a cheerful, outgoing adult. Books played a crucial role in my healing during my battle with depression. That's why I wish to write many books and articles and blog posts that will give hope to other people. Or simply to make them smile or laugh! Learning that I was voted as “Most Favorite Writer” in the Lampara Books category made me happy knowing that I brought others joy through writing. This blessing also makes me feel hopeful that I will have more opportunities of spreading happiness to others as an author in the future.

I am thankful to the Lord for this surprise. I am also thankful for all my family, friends, colleagues, and of course, readers for encouraging a newbie writer like me to follow my dreams.

Lauren Macaraeg can be reached online through these sites:


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Movie Review: Saving Sally

Saving Sally
Director: Avid Liongoren
Rocketsheep Studio, 2016

When I first saw the movie teaser for Saving Sally over on Facebook, I immediately tagged my teen aged kids. They were excited to watch the movie. They have been planning on spending their Christmas money to watch it weeks before the Metro Manila Film Fest. On December 25th, we were lining up for tickets.

This very simple love story is so charming and pure that, I am recommending this for families with teenagers to watch and see together despite the phallic symbols that represent one of the characters. Spewing a few more of it when he speaks. This was done in context and one that my teen aged kids fully understood both as cinematic interpretation as well as a metaphor for people who are so full of themselves. Don't we meet those kind in real life? Like Marty, we see them as monsters and, yes, dickheads.

Which brings me now to enumerate what I enjoyed about the movie.

It doesn't lie. Totoo siya. Its agenda is not to offer amusement, shallow humor or an escapist joy. Funny because, the movie is a combination of animation and live action and yet, it shows how things really are. It is overflowing with monsters, fictional characters from comic books, robots from a long gone TV show of my childhood but its speaks of truths that are lasting. Good is good. Bad is bad. And then, there are the gray areas in between that we all need to deal with at some point in our lives.

Marty struggles to find a voice for his feelings for Sally.  His mom tells him that such issues can't be forced. Marty's dad lent advice and support at an arm's length. No wonder Marty turned out the way he is, the nice geeky guy whom you can always count on. Apparently, Marty needed a lot of growing up to do and in its wake, is heartbreak and a lot of adulting. Sally, for all her smarts and intrepid inventions, could not break free from the confines and cruelty of her surrogate parents. A victim of circumstance, she fell prey into the hands of Nick, the dickhead boyfriend, who took advantage of her vulnerability. See how valuable is the role of family in shaping one's identity? 

This only goes to show that Saving Sally has a lot to offer. Love takes time and if it is real, it finds a way. Courage is found in the depths of our fears. Redemption begins from a desire to save one's self. In the end, the geek gets the girl. Then again, in the beginning of the movie, it was the smart, artistic and weird girl who saved the geek. YAY!

How Marty saved Sally is a feast for the senses. The visual metaphors are brilliantly done. I liked the floating sketches surrounding Marty and Sally. It pushed the plot forward. Their relationship is in suspended animation. They are neither friends nor lovers. The colors and lighting looked old, a lot of sepia and shades of brown in the back ground but this added texture  and a warmth enunciating the themes of the movie. Monsters drawn in black, white and graying hues emphasizing Marty's perspective and world view.The robots that Sally created and the city where she and Marty lives in are rendered in steampunk. This makes me want to give steampunk another try.

Watch out for the easter eggs. If you're from UP Diliman, you will appreciate and understand Zorro's appearance. There are designs of buildings that are reminiscent of old haunts in the campus. I have my comic book faves and it is such a delight to see its covers in the movie too. The names and labels of stores, commercial establishments and places in the city are identified with Pinoy wit and humor. Even the sound track is cool and tender, comforting and heart wrenching the next.

I hope the movie gets an extended run and distributed in more movie houses. With eight wonderful films this season of the Metro Manila Film Festival, we all need to pick the ones we want to watch and the ones we need to give a chance. This year, it is worth to spend 200 - 300 pesos for three to five movies in the roster. But if you can afford it, go watch all!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Movie Review: It's A Wonderful Life

60th Anniversary version available in Amazon
It's A Wonderful Life
Director: Frank Capra

James Stewart is George Bailey, a businessman of Bedford Falls, who lends money to the middle working class of the community. When his Uncle Billy lost a hefty amount to keep the business going, George fell into despair and contemplated on committing suicide. Through his guardian angel, Clarence, George realized that suicide is not a solution to his problem. His is a wonderful life, indeed!

What worked

I love James Stewart. He is perfect for this role as he represents the working class of his time and age. While this kind of character has dated the film, James Stewart's acting and his rendition of the role do not. Every man is given a moment: a fall from grace; hitting rock bottom; committing an epic failure in life. Stewart's George Bailey is dignified, a man of integrity who draws respect from his peers and members of the community. When he met a dead end on his business, Stewart's George Bailey transformed into someone else. Where is the man who needs to be brave? I wanted to yank him away from the ledge in the bridge when he was thinking of ending his life.

Enter George's guardian angel, Clarence, who at the start of the movie was called on by God to intervene. I also liked this part because I do believe in angels. God's love is indeed eternal.

Clarence showed George past events of his life: how he has helped many people build lives through his buisness; what brought his hearing impairment that disqualified him from fighting in the war; and how much he is loved by his wife and children. One's course of action do affect and effect the lives of many.

I first saw this movie when I was in my tweens and I have felt good inside after seeing it. Through the years, I would watch the movie with friends and family and I would get the same feel good effect. These year, at Christmas time, watching it again affirms the magnificence and magnanimity of God's love for us. Like George Bailey, we are given the freedom to make a choice: to do good or bad; to be brave or to be a coward; to fight for our values or to run away from them. Like George Bailey, we are constantly guided by our angels. God does not control our every actions, but He is ever present in our lives.

This Christmas, I recommend this movie to be seen at home with family and friends. The world is so much in need of hope. I think we all need to be reminded how, in these dark and difficult times, God is with us. Sometimes we know and feel how he works in our lives and sometimes, we do not feel Him at all. But He sends angels, in one form or another, so that we realize that life is wonderful indeed!

Rating: 5

Source of image:

Friday, December 23, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Book Review: Holiday Hat Trick

Holiday Hat Trick (Portland Storm, #5.5)Holiday Hat Trick by Catherine Gayle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mitchell Quincey is visiting his ex-wife, Mia, for the holidays. His sole objective is to get approval from her for joint custody of their daughter. When Q (a nickname he goes by among friends in the Portland Storm Hockey Team) finally met Mia for the first time in a long while, he realized he was still in love with her.

Q is persistent and charming. While Mia plays hard to get, she couldn't help but give him another chance seeing Q shower her daughter with attention and love. Admittedly, Mia has her hands full on being a single working mom. Somewhere in the middle of the holidays, they got back together in each others' arms.

What worked

Christmas magic and the presence of family were factors that pushed Mia to forgive Q's faults. Besides, Q and Mia have a long history that their families brought back through reunions and dinners shared during Christmas time. Having divorced a year before, the time apart made them both think of their loss in the divorce and how rash decisions can further lead to loneliness and isolation. On the one hand, it gave Mia the confidence to find her own footing and rediscover her self. Not only is she a wife to a popular hockey player, she has become a person of her own pursuing a career she could be proud of. What better time to have things sorted out but at Christmas time. When love is real, it finds a way.

What did not work

Since I am invested in the series, I would have wanted to see Mia more involved in the Portland Storm WAGs. The same with Q. Before and after this novella, he was only a footnote to the entire series. He could have been a character that shaped the team into what it is in its recent stands on the series. But, I am keeping my hopes up to find out what Mia and Q will play in the community of the Portland Storm Hockey Team players and their families.

I'm waiting for what Catherine Gayle has in store in the future installments for Q and Mia. I'm holding her out to Jim Sutter's mantra, "we take care of our own."

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 22, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Movie Review: Rogue One

Of course, we jumped in the Rogue One bandwagon.

We are fans of Donnie Yen so the hubby and our kids were all excited to see him in a Star Wars movie. Diego Luna plays a lead character and that doubled my joy. We aren't die hard fans of the Star Wars soap opera, but we pretty much know its canon and we all have our favorite characters, big or small, in the saga. Besides, the entire franchise bridged our generation with our children's which makes watching Rogue One a family experience.

So, my review.

What worked

The romantic angle between Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso that was not fully explained nor articulated is evident from their first meeting till their tight embrace at the beach. It left me with a big WHY. Why didn't they live happily ever after? A classic love story that pales in comparison to Ankin and Amidala of the prequels. No, they do not need words to cement their feelings for one another. It is enough that their trust for each other finally came through when Jyn told Cassian that she is not used to having a person stay with her. Then he replied, "Welcome home". It trumps Han and Leia's I Love You/I know exchange in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Cassian, as portrayed by Diego Luna may not be the alpha male in Rogue One, but his eyes, oh, his eyes when he looks at her speak voluminously of his commitment to the rebellion and his awe to have found her at a time when his life seemed nothing but a series of cat and mouse chases. The way Cassian looks at her, especially during that elevator ride, is full of tenderness, admiration and wonder. There is also a glimpse of sadness and regret when they shared that moment of silence in the elevator, just looking at each other. It was a fleeting moment of intimacy. In a movie where so many things are happening at the same time, this quiet space between the two leads is a beautifully captured scene.

The friendship and brotherhood of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus is one for the books. No Jedi in this Star Wars movie, but the heart and spirituality of the Force were made stronger through Donnie Yen's warrior monk and Jiang Wen's gun trotting non-believer.

K-2SO is the best droid, so far. His dry humor and candor matches the dark themes and the character's complicated turn from misfits to heroes.

What did not

Indeed, the characters in Rogue One are heroes worth rooting for despite their flaws. Even the villains are layered with emotional baggage to portray their inner most desires and motives. However, I felt that they were all used as pawns to the original trilogy's purpose for being. Sayang. Rogue One provided the context for Episodes 4, 5 and 6 reminding us that lives were sacrificed to achieve freedom from the Galactic Empire. I did like the movie's texture and editing, the play of lights and shadows, as well as the rendition of the lead characters' deaths. But, heroic the end may be, I ask myself to this day, is Rogue One necessary to expand the Star Wars universe in the first place?

Rating: 3.5

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Illustrator of the Month: Bernadette Solina-Wolf (2 of 2)

Bernie and Michael Wolf with pet dog
Here now is part 2 of the interview with Bernadette Solina-Wolf, Most Favorite Illustrator in the Aklat Awards 2016 of Lampara Books and Precious Pages Group of Companies.
What is the book illustration or project you wish you could have done?

I still have a project I am eye-ing to do---a coloring book on Philippine costumes.  

What do you consider your career highlights? Kindly name or identify five accomplishments.

Let's just say these events helped me a lot:

1) I was a founding member of the Ilustrador ng Kabataan which is now on its 25th year! I was invited to give the opening speech the other month (was it?). I had a bit of problem ending my speech. Mahirap datnan ng nostalgia pala! But I was able to thank God!

2) I had 5 years as Visual Arts teacher at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling and bonded with very creative young artists now in top positions in the cultural and advertising fields, here and abroad.
The Start Right Reading Series: Kindergarten Level
3) Formed and toured the ANINO ShadowPlay Collective nationwide under the sponsorship of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and because of this, I experienced the rich cultural diversity of our country. Also, noted that Yoyoy Villame's "Magellan" is known nationwide in diverse cultural beats and rhythms. The tour really took a lot out of me (the only provinces we didn't go to were Tawi-tawi and Samar as well as Batanes!) so I just said "that's it...I did my end of the deal" and went back to teaching. The late Don Salubayba with batchmates and other PHSA students continued with it after high school and into college and up until now, the ANINO is still performing and doing international performances in various shadow play festivals!

4) Because of an absence of book projects, my husband and I ventured into creating a small cottage business we named the Nutart. He developed the coconut shells as painting "canvas" and I painted on them, first with sea life (for the nearby resorts) and then onto indigenous peoples when we dared get into Ayala Museum.  Now, on its 10th year, the baos have been invited by the National Historical Commission (NHCP) to make a round of exhibits in their different national shrines (i.e Mabini, Rizal, Malvar and Phil. Museum of National History in Pampanga...)

5) At present is the STARS project with Zarah Gagatiga. Each set of 12 books (Kindergarten, Grade One and Two) is no joke. Yet, every time I look at the finished artworks I tell myself, Boy, am I really honored!

Illustrator of the Month: Bernadette Solina-Wolf (1 of 2)

The blog's illustrator of the month is Bernadette Solina-Wolf. She was voted as Most Favorite Illustrator in the Aklat Awards 2016 of Lampara Books and Precious Pages Group of Companies.

Bernadette, a dear friend and creative partner, agreed to answers these questions for the blog. This feature is divided in two parts. In this first interview, she shares with us her approach and creative vision in pursuing an art project. In the second interview, we will get to know more of Bernadette's contribution to the development of children's book illustration in the country.

Bernie is humble and a quiet worker. But there is more to her than meets the eye. I am honored to have been afforded this interview.
What is your feeling now, having won an award by readers of Lampara Books?

The first time I read your post about the award, I thought I was reading it wrong! I had to read it again. Haha! I'm not used to such things like awards. But after I told my husband about it, I realized that it's actually so nice to be appreciated! 
Bernie's cover art for Tales from the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Fol Stories (ABC CLIO, 2011)
 What has been the most challenging work you have finished or worked on?

Whenever I am told that the manuscript has a few words or no words at all, THAT will be challenging! The first challenging children's book I did was Ms Lina Diaz de Rivera's "The Rain is Here" because a) it had one sentence per spread and b) it was about how rain falls on every part of the earth. In the STARs Series I had a lot of studies for "Sparrow Makes A Home" as well as "The Library Cat." The images are usually wonderful when they play in my head but to put it as magically on paper is another thing. 

Do you experience a drought in vision and in creating art? How do you deal?

I don't have any problem with visualizing when I read the manuscript.  I'm usually at awe with how the writer would come up and develop the story in a very efficient yet imaginative way. My problem is usually filtering what would be important and what would just mess up the composition between text and illustration. When I get too confused, I either do some cleaning up of the house or do some mending...anything that would take my mind off the problem.  I also get great solutions while I meditate.

In the bigger world, how do you see your relevance as a visual artist?

This is a very existentialist question. When I see the bigger picture or world, I see my relevance more in terms of "documenting" what comes into my path be it places, animals, people or moments. When I see a little girl trudge to school, I often wonder if she will finish her schooling or not. Then I keep her image in my mind to put her into one story I will illustrate. I observe people (especially, children) and look at their kind sides. I put my core values into the illustrations I do and that is the power I am given when I illustrate stories. 
Here are links to previous posts about Bernadette Solina-Wolf.


Monday, December 19, 2016

School Library Coll Dev: Maps and Posters

This academic year, I am figuring out ways and means to extend our library's multimedia and audio-visual collection, particularly, the library's map collection.

What works for us at the moment is the "recycling" of freebie posters and maps from print magazines and journals we subscribe to. National Geographic constantly has posters and maps that are pull outs. These posters are often folded to the size of the magazine and are perforated making it easy to tear away from its original binding. The magazines we subscribe from Scholastic: Choices, Action, Upfront, Ahora, Science World and Art come with freebie posters and maps too.

Once the magazines have been circulated for two months, we tear posters and maps in preparation for lamination. For this process, we seek an outsourced service that is accessible with in our community. The cost is 15-20% cheaper than the maps and posters bought from dealers and bookstores here and abroad.

As soon as the posters and maps are laminated, it goes to the cataloging section and then to circulation services for promotion to teachers who shall use them as visual aids in the classrooms. Electronic versions may be downloaded from online sources for a small fee but having a visual representation of an idea that is non-projected from a gadget or a screen, trains the eyes and the brain to see and think with more flexibility.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Book Review: Mistletoe Misconduct

Mistletoe Misconduct (Portland Storm #7.6)Mistletoe Misconduct by Catherine Gayle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jim Sutter, General Manager of the Portland Storm has been divorced from his wife for two decades. The WAGs (wives and girlfiends) of the Portland Storm hockey team thought of giving Jim a holiday treat. Unknown to him, the WAGs posted his profile in a dating site. Miles away, his ex-wife Elaine found him online. She took her chance and the journey in at a second chance on love begins.

What worked

Christmas is a time of reunions and reconciliations. Some are successful and some aren't. In the Portland Storm series, the coming together of Elaine and Jim magically worked out with very little effort and resistance. Jim is still haunted by his past mistakes, especially the one that led to his divorce. He lives with this pain by being the father to the Portland Storm hockey players, their wives and children. To them, Jim is not just a manager of the team. Apparently, Jim is a big believer on second chances. If he could give his players a second chance, why can't he give it to himself? Elaine loves him still, after all. If she could forgive him, why can't he forgive himself?

Throwing his guilt and regrets out the window, he took the first step to redemption.

Like Jim, I do believe in second chances. Like Elaine, I go after what my heart tells me to do. Twenty years apart is a long time, but between two people who truly love each other, time is merely a concept.

What did not work

The ending felt rushed. I would have wanted to see a chapter devoted to Jim's reunion with his son as well. If this is a technique by the author and the publisher to rope me in for the next novellas in the series to see more of Jim's turn around as a father to his son, well, that is pretty smart.

For fans of contemporary romance and happily ever afters, this novella makes for a good Christmas read as it celebrates forgiveness and hope for a brighter future.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

12 Days of Christmas Movie Review: #WalangForever

Because the Metro Manila Film Fest will soon commence and I am keeping a blog tradition, I begin my 12 Days of Christmas Book and Movie Reviews.
Here is the first one, a retrospective. Re-posting for December 2016 as written for the blog last January 3, 2016.

Director: Dan Villegas
Producers: Quantum Films, MJM Productions, Tuko Films, Buchi Boy Films

Our film of choice this Metro Manila Film Festival season is #WalangForever. It is too bad we didn't catch Honor They Father, but, who knows. I am hopeful to see the movie before the season officially ends. Now, for my review.

With celebs: Gab Valenciano, Dr. Fely Pado and Jericho Rosales
#WalangForever is a story of love lost and found. Mia, played by Jennylyn Mercado, and Ethan, portrayed by Jericho Rosales, are former lovers once engaged. Personal problems, priorities in life and career put their relationship to the test. It was one test they both failed. Thus, the experience made them bitter, jaded and scorned. Mia, a successful screenwriter coasts through life penning the greatest love of her life into her movies while Ethan, manages a thriving business, until a life changing event made him decide to leave the country and live with his mother abroad. Thanks to friends, a timely barkada reunion put them back together again.

Love is lovelier the second time around? Not really.

What worked

When Mia and Ethan were back in each others' arms, it was not the sweet moment of love's second chance. After all, a painful break up would elicit more complications. With Ethan's diminishing health, Mia made the choice to love again. Despite the past and the pain of loss, Mia went after her man and took the risk of being hurt all over again.

For what? And why? Well, to love. Forever.

This is where the conceit of forever comes in. It is in fact the questions, may forever ba? Ano nga ba ang forever? which the movie presented at the beginning by showing people and couples defining what forever is, is the whole point of the movie. It is a philosophical challenge, actually, but, with humor and comedic touches by Dan Villegas' direction, this idea of infinity and the struggle to establish the constants in our lives make the journey of finding a forever lighthearted at the same time, life affirming. In the end, the movie audience is made to find his or her own forever and its relative, if not elusive, definition. #WalangForever does not only make you laugh or cry, it makes you think of the what is and the now.

I find the script and storytelling smart and sensitive. I particularly loved the quiet, awkward moments and the hidden contexts between characters like Ethan and Aldus, Tita Betchay and Tonipet, Ethan's mom and her foreigner husband. The ensemble cast of supporting actors are a delight to watch. They are given enough back story to represent who they are in the lives of Mia and Ethan and the relevant roles they push the plot forward toward a happy ever after. Their roles, though small for some, like Sasha, Ethan's kinakapatid, emphasize the yearning or desire of this constant, this idea of forever. Despite Ethan's death, everyone remains hopeful. Life goes on. Love endures. The ending where Mia's latest film about her life and Ethan's is lived out for all to see and witness. Such is the story of love, where one's immense pain is a source of great joy.

Using film to amplify this concept and to tell a story in this medium is reflective of the passion and dedication that Villegas and the rest of the production team have on their craft. They make movies yes, but they also love. They love their art. They love their craft. They love to share a good story.

Hurrah to Jennylyn Mercado and Jericho Rosales. Their chemistry is amazing. Jennylyn Mercado's star quality never dims. Her light shines in the movie from start to finish. Jericho Rosales is still Mr. Pogi and though the lines on his forehead reveal that he is not as young as he used to be, he remains the dramatic actor I loved watching in Pangako Sayo (yes, I used to watch teleseryes).

What didn't work

Sid Lucero. That cameo. It is so small for his acting chops. Can someone please give him a lead role in a romcom?!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Writing and Teamwork in Tagayatay

During the last National Holiday, I joined a creative team of dreamers and advocates to work on a commissioned book project for a Philippine based non-government organization. We spent an overnight stay in a cozy house in Tagaytay to write and create. Ah, bliss!

With Darrel Marco, collaborating on a story while the rain falls softly outside.
 This is a big project that we hope to finish by February 2017. That's all I will share for now. More news to come, definitely. But for this post, let me tell you the wonderful thing that happened during the write-in.

There were three stories to be finished that day. The creative team critiqued the two stories and were immediately re-written for the final draft. The last story, the most challenging to write, was finished early that afternoon. While the writers worked on the third story, the illustrator, who was present during the workshop, worked on the studies of the two stories that passed workshop critiquing. By 4PM, we had a good idea how the two books will look like.

Thanks to technology, our Mother Tongue writer and translator was working alongside us through Fb Messenger and text messaging.

The project still has a long way to go. I am positive that, working on a steady pace we will be able to see the project through post production.

Here is a glimpse of our artist's study of one spread:

Tinsley Garanchon's study. So cute!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hosting an Author Visit and Storytelling Session

I am happy reading aloud my published picture books to kids at Perps.
As a published and an international award winning author, I have my share of wonderful experiences visiting schools for the conduct of talks and workshops about reading, writing and book making. Part of my program is a read aloud and storytelling session of one or two of my published picture books.

It is always a joy to see the faces of young children light up with wonder. They giggle, gasp and grasp a classmates hand during events in the story that are funny, exciting and surprising. Connection between storyteller and listener happens. It is magical!

In a recent author visit I had at the Grade School Department of the University of Perpetual Help System (Perps), I had magical moments with the K-3 students there. Their response to stories is amazing. They warmed up to Daddy Elephant, laughed at little brother every time Big Sister annoys him, and followed on the heroic journey of Mother Cat. It is my honor to share these stories with them, the ones I created and the ones that matter to me.

With the support of my publisher, Lampara Books, I get to experience, first hand, the wonder, fun and curiosity that rest in the heart and mind of a listening child. It inspires me to keep on writing. I thank the librarians of Perps for having me last November 30 for this visit. I am grateful to my learning commnity, The Beacon Academy, for allowing me to network and touch base with our neighbors in Binan.

Here now is a set of tips for school librarians who wish to have a smashing Author Visit.

1. First of all, an Author Visit must be planned early on. It is scheduled way ahead of time for logistics and budgetary concerns. It is therefore important that the librarian knows who to invite so that, the author's professional fees, transportation, meal allowance and needed equipment and materials are all in place. The program, venue of the visit and the audience, the objectives and the purpose of the visit need to be spelled out.

2. Most school systems require a proposal for this activity. Librarian managers need to allot a budget for this event. Including this event in the regular staff meeting is essential. It gets everyone involved. The Author Visit becomes a community event. The librarian in charge of the event works works with teachers and even parents in organizing the visit. Usually, the Author Visit is part of a bigger event for example, Teen Read Week, National Book Week, Poetry Month, International Literacy Day, National Children's Book Week, etc.

3. When the plan and proposal has been approved by the school administration, the librarian can begin the logistical preparations.

4. Send the author an invitation, either through his/her contact address or through the publisher.

5. Invite the publisher to display and sell the author's books and schedule in a book signing session. Authors get a lot from engaging with their readers. Your role, as a librarian, is to bridge the reader to the book and its author.

6. Promote the visit a week or two before the actual event. Prepare flyers, announce the event at assemblies, school websites and newsletters.

7. Work with teachers for curriculum tie-ins. Even guidance counselors may find the visit beneficial in helping young people find out what their interests in life are. This can pave the way to knowing one's vocation.

8. Have a post Author Visit activity. Writing the author letters is one of the many post activities you can do. Authors often reply, thus, the connection deepens and you, librarian, you now find yourself a part of the creative process.

9. Send the author a thank you via email or the traditional snail mail. You can invite him/her again, thus, the author becomes a resource person who will help you teach, educate and guide young people in their learning.

10. Evaluate the Author Visit. Start by looking at the objectives. Were they met? How? What areas need improvement? Write this all in a report and submit it to the Librarian manager. Documentation of activities helps you chart your growth, as well as the library's.

Author Visits can be fun! Tiring, yes. But kids and young people learn a lot from the experience. And yes, even the authors whom you invite over.

Zarah Gagatiga accepts library consultancy and professional development training sessions for teachers, aspiring writers and novice school librarians. 

Her author visit programs are fun, exciting and filled with learning activities. With Zarah Gagatiga, you have a BLAST: Blogger, Librarian, Author, Storyteller and Teacher. 

Get in touch with her! Her email address is:
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