Fantastical Elements in Philippine Children’s Literature: Selected Stories from “Ang Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” Retold by Christine S. Bellen

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Hello. Fats here.

As we continue with our bimonthly theme, From Asia with Love, I am sharing with you three Philippine picture books taken from the short story collection of Severino Reyes. As I noted in my BHE post a month ago, Severino Reyes was considered the Father of the Tagalog zarzuela. He was a writer, a playwright, and a play director.

Severino Reyes

Severino Reyes

Lola Basyang and her grandchildren. Artwork by bachinienie.

Lola Basyang and her grandchildren. Artwork by bachinienie.

Severino Reyes wrote under the pen name “Lola Basyang.” He based the character of Lola Basyang on a real person named Gervasia Guzman de Zamora. When Severino’s family was invited to have dinner at the Zamoras, Severino noticed that children would gather themselves around Tandang Basiang (Gervasia) and ask their grandmother to tell them stories. This served as an inspiration for Severino to write stories incorporating fantasy and adventure that, in turn, provided a major contribution to Philippine lore and children’s literature. (Please note that all book photos were taken by me and edited through an app called PicFX.)

Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya954805_10151613790688700_1790764414_n
(The Brother of the Three Marias)

Retold by: Christine S. Bellen
Illustrated by: Frances C. Alcaraz
Published by: Anvil Publishing, Inc.

The Brother of the Three Marias tells the story of an old couple who lived at the foot of the mountain. They were folk healers and used the leaves of a mysterious tree called the kolesmeloko to apply on the sick. The couple had three daughters: Maria Upeng, Maria Loleng, and Maria Trining. Every morning, their daughters would climb the kolesmeloko tree and pick its leaves.

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Because of the healing powers of the kolesmeloko tree, villagers would flock to Teong’s house and buy the leaves. Due to the increasing demand, Teong decided to cut down the tree and gather all the leaves he could in order to sell them. Little did he know, a huge serpent that had been living inside the tree was finally free. In exchange for Teong’s action, the serpent took his three daughters to be married to the King of the Lions, King of the Eagles, and King of the Sharks.

Years later, Goya, Teong’s wife, became pregnant with a boy, and they named him Pedro. When Pedro was old enough, he learned of the fate of his older sisters and vowed to find them to comfort his parents. Will Pedro succeed?

1005044_10151613790823700_1267299963_nLabindalawang Masasayang Prinsesa
(Twelve Merry Princesses)

Retold by: Christine S. Bellen
Illustrated by: Abi Goy
Published by: Anvil Publishing, Inc.

In a kingdom far away, there lived a king who had twelve mischievous princesses. They told their father they wished to be married. The king did not mind but where would he find twelve princes?

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Having twelve daughters was not easy so the king would hire someone to watch over them. Many tried to keep watch of the princesses but none of them stayed long on their job. They were sent away by the king because when morning came, the shoes of the princesses would still be muddied and worn out.

One day, a humble young man named Silvio wanted to try his luck in guarding the twelve princesses. He wanted to do this mostly because he hoped to marry one of them someday. Will Silvio survive?

Ang Mahiwagang Kuba430114_10151613790978700_143984376_n
(The Enchanted Hunchback)

Retold by: Christine S. Bellen
Illustrated by: Sergio T. Bumatay III
Published by: Anvil Publishing, Inc. 

Once there was a king named King Enrico I. A mysterious illness befell upon him; his body was covered in wounds and maggots. Not a single healer in the entire kingdom could cure the king.

Meanwhile, a hunchback was wandering around the kingdom. He asked every lady he met along the way to give him a kiss and, in return, that lady could have all the emeralds and rubies he kept in his box. None of the ladies obliged.

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As he continued his wanderings, he read the announcement about the king’s illness. He learned, too, that anyone who could heal the king would be married to Princess Lucinda, King Enrico’s daughter. The hunchback rushed to the palace immediately. Would the hunchback be able to cure the king? And would he finally get that kiss he had been longing for?

_________________________

I am seven books short of this collection and I hope to collect them all someday. All the stories were told in both Tagalog and English. There is, of course, the risk of words lost in translation, thus not being able to fully capture the story. Still, a translated text is better because it allows these books to be accessible to a wider audience.

Most of the stories in the Lola Basyang collection talk about foreign lands, kings and queens, princes and princesses, mythical creatures, magic, and quests. Of the three, my favorite is The Enchanted Hunchback. The story is more fleshed out and the artwork is so beautiful, so captivating, that it left me craving for more.

You’ll remember Sergio Bumatay III from Myra’s post on the award-winning picture book, Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! His illustrations in The Enchanted Hunchback remind me of Clive Barker’s illustrations in ABARAT – and don’t even get me started on that book! (Thanks, Myra, for introducing that book to me.) Abi Goy’s illustrations are quirky in nature, some of which resemble the art in Adventure Time. Frances Alcaraz, on the other hand, provides readers with visual art that appears to pop from the pages. The style she used here is very different from the one she used in The Cardinal and the Cats.

Artwork by Sergio T. Bumatay III

Artwork by Sergio T. Bumatay III

Artwork by Sergio T. Bumatay III

Artwork by Sergio T. Bumatay III

Artwork by Abi Goy

Artwork by Abi Goy

Artwork by Frances Alcaraz

Artwork by Frances Alcaraz

All three books are wonderful. Christine Bellen did a great job in retelling these selected stories of Lola Basyang. Each of the books comes with guide questions that teachers can discuss with their students. I love how these books took me back to my childhood days filled with folklore stories and myths. Scenes from Philippine fantasy movies of long ago flashed through my mind as I read these books. The influence of fantasy stories lives on as the Philippine show business continues to produce “fantaserye” TV series and movies.

Now that Philippine picture books are being published in two languages, maybe they can start exporting these books to other countries so that more people can have access to them. Whatchathink?

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3 Comments on Fantastical Elements in Philippine Children’s Literature: Selected Stories from “Ang Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” Retold by Christine S. Bellen

  1. cool, honestly I haven’t read any of these books. Thanks for sharing….

    Hope that as you said, these books could be exported.

    ^__^

    • Fats Suela // June 21, 2013 at 2:06 am // Reply

      Hi aysabaw!! =)

      When I was in the Philippines, I would always see these picture books but end up buying the ones from Adarna House. I came to visit about two months ago and decided to grab copies this time. Those three piqued my interest the most, although the others were just as fabulous. Maybe in due time, the world will take notice of the artistic talents that Filipinos possess, and we’ll get to see these picture books in shops all over the world. Thank you for stopping by!! =)

      - Fats =)

  2. may copy ba nang the run away princess

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