Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar: the new face of children’s literature
Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood. –John Green
ILOILO --- Literature is indeed one way to enlarge a child’s understanding of the world. Even better when mother tongue is used because it is the first language of the child.
One such book is “Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar”, the first book that Ilonggo poet and University of San Agustin teacher Noel del Leon has written for the Ilonggo audience.
A popular Ilonggo writer and also a member of Hubon Manunulat that promotes Western Visayan Literature, de Leon has written critical essays and poetry that appeared in local and national magazines and anthologies such as Philippines Graphics, Kalatas online magazine of Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas, Liwayway magazine, SanAg Literary Journal to name a few.
De Leon is currently finishing a paper about Children's Literature in Hiligaynon for his thesis paper at the University of the Philippines Visayas.
“Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar” is de Leon’s courageous push for change in children’s literature as it tackles the issues of homosexuality and raising a family.
The book has reaped good reviews from other writers such as Xi Zuq, writer and scholar for children's literature in the Philippines, and Writers Union of the Philippines and Dr. Eugene Y. Evasco, teacher and scholar for children's literature in the Philippines at UP Diliman and writer for Liwayway magazine.
Zuq opined that de Leon’s book did not emphasize on the characters’ sexuality but instead on their daily activities such as going to church, storytelling and doing household chores that any normal family does. Meanwhile, Evasco said that every page of the book used symbolisms such as flowers and vegetables to show how the two men nurtured their family.
The illustrations were done by Marrz Capanang who used earth tone colors and intricate brush strokes to relay de Leon’s message. Cultural icons such as Datu Marikudo and Datu Humadapnon, heroes of Panay epics Hinilawod and legend of the 10 Bornean Datus as well as the Jaro Cathedral, National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles are shown in the book.
Know de Leon’s thoughts about “Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar” and children’s literature in the following interview:
Marie Katherine Villalon: Tell us more about “Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar”
NDL: The face of children's literature, particularly in our country is now changing. This book, ‘Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar’ is proof that in order for a literature to really serve its purpose, it should adopt and develop according to the need of the one who consumes it and to the need of a certain community.
MKV: Tay Alib and Tay Amar are gay?
NDL: As a writer, yes, I’m conscious that Tay Alib and Tay Amar is a gay story, and for that, reading of this kind of literature should be towards understanding the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) situation in our country.
I have this experience shared by a good teacher-friend regarding the book. He asked elementary students to read the story. After doing a post-reading assessment, he noticed that not one student commented about the sexuality of the two fathers. This is true, because children do not put malice to everything especially if the teacher teaches this. But, I told him to open the possibility of understanding identity, sexuality and even the space of LGBT representation in our community. It is better that this is discussed inside the classroom. This is the reason why I created this story, so that everyone will understand that this kind of family exists in our community.
MKV: A child I know read the book. Without telling him anything about the story, I asked him to read it and tell me what he thought. He said that the two men and the child seem to go about life normally even if a mother is not around.
NDG: I am very happy to hear opinions from children. Sometimes, they understand the essence of the text better. But of course, as adult, we should guide them and entertain questions from them, and answer their queries as smart as we could.
MKV: Is the public ready for this?
NDL: I feel that we are already in a time that we can talk about or write stories for children that tackle issues such as the new definition of a family, AIDS, separation of parents and other sensitive issues in our society. What’s important is we make sure that these stories are informative and entertaining.
MKV: Is this your first book?
NDL: This is actually my second book. My first book is entitled "Isang Botelyang Alaala" (Seguiban Printing and Publishing Enterprises, Inc.) in 2014. It is a collection of Visayan based Filipino poems after attending regional and national writing workshops.
MKV: Who published “Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar”?
NDL: Kasingkasing Press. I am the publisher of Kasingkasing Press which has published 15 titles from Ilonggo writers this year.
We publish books of award winning writers in Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a and Akeanon. Now, our effort is to translate their masterpieces in English and Filipino. Why in English? Simply because our writers here in Iloilo deserve to be read by many, not only in the Philippines. In Filipino, because we want to contribute to the development of the Filipino language.
Our books are available in all bookstores in downtown Iloilo, museums, university bookstores and libraries. We also conduct seminars and workshops on how to publish and write in the mother tongue.
Noel de Leon (seated in upper and lower left photos) with students and faculty members of the Languages and Humanities of the University of San Agustin
MKV: What is your next book project after “Sanday Tay Alib kag Tay Amar” and what issue would you like to tackle next time?
NDL: I want to venture in creating big books, animations and probably interactive books for Ilonggo children.
Our group Hubon Manunulat with the help of Dr. Leoncio P. Deriada, the Father of Contemporary Hiligaynon Literature will continue to conduct seminars and workshops on writing and using Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a and Akeanon.
I will still write about LGBT stories for children incorporating cultural icons in Iloilo and Guimaras./Kathy Villalon