THE GIFT OF SONG -- A Splendid Collection of Philippine Folk Songs
Before children learn to read, they learn to sing. More so for Filipinos who are known around the world for their love of music. After nearly three decades since publishing Bahay Kubo to wide acclaim, Tahanan Books unveils a new set of folk song picture books to enrich the Gift of Song collection for music-loving Filipinos across the globe. Carefully selected by musicology expert Dr. Felicidad A. Prudente, each song features regional customs and traditions that showcase the diversity of our islands.
WHEN TAHANAN SAW MUSIC
“As a music teacher and musicologist, I know there is a need for quality and well-researched materials on Philippine music,” Dr. Prudente recalls when she first collaborated with Tahanan Books for Antukin: Philippine Folksongs & Lullabyes in 1998. “Tahanan fills this gap by creating beautifully illustrated Filipino folksong books for children that even adults can appreciate.”
With over a hundred ethnolinguistic groups across the Philippine archipelago, the song selection was trimmed down to those which children can have fun singing along to and those depicting Filipino life and good values. In the Ifugao Ed-Eddoy, we follow a little girl in celebrating the bounty of living by the rice terraces. We try to catch river crabs while crossing a mangrove forest in Cebu for Pakitong-Kitong. And we tap to the rhythm of the kulintang ensemble in Maguindanao for Kaisa- Isa Niyan. Between Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are treasure troves of stories that showcase a distinct facet of our local culture.
A CULTURAL REPERTOIRE
In 1993, Tahanan Books published to much acclaim Hermes Alegre’s bucolic paintings in Bahay Kubo, a popular Tagalog folk song. It took 24 years before Pagtulog Na, Nene, a Hiligaynon lullabye, followed as a companion picture book. Recognizing the need to preserve more folk songs in our collective memory, the first set of the “Gift of Song” picture books was released in 2019 evocatively illustrated by Kora Dandan Albano, Harry Monzon and Fran Alvarez. For 2022, three new titles from Ilocos, Leyte, and the Lanao regions expands our collection.
PONG PONG GINATBONG is a game song created for the amusement of babies. With joyful lyrics that speak of the joy in cooking and eating the Ilokano pinakbet, Danielle Florendo illustrates the scrumptious flavors one can savor from the traditional earthen kitchen. “To render every detail in their proper historical context, research was a critical part of my process. We had to depict how Ilocanos lived in the past: the garments they wore, tools they used.” Danielle says, ”Also, Dr. Norma Respicio’s insights on Ilocano weaves and kitchenwear helped me present a richer story.
LUBI-LUBI is a song also called “An Mga Bulan” (The Months). This Waray version celebrates the pleasures of eating native food year round. Mark Joseph Deutsch and Johanna Velasco, the husband-wife artist duo behind Happy Garaje, charmingly depicts the various ways we enjoy coconuts through the changing seasons in the island of Leyte. “Being on lockdown for months, we took it as an opportunity to illustrate places we treasured (and missed). The things we loved to do, we wanted kids like our daughter to experience, too — the mountains, the sea, home — the spaces where we would be with family and friends.”
POK POK ALIMPAKO is a game song in which children stack their fists, building an imaginary staircase to the moon and stars. Taking inspiration from the intricate okir motifs of Maranao traditional art, Liza Flores’s paper cutouts weave a whimsical journey. “The song is playful, but the setting of the story is real. So it was important for me to get the real parts right and respectful of the culture,” Liza shares. “I learned a lot working on this project. I know there’s much more to discover. It made me realize how little is documented (writings, photographs, etc.) about different Philippine regions/cultures.”
MOVING FOLKSONGS FORWARD
Danielle considers these songs as “valuable inheritance that we can reintroduce to all Filipino children,” while Liza expresses her hope for these books to “pique young readers’ curiosity to learn more about the Philippine traditions, arts and crafts, and even architecture.” Mark and Jo think that folksongs “will always be relevant because they connect people to our identity and history.”
Each artist offers a fresh perspective on the culture where these folk songs originated. Dr. Prudente points out how, “kids today are visually oriented and the art in the pages of this collection can incite renewed interest and excitement for another generation of Filipinos.”
MEET THE CREATORS
FELICIDAD A. PRUDENTE. PH.D. is one of the leading Filipino musicologists in the Philippines today. After earning her doctoral degree in Musicology with emphasis in Ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan, she taught music at the University of the Philippines for thirty years. In 1998, she edited and compiled selections from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao for ANTUKIN: Philippine Folk Songs and Lullabyes, published by Tahanan Books. Currently, Dr. Prudente continues to undertake music research on a wide range of topics such as bamboo ensembles, gong music, ritual singing, and Filipino popular music.
LIZA FLORES is one of the leading children’s book illustrators in the Philippines. Renowned for her intricate paper cutouts, her picture book Ang Maliit na Kalabaw won the 2021 National Children’s Book Award. Recently, she wrote and illustrated the children’s book Sungit (2020). A talented graphic designer, Liza co-manages Studio Dialogo, a design and illustration outfit in Manila. A book she designed, Karapat Dapat, landed in the International Youth Library’s White Ravens list of notable children’s books for 2020. Liza is a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK), the Philippines’ first and only organization of illustrators for children. She has mentored illustrators from different countries through Room to Read, an international nonprofit organization. Say hello on Instagram @lizaflowers, or visit her website at www.liza.ph.
HAPPY GARAJE is the pseudonym for married artists Johanna Velasco Deutsch and Mark Deutsch from Cebu City, Philippines. They are co-illustrators of the picture book Kalipay and the Tiniest Tiktik, as well as several German children’s books. Together and singly, their work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, from whom they received the Gold Award in 2011; they have also garnered accolades from the Society of Illustrators, Luerzer’s Archive (Best Illustrators Worldwide), and the journal Communication Arts. Their international clientele includes Disney and Uniqlo. They also do community projects with organizations like Door to Asia. They have a daughter called Summer, named for the season with its happy memories of sunny days and the sea. https://happygaraje.com/
DANIELLE V. FLORENDO is an illustrator based in Baguio City. Growing up as a young child she was close to her grandfather, an Ilocano native from Ilocos Sur. Danielle has illustrated several children’s books, including Ang Bahay na Maraming Klasrum (2021) and Balitanay’s Laktob: A Kalinga Weaving Story (2020). She is a part-time visual communications college instructor and is a member of Ang Illustrator ng Kabataan (INK), an organization dedicated to Filipino children’s book illustration. Say hello at @dani.doe.
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