Friday, July 28, 2017

Pinoy Kuwentista: Anna Rhea Manuel

The blog's Storyteller of the Month is Ms. Anna Rhea Manuel.

Anna Rhea Manuel is a reading teacher, performer, and storyteller. She finished her Master's in Reading Education at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, where she also did her Bachelor's in Education, major in English minor in SPED. She wants to bring more stories to alternative systems of education and various creative platforms. For Anna Rhea, stories are the most powerful tools we have in understanding, connecting, and thriving with other human beans.

1. What is your origin story? 

As a professional storyteller, it started 2 years ago when I decided to bring stories outside the walls of schools. I've always known firsthand the power of stories, being a teacher and a reading advocate. I talked to people about it and one of my friends said I can use the 2nd floor of her restaurant to do my activities with kids and their families on Saturdays. The birth of Heads and Tales is anchored on the belief that reading allows for and creates empathy in the readers. 

2. What makes Heads and Tales Storytelling Caravan different from other storytelling program, troupe or organization? Why in Thailand?

As far as I know, I'm in the only one doing the storytelling professionally in English in Thailand. Being a home to Thais who want to learn English and expats who are seeking an English experience for their kids, I've found this niche to spread stories and the love for reading. What makes Heads and Tales unique is first and foremost, the quality of instruction and performance. I am a reading teacher and a theatre performer and musician - these skill sets help me in designing age-appropriate instruction and behavior management, as well as entertainment. Second, its roving nature allows it to bring stories to children in different spaces - libraries, schools, galleries, exhibit halls, community malls, parties, festivals, and homes. Third, it offers various workshops both for children and adults - which includes how to tell stories, storybook making, music in storytelling, and family literacy. 

3. Please share success stories about Heads and Tales.

One of the happiest success stories is that of creating a community of families in my Sunday Storytelling group. Two mommies offered their homes for us to conduct weekly storytelling sessions - where we did stories and story-related art activities. The group grew and grew so on Sundays, while the kids were with me, the mommies had their own mommy bonding sessions and skill sharing classes. It is a great deal for me that Heads and Tales has brought families together!

Another success is that I've seen more and more interest in making storytelling performances a part of birthday parties and holiday events. It's amazing to see how stories are becoming a part of these gatherings!

In the past 2 years, Heads and Tales has initiated and participated in various activities and events, one of which is Wonderfruit, a Lifestyle Festival in Thailand, in which I curated Camp Wonder, the family activity tent. Heads and Tales brought in visual artists, environmentalists, and a Capoeira group to conduct activities in this 4-day event. This December we will be doing it once more!

4. Can Heads and Tales be replicated or adopted/adapted in the Philippines? What opportunities and limitations does this kind of program present?

Definitely replicable - and this is one of its main goals - to spread  memorable and meaningful reading experiences to more people and settings. The caravan programs cater to a diverse audience - kids of different age groups, teachers, librarians, parents, au pairs, basically anyone who has a child in their care. A key element in running these are storytellers on the ground who  (1) have a fair understanding and respect for children, (2) are willing to learn/grow in the craft of storytelling, and because I will be working remotely, (3) are organized and reliable.

5. Where is the caravan going next?

Heads and Tales is on its way to Melbourne starting August. It is still ongoing in Bangkok with new storytellers. 

6. What is your favorite story to tell?

In Filipino - "Si Pilong Patago-Tago" by Kristine Canon. 
In English, "Please Mr. Panda" by Steve Antony.

7. Recommend 5 books/stories for storytelling
  • The Girl Who Always Looked at People's Shoes by Liwliwa Malabed
  • Xilef by Augie Rivera
  • What Do You Do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
  • What Happens Next? By Tull Suwannakit

For more information, visit the Facebook Page Page of Heads and Tales Storytelling:

Get in touch with Anna Rhea via

Mabuhay ang Pinoy Kuwentista!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Museums and Art in Public Spaces

To complete our tour of museums and art spaces, Zoe and I headed to the Vargas Museum in UP Diliman. Currently on display that week were art works by various artists on lines and human rights. It is the later exhibit that hooked us, line and sinker. 

The Karapatan Art Exhibit gave us many things to think about. I was deeply disturbed by the images and graphic metaphors on human rights as conveyed by the artists. I was particularly struck by the woven rug in the image of a young boy. It was even positioned at the entrance door of the exhibit hall. In this day and age, children's lives are dispensed as easily as a piece of old, unused clothing. I dared not step on the rug at all.

Zoe took everything in and gravitated towards Liza Flores' art work. She was inspired to create. She wondered how visual artists come up with ideas and what are at stake to make art. A lot of time, tons of effort and patience so I told her.

As for me, I was disturbed until we got home. 

I think it didn't help me at all to have seen Uplift first of all. There was nothing uplifting about it. At least for me. The sculpture was well made however, it did not speak to me of affirmation and oblation. There was nothing spiritual about it. Whose god and what kind of god is the woman, in prone position, being offered to?

There is this story of St. Francis of Assisi. He took of his clothes and ran naked because he had been awakened. Enlightened to a truth, a revelation. And so, he did an oblation and offered everything of himself in service to God. Sadly, I did not get this revelation of truth in Ferdinand Cacnio's opus. Sayang.

Gulliermo Tolentino's masterpiece is still the

So. That's art. There are artists and there are artists. Some relay a message using the best medium possible. A few use art to push a personal agenda. Artist or participant, both are witnesses to the dynamic process of creation.

Author of the Month: Genaro Gojo Cruz

Because the third Tuesday of July is National Children's Book Day, the blog's author of the month is Mr. Genaro Gojo Cruz. He is a back-to-back winner of the Salanga Prize. In this interview, Mr. Gojo Cruz shares with us his motivation and inspiration in writing stories.

Salanga Prize win ners Imelda Estrella, honorable mention & Genaro Gojo Cruz, grand prize winner 
Back to back winner ka sa Salanga at may honorable mention pa! Ano ba ang sikreto mo?

Di ko alam eh. Ang pagsali sa mga patimpalak ay lagi namang walang kasiguruhan. Iba-iba ang judges kaya di ko rin alam kung ano ang gusto o hinahanap nila sa isang kuwento para sa mga bata. Ang sikreto ko lang sigurong masasabi, kapag may patimpalak, para akong nagkakaroon ng gasolina para sumulat. Nagkakaroon ako ng "gana".

2. Bakit Dalawa Kami ni Lola?

Napakatagal ng nasa isip ko ang kuwentong "Dalawa Kami ni Lola." Gusto ko lang ipakita ang paralelismo ng pagiging isang bata at pagiging isang matanda. Natutuhan ng isang bata ang mga gawain para sa kaniyang sarili habang di na nakakayang gawin ng isang tumatanda ang dati niyang mga ginagawa. Napakadali ko lang naisulat ang kuwento. Punong-puno ako ng gana habang isinusulat ito. Ang totoo, wala akong rebisyon na ginawa sa kuwento. Ipinasa ko ito sa PBBY kung paano ko ito unang naisulat.

Genaro Gojo Cruz with friends in the Kids Lit industry
Mamili ka lang ng isa:
a. Rizal o Bonifacio

b. Beer o kape

d. Museo o library

e. iPad o Android

f. Facebook o Twitter

4. Ano ang kuwento o aklat na gusto mo na ikaw sana ang nakasulat? Bakit?

Sana ako ang nakasulat ng "Nemo ang Batang Papel" ni Rene O. Villanueva na tungkol sa isang batang-lansangan na naging papel na nilipad patungong langit. Di man sinabi nang tahasan, death ang tinalakay sa kuwento na isang napakahirap talakayin sa isang kuwentong pambata. Sa ngayon, ginagamit ko itong pamantayan sa pagsulat ng mga kuwentong tumatalakay sa karanasan ng mga batang lansangan. Sa pagsulat ng mga kuwento, iniiwasan kong magpabaha ng luha. Gusto kong masaya ang kuwento!

Monday, July 24, 2017

NCBD 2017 Aftershocks 1 of 2

And the 2017 National Children's Book Day (NCBD) came to pass. It commenced with the awarding of the Salanga Prize and Alcala Prize at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to Mr. Genaro Gojo Cruz and Ms. Sophia Demanawa respectively. Three things made this year's NCBD Awards Ceremony truly touching, at least for me. These are the presence of Elyrah Salanga Torralba and Boyet Alcala, children of Alfredo Salanga and Larry Alcala, who granted the awards to the winners this year; the honest and spontaneous acceptance speeches of Mr. Gojo Cruz and Ms. Demanawa; and the loving tribute of the PBBY Board to one of its own who has gone to the great beyond, Mrs. Gloria F. Rodriguez. It was also delightful to see, former Usec Dina Ocampo attend a PBBY event in a long while. The usual suspects were there, present, of course. Kuya Rey Bufi of the Storytelling Project hosted the ceremony and read aloud the winning story of Mr. Gojo Cruz, Dalawa Kami ni Lola.

Pepper Roxas was the guest speaker during the NCBD celebration in CCP. She flew in from New York to deliver a stirring keynote on the power of stories and why, in this dark and dangerous times, artists, especially the ones in the Philippine Children's Literature industry must continue telling and creating stories. 

Ms. Roxas was also the plenary speaker in the 2nd Philippine Children's Book Summit.

The CCP, being an institutional member of PBBY, organized a mini-book fair, conducted workshops in the afternoon on writing, film animation and gave tours to young visitors. The tour is a regular program of the CCP to strengthen art education and art studies in the basic education level. Visit the CCP website for more information about the My CCP tour for young people.

In the days that followed, PBBY got wind of more NCBD Celebrations. SM malls had a two-day run of storytelling and reading aloud sessions featuring illustrated story books, Two Friends One Word by Ramon Sunico (Anvil, 1990) and Bumabara-bara-bara by Fernando Gonzales (Chikiting Books, 2015). PBBY President, Tarie Sabido, gave a workshop on books and reading to teachers of  Malabanan Elementary School in BiƱan, Laguna. Kuya Rey Bufi conducted a workshop on storytelling in the same school. 

On July 22, 2017, the 2nd Philippine Children's Book Summit, Illustrators Fair and Storytelling Festival were held at the GT Toyota Asian Center in UP Diliman. The National Library of the Philippines conducted its annual international conference on Children's and Young Adult Library and Museo Pambata had a storytelling workshop facilitated by Kuya Bodjie Pascua.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today is National Children's Book Day!

It was on the third Tuesday of July when Jose Rizal's The Monkey and the Tortoise was published in Trubner's Oriental Record in London. History accords it as the first Filipino folk tale to be published in an international periodical. It would be important to note that, The Monkey and the Tortoise was dedicated by Rizal to his nieces and nephews. Translating and adapting two stories by Hans Christian Andersen (I can only remember The Ugly Duckling), Rizal seemed bent on leaving a legacy to his nieces and nephews, as well as to young Filipino people.

Stories are legacies. Stories bridge time and space. Stories bring peoples together. Stories build communities.

And so today, the PBBY leads the celebration of the National Children's Book Day. Remembering Rizal. Continuing a legacy. Bringing people from all walks of life together.

This year's theme is Laging Bago ang Mundo ng Libro. Institutional members like the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Museo Pambata and the National Library of the Philippines have all scheduled activities for parents, teachers, librarians, book lovers and children's literature advocates. The PBBY partnered with the National Book Development Board for the second staging of the Philippine Children's Book Summit. A Syorytelling Festival and Illustrators' Fair are events included in the summit's program. It will be held in the GT Toyota Asian Center in UP Diliman.

If you are free today, drop by the CCP for activities and join us in the awarding ceremony of the Salanga and Alcala Prizes. The NLP will run a three day conference on Young Adult Library Services in Naga City on July 20-22. Museo Pambata has scheduled a storytelling workshop to be conducted by Kuya Bodjie Pascua on July 22 as well.

Happy NCBD! Laging Bago ang Mundo ng Libro!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Lighthouse Diary Entry 1: Collaborative Work

It was our first day back at work in the Academy. The day started pretty much, chill (borrowing my daughter's vocabulary) with the head of school welcoming us all and introducing new faculty. I always look forward to the HOS's SONA. One would find nuggets of wisdom in his speeches and addresses. If one listens well.

This year, he walked us through the Academy's accomplishments of past school years and identified the achievements of the recently concluded academic year.  A necessary exercise to frame the next step of the journey. Setting directions. A time for reflection. A Janus moment. 

Of the many things that struck me from his presentation, it was his use of two symbols unique to the Academy namely, the mobious strip and the Griffin, our school mascot. Finally. We have a metaphor for which to use and anchor upon our goals and our dreams. For when we grope in the dark or doubt ourselves in moments when mistakes and failures come our way, we only have to remember that learning is a continuous journey and that the Griffin's courage, intelligence and strength can see us through.

Go Griffins!

In the afternoon, we had our first Academic session. Our Dean of Faculty assigned a design challenge activity that required us to create a moving robotic face out of popsicle sticks, folders, papers, masking tape, glue and other art materials we can get our hands on in nearby cubby holes and neighboring offices. This was a collaborative work of five to six people in a group. Our group had the slight advantage because we had the Design/Art Teacher in our midst. Lucky.

The long and short of it, we had fun working together and insights from the activity were aplenty! Indeed, there are many ways to approach a task and to solve problems creatively. 

What I like to focus on for this blog post is the aspect of collaborative learning and teaching that can be drawn upon from the Robotic Faces activity. It had been easy for us teachers to work together, to go along with the process as planned, to listen, to give way, to respect and  to watch how things would proceed organically. I think this dynamic is already in place among the faculty of the Academy. Yay! Kudos to the school leadership team!

But, children and young people may have a more challenging experience working in groups. A certain level of maturity is required to work well with different people. Then again, collaborative learning leads to that exactly - an opportunity to grow in mind and in heart as each member of the group take on roles, work with others to achieve a goal, to meet an objective or to complete a task. Communication skills are vital. A project is the object of collaboration. 

To structure a collaborative learning activity, here are some recommendations.

Set roles before or after presenting a task, a problem or a project.  Roles can be: facilitator, scribe, reporter, gopher, time-keeper, devil's advocate, cheer leader, researcher, and analyst. These roles may change depending on the collaborative task or project. Identifying each role and the contribution he or she can bring to the table help facilitate the process of competing the project. 

Think-Pair-Share is a strategy for collaborative learning. Students think through on their own the task or the project assigned to them. Working individually in gathering data to solve a problem or initially identifying steps to complete the project. A student finds a partner or work with one as assigned by the teacher. They share their data, findings, discuss the better course of action, plan and then solve the problem or perform the task.

Another strategy is the Jigsaw Puzzle. More cooperative learning in approach, but can be adapted into a collaborative learning experience, the Jigsaw Puzzle is aimed at allowing students to work on tasks and projects from their context and cultural backgrounds. These students are then grouped together to share and partake in a discussion of their output and how it fits in a bigger piece. The literary circles is one example of a Jigsaw Puzzle, I think. More about it in a future post.

The Fish Bowl technique can be used as well but for a specific task like discussions on topics of ethical and moral issues. A group inside the fishbowl discuss the topics. A group outside of it records the discussion and take notes of the dynamics in the smaller group. It can be a pre-writing activity that allow students to think in a group. Both groups, the one in the fishbowl and the one outside of it will benefit from the discussion. This technique can be a research strategy as well. Good to use in gathering of data, documentation, valuation and evaluation of information generated in the discussion groups.

Like all teaching strategies, I think the success lies in the teacher's creativity and competence when he or she plans and implements them in the classroom. But of course, the better teacher would know specific strategies to use based on students goals and needs.

Here are websites and links to explore on collaborative teaching and learning.

Jigsaw Puzzle -

That's it for today. Until the next entry in The Lighthouse Diary of Zarah G, your friendly teacher librarian and reading companion!

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