IF YOU WERE AT THE MANILA International Book Fair at SMEX recently, you would surely have bumped into Juan Tamad, Mariang Alimango, Butsiki, Pilo or any of the 25 life-size sculptures of favorite book characters from contemporary Philippine children?s literature.
Definite scene-stealers, they were busy being photographed alone or together with book fair visitors young and old. More often than not, their striking poses were playfully mimicked by the book-truck viewers.
Oiginally created by the Inkies (Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan) led by Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) chair and illustrator Totet de Jesus for PBBY?s 25th anniversary this year, the characters have been displayed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Library, and the MIBF. They are scheduled for other venues as well as school tours.
Deciding on the top 25 favorite characters was not based on whimsy. The artists themselves had their own personal preferences, but surveys from public school students all over the country counted as strong, credible votes. They are after all the audience for which these books were written.
Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation and DepED?s Library Hub, two institutions whose literacy efforts have brought them nationwide, were instrumental in contributing input from schools. Their programs have ensured that the children were familiar with the present crop of children?s books, and could thus proclaim the most memorable and best loved of them all with some degree of authority.
Making it to the top 25 were the lead characters from these books: ?Chenelyn! Chenelyn!? by Rhandee Garlitos (illus. by Liza Flores); ?Ang Alamat ng Ampalaya? by Augie Rivera (illus. by Kora Dandan Albano); ?Si Pilong Patago-tago? by Kristine Canon (illus. by Leo Alvarado); ?Filemon Mamon? by Christine Bellen (illus. by Jason Moss); ?Juan Tamad? by Rene O. Villanueva (illus. by Jo Ann Bereber); ?Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Raquel? by Luis P. Gatmaitan (illus. by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero); ?Rosamistica? retold by Christine S. Bellen (Illus. by Liza Flores); ?Ang Barumbadong Bus? by Rene O. Villanueva (illus. by:Jo Ann Bereber); ?Emang Engkantada at ang Tatlong Haragan? by Rene O. Villanueva (Illus. by Alfonso Oñate and Wilfredo Pollarco); ?Ang Mahiyaing Manok? by Rebecca T. Añonuevo (illus. by Ruben de Jesus); ?Pandakotyong? retold by Christine S. Bellen (illus. by Albert E. Gamos); ?Mariang Alimango? by Tomas Lacson (illus. by Onie Millare); ?Ibong Adarna? by Roberto Alonzo (illus. by Jordan Santos); ?Carancal? by Rene O. Villanueva (illus. by Kora Dandan-Albano);
?Ang Unang Baboy sa Langit? by Rene O. Villanueva (illus. by Ibarra Crisostomo); ?Ang Parusa ng Duwende? retold by Christine S. Bellen (illus. by Elbert Or); ?Mateo!? by Grace D. Chong (illus. by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero); ?Pilandok? by Victoria Anoñuevo (illus. by Kora Dandan-Albano); ?Pagong at Matsing? retold by Danilo Consumido (illus. by Herbert Fucio); ?Ang Kamatis ni Peles? by Alberta Angeles (illus. by: Renato Gamos); ?Si Langgam at Si Tipaklong? by Alberta Angeles (illus. by Renato Gamos); ?Ang Hukuman ni Sinukuan? by Virgilio Almario (illus. by Mitzi Villavecer); ?Og Uhog? by Christine S. Bellen (illus. by Jason Moss); ?Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Lola? by Rene O.
Villanueva (illus. by Ibarra Crisostomo); ?Tiktaktok at Pikpakbum? by Rene O. Villanueva (illus. by:Renato Gamos).
For those with an eye for trivia, 17 of the characters are from Adarna House, three from Lampara Publishing, three from Anvil Publishing, one from OMF Literature and one from Cacho Publishing. Not surprisingly, Rene O. Villanueva is most represented with six books, with National Artist Virgilio Almario and his numerous aliases coming in a close second.
The publishers willingly underwrote expenses for their characters, knowing that the selection is a distinction coming from children for whom the books were written yet who usually do not have much to say in terms of critical comments on these books.
In a sense, this is a poll of Children?s Choices, a standing practice with the American Library Association.
The most ideal way to show these sculptures off is to include their respective books in the display. That was how it was in the opening CCP exhibit. But with the subsequent exhibits in other public areas, that became a security concern.
But should we really mind that the books are spirited away by some booklovers? Isn?t promoting reading the whole point of the endeavor?
Without the books, the sculptures became a delightful literary quiz in themselves, not all of them readily familiar to grown-ups. But even more wonderful and child-friendly was that the artists did not mind their work being touched by the child viewers.
They might as well have carried signs that said, ?Please do not touch!? (When last seen, Pilo of Si Pilong Patago-tago stood headless.)
May these literary characters make young readers curious about the books they?re from. What unforgettable tales they have to tell.
The author is a member of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People and may be reached at email@example.com.