Shapeshifter turns friendly veggie monster in new children’s book

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Passion project: “Si Kalipay ug
Ang Kinagamyang Tiktik” is one of the three new books
of Newhard. It’s a Cebuano tale about the “tiktik” in the native tongue.

CUTE and monsters are two words that don’t gel well, right? But in the imaginary world, where a happy child named Kalipay and her friend Gamay (a tiny “manananggal,” a variation of “tiktik”) exist, monsters are cute and can become a little girl’s best friend.

For one, Gamay isn’t portrayed as a fanged creature, with blood all over her face as her torso  completely separates from the lower half of her body.

This one looks more like a nature goddess, a sprinkling of leaves on her hair down to the dress, her long tongue extending like a pretty ribbon as she reaches for… juicy tomatoes from Kalipay’s garden. Yes, Gamay is a vegetarian.

The story is penned by Filipino-American author Christina Newhard. Her stories border on the absurd in a way that suggests humor as it touches on serious stuff like the value of friendship despite differences—as reflected in her book, “Si Kalipay Ug Ang

Her stories border on the absurd in a way that suggests humor as it touches on serious stuff like the value of friendship despite differences—as reflected in her book, “Si Kalipay Ug Ang Kinagamyang Tiktik.”

“I want my stories to touch on big things, but not boring, a bit absurd with humor,” said Christina, explaining how she came up with the story of “tiktik” for a Cebuano tale, during the recent launching of her three books at the Casa Gorordo Museum.

Christina found a way to pay homage to her roots in the Philippines by weaving stories that not only underscores the country’s  dynamic and diverse languages but also our traditions and beliefs.

“It’s a social change kind of project for me. I want to strengthen Filipino culture, make it visible; try to make every Filipino citizen —here in the country or overseas —connected to their roots again,” she said, adding that her three books are multilingual.

For her, story books are “like hitting two birds with one stone; focusing on the regional languages and its culture, and at the same time, making it a learning tool to impart values and lessons to kids ages five to eight.”

Besides the story of Kalipay and Gamay that is Bisaya, Christina collaborated with other artists from Luzon in “Si Melo A Mahakay A Umang” (or Melo the Umang Boy), which is in the Ivatan tanguage of Batanes.

Co-authored by Alyssa Sarmiento-Co with the creative illustrations of Jaypee Portez and translation by Criselda Valiente, the tale is about a boy named Melo, who must overcome his shyness to help sea creatures rebuild their home.

Meanwhile, “Si Amina Y El Cuidad De Maga Flores” (Amina and the City of Flowers) is a Chavacano tale of a young Yakan weaver forced to leave her hometown in Basilan to Zamboanga because of war.

It is illustrated by Robbie Bautista, with translation by Floraime Oliveros Pantaleta.

Born to a Filipina mother and an American father, Christina left for or the USA at the age of 10.

She’s always been fascinated by books, a love for text, image and story.

Later pursued a career in graphic design at Columbia University, and quit for what she calls her “passion
project.”

“I was a graphic designer for 15 years. I think I was already unhappy and stagnant. It was a great job; there were a lot of great people and it was secure. But maybe, I wanted to stretch my creative muscles, connect more deeply to my grassroots,” she told us before the book launch.

It was in October last year when Christina was able to get funds for the two print runs of the two books via Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative works.

She had over 300 backers in 10 countries pledging support for Philippine language diversity, just to show the broad appeal of these children’s books.

Then again, growing up she read a lot of American books and fairy tales. Sadly, there was not enough stories about Philippine culture and folklores.

“Choosing the stories for me was a long process. I wanted my books to not just be about the languages, but also address the different parts of the culture,” Christina said.

As an author, the most satisfying part of the job is seeing kids holding and reading the books out loud, hearing them speak their
native tongue.

“Every book is about an entirely different character. This is just the start.” she said.

Christina is set to release three new books—“Sandangaw,” a Waray story of a boy about the size of a hand as he goes on a quest to grow; a Maranao book, an environmental story addressing the issue of garbage dumping in Lake Danao; and the third one that is an Aeta story.

Each book sells for P200, available at Casa Gorordo Museum.



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