Sol for Sama Dilaut Kids

Last 28 July 2016, members of the University of the Philippines SOCCSKSARGEN (UP Sox) and the Mindanao State University Federation of Elementary Educators (MSU FEED) distributed books and read a story to the Sama Dilaut students of Bawing Elementary School, General Santos City. The activity was done in celebration of the National Children’s Book Day.

The National Children’s Book Day is “celebrated every third Tuesday of July to commemorate the anniversary of the publication of Jose Rizal’s ‘The Monkey and the Turtle’ in Trubner’s Oriental Record in London.” The Philippine Board on Books for Young People leads the month-long celebration.




Sol & Sula’s Voyage

The storybooks were copies of Sol, a short fiction for children written by Agay Llanera, illustrated by Farley del Rosario, and published by CANVAS and UST Press. CANVAS promotes love of reading in Filipino students through their One Million Books for One Million Filipino Children campaign. Through this campaign, individuals and organisations can donate and send award-winning books to a group of Filipino children.

The copies of Sol were donated by author Catherine Torres, who recently released Sula’s Voyage (Scholastic, 2016), a young adult novel with Sama Dilaut characters. It is a story about Sula’s journey of self-discovery where she learns her connection with the Sama Dilaut tribe.




Goodjao Kids

The Sama Dilaut students of Bawing Elementary School, according to Principal Rita Solis, are mostly from Badjao Village, located a few kilometres away from the school. The Sama Dilaut in General Santos are referred to with the exonym Badjao, which most Sama Dilaut have accepted since it is the one used in government programs. The teachers, however, informally call their Sama Dilaut students as Goodjao to discourage teasing.

Principal Solis added that most of the Sama Dilaut students cut classes early to help their parents at work. They also perform low in the Mother Tongue subject because the medium of instruction is in Cebuano or Binisaya. Lack of reading materials written in their native Sinama language is another concern.

UP Sox and MSU FEED intend to go back to Bawing Elementary School in the months to come to help address some of these issues. If you want to help, just leave a message at


Click the thumbnails to enlarge pictures.

IP Children’s Book Database

IP Kid Books

The IP Children’s Book Database is up!

Thank you for those who contributed to the database. Anyone can access and download the file (but not edit it). We will update the database as soon as new entries are submitted.

But we still need your help.

1. If you don’t see a title that you think should be included in the database, submit through this form (FILIPINO/ENGLISH). Remember that the books eligible for submission are 1) those created by, for, or about any Philippine indigenous group, including local or foreign titles translated to IP languages; and 2) those in print or in electronic/digital format, created by a single individual or a team/group, in any year. There is no limitation to the theme or topic of the book.

2. If you see errors (information, typographical, etc.) or you want to add details to a particular item, message us at

Thank you!

Xi Zuq and Ia, writers working with IP groups


Access Filipino IP Books Database (2 March 2016).

IP Children’s Books Database

IP Kid Books


Calling everyone interested in children’s books for Philippine indigenous groups.

We think it’s about time we work together to build a database on children’s books created by, for, or about our country’s indigenous people (IPs).

Indigenous communities, writers, illustrators, publishers, educators (especially Mother Tongue-Based-Multilingual Education teachers), researchers, development workers, and other persons interested in children’s books for IPs will greatly benefit from this database.

We will put a link (URL) to the database on this site after we organise the initial submissions. It will be updated regularly.




If you want to contribute to the database, here are the books eligible for submission:

  • – Those created by, for, or about any Philippine indigenous group, including local or foreign titles translated to IP languages
  • – Those in print or in electronic/digital format, created by a single individual or a team/group, in any year
  • – There is no limitation to the theme or topic of the book.
  • `

To submit, here are the links to the survey form in FILIPINO and ENGLISH.




Thank you very much!

Xi Zuq and Ia, writers working with IP groups

Trekking Mountains to Create a Book

On 21 April 2014, I was part of a group that trekked the mountains of Malungon, Sarangani Province in search of material for a children’s book. The group, which was composed of three staff from Save the Children and myself, was led by five Blaan women of the Lamlifew Tribal Women’s Association, a SEC-registered community-initiated group based in Datal Tampal, Malungon.

Our goal was to document smakul, the Blaan’s indigenous ritual of processing a certain species of palm tree to produce food in times of famine, and create a reading material about it for their children.

The Blaan is an ethnic group of the Bilic language family that inhabits areas in southern Mindanao, mostly in the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, and Davao Occidental. Lamlifew in Datal Tampal, Malungon is one of the Blaan communities that actively promotes and preserves their traditional culture.



The Trek

We started our journey before mid-morning at the Lamlifew School of Living Traditions, the jump-off point. I brought with me a notebook for my notes, a camera, my medicines, and a litre of water (which was not enough). My baggage was nothing compared to the ones carried by the Blaan women elders – a kettle, a large cooking pot, a quarter-sack of rice, fish inside a Styrofoam box, a traditional basket, and bolos, among many others.

It was a three-hour walk to our destination, which was a spot in one of the mountains in the area where the needed species of palm tree could be found. I enjoyed the first hour since there were farms, the river, and the sparse houses to marvel at. Soon, the scenery just became a series of mountainsides or a thick forest. So, to break the boredom, two elders chanted a song that I recorded but did not understand.




We reached our destination around noon. The men were already there since early morning to prepare for the ritual. The only male elder in the group chewed his betel nut and chanted to commence the ritual. Four men then chopped down the palm tree, slit a rectangular opening in its trunk, and pounded its pulp with a handmade wooden mortar. Meanwhile, the male elder created a sifting apparatus out of sticks and a certain tree’s bark. The pulp would be sifted to separate the gluey transparent sap, which would be cooked like sago.

After a series of pounding and sifting, however, we did not yield enough of the needed sap. The ritual, therefore, failed. While we were cooking our lunch, they theorised the reasons of failure – one said that she heard the omen bird at one point of the trek; there should be no woman involved in the ritual; it was not a famine season so the spirits did not approve of it; and there were outsiders.

So, after devouring our lunch, we headed back to the village proper for another three-hour walk.




A Book about Smakul

This journey was part of our process of finding materials for a book for Blaan children. Our first attempt was to adapt their traditional stories but this posed challenges, including the inappropriateness of the length and language of the stories and the presentation of violence. Selecting, restating, and removing some parts did not sit well with the Blaan as they saw these as a form of disrespect of their literature and culture.

After a series of brainstorming sessions with the Blaan book development group, we decided to feature a cultural practice. Their first suggestion was the smakul because children and many adults in the village did not know the ritual. The last time smakul had been performed by the village was during the drought season in the mid-1990s.




Our vision was to have spreads showing the different stages of the smakul. Two characters, a boy and a girl, would silently follow the whole process. One or two lines would accompany most of the spreads. We would also include plants and animals that could be found in the community in the illustrations. Adults reading the story could use this to interact with the children. The time frame would be from sunrise to sunset to provide a subtle way of teaching the passing of time.

Because only the few elders in the community knew the exact process, we set a simulation of smakul to document it.

Really, the idea for the book was promising until after we had simulated the ritual.




Shelving the Idea

We had to shelve the idea of featuring smakul. That was the consensus of both sides. For Save the Children, they did not think that smakul was particularly engaging for young children, especially after we had known that children could not actively participate in the process. In fact, the elders told us that women and children, unless they are young adults, are not allowed to even be present in the ritual.

The Blaan community, on the other hand, would not approve the portrayal of a story based on a failed ritual. That would be a cultural taboo. Some of the elders mentioned that the community is not even allowed to talk about the ritual unless it is a season of famine. Simulating smakul during an inappropriate time was seen as breaking their traditional beliefs.




I agreed with their verdict without hesitation. Though smakul was a cultural practice that would certainly mirror the rich traditional culture and beliefs of the Blaan, it would not complement the other aspects of the book development process. We expected the book, for instance, to portray the child as an active character and as a reader who can relate with the content. Children, however, were not traditionally involved in smakul, except perhaps as passive observers.

Since we were working with an indigenous group, the approval of the community also carried a huge weight in the final decision.

Getting the right fit for all of the aspects of children’s book development is sometimes, if not most of the time, a trial and error game. So, we decided to shelve the smakul idea and try another one.


If you want to know more about developing books for indigenous children or partner with us in a project, email us at