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.

National Children’s Book Day

Sa Hulyo 15, 2014 (Martes) na ang ika-31 na taunang pagdiriwang ng National Children’s Book Day (NCBD), na may temang “Pumitas ng Aklat. Buklatin. Basahin.” Gaganapin ang pagdiriwang sa HULYO 22 sa Museo Pambata.

Ang NCBD ay “ipinagdiriwang tuwing ikatlong linggo ng Hulyo upang gunitain ang anibesaryo ng pagkakalimbag ng “The Monkey and the Turtle” ni Jose Rizal sa Trubner’s Oriental Record sa London,” ayon sa website ng Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), ang ahensiyang nangunguna sa pagdiriwang.


Sa nakaraang taon, nakiisa ang XZN sa pagdiriwang sa pamamagitan ng pagtatanong sa ilang Filipinong manlilikha ng mga aklat pambata at pangkabataan. Kung nais ninyong balikan ang mga panayam, narito ang LINK.

Ngayong taon, sundan sa buong buwan ng Hulyo ang mga panayam sa mga nagwagi ngayon ng Grand Prize at Honorable Mention sa PBBY Salanga Prize at Alcala Prize. Unang maililimbag ang mga panayam sa Kalatas, ang opisyal na pahayagan ng Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas.

Huwag ding kalimutang basahin ang mga panayam kina Sophia Lee at Catherine Torres, ang mga Filipinong nanguna sa Scholastic Asian Book Award ngayong taon.

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Catherine Torres

Cathy TorresWriter and diplomat Catherine Torres is this year’s runner-up of the Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA), a biennial recognition of the best fiction for children and young adults in Asia given by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and Scholastic Asia. Her winning manuscript is Sula’s Voyage.

And we are lucky to have Ms. Catherine here with us to answer some of our questions about her young adult novel.

XZN: Your entry for SABA is entitled Sula’s Voyage. Can you tell us more about it?

CT: Sula was born in the middle of the Sulawesi Sea on a perilous voyage by her hippie parents. Now in her teens, she finds herself a loner after moving from school to school because of their nomadic lifestyle. When she is bullied by some classmates, something protects her, something she couldn’t explain. It also gets her expelled for witchcraft. Luckily, she finds safe harbor in James, a music student who attends one of her father’s classes at university. But when he breaks a promise to her, she flees with her mom to Urchin’s Cove, the seaside villa of her parents’ friends from their hippie days. There, amid the unusual Mexican-Filipino family, she grows more confused about herself and her feelings for James. When he meets an accident, she must decide if she is ready to relive her parents’ sea voyage to save him, and discover her true identity.

XZN: What was your inspiration in writing Sula’s Voyage? Are some of the elements based on real-life experiences?

CT: I think when you write from a place deep inside of you, it’s inevitable that elements of your experiences would manifest themselves in your writing, not necessarily in the same form that you experienced them, but metamorphosed. For instance, most of Sula’s story unfurls at a seaside villa in Mindoro called Urchins’ Cove. You wouldn’t find it on any map of the island, but it was inspired by an actual resort with a different name that I stayed in a few times with my loved ones. But don’t go there expecting to find the exact same landscape I described in the story. One of fiction’s blessings is that it lets us to give free rein to our imagination, and it’s a gift I don’t want to waste by simply transcribing things as they are.

XZN: How did you first hear about SABA? Can you tell us Sula’SABA journey?

CT: I first heard of SABA in 2010, when it was newly launched. I was one of the more than 100 people who sent in stories to that inaugural run, and my story didn’t even make it to the shortlist. With good reason—it was my first attempt at children’s or YA writing and I got everything wrong. I was ready to abandon children’s and YA writing after that, and focus on writing for grownups, until I got a short story published in Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction, a charity YA anthology that aimed to support teens affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.That got me thinking that maybe, I could give it another try. Besides, Sula had been knocking around my head for some time, asking her story to be told, so I gave in.

I wrote the story in three frenzied months, just as I was about to finish my diplomatic assignment in Singapore. After I dropped off the manuscript, I got caught up with the preparations for returning to Manila, and getting settled back there. Aside from my work at the DFA, I’ve also been working on a collection of my short stories, so it was a pleasant surprise when I got word that Sula’s Voyage was shortlisted for SABA.

XZN: How did you start writing? What are the challenges you face?

CT: I started writing regularly when I was in fifth grade, when I joined the school paper. But I think my formation as a writer began much earlier, when I fell in love with books and words, and realized how you can weave a spell by telling a story. I remember when I was in second grade, my Reading teacher, Ms Nayve, held a reading contest in our class. She divided us into groups, and each group had to have a representative who would stand in front of the class and read a fable aloud. My group picked me. When all the contestants were done, the one who gets the most applause would be the winner. I didn’t get enough claps to make it to the top three, and when Ms Nayve saw that, she asked for a second round of judging-by-claps. When I still didn’t make it, she said she was so impressed by my reading that she would give me a special prize. I kept waiting for her to give me the prize, and only when I grew up did I realize that she had given it to me the very instant she acknowledged my voice.

The biggest challenge I face is juggling the writing with my work as a diplomat and with being a mother. But then again, I don’t think I would be any good as a writer if I don’t have those two other aspects of my life to draw inspiration from.

XZN: When are we seeing Sula’s Voyage in print? And what projects are we expecting from you in the future?

CT: Under SABA’s rules, Scholastic Asia has right of first refusal on the manuscripts of the runners-up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they will choose to publish Sula’s Voyage. Otherwise, I’m ready to do what it takes to find another outfit who will, so I can share Sula’s story. I’m also putting the final touches on Mariposa Gang and Other Stories, a collection of twelve short stories I have written over the last five years, many of which have appeared individually in journals and anthologies here in the Philippines as well as in Singapore and the United States.

XZN: And any piece of advice for aspiring Filipino writers?

CT: Our archipelago is a goldmine of stories waiting to be dug up and told. So take that pickax and start digging.


Catherine Torres’ works have appeared in magazines and journals such as The Philippines Graphic, Likhaan, Flyway, As Us, Escape Into Life, TAYO and Ceriph, as well as anthologies such as Motherhood Statements and How Does One Dress to Buy Dragon Fruit. She was part of Write Forward, an online writing workshop by Birbeck College Writing Programme and British Council Singapore, and had several works of flash fiction published and included in an art installation as part of British Council’s Writing the City.

Her work in the Foreign Service has taken her to postings in New Delhi and Singapore, together with her husband, Sohn Suk-joo, a Korean scholar and translator, with whom she has collaborated in translating key works of Korean literature into English. They have a five-year-old son, Samuel.

During her spare time, she enjoys photography and playing the ukulele.

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