ILIGAN CITY, Nov 19 (PIA-ICCC) – The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) together with The Bookmark, Inc., developed four children’s storybooks which highlight the culture, identity, values, and resilience of the Maranaos.

The storybooks were based on actual experiences of survivors of the 2017 Marawi conflict. They were real-life accounts were translated into fiction by renowned authors to make them more age-appropriate for children.

Written in both English and Maranao, the storybooks will be given to every child in Marawi and donated to the Marawi City Schools Division to improve the reading skills of children and serve as tool for peace education and trauma healing.

In celebration of the National Reading Month, the Marawi Storybook Series was launched at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Malate, Manila on Nov. 8.

Dubbed as “iRead4Peace”, the event aims to raise awareness on the present situation of the children in Marawi and provide them with opportunities by donating storybooks for the children of Marawi.

VALUE-LADEN TOOL FOR HEALING

Each storybook carries distinct values that are envisioned to help children cope, heal the wounds of war, and adjust to their new lives.

“The Day the Typhoon Came,” written by renowned children’s book author Carla Pacis, is a story of care and concern for others even how different they are. The setting is in Lake Lanao which is rich in diversity, with different animal characters. During a strong typhoon, the animals help each other to find shelter and safety. The typhoon represents the terrorist attack on Marawi and the animals symbolize the people of Marawi who have different religions, ethnicity, and social status.

Illustrated by Viel Elijah Vidal and translated into Maranao by Marawi City Schools Division Deputy Superintendent Ana Zenaida Unte-Alonto, this storybook underscores the value of caring and helping, especially in times of calamities.

Meanwhile, “Water Lilies for Marawi,” written by Heidi Emily Eusebio-Abad, shows that war does not choose its victims. The suffering it brings extends beyond the battlefield or ground zero. Eventually, children get caught in a mess, not of their choosing.

Brought to life by illustrator Shellette Gipa and translator Jalillah Gampong-Alonto, the storybook shows how, sometimes, children have the better judgment on how to cope with war. Having lived through it, they can prove to adults that differences in faith, culture, or even social status can be bridged by true friendship and understanding.

In the storybook “Marawi Land of the Brave,” author Melissa Salva tells the story of Amir who loves hearing tales from his brother Farouk about his native land, especially the ones about the Maranaos’ bravery and skill in battle. These are the stories of Maranao hero Amai Pakpak and Indarapatra. When the brothers’ peaceful lives in Marawi were upended by terrorists, it was Amir’s belief in his proud heritage that kept him resilient. Still, he was shocked by the destruction and loss that came with the siege. Because of their relationships with Allah, nature, and the people around them, they have a sense of purpose and hope. Bearing the messages of peace and hope, the story also reminds the children of Marawi of the beauty of their land and the strength of their community. Kathleen Sareena Dagum made every page of the storybook more vivid with her watercolor illustrations while Lawambae Basaula-Lumna provided the Maranao translations.

Another storybook entitled “Lost and Found: A Song of Marawi” is Randy Bustamante’s narrative poem about falling back on the family through the kindness of strangers during the siege. The poem has two personae or voices who are telling two parallel stories that meet at the end. One persona is Ana, a six-year-old girl stranded in Marawi with her pregnant mother while the other persona is Amin, a husband, and father who is trying to get into Marawi to rescue his elderly father. Their stories complete each other and reveal the power of kindness to help find what is lost. Tristan Yuvienco provided the illustrations and Zaman Macapaar-Guinar translated the story into Maranao.

COLLABORATIVE EFFORT

“PBSP partnered with us for the storybooks because they wanted to help the children of Marawi, not only to cope but to adjust to their new lives after the siege,” said Anna Maria Tan-Delfin, general manager of The Bookmark, Inc.

“There were a lot of news reports at that time but we didn’t want that. We felt the people had enough and that the stories were told not from their point of view but from people outside Marawi. This makes the interviews that PBSP conducted with the evacuees very important,” she said.

In producing the four storybooks, Delfin said they had to find experienced authors who knew how to empathize, even without personally talking to the evacuees. They later had to look for illustrators who could provide matching illustrations for the stories. PBSP then worked with its partners in Marawi to handle the translations into Maranao.

The storybooks underwent numerous rounds of rigorous reviews by the academe, religious leaders and scholars, psychologists and public groups in Marawi on content, accuracy, psychological sensitivities, and conformity to Islamic beliefs and traditions.

“Through these storybooks, we hope to not only build a culture of reading but also help these young survivors rebuild their lives. Moreover, we aim to use these to shape the continuing dialogue on peace and development in Mindanao,” said Reynaldo Antonio Laguda, PBSP Executive Director.

iRead4Peace is part of PBSP’s Give a Gift of Reading Campaign that aims to improve the reading skills and instill in children a love for reading. The initiative also supports the Sa Pagbasa, May Pag-asa Consortium.

The PBSP is the largest business-led NGO at the forefront of strategic corporate citizenship and business sector leadership contributing to sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Established in 1970, PBSP remains a consultant and partner of choice of companies and donors. (WLBacelonia/PIA-ICCC/PBSP)