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PINOY PARABLES. Each story in Liana Romulo’s Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories embraces moral lessons valued in Filipino culture.

From The Asian Reporter, V17, #26 (June 26, 2007), page 15.

Filipino children’s stories entertain and educate

Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories

Retold by Liana Romulo

Illustrations by Joanne de Leon

Tuttle Publishing, 2000

Hardcover, 94 pages, $16.95

By Rose Barcellano

An exciting journey into mythology, legend, and culture awaits in Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories. Author Liana Romulo brings together thirteen tales that have retained their popularity over many centuries, carving a place in Filipino history. Ideal for six- to 10-year-old readers, the simple parables and classic themes will appeal to the child in each of us that likes stories with happy endings.

Providing the visual narrative, artist Joanne de Leon gives a colorful glimpse at the clothing and adornments of native peoples from the various regions. Her beautiful watercolor illustrations will captivate readers of all ages.

The book is enchanting and serves to educate while it entertains. Themes throughout encourage being mindful of all living things and the impact we have on our environment. For example, an old beggar teaches about respecting the earth in "The Hermit and the Two Worms." The story sends a clear message about our responsibility as human beings to care for our land.

Animals are also given human characteristics. In a tale about a terrible giant, we are shown how even the smallest insects can make a difference when they work together. And in "The Battle of the Sea and Sky," a cunning black bird creates the Philippine archipelago.

Important lessons are woven into mythical stories that explain why mosquitoes buzz and the cock crows. The creation of the universe is revealed in a love story between a god and a goddess in "Alunsina."

These tales highlight the relationship native islanders have with their natural elements. In "The Battle of the Wind and the Rain," we learn about the value of common sense over power, and why Filipinos pray for rain in a storm. And every culture seems to have its version of the rainbow’s mystical origins. "A Bridge of Flowers" performs this task well in its story about a naïvely disobedient child.

Traditional customs and beliefs are reflected in the Filipino interpretations of classic villains and heroes. Family loyalty, hard work, and humbleness are valued characteristics. The evil stepmother is defied in "The Runaways," the cursed princess is saved in "The Prince’s Bride," and the tortoise and the hare are reinvented in "The Deer and the Snail."

Each story embraces moral lessons that are valued in Filipino culture. The temptation of material wealth is depicted as something to be feared. "A Feast of Gold" tells a grim tale about wanting more, and is a stark illustration of the perils of greed. The rewards of being forthright and honest are showcased in "The Magic Lake."

Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories is a wonderful collection of tales that have travelled through generations of storytellers. The modern retelling of these stories is skillfully handled with creativity and cultural awareness. My mother found the tales reminiscent of her childhood in the Philippines, recalling the typhoon winds that shook her family’s house and the mosquitoes that kept her up at night. And my six-year-old nephew and 10-year-old niece, both avid readers, thought the tales about giants, gods, and worms were entertaining and enjoyed learning more about their Filipino heritage.

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