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iRead4Peace: Launch of the Marawi Storybooks

Helping Heal the Wounds of War

PBSP and The Bookmark, Inc. launch children’s

storybooks based on experiences from the Marawi siege


Rebuilding the city of Marawi, especially the most affected area or ground zero that was reduced to rubble during the May 2017 siege may take years or even decades. Starting over for thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are still in evacuation centers, transitional shelters and host communities may take even longer as their future remains uncertain.


But the horrible and traumatic experience of the survivors, especially the children, may last forever and affect their process of moving on.


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. Renowned authors translated these real-life accounts into fiction to make them more age-appropriate for children. Written in both English and Maranao, the stories were brought to life by professional illustrators. These will be donated to the Department of Education-Marawi to improve the reading skills of children as well as for peace education and trauma healing.


In celebration of the National Reading Month, the Marawi Storybook Series will be launched on November 8, 5:30 p.m. at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Malate, Manila. Dubbed as “iRead4Peace”, the event aims to raise awareness on the present situation of the children in Marawi, inspire participants through stories of hope, unity in times of difficulties and resilience during the siege, and provide them opportunities to help 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 are of different religions, ethnicity and social status. Illustrated by Viel Elijah Vidal and translated into Maranao by Ana Zenaida Unte-Alonto, this storybook underscores the value of caring and helping, especially in times of calamities.


“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 to Allah, nature, and the people around them, they have a sense of purpose and hope. Bearing a message 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.


“Lost and Found: A Song of Marawi” is Randy Bustamante’s narrative poem about falling back on 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.



A 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. 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,” explained Anna Maria Tan-Delfin, general manager of The Bookmark, Inc.


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. Later, they had to look for illustrators who could provide matching illustrations for the stories. After this, PBSP 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.

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