The first review of the three picturebooks about Philippine wildlife has just been published in the Business Mirror in the Philippines. I was nervous about being reviewed but Johnny Goloyugo really understands the stories and what I’m trying to achieve. Thank you Johnny, maraming salamat.
British conservationist shows passion on PHL wildlife and environment
WILD animals can be very difficult to see in real life. Unless one is a conservationist and has a lifelong interest in exotic and endangered animals, who would venture into the green canopies of the wild just to see a Philippine bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus philippinicus), Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons), Rough-back forest frog (Platymantis corrugatus) or a Visayan spotted dear (Rusa alfredi)?
Six years ago, Rachel Louise Shaw of the Lincolnshire Wild Trust, a wildlife charity in the United Kingdom, visited the Philippines as a part of the Rotary International District 1270 Group Study Exchange team.
As a wildlife conservationist “visiting the Philippines was truly inspirational in many ways from the people I met and friends I made, to discovering the wildlife of the country. The Philippines is one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots. On the 7,107 islands, there are thousands of species that are found nowhere else in the world,” Shaw says.
In her childhood, Shaw recalls enjoying making up stories about animals and readingThe Tale of Peter Rabbitt (1902) by Beatrix Potter, a British writer, illustrator and conservationist and author of 22 other books, such as The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin(1903), The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904), The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904) andThe Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (1905), among others.
Shaw says: “Despite only seeing a few of these animals while I was here [in the Philippines], having a glimpse of just a little of this diversity of life sparked my imagination…they became characters in the mind…and made me start writing stories again!”
With her experience that spans writing for publications, web site content, social media and editing the charity’s magazine, the results are three excellent fully illustrated and colorful children’s books—Pipisin the Pangolin, Mayumi the Forest Pig and Danao the Parrot—all published and launched by The Bookmark Inc. recently at the posh Manila Polo Club in Makati City.
Illustrated by Shaw herself, Pipisin is about a Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), a scaly ant and termite eater with four paws, sharp claws and extra-long sticky tongue that rolls up tight when afraid and unrolls “when there’s no one there.”
Pipisin the Pangolin blurps children’s attention because of Rachel’s illustrative ability in capturing the animal’s delicate “acrobatics” for balance and survival, while being confronted by the sound of a woodpecker, a bearcat, a frog and hunters.
The book also suggests the quiet mood that children need to understand the real essence of the story.
On the other hand, Mayumi the Forest Pig and her family’s meandering through the forest in search for tasty roots and fruits brought them in wet hollows and splashed in it, a reminder of how humans would rush to a swimming pool or a beach to escape the heat of the sun. While the other pigs left in search for food, Mayumi felt enchanted by a singing bird deep inside a bush, again a reminder of how music quenches the soul in its aloneness.
Ingrid G.Tan, a digital illustrator who works as a game artist in Makati City, not only captures Mayumi’s adventures in the bush, but also illustrates the adventurism and curiosities of a child in this accucolored world.
More important, the book teaches about how animals like pigs help grow new trees by eating fruits and leaving the seeds somewhere, even in a pile of poop. By helping grow new trees, the pigs, thus, enrich the life cycle of the wilderness and our natural environment.
Meanwhile, Shaw’s third book explodes in color and tells the story of the daydreaming Danao the Parrot, translated in luxurious illustrations by Juan Nathaniel “Jonathan” G. Ranola III, a painter, graphic designer, book illustrator and art instructor at the Bulacan State University and Feati School of Fine Arts in Manila.
The book describes Danao’s confusion of living in a bustling and hustling metropolis like Manila and his longing for quietude in the vast expanse of the seven seas, coral reef, beach and strange mangrove. In his daydreaming, Danao’s conundrum becomes further complicated by running into the rich diversity—Maputik, a little buffalo in the marsh; Mabaho, the stink badger; Palalo, the peacock peasant; Tingin, the big-eyed tarsier; and Hari, the king of all birds in the forest.
The only respite, or so it seems, is his discovery of the smelly but sweet durian, which Danao thinks is good to eat.
The book describes the rich diversity of the Philippines and of Danao’s world, like the presence of the butanding Batik along, with Maputik, Mabaho, Palalo Tingin andHari.
Shaw’s three books are not about clever tales and pure imaginings, but a cerebral approach in describing through stories the richness and diversity—yet endangered—of the unique wildlife of the Philippines. She believes that children’s imagination and knowledge should not be restricted by focusing on few species of animals or only those chosen in Disney feature films.
“Filipino children should have the opportunity to read stories about the amazing animals that live on their islands not just about tigers or penguins. There should be diversity in stories just as there is diversity in wildlife,” Shaw says.
“I hope the children’s books—Pipisin the Pangolin, Mayumi the Forest Pig andDanao the Parrot—will prove to be a lasting and tangible contribution to a country that has given me so much,” she says.
Shaw’s second visit has given Rachel more ideas in publishing children’s books on the unique Philippine wildlife.
She intends to write further adventures of Mayumi the Forest Pig and has, in fact, started a story about a tarsier after a visit to the Philippine Tarsier Foundation in Corella, Bohol, and meeting the “Tarsier Man” himself, conservationist Carlito Pizarras.
Shaw is an honorary member of the Bay, Laguna-based Rotary Club of West Bay, Rotary International District 3820. The work of Philippine Rotarians left a deep impression on her particularly after Typhoon Ondoy (international code name Ketsana) hit the country in 2009. Since the Group Study Exchange experience in 2009, she tried to raise funds for Rotary projects and disaster relief in the Philippines whenever she could.
Story & photo by Johnny F. Goloyugo