Sentro Rizal New York presents Philippine indigenous tales at book reading

Ms. Jo Tiongson-Perez and Ms. Denise Orosa read from "Once Upon the Sun & Sea," captivating the audience with tales from the Philippines. (Photo by: Nikka Arenal)

To celebrate Philippine National Heritage Month, the Philippine Consulate General in New York and Sentro Rizal New York featured “Once Upon the Sun & Sea: Indigenous Stories and Folk Tales from the Philippines” by authors Jo Tiongson-Perez and Denise Orosa at a book reading that drew a diverse crowd of approximately 50 attendees, including 25 children.  Before reading three stories from their book, Tiongson-Perez and Orosa shared how they visited various indigenous communities in the Philippines to curate the eleven stories that they then translated into English. “We wanted to widen the space for children’s stories beyond the Western classics by authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and Brothers Grimm by presenting folk tales from our indigenous communities which children from all backgrounds can also relate with,” said Tiongson-Perez. In his welcoming remarks, Consul General Senen T. Mangalile praised the authors’ efforts to ensure authenticity by directly working with the source communities. “Their collaboration with indigenous storytellers ensures that the stories from our indigenous communities are preserved and shared with the utmost respect and care,” Noting the presence of many non-Filipinos in the audience, Mangalile added that “these stories are not just tales of the Filipino people but universal stories of adventure, values, and the human spirit that resonate with everyone, no matter where you come from.”

(Left) Children display their creativity during the eagle mask-making activity, inspired by the story of Tulalang from the Ilianen Manobo epic. (Right) Young attendees wear their newly made eagle masks, showing their enthusiasm for the Filipino stories shared at the event. (Photos by: Nikka Arenal)

The authors also conducted an interactive art activity with the children, teaching them how to create Philippine eagle masks inspired by “Tulelangan,” an epic song of the Ilianen Manobo people. This helped deepen the children’s connection to one of the characters featured in one of the stories in the book. Held at the Philippine Center in Manhattan on 4 May, the book reading was the kickoff event for the month-long observance of National Heritage Month, which coincides with the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, also observed every May in the United States. The gathering also served as a precursor to the upcoming Paaralan sa Konsulado (PSK), a flagship educational initiative by the Philippine Consulate General in New York. This annual program, conducted every July in partnership with the Association of Filipino Teachers in America (AFTA), immerses young Filipino-Americans in their cultural heritage through comprehensive language, history, arts, and values workshops.  END