A Tale of Some Children's Books

My mom loves telling the story of when I first learned to read. It’s a simple one, but she loves it nonetheless. When I was a child, she would read to me every night before going to sleep. One night when I was about four or five she was too tired and, jokingly, she asked me to read to her instead. Much to her surprise, I actually did. She always tells the story with such joy and pride, explaining that she didn’t expect me to know how to read already.

I’m guessing my love of reading started with those bedtime stories and for years I’ve kept the books I read as a child. I never wanted to give them away, initially for purely sentimental reasons but after awhile, I figured it would be best to give them somewhere where they could truly be appreciated….to someone who would take the time to read to children like my mom and dad always did for me. 

And so my sister-in-law and I prepared a box full of my books and other educational toys that we could donate to an organization promoting education and literacy for the children of the Philippines. We had been talking about doing something like this for awhile but only now with my trip back home were we actually able to put our plans into action.

Museo Pambata (which translates to the Museum for Children) is one such organization that does exactly what we were looking for.  As the name indicates, it is a museum…but it is unlike all others in that it’s completely interactive and hands-on, promoting an alternative way of learning for children, especially for those who have no access to formal education. What interested me the most though was their literacy program. In addition to their in house library that’s open to all children, the museum also has a mobile library that travels around the impoverished areas of metro Manila reading to the children of those villages. That’s where I really wanted my books to go.

Just before leaving the Philippines, I made the trip over to Museo Pambata where I was greeted by Kikay and Pamela, two street children who were there volunteering at the library to read to other children visiting the museum. And in an instant, I knew my much beloved books had found a home…

Watch the video below for a tour of Manila’s Museo Pambata.

For more information about the museum, visit

Exploring A Colonial Past

I toured around Old Manila the other day, visiting the only remaining physical remnants of our colonial past. Intramuros, or "the Walled City", was once the seat of the Spanish government and military, closed off from the rest of society. It was heavily bombed during the battle of Manila at the end of WWII and very little remains of the architecture that once lay there. But still, some parts -- like the fortress wall and the gate Fort Santiago -- were preserved and you can still very much see the heavy Spanish influence.


But aside from that, Intramuros has become a regular city lined with homes, sari-sari stores (variety stores), and schools. There is such a huge contrast between that old world and the one everyday Filipinos live in today. On one street you had cobblestones that told the story of an entirely different time and on another was the regular hustle and bustle you'd see anywhere else around Manila. At one point during the day, I was standing atop the wall looking out on the Pasig River and was just so amused by the juxtaposition of an old Spanish ruin on my side of the river and the modern condos and office buildings that lay on the other side.

Looking up to Rizal, figuratively and literally. Prior to my trip, I'd been researching about our colonial and modern history as well as reading the literary masterpieces of our national hero, Jose Rizal, who kick started the independence movement here in the Philippines. I've been kind of obsessed with him actually--such an extraordinary man who just oozes fortitude, courage, and conviction. Aside from his real life though, Rizal's style of prose was something that really moved me--so eloquent, so poignant, and so full of substance.

Walking around, I tried to imagine a time long gone where the characters of his Noli Me Tangere would roam the streets-- a time of the friars, the Spanish elites, and the "indio" (then the word for a native Filipino). I pictured the Doña Victorinas of the day, the native Filipinos who, obsessed with being of a higher European class, were full of pomp and pretension. On that day, I faced Rizal's world of the late 1800s and it was just too cool to see in real life all the things I've only just been reading about.


I've been watching videos and newscasts of the storm that's been raging back home in the Philippines and it is absolute insanity. Can't believe some of the things that I'm seeing and to think that I have family back home right in the thick of it. Grew up in the comforts of Canada so I have absolutely no idea what this feels like. So surreal...

Just praying that it all comes to an end soon and that loved ones back home are safe.

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