Around 8 years back I have been buying books for my son Ben and my daughter Maki almost every week. You know, those short stories that came in two languages (English and Filipino) from Lampara, Adarna, Hiyas and others because most of their stories are very relatable for kids and the they come out with new ones regularly. We got over 200 of them in our shelf. I stopped buying them not because they stopped reading, but because we grew tired of the stories, it became the same old story or a variation of the other story.
I had to continue buying books, because in this day and age I need to keep the habit of reading alive in the family specially my daughter who grew up in the age of YouTube. I was looking for local authors for children’s books because I whole heartedly support local authors which I wrote about in 2010 – Local Books and Comics. I love NVM Gonzales, Nick Joaquin, reading the Panorama, Pugad Baboy, Trese, weekend broadsheet, etc. and I want them to love reading as much as I do and appreciate local writers.
As I was looking for new books, I came across a website which carries books for children. What caught my attention first were the book covers – yes I do judge a book by its cover, sometimes. Only because I also love local arts – Vicente Manansala, Botong Francisco, Fernando Amorsolo, Malang and all the other art pieces I can never afford.
The website was www.lookingforjuan.com and there I found a lot of interesting stories like Multi-awarded writer, Butch Dalisay’s “Why Words Matter” by multi-awarded writer, Butch Dalisay and artwork by Marcel Antonio. “Ang Aklatang Pusa” was written by Palanca Hall of Famer Eugene Evasco with artworks by award-winning painter and sculptor, Jared Yokte.
“RizalPabeto” was published in celebration of Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary. Award-winning poet, fictionist, playwright, and essayist Vim Nadera wrote poems about Rizal, one for every letter in the alphabet, which are interpreted by prominent contemporary painter, Elmer Borlongan in the tradition of letras y figuras.
There are also activity books like “BenCab’s Activity Book for Children”, an early introduction to the works of National Artist for Painting, Benedicto Cabrera through coloring, writing, and spot-the-difference activities, finger puppet and paper doll dress up. “Sino si Juan” takes the child on a discovery of what it means to be a Filipino through coloring pages, word games, puzzles, and more.
It’s also nice to know that for every purchase of an activity book, two copies will be donated to their campaign – “One Million Books for One Million Filipino Children”. The goal is to send books to children in all corners of the Philippines particularly communities visited by horrific calamities, both natural (such as Typhoon Yolanda) and caused by man (like the armed conflict in Zamboanga).
“When you buy from us, you are also helping us with our advocacy,” reveals Gigo Alampay, Founder and Executive Director of nonprofit organization, Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (CANVAS).
To date, they have given away more than 250,000 books to the underprivileged.
For the not-so-young ones, merchandise infused with art images of some of the best Filipino artists can be purchased. You will find art cards, journals, fans, notepads, art magnets, limited edition art prints, and stickers. Eco-friendly upcycled tote bags are also for sale. Requests for customized items for corporate gifts can be accommodated too.
What I love about books from Looking For Juan is that aside from the stories and the lessons you get from it, you also get to own a piece of art. It’s going to be a book worth keeping in the shelf and passed on to the next generation. When you buy a book, you support local writers, artists and also helping Canvas send books to children as well.