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It was a few months ago when I suddenly began to take more interest in the Philippine culture. I’m not sure if it was because of an article I read from the Goi Peace Foundation regarding one’s hometown’s culture. Or it could have been due to the conversation I had with an Australian who told me that a) in a typical Filipino bookstore, there are few books about our own culture and b) traveling to Europe is exciting to most because of the different rich cultures. Whichever it was, the moment I received Dia Pelaez‘s invitation to review Ms. Mae Astrid Tobia’s Guardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan, I immediately said, ‘Yes!’.

guardians-of-tradition book coverIt has been a long time since I actually read a children’s book so I was quite excited the moment I opened the package from the generous Ms. Maricris Jan Tobias, the author’s sister.

What is the book all about?

About the Book:

Who are the indigenous and folk artists of the Philippines? Guardians of Tradition is full of facts about 11 of Philippine master weavers, folk musicians, performing artists, mat weavers and metal smiths whose talents and skills have earned them the title Manlilikha ng Bayan. Designed to help children recognize native Filipino ingenuity and creativity, the book includes fun activities to promote appreciation for culture and arts. Guardians of Tradition has a fun and colorful design that appeals to young readers. 

For the duration of the Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour, Guardians of Tradition is available at discounted prize at the Adarna showroom in Quezon City. For international readers and Filipinos abroad, an ebook version is coming soon.

There are two ‘guides’ in the book, Kiko (the kid on the cover) and his bird friend, Banog. The book is very much educational and yet not too wordy for a child to read. You will be introduced to eleven awardees of the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan, an award given to Filipinos who are ‘experts of different traditional folk arts’; similar to National Artists. There are even suggestions on how kids can make their own version of one awardee’s craft, such as their own tie-dye shirt.

The quality of the book is at par with international ones. The paper is quite sturdy and there are lovely photos that capture the artists as they do their craft.

Here are some sample illustrations from Guardians of Tradition which were created by Rommel E. Joson.


Rommel Joson

Guardians of Tradition Tobias 2012 - Babandir big Guardians of Tradition Tobias 2012 - Gangsa big

Here is an excerpt from the book:


Guardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (2012)

By Mae Astrid Tobias

Illustrations by Rommel E. Joson

Photos by Renato S. Rastrollo / National Commission for Culture and
the Arts (NCCA)

II. Lang Dulay, Blanket of Dreams (pp. 12-13)
Lang Dulay of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato has been weaving t’nalak
since she was twelve years old. T’nalak is what the T’boli call the
three-colored cloth made from fine abaca fiber. The three colors of the
t’nalak represent the three places where the T’boli believe the soul
goes when one dies. Hitem (black) is for people who died because of
natural causes. Hulo (red) for those who died violently like by a bullet
or a blade. Bukay (white) is for those who take taken their lives and
those whose deaths were untimely.
The T’boli weavers, like Lang Dulay, get the designs for their t’nalak
from their dreams. They believe that when Fu Dalu, the spirit of the
abaca, shows them the design in their dreams, they must immediately
weave it into cloth or else they might fall ill and soon forget the
pattern. Sometimes, the designs are passed on from generation to
generation, from grandmother to grandchild. Lang Dulay knows a
hundred designs like the bulinglangit (clouds), the bangkiring (hair
bangs), and the kabangi (butterfly).
When Lang Dulay became a Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan awardee,
she was able to build a traditional long house where she teaches
younger women how to weave.

Ms. Mae Astrid Tobias unfortunately died a few years ago. Hopefully, you’d be interested in disseminating, even reading, this book so as not only to relive her memory but to increase awareness of the rich tradition Filipinos have as well. It really is an eyeopener because there is a lack of appreciation for traditional folk art. Take for instance the making of woven products. Despite the fact that it takes up to 3 months to produce them, the weavers are poorly paid.


Ms. Astrid Tobias

Author Bio:

Mae Astrid Tobias (1979-2009) was a Palanca-award winning author of children’s books. In addition to Guardians of Tradition, her books include Blue Bananas (Crucible), Bayong ng Kuting (Lampara Books), My Forest Friends (Haribon), Bakawan (Adarna Books) and two books retelling the Ifugao traditional chant, hudhud. These are Halikpon: A Retelling of an Ancient Ifugao Chant and Pumbakhayon: An Origin Myth of the Ifugao Hudhud. Both are finalists for children’s literature and best design in the 2006 National Book Awards of the Manila Critics Circle.

She also spent several years in the field of children’s television. She served as the Manila Bureau Manager of Kabataan News Network, a project of UNICEF and Probe Media Foundation that trains young people nationwide how to produce their own broadcast quality documentaries. She also also wrote episodes for children shows like Sirit!, and ABS-CBN and Eskuwela ng Bayan, as well as worked for Philippine Junior Inquirer and Shell Foundation. She was a member of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting  (KUTING), an organization of Filipino writers for children.

Illustrator Bio:

ROMMEL JOSON is a painter and an illustrator. He graduated magna cum laude and College Valedictorian from the University of Philippines College of Fine Arts. He was also a Merit Scholar and a recipient of the Dean’s Awards for Visual Awards from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. He worked in the advertising industry for several years before devoting his time fully to painting and illustration. He has received awards and citations for painting, illustration, comics, and design from various organizations such as the Philippine Board of Books for Young People (Honorable Mention), the Shell National Art Competition (3rd Place Oil/Acrylic Category), the Neil Gaiman/Fully Booked Graphic Fiction Competition (3rd Place in the Graphic Fiction category), the Adobo Design Awards (Silver) and the Philippine Araw Awards (Silver in Art Direction) and the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence Competition (Semifinalist in Oil). He is currently an active member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK).

Photographer Bio:

RENATO S. RASTROLLO, is a photographer, graphic artist, book and exhibit designer. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Advertising from the Philippine Women’s University. With over 25 years of experience in the field of documentary photography, his works have appeared in national and international publications. Presently, he is a culture and arts officer  at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.


When we think about it, the Philippines can be a mini-Europe- filled with different cultures. We just have to appreciate them.

At the back of the book, there is a glossary of terms and a map pinpointing where each of the awardees are found. It would be nice to discover even more traditional folk artists. Do read the book if you get the chance.

You can check the book at Goodreads and Adarna.

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La vie est tres belle,

Freine ♕