Robin L. Fancy, Vala J. Welch, illustrated by Ronny Lynn,
My Filipino Word Book
Bess Press, 2007.
A trilingual word book in English, Tagálog and Ilokáno (Tagálog and Ilokáno being the two most commonly spoken native languages in the Philippines), My Filipino Word Book was designed by a teacher and a librarian with ESLL (English for Second Language Learners) students in mind. The book’s simple structure makes it appropriate at all levels for English-language learners and/or for anyone interested in the languages highlighted.
The straightforward design and 28 words, accompanied by bright watercolor scenes steeped in Filipino culture, introduce children to aspects of basic language (colors, shapes, fruits, animals). For example, the word orange / órens / kúlay-dalandán comes to life through an assortment of traditional Filipino treats. A blue jeepney, the Filipino version of the "jitney,” the taxi/minibus that travels along a fixed route in many developing countries, accompanies the word blue / bugháw / asúl. A parol, the traditional star-like Christmas ornament in the Philippines, illustrates the word star / húgis-bituwín / sinán-bituén.
In addition to capturing Filipino culture, the illustrations in some instances also bring forth aspects of the country’s history: a traditional garment typically worn by women, the saya, which illustrates the word Violet / kúlay-úbe / lila / kolór ti úbe, is a powerful symbol of Filipino women and their resistance to colonial power. The book’s format does not allow for such explanations, just like there is no mention of the parol or the jeepney by name, but these aspects can be pointed out and explained to children (English learners or those hoping to pick up some Filipino vocabulary) with the help of an adult who is able to unveil the many cultural references the illustrations convey.
This unassuming trilingual word book rightly acknowledges the place that the Philippines holds as a multilingual country in the South-East Asian region. I can’t say too many other books have gone as far. Kudos to the book creators and to Bess Press for this one.