Mom Cel Tria lives with her family in Australia. She and her husband are both full-time IT professionals and are raising two girls. “The older one is in Grade 10 and the younger one is in Grade 3 — or Year 10 and Year 3 as we say in Australia,” she tells SmartParenting.com.ph.
Living outside the Philippines, Cel encountered an unexpected frustration common to Filipino families living abroad. “My husband and I were looking for the perfect picture book to give to our newborn on her first Christmas Day. We were in the U.S., then and I happily discovered an abundance of choices. There were so many lovely books but, of course, none were in Filipino,” Cel recounted.
The mom started looking for a solution. “At first, I wanted to sell Filipino children’s books in the US, so I contacted several publishing companies,” she said. “Shipping costs turned out to be a problem. Then one day, my husband suggested, 'Why don’t you write your book?' The idea didn’t occur to me before. Can I actually do it?”
And that's how Francesca Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! A Fabulous Celebration was born. Written by Cel in English and Filipino and illustrated by Gel Relova, the book takes readers through the day of Francesca’s first birthday party with an introduction to counting numbers weaved into the story.
“I chose to write about a birthday celebration because it’s so much fun for kids. Don’t they look forward to that one special day during the rest of the year?” said the author.
What we love about the book is it melds Filipino birthday traditions with Western customs. On the first page, for example, the party food is laid out on the table and leche flan and spaghetti sit next to a bowl of strawberries. After Francesca gets ready (her dress and shoes are brand new, of course!), the party guests arrive bearing gifts. One of them has a lighter skin color with bright red hair and another has darker skin with dark curly hair. They play games and snatch up prizes dangling from a pabitin and opening up a piñata.
Cel hopes the book will help her own kids and other Filipino immigrant families to get to know their Filipino heritage. “My kids are well acquainted with the Filipino language though they’re not as fluent as we hope them to be,” said Cel. “We tell them about some customs and traditions and practice them when we can. We observe Lent, for example. At home, they have several books from the Philippines. And, they love visiting the Philippines and being with family. Would you believe they love the heavy traï¬ƒc!”
We told Cel her book would make a great present for Pinoy kids living abroad. “Definitely! It’s something they can relate to. Hopefully, they can identify with the characters and also learn some words, numbers, and colors in Filipino. To reach Filipino kids all over the world was really one of our goals. But not just abroad, including those in the Philippines as well,” she said.
Francesca Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! is published by Philip & Ana, a publishing house co-founded by Cel. The company has partnered with World Vision Philippines and part of the proceeds from the book will go to the foundation. Keep your eyes peeled for more released to come from Philip & Ana, too, as a travel-themed book is on the works, revealed Cel. “Watch out for Francesca’s next adventure!” she said.
Francesca Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! A Fabulous Celebration (Php250) is available at Fully Booked stores and online at Pumplepie.com. For families in Australia, order online via FilOz Children's Bookstore which is also run by an Australia-based bookworm Pinay mom (read about her here). A digital copy narrated by singer and actress Nikki Gil is also available through iTunes.