Reading Filipino Comic Books with Charlie

Like I said in my prior post, Charlie and I don’t bond over Dr. Seuss books.  Lately we’ve been bonding over Tagalog comic books given to him by my sister, his Tita Olly.

Charlie and I were really excited to add these comic books to his library.  These comics feel and look different.  They are printed on cheap pulp paper and the illustrations are more realistic compared to the works of Eric Carle and most other children’s books illustrators.  Most importantly, beyond their feel and look, these comic books tell a very different kind of children’s story.

Ang Mangangahoy at ang Bruha

(The Wood Gatherer and the Witch)

The first book I introduced to Charlie was Ang Mangangahoy at ang Bruha (The Wood Gatherer and the Witch) which tells the story of a kind-hearted wood gatherer, Bernardo, who befriends Bruha, an ugly maiden who is actually a princess cursed by a jealous witch.  Bernardo expects Bruha to act mean because of how ugly she looks but he is surprised by her kindness.   Bernardo falls in love with her despite her ugliness.  To make the story short, he proclaims his love, kisses her, and thus breaks the witch’s curse.  She turns back into a beautiful princess.

I was sure Charlie was going to ask me why a kiss can break a curse and I was ready to give him a nonsensical answer, “because iring nag-away” which, ironically, usually satisfies his curiosity.  Instead, Charlie asked, “Ngano man na yellow na iyang buhok?”

I had to stop and think about his question.  Why did Bruha’s hair turn yellow when she resumed her original beauty?  Why was she wholly transformed from a pudgy, short, dark skinned, black haired, flat nosed mountain girl to a fair skinned, tall, slim, blue-eyed, blond princess?  Why did she have to turn blonde?

Ambot lang, Charlie, I said, maybe the person who drew this really liked the color yellow.  I quickly moved on to the next book before he could ask any more questions.

It may be that I’m overanalyzing the implications of Charlie’s question.  I’m never sure what goes on in his three year old brain, what details he observes, what lessons he subconsciously learns.  However, I am sure that Charlie is a sponge and he picks up on things really fast.  I would hate to think that what he got out of this story is that blonde is beautiful and dark is ugly.

So I’m pulling this book out of our library for now, subject to further evaluation.

Ang Alamat ng Butiki (The Myth of the Lizard)

The second Tagalog comic book that Charlie and I read was Ang Alamat ng Butiki (The Myth of the Lizard)  This tells the story of a very mean boy, Iking, who falls in love with a girl whose parents disapprove of Iking and his mean ways.  When the girl rejects Iking’s love, he tells her he would give her whatever she wants if she would only love him back.  The girl asks for Iking’s mother’s heart.  So Iking goes home to kills his mother and rip her heart out.  Iking turns into a lizard, presumably as a punishment.  The story doesn’t tell who punishes him.

“Unsa iyang gibuhat, mama?” Charlie asked, pointing to the image of Iking with his bloody hand holding his mother’s heart.  What has Iking done?

I told Charlie that Iking has hurt his mama by taking her heart away.  I dreaded more questions:  How did Iking take his mama’s heart out?  What happened to his mama when Iking took her heart?  But again, surprisingly, Charlie only sighed, “ka-maldito ni Iking!”  Iking is so naughty!

I agreed and hurriedly put away the book before he could pore over the blood and gore of the illustrations.

I’m of two minds over this book.  I think it’s too gory for a three year old.  Charlie, however, loves LOVES! this book.  He giggles the moment I read the title.  The word Butiki tickles him (as do most other Bisaya words like maldito, chicharon, kulangot…) I suspect it’s the abundance of consonants- the hard hitting k’s and d’s and t’s, the rolling r’s- which the English language lacks.  Additionally, the explosive syllabic emphases differ from the sometimes seamless flow of English phrases and sentences.  Charlie didn’t seem to spend too much brain cells on the morality of the story or the graphic violence illustrated on the pages.

I am wondering if I should also pull this one out of the library while I re-evaluate.

It’s tough being the guardian of a child’s library.

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