When we were young children, we had our favorite tales and fables. If you’re a Filipino, you’re probably familiar with The Monkey and The Tortoise and The Cow and The Carabao. My grandfather never got tired telling these stories to me and my sisters when we were little. They somehow managed to stick to me to this very day.
These stories are so familiar that even though I’ve grown up, their lessons stayed. I guess anybody who came from the Batibot/Sesame Street generation can truly relate. We hold on to stories that have moral values because in our formative years, we tested them. We experienced them, one way or another. We wondered with young minds and hearts how different these lessons would be if we are bigger, older and more experienced. We saw ourselves in those characters, even at a young age, because the values they impart are timeless. More so, these stories latched onto our young sensibilities because we desired (and continue to desire) what is good, just, noble, selfless and kind.
And we remember, simply because they impart truths about life.
Now that I am a mother, I share with my child the habit of delighting in stories before bedtime. I try my best to catch him awake so I could read to him any kind of children’s book. From the Holy Bible, to Sendak, Schulz, Disney, Kipling, Dahl and even locally printed stories from Hiyas – an imprint of OMF Literature Inc., publisher of Christian-themed books. The list is actually quite long, but we try to cover everything – from one genre to another.
A night ago, I read a new book to my son. This time, it’s from Lampara Books, also a local publisher (Lampara Publishing House, Inc.) which prints stories carefully crafted by budding and award-winning Filipino writers and illustrators.
It is a story about friendship, loyalty and mortality.
Pamela Imperial, a dear friend and former colleague, penned the beautiful words in this book. She made the characters highly relatable that my seven-year-old son ended up crying towards the end.
Runt, the youngest in the proud lineage of the Eagle family, is our lead in the story.
Aptly called as such, Runt, is a character easy to empathize with. In the story, he lives with a certain feeling that no one around him can relate to. Everyone else is so physically strong and able that even his own siblings couldn’t identify with him. Until one night, in his desperation, he met Moon.
The First Star shows kids that in life, finding real friends is important. That no matter who you are, how you feel or what you are going through, a real friend can bring out the best in you. It zeroes in on the human truth that we need deep relationships to grow and discover who we truly are. It also teaches them the importance of letting your friends know how loved and cherished they are.
What really stood out for me as an adult reader is its length and language. The First Star was short, sweet and full of impact. Imperial also expressed in a genuine voice the innocence and joy that is inherent in any true friendship. Eugene Evasco beautifully echoed this in his Filipino version.
Imperial made the relationship between the characters elicit certain emotions similar to E.B. White‘s fashion in Charlotte’s Web. It’s a privilege to open a book and hear the timber of a gifted writer, whose voice is eloquently simple and profound.
She wrote these lovely words about ‘The Great Song’ and the kind of beauty and freedom and tinged sadness that one experiences at the end of his/her life. It was so affecting. That was probably what my seven-year-old son picked up on and will remember distinctly until he grows old.
The wind blew again, first cold, then soft, and then a warm breeze wrapped itself around the old eagle. Moon shone a shaft of light upon Runt.
“Do not be afraid, dear one. The Great Song is so beautiful…”
This shook me to the core too because it relays a resounding truth about all of us. It reminds us about the brevity of life. The absolute truth that life is characterized by brevity, a brevity that is undeniable and disconcerting.
Imperial did a great job of toning down this concept for the young readers but in parallel, discreetly posed a daring question for her mature readers: “Are you going to be at peace with your Creator and yourself when you leave this world? Are you afraid to meet your ultimate end?”
It is ironic that the more the individual comes to understand and even appreciate life, the closer he is to his departure. It is almost as if by the time one realizes what it means to be alive, life is ebbing and soon gone. It is at the end of life that an understanding of the brevity of life takes hold. As is in the case of Runt when he came to a full realization and acceptance of the life he lived. And it was a meaningful life.
The First Star is a great bedtime book. The illustrations by Joffrey Atienza are perfect visual matches to Imperial’s prose.
He highly recommends it to to parents:
Title: The First Star
Author: Pamela Imperial
Translated by: Eugene Evasco
Illustrator: Joffrey Atienza
Publisher: Lampara Publishing House, Inc.
Paperback ISBN 978-971-518-844-9
Fiction: Friendship, Runt, Moon, Bulilit, Buwan, The Great Song, First Star