Mae Astrid Tobias (1979-2009)
Author, Explorer, and My All-Around "Go go go" Girl
I met Astrid when were both writers for a DepEd-sponsored children's show back in 2002. While thinking of ways how to creatively explain to kiddie viewers the technicalities of Filipino language such as the "parirala," "kataga" and "karaniwan at 'di pangkaraniwang ayos ng pangungusap," we bonded over our love for children's literature, along with writers from the other shows.
Two years later, I joined KUTING, an organization of writers for children, of which Astrid became a president for two years. Under her leadership, there came an influx of promotional projects and publishing opportunities. And it was because of her "powers of negotiation" that I was able to publish my first ever book via the environmental NGO, Haribon.
As the years passed, my friendship with Astrid, along with my two other KUTING-mates Dang and Liwliwa, grew. This led to a series of pajama parties, wherein we had massages, and basically gabbed about our writerly and travel (both of equal importance) plans. We pegged Astrid as the "go go go girl" because that was her favorite expression. If you'd say you want to go to Europe, win a Palanca, or go swimming in the ADMU GS pool next week, she'd get all excited for you and say, "Go, go, go!"
Even when it came to planning our group trips, she had this sense of urgency--she wanted to do everything right away. The rest of us would just sit back, marvel at her endless enthusiasm and energy, and would reply (a bit condescendingly): Relax lang, Astrid. Marami pa tayong oras.
Little did we know that Astrid was right to urge us on, to force us to get off our butts to do things with her. She didn't know it herself either, but a year later after our first barkada trip to Bohol, she succumbed to lupus.
It was a shock, yes, but also a wake up call. A year after her demise, Liwliwa, Dang and I hiked up Mount Pulag (included in Astrid's travel wish list) and upon reaching the summit, shouted her name as a glorious sunrise unfurled before us.
Even after she had left, Astrid still moved us to start achieving things. She had left an unfinished children's book in her wake, and I volunteered to continue writing it. My byline's right there on the cover, but really, I merely continued the work she started.
And so now, I am more than happy to talk about another wonderful work of hers that perfectly melds her two advocacies: empowering children and championing our Filipino-ness.
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.
Here's an excerpt from the section, Blanket of Dreams:
"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."
Interested? Well, go ahead and join the raffle (Astrid would love this part) with the following as giveaways:
One $25 Amazon Gift Card + signed copy of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 1 CD of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA
3 $10 Amazon Gift Card + signed copy of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 1 CD of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA
6 signed copies of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 6 CDs of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA
Just join the rafflecopter below:a Rafflecopter giveaway
Finally, I leave you with Astrid's official bio that screams "Go, go, go!" from start to finish.
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.
I'm so proud of you, pinktikbalang. We miss you very much.