Negros Museum’s 1st Children’s Book Seminar with the SCBWI

By Beaulah Pedregosa Taguiwalo

Our children’s book seminar finally crossed the strait between Iloilo City and Bacolod when Dominique Garde Torres (Nikki) and I held it at The Negros Museum last Saturday, 2010 October 23. For The Negros Museum, it was the first event of its kind.

As usual, we had a book display. As people came in, they were asked to browse and choose a book to talk about during the Booktalk.

Later, everyone was asked to use the same book they picked as the basis for their scriptwriting exercise, and for writing a story in their mother tongue, Hiligaynon.

At the end of the day, we asked the participants what they like best about the event. “Everything,” Ricky Infante said, “only too short.”

“I’ve always been in love with books and writing and what I love about this seminar is that I find myself with like-minded people. There’s a passion for books and writing here that is invigorating. I felt inspired again,” said Valerie Pareño, a lawyer.

“Very brave organizers, to bring this seminar to Negros,” said Dodjie Marquez, an artist/illustrator/businessman. “Resource speakers very friendly, frank, open-minded, and helpful. Great to meet and interact with like-minded people.”

Here’s more:

“I liked the story writing exercise best. It challenged me to be a quick thinker and put my imagination to the test—which was not easy for me since I am pretty much of a logical thinker. The exercise broke some mindsets that I have when it comes to writing.” (Rina Victoria Alisan)

Dominique Garde Torres (Nikki), SCBWI Philippines Assistant Regional Advisor, is in the front row, extreme left. At the extreme right is Tanya Lopez, Executive Director of The Negros Museum. The author is at the back row, 3rd from left.

“The part where we had to make a story in 15 minutes using 6 sets of words to use in our stories. It helped that we were under pressure and that the sets of words served as the parameters.” (Betsy Gazo)

“Every session was a learning experience but the best part for me was the Booktalk. I enjoyed reading the book that I chose and sharing my opinions with the group. I also liked listening to the others share their opinions about their book of choice.” (Rose Jessica Octaviano)

“It introduced a lot of beautiful books . . .  taught us that we can write about anything . . . inspired me to write stories and playlets for my pupils.” (Mary Grace Jagurin)

“. . . the stories behind the books, especially the seafarer stories, and how they relate to current social situations.” (Ma. Luisa Gonzaga)

“The best part was adapting part of the book we chose by using our own setting, language, and characters.” (Alfonse Yanson Pelayo)

“The seminar is very good! I now know how to write scripts—even in Hiligaynon. Congratulations! Job well done.”

“I got the chance to write stories and scripts again! I really enjoyed the part where we wrote short plays because I am a theater artist and I also preferred to write scripts when I was in 6th Grade.” (Bea Lim)

“I have played around with a couple of short stories and scripts for my Prep kids but with the birth of my son and the responsibilities of teaching and family life, I forget about my fascination with children’s books. Today’s seminar rekindled that passion once again.”

“The chance to read different children’s books . . . The introduction to notable children’s books in the Philipines, U.S., U.K., Australia, and other parts of the world. And best of all, the chance to write our own story and script.”

“Everyone got a chance to talk. We were exchanging ideas and learning at the same time.” (Jensen Artifice)

“The chance to write our own story based on character, trait, prop, weather, time of day, and place. It challenged us to write a story in short period of time. Also the open forum that helped everyone share their ideas and feelings.” (Peter John Palma)

“I was able to write a play or a script and present it to others. It enhanced my creativity and imagination.” (Ma. Ritchell Balisnomo)

“Lots of like-minded people. Meeting those who made it in the industry and hearing from them what it’s like. Tips on how to write stories and plays. Being encouraged to find your own voice. I like The Pick-A-Book part, too; reading the best [books] out there, getting inspired by the stories, beautiful illustrations, and different styles.”

“The Booktalk where each participant said something about the book he chose. The inputs of the speaker, which were very informative.”

“Writing a story . . . the Booktalk . . . the competence of the speakers . . . the topics discussed . . . .” (Patricia Gomez)

“The Browse & Pick-A-Book . . . listening to other people’s opinion about a chosen book . . . It was the part that made quite an impression on me the most.”

“The sharing of works and adaptations . . . The coming out of budding writers . . . Appreciating each other’s creativity and works . . .  The fact that reading good books—children’s books and adult books—is very much alive.” (Mimi Olarga)

We would have heard more of these because more people wanted to join on the last day of registration. We told them that we will have another seminar soon.

Who was there? What do they do, besides being keenly interested in children’s literature? Three of the participants are writers, two are visual artists. Ten are theater artists, eight are college students, six are teachers, and three are self-employed business people and entrepreneurs. We also had one college instructor, one poverty eradication program volunteer, one marketing and communication officer, and one lawyer.

Where are they from? Where do they work, or study? Our participants included nine people from the University of St. La Salle, three from St. Scholastica’s Academy, two from Herbie Foundation, and two from Azatri, a company that makes and sells souvenir items. We also had someone from the Asian Business Institute of e-Technology, the Department of Education, the local chapter of the Philippine Mental Health Association, two from the local daily paper Sunstar Bacolod, and one /artist/illustrator/businessman.

It was a wonderful first event for the SCBWI in Bacolod. At the end of the day, Nikki and I each received a delightful surprise from from Tanya and The Negros Museum: an original pen-and-ink and colored pencil illustration of children, done by local Negrense artist Ramon de los Santos.

In the evening, Nikki and I went back to the Museum for the opening night of their annual Wax Works exhibit/performance. It is an experience that children, I am told and am now convinced, look forward to year after year—to sample not just once, but several times in one evening.

A corner of The Negros Museum exhibit on the second floor that showcases the haciendero lifestyle.

Nikki and I are grateful to The Negros Museum Executive Director Tanya Lopez and her wonderful staff  for making it possible for us to bring our children’s book seminar to Bacolod. Paolo was there just 2 seconds after Nikki and I arrived at the Museum at 7 a.m. He lost no time nor spared any effort—and I’m not saying this in a figurative sense—to get us in. Ihvonie, a non-stop walking talking marketing person, sold us heart and soul on The Negros Museum and its treasures and events—even as she helped arrange and rearrange the tables and chairs, taped and re-taped the microphone chord to the floor, read her chosen book for the Booktalk, wrote her own story, and shared it with the others. Lyn was with us the whole time, both as support staff and as a very hands-on participant.

The extra special delight on the side was The Suites at Calle Nueva—the little pension house that Tanya found for us to stay in. Brand new and consisting of only 20 rooms, it is lovely, clean, and quiet with a small but professional, friendly, and helpful staff. We’d love to see it stay that way.

A mural in the Jerusalem room of the Dizon-Ramos museum and ancestral house.

Nikki and I had a quick look at another museum in Bacolod, the Dizon house, but that is another story. One more reason to return to Negros, soon.

The author is a book designer, illustrator, and editor. She is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Philippines and may be reached at