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Russell Molina and Sergio Bumatay III talk about EDSA

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EDSA is a very special picture book. I have been meaning to get a copy of this while I was visiting the Philippines a few months ago but all the book stores I visited said that all their copies are sold out. And with good reason. And so I was thrilled to have received not one, but two copies from our featured storyteller, Russell Molina via DHL here in Singapore.

This is a truly timely book since August is the month when Filipinos celebrate Ninoy Aquino Day on the 21st of August, the man who is believed to have sparked the Edsa movement; and the National Heroes Day on the 26th of August. No wonder this picture book made the front page in one of the major newspapers in the Philippines.

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Photo was posted in Sergio Bumatay’s Facebook Page.

When I opened the book and discovered that it was made into a counting book by Russell Molina, the first thought that came to my mind was: Brilliant! How ingeniously done! As I flipped through the pages, I realized that more than a counting book, this is poetry.

Russell has managed to distill the essence of that fateful day to carefully-crafted phrases and a handful of images brought to life by the amazing artistry of Sergio. It was neither didactic nor overly-sentimental. Each phrase is symbolic and suffused with metaphors that can be unpacked by teachers in the classroom, or by parents who wish to share their Edsa experience with their own children. This is our history in verse, revolution in numbers (as it is often played out by adults), solidarity in songs and tie-dyed colours and multi-layered illustration. This book is a thing of beauty, truly a work of art.

Today, we are privileged to have both our featured storyteller and illustrator Russell and Sergio to share their thoughts about their latest creation and what EDSA means to them.

Meet the Storyteller: Russell Molina

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What was the first thought that came to your mind when you were commissioned to do the EDSA book project? 

This is going to be one challenging project.

It is tough because we all have different versions of the Edsa story. And this important piece of our history means a lot of different things for different people. And the toughest part is: How will you tell it to an audience who has no clue what people power means?

A lot of research also went into the project because I wanted to get all the ingredients right. On every page, I wanted to capture an important element that would make the reader excited and curious at the same time. I wanted to intrigue them. I wanted them to ask questions.

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What made you decide to make this a “counting book” in verse?

I remember the Edsa People Power Revolution as a series of events that started slowly and quietly then gaining momentum until it reached fever pitch. So I wanted to capture that cadence by giving the story a rhythm that also escalates to a nice crescendo. By making it a counting book, the reader can also see visually how the revolution progressed in terms of number.

What do you think makes this book different from all the others that you have created so far?

Everything’s real — the event, the characters, the setting and all the elements. This is my version of a history book — a retelling of an important event in our lives. This is who we are as a nation.

Russell Molina with Sister Sarah Manopol. She was at the frontlines during the Edsa Revolution -- praying with the people while they stopped the tanks.

Russell Molina with Sister Sarah Manopol. She was at the frontlines during the Edsa Revolution — praying with the people while they stopped the tanks.

What does Edsa mean to you?

It is about courage, compassion, community and commitment to what we believe is true. That single event brought out the best in all of us. And we should always be reminded of that.

What is your dream for this beautiful picture book that you created?

I wanted this Edsa book to be an avenue through which adults (both parents and teachers) can interact with children by weaving in their own stories. I think the book can be further enriched by real experiences and anecdotes about the Edsa Revolution. I want them to own the story by making it about their community or about their family. The Edsa story shouldn’t end with the last page. It should be the beginning of wonderful conversations.

Illustrator’s Sketchpad: Sergio Bumatay III

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What was the first thought came to your mind when you were commissioned to do the EDSA book project?

The news got me excited because I thought the story concept was cool and clever. But essentially, I felt I needed to take this project because the Edsa revolution for me, no matter what political critics say, is a very important chapter in our history which I think the kids should learn something from. The most important lesson from Edsa is not about political affiliations but how we, people from all walks of life, united in power towards a single cause.

I’m very grateful to Russell, Adarna, and the Edsa People Power Commission for choosing me to illustrate this important book and for trusting my creative vision for the illustrations.

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Tell us about how you planned the illustrations for the book. I see that there is a juxtaposition of black and white illustrations alongside coloured ones (with a tie-dyed and wooden/native feel to the images), can you share with us what the creative process was like for you as you crafted the book and the medium that you used?

Actually the process was very challenging because I want this book to be memorable and special (like Edsa itself). At the same time, it should be engaging to kids too. There were so many illustration styles and ideas that came into my mind. In fact, I made several studies and consulted illustrator friends but I couldn’t get the right balance to create the mood. Until I found inspiration from the works of Sir Larry Alcala, whom at the time is also famous for his comical illustrations in bird’s eyeview of Pinoy everyday scenes. So, I made the figures quite comical to soften the serious theme of the story. Similar to his illustrations, my initial idea was to fill in with so many people scenes. But since it’s also meant as counting/progression book, I end up editing it into simple elements to create focus.

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The black and white renderings serve to evoke memories and to highlight spots of color yellow (the symbolic color of Edsa). Almost all of my photographic references for the scenes, objects, and fashion were black and white. The figures were drawn with pen on paper board then composed inside a shadow box like historical dioramas.

What do you think makes this book different from all the others that you have created so far?

Edsa’s theme makes this book special for me. I hope through my illustrations in Edsa, I could somehow influence nationalism and pride among young Pinoys which is very apt in today’s national issues. On technical aspects, I had to illustrate accurately and neutrally as much as possible on portraying things since this is based on real events. I can only be creative in the medium, visual narrative, and the symbols contained in the illustrations. 

What does Edsa mean to you? 

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What is your dream for this beautiful picture book that you created?

I hope kids and kids-at-heart will be able to understand not just the many symbolisms contained in the book but also the most important lesson that Edsa has imparted us: we can unite together to accomplish a common goal. 

Thank you so much Russell and Serj for being part of GatheringBooks this past two months. 

EDSA. Story by Russell Molina and artwork by Sergio Bumatay III. Adarna House, 2013. Book provided by author. All photographs are used with permission from Russell Molina and Sergio Bumatay III.

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2 comments on “Russell Molina and Sergio Bumatay III talk about EDSA

  1. The cover illustration is beautiful. this sounds like an excellent book to teach kids (and adults too) about this revolution. I didn’t know what EDSA is (I googled it). Books like this are very important. Thank you for telling us about it!

  2. […] Russell Molina and Sergio Bumatay III Talk about EDSA […]

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