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Hands like Sand Paper: A short review on Papel de Liha (Sand Paper) by Ompong Remigio

Our theme for the month.

I first encountered the Ompong Remigio’s award winning story, Papel de Liha (Sand Paper) in college. I read it as part of a paper that Fats and I were writing for one of Myra’s research class. Our research interest was to study the content of local picture books as published by Adarna. I revisited the book a year ago for my paper in Culture and Development in Graduate School. Now, I get to share it with you.

Papel de Liha is originally written in Filipino, however, Adarna published it with an accompanying English translation which made this post possible. The title is misleading when one begins to read the story as it speaks of a mother as viewed by her child.  It begins with:

My mother is so neat.

If there’s something icky and sticky,

She rubs here and there.

If the shirt is blotch,

She scrubs here and there

 If the pan is greasy,

She cleans here and there.

The verse narration continues along the veins of a mother’s daily activities. Until one day, a conversation between her mother and aunt caught her attention:

One day my Aunt Maring came for a visit.

She said, “What’s wrong with you Milagring?”

You keep on scrub-sweep-scouring and scrub-sweep-scouring

Until your palms have gone rough and thick skinned

They’re like sandpaper! Please take a break and smoothen your skin

Or Turing may not hold your hands anymore.

And yet, the child discovers that while her mother’s hands are like sand paper – they seemed smooth and beautiful to the child and her father.  The story is a tribute to mothers, especially stay-at-home moms, whose constant work may have roughened their hands, but have also kept the home going smoothly.

Accompanying this wondrous verse narration are detailed and colorful illustrations that capture a mother’s daily routine, a child’s love and hands that are so much more than sand paper.

Papel de Liha reminds me of a little habit I have when looking at celebrities. I look at their hands. I remember seeing Heidi Klum’s hands in one of those photos and mentioned to my sister that Heidi Klum must do work at home as her hands weren’t as smooth as I’d think super models have.

While delicate beautiful hands are wonderful to the touch and to look at, rough hands tell a story and sometimes the story is that of a mother who constantly scrubs, sweeps, and scours. It is unfortunate that the English translation loses majority of the alliteration that is available in the original verse. But, I think the better part of this book is its message and its story.  And so, if you have a mom, you might want to do as our little narrator did, after learning what it meant for her mother to have hands like sand paper:

I went to my mother and held her hands.

I felt like not letting go…ever.

Ompong Remigio is a creative director for an advertising agency, while the Illustrator, Beth Parrocha-Doctolero is a graduate of the University of the Philippines and has been doing illustrations for the past 20 years.

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About Iphigene

Bibliophiles. Book Lovers. Worshipers of the written word.

3 comments on “Hands like Sand Paper: A short review on Papel de Liha (Sand Paper) by Ompong Remigio

  1. Just beautiful. I have a niece who is Filipino & sent her your post. I know she will love it. Thanks!

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