“Riding the banca as Tatay rows to the seaweed garden is always fun.”
“Nakatutuwang pumunta sa aming taniman ng damong-dagat sakay ng Bangka ni Tatay.”
Such words on the illustrated pages of “Maria’s Colorful Banca/Ang Makulay na Bangka ni Maria” evoke familiar images of small banca-riding fishermen paddling around the waters of Philippine
shores. The image was ripped to shreds a year ago by the fury of super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which hit Central Philippines, including the famed tourist destination, Cebu. The fishermen and their families lost their oars, boats, livelihoods, and lives. The book takes a look at the transition from idyllic to devastation seen through the eyes of a little girl.
The rebuilding which is slowly taking place despite efforts and resources coming from all over the globe, has spurred the child and mother tandem of Ella Louise Francia and Minnie Francisco-Francia to come out with an illustrated storybook for children inspired by their family’s experience in sending help to storm-ravaged Bantayan Island in Cebu. The Francia family of four with father, Joseph, and son, Benjamin sent money to filmmaker Janice Perez who was coordinating aid efforts in Bantayan
Island. Their request was specific – that the cash be used for two bancas. Perez found the request unusual considering that most were donating cash for housing materials but she accepted the donation which became two bancas for brothers Armando and Silverio Jr.
The Deo siblings’ main livelihood before the devastating storm was cultivating a seaweed farm.
Yolanda destroyed the seaweed patches and the bancas they used. Perez facilitated the boat donation for the brothers and got friends to paint the boats and named these “Ella” and “Benjamin” after the Francia children.
The little project of two boats was posted on Facebook and eventually turned into a bigger venture as more and more people sent help to build more uniquely designed bancas. The program has since donated 38 boats to the fishermen of Bantayan Island and Medellin town.
The boats met their namesakes when the Francia family went to Bantayan Island early this year. The children, Ella, 12 and Benjamin, 7 met the families of Armando and Silverio, Jr., and three-month old baby Maria Dominika after whom the main character of the book is named.
The limited-circulation book has 32 pages illustrated by Cebu-based artists Janice Y. Perez and RJ Aquino, written in both English and Filipino. It is available through online and phone orders via Maria’s Colorful Banca. Proceeds from the sales of the book will be donated to the typhoon survivors in the Visayas.
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