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Motherhood and Renewed Cultural Connections Inspire Children’s Book on Philippine Mythology

Marielle Atanacio always desired to reconnect with her Filipino roots and impart that connection to her daughter. With this purpose in mind, she turned to the literary arts and embarked on her latest project, “Who Turned On the Sky?” a children’s book that introduces young readers to Philippine mythology.

During her undergraduate studies at San Francisco State University, Marielle took a Greek and Roman Mythology course, a topic she has enjoyed since childhood. The more she learned about the subject, the more questions she had about her own culture.

“I wondered if there was such a thing as Philippine mythology. I didn’t have access to blogs and other resources that are available online now. Getting that information was a far reach,” Marielle said.

The lack of accessible information prompted Marielle to dig deeper into the pre-colonial Philippines. She combed through books, searching for any piece of information that would help reacquaint her with her heritage.

“I always wondered how my ancestors navigated life. This was the first time I actually sat down and researched that on my own,” Marielle said.

Marielle began sharing her findings with her wife Laurainne, who would pose questions leading to further research and discovery. Through this experience grew an extensive book collection of various facets of Filipino culture and history.

As parents, Marielle and Laurainne mutually share the value of passing on their cultural traditions to their daughter, especially through storytelling and books. While they found many Spanish-language books on Mexican culture that honored Laurainne’s heritage, options for children’s books on Filipino culture were far more limited.

Marielle decided to create a children’s book for readers interested in Philippine mythology and culture. She noticed her daughter’s interest in the moon and stars, so she honed in on the celestial deities of Philippine mythology.

“There are many assets of being Filipino, whether it’s enjoying songs with one’s lola, food, or monsters and goddesses. As Filipinos, we’re still working past being a monolith. I think introducing these concepts in a children’s book is the easiest way to start these conversations,” Marielle said.

Connecting with Marielle’s Filipino heritage was a significant motivator in creating “Who Turned On the Sky?” But becoming a mother was the final push that helped her bring the book to life.

“Motherhood was definitely the catalyst. Creating the book opened up this world where I met other Filipino moms who had the same sentiment,” Marielle said.

With the support of her family and peers, Marielle contributed to a movement to educate young readers about the richness of Filipino culture. Luckily for readers, she is just getting started.

Marielle is writing a manuscript for her second book and is set to illustrate a children’s book based on Ilokano American family experiences. In addition to these endeavors, Marielle is working on a series of paintings that timestamp different periods in her decolonization journey.

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