14 June 2013


Option 21: Leaf and Shadow by Cyan Abad-Jugo
(See the Giveaways page for more information)

Late that evening, Louie dreamed. The Balete Tree had come to life, looking like a gnarled old man, but ten times as tall, and dark of skin, blood-red of smile. He sucked on a huge tobacco and smothered the air with its thick smell. Smoke rose into the leaves that were his hair, and as Louie watched the smoke, he found himself staring into a pair of gleaming eyes. Several shadowy arms sprouted from the trunk, all entangled and run through with veins. They reached for him, wrapped around him, plucked off the slice of cake he held in his hands.

"I told you not to tell those tales," Lola scolded Old Manang the next day. "There is no such thing as a kapre, and there is certainly none living in that tree right now."

--from "The Kapre's Mark"

This year's June Giveaway doesn't have a theme, but if it did, "Green and Growing Things" would sum up what we have so far. We've visited some barrios and watched a homestead take root: reading that has kept us grounded. But Philippine folklore grows out of the very same ground, and it was inevitable that we'd come to see something fantastic peering at us from behind the fauna.

It is this weaving together of "leaf and shadow" which I like most about Cyan Abad-Jugo's four short stories.

Pictured: Balete Tree
Suggested: Kapre

There are four stories in the collection. In the first, we meet an anito who once lived in a narra tree and now lives in the cabinet made from its wood. In the second, a carving from a massive piece of molave seems to take on a life of its own. In the third, a trio of siblings fear they have awakened the kapre which lives in their grandmother's balete tree. And of course that one is my favourite! (There is a fourth story, but it doesn't have a single tree in it--just a bunch of shadows--so never mind.)

If they sound this good in seed form, then they must be wondrous as fully finished stories, aye? But we can only dream. Every story in Leaf and Shadow is still a tiny seedling. I read the entire book in less than an hour and couldn't believe it. 

I'd really like to see a future edition of Leaf and Shadow done as a proper picture book, with full-colour illustrations on every page--something to reflect the fact that these are stories for small children. Which is not to say that they're bad. In fact, they're pretty decent, if not as edgy as I'd like. But as they are, they shouldn't be hidden under the bushel of a chapter book format.

You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you have a young child to read these stories to. (Inner children count!)

For your convenience, the 2013 Rafflecopter . . .

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Image Source: a) Leaf and Shadow by Cyan Abad-Jugo, b) Siquijor balete tree


Entropy said...

I love this post.

I want to read this book too.

Are there a lot of stories like this in Phillipine culture? (There must be a word for it but I'm connecting it in my head to fairies and changelings in Ireland and spirit animals in Native American culture?)

Enbrethiliel said...


We don't have stories in the sense of plot, but "everyone knows" how an anito or a kapre is supposed to behave. So what usually happens is that they get worked into the oral histories of small villages, families, or even travelers, but don't have histories of their own. And not just in the rural areas, either . . .

One of my mother's closest friends lives in a house which she says is surrounded by mischievous nature spirits. And she has witnessed quite a bit of strange plant activity. =P Perhaps I'll work them into a story of my own someday!