High Quality Stories with a Distinct Sama Context
I am very impressed with the last set of published big books in Sinama. One of the qualifications for a good book is that they fit the context of the language they are being written in. The feedback I’ve received so far shows that we have done just that. Take for instance the story, “Batu Atibulung Tabāk mareyom Tahik.” It is a story about Sama fishermen finding a WW2 mine and attempting to sell the explosives. When we presented the story to a Sama illustrator from a different community and different dialect for that matter, we brought a sketch of what the mine looked like. His mother said, I’ve seen one of those before. Two other men from further down the bridge named a man they knew who had brought one up. Members of another community remembered how several relatives had died because of the explosion of a mine in their community that someone had fished up. Ask your average Tagalog, Bisayan, or Tausug about WW2 mines and you will probably get a lot more vague knowledge on the topic.
Also impressive to me were the two stories covering Sama arts and crafts. The tepo, a pandan woven mat is an artform that the Sama in particular are famous for. It is getting harder to make them without putting a high price tag on them, since the pandan leaves that used to be free now often have to be paid for. This was another one where I felt like we would need the advice of an expert weaver for. The illustrator, a male, picked to draw this one out of a list of 11 stories. I asked him if he was sure and suggested that if he does do it he should consult a weaver. He said, “It’s no problem, I know how to draw it.” Sure enough when he had finished illustrating it we checked it in another community. The feedback was, “That’s exactly how it looks like.”
The other craft story shows the process of making the eye size goggles that enable the Sama divers to dive quite deep. Those that colored the picture did not understand all the pictures and I found that this one would need to be recolored on a computer. I didn’t recognize several things on the table that were being used for the making of the goggles or for that matter the betelnut leaves etc. being sold. Community checks demonstrate that our illustrator nailed it. Sama students reading this story will not only get to read about something that they are familiar with seeing in their own homes, but they will also retain the cultural knowledge of how to make these goggles, when traditionally they would be learning it because they are not going to school.
Another story worth mentioning is, “Batang-Sulat Abīng.” A Sama Dilaut boy realizes his need to learn to read and write after accidentally painting a backwards letter on his father’s boat. He goes to school even though he is taller than all the other students. He would rather be made fun of for his size in school than be made fun of for being illiterate. This book hits home on something that many of the Sama Dilaut representatives at the recent 1st International Conference on the Sama Dilaut expressed to me in private conversation and also during the sessions, that is the issue of entering school late for various reason and then being discouraged because of being picked on for being older and bigger than their classmates. I thought to myself Robin, the author who was writing about his personal experience hit the target with his book and hopefully other Sama students can gain courage from his book to continue studying as well.
What Impact does a Story in Sinama have on a Sama Student
Our books have been used in classrooms in 2 different provinces, one rural setting in Sarangani and in multiple classrooms in two different cities of Davao del Sur. The classrooms that have used some of the books represent at least 4 different dialects of Sinama. The feedback has been positive. Teachers from at least 3 different classrooms have told me the kids have memorized the books already. They also tell me about kids in the back of the classroom who are usually not engaged in the class activities being highly engaged during the reading of the Sinama books. I’ve witnessed the books being read in a classroom and seen kids that are engaged and also competing to answer the teacher’s questions about the story.
I remember my friend Malante from Davao. I was telling him about my work on updating a Sinama Literacy Primer from the 1960s into the current orthography we have been using. My friend said, I remember using a Sinama book in our classroom in Siasi. “Oh really,” I said. He said, “Yeah, I remember it telling about a wedding in Sisangat.” He then preceeded to tell me the details of the entire story. I recognized the story as the final story of the very reading primer I had been working on. It had made such an impact on him that he could recall it 40 years later.
Other posts in this four part series on our Sinama Big Books Publication Project: