July 2020: Supporting the BLM Movement and the Bukidnon Lumad Artists

Hello, Friends and Family,

We hope you’re still keeping yourselves healthy during this pandemic while finding ways to show your solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement towards the abolition of our racist systems and creation of life-affirming systems of care.

Just a quick check-in since our last post in May.

In June, we pledged all our proceeds to support the struggle for social justice. Half of our June proceeds went to NorCal Resist Activist Bail and ICE Bond Fund. NorCal Resist is a Sacramento based grassroots organization focused on fighting oppression and empowering our communities through shared resources and support. The other half of our proceeds went to our local ApoYolo Fund which gives financial support to undocumented immigrants in Yolo County who are hit hard by the pandemic. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who purchased our books!

Ongoing this month of July is our new fundraising efforts to help the Bukidnon Lumad artists and artisans. We are once again collaborating with the Bukidnon Studies Center at the Bukidnon State University to make this happen. Specifically, we are supporting writers and illustrators so they can publish their own books on indigenous stories. Please support this cause and either purchase our books or share about our fundraising. THANK YOU!

Things are a bit quiet for now. We have a scheduled reading with Eastwind Bookstore in August and we have been invited to read at the South San Francisco Public Library. We will see what the rest of summer brings. It’s a blessing to be able to take things slowly and to have the time to reflect on the momentous shifts that are occurring.

Oh, one last thing. We received the trophy from the Independent Book Publishers Association for winning the Benjamin Franklin Gold Award. Here’s Jack looking so jazzed upon receiving the award!

Until next update!

Be well!

May 2020: Awards + Readings

Hi, Friends,

We hope you’re all staying healthy and sane while sheltering in place!

In the midst of this pandemic, we have some good news.

Last month, we shared that we’re one of the three finalists for the Benjamin Franklin Award by the Independent Book Publishers Association. Well, we won the GOLD! It’s a crazy thing for us to receive this award since we never expected anything out of our entry. We joined the contest just to see what it’s like. And now here we are–gold stickers on our books, a trophy for the press.

Here’s the link to our acceptance of the award:

And here’s the link to an article featuring our press’ publishing journey (at the very end):

Additionally, the Philippine Inquirer ran an article on our awards including the one we received from the Publishing Professional Network’s Book Show last February. Here is the link:

The Filipino Channel’s Bahay Book Club also invited us to do a reading for their programming and we happily obliged! It was so much fun learning about the intricacies of recording. I discovered that I tend to lean my head to the left (or is it the right? I’m not sure!!! The camera is tricky!!!) and that I blink a lot (but when I try not to, I have this crazy look). The cool thing is that I’ve fallen in love with recording and now we’ve got ideas to make mini-videos to help with the book, as well as curriculum for adults and kids to talk about the big and small topics in the books. Watch out for those!

Here’s the link to the TFC reading:

Finally, the Cesar Chavez Elementary School Climate and Ethnic Studies Committees invited us to read the book for the elementary students and host a couple of Q&A sessions to celebrate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This, too, was fun! We got to share about the publishing journey, from writing the story (e.g. the inspiration of the story, the story of the warrior Agyu within the story), to the illustrating and art directing processes, to crowdfunding, printing, and getting the books out. We got to share about the lessons of Kapwa (i.e. honoring our interconnection), indigeneity, the importance of sharing our stories, getting to know our ancestors, and a ton more. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to get in front of the kids to talk about these things because these are topics not usually covered within the school’s curriculum. We hope other (Davis) schools invite us to do the same at their schools, not just for APAHM but to build towards a mandated curriculum that includes Ethnic Studies.

To be honest, all the attention this month has felt a bit too much for us. Our inclination is to shy away from the spotlight and play the awards down. But then we realized that this is not about us per se. This is about getting our community’s stories out, continuing on the work of resistance against and liberation from oppression, honoring the land and our ancestors, and spreading love. We are just a channel through which the spirit of Kapwa flows.

Lastly, we are working on an adventure game based on Jack & Agyu. We are super excited!

We are beyond ecstatic and very motivated to continue on with our small press’ mission to publish children’s books that feature Filipino American kids in the diaspora!

Thank you all for your support! We’re at SawagaRiverPress.com if you’d like to check us out and/or order our books.

In solidarity!

March 2020 Update: Another Award!

Hello, Friends and Supporters,

We hope you are all keeping yourselves healthy and sane as much as you can. This truly is an exceptional time in our lives, one that will leave long lasting impacts to the way we live, think, act, love, and care for each other.

Despite the grimness of the current situation, we do have some happy news to share: Jack & Agyu is one of the three finalists of the 32nd Independent Book Publishers Association Book Awards, Children’s Book Category!!!

Here’s the link to the announcement:


The winners will be announced in May 2020 but even if we don’t win, we’re still so so ecstatic!

I’m still in disbelief as I write this post. I know we don’t need awards—it is enough to know that our books are much appreciated and loved by the kids (and parents) in our Filipino and Fil-Am community—but it feels mighty good to know that our hard work is being recognized by publishing organizations! We are a small and independent publisher and we are still figuring our way in the publishing world. It feels good to know that we’re doing something right and that some in the publishing world are noticing. It is inspiring and motivating us to make more books!

A few weeks ago, our collaborators at the Bukidnon Studies Center put together a turn-over ceremony to celebrate the arrival of the books. I’m told it was a beautiful ceremony, one that the community showed up and expressed appreciation for. To my collaborators in Bukidnon, I hope you know how deeply grateful we are that you are in this journey with us, making books, getting our stories out, and making our experiences known and celebrated. To more books!

Lastly, a few pictures from our launch with the Tagalog Project. Again, so much gratitude and love from me to everyone who showed up, listened to the story with open hearts, shared their own stories of empowerment, made anting-antings, and enjoyed champorado with me. And thank you to Clarice Aguillera for making it happen. More power to your Tagalog Project, Clarice!

We had other events planned to launch Jack & Agyu but those are now on hold as we navigate this corona virus situation. I’ll keep you all posted.

In the meantime, keep a safe distance from each other, still be social, and wash your hands!

Happy 2020! + Book Show Award + February Launch

Happy New Year, Kapwa!

How is it already February? It’s been rough with the flu and the winter blues but we can feel the spring coming soon so we’re hopeful.

We have a few things to share.

First, we won the Publishing Professionals Network’s 48th Annual Book Show. Children’s Book Category. For a recap of the Book Show and the winners, check out:

With my friend, Barbara, who urged us to enter the contest
With David Zielonka, President, PPN

Second, we will be launching Jack & Agyu with the Tagalog Project at the Pinole Public Library on February 22, 2020. We will be serving champorado (YES!), making anting-anting, coloring books based on the story, and learning a Bisaya song. We would love it if you could join us!

We are planning more launching events for the year. We will keep you posted in case we make it to your area.

In the meantime, enjoy February!

Books Are Here + October Events

Hello, Everyone!

Happy November!

It’s been a busy October as we celebrated Filipino-American History Month and October 25th as Larry Itliong Day.  A quick recap is in order.

Jack & Agyu arrived in September, just in time for Jack’s 8th birthday. I was so nervous when I got the box- I almost didn’t want to open it. I was so so worried I’d find a glaring typo or something, even though we had checked and double, triple, quadruple checked the proofs. But of course my fears were unfounded. The book is beautiful and, unlike in my dream/nightmare, the pages have the words. Fittingly, Jack was the first person to officially read the finished book. He is mighty proud of “his” book.


A few days after, and without too much fanfare, Jack & Agyu debuted at the Filipino American Educators Association of California Conference, Equity Through Ethnic Studies: 50 Years of Fighting for Educational Justice. Much thanks to FAEAC for inviting me to showcase the books.


In October, we celebrated FAHM at the local Davis library with a screening of a documentary on the Delano Manongs, Larry Itliong, and their contribution to the formation of the United Farm Workers Union. The screening was followed by a discussion on writing and publishing by a panel of authors that included me, Reno Ursal, and R. Zamora Linmark. It was a well attended event- the halo-halo and the lumpia disappeared pretty quickly! Thanks to the Mary Stephens Library librarians Katrina and Joan, and Robyn Rodrguez of the UCD Bulosan Center for collaborating.


Then we were off to the Fil-Am International Book Festival in San Francisco. Thanks to Christina Newhard of Sari-Sari Press who organized the Children’s Corner readings and events. So cool to hear the very positive reaction to the book from kids and adults!


The weekend after, Mike and I attended the UndiscoveredSF event. And though the night was cold and the alley where we set up was pretty stinky, it was a fun time meeting more kids who checked out Jack & Agyu, hang out with our friend Gigi whom we had not seen for over 5 years, and talk shop with fellow Fil-Am small press publishers Christina Newhard (of Sari-Sari Press) and Gayle Romasanta (of Bridge + Delta Publishing).


At the end of the month, the rest of the books arrived! Just in time for my birthday. Woo-hoo!


And we asked our dear friend, Melissa Moreno, to help us give thanks to the Creator, and to everything and everyone that came together so that the books could arrive at this point in time and place; to ask the Creator for permission to continue on with our work of spreading our culture, identity, stories through this book; and to ask the Creator for the continued blessings as we continue on with our work. It was a simple occasion, attended only by my family, Melissa’s family, and my dad. It felt right. After the thanksgiving, Jack did the honor of cutting the cargo binding and opening the first box of books. My dad then stayed to help wrap the individual books and put them in envelopes to be shipped tomorrow to our crowdfunders. If you’re one of them, expect to see the book in the next two weeks.


What an exciting month it was! We’re looking forward to launching the book at different locations and times. We will keep you posted in case you can make it to one of them. We will also be setting it up so the books can be purchased via our website (our preference) and Amazon. This should be happening in the next week or so.

Also, we’re working on a website dedicated solely to the book. More about this soon.

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the beautiful fall weather.

Thanks again for all the support. Till next update!

Post Summer Update + Visiting Bukidnon

Happy September, Friends!

We hope your summer (vacation) was relaxing. Is that even possible??? I spent mine going on a month long trip to the Philippines and teaching dance at a week long family performing arts camp in Cazadero. The whole summer felt both long and short, mundane and novel. And now we’re ready for the school year and for the rest of the year.

Since our last post, things have definitely moved forward. A few nights ago, I dreamt that the books arrived and I said, looking at them, that they’re very beautiful! In particular, I was looking at the page with the diwata and her glorious hair. But then I noticed that the words were missing. The horror!


(This Diwata now appears in my dreams!)

I also said in my last post that if no major changes needed to be made, we’d have the books by September. Well, apparently, even when the changes that needed doing weren’t major- a font correction on the spine, a random typo which mysteriously showed up even after the numerous edits done by several people, decisions to be made on whether to do a second review- the process still ate up weeks and weeks of going back and forth between us and the printer. It wasn’t until the first week of August that we finally approved everything. We now have a tentative arrival date of mid November.

This is a bit disappointing because I was really counting on having the books for the various October (as Fil-Am History Month) events like the UndiscoveredSF and the Fil-Am International Book Festival. But I won’t dwell on this, especially because, fortunately, we can get advance copies by the end of September. It isn’t ideal but at least we will have something to show at the events. So, we’re still in business!

If you remember, several months ago, I was very excited to share that I was going to collaborate with Bukidnon State University to work on more projects that highlight Bukidnon culture. Since them, they have asked me to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to document our intent to collaborate.

So, during my trip, I went back to my home town to sign the papers. I thought all I needed to do was go to somebody’s office, sign, and then be done. Instead, I got to be an honored guest and speaker of a program that was put together by the Dept. of English and Literature as well as the Bukidnon Studies Center!

 (The printed program  (L). The Bukidnon Studies Center which also houses a Bukidnon culture museum (R).) (Photo Credit: Christopher Cordova of Angelsweddingshoppe.com)

I was met and escorted by my high school best friend, Prof. Rizza Ramos-Consad, to visit the University President, Dr. Cabanelez. An official school photographer followed us around to take photos of my meeting with the President. It was… strange. 🙂

After the visit, we went to the Bukidnon Studies Center where many of the book’s collaborators gathered for a program. It was humbling to meet the many people who gave the book their time and effort by providing translations and research materials. I even discovered that I am related to some of them!

What an honor it was! It was so beautiful to hear the Bukidnon hymn sung in Binukid while sitting with men and women dressed in their official Binukid attires. The panika in the background looked grand. The talks from the various BSU officials inspired. I talked a bit about the process and the need for telling our stories, but mainly wanted to engage them in a conversation about how to create more works of art in a way that is respectful to the tradition but also fresh. I signed the Memo. I ate really yummy kutsinta. I visited the Center’s museum and saw several works of art by Bukidnon artists. And I received a hand crafted woven bag of Bukidnon design.

(Siting next to me, Prof. Ramos-Consad) (Photo Credit: Christopher Cordova of Angelsweddingshoppe.com)


(Professors and Staff and Members of Bukidnon Studies Center and Bukidnon Studies Center. To my right: Prof. Ramos-Consad, Prof. Loreta Sol Dinlayan. To my left: Prof. Ivan Villanueva, Prof. Carl Binayao) (Photo Credit: Christopher Cordova of Angelsweddingshoppe.com)

My utmost gratitude goes to my high school best friend, Dr. Rizza Ramos-Consad, for facilitating all of these! I am looking forward to more collaborative projects in the future!!

On October 19 we will be at the UndiscoveredSF event in San Francisco https://www.undiscoveredsf.com/ as well as the 5th Filipino American International Book Festival on October 12-13, https://www.filbookfestival.org/. Hope to see you there!

May September and the rest of the year bring more opportunities for collaboration!

Till next update. Thanks, as always, for your support.

Off to the Printer

Dear Friends,

Happy Summer!

Today, the 4th of July, as the US celebrates its independence with fireworks and BBQ and lots of outdoor merry making, I take the time to think about this country’s history of genocide and slavery, its legacy, and how I can personally grieve, move towards healing, and join the clamor for reparations. As somebody who comes from a country that has been colonized by the US, I am once again reminded to examine my complicated ties with the US and to celebrate the resilience of my people who struggled, and continue to struggle, for our liberation.

As for the book…

The files are finally with the printer! After a few weeks of waiting, we got back our Library of Congress Number as well as our PCIP (Publisher’s Cataloging-In-Publication) which gives librarians all the information they need to quickly add a record to their database or card catalog. I think it was well worth the wait.

Additionally, the proofs are on their way to us and should get here by next week. Unfortunately for me, I will already be out of the country (I’m going to the Philippines with my family!) so I won’t get the chance to preview the pages. This was what I was afraid of- that the proofs would get here while I’m gone! But not to fear- we are in good hands! Stefanie will receive the proofs and we will trust her designer sensibilities to give us good feedback. I hope for beautiful pages and colors!

According to our printer, if no major changes need to be made that would require pushing back our timeline, the books should get to us by September. I’m really really excited!

A lot was happening in my personal life over the last few months (e.g. going back to fuller time work, among other things) and I’ve had to take a break from this project. A few weeks ago, when I looked at the pages again after not having seen them for over a month, I was reminded of what a beautiful book it is that we are creating with the help of so many from the community. This book truly manifests all the love and care and support that so many of us have poured over it. I am proud of all our work and feel blessed to be part of this book’s journey into this world. Thank you for all your support!

Jack and Mama

(With my Jack who inspired the making of this book)


Fingers and toes crossed!

Till next update!

Better Late Than… Incomplete

Happy Merry Month of May, Everyone!


We hope Mother’s Day Weekend was memorable and spent with the amazing mamas in your lives.


We have been working steadily over the last few months. We are so so close to sending everything to the printer.


Actually, I take that back—we have sent the files to the printer. Since April we have been attempting to get the files out and each “final” round of review yielded “one last thing” to be fixed/added/done: a missing space here, a word that needed to be in bold there, another typo here, and oh wait this is the old front cover file we’re working on which is missing the baybayin!!!! This all took a few weeks of anxious checking and re-checking and re-re-checking, especially of the baybayin scripts.


(A sneak peek of our front cover. It took us several weeks to arrive at this.)

When we finally got the texts and illustrations just the way we wanted it, we sent everything to the printer (and celebrated that milestone!) While waiting for upload, we did one final soul searching about the type of paper to use. We were initially set to do matte paper because our first book was. We didn’t really think to revisit this choice. However, somewhere along the way, we all started leaning towards a thicker uncoated paper, the kind that Island Born, by Junot Diaz, has. We finally checked with our printer and they put the uploading on hold while we explored more paper choices. After another week, last week we decided to print on uncoated paper. This changes a few things on our specs so Stefanie is now making the necessary changes, as we speak.


But wait… we’re not really done yet. Just when we thought we will FINALLY have everything done (after Stef makes the above changes) we realized that we need to add the Preassigned Control Number from the Library of Congress!!! Technically, we don’t need it but it would be good to have as it allows libraries to track our book more easily. This means we have to apply for a number. Normally, this would take two weeks. HOWEVER (because it can’t be that easy, you know!), that program that allows for PCN application is shut down until May 20th!!! Yaargh!!!


So, it is with our humble apologies and gratitude for your patience that we let you know that the Jack and Agyu book will not arrive at your doorstep in June, as initially anticipated. We are convinced that the unanticipated changes that we have made which lengthened our production period were/are all worth making.


We will continue to keep you posted! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR PATIENCE. As always, please let us know if you have concerns or thoughts.

Cover Designing + Translations

Hi, Everyone!


Happy February! We hope you’re keeping yourselves warm and healthy. It’s coooold out there! We’ve been waking up to frost and I have been needing gloves to bike to school with the kids.


We’re steadily working on the graphic design. All our illustrations are finished and we have finally settled on a cover design. This was a decision that took a long time as none of us in the team could agree on the background color (should it be light blue? I said no- blue is too “boyish”; should it be yellow? Everybody chose yellow as their second choice; should it be brown?- I said YES, of course, this book is a love letter to brown!- but everybody else thought brown seemed too mature… and so on…) As with all creative processes, we somehow hit upon a solution that everybody was happy with and that met everybody’s need. We think you will be happy with this cover!



A lot of other “little” things and decisions are going on as well. Some of these things have been expected: How to layout the translations? How “kid-like” should the fonts be? But some are totally unexpected. The biggest decision so far is making peace with the fact that there just is not enough space for all four languages (English, Binukid, Bisaya, and Filipino) in the book! In an ideal world, every page will accommodate every single illustration and language we want without looking cluttered. The reality is that the page is only 8”x10”. Having accepted that we can’t have it all, now we have to decide which of the four languages we should keep and how best to present them. All these languages are important for different reasons and we have to dig deep and ask ourselves the reason/goal of this project to be able to come up with an answer we can live with.


For this reason, we have decided to dispense with the Donors Page and the Glossary Page so we can have more space for the translations. Instead, we will be creating a website dedicated to the book and this site will have more information about the cultural references we have made in the book as well as the names of our collaborators and donors.


IF this is something you, as a donor, feel strongly against, please let us know!!!


As we work on getting the book ready for the printer, we’re sure there will be more important (and they’re all important!) things that would need to be decided on. We will constantly remind ourselves why we’re doing this (FOR THE COMMUNITY!) and hopefully it will help us make good decisions.


Thank you for the love and support, everyone! Stay warm!