Mama, Mama at the Filipino Bar Association of Nor Cal Holiday Party


Hello, All!

The holidays are upon us!

The Filipino Bar Association of Northern California (FBANC) graciously invited us to display and sell the Mama, Mama book at the holiday party at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco. I’ve been going to FBANC’s party for the last three years and this year’s was extra special just because I got to connect with my fellow attorneys in a different way, i.e. not so heavily oriented on the practice of the law.

As always, there was plenty of yummy food- lumpia, pancit, lechon, fried chicken, a ton of sweets- and some Christmas caroling. Plus, Mike and I scored a Tanduay rum as part of the white elephant gift exchange.

All in all, a successful night.

Thank you, FBANC, for having Mama, Mama and for supporting the push for more diversity in children’s books!


Mama, Mama at the EastSide Arts Alliance Art Sale

Hello, Friends!

November was a downer in many ways and I’m only now beginning to rise and motivate. I have high hopes for December and for the coming days. I have to.

Over the weekend, I attended the EastSide Arts Alliance Art Sale in Oakland. Robert Trujillo extended the invitation to me and I was glad to go with my copies of Mama, Mama. I shared a table with another author, Jill Guerra, whose book is about boys and their long hair. I got to meet and enjoy the works other artists, including authors, illustrators, jewelry makers, print makers, photographers, singers, and poets… There was also buffet of tamales and spring rolls! The afternoon was uplifting and went by really quickly.



I’m happy to also report that I sent off a dozen Mama, Mama books out into the world!

Lastly, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that happened a few days ago during a late night dance party at . So far, 36 people have been proclaimed dead.

Thank you for your support! Until the next update.

Mama, Mama at the Sitting Room Library in Penngrove

Hello, Friends!

October is Filipino American History Month and to celebrate it, the Sitting Room Community Library of the City of Penngrove, through its curator, Sheila Bare, invited me to read Mama, Mama. What an honor!

The drive, though a bit long, was definitely worth it. The stretch of vineyards and clear blue skies did my soul some good (even though I was listening to a depressing NPR talk show about the upcoming election season).

At the library, I got to share the space with a very inspirational Filipina poet, Eileen Tabios. I also met many of the library’s patrons, many of whom purchased multiple copies to give as presents to the children in their lives. There was plenty of yummy treats, including chicken adobo with pan de sal, pancit, and a creamy cheesy pie by JJ Wilson who runs the library.


I’m so grateful for these opportunities extended to me by others who believe in the value of publishing books that foster inclusion of children of color. I hope for more!

Mama, Mama at the Davis International Festival

Hello, All!

The City of Davis celebrated its International Festival last October 2. Many different countries represented their culture through songs, dances, food, books, and crafts.

I was invited by the Filipina ladies of the Yolo County (Woodland, Davis, West Sacramento) to display (and sell!) my books at the booth. So I did. It was a fun way to meet random strangers who showed interest in Mama, Mama.


Looking forward to the next event!

Mama, Mama Reading at the Rec Room

Hello, Everyone!

Our friends, Annie and Jade, at the Rec Room in Berkeley invited us over to their super cool kid/family friendly cafe to share the book. We did just that and it was the perfect way to spend a Friday morning at the cafe. Although the gathering was small, it was fun and I had the chance to not only catch up with friends but also make some new connections.

My dad and mom went with me and Charlie and Jack. Dad and Mom proudly held up the page that featured them.


Here’s me and Jade, co-owner of the cafe, and Thea of Kavamore Press. And Annie, co-owner, who used to be our next door neighbor. I know these three ladies from Charlie’s pre-school. They’ve been supportive of the book since day one.



I met two children’s books authors, Maria and Robert. Both are based in Oakland and have recently been published.


Friends came by and showed their support.


I’m looking forward to the next reading, for sure! Thanks, everyone!

Mama, Mama FAQs

Hello, Friends!

Since I started my journey to write and publish the Mama, Mama book, family, friends, acquaintances, and members of my community have asked me all sorts of questions. I thought I’d share some of them here, in no particular order.

How did you come up with the story?

When my eldest, Charlie, was about five years old and my second, Jack, almost three years old, we often went on picnics at the Blake Garden in El Cerrito. The garden is high up in the El Cerrito hills overlooking the San Francisco bay. One day, during one of our picnics, Charlie asked me to guess the things that he liked. He then told me he liked Batman and Spiderman and fighting “bad guys”. “What else do you like?” I asked. He continued to tell me: chicken nuggets, catsup, Sinigang, digging construction projects, climbing trees… I kept asking him for more of his “likes” and he kept telling. His list was pretty long. Eventually, he asked me to guess what he liked most. He then told me that he liked me most. His proclamation was so earnest and real. That moment touched me deeply and I wanted to keep a memory of it.

I didn’t set off to look for a story or a plot. It presented itself to me. Thankfully, I was present and receptive to it.

 How did you decide that this was the story you wanted to make a book out of?

Prior to this inspired moment during our picnic, I had been wanting to write a children’s book that would capture my time with my young boys. Motherhood shaped my experience of life in a way I never expected. I wanted something, an album of sorts, that my boys and I could look at later in our lives and be reminded of our early years together.This simple narrative offered the chance to do just that.

At first I worried about many things: that there was no “real” story; that it was “merely” a boy telling his Mama all about his likes and then surprising her with his proclamation of like; that there were no classic story elements like conflict, resolution, and character development. However, I also knew I wanted to write about the rhythm in our daily lives. I wanted a book that shows a Fil-Am kid living his daily life, just being himself. So, despite my doubts, I decided that the “day in the life” approach was plot enough.

Why is it Bisaya and English on the actual pages, instead of Filipino/Tagalog and English?

I wrote in Bisaya simply because it is my mother tongue and the one I wish to pass on to my kids. I understand that there are fewer Bisaya speakers than Tagalog/Filipino speakers because Filipino is the national language and everyone in the Philippines has to learn it. Still, one of my goals was/is to make books that would help me teach my kids speak and read in Bisaya. There are no children’s books in Bisaya that I know of so I took it upon myself to create the book that I needed and wanted to read.

I hope that the book being in written in Bisaya would not deter non-Bisaya speakers from reading it to their kids. It’s written also in English, after all.

Why do the kids look so Filipino, so brown, when the dad is not?

When I decided to help in the diversifying of chidren’s books, I knew my characters were going to be unapologetically and unmistakably Filipino brown. I didn’t want the characters to look vague.

Is your illustrator Filipino? (No.) Why not?

Out of the (50+) illustrators who answered my craigslist ad, Andrew presented the portfolio that spoke to me. Additionally, he lives in the Bay Area, seemed easy to work with, quoted rates I could afford, and understood the imaginings of a 5 year old. I value the work he’s done for the book.

Of course, I would love to work with a Filipino illustrator if and when the chance presents itself.

Who’s the publisher?

The book is published by Sawaga River Press, a publishing arm of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit,  Libro Para Sa Tanan, that I founded in 2008.

Why did you become a small press?

It seemed like the next natural thing to do after writing the book. If I had waited to be published by the traditional publishers, this book likely would not have been published. I no longer think being selected for publication is all about merits and “perfect” work quality. There are systems in place that make it a lot harder for writers of color to be published. I have decided that my contribution to this struggle to publish more books that speak to my and my community’s experience is to become a small press.

Why is the book so expensive ($19.00)?

Actually, it isn’t any more expensive than the average hardcover children’s book.

But we did learn a very good lesson with this first publication: It is very expensive to print illustrations in color. Next time, we will do something not involving color. Maybe a journal or a graphic novel, instead.

When you’re deciding whether to buy this “expensive” book, please think of it as buying not just this book but as supporting and sustaining a non-profit small press that aims to publish books that reflect the reality of Filipino American kids.

Are you an educator?

No. I’m a concerned mother who looked for and found very few books that feature Filipino American kids that look like mine.

I’m also an attorney, writer, dancer, reader, Do It Yourselfer who wants to be proactive about the lack of diverse children’s books.

What’s your background in publishing?

My first job after college was as a marketing assistant at a publishing company, Jossey-Bass, in San Francisco. But that’s not what gave me the confidence to forge ahead. Rather, I was blessed to know so many people- publishing professionals, artists, business consultants, early childhood educators, independent small presses, social activists- who generously extended to me their expertise and creative talents. Without them, this book would not have been possible. This book is truly a product of a community who believed in the cause.

 Why is the little boy digging in his underwear?

Because he had to wear something. To truly reflect the reality of my son, he should have been illustrated wearing nothing. Like many four year old boys, he had no qualms about baring his bum and getting dirty with mud.

Who is Bakunawa?

Bakunawa is an ancient Filipino deity that is represented as a sea serpent. Some say he is the god of the underworld and the one who causes eclipses.

According to Filipino myths, during ancient times, the creator Bathala created seven beautiful moons to light up the sky. The Bakunawa liked the moons so he rose from the ocean and swallowed the moons whole. To keep the Bakunawa from completely swallowing the moons, ancient Filipinos would go out of their homes with pans and pots, and make noise to scare the Bakunawa into spitting out the moon back into the sky.

I took the opportunity to try to re-ignite young Fil-Am kids’ interest in the rich and powerful Filipino myths and legends. I have been making an effort to tell my sons stories of our indigenous spirits, deities, and heroes, especially the ones from Bukidnon where I grew up, so that they may feel a connection with that part of their identity.

What is Sinigang?

The best soup ever! It is considered one of the most indigenous Filipino dishes. It has meat (pork belly/chicken/beef/fish) and vegetables (eggplant, okra, long peppers, string beans, taro, greens like mustard leaves or spinach). As a souring agent, you can add Sinigang mix from the store (with powdered guava or tamarind extract, and lots of MSG, of course) or lemon juice.


I am thankful for these questions, and others that are not in this list, because they have made me think of the book from different perspectives. Next time, I will post about questions I’ve not been asked but wish I had.

Mama, Mama Books Arrive

Hello, Friends!

We hope you are doing well and enjoying your summer.

Finally, after months of traveling by sea from Singapore, the Mama, Mama books made it to Davis, California! We knew they were coming, obviously, but now that they’re here we can hardly believe it.

Before he rolled up the truck door, Al, the delivery man, told me the books weighed about a thousand pounds. I had trouble visualizing how a thousand pounds of books looked like. I didn’t have to wonder too long. The cargo was massive… and it reminded me (again) that this is for real!!!


I still remember the night I got together with my friend, Jessica Egbert, who introduced me to her friend, Janet Del Mundo, and we talked about writing and publishing books that feature Filipino kids. That was way back in December 2013! Getting this book out into the world has truly been a journey for me.

We will be sending out reward copies in the next few weeks, hopefully before the end of this month, August.

We hope you enjoy the book. Should you wish to purchase a(nother) copy, please go to the right of the home page.

We also welcome your feedback. If you would like to write a review, please let us know and we would gladly send you a review copy.

We are very grateful for your support. It got us here, with a tangible book in our hands, a book that makes visible to the rest of the world a day in the life of a Filipino American boy.

Again, thank you! We love you!


Justine and the Mama, Mama crew

Proud Member of Philippine American Press Consortium

Hello, Everybody,

We are proud to announce that we are now a member of the Philippine American Publishers Consortium!

From PAPC’s press release:

The group’s primary goal is to enhance the distribution and promotion of its published works. PAPC’s inaugural members are Carayan Press, Center for Babaylan Studies, Meritage Press, PALH (Philippine American Literary House), PAWA Inc., and Sawaga River Press.  Together, these publishers offer Filipino American books in the genres of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art and children’s literature.


Explaining why she suggested the creation of the consortium, PALH publisher Cecilia Brainard said, “We are making books but our distribution and marketing efforts can be improved. Together, these Filipino American presses can have more presence, clout, and credibility than individual presses could. By sharing information, resources, and in some cases, expenses, we can do a better job at preserving and documenting our own Filipino American (and Filipino) literature and culture.”

Please check out PAPC’s blog site at

We are also on Facebook:

Thank you for all the support!

Sample Copies

Hello All,

The sample copies arrived! We can hardly believe it!



The books are on their way to the US from our Malaysian printer and should arrive sometime in July. In the meantime, please take advantage of our pre-sale which is ongoing until the end of June. Click on Our Books for more information. And remember that the funds that we raise from selling this book will help us publish more books that are diverse both in characters and stories. Please support us!

Thank you!