BOOK REVIEW: What Kids Should Know About…

by Rose Cruz Churma

As a multi-volume publication, “What Kids Should Know About…” is designed for children and the young at heart. All have colorful illustrations with easy-to-understand captions and descriptions suitable for all ages. The series is published by Adarna House, Inc. in Quezon City. Here are the four books under the “What Kids Should Know About…” series:

Filipino Architecture
This book covers all aspects of architecture, including some urban and city planning at a level that could be understood by children aged 10 and older. As it says in the opening chapter:

“Architecture is not just about a single building. It is also concerned with the relationship of structures to one another…and the spaces in between architecture such as streets, plazas, playgrounds, gardens and parks are equally important.”

The types of structures—from the bahay kubo to the bahay na bato, the different churches and gathering places such as the dap-ay of Sagada or the large longhouses of the T’boli people of Lake Sebu in Cotabato called guno bong are described, as well as how the structures are organized around an open space such as a town plaza (e.g. for towns formed during the Spanish era).

The book explains how architecture adapts to its environment, and how buildings were designed to adapt to changing weather conditions, as well as recent disasters like the pandemic.

One segment describes how the COVID-19 pandemic played an important role in society’s health and well-being, where people converted their living spaces to the directive of being locked inside.

Filipino Musical Instruments
Musical instruments are defined as tools created to make musical sounds, and describes the materials used in making Filipino musical instruments—usually sourced from a tropical environment ranging from bamboo, animals, plants, metals and stones.

How the sounds are made are also explained—whether it is from blowing, using wind instruments such as the nose flute; or plucking, such as with string instruments like the kulitong of the Kalinga tribe.

Percussion instruments are played by striking, such as the case with the Ibaloy’s solibao and kimbal drums (a pair of long drums with low and high pitch).

Modern instruments powered by electricity are also described (electric guitar, keyboard, violin and electronic drums) together with “modern” Filipino musicians such as the Eraserheads called the Beatles of the Philippines and B.P Valenzuela, an electropop artist known for her use of electronic sounds.

Internationally renowned musical icon, Lucrecia Kasilag (1918-2008) is also featured. She pioneered incorporating Filipino musical instruments in her compositions and was named a national artist for music in 1989.

One of the most interesting segments of this book is the chapter “A Musical Tour of the Philippines”—a graphical depiction of where 101 Filipino musical instruments are located and played in various communities and shows the cultural similarities and diversities among peoples of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Filipino Visual Arts
The authors define visual art as that type of art that is made for looking and can be made from different materials—and anything visible can be used for visual art.

The different forms, two-dimensional (2D) vs. three-dimensional (3D) are described as well as the basic elements and design principles of visual arts.

The most intriguing section that asks the question—what can art give us?  Art can show things as they are—as in photography or in realistic art—and proceeds to describe the art of Felix Resureccion Hidalgo, Fabian de la Rosa, Paz Paterno and Araceli Limcaco Dans.

In the segment “Art brings out ideas and feelings”—the following artists’ works were used as examples:  Juan Luna’s Spolarium, Jose Joya’s Pagdiriwang, Paul Quiambao’s UST Series and Arturo Luz’s Performers.

Special mention was made of the watercolor artworks of June Dalisay, who is not only a visual artist but also an art restorer with a focus on scientific art conservation.

Another woman artist featured is Brenda Fajardo who presented some of the Philippines’ problems under Martial Law using tarot cards with symbols.

Imelda Cajipe-Endaya is credited as the main figure of Filipino feminist and national liberation movements and is a noted printmaker, mixed media and installation artist.

The works of many more Filipino artists are featured—e.g. Pacita Abad, BenCab, Toym Imao, Fernando Amorsolo, and Mario “Ram” Mallari Jr.— who uses trash to create artistic treasures and is considered one of the fast-rising steampunk artists of the country.

A special value found in this publication are suggestions for art activities for students inspired by the works of featured artists.

Filipino Food
When family and friends gather in the Philippines, tradition dictates that a meal is shared with cheerfulness and friendship, and the act of sitting together for a meal means sharing joy and happiness to those around the table.

So in essence, we are what we eat, and how we eat.  Sharing food is an expression of caring.  When someone arrives at home, we ask—have you eaten? Kumain ka na ba? When a guest arrives at mealtime, we ask them to join us at table, a sign of our innate hospitality.

This is why, among the books discussed in this review, this publication on Filipino food is my favorite.  It brings back happy memories of growing up in the Philippines.

It chronicles the culinary heritage of the Philippines, but also describes its climate, environment and history.  Our “edible identity,” food finds traces of our past and our present.  Food is so commonplace in our everyday lives that we don’t realize that it shows how we celebrate family and community.

The first part of the book describes the things we eat—from the basic rice to condiments we value like patis and bagoong, to the plants and animals around us that we eat.

Also described and illustrated are the cooking implements that we use, from the traditional kalan (clay stove) to the kudkuran (a coconut grating device uniquely Filipino).  Also described are the ways we prepare food from smoking (such as how the tinapa is prepared) to street foods’ ihaw-ihaw.

The final chapter is a regional food tour of the Philippines. A food item or dish that is representative of each of the regions in the Philippines is described. 

For example, the first entry is the Cordillera Rice Terraces from Northern Philippines, and its rice treasures are mentioned: the aromatic unoy, the large grain tinawon, the sticky Ifugao diket and Kalinga jekot.

Also added to this 2nd edition are the dishes shared by the different Moro groups from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, like the pastil, steamed rice topped with kagikit made of either shredded chicken, beef or fish. Since majority of the population is Muslim, no pork is eaten.

This book describes what makes us uniquely Filipino—in what we eat and how we prepare our food.

ROSE CRUZ CHURMA established Kalamansi Books & Things three decades ago. It has evolved from a mail-order bookstore into an online advocacy with the intent of helping global Pinoys discover their heritage by promoting books of value from the Philippines and those written by Filipinos in the Diaspora. We can be reached at

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