Two Sides of the Same Coin: How Ms. Joyce Piap-Go and Ms. Maria Cristina “Tinay” Sison Successfully Brought Their Creativity, Experience, and Advocacy To Create Children’s Books
It goes without saying: being involved with the production of children’s books requires heart. There is a certain sensitivity and heightened emotion that goes with the writing and illustrating of material meant for innocent minds. And no one is a better fit for the job more than our two featured artists.
Ms. Joyce Piap-Go, a writer and a pastor and Ms. Maria Cristina “Tinay” Sison an illustrator and 3D artist form the two-woman team behind the inspiring effort, the “Dee the Bee Series”, a series of children’s books which includes “Bee Safe”, “Bee Polite”, and “Bee Healthy” among others. The stories aim at teaching kids on how to live life happily but with care and responsibility.
They sat down with Xeno Creatives to discuss the process that went into producing the children’s book that became one of Hiyas’, OMF Literature’s imprint for children’s books, most successful titles. Their experience is one that configures their talents, dreams, and advocacies that ultimately defines their humanity.
Xeno Creatives (XC): Has writing/illustrating for children’s books always been your interest? I mean, is it safe to say that you have always dreamed of getting your hands into it?
Ms. Joyce Piap-Go: Actually no. It was something that came into my life by surprise. I love teaching kids that’s for sure but I never thought of writing a book for them until OMF came up with a seminar workshop for two days. For two days that’s where we learned the styles and ways.
After the workshop, our skills were tested. We had to tell the stories to the children. From there, the children were able to respond to the story kung gusto ba nila. Out of the many stories presented, three winners were chosen, and one of it was our book. So that came about, that was the first “Bee Safe” book. And every year, they gave us the opportunity to write one more.
Ms. Tinay Sison: I illustrate children’s books on the side. Hindi kasi siya pwedeng gawing regular source of income. In college, ang course ko, Fine Arts Major in Advertising. Pero ever since bata ako, talagang interested ako sa animation. I was really into drawing. Sa college, syempre before we graduate, kailangang gumawa ng thesis, and since hindi ako pwedeng gumawa ng thesis na animation, the closest thing that I could do is a book illustration.
Nung time na yun I applied to become a member of Ilustrador ng Kabataan, an organization of illustrators here in the Philippines. I eventually became a member pero during that time, gusto ko talagang sumali, kaso hindi ko lang talaga matiymepuhan yung screening. If you can imagine, naghintay ako ng about 10 years bago ako nakasali sa Ilustrador ng Kabataan. Nung time din naman na yun, nung 10 years na yun, busying busy ako sa work, which yun na nga, nasa 3D animation ako.
XC: When did you start writing for children’s books exactly?
Ms. Joyce Piap-Go: Producing books for the “Dee the Bee Series” started six years ago. People often ask me, why “Bee”? I got the inspiration from Warren Weirsbe. Warren Weirsbe was an author as well, and he has a lot of books. And one of the series he had was the “Be Series”; “Be Meek”, “Be Humble” and so on. It was a good idea din, then I thought of “Bee Safe”.
XC: I understand that while being a visual artist/writer you do have your own style and possibly a movement hat you adhere to, you also have the inclination to delve into different styles. In this light, is illustrating/writing for children’s books really your brand now – your expertise?
Ms. Tinay: Actually, yan ang dilemma ng mga artist in the industry, especially illustrators because they want to be known for a certain style. Right now for me, andun pa rin ako sa stage na I’m looking for a certain style na dun ako makikilala. But, dun sa mga nabasa ko na, it’s okay that you develop your own style, pero mas maganda rin if you’re flexible; na pwede kang mag-adapt sa iba’t ibang klaseng style.
Ms. Joyce: Writing for now is ministry for me. I would like to call it a ministry that it reaches to many people, and also, it helps parents, because the reason why I wrote “Bee Safe” was that, para bang at that time when I had my child 19 years ago, it was hard for me to look for a book na instructional but at the same time appealing. That’s when I felt na, “Maybe if I write this, parents like me would like to buy it.”
XC: What are the things that you had to take into consideration when preparing for a design?
Ms. Tinay: Yung first experience ko sa pag-illustrate ng book was in a text book. Syempre alam mo naman na napaka-generic ng pagguhit sa text book. And during that time hindi pa talaga developed yung illustrations ko. So, ‘pag gumagawa ako ng illustrations, lalo na nung nagsimula ako sa “Dee the Bee Series”, parang na-mroblema ako. Actually ganun naman talaga siguro. Nag-isip ako kung paano ko ipe-present siya na in such a way na hindi siya maa-associate kay Jolibee.
During the workshop, we illustrators had to come up with drafts of our designs; yung studies. Actually sa totoo, yung una kong design, nung makita nila, “Uy si Jollibee ba ‘yan?” I was struggling at that time in presenting Dee the Bee. So ayun, since pina-take home naman siya, nag-research ako. Yun ’pag nagi-illustrate ka, you have to do research. Okey yung naghahanap ng references para magcome up ng original design. So I came up with a design na parang little boy na naka-costume na bubuyog. Inisip ko na in that way baka mas maka-relate yung mga bata sa kanya.
XC: Have you tried your hands on other media? If so, what was it?
Ms. Tinay: I’d like to try sculpting! Pero hindi yung sa Zbrush, I mean, yung actual sculpting.
Ms. Joyce: Wala pa, but I would love to! I would like to write the “Wow God” series, because I’m a pastor at heart too. Those are the things that we learned from Bible school as well; those are the things na itinuturo ko rin, so gusto kong i-try. . .maybe after my comprehensive exam gusto ko ring i-try. That is if they give me a chance.
XC: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what do you think you’d be specializing in?
Ms. Joyce: Siguro if I’m not into writing, I would still be into pastoring; still in the field of ministry. Right now, aside from my husband’s business that I’m helping in and the writing of books, also a chunk of my time goes to counseling. Kasi studying this course is really something that makes me very happy. I am really happy when I help other people in terms of their emotions. So it’s more of counseling and teaching opportunities in the counseling area.
XC: As an artist/writer, do you see the Philippines as fertile grounds for your craft/discipline to advance further?
Ms. Joyce: I hope there would a come a time. But if you are going to write for a living, I would really have to say na, better prepare yourself! Kasi if it’s really for money, I don’t think you would be able to survive. You really have to have another source of income. The generation ngayon is not really a generation of readers na. Sad to say. O siguro talagang mas maikli na yung attention span nila. Pero, while there’s room for it still, maybe, branching out to e-books na interactive na, maybe that would still be viable.
If it’s a calling, I think you wouldn’t mind the money involved in it, thus it would be okay. You really have to have the calling.
Ms. Tinay: Yes definitely. Magandang venue ang Philippines for the craft, but then, as with writing, it takes passion. It’s not really practical. It’s not something that you can turn into a money-making endeavor. So while the Philippines is good grounds for illustration not only for children’s books but illustration in general, hindi mo siya basta-bastan magagawang full-time na trabaho.
XC: Do you see yourself in the coming years still writing children’s stories?
Ms. Joyce: I would like to believe that – and I would love to hope na we would still be here. Na sana every year we would be able to come up with a Bee-thing, you know? As long as there are readers, we would be here still. What’s good about the “Bee” is that we could expand it into many other things. There are still a lot of things that we could write about it.
XC: What piece of advice or message can you give young aspirants wanting to enter the industry?
Ms. Joyce: Keep reading so that you can keep writing. It’s very ironic that you would want to write but you wouldn’t want to read. If you really want to write and send in your proposal to publishing companies and then they’ll approve it, then by all means do it. If it’s a calling naman, then you wouldn’t stop. You can even self-publish. A lot of people are already doing it.
Ms. Tinay: Kung talagang hilig mo ang pagguhit, don’t let anyone stop you. Pursue it. Practice. Do good at what you do. Be practical, but if it’s really a passion, everything will follow.
Describing their accomplishment as impressive is an understatement. Ms. Piap-Go and Ms. Sison, through their talent and dedication had not only contributed to literature and visual arts, they had contributed to the morale of the country. And as far as achievements go, theirs is one that cannot be easily overshadowed.
About the Artists:
Ms. Joyce Piap-Go is currently taking her Doctorate in Education focusing on Counseling in Psychotherapy. She also Mastered in Biblical Studies at the Singapore Bible College. Ms. Piap-Go has been a pastor for over 20 years. She teaches and preaches to the old and young alike.
Ms. Maria Cristina “Tinay” Sison is a 3D artist and a children’s book illustrator. As a 3D artist her focus is more on creating textures, shaders, doing lighting, rendering and compositing. Ms. Sison has been illustrating children’s books for 5 years and has been a 3D artist for over 17 years.