Teaching Filipino children values in the digital age

Published January 15, 2022, 12:00 PM

by Jules Vivas

Striking balance between traditional and new media as platforms to educate the youth with values

ALIEN CAT Heneral Tuna, the protagonist of the animated series of the same name

Some psychologists believe that values are impossible to teach. Telling kids to be honest, considerate, or diligent would not work any better than asking adults the same. There isn’t enough study to disprove the theory, but values are too important to leave to chance. In the long run, a person’s character is heavily influenced by the values he or she believes in.

There are many ways to guide children to be good and instil in them crucial values. Among the most common methods of educating the youth is through the use of books and visual aids. Imagine reading a book to a kid every day from the day they were born, and you would have read 1095 titles by the time they turn three. Reading to children allows them to learn new vocabulary and correct sentence structure. It also lengthens their attention span, builds comprehension skills, and inculcates in them a love of reading, which can be one of the greatest gifts you can bequeath to a child. Reading to our children is an easy task that can be done in no more than 20 minutes a day. The benefits can be reaped for life.

The advent of technology has helped us become more connected and informed. But it has also left us distracted with all the gadgets and all the things the internet has to offer. That said, there is awareness that we must strike a balance between tech-savvy and traditional. We must allow ourselves to pursue humanities, from art to literature, even religion.

In the Philippines, certain organizations have taken action to introduce children to proper values, but also to inspire them to love the country and learn more about our heritage and traditions.

Books of faith

Launched recently by Lampara Books was the Guiding Light, a new Philippine imprint that aims to encourage parents and families to be good influences on their children’s lives.

VALUES TEXT The book cover of Little Life Lessons on… Kindness

The faith-based and family-oriented publication house promotes spiritual formation, values education, emotional growth, and community development through highly entertaining but transformative books written and designed by some of the world’s most promising and award-winning authors, illustrators, as well as personalities.

Guiding Light, for its premiere offering, has released its “Little Life Lessons on…” series, which is a collection of fun activity books that parents and their children can color, play around with, and use as a medium for purpose-driven instruction.

Written in both English and Filipino, the series is made for childhood care providers and parents to teach their kids important values in life. The “Little Life Lessons on…” catalog has inspirational stories that depict kindness, obedience, respect, and love, among many others.

Reading to children lengthens their attention span, builds comprehension skills, and inculcates in them a love of reading, which can be one of the greatest gifts you can bequeath to a child.

The motivational imprint also takes pride in its Family Bible Illustrated edition that has 365 pages of bible stories, meditations, and prayers for the entire family to reflect on together. The Comic Book Bible, meanwhile, offers a treasury of stories, known and loved by generations of readers.

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION The Life of Christ cover art

The Classic Bible Stories, illustrated for pictures-and-words format by talented young artist Tommaso d’ Incalei, offers a refreshing twist to the familiar narrative. Bringing stories to life for a new generation of readers, this timeless collection is expected to inspire people to discover the meaning behind the teachings of God in an exciting and easy-to-read way. A noteworthy title under its banner is The Classic Children’s Bible, which is beautifully illustrated and presented to cater to a younger readership.

Other significant titles in Guiding Light are Rhona Davies’ The Life of Christ, strikingly illustrated to chronicle the important life events that Jesus Christ went through from his days in Galilee to joining God in heaven, as well as Angela M. Burrin’s Welcome To The Mass, a beautifully illustrated book that “explains the Mass by linking the liturgy to scenes from the Gospels.”


The cat’s out of the bag

Apart from books, shows, especially cartoons, are effective teaching tools. A 2014 research by Cevat Eker and Oğuzhan Karadeniz found that it was advisable to utilize cartoons as a means to educate kids in and out of the classroom.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) had commissioned an animated series Heneral Tuna for its Filipino Values Program. The cultural agency conducted a study with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in 2019 to determine values held among Filipinos. The results were: family, faith, resilience, care for the environment, honesty, love for country, valuing culture and arts, and good governance.

PINOY REPRESENT A scene from Heneral Tuna that shows a typical Filipino neighborhood

The mini-series focuses on the titular character, Heneral Tuna, a prominent hero of Planet Mingming. The alien cat was assigned to take over Earth, but crash-landed in the Philippines, in particular, Barangay Hiraya (based on a real-life community in Pila, Laguna), where he would carry out his reconnaissance mission observing the locals for his planned invasion.

The first for NCCA to be involved in animation, Heneral Tuna already proves to be an impactful showcase of Filipino values in a modern, entertaining, and engaging way. The series communicates how values can be adopted in our daily lives by showing characters embracing them in their relationships with family, friends, and community.

The short cartoon was created by Rocketsheep Studio, and was directed by Avid Liongoren, famous for  directing the animated film Hayop Ka: The Nimfa Dimaano Story. Carlo Vergara, the artist responsible for the graphic novel Ang Kagilagilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah, served as the script writer. Rob Cham, Charlene Sawit, Kevin Raymundo, and Geri Kristen Cruz were part of the concept development team. Heneral Tuna’s lead voice actor is Manny Angeles.

Heneral Tuna premiered online on Oct. 15, 2021, on the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP)’s paid subscription service, FDCP Channel, and in Kumu. The series has a total of seven episodes with each having a run-time of about three minutes. It is available with English and Filipino subtitles.