Young Lady

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SABIDO: What started out as a blog about her life became a blog about books (PDI Photo/Alanah Torralba)

Fittingly enough for someone who willingly surrounds herself with stories from childhood, Tarie Sabido’s nickname is accompanied by a quirky tale of its own. The blogger and teacher’s real name is Roberta Marie Sabido: her nickname takes the “ta” from Roberta and melds it with the “rie” from Marie, leading to Tarie. Then again, there’s the story her mother Consuelo told her about her father Peter. “My mom says my dad was playing Atari with friends when she was giving birth,” Sabido recalls.

The 30-year-old Sabido was born in the Philippines but grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada until she was in middle school, when she moved to General Santos City for high school; she would graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a degree in English Studies.

Sabido was still in grade school when she discovered the unfettered joy of books, falling hard for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic “The Secret Garden” and L.E. Blair’s “Welcome to Junior High!”  Since then, she has nurtured a deep love for literature written for children and young adults (YA).  She believes that just because books were written for young readers, there’s no reason that adults cannot enjoy them as well. For Sabido, these are truly books for everyone.

She didn’t really write during her college days but books consumed her. When the first trailers for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films began running in theaters, Sabido was smitten. “They looked really amazing,” she recalls. So she devoured the books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Then, she found out that the author C.S. Lewis was a close friend of Tolkien’s; she then proceeded to read Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia,” which quickly became her all-time favorite series of books. “Oh my God,” she says of that experience. The books inspired Sabido to concentrate on children’s and YA literature, while Tolkien inspired her to become a teacher.

This passion is evident in her pioneering blog, Into the Wardrobe (peteredmundlucy7.blogspot.com) in 2005. Her best friend CY once asked Sabido if she had a blog, to which she replied in puzzlement, “what’s a blog?”

Once she got that sorted out, Sabido began blogging in earnest. “I started it as an online journal but because I was a bookworm, it evolved into a blog about books.”

Calling Into the Wardrobe a book about books is a bit of an understatement. By 2007, authors began getting in touch with Sabido, offering review copies and asking for reviews. “It sounded pretty good to me,” she says.

She would then encounter the Kidlitosphere, an online community dedicated to children’s and YA books. “I was blown away,” she remembers. “Here were bloggers who were really passionate about YA and children’s lit. I was inspired to be more serious about it.” In 2009, Sabido began a second blog, Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind (asiaintheheart.blogspot.com), which focuses primarily on Asian children’s and YA writing. “I noticed Asian children’s and YA lit were neglected in the blogosphere,” Sabido explains. “It was a big gap I wanted to fill.”

Her blogs are essential stops for anyone interested in the evolution of writing for younger readers. Writing about Filipino author Candy Gourlay’s novel “Tall Story,” Sabido writes: “‘I really enjoyed reading ‘Tall Story.’ It’s an interesting story and I love so many things about it: How it is about family, Filipino legends and superstitions, and basketball… I love how in  ‘Tall Story’ there is the question of how belief in legends and superstitions affects how one reacts to events.”

With her blogs acting as a clearing-house of information about literature for younger readers in the region and a home for Filipino YA and children’s lit online, Sabido has emerged as a dedicated advocate of such writing in the region.

She attended the first Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in 2011, “just so I could blog about it.” Sabido became the blogger with the most posts about the AFCC so that in 2012, she moderated a panel about blogging. This year, there is an entire track just for blogging.

The act of blogging about books is whimsically and ironically meaningful, applying new-world technology to an old-fangled medium. Book bloggers are a growing presence in the Philippines, and even within that group, Sabido’s focus is rare. Sabido is part of the Filipino Book Bloggers, an organization that counts almost 100 bloggers in its ranks. Yet, even within that group, Sabido is one of “only a handful” of bloggers who write exclusively about children’s and YA books.

Aside from that, Sabido is a member of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People and was a judge for the 1st National Children’s Book Awards in 2010. She was busy helping organize 1st Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards (FRCA) in 2012.

“The FRCA was established to develop awareness and appreciation of Philippine literature, recognize the reader’s role in creating the meaning and experience of a literary work, and give the readers a voice in the Philippine book industry,” says Blooey Singson, a member of the Filipino Book Bloggers who also specializes in children’s and YA lit, and is the founder of the FRCA. Like a literary Hamburger Helper, Sabido is ever ready to share her experiences and expertise with book clubs and reading circles that invite her. Maintaining two blogs isn’t always easy. “Even when I’m busy, I’m still thinking about my blogs.”

Sabido considers herself a teacher first, and this is evident in her busy schedule teaching  at the Ateneo Language Learning Center and Obelisk Interlinked Learner’s Home. Aside from books, her other consuming passion is Korean Pop, or K-pop. When talking about attending a much-anticipated K-pop concert in Manila, she described it, seriously, as the “best night of my life!” Her favorite K-pop acts are Big Bang, 2NE1 and EXO. Asked what she does when away from K-pop and Books, she responds, “There’s a life away from them?” In fact, Sabido says her two worlds are merging. “My next book review is of a Korean YA novel.” Most recently, she enjoyed reading two of Adarna’s new offerings: “Anong Gupit Natin Ngayon?” by Russell Molina and Hubert Fucio as well as “Naaay! Taaay!” by Kristine Canon and Vanessa Tamayo.

Promoting children’s and YA lit in the country faces its own challenges. “There are tons of illustrators who outnumber the writers,” Sabido explains. “So we’ve been encouraging illustrators to write as well. We just want more content.” Additionally, she says “we need to write for the different age groups,” noting that there are distinctive divisions within both children’s and YA lit.

Ani Almario of Adarna House says that there needs to be more children’s and YA books in Filipino. “It’s difficult for instance to convince Metro Manila-based children to like or prefer reading children’s books written in Filipino. For YA, the problem is that there isn’t really a lot of people writing in Filipino so it’s hard to provide a lot of choice for the Filipino YA reader because we don’t really get a lot of submissions.”

Singson also says the problem lies in “the lack of good reading programs at the grassroots level.” She adds that publishers need to publish books in regional languages. “I think there are a lot more stories to be told in Filipino children’s books and they don’t necessarily have to be in English or Filipino.” This is something that Sabido enthusiastically seconds.

Singson explains the importance of the kind of blogging that Sabido does, saying that bloggers “represent the voice of the Filipino reader, which I’m happy to observe is slowly getting its place in the book industry.” Almario says that Sabido “is highlighting, discussing, and marketing Asian and Filipino authors online in a way that hasn’t been done before.” Sabido, Almario says, is so passionate that she raises the bar for publishers. “We need more people like her to improve the quality of the industry.”

Citing the excellence of young readers’ literature and how it is often overlooked, Sabido seeks to continue to do so indefinitely. It’s a cause she believes in particular because it’s an area that “needs more attention.” She is clearly excited about the prospects that await her: more books, more discoveries.

That’s her story, and forever bookworm Tarie Sabido is happy to stick to it: “I would like to see Filipino children’s and YA literature become famous in the world, and I would like to help promote it.” •

Into the Wardrobe: peteredmundlucy7.blogspot.com

Asian in the Heart, World on the Mind: asiaintheheart.blogspot.com

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