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Set sail for a literary voyage

Once Upon the Sun & Sea: Indigenous Stories and Folk Tales from the Philippines is a children's book for all explorers in search of adventure across faraway islands and open seas. 

Step into a wondrous world––from the adventures of Aponibolinayen as she is carried by vines into the realm of the sun to Tulalang's epic battle with a giant eagle, each story is an invitation to dive into the rich storytelling traditions of the Philippines. 

AW Collection

Why did we make this kind of children's book?

This project was sparked by a conversation between two Filipina mothers as they observed their own young children actively seeking connections to their own heritage while being raised away from the Philippines. Outside of recounting their personal histories, they realized there was an opportunity to provide more access to Indigenous Filipino literature for children.  


Ask any Filipino today to name a handful of well-known fairy tales or myths, and they will almost always be ones of Western origin. Even within the Philippines today, the literature that Filipino children are primarily exposed to are replete with Western and Eurocentric narratives and representation, while pre-colonial Filipino stories take a second seat.


While this book is for all explorers, it is also especially dedicated to the children of the Filipino diaspora.

We hope this book sparks meaningful conversation in families and inspire curiosity and pride in the Indigenous culture and heritage of the Philippines.

What can readers expect from this book?

This 100-page children’s book (ages 6-12) is arranged into two sections: eight Indigenous stories and three folk tales.

With consent from two community elders of the Tagbanua, one of the oldest Indigenous tribes in the Philippines, audio recordings of their oral storytelling of The Quail and the Shrimp and The Story of Buwal were translated into written English. The rest are adaptations of stories from diverse regions of the Philippines.


Accompanied by lavish illustrations incorporating native images, symbols, flora, and fauna, this shining collection also includes a visual glossary with definitions of regional and colloquial vocabulary offering short, digestible facts about their meaning or significance.


We hope Once Upon the Sun & Sea becomes a joyful beacon, inspiring curiosity, conversation, and pride, lighting the way to beloved homelands of sun and sea.   

About the authors & illustrator

Denise Orosa was born and raised in Manila, but left the Philippines in 2001; she moved to Canada and then spent ten years in the Cayman Islands,only to inexplicably find her way back to the Canadian winter. An award-winning arts and elementary educator, writer, and artist who has been working with and writing for children and families for over 20 years, she deeply believes in the important role storytelling plays in preserving and passing on human truth, culture, and identity. She especially values the powerful tradition of oral storytelling and the importance of shared literary inquiry for young minds. She is still working on her novel—don't ask her about it.

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Jo Tiongson-Perez is a Filipina-American writer investigating how stories, language, and media shape worldviews and identities. In addition to a Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communications from the University of Asia and the Pacific, she holds certificates in Creative Writing and Leading Digital Transformation from Wharton, and has completed a course in Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. At the world-renowned Barnes Foundation and Penn Museum, she led ADDY and AAM MUSE award-winning multimedia campaigns, making art, anthropology, and archaeology accessible to all. Jo served as a Board Trustee at the Independence Charter School, a K-8 public school centering global citizenship, bilingual education, and STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) academics. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and rescue poodle.

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Tin Javier is a collage and mixed media artist from Cavite, Philippines. Inspired by art nouveau, she incorporates distinct patterns using punched papers and is inspired by children, nature, history, and Filipino culture. She won the PBBY Alcala Grand Illustrator Award in 2021; her works have been featured in Ang INK Art Collective projects, art magazines, Filipino brands, and international exhibits. Her first solo series, “If Trees Could Talk,” was curated by Cartellino Art Gallery. This is her fourth book, after two award-winning titles: “Ang Tahanang Hindi Tumatahan” by Adarna House and “Pamilya Papel,” a project with the Consulate General of the Republic of San Marino. She is currently studying for an Associate’s Degree of Digital Design and Arts. When she’s not drawing, the neurodivergent mom is either playing with her kids or researching.

Support for this project has been provided by The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania through a grant for AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Artists and Creative Practitioners.

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