A lost phone and then a storybook for kids: A family pays it forward

A book inspired by the stories of Typhoon Yolanda survivors

A children’s book inspired by the stories of Typhoon Yolanda survivors

Minnie and Ella Francia

Minnie and Ella Francia

By Joseph Jerome Francia

Almost a year ago today, I lost my iPhone at a car wash.

I drove home a clean, shiny car, while ruefully estimating the cost of a replacement phone. Despondent, I thought: This has got to be my most expensive car wash.

Minnie, my ever supportive wife, tried to console me. She said we’ll just set aside something from our Christmas budget so I could get a new phone.

“But wait”, my daughter Ella said. “I activated the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature on the iPad. We might be able to locate your phone.”

We gathered around the screen and true enough, the GPS locator showed a blinking spot where my phone was supposed to be. The blinking spot kept moving, indicating that whoever had my phone was walking around.

So off we went and drove back to the car wash to track down my missing phone. To cut a long story short — guided by technology and two hours after losing it — we found my phone hidden under a mound of gravel and rocks a few blocks away from the car wash. It was thoughtfully covered in plastic before it was “buried,” so it bore no scratches nor any damages.

Back home, grateful, we decided that the money we set aside supposedly for a replacement phone was no longer ours. We had to give it away.

After praying and careful consideration, we decided to give the money towards building boats for people affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda a few weeks before.

And so we did. We reached out to an acquaintance from New York, independent filmmaker Janice Perez, who was then busy with post-typhoon volunteer work in Central Philippines.

The boats were done and turned over to the recipients. But the story didn’t end there. Little did we know that this mundane episode of losing a phone would one day lead to the publication of a children’s storybook, “Maria’s Colorful Banca,” a literary collaboration between Minnie and our daughter Ella.

To mark the first anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda, Minnie and Ella recently released the illustrated children’s storybook inspired by the tales of typhoon survivors in Bantayan Island, Northern Cebu.

Maria’s Colorful Banca” chronicles the idyllic life of Maria in the island, how it was disrupted by the super-typhoon and how her friends helped her after the calamity. The central character Maria was named after Maria Dominika, a baby girl born in Bantayan shortly after the typhoon, amid the devastation.

It was during a holiday in Bantayan Island that my then 11-year-old daughter Ella got inspiration for this story. Ella thought she wanted to share their story and encourage others to keep helping Typhoon Yolanda’s survivors. Aside from writing, Ella also loves to read and dance ballet. She also plays the piano, guitar and ukulele. She is now in her last year at The Learning Tree Child Growth Center and hopes to continue her writing, dancing and musical interests beyond her grade school years.

My wife Minnie, a Communication Arts major at the Ateneo de Manila University, is a freelance writer and editor. As a hands-on parent, she considers it a reward that her kids love reading and writing. One of her greatest joys is being able to pass on books to her kids that she herself loved while growing up.

This pioneering project is in collaboration with Cebu-based artists Janice Y. Perez and RJ Aquino.

Janice spent so many unforgettable childhood summers in Bantayan Island, cementing her deep love for the island, which would never fade away even as she moved to New York City. She lived in the Big Apple for 10 years to pursue a career in Filmmaking, specializing in Screenwriting and Directing. She returned to Cebu in the end of 2012 to direct her first feature-length film, “The Muses.”

R.J., on the other hand, is a blue-blooded Cebuano, born and raised in Cebu City. He originally trained and studied as a medical student, but eventually, the call to fulfill his passion of becoming a filmmaker led him to pursue his real path, a journey that began after he first saw Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, “Jurassic Park” as a young boy. He currently works as a prolific director and editor for Dreamline Productions, one of Cebu City’s major production companies.

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