Children are naturally curious. as they are exposed to the real world, they begin to ask things that are tough to answer — questions like, “How are babies made?” (find a script guide here) or “Why does Daddy have another family?” Even harder are questions on gender identity and homosexuality — “Why does that man dress like a girl?” or “Why does my classmate have two moms or two dads?”
At times like these, books can be very helpful in answering your children’s burning questions. According to Pumplepie Books & Happiness owner, Alexine Parreño, “they encapsulate what you want to say in a child-friendly format, and you can use them as a springboard for a more extensive discussion.” Having discussions with your kids on sensitive topics serves to widen their perspective — which, in the long run, can teach them how to be kinder and more accepting of the people around them.
That’s the ultimate goal of Michael P. De Guzman, whose first children’s book, Dalawa ang Daddy ni Billy, tackles the story of Billy, a 7-year-old boy who is bullied for having two fathers and for having a family different from others. The book, which was written 15 years ago, will be launched on September 16 at the 39th Manila International Book Fair (MIBF).
While the book openly tackles LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Queer) issues, there are other important themes revolving around the story. “Most of the stories I have written tackle the themes of alienation and/or otherness and the ways in which these are addressed and overcome,” shares Michael in an email interview with SmartParenting.com.ph. “To me, as a gay man, this is essentially the struggle of non-heterosexuals everywhere.”
“I felt it was important that stories like Dalawa ang Daddy ni Billy are told so that children will learn there are many kinds of people in the world outside their homes and that accepting these differences will make life better for them and everybody else,” he adds.
The LGBTQ theme, however, did not make it easy for Michael's manuscript to find a publisher. It was rejected over the years by many publishing companies until Tahanan Books came along.
"It is a simple, honest, and sensitive story about family. And we all feel that it is high time for a book like this to be published,” Tahanan Books said in a statement.
Without going into detail, Michael introduces us to the titular character: “Billy is your average 7-year-old boy who loves riding bicycles, playing basketball, and singing. His Papa is a doctor while his Daddy is a work-at-home IT person. His late mother was a teacher and a childhood sweetheart of his Papa. She died from complications of childbirth. Three years later, his Papa realizes that he’s gay after meeting his Daddy. They fall in love and decided to raise Billy together.”
The book's illustrator is Daniel Palma Tayona, who was convinced to do the drawings after falling in love with the story. “The first thing that hit me was the boldness of how it was written and the simplicity of the plot — just a boy who is loved and well-nurtured by his two dads,” he shares with Smart Parenting. “It was so unadorned that it resonates with so much truth and strength.”
While Billy’s family is different in a sense that he has two dads, Daniel says they are just like any ordinary family. “They are a middle-class family, and they make do with everyday life,” he says.
It’s why the visuals, while simple, stand out. “They are ordinary but relatable. It’s in this simplicity that I made the visual stories behind each character extraordinary,” he says.
Though it took over a decade to publish, Michael says that now is the right time for it to be consumed by readers. “Over the years, our concepts and beliefs on what a family is have been undergoing many changes. Children born out of wedlock are no longer stigmatized. Single mothers have gained social acceptance. This book could very well be an idea whose time has come,” shares Michael.
After all, the core of the story is a family who are bound together by love. “It doesn’t matter whether the parents are male-female, female-female, male-male, single female, or single male. What’s important is the presence of love and affection for each other. That parents do everything to ensure that their children are loved, protected, and nurtured to become good people,” he says. Love, as the book’s synopsis says, can triumph over prejudice, and it’s what Michael would like every parent to glean from the story.
“Quoting the American poet Maya Angelou, ‘It’s time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength,’” Michael says.
Dalawa ang Daddy ni Billy will be available on September 16 during the MIBF. You’ll find Tahanan Books at the first floor booth (#272-273) and at the second floor booth (#2-51). Regular price is at Php250 but will be sold at an introductory price of Php195 at the fair.
Michael and Daniel will be holding a book signing at Tahanan Books’ second floor booth from 10 a.m. to 12 nn on the same day. They’ll also have a special surprise for shoppers who purchase the 50th and 100th copy of the book.