Mila is an author and poet based in the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. Let’s hear about her passion for writing and languages.
What languages do you or your family speak?
English, and German at home, I speak Tagalog and know Spanish and French (I can read and listen in on meetings, but need to respond in English).
What is a favorite book or story from your childhood?
I liked Don Quixote even as a child, and the song “Impossible Dream”.
Never give up on a dream even if others try to stop you or mock you – was the message that touched me and still resonates to me until now.
What was your inspiration for writing/ illustrating children’s books?
I believe it is important for children to see themselves as protagonists in the media they consume, and there were not that many children’s books where an immigrant or “second-gen” Filipino-Canadian child was the main character. I want to encourage children to know their stories, and their parents’/ancestors’ stories, especially within the Filipino diaspora. I want to give the parents a chance to read stories with their children where the parents can also point out details of their childhood and hometowns. And hopefully, children become curious and ask more questions about their heritage and establish some connection with it. Providing a bilingual book opens up the opportunities to learn some words, learn or keep up a heritage language.
What future book releases or projects are coming up?
I have two children’s books coming out next year, around February 2022 and both are self-published because I wanted them to be illustrated by my wonderful sister and by a dear childhood friend. One cannot choose one’s illustrators when being published in the mainstream publishers, and it is important to me to work with these two illustrators on what we are calling our work of love and legacy, so we chose to self-publish.
I am also organizing and performing in C.U.E. Connect, Unlearn, Expand Poetry Reading with the sponsorship of the Writers Guild of Alberta – bringing in 9 writers, 3 each from the Asian, Black and Indigenous communities to read our pieces and get to know each other.
Any advice for parents teaching kids Tagalog?
Include both fun and structure in learning/teaching another language. Connect it with culture and heritage. Don’t give up as children get curious about their culture at different ages. At the same time, give the children some space to shape and influence their own identities and do not force your own nostalgia or perception of your culture on them. If they want to stop or show no interest, do not take that personally as a rejection of you and your heritage. If you have a good and healthy relationship with your child, and a positive but also realistic view of your culture and heritage, there will come a time the children become genuinely interested about their culture and heritage as well.
Last but not least, what is your favorite Filipino food?
Arroz Caldo and Tinola and Pancit Orani (our family is from Orani, Bataan).
Learn more about Mila at https://www.milabongco.com.
Her children’s books include:
- Tony’s Wheels – a story about a young boy with a disability, who immigrates from the Philippines to Canada. He finds hope and community in wheelchair racing.
- Sandy Beaches to Snow – Two children recount the sounds and sights and lovable chaos of preparing to travel across the seas. One is travelling from sun and sand to a winter climate; the other is going the exact opposite way.
We’re giving away a paperback copy of Tony’s Wheels written by Mila Bongco-Philipzig amd illustrated by Michael Parillas. Leave a comment below with the language you speak or want to learn for a chance to win (open to US and Canada residents only), entries must be received by 9/2/2021 1159pm US Pacific Time. You can also enter on this Instagram post.