Filipino children’s book series teaches mental health through expressive arts



There is a new series of Filipino children’s books on mental health. AHA! storiescreated by MAGIS Creative Spaces, has created tales that aim to comfort children through their anxieties and guide their trusted adults to accompany them through painful experiences.

Sharing stories of healing and growth, AHA! stories is drawn from real-life stories of resilience from children around the world, as witnessed by series lead author Dr Gina Alfonso during her work as a mental health trainer and clinician at Save the Children International. Alfonso is also the founder of MAGIS Creative Spaces, a social enterprise specializing in the use of expressive arts in therapy and psychosocial support services for individuals and organizations.

“The MAGIS Creative Spaces created AHA! stories for children and adults,” said Alfonso. “For kids, AHA! stories aims to communicate that they are not alone – that there are people in similar situations in other places in the world who can get through difficult situations, and that they can count on creative and compassionate companions in the life to help them through difficult times.

While at Save the Children International, Alfonso witnessed how parents, teachers and caregivers used his expressive arts programs to help children living in the midst of war or recovering from displacement. due to natural disasters or political violence.

As she listened to the stories of these children herself and shared her own experiences in the Philippines, Alfonso saw how surprised the children were that there were others like them in faraway places. This is how she realized that children in the midst of a crisis tend to believe that they are alone in the face of their pain, which is actually not the case.

“The hope of AHA! stories is to tell stories of resilience from different places in the world to help children discover, when they are feeling down, that they are part of a larger community of other children who have been through difficult times thanks to their courage and their creativity,” said Alfonso.

For the adults in these children’s lives, Alfonso has created AHA! stories to build a community of adults who care for children and want to post their own stories about the challenges faced through the healing power of the expressive arts.

Expressive arts therapy uses visual arts, music, dance, drama, and other forms of creative expression to help children and adults process difficult emotions and create change in behavior or thought . According psychology today“Throughout the process [of expressive arts therapy]you learn new and different ways to use the language of creativity, mostly non-verbal, to communicate inner feelings that were not previously available to you just by thinking about it or talking about it.

This is different from art therapy, which uses only one art form.

First in the AHA! stories the series is a tale from the Philippines titled Ang mga Alon sa Amin (The nearby waves)a bilingual book in Filipino and English inspired by the resilience of the Tagbanua community of Sitio Alulad, Culion, Palawan after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit their community in 2013.

Written by Alfonso, Rainey S. Dolatre and Coleen Ramirez-Panahon, with illustrations by Ianthe Pimentel, Alon with Amin tells the story of Mario, a Tagbanua child who lives near the seaside. After a super typhoon ravages his community, he develops a fear of the waves and avoids the outdoors as much as he can. It is only when he and his community turn to their traditional songs and dances that he learns to manage his anxiety and heal from his pain.

At the end of the book, readers will find art activities that adults can use to talk about the story with their children and teach them how to manage their own stress.

Alfonso also hopes to use some of the proceeds from book sales to rebuild a classroom that had housed the Tagbanua community during Yolanda. This same classroom was portrayed in his next book.

Alon with Amin is just one of six children’s books from AHA! Stories.

Readers should keep their eyes peeled for stories from Haiti, El Salvador, China, Uganda and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Just like the Filipino book, there will be expressive art activities at the end of each story that adults can use to help children build resilience in times of stress and adversity.

There are also more tales to come after the release of the six books.

“All of these books are meant to showcase the arts and play, and, specifically, how the arts as a way of life and in its various forms can ignite a sense of agency in children,” Alfonso said. . “These stories illustrate the simple yet powerful power of the arts to help children cope and connect with their ability to overcome their grief, fear or grief in the most difficult situations, and ultimately to feel a sense of safety and hope.” –

Ang mga Alon sa Amin is available for purchase via

AHA! The stories can be part of your own expressive arts-based psychosocial support program with children. If you come from a school or community that works with children and want to incorporate the expressive arts into your organization, visit or contact MAGIS Creative Spaces at [email protected].

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