Books Magazine

There Once Was a Boy Who Had a Dream

By Maytpapa

Maybe now I can write about it. I got a special, advanced copy early October from the author himself.

I had known Jose Miguel "Jomike" Tejido since 1999 when he joined the group Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan. He was still in college then, taking up Architecture at UST, but he had already been publishing his illustrations for children for years before that, in the Junior Inquirer supplement of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He is, perhaps, currently the most prolific author of children's books for Filipino children, publishing both as writer and illustrator. He has recently expanded his audience reach to overseas, with his projects with US children's book publishers. His body of work, both in number and quality, is quite impressive, for somebody largely self-taught, first as an illustrator, then as a writer. I had the pleasure of previewing Jomike's early attempts as a writer, when once he emailed me, asking me to do a critique on his very first short story for children. He was the most eager, attentive and diligent student, as we carried on a crash correspondence course on writing for children over a few weeks in 2002. Not too surprisingly, the very first book he wrote and illustrated, the delightful Dindo Pundido, published by Adarna House, became a best seller, and 17 years later, it is still in print, and is now considered among classics of Filipino children's literature.

By the time he consulted me for his next writing project, "Ang Pambihirang Sombrero", I was even more impressed by how he'd improve his writing. His story had qualified him for the Barlaya Writers' Workshop, a workshop for writers. His passion and diligence on improving his writing skills paid off; his story was selected on its own merits.

Over the years, I had closely witnessed Jomike grow amazingly both as writer and illustrator, from a college kid who had first shyly asked for advice in an email. He has generously paid it forward since, by sharing his gifts and mentoring both children and adults in writing and illustrating workshops and in festival panel discussions both here and abroad.

This year, a dream of his came true, as he launched his book "There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Book" in Books of Wonder in NYC, published by Jimmy Patterson Books no less. The book is a delightful love letter to fairytales and picture books. With it, Jomike's story as a writer-illustrator comes full circle. The student is now a mentor himself, to young, aspiring writers and illustrators. The journey, however, wasn't without its share of rejections and setbacks, as Jomike himself will attest - but the important lesson perhaps to be learned here is to persevere: believe in your dream, and never stop figuring out how to make it happen.

Congratulations, Jomike!

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