CANVAS Provides Stories That

Spark Change And Promote

Children’s Literacy

by Anne Marielle Eugenio, November 27, 2019 2:42pm

Photo courtesy of CANVAS


CANVAS Provides Stories That Spark Change And Promote Children’s Literacy

by Anne Marielle Eugenio, November 27, 2019 2:42pm
Photo courtesy of CANVAS

According to 2013 statistics, nine out of 10 Filipinos aged 10-64 were functionally literate. Based on that rate, most of us can read and write, but what about that one person out of 10 who couldn’t? It’s vital for every person’s life to be literate, and it should start at a young age. This realization became a wake-up call for an organization to advocate for children’s literacy.

The Center for Art, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development (CANVAS) is a non-profit organization that works with the creative community to promote children’s literacy through free books. They also aim to explore national identity and deepen public appreciation of the Philippine art, culture, and environment.

Gigo Alampay, the founder and executive director of CANVAS, started the organization in June 2005 with a single book called Elias and His Trees. This is a story of how a single man can make a big impact in a community. He can’t say CANVAS is at all planned but after the first book was published, CANVAS published more books and developed more programs.

Gigo Alampay, founder and executive director of CANVAS with the kids of Team Yey during the Batang Karapat-dapat event. Photo courtesy of CANVAS


Books That Nurture Children

CANVAS published books meant to entertain and teach children. The organization makes it to a point where they teach children their rights through the activity book Karapat-dapat written by May Tobias-Papa with artworks by Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK). It educates children and teens up to 17 years about their rights to safety, a happy home, and their well-being—basically everything the things needed for their welfare. 

They are big on books not just with morals, but with social relevance too.  Nadia and the Blue Stars by Francesca Nicole Chan Torres, for instance, is a story of a little girl displaced by war, how she coped, and how hope blossomed despite the chaotic state. There’s also witty-titled book Inang Kalikasan’s Bad Hair Day, which has environmental bearings, and Tahan Na, Tahanan, a story of a kid moving out from her childhood home.

Telling the story of “Nadia and the Blue Stars”, Abner Delina Jr. with the Daloy Dance Company. Photo courtesy of CANVA

CANVAS takes part in awakening little ones’ minds about the issues and their rights as a child. They do so through the stories and books, which are made easy to comprehend. Their books are also downloadable for free.

The pages of CANVAs-published book Tahan na, Tahanan came to life on stage through Abner Delina Jr. and Anino Shadowplay Collective. Photo courtesy of CANVAS.

The Advocacy for Filipino Art and Literacy

Karapat-dapat didn’t stay on pages. It inspired a mini-festival on the rights of children in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Batang Karapat-dapat is in partnership with the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Black Canvas. These organizations held a storytelling program for kids, which was made more fun with Anino Shadowplay Collective, Daloy Dance Company, and Anima Tierra.

Apart from this kind of event, CANVAS also has two programs. One is the “Looking for Juan” which uses art to explore social issues.

“This is where our efforts in creating in public art come in, particularly our annual Outdoor Banner Exhibit, the Salinlahi Park we build in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and our special events like TEDxDiliman,” Gigo shared.

The other project is their literacy program, which involves book giving and story-writing competition called Romeo Forbes Children’s Writing Competition. This contest involves collaborating with Filipino artists and the artwork becomes the basis for the story-writing. CANVAS does it three to four times a year and it is open to all Filipinos based in the Philippines or abroad.

Anima Tierra told the environmental tale of “Inang Kalikasan’s Bad Hair Day” through its percussive beats and enchanting vocals. Photo courtesy of CANVAS.

One Page at a Time

Their programs and initiatives educate children while promoting Filipino talent. Gigo would like to believe in the power of books and how stories can change the lives of children up to the point where it will shape their future. He would like to compare CANVAS’s gestures to a pebble thrown into water—you’ll never know when the ripples it created will end. 

“If you throw a book out there, it can capture the imagination of children. And maybe one child will be inspired to change the world,” Gigo shared.

They’ve given books to thousands of children all over the country, but there are still millions who need a helping hand. CANVAS encourages everyone to help and it doesn’t have to be grand. Small actions can make a big difference—just like a single book can change lives.

Help CANVAS through giving donations at, purchase their merchandise at, or purchase their books at Fully Booked. You will be able to donate books to poor communities per purchase. If you want to know more about CANVAS, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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