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A 33-year process to see print

YVETTE FERNANDEZ (left)with bookillustratorAldy Aguirre. — YVETTE FERNANDEZ

“ONCE upon a December evening,” reads the first line of Yvette Fernandez’s not-quite-new children’s story. Thirty-three years after it was written, the story following a little bear, a wooden boy, golden-haired doll, and a tin soldier, has finally been published.

In 1989, Ms. Fernandez, then a journalism student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, had an assignment for her English class. “As a journalist, I am used to writing reality and facts,” Ms. Fernandez told BusinessWorld in an interview via Zoom. “So, I said, ‘Oh no! What am I going to write?”

Her siblings suggested that her writing assignment be a story about toys.

“My sister [Lara] was 11 at the time — she did some illustrations. And then my other sister [Jackie, who] was a year younger than me, did the cover,” Ms. Fernandez recalled. “And then we photocopied it, and we gave it as Christmas presents to our family and friends. And then after that, every year we would e-mail the story to my friends.”

The story was also adapted into a Christmas play at their parish.

After a few years, the copy of the story was misplaced, and that seemed like the end of that.

Until, that is, a mundane household task turned out to be what some might consider a “Christmas miracle.”

“I did not know where it was until about two years ago when my sister [Lara] found a pile of diskettes,” Ms. Fernandez said. “[She] converted the files herself. She had an old computer with a floppy disk drive and then copied them to another computer.”

And the story was found.

A DREAM PROJECT“We always dreamt of having it printed one day,” Ms. Fernandez, who is a published book author, said.

“We never had a real title for the book. I think when we first gave it [as a present] way back then it was called, Once Upon a Wintery Evening. So, the actual first sentence was ‘Once upon a wintery evening.’ And then, just very recently, when it was on the proofs, we changed ‘wintery’ to ‘December.’ Because ‘wintery’ was so foreign,” Ms. Fernandez said.

The title was finalized in the last month before printing.

“For the title, I wanted it to have the idea of Christmas in it. So, we just changed it to The Christmas Toys,” she said.

As mentioned earlier, the story follows four characters — a little bear, a wooden boy, a golden-haired doll, and a tin soldier — who each share their stories about Christmas and discover its true meaning.

The choice of characters came together when she started writing all those decades ago.

“I’m not quite sure how it came out to be that way. I just had the first sentence in my head and sat down and wrote it,” she said.

As none of the original illustrations still exist, the printed book was illustrated by Aldy Aguirre whom the author reached out to online. They worked on the book, corresponding virtually, for two years. 

The net proceeds of the book will go to the Carewell Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides support and education for cancer patients and their families. The organization was established by the author’s late sister, Jessica “Jackie” Fernandez-Suntay, who passed away from cancer in 2005. 

“They will use it for different wellness programs they have. They have a lot of classes and talks for cancer patients, survivors, and their families,” Ms. Fernandez said.

With The Christmas Toys, Ms. Fernandez hopes that children and families remember the experience of camaraderie and friendship and the meaning of the first Christmas.

“Sometimes in the busyness of life, people forget what the first Christmas was [all about] and hopefully people remember that,” she said.

The Christmas Toys is priced at P850. For inquires, visit Yvette Fernandez’s Facebook page. Copies are also available at the BenCab Museum (http://www.bencabmuseum.org/) in Benguet. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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