Kids Read #4: Good Night Philippines, Good Night World by Mila Bongco-Philipzig

“I’m sleepy now. Good night. I love you.”

The message repeats, page after page, but in eleven different languages – from Ilonggo to Italian, Kapampangan to Cree, Cebuano to Swedish.

good night phils 2

These are children, siblings, parents all wishing their loved ones in various corners of the world a good night.

The Filipinos abroad are mostly OFWs: engineers, nannies, cooks, nurses, musicians.

These “good night” conversations are held over Skype, Facetime chat, old-fashioned phone calls.

The aim of “Good Night Philippines, Good Night World” is to

“celebrate the diversity of places and languages in the Philippines, as well as the courage and versatility of Filipinos who have had to embrace other cultures and languages as they travel to study, work, or immigrate abroad.”

The book has a simple premise and it was fun to have a go saying good night in all those languages (there’s a pronunciation guide at the back).

good night phils 1

But I found my thoughts drifting.

It’s not that hard to imagine such a “good night” conversation taking place in real life.

As of 2015 there were 2.4 million OFWs working abroad, mostly women (51.1%). As of August 2016 OFW cash remittances totalled $17.6 billion – 10% of the country’s GDP. By ratio to population, the Philippines ranks 1st in the world when it comes to dependency on remittances.

In short, a lot of Filipino families – not just the ones who have OFWs in the family – have OFWs to thank for the Philippine economy’s resilience.

What the statistics don’t show, however, is the day-to-day sacrifices they make. The hotel worker waking up alone the next day, after hearing her daughter’s voice in a call the night before.

It can be very lonely, especially this Christmas season.

Hubby and I are OFWs ourselves. We’re very lucky indeed to have Squishy with us here.

Not everyone is as fortunate.

When Squishy’s old enough maybe we’ll talk about books like these. How he thinks the kids in the book feel with their parents working so far away.

We’ll talk about all the languages the people spoke – how different they sound yet how in the end, they all mean exactly the same thing.

Good night. I love you.

good night phils 3


Good Night Philippines, Good Night World (Anvil Publishing)
By Mila Bongco-Philipzig

Php 150 at National Bookstore


Turn Off The TV


“How much TV does [Squishy] watch?”

“We don’t really let him watch TV.”

“No TV? Not even the kids channels on YouTube? Or Peppa Pig?”

“No. Well… he does listen to Little Baby Bum sometimes. But he doesn’t watch the videos. Oh, and we make an exception for long flights.”

*Silence, plus tons of follow-up questions on how we “entertain” Squishy without screens*


We always get a lot of skepticism whenever we say Squishy doesn’t watch TV at all. Not even the “educational” videos so popular on YouTube these days. Here in Singapore it’s quite common to see iPhones streaming colourful nursery rhyme songs babysitting the kids in strollers on the bus, on the MRT, and even in food centres/restaurants.

We’re not crazy technophobes. Hubby and I still binge-watch Westworld or Game of Thrones when baby’s asleep. Hubby still likes relaxing with his NBA 2K17 game loaded on his PlayStation.

In fact, Squishy enjoys a lot of screen time with his lolos and lolas, and has recently developed a knack for being pa-cute and making funny faces whenever he talks to them.

But we’re very conscious of when the TV is on and what’s on TV – simply because for toddlers younger than two years old, TV doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“Infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers, and they have difficulty transferring that knowledge to their 3-dimensional experience.”

– From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Nov 2016

What do they need? Play. That’s it. Very young kids need creative play and a lot of interaction with their caregivers (nanay, tatay, lolos and lolas, and even yaya) to develop their skills.

So absolutely no to using iPhones as babysitters for long periods of time. Be wary of “educational” apps for babies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following tips for parents of kids younger than two years:

  • Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 1 ½ to 2 years old.
  • For children ages 1 ½ to 2 years of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use in this age group.
  • Do not feel pressured to introduce technology early; interfaces are so intuitive that children will figure them out quickly once they start using them at home or in school.
  • For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, co-view with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.
  • Avoid fast-paced programs (young children do not understand them as well), apps with lots of distracting content, and any violent content.
  • Turn off televisions and other devices when not in use.
  • Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (e.g., medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation. Ask your pediatrician for help if needed.
  • Monitor children’s media content and what apps are used or downloaded. Test apps before the child uses them, play together, and ask the child what he or she thinks about the app.
  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child playtimes screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.
  • No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.

We have trouble following these guidelines to the letter – for instance, we video-call his lolos and lolas during dinner. But we put our mobile phones away whenever we play with Squishy. We keep the TV switched off (when it gets too quiet, we play music, which Squishy likes to dance to).

In today’s screen-saturated world, we do our best.


Here’s a link to an online tool from the American Academy of Pediatrics for creating your Family Media Plan.