The Filipino author, from Southsea, teaching others about his country through his new book

Julito Calonia has loved living in Portsmouth since he moved from a rural town in the Philippines 10 years ago.

By Hollie Busby
Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 5:12 pm

The ‘vibrant’ city life is worlds away from what he was used to, but it’s home and like many other Filipinos residing here, he loves the community feel of the city.

Born and raised in Cateel in Davao Oriental, Julito knows exactly what it’s like to grow up simply, using the resources of the land in a traditional culture which he calls a ‘tropical paradise’.

However, after Julito moved here, later working as a learning support assistant at a school in 2014, he discovered a lack of education about his home country, despite there being a thriving Filipino community here.

Julito Calonia released a colouring book detailing the rich history of the Philllippines in hopes to educate people about his country. Pictured: Julito Calonia at Oasis Church, Portsmouth on Thursday 27th May 2022 Picture: Habibur Rahman

The 39-year-old says lessons leaned towards other Asian countries, but not the Philippines, and destinations such as Thailand, China, Japan and India were among those more sought after for tourists.

So Julito took it into his own hands, to teach people about the Philippines, through realising his past through an informative colouring book, It’s More Fun Coloring the Philippines.

He says: ‘I noticed with other friends people would go on holiday always to our neighbouring countries and I want to reintroduce to them that Philippines is a great country with fun-loving people and hospitable people.

Julito Calonia released a colouring book detailing the rich history of the Philllippines in hopes to educate people about his country. Pictured: Julito Calonia at Oasis Church, Portsmouth on Thursday 27th May 2022 Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I have lots of friends in the health sector who work as a care giver, in manufacturing, in supermarkets. It's not just in Portsmouth.

‘In the UK we work really hard. In our culture we give it all. We give our heart with a smile. I want companies to have a good appreciation about us.

‘[This book is for] Filipinos and non-Filipino s to relate to. For non-Filipino s it's the curiosity of how we've spent our lives and the culture in the Philippines, the beautiful places that will be interesting to them.

‘It’s for those Filipinos who want to reconnect to their past memories as well.’

Julito Calonia released a colouring book detailing the rich history of the Philllippines in hopes to educate people about his country. Pictured: Julito Calonia's book Picture: Habibur Rahman

While working as an invigilator, Julito decided to design something outside of the box, a colouring book for children, which incorporates the cultural traditions, festivals, childhood activities and outside influences which could be brought to life through colouring, with the added bonus that readers can learn about the rich culture like the Panagbenga Flower Festival in Baguio City or Lanzones Fruit Festival in Camguin Island.

Julito describes the book, which he spent six months creating from October last year, as a ‘mini diary’ about how he grew up.

The Southsea resident uses bright illustrations and bitesize chunks of information to look back on fond memories of his roots, including treks as a boy when he would protect his head with banana leaves instead of an umbrella on the way to school and climb trees with his friends.

Through this 68-page book, he believes he can teach people about a rural upbringing, and the ‘many influences’ Spain and America had on the Philippines in a ‘unique’ and ‘engaging’ way.

‘It's not just black and white because coloured photos speak 1, 000 words - so the festivals are all coloured,’ he explains.

‘There's 11 festivals and America colonised us for 48 years.

‘When America came there were lots of influences on the country and there are three major events which are very popular in the Philippines.

‘These are basketball, boxing and beauty pageants,’ he explains.

‘I really want to reintroduce the Philippines here in the UK.

‘We have 7,640 beautiful islands.

‘We are also called the pearl of the ocean seas because there are thousands of islands covering pearls across the Pacific oceans.

‘We have lots of festivals and I also emphasise that this colouring book is very unique.’

Julito decided to move to the UK in June 2012 after working at Manila Airport for four years and meeting someone he is now in a civil partnership with.

He says he found the UK to be more accepting, regardless of someone’s sexual orientation or religious beliefs, which propelled him to want to live here even more and Julito wants to give something back through his teachings.

‘It’s rewarding to be a member of the Filipino community in Portsmouth,’ says Julito.

‘It’s a great waterfront and compact city where all I need for living and leisure are here.

‘It’s a very colourful city that is welcoming to different cultures, especially to the Filipinos.

‘The Filipino community happily gives back to the community. The Filipino community happily gives back to the community, be it entrepreneurship, hospitality, manufacturing and especially in the health sector. ‘It’s not just in Portsmouth but in the whole of the United Kingdom.

‘It’s a give and take relationship between the Filipino community and our island city, Portsmouth, especially during the pandemic where nurses and carers went the extra mile to help our city and our country.’

Julito works at an agency for the Home Office where he’s an invigilator for international citizens sitting exams for staying permanently or getting a British Citizenship.

It was while he found some spare time to think, that he weighed up the possibility of publishing a book.

‘When you work as an invigilator you're inside the test room and sometimes your mind wanders.

‘I've always wanted to reintroduce my country to Filipinos and non-Filipinos. I also want to help my country.’

Julito’s book, which is self-published, is separated into sections including; Simple and Meaningful Rural Life, Festivals and the last 10 pages feature travel destinations in the Philippines to advise readers on what the country has to offer.

The book points to the evolution of the karaoke in the Philippines, beauty pageant ‘fanatics’ influenced by Spain and America and various games Julito would play as a child like block and catch, Chinese garter (a jump rope game) and Lukson Tinik, which translates to jumping over thorns.

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The game is an outdoor activity played by two teams who make an arch with their hands and feet for the opposing team member to jump over.

Since releasing the book last month, Julito has received a special invitation from the ambassador of the Philippines in the UK, Antonio M Lagdameo to congratulate him for his dedication to celebrating the Filipino culture through the book.

Julito says: ‘It’s such a great honour to be noticed and appreciated.

‘I love the city. I can't think of anywhere in the UK I'd rather live.

‘I'm in a special city and we have lovely neighbours.’

One of the biggest life lessons Julito has learned while living here is to appreciate animals, and he’s set himself a goal to build a sanctuary . ‘It is one of my goals when this book takes off to build a sanctuary in my home town for an animal sanctuary and give people education about how to be kind to animals,’ he explains.

He adds: ‘We have a strong presence here, not just in Portsmouth but in the whole of the UK and the world. We're one of the biggest exporters of people, particularly nurses. I want not just the British public but people around the world to know our back story of our country because we're not just in the health sector.’ To purchase Julito’s book visit amazon.com/Its-More-Fun-Coloring-Philippines/