Sawaga River Press

Davis, California

Sawaga River Press was founded by Justine Villanueva who was born and raised in Malaybalay, Bukidnon in the Philippines. She moved to California when she was 17 years old, very much in love with the idea of living in America and becoming an American. Ironically and fortunately, the move made her realize the value of knowing her own cultural and ethnic origins, as well as the inequity that exists in the American society that discriminates against immigrants and people of color. In 2007, she became an immigration attorney to help immigrants in their journey to gain acceptance in America.

Justine had her first son in 2008 and her second in 2011. Soon thereafter, she became more aware of the lack of diversity in children's books. Since then, she has become more alert to the growing need for diverse children's books and resources that would not only help her instill in her sons an understanding and appreciation of their cultural history and roots but also help foster in them a sense of belonging to the American society.

In 2014, spurred by the need for diverse books and inspired by many other artists of color who have created their own publishing path, Justine created Sawaga River Press to join the efforts toward diversity and equity in the publishing field, especially in children's books.

The River

Sawaga River runs through Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. Aside from providing water, the river also provides a place where community members can gather for various reasons. It is where grade schoolers run to when the bell rings at the end of the school day, where farmers go to take a break from the scorching sun, where young lovers -- forbidden by parents meet -- after dark, where barkadas drown their sorrows with beer and cigarettes, tell jokes, share news both bad and good. Sawaga River provides a place where people can be as they are.

Our First Book

Sawaga River Press will publish its first children's book, Mama, Mama, Know What I like?, in the Spring of 2016. The book is about Charlie, a friendly five-year-old Filipino American boy, who shares his zest for life with his mother. Written in three different languages -- English, Bisaya (a Filipino dialect), and Pilipino (the Filipino national language) -- this book features a child of color and his experiences, and provides a tool for Filipino or Bisaya-speaking Filipino parent with which to share their mother tongue.

Please check out the book's site at for more information.


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