In ‘What the Sun Says to the Moon,’ Trina Milan paints a picture of emotion regulation, communication

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In ‘What the Sun Says to the Moon,’ Trina Milan paints a picture of emotion regulation, communication

ANNIVERSARY. In celebration of the first anniversary of her children’s book ‘What the Sun Says to the Moon,’ author Trina Milan holds an art exhibit from April 23 to 27, 2024.

Isabella Baldado/Rappler

In celebration of the first anniversary of her children’s book ‘What the Sun Says to the Moon,’ author Trina Milan arranges an art exhibit for audiences to experience the story through visual art

MANILA, Philippines – In an art exhibition at 29 Kapitolyo Art Space in Pasig City, delicately arranged paintings of the sky are sandwiched between installations of the sun and moon. The display showed the relationship between the two celestial bodies — how they may come out at different times of the day but share their time during the sunset.

Next to the central piece was Anna Katrina “Trina” Velilla-Milan, looking as bright and enthusiastic as the sun, as she celebrated the fruition of her first children’s book What the Sun Says to the Moon, one year after its release.

Milan spoke with Rappler during a visit to the exhibit on Friday April 26, sharing how her book came to be, how the art exhibit was mounted, and what else the author has in store. 

A story of a mother’s love for her son

After rummaging through archived videos of her five-year-old son Sandro back in 2021, Milan came across a video of one of their bedroom story moments together, when Sandro sang out of the blue: “The sun and the moon like to stay together but they can’t stay together all the time. But they have a good time in the sunset.” 

This, along with her experience as a preschool teacher for 10 years and inspiration from children’s book author Eric Carle, motivated Milan to write a children’s book that can be used in the classroom. What the Sun Says to the Moon tells its readers of the days of the week and the colors of the sky. Beyond these basics, Milan aimed to show “an underlying message of emotion regulation and positive communication.”

“On a Monday, the sky was blue and they (the sun and moon) talked about life,” Milan narrated a portion of the book in a mix of English and Filipino. “Every day, the moon was showing up. Then on Saturday, the moon didn’t show up. And when somebody doesn’t show up, don’t you feel some kind of way? So what do you do when you’re feeling that kind of way? So, what the sun did, he or she went home, and calmed himself down. Then the next day, he still showed up and still continued.”

“So…every time people allow themselves to talk about their feelings, negative emotions can be resolved,” she added.

SUN AND MOON. An installation of the sun and moon adorns various paintings of sunsets in an exhibit celebrating the first anniversary of the book What the Sun Says to the Moon by Anna Katrina Velilla-Milan. Photo by Isabella Baldado/Rappler

Milan worked on the first book for two years, with Sandro as her main source of inspiration. “He’s the reason why I’m here. Of course, the pandemic really brought a lot of feelings, right? So, that’s what helped me. I wake up every day and think that he’s my life.” 

Milan perceived her relationship with her son as similar to the sun and the moon – her the former and Sandro the latter. She shared that the two of them are together most often, especially driving him to and from school as they have no house help.

“I have to shine and show up [for him] every day,” she said.  

Sandro also made an appearance during the anniversary exhibit. When it came to writing, Sandro would help her put the pieces of a story together and make it whole, providing further inspiration for future books.

Through What the Sun Says to the Moon, Milan not only delivers a message to her audience, but also to her son. 

“I want, as much as possible, to enjoy life together with him. But now, I feel like I’m enjoying life with him. We’re doing things together, we travel together. I feel like we’re growing up together.”

Milan also shared that as much as she would say that she was writing for others, writing also felt like therapy for herself. 

“Writing these stories has given me an exercise to look into myself and address my inner child. I look inward because what I write is also a piece of me, my heart,” she said. 

For Milan, writing and looking back on these stories serve as a reminder to herself to practice what she writes and to give herself a boost.

Experiencing the story through an art exhibit

Even more telling of the mother and son’s close and loving relationship is the use of their own paintings for the exhibit. Between the installations of the sun and moon were paintings of various sunsets made by Milan and Sandro themselves. She shared that these were illustrations made during their mother-son bonding time, which inspired her to use art to celebrate her book’s first anniversary. 

Aside from the central piece, the exhibit showcased other paintings by Milan and her friends and relatives. “Anything that has to do with the sun and the moon, they send it,” she said, with some of her friends giving their artworks to her as gifts.

COLORS OF SUNSETS. Among the paintings at the art exhibit are interpretations of various sunsets created by Anna Katrina Velilla-Milan. Photos by Isabella Baldado/Rappler
COLORS OF SUNSETS. The exhibit also features paintings and artworks related to the sun, moon, and sunsets by Milan’s friends and relatives. Photo by Isabella Baldado/Rappler

The exhibit was available for viewing from April 23 to 27, along with a book signing event on April 26 where Milan shared background information and insights about the book. 

“It feels surreal, I didn’t think I would pull it (the exhibit) off,” she confessed. “Sometimes, here I am again, going back and thinking ‘Oh, would they go? Or maybe I shouldn’t put it out so much because I’m not…that good.’ But again, I’m here already, so I might as well enjoy the process.” 

What else is to come?

Milan plans to release two more books in the Sun and Moon series. 

For her second book, she plans to focus on the phases of the moon, featuring a playful conversation between the sun and moon characters. The second book is, again, inspired by a conversation between her and Sandro, where he said, “Mom, I feel like I’m the sun, literally, and you’re the moon because you go through phases.” 

Through the second book, Milan aims to provide a more in-depth perspective on emotion regulation and positive communication for feelings such as anxiety, fear, anger, and more. 

“At his (Sandro’s) age, that’s what I want to teach him – for him to express how he feels and [that] it’s okay to feel this way, it’s okay to feel angry, but [what matters is] how to respond [properly],” she shared. 

Milan is hoping to release the second book in 2024. 

For her third book, Milan plans to incorporate lessons on the weather: sunny, cloudy, rainy, and the like.

What the Sun Says to the Moon is available for purchase at 29 Kapitolyo Art Space as of writing. – Isabella Baldado/

Isabella Baldado is a Digital Communications volunteer at Rappler and a speech communication student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. This article was done under the supervision of Rappler staff and her copy was vetted by editors.

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