Commentary

Books for the 12 Days of Christmas

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When Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro FSC viewed the life-size reading promotion tarp posters of the National Book Development Board featuring celebrities like Iza Calzado, Chris Tiu, and the most recent, Ricky Lee, the first author to be selected, he immediately suggested that Cabinet members also be invited to serve as reading models. If not for the campaign season about to descend on us, that would not have been such a bad idea.

While Kris Aquino is the NBDB’s dream reading model, the book-lover that she is, P-Noy may just beat her to it. Last Nov. 27, the President read to the students at the T. Alonzo Elementary School in Quezon City, to celebrate Araw ng Pagbasa, deliberately set on the 80th birthday of his late father Ninoy Aquino, himself a voracious reader.

Through his public appearance as storyteller and in taking the time to interact with students, President Noy underscored the value he put on reading. In fact, he was a true reading model that day. (And hopefully, there are some poster potentials in the shots taken…)

In the context of the perennial discussion on the empowerment that the act of reading bestows and the many reasons for the decline in the reading habit, one tangible step in fostering the habit once more is to make books more accessible to everyone, young and old. So why not a precious Christmas present “a book” this December 2012 that will last forever? And there are many noteworthy titles to be discovered, some new, some with an older publication date, for all ages and moods and inclinations, all proudly written, illustrated and published by Philippine talent. Here are 12 of them:

“Haluhalo Espesyal” by Yvette Fernandez, illustrated by Jill Arwen Posadas, Adarna House. Originally published a few years back, a Big Book edition was especially printed for the presidential storytelling. It is a delightful story about a sick child who is nursed back to health through the magic of her Lola Itang,s kitchen. Her special comfort food works better than medication—bibingka, champorado, ensaymada, and the halo-halo with its colorful ingredients.

“Rice Book” and “The Coconut Book” by Norma O. Chikiamco, illustrated by Martin D. Malabanan, Anvil. Well researched and visually attractive books for kids with a delightful combination of facts, trivia and recipes. How rice and coconut are called the world over is just one interesting piece of information featured.

“Alamat ng Duhat” by Segundo D. Matias Jr., illustrated by Rovi Jesher R. Salagumba, Lampara. What is distinct about this story is that it is a Palanca Award winner. It is a modern tale, not a retelling of traditional folklore. It capitalizes on the color of the duhat and the Aetas’ complexion. Many more Palanca Award winners in this series, which would otherwise remain as manuscripts.

“The Reluctant Hero” by Lin Acacio Flores, illustrated by Jerome Jacinto, Bookmark. This children’s biography of Jaime V. Ongpin gains special relevance because of his death on Dec. 8 25 years ago. This modern hero was one of the influential leaders of the antidictatorship struggle, to fight a leader who “ruled like a bad king.”

Edjop: “A Child of the Storm” by Ed Maranan, illustrated by Ariel Santillan, Bookmark. This is the inspiring story of student leader from Ateneo de Manila, derisively referred to by the dictator as the grocer’s son, who was killed by the military at the age of 34.

“Fish-Hair Woman” by Merlinda Bobis, Anvil. A powerful, haunting, lyrical third novel of Australia-based Bobis that took 17 years to complete. It has been described as a novel on a grand scale. Allow yourself to be enchanted, the next best thing to watching the author perform, chant excerpts from it.

“Not on our Watch: Martial Law Really Happened. We Were There,” edited by Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon, Publications Group, LEADS-CEGP 6972 Inc. A collection of essays by former student journalists and members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, today the Leaders for a Democratic Society. A valuable document of an era not to be forgotten, not to be repeated.

“Hour before Dawn: The Fall and Uncertain Rise of the Philippine Supreme Court” by Marites Da nguilan Vitug, Cleverheads Publishing. This delves into the darkest hour of the Supreme Court leading to the impeachment of the Chief Justice and records how a courageous minority gives hope for the institution.

“Fish-hair Woman’s Philippine Almanac, Marketing Inc.” The 2011 publication date is critical in a reference book such as this which revised the original Children’s Communication Center-Filway edition in 1991. Much basic information that every Filipino ought to know.

“Darna & Other Idols” by Marra PL. Lanot, Anvil. A colle”ction of profiles of fascinating personalities from Gina Alajar to Rene Saguisag to Edith Tiempo.

“I’m afraid of heights (or why I can’t social-climb)” by Thelma Sioson San Juan, Inquirer Books. Popular enough because it features profiles of 90 celebrities, it gained more mileage because P-Noy graced the launch. His is the first profile in the roster.

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good book!

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines, and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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