Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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The Learning curve

Time to read books by Filipino authors

When did you last read a book by a Filipino author? Would you be able to name at least five titles by Filipino authors?

As we endeavor to introduce our literature beyond our shores, we realize how little-known Philippine writing is even within our country. There are many reasons for this predicament, like the inadequate marketing campaigns of both publishers and authors; the less than prominent space these titles enjoy in the big bookstores, jostling for space between stationery items and shelves upon shelves of foreign titles; and the challenges of book distribution posed by our geography.


Consider this then a challenge for November, which since 2007 has been marked as Philippine Book Development Month through Proclamation 1436 s. 2007. In 2011 the Department of Education under the leadership of Secretary Armin Luistro declared it National Reading Month, in an effort to start the reading habit among elementary and high school students. The designation has since been included in the DepEd school calendar, encouraging teachers to plan and implement reading promotion activities both for the classroom and grade levels.

In National Reading Month in 2014, Luistro urged students to read: “There are books that will take you anywhere in the world… Books open up new and strange worlds that we might neither know nor reach. They can give us anything we imagine.  Read even one book. If you do that, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve and reach your dreams.”


Luistro envisioned then a reading revolution and a reading corner where students could browse and read at leisure. Though enthused about the project, the National Book Development Board, as well as Luistro himself, realized that the mechanics of collecting books from the general public and identifying the physical space to store the books in every public school needed more planning and study. A typical problem that had to be worked out was: Who among the faculty would assume responsibility for books handed to the school? The teachers  refused to accept the additional accountability. And there was also the concern about the quality of books gathered from book drives.

Now president of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, Luistro has not abandoned his idea of nurturing the reading habit in students by giving them engaging and good-quality books to read. It was a critical need that he saw as education secretary, and a requisite for a successful K-to-12 program.

In this light, something big and promising is in the air: what is called the Storybook Drive Project, an endeavor that initially involves such publishers as Adarna, Anvil, Ateneo, Lampara, OMF Hiyas, Tahanan, and Vibal. What is exciting about this initiative is that it is working toward the sustainability of the project as a continuing effort, beyond National Reading Months.

And if the student population’s reading needs are being addressed, so must those of the general public. You are enjoined to read Pinoy books this month, and to engage in a self-paced reading marathon. If the United States has the National Novel Writing Month in November, we can devote the month’s reading to Filipino authors.

I wish I were a faster reader, but having been a literature student, I tend to linger over pages, as I savor favorite passages. But look at what’s proudly on my reading shelf, this year’s National Book Award finalists selected by the Manila Critics Circle and the NBDB: “Navel” by Rica Bolipata Santos, “Mariposa Gang and Other Stories” by Catherine Torres, “Partly Cloudy” by Simeon Dumdum Jr., “A Field Guide to Flight: Identifying Birds on Three School Grounds” by Amado C. Bajarias Jr., “Marcos Martial Law Never Again” by Raissa Robles;, “The Music Child & The Mahjong Queen” by Alfred A. Yuson and “Wounded Little Gods” by Eliza Victoria.

So many new Philippine releases, too little time to read them all.

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


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