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Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Not to worry because it is the friendliest, book-loving Big Bad Wolf (BBW) coming to town with a mind-blowing event—a 24/7 book sale at the World Trade Center in Pasay City on Feb. 16-25.

I first heard of the now legendary BBW from the National Book Development Board’s Asean friends who, whenever they report on the state of literacy in their country, speak with gratitude about its influence on the reading habits of their people. Hasri Hasan, who heads Kota Buku in Malaysia, says of the prospects for Manila: “The scale and promotion of BBW will create a new phenomenon of cheap book buying and therefore promote reading.”

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Another book lover and professor of children’s literature and gifted education is Singapore-based Myra Garces Bacsal, who will stop at nothing to indulge her passion. Twice last year, she and her family went to BBW sales in Malaysia, enduring seven-hour bus rides to splurge on the low-priced books in mint condition: history books, children’s literature, classics, novels, etc.

It is the first time for BBW, owned and managed by a Malaysian couple, to mount a sale in Manila. Apart from Malaysia, it has held successful sales in Indonesia and Thailand. This special sale is organized with Good Small Sheep headed by Maria V. Montelibano and Jan Co Chua, who both strongly feel what a boon this is for the reading scene in Manila.  Admission is free, and two million books await us.

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My curiosity about Spanish writer Pedro Aunario (June 29, 1878-Jan. 27, 1945) was aroused at the centennial birthday celebration of his daughter-in-law, Susie Calixto Aunario, herself a writer. It was a rare occasion,  made even rarer because the honoree—the widow of Oscar, one of Aunario’s 11 children—remains articulate and keen of wit. She pleaded with guests not to wish her more birthdays to come. She spends much of her time on her iPad or making rosaries.

I first chanced upon “A Journalist’s Prayer” by Pedro Aunario through his granddaughter, my bosom friend Daisy Aunario Barawidan, whose mother was Josefina (Nena). What a discovery that he was an editor of La Vanguardia and a representative of Mountain Province, and is considered the father of Philippine journalism.  In the context of today’s media climate, it is timely and appropriate that we remember Aunario on his death anniversary today by reprinting his prayer, which is even more powerful in the original Spanish. His language and turns of phrase speak of an era long gone:

“Father and Lord of my spirit—Teach me that words can wound as poignantly as a blade, kill as does poison,  and rob a man of his honor as does a prowling thief.  Guide my thoughts so that the spiritual world may issue forth clear and simple from the heart. Teach me that an hour consists of 60 minutes and a minute 60 seconds;  that the honest and noble thought of a second is worth more than the selfish scheming of an elaborate century.

“Keep me from vanity and pride, show me envy is a leprosy, and make my heart insensible to flattery and praise. In moments of great vacillation, grant that honor be my guide, conscience my only judge. Deafen my ear to the ring of gold which is unearned by virtue of hard work. Give me strength to earn by the sweat of my brow, the daily rice for my family. Keep the purity of my affection so that I might not forget to laugh with my children to the end of my days.

“In the night, when I return to my home in search of much-needed repose, make the warm caress of my wife and the love of my friends fall on my dark brow like a benediction. And when the light of my reason fails, and the flowers lose their perfume and  I feel in my bones the cold breath of the tomb, make the ritual brief and the epitaph humble and short—‘HERE LIES A MAN.’”

May the words of Pedro Aunario remind today’s journalists of all that they have to live up to.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected] gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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