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Brace yourselves for the 39th MIBF

Let’s brace ourselves for next week’s big event, the 39th Manila International Book Fair (MIBF), which runs Sept. 12-16 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex. Yes, it will cause a major traffic snarl that will, with apologies to everyone, please my reader’s heart.

Those of us bibliophiles with memories of last year’s crowd will be discouraged to go this year if a pleasurable, leisurely shopping is what we want. I am of that thinking, too—but who is to complain about how the youth happily took over both the first and the second floors of the fair? I remember going through each and every booth on a stormy morning two years ago when the rest of the city was threatened with floods. What a delight to have the aisles to myself, but what a bad day for business for the vendors. Why, I could even take my time having a photo with a life-size cardboard model of Pope Francis.

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Last year was the first time the book fair had to have a second floor dedicated solely to children’s books. That did not decongest the crowd, as fans came especially during the weekend for cosplay and to meet celebrity authors. It was a common sight to see readers seated on the hallways to read their latest finds and just for a much-needed respite.

There was Jun Matias of Lampara Books and, of late, Moymoy Lulumboy fame, panicky about the long queue of students he had invited awaiting access to the exhibit halls for storytelling and to meet favorite authors. They had come prepared with snacks for the day, but these had been confiscated by the security guards.

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That was a common scenario. Crowds swelled to unmanageable proportions that gates had to be momentarily closed to the queue that snaked around the SMX premises.

Even Education Secretary Leonor Briones braved the crowd on the last hours of the 2017 MIBF, her attendant paying for every purchase. What a statement her presence and her book-buying made! If only other Cabinet secretaries would come to rediscover books and reading and draw needed inspiration from such.

Who says Filipinos are not into books and reading? The droves at the MIBF year after year are evidence enough to the contrary. Since the fair is scheduled as a September event annually, it is the predictable one-stop shopping trip for teachers and librarians. Bargains are a come-on, and who can pass up such opportunities from 520 booths? It has become a favorite field trip destination of schools, thus the presence of many school buses.  Teachers are given a special treat in celebration of National Teachers Month. And early Christmas shoppers abound. A special draw for all geeks on Sept. 15-16 is the Pop Hub: Comic Splash X Fandom Fest.

Thanks to event organizers Irene Lloren and Tinette Capistrano of Primetrade Asia and the late tireless Lirio Sandoval, who first conceptualized this—and the Book Development Association of the Philippines, Philippine Booksellers Association Inc., Philippine Educational Publishers Association, Asian Catholic Communicators Inc., and the Overseas Publishers Representatives of the Philippines for the MIBF that is bigger and better with every iteration.

There are also simultaneous workshops and seminars, many free of charge. A few of these are: “True or Trolls: Political Literacy in the Age of Social Media” by the Philippine Librarians Association Inc.; “The Library, the Librarian, and the Wardrobe: Managing Impressions and Changing the Face of Librarianship through Fashion” by the University of the Philippines Library Science Alumni Association; “Publishing for an Asean Readership: A Multicultural Perspective” by the Asean Book Publishers Association, and the popular “How to Write a Book” seminar by Central Book Supply Inc.

My special interest is the presentation of the 2017 NBDB Readership Survey Results by Dr. Dennis Mapa of the Philippine Statistical Research and Training Institute.  The survey was conducted to determine the reading habits and attitudes of Filipinos to help the National Book Development Board (NBDB) determine relevant policies and programs in support of the book publishing industry.

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

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TAGS: book fair, MIBF, SMX Convention, traffic
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