Off to the Frankfurt Book Fair | Inquirer Opinion
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Off to the Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurter Buchmesse or the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) has a history spanning more than 500 years. In 1454, after Johannes Gutenberg had developed printing in movable letters in Mainz near Frankfurt, the very first book fair was held. The tradition has continued to this day, with FBF known as the fair to be seen in.

When the world’s largest book fair opens on Oct. 20, the Philippines will have a larger stand than in the previous years, and will sport an attractive new look designed by Studio Dialogo, drawing from our intricate banig weaves. This is the fifth consecutive year that the National Book Development Board (NBDB) has managed a presence—and that to us is a near-miracle in itself.

In 2015, the Philippine participation returned after a 15-year hiatus, when the NBDB and the Book Development Association of the Philippines decided to pool its resources with the help of member publishers and dared to mount a stand. The Philippine booth was so modest that we all had to help cut out our booth décor. And the extra illumination we needed had to come from the stands of our more affluent Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors.

That is no longer so today. We are no longer the poor Asean relation, thanks to legislative assistance.


Even then, we thought it was time to bring the publishing industry to the international arena, something that former Intellectual Property of the Philippines and Department of Trade and Industry official Che Cristobal and Department of Foreign Affairs official Adrian Cruz, when he was assigned to the Philippine Embassy in Berlin, had been urging us to do. Our Philippine literary talents need to be known beyond our shores.

And so, by the skin of our teeth, we have managed a Philippine presence every year, making a stand available to all Philippine publishers who may wish to join. The only cost the publishers have to cover themselves are flight and accommodations, as shipping of the books is covered by the NBDB.

Our continuing presence with 16 participating publishers has been made possible by Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, especially during her term as senator. She is also responsible for our continuing participation at the Venice Biennale, focusing on Philippine visual art and architecture.

In the course of the five-day fair, Books Philippines, as our brand goes, will be featuring three speakers on various stages on the fair grounds. Popular historian and speaker Ambeth Ocampo has managed to include FBF in his October itinerary, along with lectures for Sentro Rizal libraries in Philippine embassies in Europe. His topic for FBF is “The Philippines: Rizal, Maps, Books and the Emergence of a Nation.”


Writer and culinary whiz Claude Tayag will have an actual cooking and tasting demo of the traditional fiesta fare bringhe during his lecture on “Filipino Cuisine to the World.” Traditional heirloom rice will be used, a rice variant grown in the Banaue Rice Terraces, a World Heritage site.

Dusseldorf-based Maite Hontiveros Dittke will also have a cooking demo of stylized Philippine dishes using Mama Sita products. She is known to serve Philippine dishes in the manner of high cuisine, like adobo flakes on canapés.


Children’s illustrator Abi Goy will discuss illustrations reflecting relevant issues affecting children’s rights in her session on “Children Are People Too: Empowering Young Filipinos Through Illustration.”

The acclaimed Asean Forum, organized last year by generous benefactor and lawyer Dominador Buhain and the Philippine Educational Publishers Association, will again be staged, this time in partnership with FBF management. Because of the strictly Asean discussion, the Asean member countries benefit from the opportunity to know each other better.

The NBDB is especially proud to be in the company of government officials during this year’s FBF. Aside from Ambassador to Germany Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega and Frankfurt Consul General Evelyn Austria-Garcia, Rep. Loren Legarda, Foreign Undersecretary Ernesto C. Abella and Board of Investments executive director Corazon Halili-Dichosa will be present, too.

The belated recognition of authors as crucial members of society certainly augurs well for the Philippine publishing industry in the years to come.

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

TAGS: Department of Trade and Industry, Frankfurt Book Fair, National Book Development Board

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