A birthday gift for Ninoy
Nov. 27, Wednesday this coming week, would be the slain hero Benigno Simeon Aquino Jr.’s 87th birthday. I thought the best way to honor his memory this year was to make our 2015 book, “The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative” by Elfren Sicangco Cruz and myself, available to Bookshare’s wider audience, the visually impaired who would certainly not have read the book yet, though now four years in print. It was easy for me to make the decision because it is published by my daughter Aina’s Imprint Publishing, and Ninoy was also known as a consummate book lover.
That decision was validated when two weeks ago, I met Allan and Sylvia Mesoga, who converted the book from Word (I had to ask our graphic artist, Jordan Santos, for the original file as mine was in PDF format) to the accessible format for immediate uploading to the Bookshare e-library. The couple were trained for the task, together with about 20 trainees, when Benetech-Bookshare Library India got a grant from the All Children Reading Project of USAID in 2016. They went on for further training and are today the country’s most skilled and proficient converters. Take note that Allan Mesoga is a high-functioning visually impaired employee of the Department of Education-Bureau of Learning Delivery, while his wife Sylvia is fully abled.
They shared with me the process of faithfully converting the 300-page book, which has tables and photos—especially turning the photos into descriptive language, to them a mere conversion from one mode to another. But what struck me was how they found the contents of the book so interesting as they were reading this for the first time. And I had thought this was information nearly every Filipino knew. I had, of course, forgotten much of what I had written.
The very first book from the Philippines that became part of the online library Bookshare Content Program—for individuals with reading difficulties all over the world—was from St. Matthew’s Publishing in Quezon City, all because of its zealous COO (child of owner) Ruth “Wowie” Catabijan. She is today one of the country’s most ardent supporters of Bookshare.
Catabijan was at the National Book Development Board’s Philippine International Literary Festival in 2018 at the CCP when she first met Mesoga, who had been invited to join the festival as a panel speaker. A typical component of the festival was a book fair. Catabijan was intrigued, because she saw Mesoga going from one publisher’s stand to the next, asking if any of the titles were available in editions for the blind, like him. They began a conversation that led to Catabijan’s involvement in Bookshare.
The first title of St. Matthew’s that was converted to become part of the Bookshare collection was “Junior Ipon” by Mark Kevin J. de Guia, a financial literacy book for children that schools have adopted. Since then Catabijan has continued her Bookshare advocacy. It was she who introduced me to Brad Turner, Bookshare’s vice president and general manager at the Frankfurter Buchmesse.
The country had only 45 Bookshare members in October 2017; today, we have 279 blind/low-vision members who pay a P500 annual membership fee that allows the member alone, and no one else, access to the library. Among the happy members who have literally discovered new worlds is Rhea Guntalilib, who lost her vision when she had an autoimmune disease. She was on her way to pursuing a law degree, but had to forego that dream when she discovered that the only law books she had access to were those with American cases. She now works developing websites, and is somehow reassured that perhaps someday soon, Rex Book Store would make its law books available on Bookshare (a shoutout to the Dominador Buhain family).
To make Ninoy and Cory Aquino continue to be remembered, especially in a society that so easily forgets, is the best birthday tribute I can give Ninoy. Hence, “The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative” is now on Bookshare.
For more information about Bookshare and how you can be part of its online library either as an author or a visually impaired reader, contact Maria Agnes J. Angeles, country representative of Bookshare USA, [email protected]
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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