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Books make the best company

July as a month traditionally rich with events gearing up to the third Tuesday of the month, National Children’s Book Day (NCBD), could not have happened at a better time this year, just when we were all in search of things bright and hopeful, and meaningful activities our students can be engaged in.

“Sa Pagbabasa, Hindi Ka Nag-iisa (With Reading, You are Never Alone),” the theme of the 37th NCBD on July 21, surfaces as a well-chosen meme, highlighting the role books should play in our lives.

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Except for the opening ceremony at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the announcement of the latest harvest of children’s books from different publishers, it is really business as usual, albeit virtually.

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) has certainly had its share of near-postponements which I have myself witnessed over my years of association with them.

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But no threat of earthquakes and unstable building structure (not saying which government building to protect the innocent) or typhoons and floodwaters have ever discouraged and intimidated this formidable band of literacy advocates, committed to the promotion and development of Philippine children’s literature.

Events not to be missed are the Monday, Wednesday, Friday storytelling and arts and crafts sessions on the National Library of the Philippines FB page. On the PBBY FB page are “Oras ng Kuwentuhan,” 3 p.m. on July 13-23, and a session on drawing favorite Filipino children’s book characters on July 22, 3 p.m. with Beth Parrocha and Liza Flores.

For adults are Jun Matias’ “Lock ‘n Roll” discussions on children’s books, and a special interview with Boon Lauw and Tori Tadiar, 2020 PBBY-Salanga and PBBY-Alcala winners, respectively. Lauw won for his novel, “Team Abangers at ang Estilong Trumpo,” the first time the competition was open to chapter books. It is about an orphan who plans to join the televised “Laro ng Lahi” contest to locate her parents.

Lauw hails from Gensan and is a chemical engineer teaching at the Philippine Science High School. Tadiar is a full-time IT professional who works on comics and illustrations in her leisure hours. She won the Komiket Best Komiks Award in 2017 for her Filipiniana fantasy comic “Sagala,” which was released as a self-published graphic novel.

Honorable mention winners for their chapter novels are Raissa Rivera Falgui and Tamara Eriel Mosqueda.

What has been postponed—and certain to be missed—to later this year is the announcement of the 6th National Children’s Book Awards, the Best Reads for locally published books in 2018 and 2019. A biennial event in partnership with the National Book Development Board, it has been a useful guide for adults on the lookout for quality children’s books, and for the international market now being drawn to Asean talents.

Beverly Wico Siy, representative of PBBY, founding member of the CCP, and better known as a writer, translator, and copyright advocate, considers this quarantined festivity as evidence of PBBY being in tune with the times, making all still possible as one shelters in place, with no extra effort needed. It’s also proof once again that books make the best company. Most important to Siy is that through PBBY, all are invited to explore the magical world of children’s books and to be entranced enough to venture into such works themselves as creators.

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Zarah Gagatiga, librarian representative on the board, says “PBBY is just as relevant from the day it was formed until the present time.” In reviewing the years past, she has seen how it has responded to the times—the need for young adult novels, books on sensitive issues, wordless books, chapter books, books in the mother tongue.

PBBY chair Tarie Sabido sums up the significance of this year’s NCBD: “The celebration is especially meaningful… because books are, and will always be, a refuge. In these trying times, many children and adults are turning to books for solace. Books are also an important source of edutainment for children while they are sheltering at home.”

An important and urgent reminder, too, that no amount of worksheets and teaching modules can ever match or surpass the power and the magic of books. If nothing else seems to work, try reading a book to a child.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: 37th NCBD, books, knowledge, national children’s book day, PBBY, Reading, students
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