World Book & Copyright Day goes to Bonifacio High Street | Inquirer Opinion

World Book & Copyright Day goes to Bonifacio High Street

It has been 18 years since the Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) selected a day—April 23—for countries around the world to celebrate the power of books and build a culture of reading and authorship. April 23 is a well-chosen date because it is the approximate birth and death dates of William Shakespeare and the death date of Miguel de Cervantes.

It is interesting to see how our Philippine celebration compares with those in other countries. For example, the Lansing Public Library in Michigan in the United States scheduled a World Book Night in the hope that people who do not read will become inspired by just one book and be motivated to read more. Volunteer “givers” were assigned strategic posts in the community to hand out books free of charge. The beneficiaries could even pick up the books of their choice beginning the week earlier.

The celebration in Manila has traditionally been a close collaboration between the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the Philippines headed by Director General Ricardo R. Blancaflor. April 23 is known as the World Book and Copyright Day, to emphasize that publishing is a copyright-based industry. “We protect what you create” were Blancaflor’s reassuring words for authors and illustrators.


To lend further credence to those words were IPO’s official accreditation of the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society headed by Alvin Buenaventura as the agency that can legally collect royalties for authors. Jose Maria Policarpio represented the Philippine Educational Publishers Association, which admittedly faces critical issues with the new curriculum plus the reminder that with the Asean community opening up in 2015, the educational industry will not be limited to Philippine publishers. And if textbooks and other materials adopted by schools were to come from Asean editions, we only have ourselves to blame.


Also present at the opening ceremonies at Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City was Lirio P. Sandoval, the longtime president of the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) and gratefully acknowledged as having institutionalized the annual and much-anticipated September Book Fair. Sandoval announced welcome news: A roadmap of the Philippine publishing industry has been spearheaded by the BDAP, for completion in November. There is a critical need for this roadmap, especially as it has become necessary to compete as an industry with the support of the Department of Trade and Industry.

The difficulty of gathering data for the industry again surfaced as the NBDB was preparing a state-of-the-industry update for the occasion. The available data are most inadequate. What is documented, though, are these 2012 statistics: $2.881 million worth of books were exported, while $61.493 million worth of books were imported into the market. What these highlight is an enormous reading market still to be fully tapped.

What is lacking is information beyond the merely anecdotal on the current volume and domestic book sales of our publishers. How many titles can all our publishers put out in a year? How many books can we produce? How many books do we really sell? Which distribution channels are most effective? The whole industry needs to cooperate and agree to share information from which each stakeholder will benefit. For how do we begin a roadmap for the industry without such basic information?

Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano was represented by her tourism officer Zaida Ignacio, who reminded the audience to think of the less privileged in the literacy efforts. The day’s book industry fair and program, opened by folk singer and musician Bayang Barrios, had a packed offering of creative performances, musical acts, workshops and seminars held at the High Street grounds and at Fully Booked—the ideal setting for conversations on the pressing issues confronting the industry. All thanks to the efforts of NBDB executive director Graciela M. Cayton and deputy executive director Camille V. Dela Rosa.

On the walkway, there were enough pleasant distractions with book displays and a book swap of ReaderCon, in association with Read Philippines, Flips Flipping Pages, Ex Libris, and Good Reads. National Library and Adarna House had a storytelling performance for 50 children from Barangay San Antonio in Pasig, with whom the NBDB has had a partnership courtesy of the unstinting support of Kagawad Emmanuel C. Medalla and Pauline L. Blando.

Lawyer Louie Calvario is the IPO’s copyright point person in charge of initiating copyright projects and providing advisory services to parties concerned. He led an animated discussion on creative content and copyright. University of the Philippines professor Carljoe Javier facilitated a session on comics, always a timeless and popular genre. Isagani R. Cruz, president of Manila Times College, former education undersecretary, and current NBDB governor, conducted his very popular workshop on “How to Write a Book,” a perennial blockbuster. And to honor Shakespeare on his 450th birthday, Bill Atwood had a “Will with Bill” lecture along with actress Carolyn Ann Manuel Atwood. Another “Shakespeare at 450” session was “Macbeth Over Easy,” with performances directed by Joachim Antonio, playwright and teacher of creative writing.


Bonifacio in Taguig was a well-chosen venue to call attention to books, copyright, and the reading habit.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines, and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Commentary, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, opinion, UNESCO

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