Lirio Sandoval: A man ahead of his time

Since our pioneering Philippine delegation of eight publishers and two textbook associations that made up this year’s first-ever country collective stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair returned with individual success stories, one man has been uppermost in our minds as deserving all the credit. Physical illness prevented Lirio P. Sandoval, president of the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP), from making the trip with us, but we never forgot that it was he who first decided it was high time the Philippine publishing industry was recognized overseas.

It was almost as if he just waited for us to return, to assure him that the endeavor was indeed worthwhile, before he quietly passed on Oct. 28.


Lirio left an indelible imprint on the industry, and not only because he was president of the BDAP for 17 years. He was also the prime mover of the Manila International Book Fair, now a much-awaited event every September. His recuperation from a stroke suffered while at the London Book Fair last April did not keep him from the opening ceremony of the Manila Book Fair last September. Consider that his last official act.

Karina Bolasco of Anvil, an officer of BDAP, worked with Lirio for 17 years and admires him as a visionary. He initiated and supported industry-wide marketing efforts through seminars, participation in international book fairs and book festivals, and even book publishing panels in academic conferences. He knew the value of book history and the need to contribute to its growth as an academic discipline. He saw the need for an alternative bookstore network, called Libro, to make available in the provinces and remote areas at least the textbooks of the public school system and other basic references like dictionaries and storybooks.


He also initiated the establishment of Filcols, or the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society, seeing how a copyright licensing office would protect authors and other content developers here just as it has in developed countries.

I was not privileged to have had those long years of association with Lirio. I met him only in late 2011 at the first Fil-Am International Book Festival in San Francisco, where he led a group of publishers in selling books on the grounds of that city’s public library. But I had always been a fan of his from a distance.

Aside from the Manila Book Fair, there was his grand project of “Kasaysayan, The Story of the Filipino People,” a sleek 10-volume encyclopedia edited by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. and Doreen G. Fernandez. It was a gift from Reader’s Digest to the country on the occasion of the Philippine centennial in 1998, and a collection that one can take to bed to read and savor. Fortunately, Anvil has a few sets left for sale. (Lirio headed A-Z Marketing, which distributed Reader’s Digest in the country.)

There was also BDAP’s Gintong Aklat Awards, given out every two years and honoring the best of Philippine books in both content and physical format. I was also fully aware that together with another veteran, Louie Reyes, Lirio worked alongside then Sen. Ed Angara to bring about Republic Act No. 8047, which created the National Book Development Board (NBDB). He dreamt big dreams for the industry; thus, he deemed it urgent that an industry study be completed toward developing a roadmap for the next decades.

He had told his wife Gloria that he expected to live only till the age of 60 (Karina quotes the marketing person that he was as saying, “Quota na ako sa 60”); he considered any period of time beyond that a true gift. His was a well-lived, meaningful life which he made sure he continued beyond 60.

Despite Lirio’s accomplishments, there was still much awaiting his leadership. He was very concerned about the moratorium imposed by the Department of Education on its purchase of supplementary materials, for one, and was exerting effort to produce a master list of all supplementary materials. His colleagues will certainly pick up where he left off.

I cannot but be amused that two gentlemen who worked closely with the NBDB and understood the problems of the book industry are both now in Paradise—hopefully to continue to show us the way, not that they can meet beyond all earthly constraints.


At the final rites for Lirio, a bottle of whiskey was seen beneath his casket, and later poured to toast his life. Those who knew him knew of his drinking and his smoking, neither caring for dire warnings nor the reminders to undergo a routine medical check. He had never been hospitalized before his stroke. The National Book Store matriarch, Socorro Ramos, was deeply saddened by his passing. They had a special friendship, and attended one another’s events. Reni Roxas of Tahanan Books calls him a true publishing professional, “first and always, a gentleman.”

To celebrate Lirio Sandoval’s life, I have to use lines of poetry from “Dito sa Lupa,” by homegrown poet Allan Popa:   Narito sa lupa ang mga bagay/para tayo may makapitan pansamantala….Walang dahilan para lumuha. Kailangan lamang pumikit/para makitang muli ang mga nawala at naglaho

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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