Best reads for 2016

The 33rd National Children’s Book Day festivities held last Tuesday at the lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines were more celebratory than usual because the traditional ceremonies included the announcement of the 4th National Children’s Book Awards (NCBAs). The biennial awards had been much-coveted for Best Reads by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) and the National Book Development Board (NBDB) for the 10 best Philippine-authored books published for children and young people in the two preceding years, 2014 and 2015.

The NCBAs aim to recognize the creative minds and hands involved in the production of children’s and young adult literature, from author to illustrator to publisher and bookseller. They celebrate children’s literature of the highest quality, with judges and readers so strict they have not as yet managed to select 10 books during the previous three NCBAs starting in 2010.  The judges have always stopped at six, not finding more qualifying entries. It’s a clear  statement on the prevailing quality of children’s books produced today.


Still, what happy news that we have six more titles in the latest Best Reads list. The following books were announced (the first five from Adarna House Inc.), with the reader-judges effusive with praise in their citations:

“Dumaan si Butiki” by Mary Gigi Constantino, illustrated by Ray Sunga, narrates the amusing journey of the lizard in the different nooks and crannies of the house.


“Haluhalo,” illustrated by Eli F. Camacho, is rich and mouthwatering with its colorful ingredients: No need for words, for the artwork is more than adequate.

“Salusalo para kay Kuya” by Ergoe Tinio, illustrated by JC Galag, is about the joys of being part of a Filipino family—noisy, boisterous, and always warm and nurturing.

“Supremo” by Xi Zuq, illustrated by Al Estrella, tells an engaging story that makes one laugh, cry and think about social responsibility.

“Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon” by Edgar Calabia Samar is about a young boy’s courage in a mysterious world peopled by characters from Philippine folklore. It weaves into the story elements from role-playing video games, a feature that speaks to gamers and readers of all ages.

“Mang Andoy’s Signs” by Mailin Paterno, illustrated by Isabel Roxas, is about a billboard maker who turns his harsh warning signs into gentle reminders. Its citation wittily says that the book with the charming, whimsical illustrations deserves its own sign, “Simply marvelous.” (Ilaw ng Tahanan Publishing Inc.)

The judges were: Kristine Canon, author and teacher; Troy Lacsamana, librarian; Dan Matutina, graphic designer and illustrator; Cecilia Picache, cultural worker and writer; and Portia Padilla, professor and author.

The NCBAs are unique because they include a Kids’ Choice category, involving young reader-judges who are after all the true target audience of the books. This category allows the children to express their own sentiments on the books and to choose their top favorite (more on this category in a future column).


This was inspired by the United States’ annual Children’s Choices reading list of the International Literacy Association (formerly the International Reading Association) and the Children’s Book Council.

For the second time since the Kids’ Choice category was included, an entry from Bookmark Inc. has met the standards of the child readers. “Made Perfect In Weakness” by Didith Rodrigo, illustrated by Patricia Lascano, tells the inspiring story of Roselle Ambubuyog, who never allowed her blindness to be an impediment to her success. She is the first visually-impaired Filipino to graduate summa cum laude from Ateneo de Manila University.

The NBDB is proud of partnering with the PBBY on this highly laudable project, as it is something that needs to be institutionalized and to continue long beyond the tenure of the organizations’ present set of officers. The PBBY is chaired by Tarie Sabido, a book lover and active blogger.

I would be remiss if I did not mention other noteworthy awardees that Tuesday. The PBBY-Salanga Prize winners are Genaro Gojo Cruz for “Makinang Makinang” (grand prize); Joseph Salazar for “Kung Bakit Hindi Nagsasalita si Kabunian,” John Paolo Sandicho for “May Dalawang Dulo ang Puso ni Papa,” Leila Francesca Maligalig for “Dandelions” and Jacqueline Franquelli for “Kindat, Kindat” (all honorable mention).

The PBBY-Alcala Prize went to Mark Lawrence Andres (grand prize) and Dominic Ochotorena (honorable mention).

We look forward to seeing these stories and artworks as published books soon.

This year’s theme is “Bumasa at Lumaya” (Read and Be Free), which is also the title of volume 2 of “A Sourcebook on Children’s Literature in the Philippines,” edited by Ani Rosa Almario, Ramón C. Sunico, and myself. If I may say so, it is an eye-catching production, with book design and art by PBBY member Ruben de Jesus. It will be launched today, starting at 9 a.m., at Xavier School in San Juan, to begin a day devoted to talks on children’s literature and a book fair. The public is invited; registration is required for the sessions.

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: National Book Development Board, National Children’s Book Awards, national children’s book day, Philippine Board on Books for Young People
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