Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Literacy on our Minds by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz

July is a special month devoted to children and books and reading.  Or haven’t you noticed?

For the past 27 years, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People has endeavored to institutionalize the celebration of National Children’s Book Day on the third Tuesday in July by spearheading the annual event—in happy remembrance of the publication of Jose Rizal’s retelling of “The Tortoise and the Monkey”, considered the beginning of Philippine children’s literature, in a British publication, Trubner’s Oriental Record dated July 1889.  (It is a reverential experience to hold the original copy  of Issue No. 247 at the British Library or a copy of it at the Lopez Museum.)

Festivities were held at Museo Pambata with the theme,  Ang Nagbabasa ng Libro, Laging Panalo!  in keeping with the mood of the May  elections.  The poster, always a collector’s item, was executed this year by Ariel Santillan and distributed to public schools.  Of special interest was the  PBBY-Salanga Prize because for the first time, it invited entries in poetry to develop this genre for Filipino children.  If the beat and rhythm of poetry is said to be closest to children’s speech, it should hold a natural charm for them.  The winning collection was  “Green Leaf and Other Poems”  by Raymund G. Falgui, an English teacher at UP’s College of Arts and Letters.  The poems drawn from Falgui’s childhood invite the readers to recall their own experiences.  They document a child’s many moods from overhearing parents bickering or responding to the joy of falling rain.

Soon to be released in book form, it will be accompanied by the PBBY-Alcala Prize illustrations of Aldy Aguirre, freelance illustrator, visual artist and member of the Ilustrador ng Kabataan (InK) .  His art work is simple, delightful, whimsical.

PBBY chair Zarah Gagatiga performed one of the poems as a rap, while London-based writer and former Mr & Ms staffer Candy Gourlay in town for the launch of her debut novel was a powerful speaker.  A sentimental touch was the retrospective exhibit of the works of the late Albert Gamos, a legendary figure in Philippine illustrations, fondly remembered for being there when it all began—when National Artist Virgilio Almario established the Children’s Communications Center, the forerunner of today’s successful Adarna House.

Adarna House declared the month National Children’s Book Month for the children’s book publishing industry. It can do so with authority not only as the pioneering and largest publishing house of children’s titles, but because it scheduled two special Saturdays. July 10 was Illustrators’ Saturday at Powerbooks Megamall where three workshops geared for children ages 4 to 13 were facilitated by well-known illustrators Ruben de Jesus, Herbert Fucio, and Mark Salvatus.  This experience allowed the children to see that the bylines on books belong to people who are very much like them. The best deal of all was that the registration fee entailed buying any two Adarna books which they could have autographed. 

The second Saturday special was billed as Storytelling Saturday, a festival of authors and illustrators at Fully Booked SM North. The daylong storytelling had free admission and featured well known names in children’s literature, names we hope will become celebrities and role models for the young:   Rhandee Garlitos, Ferdinand Guevara, Becky Bravo, Jason Moss, Nanoy Rafael, and Marcus Nada.

And be impressed—Adarna has calendared ten book fairs in different venues in Metro Manila with Cavite as the farthest for the month, going beyond schools, coinciding these with professional gatherings.  That  should say much about novel ways of marketing books.  Take them where the crowds are.

A major highlight for the week was the launch of Cacho Publishing House’s  Philippine edition of Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story, a much awaited book that promises to be a good read.  It comes to the country heralded because it has been released in the UK by David Fickling Books, a small publishing house known for its very discriminating choice of book titles. Among its authors are  Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dig in the Night-Time) and Philip Pullman (Once Upon a Time in the North). It takes pride in being picky and only publishing books that “work”, sometimes only one title a month.  Tall Story was recently selected by the Sunday Times of London as one of the 100 Best Summer Reads.  It could not not have a Philippine edition with illustrations by Yasmin S. Ong —not only to make it affordable for our young readers but because the hero, Bernardo, all of eight feet, comes from the Philippines.  After the very successful New York-based illustrator Jose Aruego whose books are for younger children (and hardly seen locally),
it is a major coup to have a Candy Gourlay with a debut novel sold worldwide but with a Philippine edition.

It had been a heady week, a heady month—but yet another coup: the announcement of the first National Children’s Book Awards, a PBBY-National Book Development Board partnership at the Mandarin Hotel.  Breathlessly awaited was the Best Reads for children, selected from 2008 and 2009 titles.

May events like these be part of our national consciousness and thrive 24/7, rather than just for a month.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz is a member of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, the Foundation for Worldwide People Power, and a trustee of the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation. 

All rights reserved. Neni Sta. Romana Cruz © 2010.

Books dancing between words and design by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz

A market day tale, a science book on possible life on Mars, a story of a boy who puts off taking a bath, a biography of a dedicated doctor, a counting book that starts backwards from ten, Saturday as a special father-son day.  These six children’s books have been recently selected as the Best Reads for 2010 from 131 titles published in 2008 and 2009. 

A major highlight of the National Children’s Book Day festivities last month, a yearly initiative of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, was the first-ever National Children’s Book Awards (NCBA).  A dream come true for lovers of children’s literature in the country, this was born from a working relationship between the National Book Development Board and the PBBY who both felt that the genre would be best served and promoted not by another contest with tiered winners, but by a recommended reading list from a panel of respected professionals who themselves are avid readers and know what qualities engage readers to read on.

The judges were Dr. Lina Diaz de Rivera, a former reading professor from the University of the Philippines; Karen Ocampo Flores, visual artist, curator, writer, and recipient of the Thirteen Artists Award from the CCP; Ana Maria Rodriguez, a former elementary school teacher at International School Manila; Maria Elena Locsin, an author and teacher of language arts with a master’s degree in education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education; and Tarie Sabido, a blogger of children’s and young adult books presently pursuing an MA in English Studies at UP.  All of them non-PBBY members, as the organization being a multisectoral board of individuals passionately engaged in pushing the publication, reading and appreciation of books, would naturally have personal and professional interests in the selection.  And more than anything else, PBBY wanted the endeavor to be conducted in an atmosphere of unassailable integrity and transparency.  Thus, the choice of judges who maintained confidentiality of their deliberation so that they did the impossible—absolutely no leaks, not to the “winners” (for lack of a better word), not even to the PBBY members themselves.  
What is distinct about this undertaking?  The selection involves no winners, no ranking, no categories by age or genre—only that the book reflects the “good teamwork that shepherds a germ of an idea into a text into a dance between word and design into wing├ęd book.” The elegant and soaring words are those of PBBY member, publisher and poet RayVi Sunico who fathered the launching of this initiative—an undertaking we hope will endure not only to elevate literary standards, but to promote reading and book consciousness.

 At the awards ceremony at the Mandarin Hotel organized by Andrea Pasion Flores, NBDB executive director , the judges honored the books by reading out what they found engaging and outstanding about the titles.

On the most obvious and practical level, Best Reads answers the continuing query from parents and teachers about recommended reading lists.  Just as the American Library Association’s Caldecott and Newbery Medals on books turn these titles into instant bestsellers, library acquisitions and classroom required reading, it is hoped that the Best Read gold stickers on these books earn them the special attention they deserve.  Not just to make affordable (all below P100!) high quality reading material available to our students. At the annual September book fair, they will be easily recognizable as a “bemedalled” set to be bought.

It is striking that although the only restriction for the judges was that they limit their choices to 10, only six books were deemed by them to be worth recommending, only six passed the test of being a successful collaboration between text and illustration, between author and artist. The judges looked at the book as a product of words, art, book design, printing and binding.  The book was to be seen as a total product, not isolated from words nor text. The paltry number of books considered to be of excellent quality is disturbing as it dramatizes the need to elevate the standards for the genre.  

Qualifying for this year’s Best Reads List are :  Araw sa Palengke (Adarna House) written by May Tobias-Papa and illustrated by Isabel Roxas; Tuwing Sabado (Lampara Books) written by Russell Molina and illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III; Can We Live on Mars? (Adarna House) written by Gidget Roceles-Jimenez and illustrated by Bru; Lub-Dub, Lub-Dub (Bookmark) written by Russell Molina and illustrated by Jomike Tejido; Tagu-Taguan (Tahanan Books) written and illustrated by Jomike Tejido; and Just Add Dirt (Adarna) written by Becky Bravo and illustrated by Jason Moss.  These are all for elementary school students, as no young adult fiction selection qualified.
Someone asked if it was a political choice that every publisher seemed to be represented on the Best Reads 2010 list.  That is untrue, because only four publishers are on the list, with Adarna having three cited titles and the other three from Lampara, Tahanan Books and Bookmark.  It is remarkable that Russell Molina and Jomike Tejido won multiple citations for different books they wrote, clearly showing that they are a cut above the throng.  

Let the dance begin for all children!

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz is a member of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, the Foundation for Worldwide People Power, and a trustee of the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation. 

All rights reserved.  Neni Sta. Romana Cruz©2010.

Monday, September 27, 2010

PBBY Salanga Writers' Prize 2011

Here are the rules for the PBBY Salanga Writers' Prize 2011:

2011 PBBY Salanga Prize Rules

Rules for the 2010 National Children's Book Awards (Unabridged)

Here are the original and unabridged National Children's Book Awards Rules for 2010: NCBA31March2010rules

Links section

Just added some new links. These should help you get to know the book industry in the Philippines. Am really glad that both the National Library and Rizal Library allow you at least some online access to their collections. ~ rs

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rizal's Manuscripts at the National Library, 17 Sept 2010

Yup, I know this photo isn't of Rizal. It's of Epifanio de los Santos, a former director of the National Library and the man after whom our main thoroughfare is named. Click on his image and you will see the rest of the pictures in the album. ~ rs

Rizal's Manuscripts at the National Library, 17 Sept 2010

Rizal's Manuscripts at the National Library, 17 Sept 2010

Please click on the link: