For the first time in my life, I find myself at a loss for words – superlatives escape me as I attempt to describe just how successful the National Book Development Board’s (NBDB) latest event was.
Despite other big events being held during the same time, the NBDB, a government agency, scored a huge hit with its staging of the 1st Philippine Book Festival (PBF) last June 2-4 at the World Trade Center-Manila in Pasay City.
Thousands of event goers got to enjoy the books being sold by many of the country’s publishers, from major publishing houses to indie sellers.
It was truly a fiesta of books and all things literary.
I went there with my family on the last afternoon of the event, expecting a lower-key turnout and fewer activities.
To my surprise, the place was still full of eager readers excited to meet their literary heroes and the organizers spared no punches in their scheduling of exciting activities.
Some cartoonists were there to sign their books, among them Pol Medina Jr. of Pugad Baboy fame and Manix Abrera of Kikomachine and Terror Prof.
Among those present to sign copies of their books at their publishers’ booths were Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr., Ambeth Ocampo, Roland Tolentino, Chuckberry Pascual, John Jack Wigley, Gabriela ‘Yeye’ Baron, and my daughter Alex Alcasid (who signed copies of her novel Dream of Dragons at the Central Books booth).
Roland and Chuck also facilitated an interesting gender sensitivity and inclusivity learning discussion for their two-book anthology Plus/+, at Iba Plus, Maramihan: New Philippine Nonfiction on Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities at the Booktopia nook of the event.
I also spotted fictionist and UST alumnus George Deoso there (his book The Horseman’s Revolt and Other Horrors was available at the UST Publishing House booth, where I saw its deputy director Ned Parfan).
I was very stoked to meet, for the first time, noted fictionist and journalist Danton Remoto.
From the first, he treated me like an old friend and we spent more than a few minutes chatting about the literary scene.
He gave me some very wise advice that I shall hold close to my heart.
He also graciously signed my copies of his books Riverrun and The Heart of Summer, and his translation of Lope K. Santos’ Banaag at Sikat.
All these books were published by Penguin Random House SEA, which has been doing a great job bringing the works of Filipino writers to a regional and world stage (Danton’s books are now being sold in the U.S. and other countries outside SEA).
Many thanks to PRH-SEA’s country representative Dorothy Ngo for providing me, on trust, review copies of their books (reviews to appear in my weekend column here in Manila Standard, No Shelf Control).
I missed seeing novelist Maryanne Moll who was there on previous days to sign copies of The Maps of Camarines, also published by PRH-SEA.
While wandering around the Indie Collab booth, I ran into Balangay Books publisher Roland Verzo and Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Intertextual Division (literature, in other words) head Beverly Wico Siy.
Also, there were physician and publisher Joti Tabula (Alubat Publishing and Librong LIRA) and San Anselmo Press’s Gay Ace Domingo.
At the same booth, I got a copy of Margaret R. Tadeja and LBJ Cabaluna’s book ‘90s Pinoy Rock, a sort of encyclopedia of most of the bands making music during that decade. I hope someone comes out with a book on the ‘80s musicians that laid the foundation for the local music scene.
Also making waves at the PBF were Psicom, that just relaunched their popular supernatural series with a call for manuscripts; the Wattpad community, that held a raucous and tremendously fun singing contest; and the Department of Education, whose booth was organized by DepEd technical assistant Katrina Kai Guevara (who is taking her MA Creative Writing at UST) to promote basic educational materials and children’s books.
Milflores Publishing also had a booth and its owner Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores was there to speak about the publishing industry.
The closing event was a tribute to Karina Bolasco, who spent her entire career in the publishing industry and has recently retired from heading the Ateneo de Manila University Press to return to writing.
Writer Alex Alcasid, who as a cosplayer and gamer is a veteran of cons and events from both the participant and attendee sides, had this to say about the event from her perspective:
“The event staff were very organized, welcoming, and exercised great with crowd control to ease the flow of traffic. The museum books [first editions of several Philippine classics] were a fascinating appetizer upon entering.
“The layout was spacious. We were met by a welcoming atmosphere, and there were several different stages all with events so there was no dead air, there was plenty to participate in.
“What extra space there was, was dedicated to seating [sofas] for tired parents whose kids were at the nearby Kid Lit area, and to allow eventgoers to peruse their newly-purchased books.”
NBDB’s Director Anthony Balisi and Kaye Dean were there to supervise the entire event and I congratulated them on their super successful staging that went extremely well and also brought the literary community and readers together for a rockin’ good time!
And this was after they had staged, in succession, the 40th National Book Awards and the Bicol Book Festival (where the participants took a boat ride from one island to another)!
It’s amazing how they got all these events done in time and so well!
Kudos to NBDB, its leadership, and its working teams for all the work “para sa panitikan at para sa bayan!”
The PBF’s next leg will be held at SMX Davao from August 18 to 20. Filipino southies, you are in for a great time.
Don’t miss it!
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