Every year since 1982, the Manila Critics Circle (MCC) has been giving the National Book Awards (NBA) to the best books written, designed, and published in the Philippines.  Early in 2008, the Manila Critics Circle entered into an agreement with the National Book Development Board (NBDB) to institutionalize and co-administer the National Book Awards.

The Ateneo de Manila University Press is the Publisher of the Year, winning eight of 26 awards. Also included in the winners list is Charmaine Lasar, a Palanca-award winning writer who began her career in the self-publishing platform, Wattpad. 

This year, the NBDB and MCC received 200 book nominations from Philippine publishers for 26 categories. The finalists and winners were then pre-announced by the NBDB and MCC.

MCC Chair Ruel De Vera said that to be named as a National Book Award finalist is a victory in itself: 

“During the judging process, we name winners, but the book named as finalists leave a legacy of being among the books we seriously considered to be the best of the best. We delight in seeing new names and are joyful to be seeing old names. Throughout the judging process of the NBA, we get to read all the submitted books and our collective breath are taken away by the creativity, artistry, and honesty we behold.”

The Ateneo de Manila University Press (Ateneo Press) is named Publisher of the Year since it won the most awards, namely:

  1. Susumaton: Oral Narratives of Leyte by Merlie M. Alunan (Best Anthology in Waray)
  2. Batang Rizal at iba pang Dula by Christine S. Bellen (Best Anthology In Filipino)
  3. Sangkatauhan, Sangkahayupan: Mga Kuwento by Alvin B. Yapan (Best Book of Short Fiction In Filipino)
  4. Sulyap sa Aking Pinanggalingan by Roque J. Ferriols, SJ (Best Book Of Nonfiction Prose In Filipino)
  5. Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1965 by Daniel F. Doeppers (Best Book In History)
  6. Field Guide to Flight: Identifying Birds on Three School Grounds by Amado C. Bajarias Jr. (Best Book in Sciences)
  7. Out of the Shadows: Violent Conflict and the Real Economy of Mindanao edited by Francisco J. Lara, Jr. and Steven Schools (Best Book in the Social Sciences)
  8. Colonial Manila 1909-1912: Three Dutch Travel Accounts designed by Karl Fredrick M. Castro (Best Book Design)

“Edna St. Vincent Millay, a poet born in the last decade of the 19th century, said that writers who publish their books willfully appear before the populace with their pants down. If they are good books, then nothing can hurt them. If they are bad books, nothing can help them,” said Karina Bolasco, Director of the Ateneo de Manila University Press.

“Our eight authors and favorite book designer who won National Book Awards in their respective categories made us Publisher of the Year, nine years after ADMU Press won it for the first time in 2007. We are most grateful to them for entrusting us with their manuscripts. We are honored to have shared their vision and delivered according to their standards,” said Bolasco.

Among the winners of the year’s NBA was Toto O. for Best Novel in Filipino. The book was written by  Palanca award-winning author Charmaine Lasar  and published by PageJump Media. Lasar began her writing career in the popular self-publishing site Wattpad.

“The Wattpad community has been really important to me because that’s where I developed my writing skills,” Lasar said during her book launch of Toto O. “It’s because of Wattpad that I set bigger dreams for my writing.”

Speaking of Wattpad, the National Book Awards has been honoring the best traditionally-published books for the last three decades. Do the National Book Awards and the print book have to fear the digital revolution? NBDB Chair Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz said that both will evolve with the changing times:

“Not so long ago, publishers feared the fate of print books and publishing as we lurched into the digital age and the prevalence of screen-based culture. This generation of young people surely has access to a wider assortment of entertainment, yet book reading continues to be a part of the daily habit.

Traditional publishing has given way to new pleasures of electronic media, digital literature and interactive storytelling. For the more intrepid readers, self-publishing online has become the logical recourse. In retrospect, there was no need for us to worry: the love for the written word would prevail in whichever medium – it is simply up to the industry to keep pace.

While we’ve kept a traditional set of awards this year, it is necessary for us to evolve along with the trends of literary innovation.” 

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