By Neni Sta. Romana Cruz
2 April 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Wouldn’t you like to know more about organic native chicken farming, organic vegetables, or street foods that are actually safe to eat? What about a guidebook on the proper use of medicinal plants? The healing secrets of the albularyo? Or even a Tagalog manual of the common ailments of the nose, ear, throat and neck? There is also a manuscript in progress on demystifying Filipino inventions.
These are the awardees of the 2015 National Book Development Trust Fund for the categories of food science and technology, traditional/integrative/tropical medicine, and popular science, indicating how the NBDTF has drawn attention beyond Metro Manila: Dr. Jaime Cabarles of Iloilo City; Prima Lou Imperial of Camarines Sur; Dr. Eufemio Barcelon of Calabarzon; coauthors Dr. Cecilia C. Maramba, Dr. Nelia P. Cortes-Maramba, Dr. Ernesta Quintana, Dr. Romeo F. Quijano, Jocelyn Palacpac, Dr. Evangeline Amor, and Dr. James Purificacion, all of the National Capital Region; coauthors Dr. Bibiano S. Fajardo and Louanne Mae L. Calipayan of the NCR; coauthors Dr. Jacob S. Matubis, Dr. Rene S. Tuazon, Dr. Mariano B. Caparas and Dr. Josefino G. Hernandez of the NCR; and Carl Anly Ortiz of Bicol.
Their proposals of research for which at least 25 percent has been written and submitted for evaluation were deemed worthy of funding toward completion and toward eventual publication in book form to be enjoyed and appreciated by the general public.
The NBDTF was created through Republic Act No. 9521 in March 2009 during the chairmanship of my predecessor, Dr. Dennis Gonzalez, at the National Book Development Board (NBDB). It was meant to encourage the writing of books on topics not usually written about, especially on science and technology as well as other subject areas for which we have very limited material. Another important and practical reason for the grant is to allow writers who are usually hampered by lack of resources, the time and the leisure to focus on their dream writing projects.
There was a fourth category whose grantees were awarded only early this week. The reason for the delay was a happy one, for this popular category of local history and culture elicited 67 submissions, creating a “problem” for the three-member advisory committee. How to read all those submissions in record time?
The final four choices are not your usual historical accounts of hometowns, but are pioneering cultural studies. Ian Fermin R. Casocot wrote on the literature of Dumaguete and Negros Oriental, highlighting how the Silliman National Writers Workshop, the oldest creative writing workshop in Asia established by Edilberto and Edith Tiempo, has contributed to our national cultural heritage. It’s a timely project this year, the 55th year of the workshop.
Jennifer Rebecca L. Ortuoste’s proposal was on “Kulturang Karera.” Philippine horse racing, its history and traditions and rituals that go all the way back to 1867 when it began in Southeast Asia, are studied beyond the sport as a form of gambling or as a business. Known as the sport of kings and a social event involving the wealthy, its forms of communication have never been studied before.
“Unweaving Basey: A Poet’s History of Home” was what the third grantee, poet and professor Dinah T. Roma, focused on. She left Basey in Samar as a four-year-old and did not realize her emotional bond to her hometown until Typhoon “Yolanda” struck. By writing about her family’s history and ties to Basey, the author discovers how the place has informed and influenced her own imagination and writing.
The fourth proposal was “An Uncyclopedia…,” a collaborative project of Baguio- and Cordillera-based artists, writers, and cultural activists headed by Rocky A. Cajigan, Padmapani Perez, Kawayan de Guia and Franklin Cimatu. It is an ambitious project that is irreverent and described as “defiant” as it includes topics of Cordilleran culture and history. It includes critiques of falsehoods and misconceptions that demand rectifying, with the reminder to the public to remember their true histories and traditional ways of living and knowing.
The advisory committee headed by NBDB governor Karina Bolasco, with Dr. Emmanuel Calairo and Dr. Jose Victor Torres as members, recommended that local governments be notified about local histories written on their provinces and cities. They took notice of the promising manuscripts submitted from the pool of 67.
The grant amount of P200,000, distributed in three tranches depending on the degree of completion of the manuscripts, is certainly not commensurate to the time, energy and imagination of a writer completing book-length work. These are intangibles that can never be properly compensated. At the very least, the fund can hopefully free the author(s) of everyday burdens and concerns that hamper writing.
In a video message that Ian Casocot sent from Dumaguete in time for the awards ceremony as flight changes prevented him from being physically present, he acknowledged that without the grant, his obsession to write a literary history of Dumaguete would have remained a pipe dream.
Let many other writers near and far, with their own obsessions, turn these into meaningful and enjoyable books for all of us.
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines, and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.