By Neni Sta. Romana Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Saturday, November 1st 2014

I am still star-struck over my recent personal encounters with best-selling author Amy Tan and young talented poets Mark Anthony Cayanan, Mikael de Lara Co, Kristian Cordero, Allan Popa and nonfiction writers Chay Hofileña, Pam Pastor and Arnel Patawaran. And if time allowed, there would have been many more interactions at last week’s well-received first Philippine Literary Festival at the Raffles Hotel.

It was a wonderful way for the National Book Store to highlight two internationally known authors whose books it carries, like Tan and Chang-Rae Lee, and outstanding US-based Filipino novelist Eric Gamalinda, whose “The Descartes Highlands” had a Manila launch ahead of its US launch this month. Even Tan made the discovery of Man Asia Booker Prize nominee Gamalinda, wondering why she had never heard of his works before.
This festival was NBS’ way of acknowledging the Philippine publishers whose titles it sells, by giving them conference time slots to mount their own discussions. It was a memorable (free) treat for all book lovers. What was interesting was that one did not see the usual suspects at such events—a healthy and encouraging sign that a younger breed is in the wings, soon to dominate the scene.

There promises to be more such interactions in November, which is Philippine Book Development Month. Another healthy sign of the state of the literary arts is the forthcoming 5th Philippine International Literary Festival and Book Industry Summit (PILF-BIS) that the National Book Development Board is hosting on Nov. 12-14 at the Bayanihan Center on Pioneer Street in Pasig City. This is a significant highlight of the NBDB’s continuing advocacy to find ways to promote the Filipino’s awareness of the richness of our own literature.

Billed as “The Pressing Issue,” the festival will highlight the concerns of the sectors that comprise the industry. This grew out of the numerous discussions initiated by the NBDB during its 2014 Kapihan sessions with the different sectors. It was evident that a continuing dialogue was imperative. Thus, the program for the 5th PILF-BIS took shape accordingly with topics not usually on the typical agenda of conferences.

Day 1 (Nov. 12, Wednesday) topics will focus on the sustainability of the book industry in the context of the Asean integration and globalization. Publishing and business experts will discuss issues on publishing and effective book distribution models, the role of academic presses, and error-free publishing and quality control. Probably the most challenging question for the three days is the status of and future directions for the book publishing industry.

Day 2 will have writers and creators examining issues on copyright, creative content, the artistic and financial gains of creative work, translating works in Filipino for the international reading market, and the rise of comics and graphic literature. What promises to be a particularly interesting session is “Contracts Counseling.” Too often, writers and illustrators do not bother to read the fine print; they do not know if there should be a contract in the first place, elated enough that they will be published.

Day 3 sessions will be in partnership with the Filipino ReaderCon for discussions related to the interconnectedness of reading, writing and publishing. The focus will be on livening up one’s curriculum with the inclusion of contemporary Filipino works, and the whys and wherefores of fan fiction—why we write it, why we read it, and the phenomenal rise of book clubs. This will include the much-awaited Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards.

The festival will also host Aklatan, the all-Filipino book fair, for the duration of the festival. This was first initiated by Visprint last year, and it was amazing to see young book fanatics queuing as early as 8 a.m., waiting for the doors to open. They knew what authors to seek out and what titles they were determined to find which were not found in bookstores. And they did! Who says Filipinos don’t read?

These partnerships with two previously separate events, the Filipino ReaderCon and Aklatan, are meant to consolidate initiatives that support local content, publishing, book distribution and readership by providing the venue, hosting the sessions, and extending financial support. In previous years, the NBDB supported these events as well.

We are aware that the issues that the NBDB has ambitiously scheduled on the conference agenda will not be resolved in the time slots given them. But nothing is ever lost in thoughtful and constructive discussions—and the conversations need to keep going.

All NBDB stakeholders are invited to take part in the discussions and book events of the 5th PILF-BIS. The participation fee is P150 per day, or stakeholders may avail themselves of the discounted “stakeholder’s fee” of P400 for the whole three-day event. Participation is free for students and teachers upon presentation of a valid ID. Invited guests, speakers and exhibitors are nonpaying guests. Festival tickets will also be raffled off! Do join us in the festival as we want your voice heard.

All information may be found in www.nbdb.gov.ph and on NBDB’s Facebook page. A dedicated webpage is in the works for pilfbis2014. For more details, please contact the NBDB though Camille Martinez at 6871804.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ( nenisrcruz@gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines, and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.