Wider accessibility for Filipino literature

For many, the first time Filipinos got to read a book during their early school days was during subjects on local language or history. Some may have enjoyed reading from the works of Dr. Jose Rizal and Francisco Balagtas or from contemporary authors like Bob Ong, Lualhati Bautista, and Ricky Lee.

Sadly, these stories are hardly read or heard of, not because of lack of interest, but due to the limited spaces that make them not easily available to regular readers. That changed with the launch of The Book Nook, an initiative led by the National Book Development Board (NBDB).

The Book Nook is a center where people of all ages can read and borrow books proudly written by Filipino authors. The project aims to build friendly reading spaces “in areas where there is limited access to reading materials and the internet.” The NBDB announced the successful establishment of 52 indigenous and remote reading hubs all over the country during its virtual launch last Nov. 24, 2021.

“These spaces also serve as a resource for children, their parents and teachers in order to reinforce critical reading and writing of their own stories,” said NBDB chairman Dantes Francis Ang II.

“There is a magic number and it is 24:1. This is our import-export disparity. There are 24 more times foreign books that enter the country than what we send out,” NBDB executive director Charice Aquino Tugade added.

“If you go to our libraries and bookstores, our own content is relegated to a very slim Filipiniana section. My question is whose voice do we give primacy to? Shouldn’t we give our own voice a chance?”

A variety of books can be found at every The Book Nook site, ranging from topics such as Culture, History, Art, Values, Environment, Health, Science, Work, Identity, Diversity and Peace. According to NBDB, about 65 to 70% of the titles are for kids and teens, and 30 to 35% are dedicated to adults. While many books cater to young readers, the agency ensures that even adults will be delighted by stories such as Ambeth Ocampo’s “Rizal Without the Overcoat,” Yvette Fernandez’s “Haluhalo Espesyal,” National Artist’s Rio Alma’s “Ang Mabait na Kalabaw,” and Russell Molina’s “Tuwing Sabado,” among others.

“Aside from reading, there will be storytelling, arts and craft, reading or writing workshops, and book club meetings,” the NBDB said. “Readers can also arrange their own events! Depending on the pandemic situation in each area, programs will either be in person or online.”

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