Based on a joint report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and UNESCO, less than 10 percent of Filipino children can read simple text or comprehend a story. That means 9 out of 10 Filipino children can’t read well. Pre-pandemic, the learning poverty in the country was 69.5 percent. But with most Filipino children lacking access to the internet during distance learning, the rates rose to as high as 90 percent. With such drastic statistics, the call to improve children’s education is more urgent than ever.
An initiative by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) aims to address this. The government agency is known for the Book Nook, a sort of mini library for kids in remote places like far north Ifugao and far south Tawi-Tawi.
The book nooks are more than just places to read books, but also a place for storytelling, book clubs and writing workshops in the community. This is the kind of experience that the NBDB in collaboration with the Department of Education is planning for the largest traveling book festival in the Philippines.
The Philippine Book Festival (PBF) will be kicking off this June 2, 2023 from 4 PM to 9 PM, and on June 3 and 4 from 10 AM to 9 PM at the World Trade Center in Pasay. The event will also travel to SMX Davao later in August.
While the fairgoers will be largely local readers, the impressive lineup will be all Filipino, with more than 150 local publishers as exhibitors. The highly accomplished and personally high-spirited NBDB Executive Director Charisse Aquino-Tugade makes a fair point,
“How come we know about Shakespeare? How come we know about all of these global authors, but we don’t even know the works of our own? We have amazing Filipino-authored content yet we lack access. We’ve created a space where the entire family can enjoy all genres.”
I’ve often found that local literature hits differently than literature by non-Filipino authors. The scenes and the characters feel closer to home. The Philippine Book Festival promises to give access to our own stories in a way that Filipinos can relate more easily, and in various dialects. Here’s what you can expect to see at the thrilling book fair with totally free entrance, opening on June 2, 2023.
Enter the Four Realms of Literature
There will be four genres of books that make up the festival, all of which give a platform to Filipino publishers. Our local graphic novels like “Trese” or “14” have been hit around the world, so it’s no surprise there will be a dedicated Komiks section with graphic literature. For the children, there will be a range of child-friendly books in the Kid Lit section. Booktopia for fiction and non-fiction targets a variety of ages and Aral Aklat for necessary educational materials.
In each section, there will be multiple publishers, from teen lit to Heritage books by the National Filipinas Heritage Library. The range of books in the fair will sell from a price point of P79 upwards, offering a choice for all who attend.
Meet and Greet Renowned Local Authors
During the three days, festival goers will have the chance to meet authors they have long admired, putting a face to name. Well-loved for his engaging, often funny way of telling history, Ambeth Ocampo will be gracing the event. Actress and writer Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio will also hold a program on her latest book on marriage. While rising fiction writer Gwy Saludes will also be meeting fans.
Join the Creative Community
Aside from the fair of book sales, there will also be 60 events in just those 3 days. There definitely won’t be a shortage of activities to do. There will be a book Nook on site for festivalgoers to read, relax and even socialize with other book lovers and other spots where children can be left to play so the parents can scour their next read. You can expect animated live readings as storytellers weave their tales with spoken word. For aspiring writers, there will be writing workshops with a fee of P400 to improve their craft and technical skills.
You have events like the annual Art Fair Philippines, which testify to the pulse of the times. For this first all-local book fair in the country, the upcoming event seems to spell out—representing a leading change in the times that will shine through the shadows of reading illiteracy, and mark a rise in reading rates around the country.
For families and Filipinos of all ages, the Philippine Book Festival is a promising initiative that shines a light on the power and possibility of literature in the local landscape.
Registration for the Philippine Book Festival is quick and easy on their website at https://www.philippinebookfest.com/.