MINI CRITIQUE By Isagani Cruz
Updated November 13, 2008 12:00 AM
The finalists for this year’s National Book Awards were chosen in a different way from those of last year.
Previously, the members themselves of the Manila Critics Circle chose the finalists. We would go through every book ourselves, choose the ones we thought were better than the rest, and named those as finalists for the Awards.
When we started in 1981, there were very few Philippine books published, and we could easily read everything. As the years went by, however, the number of books multiplied beyond the capacity of one person to read. We would then assign each one to read so many books, and let a single member decide whether to name a book as finalist or not.
This year, thanks to the National Book Development Board (NBDB), the process of choosing finalists has not only become easier, but more democratic. NBDB asked professional organizations to choose the finalists. The Circle just had to read the finalists and choose which among those would be given the Awards. Instead of reading more than 300 books a year, each of us in the Circle now read less than a hundred.
This is the list of those that chose the finalists for the Awards: American Hospitality Academy Philippines, Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices, Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing and Research Center, De La Salle University Business Management Department, De La Salle University Department of Communication, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting, Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute for Creative Writing, National Historical Institute, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Philippine Economics Society, Philippine Literary Arts Council, Philippine Travel Agencies Association, University of Asia and the Pacific Department of Filipino, University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development, University of the Philippines Psychology Department, and Women’s Studies Association of the Philippines.
NBDB chose a different judge per category to join the members of the Circle in choosing the winners. These are the NBDB-appointed judges and the categories in which they voted: Gemino H. Abad (Poetry), Emily A. Abrera (Travel), Francisco P. Altarejos (Medicine), Jose Wendell Capili (Essay & Creative Nonfiction), Pamela C. Constantino (Linguistics), Gene Cordova (Cookbooks and Food), Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz (Children’s Literature), Gary C. Devilles (Literary Criticism), Francisco Doplon (Design), Dennis T. Gonzalez (Theology & Religion), Joaquin Henson (Sports), Elmer C. Hernandez (Business, Economics, & Finance), Justice Santiago Kapunan (Law), Marne Kilates (Translation), Zosimo E. Lee (Social Sciences), Priscelina P. Legasto (Biography & Autobiography), Malou Mangahas (Journalism), Mario Miclat (Anthology), Ambeth R. Ocampo (History), Charlson Ong (Short Fiction), Cid Reyes (Art), Jun Cruz Reyes (Fiction), Nona S. Ricafort (Education), Merle C. Tan (Sciences), and Alvin B. Yapan (Drama).
As in previous years, donors are giving cash awards in certain categories. Ma. Isabel G. Ongpin is giving the P20,000 Alfonso T. Ongpin Prize to the best book in art or architecture. Jaime C. Laya and Eleanor Laya de Gracia are giving the P40,000 Juan C. Laya Prizes for the best fiction books. The annual P10,000 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Prize for the best book in business, economics, or finance will not be given this year because there is no winner in that category.
Thanks to the indefatigable Executive Director of NBDB, Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores, and her staff, the selection process went smoothly. The Awards will be announced and given out on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Yuchengco Museum. Guest speaker for the evening is Senator Edgardo J. Angara, the author of the NBDB law and one of last year’s major sponsors of the Awards. This year, because his book on Baler is one of the finalists, the Circle could not and did not ask him for a sponsorship.
Sponsors for this year’s awards include Senator Mar Roxas, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Yuchengco Museum, Manila Bulletin, Galerie Joaquin, and Fuji Xerox. Trophies were designed by Glenn Cagandahan.