Congrats to our buddy in these pages and elsewhere including barfly centers, Butch Dalisay, for the National Book Award he received Saturday before last, on Nov. 13, at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
Butch’s enviable trophy, created by sculptor Michael Cacnio, was for the Nonfiction Prose category, for Wash: Only a Bookkeeper, A Biography of Washington Z. Sycip, published by the SGV Foundation Inc. and AIM Scientific Research Foundation.
Other winners in the Literary Division were: Aves by Jerry Gracio (UP Press) for the Poetry category; The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol (Anvil Publishing Inc.) for the Fiction Category (Juan C. Laya Prize for Best Novel); Pungsod: Damming the Nation — Region/Nation in the Global Order in Contemporary West Visayan Literature by Isidoro M. Cruz (University of San Agustin Publishing House) for the Literary Criticism / Literary History category; and Trese: Mass Murders by Ferdinand-Benedict G. Tan and Jonathan A. Baldisimo (Visprint, Inc.) for the Graphic Literature category.
Four other awards were given, to the following, in the Non-Literary Division: The Law and Practice on Philippine Corporate Governance by Dean Castro L. Villanueva (Holy Angel University) for the Professions category; Bakwit: The Power of the Displaced by Jose Jewel Canuday (AdMU Press) for the Social Sciences category; The Life & Works of Marcelo Adonay, Volume 1 by Elena Rivera Mirano, Corazon Canave Dioquino, Melissa Corazon Velez Mantaring, Edna Marcil Martinez, Ma. Patricia Brillantes-Silvestre, Iñigo Galing Vito, and Patricia Marion Lopez (UP Press) for the Art category (Alfonso T. Ongpin Prize for Best Book on Art); and Palaspas: An Appreciation of Palm Leaf Art in the Philippines with Karl Fredrick M. Castro as book designer (AdMu Press), for Design.
The University of the Philippines Press was hailed as Publisher of the Year — for the number of titles it published that not only won a National Book Award but also figured prominently in the deliberations as finalists.
Manila Critics Circle members Danton Remoto, Rio Alma and Isagani Cruz
It’s still the Manila Critics Circle — with Dr. Isagani Cruz, National Artist forLiterature Virgilio S. Almario a.k.a. Rio Alma, Danton Remoto, Ruel de Vera, Juaniyo Arcellana, Cirilo F. Bautista, Shirley Lua, and Joel Salud as current members — that mainly decides on the selection of books published the previous year and submitted by their publishers for evaluation.
But it has been the National Book Development Foundation or NBDB, headed by executive director Andrea Pasion-Flores, that has taken over the administration of the awards, which is now on its 29th year.
I can’t quite believe that it’s been almost three decades since Isagani called a meeting that was hosted by Dr. Ophelia A. Dimalanta at her UST office, way back in 1982, with Freddie Salanga and I in attendance — for the purpose of setting up the Manila Critics Circle with book reviewers and literary critics as members.
Together with Arlene Babst and Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J., we handed out our first National Book Awards that year. Now Freddie and Fr. Bernad and dear Ophie have passed on to the next literature, while Arlene, now Mrs. Vokey, resides in Canada.
Since NBDB took over, or rather presided over the administration of the awards a few years ago, there have been changes. Only one title per category can win the award, something that my dear friend Andrea and I continue to engage in polemics about — my point being that there are certain years when a genre or category turns out to be so strong that two or three representative titles can all deserve an NBA, whereas other categories may have a lean year. But then the NBDB head honcho is a lady, so I don’t think I stand a chance to win this argument.
Not that each category is automatically given an award, in the present set-up. As it used to be in “our” time (I’ve been on leave from the MCC, per Isagani’s view), there may be finalists in a category that will not gain elevation to a National Book Award.
What happens now is that only five of the current MCC members get assigned to join the discussions — this time together with one genre specialist designated by the NBDB, as well as one other, over-all judge, also care of the NBDB.
This year, I served as NBDB appointee for the Lit Crit genre, which wound up with only one finalist. And I’m happy that our choice made it all the way to that enviable Cacnio trophy.
Last week, the NBDB organized yet another literary activity, the First International Literary Festival, a three-day affair conducted at some meetings rooms in the Hotel Intercon — with what are called “breakout sessions” simultaneously presented as thematic modules covering a wide range of literary interests, including authorship and publication. The entire shebang was billed as “Lit Out Loud,” or “LOL!” for short.
As I write this, it’s all been wonderfully impressive and very successful, with crowds actually paying for tickets that entitled participants to take in any of the sessions as well as hobnob over meals and refreshments with the over 50 Filipino writers and six foreign guests who represented writers, critics, publishers and literary agents from India, Singapore and Australia.
I wasn’t there for the welcome session on Thursday morning, Nov. 18, but heard of how everyone was delighted with the unique opening ceremony at the large Bahia Room that had tenor Dondi Ong emerging from amidst the audience to sing powerful arias, and poets Jimmy Abad and Mike Coroza doing the same, with recitations of their own verses.
The keynote speech was delivered by Butch Dalisay, who’s been on a roll from Virginia, USA (I trust he’s been taking his luck to poker dens), after which he served as moderator for the first panel discussion, on “The Novel,” with Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Patricia May Jurilla, and Rose Torres-Yu as panelists.
In the afternoon of Day One, the sessions held for 90 minutes each at the Bel-Air, North Forbes, South Forbes, San Lorenzo and Dasmariñas meeting rooms were, from 1:30 to 3 p.m.:
“Translating from the Regional Languages” (When translating from the regional languages, do we accept that English is the translation we need, or should we translate to Filipino?), moderated by Ricardo de Ungria, with fellow poets Marne Kilates and Marjorie Evasco serving as panelists; “Intertextuality and Plagiarism” (Is the novel dead? Is the practice of intertextuality technique a violation of the other artist’s copyright?), with Isagani Cruz as moderator and young poets/writers Angelo Suarez, Carljoe Javier, and Angelo Lacuesta as panelists; and
“Literary Journalism” with Susan Lara as moderator and Mita Kapur, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo and Criselda Yabes as panelists.
From 3:30 to 5 p.m., the competing (in a way) themes were: “Writing the Asian Experience in English” (How writing in English can reflect the Asian experience), with J. Neil Garcia as moderator and Vikas Swarup and Krip Yuson as panelists; “Roots and Imagination: What do we write about?” (Bringing our own experiences to the world to reach markets, does one need a big theme? Should one write about nation?) with Jimmy Abad as moderator and Christopher Cheng, Andy Mulligan and Charlson Ong as panelists; and “The Importance of Literary Agents and How to Get One” (How Philippine writers can break into the international market through a literary agent and how to find one) with Butch Dalisay as moderator and Mita Kapur and Jayapriya Vasudevan as panelists.
Day One was capped by cocktails and a musical performance, plus a spontaneous poetry reading, at the Filipinas Heritage Library, which by the by was a co-sponsor for LOL!
Day Two, Nov. 19, featured “How to Market Literary Titles” (Marketing literary titles for different markets) with Karina Bolasco as moderator and panelists Rino Balatbat, Mita Kapur and Jayapriya Vasudevan; “Genre Fiction” with Tara FT Sering as moderator and panelists Dean Alfar, Karl de Mesa and Yvette Tan; “The Children’s Market: What has Changed in 20 Years and What Sells Now” with Sandra Padilla-Ramos as moderator and panelists Christopher Cheng and Andy Mulligan; “Emerging Forms of Literature” (The prevalence of new forms/experimental literary works) with Erwin Romulo as moderator and panelists Vim Nadera and Angelo Suarez; “The Young Adult Novel” (The forms, the topics, the age, and being culturally specific) with Ramon Sunico as moderator and panelists Andy Mulligan and Christopher Cheng; “Writing Online” (The forms, what to write about, and how writers promote themselves online) with Tarie Sabido as moderator and panelists Carljoe Javier, Luis Katigbak and Marne Kilates; “From Manuscript to Film” (Screenwriters and filmmakers on the challenges of writing for film) with Jose F. Lacaba as moderator and panelists Jerry Gracio, Eric Ramos and Vikas Swarup; “Graphic Literature” (The country’s top graphic lit artists on how to break into the graphic lit scene and the future of the genre in the country) with moderator Carlo Vergara and panelists Gerry Alanguilan and Elbert Or; “How to Teach Literature to Young Adults” (A lecture for teachers on how to read and teach different genres of literature to young adults) with Mailin Paterno-Locsin as moderator and panelists Anna Rodriguez and Onofre Pagsanghan; “Filipino Poetry over the Years” with moderator Michael Coroza and panelists Rio Alma, Bienvenido Lumbera and Roberto Añonuevo; “How to Make Book Trailers” with Christopher Cheng; and “Travel Writing” (How to turn one’s personal journal into publishable essays) with Ralph Galan as moderator and panelists Tara FT Sering, Ruey de Vera and Krip Yuson.
Day Three, Nov. 20, featured “The Man Asian Literary Prize: What Makes an International Prizewinning Book?” (The latest changes in the Man Asian rules and the importance of winning international awards) with Butch Dalisay as moderator and panelists David Parker, Charlson Ong and Krip Yuson; “Literary Appreciation for High School Students” (Reading appreciation for literary pieces) with Carla Pacis and Cyan Abad-Jugo; “A Library that Reaches Out” (How librarians can make libraries more interactive to attract readers) with Troy Lacsamana of the Quezon City Public Library and Maritoni Ortigas of Filipinas Heritage Library; “Storytelling Workshop for Teachers” with facilitator Tony Yanza; “Writing the Diaspora” with moderator J. Neil Garcia and panelists Oscar Campomanes and Jose Wendell Capili; “Making Your Own Center Away from the Center (Non-Manila based writers on how they make literature come alive in their respective regions) with moderator Ricky de Ungria and panelists Merlie Alunan, Resil Mojares and Abdon M. Balde; “Launch of The F-Word” — A cooking demo and book signing with Mita Kapur; “Gender Issues in Writing” with moderator Jose Wendell Capili and panelists J. Neil Garcia, Danton Remoto and Jhoanna Lyn Cruz; and “100 Years of Philippine Poetry from English” with moderator Jimmy Abad and panelists Ricky de Ungria and Krip Yuson.
Finally, capping the three-day fest were a reading and book discussion with Andy Mulligan and a screening of Slumdog Millionaire with annotations by Vikas Swarup, author of the novel Q&A on which the celebrated film was based.
To have assembled such an international literary cast and given audiences the opportunity to discuss various topics, issues and concerns with them, up close and personal, was quite a feat, we must say. Kudos to NBDB for LOL! And may it become a yearly affair.