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  • A (modest) boon for authors, researchers

    By Neni Sta. Romana Cruz 7 March 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer On March 13, the National Book Development Board (NBDB) will honor the latest batch of grantees of its Authors’ Trust Fund, or the National Book Development Trust Fund. The fund was established to support and promote Filipino authorship and the completion and publication of manuscripts or research work especially in science and technology and other fields of interest and specialization where locally authored books are few or nonexistent. The dearth is fairly obvious; one only has to survey the foreign textbooks on which higher education classes are heavily dependent. I have to give credit to my immediate predecessor, Dr. Dennis T. Gonzalez, whose efforts led to the creation of this fund, resulting in Republic Act No. 9521 in March 2009. It is a true legacy that this much needed initiative continues beyond any chair’s or governing board’s term of office because its funding is guaranteed and mandated: P50 million from the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the next five years from the implementation of RA 9521, and an equivalent amount from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). We commend Pagcor and the PCSO for honoring their commitments—Pagcor completed its contributions in December 2011, and PCSO in July 2013. This has made it possible for the author projects—today totaling eight completed manuscripts and 18 works in progress—to continue. The principal amount of P100 million managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines has earned interest of about P16 million, less the amount of more than P2 million which has been granted to authors. It is hoped that the GAA’s long delayed portion of the contribution is forthcoming, as it will certainly boost the incentives that the NBDB continues to provide more authors in their scientific research and writings. The NBDB has not been remiss in including the outstanding amount of P50 million from the GAA in its budget proposal year after year; it is especially emboldened by the legal basis for the request. Yet, year after year, it has been denied, purportedly because “there are many unfunded laws.” It is a reason that is totally unacceptable, especially as it shows yet again how we as a country value the work of authors and researchers. If the NBDB is mandated to provide a climate to promote readership and authorship, the least we can expect from the government is support, particularly manifested in funding such as this. The first call for grantees was made in 2011. It yielded a submission of 24 manuscripts out of which three were selected. For the health and wellness category, Mercedes G. Planta’s manuscript titled “Traditional Medicines in Colonial Philippines” is now with UP Press. For environment and biodiversity, Ma. Florina Orillos-Juan’s manuscript, “Kasaysayan at Vulnerabilidad,” is with DLSU Publishing House. For a novel in English written by an author based in the provinces, it was the late Antonio R. Enriquez’s manuscript “The Siege of Fort Pilar.” In 2014, 32 manuscripts were entered for these five categories: advancement in medicine, Islamic studies, gender studies, biodiversity, and health and wellness. It is always interesting to see the range of the topics covered. Here is a partial list of grantees who were required to show evidence of at least 25 percent of their work in progress, and then approved by an advisory committee per category composed of a member of the NBDB governing board and two invited experts: Islamic studies: Darwin J. Absari, a senior lecturer on Muslims in the Philippines and Southeast Asia from the Institute of Islamic Studies, UP Diliman, and adviser and lecturer, Blue Mosque and Cultural Center, Maharlika, Taguig, “Pag-Tuhan: Tausog Gnosis as a Living Tradition.” Biodiversity: Amado C. Bajarias Jr., associate editor, “The Birds of Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College and U.P. Diliman.” Grace Quiton-Domingo., founder and executive director of the Ocean Action Resource Center Inc. in Balawagan, Silago, Southern Leyte, “MPA for Teachers: A Fun Activity Guide that Illustrates the Science Behind Marine Protected Areas.” Health and wellness: Rosario I. Tañedo, community organizer, freelance writer, documentary filmmaker, scriptwriter, and founder of Creative Center Inc., “Come Back to Me: Lives Taken, Shaken and Changed by the Lack of Reproductive Health and Rights.” The initial batch of grantees will receive 50 percent of the P200,000 grant (admittedly not a princely amount), the first of three tranches. Twenty-five percent will be given as the work progresses, and the final 25 percent when the work is completed and ready for submission for publishing consideration. As the 2014 grantees are made public, the call for the 2015 grants has been opened. The four categories are local history and culture (written in Filipino, English, or any other Philippine language); traditional/ integrative/tropical medicine; food science and technology/organic agriculture/sustainable agriculture/ agritourism; and popular science, which includes research on Filipino robotics and inventions. The deadline for submissions is May 31. The application form, submission guidelines and implementing rules and regulations may be downloaded from http://nbdb.gov.ph/index.php. For queries, e-mail oed@nbdb.gov.ph. 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.

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