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  • Literary guests for ‘Text and the City’ in November

    By Neni Sta. Romana Cruz
    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    Friday, October 18, 2013

    All lovers of the written word, and, I have to add, illustrated images, in view of the rising interest in graphic literature: Brace yourselves for November, a month of literary events.

    The Manila City Library headed by Renan C. Santos will hold a Storytelling Competition on Nov. 8 with 10 contestants from among the fourth- and sixth-graders in the public schools of Manila’s six districts. This festivity is only one of many such activities in our schools for the reading month.

    On Nov. 9 the 3rd Filipino Reader Con 2013 will be held at the Ateneo Rizal Library. The daylong affair, touted as the most reader-driven conference, has for its theme “What do Readers Want?” There will be panel discussions on the digital Filipino reader and “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Popular!” The highlight is the Readers’ Choice Book Awards Ceremony, deliberations for which were conducted online from July to August.

    The week of Nov. 11-16 is what the National Book Development Board (NBDB) is preoccupied with these days. This year’s 4th Philippine International Literary Festival (PILF), billed as “Text and the City,” will run in four different university venues and one library-museum, the Ayala Museum. (The first PILF, tagged “LOL,” was mounted at the Hotel InterContinental by former NBDB executive director Andrea Pasion-Flores.) Its structure is a clever strategy aimed at a larger and a different audience, particularly reaching out to the university student crowd who could not attend previously because of registration costs and class schedule conflicts. This is a partnership concept developed by the NBDB’s newly appointed deputy executive director, Camille V. de la Rosa. And as with so many bright ideas, one somehow wonders: Why did we not think of this before?
    And why “Text and the City,” an obvious pun to entice and engage the youth, the logical target audience of all literacy initiatives? “To reflect the disconnection we experience in the modern city…. To reconnect with what makes us human through our communion with books.” By moving from Manila to Quezon City to Makati, it is hoped that more readers, writers, book enthusiasts and industry insiders can discuss the issues facing book lovers today. And the best writers of each university are given prominence.

    So on Nov. 11 the NBDB launches the festival at the University of Santo Tomas—the oldest university in the country—where its Creative Writing Center and Literary Studies headed by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo is the NBDB’s partner and host. Apart from the special panels, the featured guest is “Access: Thirteen Tales” author Xu Xi of Hong Kong.

    On Nov. 12 De La Salle University’s Department of Literature chaired by Dinah Roma Sianturi is host. The featured guests are international storyteller Kamini Ramachandran of Singapore and Jasmine Ann Cooray of London, poet and author of “Everything We Don’t Say.”

    On Nov. 13 Peter Swirski, Canadian scholar, literary critic, and author of “From Lowbrow to Nobrow,” will speak at Ateneo University’s Rizal Library headed by Vernon Totanes, the day’s host.
    The final venue will be the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Creative Writing, with its director, Jose Dalisay Jr., as host. Suchen Christine Lim of Singapore, author of “The River’s Song,” is the featured literary guest.

    The PILF ends on Nov. 15 at the Filipinas Heritage Library-Ayala Museum—and rightly so, because the Ayala Museum has been the festival’s hospitable venue for the last two years. Suzanne Yupangco, senior manager of the Arts and Culture Division of the Ayala Foundation, is hosting the last day. The featured author is Krys Lee, teacher at Yonsei University in South Korea and writer of the short story collection “Drifting House.”
    There is also Komikon, the 9th annual Philippine comics convention, which is scheduled on Nov. 16, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., at the Bayanihan Center in Unilab, Pasig City.

    Another major and much awaited literary event is the awarding ceremony for the 32nd National Book Awards on Nov. 16. A partnership between the Manila Critics Circle headed by Isagani R. Cruz and the NBDB, the awards will recognize the most outstanding titles published in the country in 2012. There will be about 19 awards in the literary and nonliterary divisions, with corresponding cash prizes and trophies sculpted by Michael Cacnio. A coveted prize is the Publisher of the Year award, which was won by Anvil Publishing last year. The judges totaled 22 for the different book categories.

    The month’s calendar also includes two NBDB Booklatan events in partnership with Save the Children’s First Read program in Koronadal on Nov. 25 and General Santos on Nov. 26. This is partly in response to the results of the 2012 NBDB Readership Survey, which showed a drop in readership in the Visayas and Mindanao. It also emphasizes the thrust of First Read to guide young parents in raising young children to be healthier and more literate students.

    For details on the PILF events, e-mail: UST-Ferdie Lopez ferdiemlopez@yahoo.com; DLSU-Dinah Sianturi dinah.sianturi@dlsu.edu.ph; ADMU-“Von Totañes” vtotanes@ateneo.edu; UP-Francis Paolo Quina fpmquina@gmail.com; Ayala Museum-“AFI AHYONG, Verne Alexander Y.” ahyong.vy@ayalafoundation.org.

    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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