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  • Look who’s turning digital

    By Neni Sta. Romana Cruz
    Saturday, June 6th 2015
    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    At the National Children’s Book Awards ceremony in July 2014, Samsung Asia announced the launch of the Samsung Kids Time Authors Awards (SKTAA) in partnership with the National Book Development Council of Singapore. The competition called for children’s stories from Asean countries that would provide appropriate material for digitization by the company for its devices in a mobile platform called Kidstime, making it available anywhere in the world.

    Close to a year later came the announcement of the winners of the first SKTAA. It was a major highlight of the Awards Night during the annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, which winds up today.

    The competition—in which Samsung underwrote all the expenses and the National Book Development Council of Singapore served as administrator—was open to all writers, illustrators, translators and publishers of picture books, both published and unpublished. The only strict requirement was that they be citizens of Asean member-states.

    The members of the board of judges invited to deliberate on the first batch of awardees were: Myra Garces-Bacsal from Singapore’s National Institute of Education, who runs a website on children’s literature and young adult fiction and who chaired the panel; Thant Thaw Kaung, the CEO of the Myanmar Book Centre and executive director of the Myanmar Library Foundation and Myanmar Book Aid & Preservation Foundation; Vu Thi Quynh Lien of the Kim Dong Publishing House in Vietnam, one of the first members to set up the rights department, and who has been actively involved in local and international workshops on rights and copyrights as well as international book fairs; Razin Abdul Rahman, the general manager of Perbadanan Kota Buku in Malaysia, who aims to oversee and support the growth of the entire book industry in the country regardless of language, having worked with many translations of Malaysian titles into Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil; and myself, representing the Philippines.

    Thanks to technology, all our deliberations were made online; the e-mail exchanges reflected the “discussions” and final tally of our choices. Yes, it did feel like Christmas when we received our box of hard copies of published books, but this being a digital competition, it was fitting that most of the entries with brief summaries, illustrations and translations were sent to a DropBox.

    As many as 149 entries were received from seven countries. The Philippines had the biggest number of entries (62), followed by Singapore (40) and Indonesia (20). The rest of the entries came from Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam.

    It was a delight for any book-lover to go over the entries. We short-listed our favorites, keeping in mind the general criteria we were given: visually striking art, which is essential and logical for transforming hard copies to a digital format; appropriateness of the art style; blending of the art and the narrative; authenticity of the characters; strong storylines and themes; reader interest and engagement; creation of authentic characters; originality and innovation. Published and unpublished entries were judged using the same criteria.

    The judges were reminded that each participating country could have two grand-prize winners and eight second-prize winners, if deemed deserving. All that the Philippines garnered. Congratulations to the following authors, illustrators, translators and publishers who displayed their talents for the Asean (and eventually the world) to admire, and did us all proud:

    The 2015 grand-prize winners: “Anong Gupit Natin Ngayon?” written by Russell Molina, illustrated by Herbert Fucio, Adarna House Inc., 2012, and “Haluhalo Espesyal” written by Yvette Fernandez, illustrated by Jill Arwen Posadas, Adarna House Inc., 2006.

    They also received a generous cash prize.

    The 2015 second-prize winners (take note of the two unpublished entries), whose books will be digitized exclusively on Samsung mobiles for 12 months are:

    “Apuy’s Fury” (unpublished), written by Liwliwa Malabed, illustrated by Ramil Vinarao.

    “Diego and Marie,” story and illustrations by Robert Magnuson, Adarna House Inc., 2006.

    “Go to Sleep, Kuting,” written and illustrated by Robert Magnuson, Hiyas/OMF Literature, 2013.

    “No Lipstick for Mother,” written by Grace D. Chong, illustrated by Kora Dandan-Albano, OMF Literature, 2006.

    “Peter and Ahmed,” written by Jojie Wong, illustrated by Kora Dandan-Albano, Hiyas/OMF Literature, 2014.

    “Sandosenang Kuya,” written by Russell Molina, illustrated by Hubert Fucio, Adarna House Inc., 2003.

    “Soaring Saturdays” (unpublished), written by Sophia Lee, illustrated by Chay Lazaro,

    “The White Shoes,” written by Grace D. Chong, illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III, Hiyas/OMF Literature, 2013.

    This bare-bones list of outstanding stories does not do justice to their wonderful storylines, which I plan to discuss in the future.

    Samsung Asia’s initiative is certainly commendable as it provides another platform for young readers to discover the wonder of words, the magic of stories, the endless possibilities of imagining.

    But while I celebrate this latest feat in the book industry, an affirmation of Filipino talent, I await how Samsung will make these stories accessible to the general public, and to all our young readers especially in the public schools. Let this not be another treat that only the privileged will enjoy.

    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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