The 2024 Philippine Book Festival just ended and it was a smashing success. From April 25 to 28, the National Book Development Board Philippines (NBDB) brought together book lovers, authors, publishers, artists, educators, students, performers and more for a four-day celebration of Philippine literature, culture and the arts.

Close to 30,000 people attended the event at the World Trade Center in Pasay, which featured 170 exhibitors and over 100 events including panels, workshops, book launches, author meet-and-greets, book signings and storytelling sessions. 

The country’s bestselling authors and publishing rock stars were present at the festival. There were even surprise celebrity appearances . National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Ricky Lee, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, historian Ambeth Ocampo, komiks legend Pol Medina Jr., Tarantadong Kalbo Kevin Eric Raymundo, fan favorite Manix Abrera, actors Marian Rivera, Gabby Concepcion and their “My Guardian Alien” co-star Raphael Landicho, next generation Encantadia and GMA Sparkle artists Faith Da Silva, Angel Guardian and Kelvin Miranda, musician, author and TV personality Lourd De Veyra, Ballet Manila artistic director and CEO Lisa Macuja-Elizalde are just some of the personalities who were at the event. 

At the opening ceremony dubbed “Simula: A Celebratory Ritual,” NBDB Chairman Dante Ang II said, “The Philippine Book Festival, despite only being in its second year, is shaping up to be the perfect encapsulation of what we and our partners hope to see in the landscape of Philippine publishing: one that champions Philippine authorship and readership, one that asserts that the Philippine author and reader should be at the heart of a celebration, and of a long-term campaign to address access and make dedicated readers out of every Filipino.”

The festival truly championed Philippine literature and highlighted all genres—even zines were given the chance to shine. The Philippine Book Festival was divided into four realms, all of which were bustling with activity over the four days: Booktopia, a place where fiction and non-fiction were given the spotlight, Komiks, a playground for authors, artists, publishers and lovers of Pinoy komiks, Aral Aklat, a space for textbooks and educational materials, and Kid Lit, a fun land for children. 

NBDB executive director Charisse Aquino-Tugade addressed the huge crowd that had gathered for the opening. “We have called the PBF a ‘first-of-its-kind’ event, and it’s not just because of the lineup of activities but mainly because of its insistence that Philippine books and Philippine authorship are worthy of being the center of a big celebration, of a nationwide gathering where families and just about anyone can enjoy. I don’t think we have ever dedicated this much time and space to the celebration of Philippine content, and it’s about time that we start doing so.  The country needs more reading spaces that encourage conversation, creation and collaboration.”

There is so much to celebrate about Philippine literature, culture and arts and the Philippine Book Festival is a testament to that. On the first day, people came dressed proudly in Filipiniana, wearing outfits from different corners of the archipelago—they donned barongs, ternos, malongs, and beautiful, colorful weaves. There were dance performances, balagtasan and musical numbers featuring local instruments.

People traveled from all over the country to attend the Philippine Book Festival. A number of attendees were teachers, librarians, and other educators who were there to find Filipino books for their schools, libraries and students in their regions. Just like last year, the NBDB has been working closely with the Department of Education (DepEd) to train more than 750 book evaluators and procurement officers to scope and evaluate books. 

Aquino-Tugade told festival attendees, “In 2021, when we started working closely with the Department of Education’s Bureau of Learning Resources, we found that the majority of the recommended reading materials for schools were foreign. Our kids, besides lacking ready access to quality books, were not reading their own stories in their own languages… We then sought to swiftly amend the said reading list, and started working towards a book publishing industry and education sector where kids could read their own stories in their own language and contexts.”

She continued, “Why is this so important? If we don’t provide a platform for our children to learn about themselves and the world they live in, they will grow up in environments shaped solely by other voices. To become great global citizens, we must start with our own stories, especially from K-3.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda said, “I am glad that we have initiatives like the Philippine Book Festival…This festival allows our Department of Education leaders and the public schools to check out our local titles, appreciate the breadth and depth of their coverage, and be empowered by them. Let us provide our young people with the best books possible. All students and young people deserve the same opportunity to discover new worlds, broaden their horizons, and increase curiosity through literature. Let us not underestimate the value of promoting Filipino content in our libraries.”

At the festival, teachers got the chance to discover new titles, meet authors and publishers and find books for their students to love and learn from. A number of them expressed joy over seeing komiks at the festival too, as they are a great way to help even non-readers discover the joys of reading. 

DepEd Undersecretary Gina O. Gonong  said, “We are all set for a large-scale purchase of books for our school libraries from all over the Philippines—a milestone that will significantly shape readership, a move that will define Philippine education in the long run. I believe that this large-scale purchase of relevant and quality Philippine-authored books is a critical, and perhaps even overdue, synthesis of the education and book publishing sectors’ efforts to start anew with learning materials that speak to, rather than at, its readers… It is a step towards raising kids that have a sense of both self and of community.”

“Meeting the scopers, the DepEd teachers was the best part of the Philippine Book Festival,” said Avenida Books founder Nida Gatus-Ramirez. The publisher added that the Philippine Book Festival feels different compared to other book fairs. “It’s a different atmosphere… People tend to stay more, they tend to browse longer because there are a lot of spaces for sitting. They know they can sit somewhere when they get tired. It’s a lot of fun. Also, a lot more families come here because of the Kid Lit area.”

There was plenty for kids to enjoy at the festival. They listened to stories from Dr. Luis Gatmaitan, Caila Therese Patag, Bibong Biboy, Jerome Andersen Garcia, Akillan A. De Castro, Aklat Alamid, watched a puppet show, colored, did arts and crafts, learned how to make comics, went on a scavenger hunt and played games. 

Attendees were fueled by delicious eats at the Tabuan Food Hall where there were a lot of options for those in search of a snack or even a full meal. 

The Philippine Book Festival offered fun for the whole family in the four realms, on the Main Stage and at the Creators Lab. There were sessions and activities for all ages and all interests.  

Poets got the chance to let their words be heard during the Poetry Slam session. Gwy Saludes had an exclusive meet-and-greet and book signing session with her fans. Comic book artists drew live at the event, transforming an empty canvas into an explosion of Filipino talent. 

Lee’s “Trip To Quiapo: In Conversation with Ricky Lee” was a hit. Lee said at the event, “It’s nice to be surrounded by book lovers, Filipinos buying Filipino books.”

There was also a touching tribute to Nick Joaquin, the literary giant who died twenty years ago but who continues to live on through his books, the many adaptations of his work, and the people who carry him and his words in their hearts. Joaquin’s niece and president of the Nick Joaquin Foundation said, “My promise to Tito Nick before he passed was we will do everything so that the future generations may continue to read and experience the works of our beloved National Artist.”

Cosplayers dressed as their favorite Filipino characters for the Cosplay Filipiniana competition. The winning costumes were Hunghang Flashbacks by Drew Borja, warrior princess Urduja from Mig Alvarez Enriquez’s Three Philippine Ethnic-hero Plays and Boy Bakal by Carlo Valenzuela.

The exhibit of the Rare Book Collection of the National Library of the Philippines was another highlight. So many precious books and literary works were on display including Severino Reyes’ “Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang” from 1925 and Rosa Preiser’s “Pepe and Pilar Visit the City” from 1938. There was even an illustrated book and a funny cartoon drawn by Jose Rizal. 

The Philippine Book Festival isn’t only a place where talent is celebrated. It’s also where talent is grown. 

Forty young students from grade school and high school took part in the 2nd Young Writers Conference (YWC), also held at the Philippine Book Festival. YWC  was organized by the Book Writers with the International Board on Books for Young People Philippines, Philippine Board on Books for Young People and Catholic Filipino Academy Homeschool. Multi-awarded poet Vijae Alquisola and writer and reading advocate from Southern Mindanao Xi Zuq facilitated workshops on poetry and writing fiction. Selected aspiring authors also got the chance to pitch their stories to Aklat Alamid, Lampara Books, and Chikiting Books by Vibal during a special Pitching/Mentoring session. Today’s Philippine Book Festival workshoppers could be the next generation’s festival headliners.  

Also among the guests were officials from the Frankfurter Buchmesse and a delegation of German publishers. The Philippines will be the guest of honor at the 2025 Frankfurt Book Fair, something the NBDB has been preparing for.

The NBDB is tirelessly working to promote a culture of reading and develop the publishing industry in the Philippines and for two years now, Philippine Book Festival has played an important role in that mission. It would continue to do so in the coming years.

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