The National Book Development Board (NBDB) launched its Book Nook project, the very first all-Pinoy reading and storytelling space, on November 24 with ritual chanting, Balagtasan, and storytelling.

Conceptualized by NBDB executive director Charice Aquino Tugade, the government agency set up 52 indigenous spaces and remote sites all over the Philippines in the last six months.

Tugade said that the project envisions to provide more access points to our contents and creations, so that people around the Philippines are able to read their own books in their own language, their own culture, and look at their own experiences.

“We have all these wonderful hybrid spaces that are a little bit like a library, a little bit of reading center, a little bit of art and storytelling space that is inclusive for everyone,” she said.

“We have spaces in schools, libraries, museums, heritage homes, weaving centers, pasalubong centers, tourists and culture hubs, and even in your palengke,” she added.

Ceremonial Opening

As an opening ritual, Maguindanaon master artist Faisal B. Monal performed the Kapangebat, a summoning of spirits through Daging chant, in Timako Hill Mountains in Cotabato City.

Monal said that kapangebat is an example of ipat, which their people have been performing even before the Islamization of their area.

“The spirits are popular in the Darangen epic, where we honor the epic warrior Paramata Bantugen, who had two sons Balatamay Lumena and Alongan Pidsayana. They are very good in Sagayan dance,” he said.

Timako is believed to be the dwelling place of the Tunong or spirits.

Meanwhile, in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Rosie Sula, also known as Boi Lemingon, chanted the birth of Tudbulul, the T’boli epic hero, as a lullaby, while Maria Todi and Charm Suyan Mercado performed as a mother and son.

Jholaica Barron from Columbio, Sultan Kudarat invited everyone to Kanduli, the most important and most joyous celebration of Maguindanaon as a show of love for Allah and their fellowmen. 

“The most delicious food is prepared and we wear clothes with gorgeous designs,” she said in Filipino.

Richard Amansec, from the Los Baños, Laguna-based veteran theater group ARTIST Inc., performed a storytelling tandem with John Carl Alfred Tamayo. They retold the story of Maria Makiling, a widely known diwata who was venerated in pre-colonial times as the goddess Dayang Masalanta. She was believed to have powers to stop deluges, storms, and earthquakes.

Make Believe Productions creative director Lesley Lina also did a storytelling tandem with Bryn Echanis, narrating Haluhalo Espesyal. Written by Yvette Fernandez and illustrated by Jill Arwen Posadas, it was the children’s book which Lina used to train the storytellers from the 52 Book Nook sites.

National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario read his children’s book Ang Mabait na Kalabaw, illustrated by Liza Flores, to his youngest apo Agos.

Batibot famed storyteller Bodjie Pascua performed Tuwing Sabado, written by Russell Molina and illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III.

Antique representative Loren Legarda read parts of Nick Joaquin’s Rizal in Saga, to be rereleased by Milflores Publishing, with introduction and annotation by Ambeth R. Ocampo.

The Makatàs, composed of poets Cristobal Alipio, Dakila Cutab, and Karl Isaac Santos, performed the Balagtasan “E-Book vs. OG Book.”

All-Pinoy Books

With approximately 1,500 titles, the Book Nook project encourages kids and kids-at-heart, from Ifugao to Tawi-Tawi, to borrow and read books that are proudly Pinoy.

NBDB chair Dantes Francis Ang II said that they are hoping that the project will further strengthen and enhance nation-building and cultural empowerment while offering reading centers for families in indigenous communities and inaccessible areas.

“These spaces also serve as a resource for children, their parents and teachers in order to reinforce critical reading and writing their own stories. May this launch signify our commitment to better serve our country with our branding Aklat Para sa Lahat,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tugade said that there are 24 more times foreign books that enter the country than what we send out.

“There is a magic number and it is 24:1. This is our import-export disparity,” she said.

“If you go to our libraries and bookstores, our own content is relegated to a very, very slim Filipiniana section. Cookbooks, children’s books, and graphic novels. My question is whose voice do we give primacy to? Is it our voice or is it the voice of the blonde Goldilocks with white skin and the three bears in winter. Or do we give primacy to our binukot or hudhud or our haluhalo espesyals? Shouldn’t we give our own voice a chance?” she said.

The project was made possible through the cooperation of local publishers, government units, community partners, volunteers, civil society organizations, cultural workers, artists, and storytellers.

NBDB aims to open more Book Nook centers next year.

—MGP, GMA News