WELCOME REMARKS: As a Sword Needs a Whetstone

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Good afternoon. Assalamu Allaykum. May God’s peace and compassion be always in our hearts! It is my pleasure to welcome you all this afternoon to the First Mindanao Book Festival!

George R.R. Martin, the celebrated author of the Game of Thrones saga advised: A mind needs books, as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. But Francis Bacon also warns us about this double-edged sword: Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.

Books! Indeed, we may ask the question: what and who would we be, as persons and nations, were books never invented?

This gathering today is not just a testament to the enduring magic and appeal of books. It is an ode to the power of human imagination – limited neither by the metrics of physics nor by the confines of mortal experiences. Books have opened entire worlds to us: Middle Earth, Westeros, Narnia, Hogwarts, Malasimbo or, if your prefer, even pre-colonial Mindanao. We joined heroes in their adventures: Alice outwitting the Queen of Hearts, Alejandro Matapang scavenging for food and stories in war-torn Manila, one of Asimov’s characters compiling knowledge from all the corners of the universe for the encyclopaedia galactica, perhaps the four-eyed Datu sa Tsapakan who roams the river of Pulangi, or the Lady Tabunaway, saying yes to Islam and bidding farewell to her brother Mamalu. Books are worlds, times, and endless possibilities. In this same tone of amazement, Jorge Luis Borges, a great South American writer, said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

Mindanao’s treasure chest of cultural heritage formed by our pluriethnicity and pluri-histories, is indeed a source of endless inspiration for our writers. May she be your Muse, with all her beauty, all her flaws, each story a revelation. Find her in our peoples’ struggles, in the mysterium et tremendam of her forests, in the song of her rivers, in the dreams of her children.

There is no dearth of imagination in our Mindanao. This gathering truly attests to that.

Again, my warmest welcome to everyone!

[Note: This is Fr. Joel Tabora’s welcome address during the opening program of the First Mindanao Book Festival on February 4, 2014 at the Ateneo de Davao University. Fr. Tabora is ADDU President.]

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