A SOJOURNER’S VIEWS: Davao authors make a splash at the National Book Awards event

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 November) —  I was not able to attend  the 31st National Book Awards event held on 17 November 2012 in the afternoon at the Old Senate Session Hall, National Museum of the Philippines, City of Manila.

A month earlier, I had received an invitation to attend the event from the organizers, namely the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle.  My book –MANOBO DREAMS IN ARAKAN: A People’s Struggle to Keep their Homeland – published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press (2011) was nominated in the Social Science category.

Four other books were nominated in this category, namely:  A Clash of Cultures: Early American Protestant Missions and Filipino Religious Consciousness (by Melba Padilla Maggay, Anvil for DLSU), Bound by Law: Filipino Rural Poor and the Search for Justice in Plural-Legal Landscape (by Jennifer Franco, ADMU Press), Komunista: The Genesis of the Philippine Communist Party 1902-1935 (by Jim Richardson, ADMU Press) and Lungsod Iskwater: The Evolution of Informality as a Dominant Pattern in Philippine Cities (by Paulo Alcazaren, Luis Ferrer and Benvenuto Icamina, Anvil).

For whatever the reasons are for the decision of the jury, my book won.

There have been authors from Davao who have won National Book awards in the past, including Dr. Macario Tiu and Mr. Jowel Canuday.  But at this 31st yearly event, Davao authors made a splash.  Lolita R. Lacuesta’s The Davao We Knew won in the category of Anthology, English. Edited by Lolita Lacuesta, the book (published by Anvil) gathered 19 essays written by a mix of Davaoeños, both homegrown and migrant, namely  Jo Bacani Angeles, Tita Lacambra Ayala, Nenita Belda Azarcon, Pribhu Dhalamal  Balchand, Renato S. Basa, Jose F. Campo, Ernesto I. Corcino, Fe del Rosario Dacudao, Karl M. Gaspar, CSsR, Lolita R. Lacuesta, Cynthia Nograles Lumbera, Margarita Marfori, Patria Garcia Montemayor, Marcelino E. Payumo, Aida Rivera-Ford, Michael L. Tan, Ting Tiongco, Josie C. Tionko and Macario D. Tiu.

In the category of the Gemino H. Abad Prize for Poetry in English, Ricardo M. de Ungria won for Tala Mundi: The Collected Poems of Tita Agcaoili Lacambra Ayala (UST Publishing House).

 An adopted Davaoeno – Tim Dacanay – also won along with the members of his group for the Anthology, Filipino category. His groupmates include Luna Sicat-Cleto, Rrolando S. dela  Cruz, Elmar Beltran Ingles, Nicolas B. Pichay and Rene O. Villanueva. Their book is titled Telon: Mga Dula (NCCA).

All in all there are 17 categories under the National Book Award.

For the longest time, it has been the Manila-based groups who have taken the initiative to organize themselves in such a manner that they can monitor the books published throughout the year in the Philippines.  As most publishing houses in the country are based in Manila – thus, being the imperial center, it holds the purse – book awarding events have been mainly monopolized by those in our country’s capital metropolitan city.  One is not surprised that most winners are from Manila.

We do appreciate the efforts of the NBDB and the Manila Critics Cirlce to look beyond Manila when they have their deliberations for the awards, but perhaps, Mindanawons need not rely solely on their initiatives.

Perhaps the time has come for us in Mindanao to set up a similar Board and Circle that can honor our very own authors, independent of what happens in Manila. But who will take the lead?  Indeed, a very good question to ask, as this body will need the integrity, independence and commitment that the NBDB and MCC are already known for.

I wish I were still alive to see the realization of this damgo. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews.Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar of Davao City, is author of several books, including “To be poor and obscure,” “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures,” “The Masses are Messiah: Contemplating the Filipino Soul,” and the recently-launched “Manobo Dreams in Arakan.” He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English [A Sojourner’s Views] and the other in Binisaya [Panaw-Lantaw].)