Gaspar’s ‘Handumanan’ wins National Book Award for Spirituality and Theology 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 April) – Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar’s “Handumanan (Remembrance): Digging for the Indigenous Wellspring,” won Best Book in Spirituality and Theology in the 40th National Book Awards for 2021. 

The award is given by the Manila Critics Circle (MCC) and the National Book Development Board (NDBD). Awarding rites will be held at the Manila Metropolitan Theatre on May 13, the first onsite since the pandemic. 

This is the second award for “Handumanan,” written by Gaspar, Mindanao’s most prolific book author. Published by the Claretian Communications, Inc., “Handumanan” won the Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards, under the “Spirituality” category, in November 2021.

This is also Gaspar’s second National Book Award. His first was in 2012 for “Manobo Dreams in Arakan: A People’s Struggle to Keep Their Homeland,” published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press. It won as “Best Book in The Social Sciences.”

Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar at the book signing during the 2nd Mindanao Book Festival opening on Monday, June 13, 2022. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO C. BUENO

Launched in 1982 by the MCC, the NBA honors the most prestigious book titles written, designed, and published in the Philippines. 

There were 213 title nominations under the categories Literary, Non-Literary, and Design, written in English, Filipino, and Ilocano. Out of 100 finalists, 29 won. 

Winners of the 40th National Book Awards 


Best Novel In English:  “Snakes in the Grass” by Patrick Everard (University of the Philippines Press) 

Best Novel In Filipino: “Aswanglaut” by Allan N. Derain (Ateneo de Manila University Press) 

National Artist Cirilo F. Bautista Prize for Best Book of Short Fiction in English“Selected Short Stories” by  Cecilia Manguerra Brainard  (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House) 

Gerardo P. Cabochan Prize for Best Book of Short Fiction in Filipino“Ang Itim na Orkidyas ng Isla Boracay: Mga Kuwento” by Genevieve L. Asenjo (University of the Philippines Press)

Pablo A. Tan Prize for Best Book of Nonfiction Prose in English“Departures: Essays” by Priscilla Supnet Macansantos  (University of the Philippines Press) 

Best Book of Nonfiction Prose in Filipino“Sa Yakap ng Gubat at Dagat ng Palawan: Mga Ekosanaysay” by John Iremil Teodoro (Pawikan Press)

Best Anthology“Harvest Moon: Poems and Stories from the Edge of the Climate Crisis” by Padmapani L. Perez, Rehana Rossouw, Alexandra Walter, & Renato Redentor Constantino  (Milflores Publishing, Inc. & Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities) 

Best Book Of Literary Criticism/Cultural Studies In English“Campaigns of Knowledge: U.S. Pedagogies of Colonialism and Occupation in the Philippines and Japan” by Malini Johar Schueller (Ateneo de Manila University Press) 

Best Book of Literary Criticism/Cultural Studies in Filipino: “Musika ng Pananakop: Panahon ng Hapon sa Filipinas, 1942-1945” by Raul Casantusan Navarro (University of the Philippines Press) 

Best Book on Media Studies: “Hindi Nangyari Dahil Wala sa Social Media: Interogasyon ng Kulturang New Media sa Pilipinas” by Rolando B. Tolentino, Vladimeir B. Gonzales, & Laurence Marvin S. Castillo  (Ateneo de Manila University Press)

Philippine Literary Arts Council Prize for Best Book of Poetry in English“Tangere” by Rodrigo V. Dela Peña, Jr. (University of the Philippines Press)  and “College Boy” by Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta (Ateneo de Manila University Press) 

Victorio C. Valledor Prize for Best Book of Poetry in Filipino
“Pasakalye” by Lean Borlongan (Self-published)  and “Tuwing Nag-Iisa sa Mapa ng Buntong-hininga” by Paolo Miguel G. Tiausas (University of the Philippines Press)

Best Graphic Novel in English“Alandal” by J. Philip Ignacio, Author; Alex Niño, Illustrator (Komiket, Inc.) 

Best Graphic Novel in Filipino: “Ang Mga Alitaptap ng Pulang Buhangin” by RH Quilantang, Author & Illustrator (Komiket, Inc.) 

Best Translated Book: “Mga Himutok sa Palikuran at Iba Pang Kuwento” by Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III, Translator; Eka Kurniawan, Author (Savage Mind: Arts, Books, Cinema)

Best Novel In Ilocano“Dagiti Pundador (The Founders)” by Prescillano N. Bermudez (Saniata Publications) 

Best Anthology In Ilocano“Panaglantip (Union)” by Dionisio S. Bulong & Eden Laguesma Cachola-Bulong (Saniata Publications) 

Best Book Of Poetry In IlocanoBaribari (Pardon Me)” by Roy Vadil Aragon (Saniata Publications) and “Anglem (Incense)” by Daniel L. Nesperos (Saniata Publications)


Alfonso T. Ongpin Prize for Best Book on Art“Endangered Splendor: Manila’s Architectural Heritage, 1571-1960” byFernando Zialcita & Erik Akpedonu (Ateneo de Manila University Press) 

Elfren S. Cruz Prize For Best Book In The Social Sciences: “The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed” by Robin Broad & John Cavanagh (Ateneo de Manila University Press)

John C. Kaw Prize for Best Book on History“Púgot: Head Taking, Ritual Cannibalism, and Human Sacrifice in the Philippines” by Narciso C. Tan (Vibal Foundation, Inc.) 

Best Book On Humor, Sports, Lifestyle, & Business“The Business of Banking: Structure and Profitability; Risks and Controls” by Deogracias N. Vistan (Anvil Publishing, Inc.) 

Best Book on Food“Appetite for Freedom: The Recipes of Maria Y. Orosa, with Essays on Her Life and Work” by Helena Orosa del Rosario (Ige Ramos Design Studios) 

Best Book in Spirituality and Theology“Handumanan (Remembrance): Digging for the Indigenous Wellspring” by Karl M. Gaspar, CSsR (Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc.) 

Best Book in Philosophy“Repentance and Rebirth at the End of Life as We Know It” by Agustin Martin G. Rodriguez (Ateneo de Manila University Press) 


Best Book Design“Endangered Splendor: Manila’s Architectural Heritage, 1571-1960” by Ali Figueroa & Erik Akpedonu, cover design, book design, layout, and artistic direction; Fernando Zialcita & Erik Akpedonu, authors (Ateneo de Manila University Press)

At least 25 books in 38 years 

Gaspar, who has written at least 25 books since 1985, writes two columns for MindaNews: “A Sojourner’s Views” and “Panaw-Lantaw.”

Gaspar’s books cover a wide range of issues, as can be gleaned from the titles: “How long? Prison reflections from the Philippines (1985);  Pumipiglas: Teyolohiya ng Bayan (1987), Manual for Pastoral Workers (1988); A People’s Option: To Struggle for Creation” (1990); “Readings on contemporary Mindanao church realities” (1994); “Behind the Growing Trees: An Evaluation of the San Fernando Integrated Forestation Project” (1994); The Mindanao Lumad Social Movement (1997); Lumad’s Struggles in the Face of Globalization (2000); “Mapagpakamalinawon:” A Reader for the Mindanawon Peace Advocate” (2002); “To be Poor and Obscure: The Spiritual Sojourn of a Mindanawon” (2004); Mystic Wanders in the Land of Perpetual Departures (2005); “The Masses Are The Messiah: Contemplating the Filipino Soul” (2010); “Manobo Dreams in Arakan: A People’s Struggle to Keep Their Homeland” (2011); “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations” (2014);  “Davao in the Pre-conquest Era and the Age of Colonization” (2015); “A Hundred Years of Gratitude” (2017); and “Panagkutay: Anthropology & Theology Interfacing in Mindanao Uplands [The Lumad Homeland]” (2017),”Handumanan” (2020) and “And She Sang You are My Sunshine” (2022). 

“Desperately” won the 2015 Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Award in the Spirituality and Ministry categories. 

Brother Karl Gaspar pauses from signing a copy of the book “Panagkutay” for a pose with Pablo Patino, who will grow up learning so much more about Mindanao and other issues through Gaspar’s books. Photo from Gaspar’s FB in August 2017, shared by BJ Patino

Writing as Melchor M. Morante, Gaspar has five novels in Cebuano: “Ugma Puhon, Junjun” (1994), Tuburan sa Handurawan (1995),“Si Menda ug ang Bagani’ng gitahapan nga maong si Mangulayon” (2015), and “Mga Lumadnong Sugilanon nga Mahinuklogon” (2020) and “Ang Dagayday sa Panahong Nanglabay” (2021). 

Gaspar also edited and contributed to the following books: You are Not Forgotten: Symbols During Martial Law (1988), Pakiglambigit: Reflections of RIMT (1989) and Our Mother of Perpetual Help Icon and the Filipinos: Multidisciplinary Perspectives to a Perpetual Help Spirituality (2017).

Gaspar is also one of the authors of “Turning Rage into Courage: Mindanao under Martial Law” (2002); “O Susana! The Untold Stories of Martial Law in Davao” (2016) and Being Sent: Redemptorist Missions in Mindanao, 1975-2005 (2006).

The son of a bus driver, Gaspar was Valedictorian of  High School Class 1963 at the Holy Cross College of Digos (now Cor Jesu College), whose batchmates include another son of a bus driver,  Jesus Dureza, first honorable mention, and the son of the Governor of the undivided Davao, Rodrigo Duterte.

Dureza and Duterte became lawyers, while Gaspar took up sociology at the Ateneo de Davao College (Class 1967) and pursued a Master’s Degree in Economics at the Asian Social Institute (1970).

Their paths would cross again when then President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. declared martial law.  Gaspar was a political detainee for 22 months, Dureza was a member of his legal panel and and Duterte was government prosecutor

After his release from detention in 1985, Gasoar joined the Redemptorists as Brother, and went on missionary work in Arakan, North Cotabato; San Fernando, Bukidnon; Josefina, Mahayag; Dumingag and Lakewood in Zamboanga del Sur; Kolambugan in Lanao del Norte; Roxas in Zamboanga del Norte, Kulaman in Sultan Kudarat province; and recently in Jose Abad Santos in Davao Occidental and Maramag, Bukidnon.

Between missionary work among the grassroots in the hinterlands, Gaspar returned to school and finished his PhD in Philippine Studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City in 2001.

Gaspar is presently based in Cebu City. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)