The Book Nook: Making Filipino literature more accessible for locals

Published December 2, 2021, 2:33 PM

by John Legaspi

The National Book Development Board launches 52 indigenous and remote reading spaces all over the Philippines

When you were young, how many books have you read that were penned by Filipino authors? In your school or local library, apart from the Filipiniana sections, did you see more locally produced reading materials? For many, the only time a Filipino book landed their hands during their early academic days was when they were studying local language or history. Some may have found great reads from the works of Dr. Jose Rizal and Francisco Balagtas or from contemporary ones like Bob Ong, Lualhati Bautista, and Ricky Lee, but there are more local tales to discover. Sadly, these stories are hardly read or heard of, not because of lack of interest, but due to the limited spaces that make them available to regular Juans and Juanas. But that’s all about to change with the launch of The Book Nook.

Photo from @nbdb_phil/Instagram

An initiative led by the National Book Development Board (NBDB), The Book Nook is a center where people of all ages can read and borrow books proudly written by Filipino authors. What makes this project even more special is that it also aims to build friendly reading spaces “in areas where there is limited access to reading materials and the internet.” To cap the National Reading and Book Month last November, the NBDB announced that it was able to set up 52 indigenous and remote reading hubs all over the country during its virtual launch last Nov. 24, 2021.

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

“There is a magic number and it is 24:1. This is our import-export disparity. There are 24 more times foreign books that enter the country than what we send out,” NBDB executive director Charice Aquino Tugade added. “If you go to our libraries and bookstores, our own content is relegated to a very slim Filipiniana section. My question is whose voice do we give primacy to? Shouldn’t we give our own voice a chance?”

“We really want to engage communities [just to] be more inspired and not look outward to find inspiration,” Tugade continued. “We really want something a little bit more holistic. No matter what Philippine language you speak, you will find that connection with other communities.”

A plethora of books can be found on every The Book Nook site. This ranges from fiction and non-fiction books, highlighting topics such as Culture, History, Art, Values, Environment, Health, Science, Work, Identity, Diversity, and Peace. According to NBDB, about 65 to 70 percent of the titles are for kids and teens, and 30 to 35 percent are dedicated to adults. While many of the books are focused on young readers, the agency ensures that even adults will be delighted by stories such as Ambeth Ocampo’s “Rizal Without the Overcoat,” Yvette Fernandez’s “Haluhalo Espesyal,” National Artist’s Rio Alma’s “Ang Mabait na Kalabaw,” and Russell Molina’s “Tuwing Sabado,” among others.

“Aside from reading, there will be storytelling, arts and craft, reading or writing workshops, and book club meetings,” the NBDB said. “Readers can also arrange their own events! Depending on the pandemic situation in each area, programs will either be in person or online.”

The Book Nook centers can be found all over the Philippines, and are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday. Click here to see where you can find one.