A Passion for Reading
Here’s how one woman strives to improve education in the Philippines—one book at a time.
I’ve always thought of myself as a writer first before anything else,” shares Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores, who has an undergraduate degree in Journalism, an MA in Creative Writing, and a Law degree from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She worked for several newspapers, magazines, an advertising agency, and a law firm, before this self-confessed bookworm finally landed her job as Executive Director of the National Book Development Board (NBDB).
“Reading was always a big thing for me since childhood till the time I was already working. So when one of the board members of NBDB and my former MA adviser told me I would be perfect for this job, I applied for it. I was the only person from the private sector who applied and although I had absolutely no background in government, I got the job!”
For the Love of Books
“NBDB’s main goal is to develop the local book publishing industry,” explains Andrea. “According to the Book Publishing Industry Development Act, ‘Books are the most effective and economical tool for achieving educational growth; for imparting information, and for recording, preserving and disseminating the nation’s cultural heritage.’ It may sound like a motherhood statement but I really believe in that. In a poor country like ours, if the teacher is inadequate, the student’s main source of knowledge is the textbook. We may have the Internet and other forms of media, but books are different—they are more substantive, focused, and well-researched.
“I also believe we can help alleviate poverty by developing the industry into a more globally competitive one. We do this by developing the market, skills and capacity building, and facilitating accreditation for publishers. If you are an accredited publisher, for example, you are able to import raw materials tax-and-duty-free.
“For market building, we try to encourage the public to read books by Filipino authors.
The local book publishers’ main market is domestic. The problem is that a lot of Pinoys don’t know that these books by local authors are available. It’s not in their consciousness. But our authors are not writing for a foreign audience because they are talking about their own experience as Filipinos.”
“All the problems of education today—such as the lack of classrooms, teachers, and textbooks—are our problems too. After all, how can you encourage more people to read when they don’t know how to read in the first place?” Andrea says. However, these challenges don’t faze her. “Since we don’t have much money, we try to come up with projects that are more creative. We get partners to help us, and we work harder to achieve our goals.”
Some of the NBDB’s projects include:
1. Get Caught Reading Campaign
“This is a local version of the campaign done by the American Association of Publishers. We get local actors and media personalities to pose with a Filipino author’s book. We turn these photos into posters, which we distribute to different public schools and community centers nationwide. In essence, this campaign has two messages: To read and to read Pinoy.”
2. Booklatan sa Bayan Program
“We go to different places around the country to hold book fairs, storytelling workshops, and seminars for Readership Enhancement and Advancement (READ) and library administration. We want to set up more reading centers because we have a study which says that if there is a library in the area, the literacy rate of the province goes up.”
3. NBDB Book Club
“We meet once a month to discuss books by Filipino authors. When we meet, the author is present. Sometimes, we invite students to join the sessions. Then, we write about it so people get interested in the book.”
4. Philippine Book Development Month
“We celebrate this in November. We have all sorts of activities lined up to promote reading and books by Filipino authors nationwide.”
WANT NBDB TO CONDUCT ITS
BOOKLATAN SA BAYAN IN YOUR SCHOOL?
For inquiries, contact: National Book Development
Board 2/F National Printing Office Building, EDSA cor.
NIA Northside Rd., Diliman
Tel. No.: 920-9853 or 926-8238.