By Elfren S. Cruz
The Philippine Star, November 27, 2014

Last Saturday, Nov. 20 was a special night at the Marble Hall of the National Museum of the Filipino People for Filipino authors, designers and publishers of the most outstanding books published in 2013. Started by the Manila Critics Circle led by Dr. Isagani Cruz, well known writer and former Department of Education undersecretary and STAR columnist, the practice to honor excellence in local publishing has continued on uninterrupted until today. What a boon it continues to be in the promotion of a reading culture and a thriving publishing industry.

In 2008 the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle formalized a partnership to ensure that the National Book Awards (NBA) continue on in perpetuity. It had also become more difficult for this small group of critics, though all of them passionate readers, to keep up with the growing number of published titles. The decision to institutionalize the NBA meant only better things for the tradition: it allowed many more people to read and deliberate on the one book to be selected for each of the 20 categories in fiction and nonfiction, in English and in Filipino and this year, in Bikol. The roster was composed of individual experts and representatives from professional organizations and academic institutions.

The program was long because of the number of awardees, but the audience did not mind listening to the authors speak. They deserved to be the main feature of the ceremony. Each of them received a trophy designed and sculpted by Pete Jimenez, a shortlisted artist for the 2013 Asian Cultural Council (ACC) Fellowship Grant in New York City.

Best Book of Short Fiction in Filipino: Sa Himaymay ng Puso at iba pang Kuwento, by Macario Pineda, Ateneo de Manila University Press

Cirilo F. Bautista Prize for Best Book of Short Fiction in English: Now, Then, and Elsewhen, by Nikki Alfar, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House

Juan C. Laya Prize for Best Novel in a Philippine Language: Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag, by Allan N. Derain, Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Juan C. Laya Prize for Best Novel in a Foreign Language: Fish-Hair Woman, by Merlinda Bobis, Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Best Book of Non-Fiction in Filipino: Anim na Sabado ng Beyblade at iba pang Sanaysay, by Ferdinand Pisigan Jarin, Visprint Inc.

Best Book of Non-Fiction in English: Mona Lisa: A Portrait from the Memoirs of a Grandmother, by Celine Beatrice Fabie, Mona Lisa Publication

Best Book of Poetry in Filipino: Labi, by Kristian Sendon Cordero, Ateneo de Manila University Press

Philippine Literary Arts Council Prize for Best Book of Poetry in English: m’mry wire, by Ricardo M. de Ungria, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House

Best Book of Poetry in Bikol: Canticos: Apat na Boses, by K.S. Cordero, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House

Best Translated Book: Doros asín mga Anghél: Translations in Bikol of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets and Selected Works, translated by Victor Dennis T. Nierva, Ateneo de Naga University Press

Best Graphic Literature in Filipino: PilandoKomiks Isyu 2: Mga Pagsubok ng Karagatan, by Borg Sinaban, Adarna House, Inc.

Best Graphic Literature in English: The Dark Colony Book I: Mikey Recio & The Secret of the Demon Dungeon, by Budjette Tan, Bow Guerrero, and J. B. Tapia, Visprint

Best Anthology in English: Manila Noir, edited by Jessica Hagedorn, Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Best Anthology in Bikol: Hagong: Mga Osipon, edited by Paz Verdades M. Santos and H. Francisco V. Peñones Jr., Ateneo de Naga University Press

Elfren S. Cruz Prize for Best Book in the Social Sciences: Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities: Tradition and Modernity in Contemporary Kalinga Society, North Luzon, Philippines, by Analyn V. Salvador-Amores, The University of the Philippines Press

Alfonso T. Ongpin Prize for Best Book on Art: Balay Ukit: Tropical Architecture in Pre-WWII Filipino Houses, by Maria Virginia Yap Morales, Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Best Book in History and Journalism: Story Book: Essays on the History of the Book in the Philippines, by Patricia May B. Jurilla, Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Best Book on Food: Milk Pigs & Violet Gold: Philippine Cookery, by Bryan Koh, Holy Angel University Press

Best Book on Science: Science Philippines: Essays on Science by Filipinos, Volume II, edited by Gisela P. Padilla-Concepcion, The University of the Philippines Press

Best Design: Made of Gold, by Cid Reyes, designed by Aman Santos, Metrobank Foundation

Publisher of the Year: Anvil Publishing, Inc.

As a booklover myself, I feel privileged and honored to give a special prize to a field of study I am keenly interested in, the social sciences. It is encouraging to see other individuals and more recently, private foundations, like the Coyiuto Foundation which has just begun its biography/autobiography award with a generous cash prize in partnership with the MCC, do the same. May other private corporations follow suit, for what can be more enduring a legacy as books and the printed word?

Speaking of books, Where the Write Things Are offers its final 2014 Write Away! Weekend for young writers ages 7-17 on Saturday, November 29: a workshop on writing and crafting your handmade Holiday book with Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, 1pm-5pm at the Canadian American School at the City Club Alphaland Makati. For details contact 0917-6240196 /