To all our finalists and distinguished guests, on behalf of the National Book Development Board (NBDB), I send my warmest greetings to everyone present tonight to celebrate and reflect on the power of the printed word through the National Book Awards (NBA).  

Today, at a delicate time when we are beginning to return to the rituals of our daily lives, hampered for years by a global health crisis, returning to the familiar is, while an inevitability, something that many of us have long been anticipating. After being caught between the shifting sands of uncertainty in the past years,  the certainty of the everyday is a source of comfort. 

For many of us in the publishing industry, the resurgence of the National Book Awards, a tradition since 1982 which recognizes the best books written, published, and designed in the Philippines, is good news. Administering the 39th National Book Awards, from the submission of 276 nominated books to the seven months’ long reading and deliberations stage, faced delays due to intermittent lockdowns. But as we start anew, we find solace in rediscovering the best of Filipino stories. I tell you that with certainty because as we redraw our worlds, the role of books in helping us answer questions the pandemic has brought about has never been more apparent. 

Ensuring continuous book production among our stakeholders, from authors to editors, to artists, to translators and to publishers, is therefore one of the mandates the NBDB swears by every year. The National Book Awards is one of the avenues we can do that. So, while awards are by no means perfect, informed by various metrics that may not agree with some, since 2008 the NBDB has collaborated with the Manila Critics Circle (MCC) for the National Book Awards and will continue to support it in the years to come. 

The National Book Awards encourages creatives to produce more works by recognizing the painstaking labor that comes in crafting the finest books in the country, reaffirming  the endless capacity of Filipino creatives to paint stories that showcase the breadth and depth of our nation’s past, present, and future. This is no easy feat, especially as we make sense of our archipelago of stories through the rigorous standards of novels, poetry, essays, anthology, comics, and non-fiction books, among others. 

Moreover, the National Book Awards, by empowering agents of creativity to bring their ideas to fruition, aligns with the daring, yet hopeful economic outlook of the NBDB to reinvigorate the Philippine publishing industry. By increasing access points for books across the country through our programs such as the Book Nook and by expanding the market for publishers through our participation in international fairs, the NDBB is set to leverage the power of our number  — our archipelago of stories from the islands of Batanes to Tawi-Tawi; our global diaspora that knows no boundaries. 

The implementation of the 39th cycle may have come across various setbacks, but the roster of finalists is out to prove that the creativity of the Filipino spirit cannot be hampered. So is the National Book Awards, which, despite an unfortunate absence, is back tonight to celebrate the best books published in the Philippines in the years 2019 and 2020.  We thank the Board of Judges composed of the Manila Critics Circle and the NBDB-appointed category and permanent judges for dedicating their time and effort to read all the nominated books for the 39th cycle. In the next awarding season, the National Book Awards will commemorate its four decades of bringing to the limelight the best of Philippine books. 
Congratulations to our authors, editors, artists, translators, publishers, and to everyone who has worked to bring Filipino stories to life. You all are winners. Magandang gabi at mabuhay ang lathalaing Filipino!