National Artist Virgilio Almario, Dr. Michael Coroza, Dr. Juliet Mallari, Dr. Hope Sabanpan-Yu, Dr. John Iremil Teodoro, Chairperson Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso, Chairperson Arthur Casanova, Executive Director Al Ryan Alejandre, colleagues in public service, friends in media, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

On behalf of the National Book Development Board, it is my great pleasure to speak with you as we prepare for the launch of this year’s National Literature Month with the theme: “500 Years of Writing the Filipino World.”

As we take part in our country’s quincentennial commemorations, the NBDB plans to carry out various activities that will empower readers and creatives through a critical and expansive reexamination of our history.

As such, we at NBDB are excited to introduce what our team has prepared in celebration of National Literature Month. As you all know, there is, now more than ever, a need to connect with one another through stories—and so our team thought it apt to launch, in time for National Literature Month, this year’s Philippine International Literary Festival or PILF, a celebration that at its root, encourages Filipinos to read, tell stories, and most importantly, listen to one another.

Since its inception in 2010, this landmark project has served to engage the public in discourse and celebrate literature. With the theme “Reclaiming our Narrative: Celebrating 500 Years of Filipino Storytelling,” we re-examine our history and our stories from years past to help us contextualize our place in the present, and as we go on to write and tell stories to help us navigate the uncertainty of the future.

For the NBDB, celebrating “500 Years of Writing the Filipino World” means understanding our oral traditions and remembering and honoring pioneering storytellers and the many languages that make up Philippine literature. Reclaiming our narrative, so to speak, requires somewhat of a reeducation, as well as remembering the storytellers who came before us and made Philippine literature what it is today.

The Philippine International Literary Festival is traditionally celebrated one month a year. On the occasion of the Quincenntenial anniversary, we will celebrate the Festival for the entirety of 2021.

Kickstarting the celebration are live stream events such as Author-on Author and Post-Pandemic Futures, a series of lively conversations with Filipino creatives worldwide. The first Author-on-Author webcast, entitled “Grit and Grime,” unpacks the creative process of some of our country’s favorite authors. The topic for Post Pandemic Futures, April session will be on Baybayin, the Boxer Codex, and Establishing Identity. For the subsequent sessions, the talks will touch on translating oral literature, women and publishing from the 19th Century to the present, and alternative retail spaces for books.

The NBDB will take readers on a virtual bookstore tour around the country starting April with My Book, My City, a directory of bookshops with virtual tours of independent bookstores around the country.

Those are the projects that we are launching in April, but as the PILF will run all throughout the year, we have plenty in store for readers, as well as for local publishers and other stakeholders. In July, we hope to launch Book Nook, a library-building program for indigenous populations around the archipelago. From Tuguegarao to Tawi-Tawi, more Pinoys will now be able to read their favorite Filipino-authored publications. A grant-giving program called Book-and-Buy is also slated this August with the mission of providing regional micro-entrepreneurs the tools they need to create their own Filipiniana Sections.

The plan is to help encourage reading by making quality material accessible, even to those living in remote areas. To do so, we hope to promote award-wining books and other works published by Filipino publishers and recognized not only by NBDB, but also by other associations and organizations that give awards to such exemplary works. These efforts are symbolic of NBDB’s pivot to focus more on national book publishing development so that it balances with our agency’s effort to promote Filipino book exports through participation in international book fairs and similar events.

Then in December, we hope to organize live streams of interpretative performances of history-related works. These will highlight critical historical works.

Lastly, the NBDB is excited to announce that we will be holding another round of Booklatan sa Bayan (or BSB) workshops starting June, which will focus on the writing and illustration of content for children in Kapampangan, Waray, and Maguindanaoan.

With these activities lined up to promote and celebrate Philippine literature, together with the KWF and NCCA, and our partner organizations, the National Book Development Board hopes that the month of April would be a timely opportunity for empowering Filipino readers, storytellers, and publishers. In the process, we aim to encourage Filipinos to be critical readers and storytellers in remembering and writing our history.

Once again, thank you. We look forward to celebrating National Literature Month with all of you.

Mabuhay ang panitikang Filipino!