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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

PH guest of honor at 2025 Frankfurt Bookfair

We have less than two years to spin even more fascinating tales that will catch the fancy and stir the imaginations of the world’s readers

In a first for the Philippines, the National Book Development Board (NBDB) has helped attain Guest of Honor (GOH) status for the country at the 2025 Frankfurter Buchmesse (FBM or Frankfurt Book Fair), at 75 the world’s oldest and biggest venue for printed and digital content.

The historic agreement was inked on Aug. 18 at the NBDB’s Philippine Book Festival (PBF)-Davao with the following as signatories: from NBDB, Chairman Dante Francis Ang II and Executive Director Charisse Aquino-Tugade; and from FBM, President/CEO Juergen Boos, Vice-President for Business Development Claudia Kaiser, and Guest of Honor Program Head Simone Bühler.

The Philippines is only the second Southeast Asian country to be invited to be a GOH at the FBM, after Indonesia 10 years ago.

The FBM is held annually in Frankfurt, and is a venue for publishers from all over the world to meet with creative industry and technology partners to network, build relationships, and discover new content that can be shared through translation and adaptation into films, games, and other media.

As a major enabler of sharing and collaboration, the FBM is thus a prestigious and important event that will allow the Philippines to boost recognition of Filipino literary and visual creative talents worldwide.

Over the past few years, the NBDB, with the cooperation and support of local publishers, has been gradually increasing its presence at the FBM. Strong support also came from Senator Loren Legarda, who has long pushed for the Philippines to be a GOH at FBM.

In a speech read in her behalf at PBF-Davao by Adarna House publisher Ani Rosa Almario, Legarda explained:

“The road to being the Guest of Honor was years in the making. Through the years, together with the NBDB, we worked to push for this dream.

“Our Guest of Honor year in 2025 will serve as a culmination of all our efforts… It’s high time that the international community read and appreciate our stories told in our own voices, recognize that Filipino stories are worth reading, and that they are complex and informed by the colonial and post-colonial imagination.”

Why is this development so historic? What’s so important about being Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair?

As GOH, a spotlight will be placed on the literature and culture of a particular country. According to Boos, the GOH program “also aims to enhance the dialogue and network of the guest country within the international publishing world. Even though the Philippines is the world’s thirteenth largest nation with more than 110 million citizens, I believe for many of us in Europe, Philippine literature is currently still rather unknown territory.”

As GOH, the Philippines will bring its unique and diverse storytelling and cultural scene to a vast audience.

It is the biggest opportunity of all for Filipino writers, illustrators, and publishers and the country’s narratives to be noticed by publishers, game developers, filmmakers, and other creatives globally.

Naturally, incredibly intense preparation is necessary in order for our country to pull it off.

Ang says the NBDB is up to the challenge: “I believe we would not have been offered the Guest of Honor [position] if we were not poised to overcome greater heights. I’ve seen how my team has prepared long

enough and is ready to mount a historic event.”

Under its executive director Charisse Aquino-Tugade, the agency has proven, over the past several years, that it has developed its chops in event management, publicity, networking, and business development.

Last June, the NBDB held its highly successful first leg of the PBF in Manila, immediately followed by their staging of the Bicol Book Festival, and before all of that, the 40th National Book Awards with the Manila Critics Circle in May.

Tugade praised the gains made by the Philippine publishing industry and said we are ready for FBM 2025: “Fast-growing, the Philippines’ book publishing industry recorded steady growth in revenue in the past five years…

“We understand the scale and magnitude of this undertaking, and we are excited for this new chapter of Philippine literature and culture.”

The Philippines will be represented with a stand (Hall 5.1 B66) at this year’s FBM.

In 2025, the country’s presence at the fair will be expanded and the heightened visibility is expected to benefit Philippine publishers and writers even more.

The FBM’s Guest of Honor program also seeks to increase the number of translated works from the GOH country into German.

This is a good opportunity for German speakers and writers to contribute to the Philippines’ book production.

The most visible translator of Filipino works into German is Swiss native Annette Hug, who also attended PBF-Davao and networked with Filipino writers and publishers.

Spain was last year’s GOH, while Slovenia is this year’s and Italy is next year’s. The Philippines has about two years to prepare for the event, so local publishers need to step up their game.

Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) President Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores said that from now until 2025, publishers need to work together and focus all their efforts toward ensuring a successful GOH presentation at Frankfurt.

I suggested that an industry summit be held — a meeting or series of meetings at which all relevant sectors of the literary community and publishing industry convene to draw up and discuss marching orders for FBM 2025.

Pasion-Flores said a summit is doable and that BDAP is very much game for this, as is NBDB Director Anthony John Balisi. Publishing industry veteran Karina Bolasco said summits were held fairly regularly pre-pandemic, so it should not be too difficult to arrange one before the end of the year.

I’ll be discussing other highlights of PBF-Davao in another, lengthier, article. For now, let me mention that the Festival was opened by Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, who said: “By promoting our homegrown authors, illustrators, and publishers, we not only give voices to stories that have been waiting to be told for so long, we also celebrate them.”

Many thanks to FBM, and warmest congratulations to NBDB, Sen. Loren Legarda, and all those involved in bringing to reality the Philippines becoming Guest of Honor at the world’s biggest and most important book and content fair.

Now is the time for creating plans and strategies, engaging stakeholders, and developing synergies to ensure the Philippines puts its best books forward in 2025.

To my fellow Filipino writers, we have less than two years to spin even more fascinating tales that will catch the fancy and stir the imaginations of the world’s readers.

* * FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO / Email:

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