Once on This Island: At This Year’s Frankfurt Buchmesse, The Philippines Will Highlight Its ‘Archipelago of Stories’ - Arts & Culture

Deputy House Speaker Loren Legarda is also pushing for the country to be the guest of honor at the world’s oldest book fair in a few years.

For its sixth participation at the Frankfurt Buchmesse, the Philippines will be celebrating the myth and magic of our stories. 

READ ALSO: Eco Warrior: Loren Legarda On Continuing The Fight For The Environment And ‘A Bigger Threat That Which We Can’t See’

The Buchmesse is the world’s largest and oldest book fair, which traces its origins to the 17th century, where it grew into a prominent marketplace for published and handwritten works. It was resurrected post-World War II, in 1949, and has since grown in prestige.

Magical narratives

For this year’s edition, which runs from October 20 to 24, the Philippine booth will have the theme of “Myth, Magic, and the City: Reclaiming our Narrative.” It was envisioned by National Book Development Board executive director Charisse Aquino-Tugade and Team Manila’s Jowee Alviar.

Loren Legarda at the Philippine of the 2019 Frankfurt Buchmesse

The booth’s design weaves together images from Philippine mythology and textures from ethnolinguistic designs and patterns. A series of panels serves as a piece in the narrative creating a rich tapestry of Philippine culture and identity.

A few of the country’s top publishers will be participating, including 19th Avenida, Adarna House, Anvil Publishing, Ateneo de Manila University Press, Milfores Publishing, University of the Philippines Press, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Komiket, and many others.

Some of the best Filipino creatives and their works will be showcased at this year’s edition of FBM through a digital platform.

The offerings range from virtual exhibitions, special presentations, to strong voices on climate stories, epic sagas, to colorful messages of inclusivity and modern twists on Philippine folklore. 

NBDB is likewise announcing its own “The Last Moon” non-fudgeable token, which the Philippines is launching at FBM this year. 

The proceeds of sales of The Last Moon will go to NBDB’s “The Book Nook” project, which will creates storytelling and reading sites in indigenous and remote communities in the Philippines.

‘Guest of honor’

This years’ participation in the Book Fair is also a step in the long journey ahead for the Philippines, with its intent to bid for Guest of Honor (GOH) in 2025. 

This effort is being pushed and supported by three-term Senator and current Deputy House Speaker Loren Legarda. The only time an ASEAN country was honored with this status was Indonesia in 2015.

Having visited the Philippine pavilion at the 2018 and 2019 FBF, Legarda believes that the NBDB and the Department of Education should ensure the continuous participation of the country. 

“I laud the efforts of the NBDB to promote our local publishing industry in the global arena,” she says. “That is why I did not think twice in giving my full support for our participation in the Frankfurt Book Fair when it was presented to me for budget allocation.”

The Philippines first participated in the FBF in 1998 until 2000 but was not able to sustain it. In 2015, the NBDB succeeded in participating again, although in modest terms.

A year later, the country was able to put up a professionally executed pavilion through the support of Legarda, who was Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance then. She was able to increase the budget for the Philippines’ participation.

Good opportunity

“We need to sustain this presence and aim to be the Guest of Honor country at the FBF 2025, the earliest year available with no designated GOH yet,” Legarda stresses.

She explains that being a GOH country of the FBF would be a major feat and would greatly benefit the local book publishing industry as the country would be the highlight of the fair. GOH status allows the country to showcase different facets of its culture and arts.

To be awarded this covetable honor at what the lawmaker calls ‘the Olympics of publishing,’ one needs to be relentless. But it is not impossible.

Legarda brings up the fact that they were able to do it at the Venice Biennale, where the country was able to achieve many feats since it returned after 51-year-absence. 

The country was also able to participate at the Architecture Biennale for the first time. They were also able to secure a space for our national pavilion in the Arsenale, the historic exhibition space of the Venice Biennal art platform. 

“This year, our exhibit proudly bagged the Special Mention as National Participation,” Legarda says. “We will do the same for the Frankfurt Book Fair, not only to improve every year’s participation but to be the Guest of Honor country.”

The country’s presence at the Buchmesse is a good opportunity overall. Not only will it “promote our publishing industry in the global arena but also to showcase the world-class talents of our Filipino writers and the gems of Filipino literature, espousing our rich culture and traditions,” Legarda concludes.

Banner: Loren Legarda at the GOH space at the 2019 Frankfurt Buchnesse

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