38th National Book Award winners
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2019 - 12:00am

In a recent survey of the world’s biggest 500 companies, it was discovered that most of its CEOs read around 60 or more books a year. Most of the books they were  reading were fiction.  In his book  The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization, Martin Puchner says that it is impossible to imagine a world without literature. 

In the Philippines, the National Book Awards now on its 38th year continues to be the highest distinction bestowed upon the best Philippine books. This is now an annual undertaking for the Manila Critics Circle (MCC) and the National Book Development Board to award and honor the previous year’s crop of books for the highest standards in content and medium. These awards recognize not only poets and wordsmiths, but also editors, translators, illustrators, designers, and publishers whose love for the written word and inconspicuous labor have delivered these books into our hands.

The great idea of a National Book Award in different categories was first conceptualized by writer and then DLSU professor Dr. Isagani Cruz who founded the Manila Critics Circle, a group of literary critics who became a significant factor in the growth of the Philippine publishing industry. The major leap forward was when the National Book Development Board established a partnership with the Manila Critics Circle and provided financial assistance so that the book awards would be institutionalized.

With the increasing number of published titles each year, the current judging system has had to be better structured. There is an invited recognized expert in each category who reviews all the books for that specific category. Museum curator Cora Alvina was permanent judge for the Non-Literary Division, while for the literary division, poet Marjorie Evasco was for English, while writer Joey Baquiran was for Filipino.  The first deliberation selects a shortlist of five titles at most.  It is in the second deliberation where the MCC members participate in the final vote for the winner. Sitting as judges this year were Ruel S. De Vera (chair) and members National Artist Virgilio Almario, Shirley Lua, Alma Carpio Anonas, Michael Coroza.

Here are this year’s winners of the National Book Awards in the different categories.

Literary Division:  Best Novel In English: “The Betrayed: A Novel” by Reine Arcache Melvin, Bughaw (Ateneo de Manila University Press Imprint) 

Gerardo P. Cabochan Prize for Best Book of Short Fiction in Filipino: “P’wera Bisita” by Emmanuel T. Barrameda, Isang Balangay Media Productions 

 Cirilo F. Bautista Prize for Best Book of Short Fiction in English: “Seekers of Spirits” by  Jude Ortega, The University of the Philippines Press 

Best Book of Nonfiction Prose in Filipino: “Finding Teo: Tula/Talambuhay” by Joselito D. Delos Reyes, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House  

 Pablo A. Tan Prize for Best Book  of Nonfiction Prose in English: “Honor: The Legacy of Jose Abad Santos” by Desiree Ann Cua Benipayo, Philippine World War II Memorial Foundation, Inc.  

Best Book of Essays in Filipino:   “56” by Bob Ong, Visprint Inc. 

 Best Anthology in Filipino: “Tatlong Dula (na Itinanghal ng Dulaang UP)” by Rody Vera, The University of the Philippines Press  

Best Anthology in English:  “Voices on the Waters: Conversations with Five Mindanao Writers “ by Ricardo M. de Ungria (editor), Bughaw (Ateneo de Manila University Press Imprint) 

Best Book on Literary Criticism/Literary History in English:  “Interpreting Rizal: Did Padre Damaso Rape Pia Alba? Reticence, Revelation, and Revolution in Jose Rizal’s Novels/Daydreaming About Rizal and Tetch? on Asianism as Network and Fantasy” by Caroline S. Hau, Bughaw (Ateneo de Manila University Press Imprint) 

Victorio C. Valledor Prize for Best Book of Poetry in Filipino: “Walang Iisang Salita” by  Paul Alcoseba Castillo,  University of Santo Tomas Publishing House  

Philippine Literary Arts Council Prize for Best Book of Poetry in English: “Drift” by  Joel H. Vega, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House  

 Best Graphic Literature:  “Kikomachine Komix Blg. 14: Alaala ng Kinabukasan” by Manix Abrera, Visprint Inc. 

 Best Translated Book: “Digmaan at Kapayapaan” by  Lamberto E. Antonio, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino 

 Non-Literary Division:  Alfonso T. Ongpin Prize for Best Book in Art:  “Cosmopolitanism, Theatre, and the Philippines: Performing Community in a World of Strangers “ by Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco,  The University of the Philippines Press

 Best Book on Professions:  “ Researching Philippine Realities: A Guide to Qualitative, Quantitative, and Humanities Research” by  Jose Eos Trinidad, Bluebooks (Ateneo de Manila University Press Imprint) 

Elfren S. Cruz Prize for Best Book in the Social Sciences: “Muni: Paglalayag sa Pamimilosopiyang Filipino” by Jovito V. Cariño, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House

John C. Kaw Prize for Best Book in History:   “The Convents of Manila: Globalized Architecture during the Iberian Union” by  Pedro Luengo,  Ateneo de Manila University Press 

Best Book in Journalism: “Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case against China” by  Marites Dañguilan Vitug, Bughaw (Ateneo de Manila University Press Imprint) 

Best Book in Science:  “Investing in the Unseen: Cases on Biodiversity Conservation” (Sourcebook for Development Management) by Benjamin C. Bagadion Jr.,  Ateneo de Manila University Press 

BEST BOOK DESIGN:  “Periodismo Filipino: 1811-1910: The First Century of Philippine Journalism Representing Vol. 3 of Aparato Bibliográfico dela Historia General de Filipinas by  Ryan dela Cruz (cover design) and Jason Buan (layout),  Vibal Group Inc. 

Publisher of the Year:  Ateneo de Manila University Press

Creative writing classes for all 

Young Writers’ Hangout on Nov.  9  with Mailin Paterno Locsin and Nov.  23 with Tarie Sabido (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC.  Adult class on fiction writing  with Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. on Nov. 16, 1:30-4:30 pm. For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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