16 October 2005

Best Philippine Books of 2004

Here are some of the citations read during the awarding ceremonies of the National Book Awards on Sept. 4, 2005, at the Manila International Book Fair for the best books published in the Philippines in 2004. The citations were written by various members of the Manila Critics Circle.

The Manila Critics Circle cited Christine S. Bellen for her series of children’s books “that have brought to life for today’s young generation the classic tales of Severino Reyes.” The Anvil series includes Ang Alamat ng Lamok, Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang, Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin, Ang Parusa ng Duwende, Ang Plautin ni Periking, and Rosamistica.

The Circle cited the Philippine Deaf Resource Center and the Philippine Federation of the Deaf for their four-volume series Introduction to Filipino Sign Language that “offers the reading public an easy and systematic way into being literate in the language of the soundless but not voiceless, a language at once universal and Filipino, meaningful and empowering.”

The Circle cited Summit Books, for its books (such as Have Baby, Will Date; No Boyfriend since Birth; Tough Love; Wander Girl; and Mr. Write) which “promote the habit of reading among a previously unreached group of Filipino readers, in the process developing a kind of Philippine English that should be appreciated for its complexity, profundity, and truthfulness.”

The Circle cited Cantius J. Kobak, O.F.M., and Lucio Gutierrez, O.P., for their “masterful, meticulous, and almost miraculous edition, annotation, and translation” of Jesuit Ignacio Francisco Alcina’s Historia de las Islas e indios de Bisayas as History of the Bisayan People in the Philippine Islands: Evangelization and Culture at the Contact Period (two volumes published by UST Publishing House so far).

The Circle cited Rolando B. Tolentino for his series of cultural criticism (published by Anvil), Ang Bago, Bawal at Kasalukuyan; Si Darna, ang Mahal na Birhen ng PeƱafrancia, at si Pepsi Paloma; Disaster, Droga at Skin Whitener; Kulturang Mall; Lalaking Pin-up, GRO, at Macho Dancer; and Paghahanap ng Virtual na Identidad, “which studies ordinary events and processes in our society from the point of view of extraordinary literary theory and social science.”

The Circle cited Centro Escolar University for its series of research-based coffee-table books (Filipino Cuisine, Beyond Rice, Bamboo, The Philippine Forest, and Philippine Markets), “well-conceived, well-written, and well-designed, offering readers unfamiliar views of familiar realities.”

The winner of the National Book Award for Best Book in Education – the two-volume Helping Our Children Do Well in School: 10 Successful Strategies from the Parents’ Best Practices Study of the Ateneo de Manila High School and A Companion Manual to Helping Our Children Do Well in School: 10 Successful Strategies from the Parents’ Best Practices Study of the Ateneo de Manila High School, by Queena N. Lee-Chua and Ma. Isabel Sison-Dionisio (Anvil Publishing) – was cited for “discovering, documenting, analyzing, and applying the strategies used by parents to ensure a bright future for their bright children and for making educational and psychological research accessible to parents not just inside Ateneo de Manila High School but in other schools as well.”

There were two winners for Best Book in Literary Criticism.

On the Subject of the Nation: Filipino Writings from the Margins, 1981 to 2004, by Caroline S. Hau (Ateneo de Manila University Press) was cited for “demonstrating dramatically how powerful literary criticism is in unlocking the mysteries not just of what can be read on paper but of what can be and is being lived in real life by the powerless, the ignored, and the othered.”

Cultural Fictions: Narratives on Philippine Popular Culture, Politics, and Literature, by Isidoro M. Cruz (University of San Agustin) was cited for “using the tools learned in literary theory classes to shed new light on real happenings in the real world outside campus, thus harnessing the powerful analytic tools of theory to help us make sense of the Philippine political, literary, and cultural landscape.”

There were two winners for Best Book of Short Fiction.

Cadena de Amor and Other Short Stories, by Wilfrido D. Nolledo (UST Publishing House) was cited for “collecting in one place the best short stories of a writer who did not so much defy fashion as define and fashion it, anticipating and transcending it, short stories as alive, even more alive now as when they were first fashioned.”

On Cursed Ground and Other Stories, by Vicente Garcia Groyon (UP Press) was cited as “a book for which the adjective overpowering is an understatement, because it is not just the protagonists that grow up in many of these stories, but also we readers, who participate in what is not so much lust as hunger, in what is not so much the search for soul mates as for the soul, in what is not so much a style of storytelling as a personal unravelling.”

The Juan C. Laya Prize for Best Novel in a Vernacular Language was won by Hunyango sa Bato, by Abdon M. Balde Jr. (UST Publishing House), cited as “a novel daring in style, topic, and characterization, a novel unafraid to challenge what were previously thought to be unbreakable rules of writing and language, a novel forcing the reader to remember past events that still mold the present, a chameleon-like novel showing only one true color.”

The Juan C. Laya Prize for Best Novel in a Foreign Language was shared by two novels.

People on Guerrero Street, by Leoncio P. Deriada (Seguiban Printers), was cited for “portraying life in a ‘small town’ transforming quietly into a big city, with every growing-up event magnified beyond reason and passion, where sex is mistaken for love and love for life, until death brings both protagonist and reader back to semi-urban life in an unreal city with real people in it.”

Women of Tammuz, by Azucena Grajo Uranza (Bookmark), was cited as a novel that “portrays in an extraordinary manner how ordinary people live normally during abnormal times and harnesses the resources of fiction to retrieve our past in order that we may live our present more fully, declared or undeclared war notwithstanding.”

The National Book Award for Best Book of Essays was shared by two books.

Looking for Jose Rizal in Madrid: Journeys, Latitudes, Perspectives, Destinations, by Gregorio C. Brillantes (UP Press), was cited “for giving us Escolastico, intrepid researcher and traveler writing across the continents, and for making nonfiction creative long before the term was invented; from Ateneo’s Heights to Philippines Free Press and Asia Philippines Leader, later to Midweek and Graphic, the world of Greg Brillantes is worlds of wry, journalistic fun.”

Between the Centuries, by Sylvia L. Mayuga (UP Press), was cited “for reinventing the essay as column piece and never giving up on Avenida, parlaying the favors of lovers and other strangers, from Banahaw to Sagada, deep in the heart of a visionary esoterica.”

The National Book Award for Best Book on Music was won by Pinoy Jazz Traditions, by Richie C. Quirino (Anvil Publishing), which was cited “for filling a dearth in local jazz journalism and research, and trading in the musician’s drumsticks for a writer’s instruments on the elusive downbeat, shuffling in a timeline of singers and musicians almost forgotten save for a stroll down this street called Pinoy Jazz Traditions.”

The National Book Award for Art Studies was won by Rice in the Seven Arts, edited by Paul Blanco Zafaralla (Asia Rice Foundation and Metrobank Foundation), which was cited this way: “For paying tribute to the national staple and its role in the national psyche, these studies of rice as artful manifestations warm the stomach and address different levels of hunger more than any rolling store could.”

The National Book Award for Best Book of Poetry was shared by two books.

Liyab sa Alaala, by Roberto T. AƱonuevo (UST Publishing House) was cited for “collecting poems as blinding as dancing bamboo during a storm and as shiny as garden grass in sunlight, proving that the fire of poetry is alive, as the memory of his every line illuminates Philippine literature.”

A Feast of Origins, by Dinah Roma (UST Publishing House) was cited for being “a collection, by one of the brightest young poets gracing the literary scene today, of poems on love, the struggle with desolation and despondency, affinities and kinships familial and otherwise, beginnings, mortality, death – in varying shades, all finding their expression in images that swoop and soar in rhythms properly contained, such that reading her poetry makes one instantly connected and encountered.”

The National Book Award for Personal Anthology was won by In Ordinary Time: Poems, Parables, Poetics, 1973-2003, by Gemino H. Abad (UP Press), which was cited as “a selection of poems and parables all catering to the mind’s own ‘essential poetics of finding one’s path through language and making one’s own clearing there,’ grouped according to themes like Things, Words, Self, Love, Country, and God, all bearing that signature beyond forgery in a language bursting at the seams, explored along its infinite possibilities, writing about meaningfulness and not simply meaning, born of moments not only fully lived but also fully imagined – truly no ordinary book by no ordinary writer.”

The National Book Award for Best Book on Theology and Religion was won by Mga Aral sa Daan: Dulog at Paraang Kultural sa Kristolohiya, by Jose M. de Mesa (DLSU Press), cited this way: “The book globalizes the trend to translate the Bible into Filipino and to interpret it according to the needs of the Filipino nation by focusing on the cultural dimensions of Christology and Christianity, thus planting the seeds of reconciling the Bible with the Filipino values of grace, soul, and virtue.”

The National Book Award for Best Book of Plays was won by Oyayi: Sarswela ng Pamilyang Pinoy, by Frank G. Rivera, edited by Arthur P. Casanova, Felix P. Tapongot, and Louela B. Floresca (UST Publishing House), cited this way: “Only recently have the literary gems lying unremembered in the memory of Frank G. Rivera been published, the latest of which is this sarswela first presented in 1979 in Mindanao. Despite its age, the play still talks to the current contradictions in Philippine society and identity.”

The National Book Award for Best Book in the Social Sciences was won by Ginto: History Wrought in Gold, by Ramon N. Villegas (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), cited for being “a wonderful introduction to a great collection of the nation’s heritage in gold, representing diligent research that not only establishes a previously unknown history of the gold artifacts now housed in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, but also introduces modern Filipinos to the ancient art of designing jewelry and other decorative articles in gold.”

The National Book Award for Cultural Criticism was won by Fantasy-Production: Sexual Economies and Other Philippine Consequences for the New World Order, by Neferti Xina M. Tadiar (Ateneo de Manila University Press), cited for “proceeding from a rather current concept that imagination is a culturally organized social practice, pursuing some areas of studies in the context of transformations in Philippine society in the twentieth century, using combined postcolonial and feminist perspectives in examining the products of dominant Philippine imaginations through contemporary Philippine phenomena, like overseas employment, prostitution, and people power, to underscore her reading of nationalist and capitalist undertakings that are shaping the Filipinos as a nation.”