Big books for public libraries | Arts and Culture

By “big” we mean handsome, classy tomes that are labeled as coffee-table books, even if these are best destined for capacious shelves and not just for home or office décor at a receiving room.

Instead, we can imagine them plunked down on sturdy tables and pored over by high school students. In fact, teachers would do well to assign them to entire classes, for the kids to share and make reports on.

This can be done by communicating with Alma Buenafe at the Ortigas Foundation Library (631-1231), or by sending written requests using the school or library stationary and addressing these to OFL director John Silva. In partnership with generous publishers, it’s been the practice of his office to provide these books for free, but only for school libraries.

In the past few months, the following three titles have been made available.

Palacio de Malacañang: 200 Years of A Ruling House by Nick Joaquin, published by the Society for the Preservation of Philippine Culture, Inc. in 2002, with its top-rate editorial board headed by editor-in-chief and book designer Alfredo Roces, editorial and production director Sylvia Montilla, and research director Corazon Alvina.  

Anything by National Artist for Literature NJ is eminently readable, instructive, and a joy to peruse. History that he writes offers the added enjoyment of gleaning the intelligence and intuition behind his occasional speculations, buttressed as these are by rich resource materials. Then there’s the contextual layering that also serves up cultural foundations.

“Famous is the Corpus Christi earthquake of 1863 that levelled Manila to the ground, but hardly mentioned in our history books is the Candlemas earthquake of 1771 though it was just as epochal, not only because the ruin it caused Manila led to extensive renovation, but also because it effected a shift in the city’s development, starting the exodus from Intramuros to its arrabales, or suburbs. The decline of the Old City can be said to have commenced with the tremors that collapsed it in 1771, on the eve of Candlemas.”

Joaquin relates how the parish of San Miguel survived by crossing the Pasig River and transplanting itself on the opposite bank, muddy as it had been. That district found itself host to what began as a humble summer house and evolved into a villa that became the seat of power, away from the antecedent that was the Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros — because the authorities wanted empty space to surround the walls for better defense.

He offers a different etymology for Malacañang — as “Ma Lakan ’Yan,” or “There Where the Great Are” — to mean not actual royal inhabitants but those who had been brought to the “holy turf” for burial.

“Since the primeval nature of the terrain forbids the thought that anybody resided there, then the lakan referred to in the name Malacañang must have been a spirit, or a colony of spirits.”

Joaquin’s text as journalese displays his “groovy” acceptance of the “mod,” so that typically cute is his favored use of terms like “demo” and “pad,” even the now impolitic “Japs.” But how he fleshes up the narrative with the judicious use of quotes from foreign writers who had experienced the Palace, including the First Ladies of the American Governors General who had resided there. Detailed is a constant history of renovation seasonally caused by tremors, typhoons and termites.

It’s a grand read, with editor-in-chief “Ding” Roces pitching in for updates on the growing-up years of the Marcos children and the brief turn at residency of Joseph Estrada, until his successor returned to her own childhood abode. 

The second book is World Heritage Sites and Living Cultures of the Philippines, produced and published by ArtPostAsia Inc. for Aboitiz Energy Ventures in 2016, with Marne Kilates as main writer, Teri Aquino as contributing writer, and Jose Victor Peñaranda and Dr. Roy Pojce as editors. Also meriting notable credits are Tina Colayco for book and design development, Perfecto Martin as managing editor, and Melody Gocheco Wigforrs as design and production manager. Photographers include Jacob Maentz, James S. Singlador, Neal Oshima, Steve De Neef and Tommi Kokkola.

“Sweeping through the teeming diversity, the book captures the multifaceted beauty and importance of the Philippines’ World Heritage Sites: the majestic Tubbataha Reef, the spellbinding caverns of the Subterranean River in Puerto Princesa, the magnificent landscape of the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras, the history and art of the Philippine Baroque Churches, and the 19th century town of Vigan. Add to this the newest Philippine site in the World Heritage List, the wildlife sanctuary of Mount Hamiguitan Range in Mindanao, and the fascinating but urgent picture emerges: we must preserve and conserve our rich natural and cultural heritage, because they are our gift to the future.”

An added feature is on the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumlag facing the Davao Gulf, “A Home for the Pawikan” — where an eight-hectare diversity park “also harbors at least 100 various species thriving in its mangrove forest, seagrass beds, and coral reefs.”

Another recent issue from the Aboitiz Group of Companies as part of its corporate philanthropy is Ifugao: People of the Earth, written and edited by Delfin Tolentino, Jr., Leah Enkiwe-Abayao, Analyn Salvador-Amores and Marlon Martin, and co-published in 2017 by ArtPostAsia. Again, Tina Colayco headed the book and design development. Her group’s partnership with Aboitiz leads wonderfully to these books being offered free to educational institutions.

Again, here we can imagine how students can learn about the totemic bu’luls of the Ifugao, their mumbaki or shamans, and their Punnuk ritual to mark the end of the rice-growing season. Young students all over our archipelago can then partake of the rich heritage that has blessed fellow Filipinos, especially those who have been least understood.

Hooray then for free big books courtesy of generous sponsors sharing our wealth of history and heritage!

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