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Make Reading a Habit this Pandemic and Beyond – Filipino Authors, Climate Storytellers

September 4, 2020

Filipino authors, book publishers, and climate and environment storytellers encouraged citizens to read more during this time of COVID-19 pandemic, during the 16th episode of “Stories for a Better Normal: Pandemic and Climate Pathways,” with the topic on “Risk To Resilience: Narrating Our Story Through Books.”

The online conversation, hosted weekly by House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, featured local book industry experts and advocates, including Ms. Karina Bolasco, Vice Chair for External Affairs of the Book Development Association of the Philippines and Director of the Ateneo de Manila University Press; Ms. Ani Almario, President of the Book Development Association of the Philippines and Vice President for Product Development of Adarna House; Ms. Padmapani Perez, Asia editor, co-founder of Mt. Cloud Bookshop, and project lead of Agam Agenda at the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC); and Dr. Kris Baleva, External Relations and Policy Specialist of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) who all shared various books and written stories of the Filipino people’s resilience in the face of adversities that provide education, entertainment, learning, and inspire behavioral change and action.

“While we are locked down inside our homes during this quarantine, books just like plants have been deemed essential. People all over the world have turned to books in these very stressful times as a way to stay sane and to feed their minds,” Legarda said.

“Because now we have the time to read on topics that will help us understand why this pandemic is happening, we now have more time to pay attention to global challenges such as climate change, to understand how civilizations rise and fall, and even to read literary books that we have been postponing because we simply had no time in the old normal,” she added.

Ms. Bolasco introduced the Ateneo University Press, its published works, and the challenges and opportunities for the publishers to adjust to the better normal. She featured some of their released books that are related to the environment and climate change.

“On the other side of the pandemic, the publisher has to turn books into platforms or vessels for new vigorous and vibrant ideas, creative and scientific, that will help us reboot the world into one that is safe, sustainable, and equitable for all,” said Bolasco.

Ms. Almario discussed the challenges and opportunities for book development and publishing in adjustment to the pandemic. She shared experiences from the Aklatan 2020 All-Filipino Book Fair, the biggest online book fair in the country and how it has supported the works of Filipino writers and book publishers during this period.

“When businesses halted in mid-March, like all other businesses, publishing companies had no business for about three or four months, so the first thing we had to do was to quickly pivot our website so that it becomes an effective and efficient selling website. We did our very first online warehouse sale last June 19-21. People miss buying books and people wanted books because kids were at home,” said Almario.

Ms. Perez presented the book “Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change,” the first-ever literary anthology on climate change, and its podcast version recorded in different dialects. She also invited Legarda to recite with her the poem entitled, “Mothers Speak.”

“Sinasabi nito [Agam] na baguhin natin ang kwento. Let’s reimagine the climate conversation by widening the storytelling circle around climate change. Hindi lang po mga eksperto ang may masasabi tungkol sa climate change, kung ‘di pati ang pangkaraniwang tao dahil nararanasan na po natin ang climate change at kailangan nating pag-usapan. Hindi pwedeng hayaan na lang na ibang tao ang gumagawa ng kwento tungkol sa mga karanasan natin sa climate change,” said Perez.

Dr. Baleva discussed how the ACB communicates transformative change and preserves ASEAN’s rich natural heritage through the comic book on Responsible Tourism in ASEAN Heritage Parks and other ACB publications.

“Raising awareness and educating ourselves through books and literature can remind us that what we do are all interconnected and can awaken in us the commitment we need for transformative change towards the sustainable use of biodiversity, and climate action that will take us to a better normal,” said Dr. Baleva.

Legarda featured some of her written works and published books on the environment, climate change, disaster risk reduction, and Filipino culture and natural heritage, as well as her initiatives in supporting the Filipino book industry.

“Share our knowledge and promote learning. Let’s shamelessly promote ang ating mga aklat and support para sa ating mga publishers, sa ating mga printers, sa ating mga manunulat, sa ating mga tumutulong sa pagbabasa. Salamat sa pagbibigay ng koneksyon ng pagbabagong klima at pagbabasa,” Legarda concluded.

As an online discussion to promote health, environmental consciousness, and climate-adaptive practices, Stories for a Better Normal aims to change the mindset of individuals, families, and communities by demonstrating ways in which a ‘better normal’ can be realized within our communities.

This online discussion is organized in partnership between the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda and the Climate Change Commission, with support from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, The Climate Reality Project-Philippines, and the Mother Earth Foundation. ###