Message: MOA Signing with Frankfurter Buchmesse for 2025 GOH

August 18, 2023


MOA Signing with Frankfurter Buchmesse for 2025 GOH
18 August 2023|9:00 AM|SMX Davao

To our distinguished delegation of Frankfurter Buchmesse, our stakeholders from the publishing industry, our kababayans in Davao who are here with us now, magandang umaga po. Guten morgen.

Today is a momentous occasion to celebrate a historical milestone for our nation. With the book industry and its leaders, I share this immense joy and pride in announcing that the Philippines has been chosen as the Guest of Honour for the Frankfurt Book Fair in the year 2025. Back in 2016, this was but a challenge I posed to the industry, and since then I have supported it, worked with the National Book Development Board (NBDB), and the book industry till we won it.

Being a Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest and oldest trade fair for books attracting 4,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries, holds a convergence of political, cultural, and economic significance. As Guest of Honour, we will be in a unique, prominent position in the global arena to showcase our publishing industry’s creativity and intellectual prowess. This should translate to tangible, economic benefits such as an increase in the number of book exports, sales of translation rights and other derivative rights, publication opportunities for our writers, editors, artists, and book designers— all while we strengthen our ties to our networks of publishers and cultural institutions across the world.

Beyond publishing, the privilege of being Guest of Honour will also elevate the country’s overall reputation, resulting in a boost in tourism and positive branding of our growing exports from other areas of our creative sector such as film, music, architecture, and from our labor and services sector composed of our very hard-working Overseas Filipino Workers.

The road to being the Guest of Honour was years in the making. The Philippines participated in the Frankfurt Buchmesse sporadically, from 1998 until 2000, but was unable to sustain it. The NBDB succeeded in participating again in 2015, although in very modest terms, and in 2016, through my support as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, it was able to mount a professional well-designed country exhibition that even called attention from other foreign exhibitors.

Since then, I have continually provided funding and support to sustain this initiative. Through the years, together with the NBDB, we worked to push for this dream. Our Guest of Honour year in 2025 will serve as a culmination of all our efforts through the years.

Indonesia was Guest of Honour in 2015—a first for a Southeast Asian country. Ten years later, it’s high time that another one be given the limelight. It’s high time that the international community should read and appreciate our stories told in our own voices, recognize that Filipino stories are worth reading, and that they are complex and informed by the colonial and post-colonial imagination. For centuries, the span of influence began from religious and utilitarian writings as tools for Christianization, to awit (chivalric-heroic poems) and corrido (legendary and religious poems) which are imported metrical romances from Spain and the rest of Europe, to books of the Enlightenment as well as subjugation, to contemporary American textbooks and trade books. From all of the 20th century to today, these influences have been our enduring literary ties to Germany, where our national hero Jose Rizal published his revolutionary novel, Noli Me Tangere, which led to the 1896 Revolution, considered the first in Southeast Asia. It would prove consequential to the formation of the Philippines as a nation.

As a staunch advocate of arts and culture, I will offer my best and full support for all the work that needs to be accomplished in the lead-up to our Guest of Honour year. For this undertaking of such a global scale, we will also engage the support of other government agencies aside from the National Book Development Board, and its mother agency, the Department of Education. To be able to put up a grand pavilion in 2025, exhibit our books, and mount other cultural programs in various institutions in Germany and Asia, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts will work with me to ensure that the Philippines as the Guest of Honour in 2025 will be nothing less of a historic cultural event to be remembered.

I express my deepest gratitude to the Frankfurter Buchmesse GOH Board for giving recognition to the Philippines as the Guest of Honour in 2025. I would also be remiss not to mention the hardworking team of the National Book Development Board, currently under the leadership of Chair Dante Francis Ang II and Executive Director Charisse Aquino-Tugade.

This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to reclaim our heritage from colonial frames and share on the international stage, with our friends from around the world, the richness and multicultural diversity of our stories. To end, let me share a beautiful passage from the novel, Broken Islands, written by Criselda Yabes who inspires me with her dedication as a journalist to our environment: “These men have returned from the dark waters and braced themselves for the rigor of their lives – their borrowed lives entwined with the sea. May the blessed spirits guide their way through the harsh waves; after that, the wine was to be the celebration that soothed their nerves with the songs of love… To labor with the sea is to love.” 
Our lives, our stories, as vast as they are due to influences carried by the currents of the sea, mediated today by our fellow Filipinos in diaspora, who are everywhere and elsewhere, but are linked back to the waters. We are in many ways a tapestry of differences because of our geographical circumstances – separated – yet also connected by our labor with the sea. By Love.

Let us toast to this extraordinary achievement of the Philippine publishing industry and creative industry sector! Maraming salamat at mabuhay po tayong lahat. Isang luntiang Pilipinas sa ating lahat!