Book industry comes together amid new normal
MANILA, 4 September 2020 — Book publishers and writers joined House Deputy Speaker and Antique Representative Loren Legarda in an online discussion on how their industry is heeding the call for storytelling in the new normal. They delved into new ways to get books to readers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to promote awareness of and action on the climate crisis amid times of already high uncertainty.
“Baguhin natin ang kwento at ang kinabukasan [Let’s change our stories and our futures],” said Padmapani Perez, a poet, anthropologist, and co-owner of the Mt. Cloud Bookshop in Baguio. She also leads the Agam Agenda, a project of the NGO Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities which aims to spark climate conversations through stories and art.
Perez, together with Legarda, read her poem entitled “Mothers Speak”, which was published in the award-winning literary anthology Agam: Filipino Narratives on Climate Change and Uncertainty in 2014. Perez is also the Asia editor of its upcoming sequel Agam: Edges/Coasts/Borders, which will feature contributions from Africa, Latin America, and Asia and the Pacific. Poetry readings and interviews with the authors from the first book are available on Agam the Climate Podcast on Spotify and SoundCloud.
“May halaga ang tula, maikling kwento, at sanaysay upang mailapit sa atin ang kaalaman sa climate change. Kailangan natin ang arts at creativity para magbago ang ating pananaw sa kinabukasan [Poems, short stories, and essays have the capacity to bring the knowledge of climate change closer to home. We need the arts and creativity to change our views for the future],” Perez added.
The pandemic has greatly impacted book publishers and bookstore owners, but readers are still looking for stories. Ani Almario-David, Vice President for Product Development at Adarna House and Chair of Book Development Association of the Philippines, said that due to lockdown restrictions, “People missed buying books and people wanted to buy books because kids were at home.”
Educational and cultural organizations are learning to pivot and come together with partners during these circumstances. Ma. Karina Bolasco, Director of Ateneo de Manila University Press, spoke on the role of technology in continuing to deliver books to readers, such as e-books and online book fairs, all the while stressing that “the writing, the creativity, the thinking still comes from people.”
Storytelling in the new normal is essential for readers and young people, particularly stories that capture and reimagine experiences of climate change. As stories bear witness to human experience, writers, artists, and even scientists need creative imagination to promote action and education. Dr. Kris Baleva, External Relations and Policy Specialist of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, also talked about the connections between art, biodiversity, and nature through books.
The online discussion was the sixteenth episode of “Stories for a Better Normal: Pandemic and Climate Change Pathways”, a weekly Facebook Live series organized by 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 Mother Earth Foundation.