The Bikol Book Festival and Cultural Pilgrimage was the first of its kind to happen in seven key locations namely, Naga, Pili, Baao, Buhi, Camalig, Tabaco and Gubat, Sorsogon last April 17-21, 2022. Convened by Bikol poet and filmmaker, Kristian Sendon Cordero, the first BBF was jointly organized with the National Book Development Board, the Ateneo De Naga University Press, and Savage Mind Bookshop together with other private and public institutions, the first BBF is unparalleled in terms of its content and activities and the vision to bring the Filipino books in particular the local titles to the larger reading communities specifically to those in the peripheries.
The highlights of the weeklong celebration include several cultural programs, poetry readings, film screenings, exhibitions, book launchings, mini-book fairs, and the writing and book design workshops participated in by several students and faculty members from Ateneo de Naga University, University of Saint Anthony-Iriga, Baao Community College, Central Bicol State University for Agriculture, Ragay National Agricultural School for Fisheries, Pili Parochial School, among others.
Czech Ambassador to the Philippines, Her Excellency Jana Sediva who served as the main guest of honor opened two cultural exhibitions, Meanwhile, Elsewhere: A Centenary Exhibition of Czech Comics at the Kamarin Art Gallery in Naga City and Karel Capek: His Life and His Works at the Parish of Saint Raphael Archangel, Pili, Camarines Sur.
Other special guests include the Archbishop of Caceres, Most Rev. Rolando Tria Tirona, OCD, DD, Fr. Roberto E.N. Rivera, SJ, Ateneo de Naga University President and Senior Rappler Desk Editor, Joel Pablo Salud and romance novelist Che Sarigumba and the South Luzon Representative for National Committee for Literary Arts, Niles Jordan Breis who launched his award-winning Bikolnon novel, Kalatraban sa Alkawaraan. Joining the events virtually are NBDB Chairman Dante Ang II and Executive Director Charisse Aquino Tugade and retired UP Professor, Carlos Ojeda Aureus, whose book, Nagueños is one of the new fifteen titles that received an NBDB Translation Grant, and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines who was happy to note that two of the books being launched during the festival are two Bikol stories translated into Kapampangan.
Twelve delegates coming from different parts of the region were invited to participate in the first book festival: Jerome Hipolito, Frank V. Peñones, Jr., Ryan Cuatrona, and Elbert Baeta (Camarines Sur), Kary G. Tugay and Cresalyn Tugay (Catanduanes), Juancho Azares, Tito Genova Valiente and Roda Añosa (Masbate), and Kurt Zepeda, JM Magdasoc, and John Dodi Cabug (Albay). The National Book Development Board delegation team was composed by Director Anthony John Balisi, Jason Tabinas, Evangeline Alvarez, Arvin Sia and Carlos Miguel Escobar.
During the weeklong celebration, four local executives joined the activities and shared their best cultural practices and new agenda for their local government units. Buhi Mayor Margie Moran Aguinillo hosted the visiting Czech top envoy and mounted a short exhibition of her hometown’s unique weaving products and the sculptural works of the indigenous people–the Agta. Camalig Mayor Caloy Baldo with the municipal councilors and the vice mayor led the symbolic floral offering to the eminent Filipino novelist Bienvenido Santos whose mortal remains are buried in the town’s Catholic cemetery. Tabaco City Mayor Krisel Lagman Luistro welcomed the BBF delegates and the NBDB officials with a program that celebrated Tabaco writers, Angela Manalang Gloria, Niles Jordan Breis and Jimple Borlagdan while Gubat Mayor Sharon Escoto opened the doors of the Gubat Heritage Center for the closing ceremony that paid tribute to the writer Delfin Fresnosa. The heritage center, a unique collaboration among various stakeholders is one of her sterling achievements under her administration.
With the theme, Danay na Yaon (Always, Our Presences) BBF pays honor to literary critic and folklorist Maria Lilia F. Realubit (Naga City), fictionist Socorro Federis Tate (Iriga), poet and Bikol language scholar Luis G. Dato (Baao), the fictionist Bienvenido Santos (Camalig), poet Angela Manalang Gloria (Tabaco) and fictionist Delfin Fresnosa (Gubat) whose final resting places we visited as an act of recommitting their lives and their works to our attention, our memory, our imagination. We look forward to another book festival in 2023!