The pandemic has seen people turning to books as a form of escapism: BookTok’s hold over the internet alone has caused book sales to skyrocket, and local bookstores to have their own BookTok section. Moreover, Philippine literature is also entering global mainstream media and audiences with the works of Tori Tadiar, Eliza Victoria, and Mervin Malonzo getting picked up by Disney Books and Tuttle Publishing.
To help feed this resurgence of readership, the National Book Development Board (NBDB) is revamping the Philippines’ largest writing grant to provide more high-quality, locally-authored books.
The NBDTF is primarily a writing grant that supports promising writers complete their manuscript. It was established in 2009 as a response to the low production and consumption of Philippine-authored books, and the lack of incentives and grants for Filipino authors and professionals in the book publishing and education sector.
For this year’s National Book Development Trust Fund (NBDTF), grantees and publishers enter into an agreement to develop a print-ready manuscript. As opposed to previous cycles culminating only in the endorsement for publication of completed proposals, publication becomes the end point of this new cycle.
Since re-engineering the NBDTF, the NBDB has seen an increase in International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) registered—from 6,666 in 2019 to 9,497 in 2021, the highest ever ISBN recorded.
Last year also saw the highest recorded number of grants and incentive programs in the agency’s 27 years: amounting to over Php 33M. This includes supporting publishers through institutional purchases, as well as translation, publication, and creative grants. NBDB has also implemented large-scale institutional reading and bulk-buy programs such as the Book Nook—reading centers established in remote areas from Ifugao to Tawi-Tawi, with more to rise in 2022.
This year’s NBDTF cycle also hopes to diversify from the tendency to only award Manila-based grantees through partnerships with regional literary hubs. During the initial screening process, regional hubs will identify and connect potential writers with NBDB and its partner publishers.
By democratizing the gatekeeping process from the grant administrator and improving its implementing rules and regulations, the NBDB hopes to decentralize and expedite the process of grant disbursement to empower Filipino storytellers.
“We are finalizing our revamp of the Manuscript Grant [...] Rather than a centralized board of advisors without publisher input, we democratize literary hubs around the regions and ensure that manuscripts accepted go straight to production,”said NBDB Executive Director Aquino-Tugade. “Our stories need to be told.”
NBDB’s next call for submission starts in the third quarter of 2022. Those interested can learn more through the Books Philippines website.