Quick Links: Talumpati | Licensed Librarians | Filipiniana Online | Stereotypes | Leadership | The Philippines

"The Great Book Blockade of 2009" is over

It all started with Robin Hemley's "The Great Book Blockade of 2009," which laid bare the plan to start taxing books imported into the Philippines—contrary to the Florence Agreement—because a customs undersecretary decided that she was the only one in more than fifty years who could interpret the Agreement correctly. There's more in my post on "Libraries and 'The Great Book Blockade of 2009'," but all's well that ends well because today it was reported that "Taxes on book imports lifted." Finally, here's the summary of events and reflection written by Hemley for the Far Eastern Economic Review on the role he played in all of this: "Notes from a Blockade Runner."

I'm happy, of course, that it's over. But the very first question I asked when I learned about the blockade remains: "why did it have to take a foreigner to write about it in a foreign publication?" (see 2nd comment on "The Great Book Blockade of 2009 (updated)"). If bookstore owners and book dealers already knew about it weeks and months ago—some were even at that infamous meeting with the undersecretary herself—how come we never heard from them until after Hemley broke the story? I have nothing against Hemley or foreigners, but I really think it's amazing that scandal-sniffing Filipino reporters didn't pick up on this right away.

In "The Great Book Blockade of... 1959," I linked to an article by Joaquin Po, a bookstore owner. I haven't found out how that "blockade" ended fifty years ago, but I'd like to think that Po's efforts were rewarded eventually. There's a lesson here... and not just for bookstore owners and book dealers. Someone has to speak up. How do we work together to solve a problem if very few know the problem exists?


The Great Book Blockade of... 1959

Deja vu?! Well, the circumstances fifty years ago were a bit different, but those complaining about "The Great Book Blockade of 2009" should read "Bookselling In Manila" (pdf; registration required but it's free!), a 1960 article by Joaquin Po, who was then owner and manager of Popular Bookstore and president of the Philippine Bookseller's Association:

Prior to the enactment of the 25% margin fee law, the 17% exchange tax was converted into the 17% special import tax in accordance with the Laurel-Langley Agreement. In order that imported books be exempted from this tax, a certification has to be obtained from the Secretary of Education to the effect that they are texts, references, scientific, technical or religious books - which means, of course, that general books for general readers are not considered at all. After obtaining the certification, it still has to be submitted, together with other documents, to the Central Bank for approval in order that the books can be exempted from the payment of the 25% margin fee.

It is very frustrating to note that all these restrictions are being imposed on the importation of books in spite of the fact that the Philippines is a signatory to the UNESCO Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Articles and Materials... Instead of abiding by these international commitments, our government in most instances has been doing just the opposite...

Source: Philippine Studies 8 (1960): 389—393


FO: Books in Spanish

This post is for anyone who has ever had difficulty finding the original Spanish texts of English translations of books about the Philippines and/or by Filipinos.

The books listed below are from Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, Biblioteca Digital Hispanica, The United States and its Territories, Project Gutenberg and Google Books. There are, of course, other books about the Philippines and/or by Filipinos on these sites. Note, however, that some of the sites are easier to use than others. And if you need help searching the sites, Google Translate can help translate Spanish words, phrases, and even entire pages into English, Tagalog, or thirty-eight other languages.

Aduarte, Diego
Historia de la Provincia del Sancto Rosario de la Orden de Predicadores en Philippinas, Iapon y China

Chirino, Pedro
Relacion de las islas Filipinas

Mas, Sinibaldo de
Informe sobre el estado de las Islas Filipinas en 1842

Morga, Antonio de
Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Retana, 1909)

Pardo de Tavera, Trinidad H.
Contribucion Para El Estudio de los Antiguos Alfabetos Filipinos
El sanscrito en la lengua tagalog

Retana, Wenceslao E.
La imprenta en Filipinas: adiciones y observaciones á la Imprenta en Manila de D. J. T. Medina

Rizal, José
Noli me tángere
El Filibusterismo


1, 2 or 3 Books Printed in 1593?

Feedback I emailed to Queena Lee-Chua appeared in her column today (see "Readers speak out," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11 May 2009). If I had known that she was going to print my short email, I would've presented the reasons for my assertion that "The evidence that only two books—not one, not three—were printed in 1593 is very strong." I will be working on a post that will layout my position as clearly as possible. In the meantime, I'm reproducing the relevant portion of Lee-Chua's column, followed by my reply to Teresita Ang-See, which was not printed.

Von Totanes writes: I read your column on Bahay Tsinoy (Jan, 19, 2009). You may want to forward this link to founder Teresita Ang-See: http://filipinolibrarian.blogspot.com/2007/07/first-books-printed-in-philippines.html. The evidence that only two books—not one, not three—were printed in 1593 is very strong.
Ang See’s reply: Von’s points are well taken and I have encountered them before. I accept Von’s arguments as valid, but I cannot also say categorically that there are only those two books. According to the foreword of the “Shih Lu, Zhen Jiao Bian Zeng” (Apologia), it could be the first book printed here. But I doubt it because the book was an elaborate treatise on what true religion is.

The Chinese philosopher was arguing fiercely with the Dominicans about questions of philosophy. That the Dominicans won the argument is given because it became a book, right? The friars who wrote back to Spain said they translated into Chinese the catechisms and religious tracts in order to convert the Chinese. They were not as interested in Christianizing the Chinese here as in using them as stepping stones towards evangelizing a million “barbarian souls” in Cathay. Shouldn’t the “Doctrina Christiana” have been published ahead of the “Shih Lu?” It is easier to translate the “Doctrina” than it is to record and put into a book the debate on true religion...

We cannot also conclude that the “Doctrina Christiana en Lengua China” (the earlier version) doesn’t exist just because the original book can’t be found anymore. Remember the Boxer Codex? If it were not brought to London and if Boxer didn’t buy it and later donated it, would we have known that the book existed?

So I’d like to just let it be [three books]. Let’s just be aware that the Chinese played a role in the easier and faster spread of Christianity because of the art of printing, which they brought to the Philippines.
Here's my reply to Ang-See's email, which I also sent to Lee-Chua:
thanks for taking the time to reply. and i'd like to apologize if my blog post was confusing, but there is no question that the doctrina china exists. the only known copy is in the vatican library.

i decided to send feedback after reading dr. queena's lee's column because i am doing research on the history of the book in the philippines as a phd student in university of toronto, and i believe that the chinese have been rendered invisible when references are made to the doctrina christiana in spanish and tagalog as the first book printed in the philippines. what about the other book in chinese? the reference to one book printed in 1593 is more common in popular publications and tv shows. and the lack of acknowledgment of the existence of the other book, aside from being less than truthful, only reinforces the notion that the important role the chinese have played in philippine history continues to be ignored.

in this regard, i hope you will have time to read the article by P. van der Loon [“The Manila incunabula and early Hokkien studies,” Asia Major 12 (1966), 1-43], upon which i and other researchers have based our conclusion that the doctrina china was printed after 1593. it should be available in many libraries because the national historical institute printed copies in the 70s, but if you can't find a copy, i'll gladly bring a copy to your office.

i'm hoping you can take a look at his article because van der loon was a sinologist who looked at the text of the shih-lu and the doctrina china, and concluded that some of the chinese characters used in the latter prove that it must have been printed many years after 1593.


Libraries and "The Great Book Blockade of 2009"

A column by Manolo Quezon (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4 May 2009) on "The Great Book Blockade of 2009" brought a topic that had yet to make it into the news to the attention of a wider audience. Quezon's column is also reproduced on his blog, which has allowed readers to respond. He also posted additional material and updates before and after his column was published.

The basis for what Quezon wrote was an article by Robin Hemley, also entitled "The Great Book Blockade of 2009," in a foreign publication. Bloggers have reacted in various ways, but I think the most informed analysis is at Bibliophile Stalker, where the following may be found:

Clarifying The Great Book Blockade of 2009
More The Great Philippine Book Blockade of 2009 Fallacies
Robin Hemley Responds
There will probably be more, so add the blog to your RSS reader or bookmark it.

At this point, all I can say is that librarians should be even more concerned about delays or taxes on the importation of books than the average book lover. Why? Unlike individuals, librarians don't buy one, two or even ten books at a time, they order hundreds. Then there's the reality that most library collections in the Philippines, like bookstores, are made up of imported books. (Even if libraries had the budget to buy all the latest Filipiniana available, the truth is that there aren't enough new titles published locally every year to justify the effort of hunting them all down. But that's another problem altogether.) Hence, new titles are primarily imported ones. Librarians don't usually order directly from publishers or online bookstores, they place their orders through book dealers. The "blockade," if nothing is done, will strain already tight budgets even more and delay deliveries of new books even further.

I am not, however, a practicing librarian. So I invite my colleagues who read my blog—especially the acquisitions librarians—to comment and/or correct my simple (and perhaps simplistic?) understanding of how this problem affects libraries.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...