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No more newly imported books in the Phil?

6 May

This was a post on my online group, OneLaSalle — from Ging Sison. For everyone’s information.

Fw: No More Newly Imported Books in the Philippines; the Reason Why In the last few months, the importation of books into the Philippines has virtually stopped. (To those of you who frequent bookstores, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.)

The reason why is explained in this article by Robin Hemley, a University of Iowa creative writing professor currently on a fellowship in the Philippines. If you have no time to read the article, the essence is that because the Bureau of Customs has decided to impose duties on the importation of books into the Philippines. This, despite the 1950 Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials (which you can see here), which the Philippines ratified in 1979.

The preamble of the agreement states: “Considering that the free exchange of ideas and knowledge and, in general, the widest possible dissemination of the diverse forms of self-expression used by civilizations are vitally important both for intellectual progress and international understanding, and consequently for the maintenance of world peace…”, an indisputable proposition. Here’s an excerpt from Robin Hemley’s article (i shortened it a bit. better if you can read the whole thing.)

– …Over coffee one afternoon, a book-industry professional (whom I can’t identify) told me that for the past two months virtually no imported books had entered the country, in part because of the success of one book, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The book, an international best seller, had apparently attracted the attention of customs officials. When an examiner named Rene Agulan opened a shipment of books, he demanded that duty be paid on it. The importer of Twilight made a mistake and paid the duty requested. A mistake because such duty flies in the face of the Florence Agreement, a U.N. treaty that was signed by the Philippines in 1952, guaranteeing the free flow of “educational, scientific, and cultural materials” between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free. Mr. Agulan told the importer that because the books were not educational( i.e., textbooks) they were subject to duty. Perhaps they aren’t educational, I might have argued, but aren’t they “cultural”? No matter. With this one success under their belt, customs curtailed all air shipments of books entering the country. Weeks went by as booksellers tried to get their books out of storage and started intense negotiations with various government officials. What doubly frustrated booksellers and importers was that the explanations they received from various officials made no sense.

It was clear that, for whatever reason”perhaps the 30-billion-peso ($625 million) shortfall in projected customs revenue”customs would go through the motions of having a reasonable argument while in fact having none at all. Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government’s position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for “the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing.” For lack of a comma after the word “books,” the undersecretary argued that only books “used in book publishing” (her underlining) were tax-exempt. “What kind of book is that?” one publisher asked me afterward. “A book used in book publishing.” And she laughed ruefully. I thought about it.

Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type. Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn’t educational. “For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?” she was asked. “Yes,” she told the stunned booksellers. Throughout February and March, bookstores seemed on the verge of getting their books released—all their documents were in order, but the rules kept changing. Now they were told that all books would be taxed: 1 percent for educational books and 5 percent for noneducational books.

A nightmare scenario for the distributors; they imagined each shipment being held for months as an examiner sorted through the books. Obviously, most would simply pay the higher tax to avoid the hassle. Distributors told me they weren’t “capitulating” but merely paying under protest. After all, customs was violating an international treaty that had been abided by for over 50 years. Meanwhile, booksellers had to pay enormous storage fees. Those couldn’t be waived, they were told, because the storage facilities were privately owned (by customs officials, a bookstore owner suggested ruefully). One bookstore had to pay $4,000 on a $10,000 shipment. The day after the first shipment of books was released, an internal memo circulated in customs congratulating themselves for finally levying a duty on books, though no mention was made of their pride in breaking an international treaty…

Please forward this or disseminate this in any way you can. In the name of reading.

*** As a bookworm, I feel like this has its pros and cons. First, as with the pro: The Filipino book-world will probably shine, since its international competitors will be lessened. However, this will still be depending on what the Filipino writers have to offer. Content still counts. And yes, lots out there (uhmm, out here too!) are just writing brilliant works, but still are not published authors. For the cons: Well, diversity and balance in the Philippine book-o-sphere will be lessened. I mean, whoever gets to imagine bookstores without the latest celebrated books all over the world?… Hmmm…


An Inspiring Day to You!

15 Apr

Just watched my best friend’s recital yesterday (April 14) at UP. Roxanne, a violinist, rose through the night with her splendid rendition of classical and Filipino obras. She played Chaconne in G Minor, “Melodie” from Souvenir Du’n Lieu Cher, Sonata no. 5 in F Major “Spring”, Habanera Filipino no. 2, and Concerto no. 5 in A Major K. 219 “Turkish”.

Being the musician that she is, Roxanne manifested what it seemed like a child prodigy who has grown up already. At 20, she is now ready to face a brighter world ahead. Wow, I can really imagine us as kids before, hanging out at each other’s house and wondering what life will bring. And now — hmm, what do we have? A soon-to-be virtuoso violinist and mental health professional/writer… c”,)


‘Outliers’ –> As Celine perceives it

Upon reading ‘ Outliers’ ‘ first chapters, I was really exhilarated. But just like the other success books I’ve been reading before, I felt like I don’t want to finish reading at once. I want to take it slow. Y’know, digest the facts, reflect, and hopefully, apply them to my personal life.

These are some of the things that I’ve learned from the Introduction and the first chapter:

  • Being an outlier is being different from the rest.
  • It doesn’t take enough explanations why people grow older enough (say, reaching about 90+). The Rosetans (from Italy), to be exact, according to studies, outlived the others because of their culture. No diet restrictions whatsoever — they just practiced very close family and neighbor ties, mingled with the townsfolk, and basically were happy people from the looks of it.
  • Upon studying the Canadian hockey players’ profiles, it was evident that most of their birth months are ranging from the first quarter months of the year. Thus, it was noted, also through the other successful people’s  profiles, that most of the outliers have their birth months as indicated. But of course, this does not go with everyone. The experts were just pertaining to the majority.

From Potatoes to Presents

13 Apr


Whoa… Matapos managarap na makakain ng mashed potatoes ngayong araw na ito, natupad din ang mithiin kong ito. Thanks to my family *sniff.sniff.* who thought of bringing me home “pasalubongs.”

Kaso, sa gutom ko, though alam ko nang may darating, kumain na rin ako ng Yakiudon. Yumm! Kahit maanghang-anghang, nagalak din naman ang aking panlasa sa linamnam na dulot nito. Yun nga lang, kailangan ng sangkatutak na tubig upang hindi ako mahirinan (mabilaukan).

Masarap… Yummy…

Anyways, sa sobrang galak, di ko rin napigilan – inubos ang isang bowl nito… Ngunit… marahil ay dahil sa kabusugan sa pancit, nang malapit nang maubos ang mashed potatoes, parang nasusuya na ako rito. Whaaa!! Hindi ito maaari.. (sabay tono ni Ate Gay)… Hindiiii!!! Lumalaki na ang aking tiyan. Hindi dahil sa kung anuman ha. Ngunit dahil nga sa pagkabusog, hindi ko inakalang mauumay ako sa mashed potatoes.


Samantala, habang nasa hapag-kainan, biglang tinawag ni mama si Pia (ang aking kapatid) at may ibibigay daw sa akin. Hmmm… Kahit alam ko na naman kung ano yun, syempre, tuwang-tuwa pa rin naman ako.

Ano yun?.. Well, yun kasi yung gusto ko sanang bilhing libro ngayon eh — yung ‘Outliers’ ni Malcolm Gladwell.

According kasi kay Br. Mawel, DLSL school president, nung nagwelcome remarks sya sa clinical grad namin nung Mar 26, maganda raw yun. In fact, shinare nia samin yung tungkol sa ‘10,000 Hours’ principle.

*The 10,000 Hours principle tells us about how earning such number of hours for an endeavor has produced very successful people all across the globe. One of them, Bill Gates, according to him, (as told in the book) sneaked up late at night to produce what we enjoy now as the Microsoft Systems. Several other renowned persons also practiced such. And as guaranteed by the principle, these men and women took top spots in their own leagues.

* Kaya naman todo inspired din ako ngayon eh. Ewan ko ba, medyo nalift ang spirits ko today. Siguro dala na rin ng eagerness na gawing makabuluhan ang buhay ko for the nth time. heheh…