Pages Yet to Be Written

Books are our future, because learning cannot be separated from reading. If there is anything we all need to address urgently, it’s the learning poverty the country is going through.

International studies point to the fact that we have a literacy problem: In 2018, the Programme for International Student Assessment found that only 19 percent of Filipino students achieved the minimum proficiency level in reading proficiency. In 2019, the World Bank identified that only 25 percent of Filipino children belong to the lowest level of reading proficiency; also in 2019, the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics found that 90 percent of 10-year-old Filipino children are unable to read simple texts.

The Department of Education has said that it will be ramping up its literacy and numeracy program. This means that for the next few years, the education sector of the book industry will be responsive to efforts to revitalize reading.

Aside from this urgent need, the industry also needs to create readers because the love for reading and learning cannot be confined only to those who have the means to access books. To be more competitive, we need to spread the love for learning and access to quality education to all.

Outside of the education sector, the book publishing industry is experiencing a surge in independent publishing, with many regional publishers publishing in the local languages. This is a wonderful development in terms of creating diverse books and giving access to books that reflect our people’s culture and identity. Filipino children in various parts of our country are now able to see themselves in the books they are reading. Their culture and experiences are validated.

I see a bright future for reading in our country where stories created by indie publishers targeting readers in the regions will encourage the cycle of reading and creation within the diversity of Philippine culture.

In terms of technology, artificial intelligence or AI is looming in every industry, and the book industry is no different. We know that AI still cannot replicate the nuances of craft and technique necessary for storytelling, though the fear that AI will be able to infiltrate content-generating industries is real.

However, AI cannot mine what hasn’t been created yet. I would like to think that there is still room for the creation of new knowledge and the exploration of our culture, and the telling of our many stories still has a place in our lives — and in our future.


Andrea Pasion-Flores is the publisher of Milflores Publishing, Inc. and president of the Book Development Association of the Philippines. She formerly served as executive director of the National Book Development Board.