Frankfurt’s 2025 Guest of Honor Philippines: Senator Legarda

In News by Porter Anderson

In 2016, says the Philippines’ Sen. Loren Legarda, ‘The book industry embarked on a road map to the world and today, it reaps the fruit of that work.’

Sen. Loren Legarda of the Philippines, Frankfurter Buchmesse’s 2025 guest of honor. Image provided by: National Book Development Board, Philippines, and the Office of Sen. Legarda

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Senator Legarda: ‘It Is Our Time To Speak’
As Frankfurter Buchmesse president and CEO Juergen Boos has announced with the Philippines’ National Book Development Board’s (NBDB) Dante Francis Ang II and Charisse Aquino-Tugade, the Philippines will become the second Southeast Asian nation to hold that place of honor and prosperity at Frankfurt Book Fair in 2025.

It was Sen. Loren Legarda who made the observation that “It’s high time” for another such market “to be given the limelight” at the world’s largest international book publishing trade show, Indonesia having been the first Southeast Asian guest of honor in 2015.

Legarda is the longest-serving woman in the history of the Senate. She’s known as an environmentalist recognized by the United Nations Environment Program; a faithful cultural advocate; and a former journalist and news anchor whose work in climate-crisis awareness, human-rights imperatives, women’s rights, children’s rights, and social development have brought her recognition far beyond the shores of Manila.

Publishing Perspectives is very glad to have had a chance to have an interview exchange with the senator for our Show Magazine so that our international readership and the trade visitors and exhibitors at Frankfurt Book Fair can have a chance to hear from the senator, even as Guest of Honor Slovenia rolls out its “Honeycomb of Words” 2023 presentation and Guest of Honor Italia prepares a return to her prima position for 2024.

We begin our interview with Legarda by asking about the timing of the upcoming guest of honor program that her nation will undertake.

Publishing Perspectives: Could you give us a few words about why 2025 is a good year for Guest of Honor Philippines? We know there’s been a very robust literary scene in the Philippines for so long. Perhaps there’s new energy there you could tell us about.

Sen. Loren Legarda: The Philippines has a rich and vibrant literary tradition, largely oral and including poetic jousts done in many of our languages in different parts of the country. Even young people enamored with rap engage in it.

Guest of Honor Philippines: “A one-time, big-time chance for the country to bring its literature to Europe and the rest of the world. It’s our time to speak back in our own voices, tell our own stories, to Europe, to Spain which colonized us for over 320 years.”Sen. Loren Legarda, The Philippines

So has written literature grown, and no longer only in the dominant language of English—long regarded as the prestigious language of books—but also, and especially, in Filipino, our national language.

It’s like the dam broke for publishing in our language, and more recently in our other languages. We are the largest group of writers and readers on the Wattpad platform. Our talented writers, artists, and illustrators have made significant contributions to the global literary landscape. Filipino artists and illustrators are drawing for Marvel and DC Comics; and both Filipino-American and homegrown writers are getting published not just by international small presses but also by the mainstream like Penguin Random House, Soho Press, Macmillan, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

There has indeed been an upsurge of energy and creativity in our literary and publishing scene. A new generation of authors and artists, with fresh perspectives and innovative storytelling techniques, has emerged. And because technology has democratized opportunities, those authors and artists are able to directly and immediately bring their works out to foreign and global markets without having to pass through the traditional gatekeepers. Their works reflect our diverse culture and tackle contemporary issues, making them highly relevant to a global audience.

A version of this interview appeared first in our 2023 Publishing Perspectives Frankfurt Book Fair magazine, which is now available here for your free download

As a legislator and an advocate for the arts and culture, I have long recognized the need to support and showcase the talents of our writers, artists, and illustrators on a global stage. That is why I have been working tirelessly not just to create more platforms and distribution channels for them but also to continue to inspire and motivate them to grow in a free and creative atmosphere. Together with other legislators, we just passed our first Creative Industry Act.

Our participation in a cultural mecca like Frankfurt Book Fair, the oldest and largest book fair in the world, is a one-time, big-time chance for the country to bring its literature to Europe and the rest of the world. It’s our time to speak back in our own voices, tell our own stories, to Europe, to Spain which colonized us for over 320 years.

Being guest of honor is not only about intellectual exchange but also a vital engagement for stakeholders in our book publishing industry to network and explore collaborative possibilities with counterparts from around the world. This will help us stay updated with industry trends; foster partnerships; and strengthen the global presence of our publishing sector.

In fact, 2025 is a good time for Frankfurter Buchmesse to come back to Southeast Asia, to the Philippines, since Indonesia was guest of honor in 2015.

Publishing Perspectives: In our coverage, we’ve seen what appears to be a broad-based engagement in reading, including a young demographic of bright readers. Do you notice this or another trend in who is reading and what’s popular these days?

Sen. Loren LegardaYes, in this age of social media, the enduring interest in reading remains a relevant and vibrant facet of our culture. According to a readership survey conducted by the National Book Development Board, 96 percent of Filipino youth and 94 percent of adult respondents show a genuine enthusiasm for reading. Furthermore, over 40 percent of Filipinos engage in reading as a means to expand their knowledge. 

According to a readership survey, 96 percent of Filipino youth and 94 percent of adult respondents show a genuine enthusiasm for reading. Furthermore, over 40 percent of Filipinos engage in reading as a means to expand their knowledge.Sen. Loren Legarda, The Philippines

It’s not uncommon these days for our young entrepreneurs to start their own indie presses in the regions, and publish in their languages. To nurture this passion for both creating and consuming literature, our young people must be exposed to fresh, original, captivating, and thought-provoking literary works. An ecosystem of excellence for our writers and artists will continue to beget excellence.

As they are exposed to a rich and diverse array of literary treasures from beyond our shores, so do they get to showcase their own literary gems and in turn, also nuance and enrich global literature.

In 2016, the book industry embarked on a road map to the world and today, it reaps the fruit of that work.

Publishing Perspectives: We’ve noticed how many strong women there seem to be working in the field, one of them being the agent and publisher Andrea Pasion-Flores, now heading up Milflores Publishing and a longtime Frankfurt-goer. Such pros in the business must be an inspiration both to other women and to men who are keen on finding their footing in the book business of the Philippines.

Sen. Loren Legarda: Oh yes, the committee for the 2025 guest of honor is run mostly by women. From the writing of the bid document to curation and programming for the pavilion exhibition, all by women. It’s not just their presence, but their leadership in the publishing industry that breaks down barriers and stereotypes, proving to the world that the industry is more than inclusive.

The passion to produce innovative ideas and the commitment to nurturing local talent in all aspects of the industry–from authorship to publication, and distribution–are more important than gender. Accomplishments of women in this field inspire Filipinos of all backgrounds to pursue their aspirations in the literary world. The powerful message it sends is that anyone can succeed in this field and can actively contribute to the growth and development of the Philippine book business.

With our stories, with our retelling, we continue to layer and amplify the country’s rich and diverse literary landscape while promoting inclusion and equal opportunities for all.

Publishing Perspectives: Lastly, can you name a couple of things that you and your team would like to see come out of this guest of honor program? Surely it’s a chance for many international industry players and readers to get to know more about the Philippines’ literature.

Sen. Loren Legarda: You’re right. First and foremost, this is a showcase to introduce to the world in a focused and extensive way, our very own literature.

We have one of the biggest diaspora populations: easily 12 million Filipinos exposed globally. They are both ready channels and markets for our rich and diverse literatures.Sen. Loren Legarda, The Philippines

We hope the publishers will benefit economically by selling rights, both translation and reprint rights, or even cross-media rights, to publishers in other countries.

We have one of the biggest diaspora populations: it hit the 2-million mark this year. If we assume they belong to six-member households, that’s easily 12 million Filipinos exposed globally, now aware of other cultures, and understanding our place in the world.

These experiences enrich our perception of the world and subsequently our writing. They are also the carriers of our culture wherever they go. They are both ready channels and markets for our rich and diverse literatures.

Not only will the books which carry the collective knowledge and wisdom of the centuries and our people will be featured when we are guest of honor, but all the other aspects of the cultures that contextualize the literature and at the same time are portrayed by it: rituals and beliefs; the arts; film; design, textile and fashion; food; and the city—geography, architecture, and environment.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Guest of Honor Philippines at Frankfurt 2025 is here, more on the Philippines market is here, more on guest of honor programs in world publishing’s book fairs and trade shows is here, and more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.