Visitors are greeted by the UST Publishing house’s 400-book compedium at the Miguel the Benavides Library. Photo by JOHN DANIEL J. HIRRO

IF IT were not for the University turning 400 years old, the UST Publishing House would never have recognized how far it has gone through the completion of its 400 books project for UST’s 400th year.

After being named as the “2011 Publisher of the Year” by the National Development Board and the Manila Critics’ Circle, the UST Publishing House has finally concluded its decade-long 400 Years, 400 Books exhibit, launching two more of its published books to complete the official 400 list at the Miguel de Benavides Central Library conference hall last Jan. 24.

The two new books are Marlon James Sales’ English translation of Nuestro Padre San Daniel (“Our Father San Daniel”) by Spanish writer Garbriel Mirós, published in collaboration with Instituto Cervantes; and the two-volume A History of Santo Tomas: Four Centuries of Higher Education in the Philippines (1611-2011) by Spanish Dominican historian Fr. Fidel Villarroel, O.P.

Completing its goal

In a Varsitarian report in 2005, critics found the release of at least 40 titles a year “ambitious.” But the cynicism only encouraged members of the UST Publishing House.

In her opening remarks, UST Publishing House director Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo highlighted the role of the publishing house in the academic life of the University.

“This recognition greatly encourages writers and scholars to proceed with the enlightened exchange of ideas and the inspired production of creative work and to share the results of these exchanges and efforts of the general public,” Hidalgo said.

She added that the production of 400 books also showed that books are far from being dead and have been alive and thriving throughout the centuries.

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Though the UST Publishing House—which evolved from the UST Press established in 1593—the country’s oldest publishing house and the oldest continuing press in the world next to the Cambridge press, Hidalgo said it needs to keep up with the times.

“Aside from encouraging experimental work, we have also gone into partnership with [a] digital content company to convert two of our titles into e-books,” she said. “[They are] now available through Amazon and two more are in the pipeline.”

The 400-book collection includes not only works by distinguished scholars and writers, but also experimental work by young writers, as part of the series that Hidalgo calls “UST Pop”.

“We are grateful to many authors who offered their works to us especially those who, though they are not part of this University, trusted that we would handle their work with the attentiveness and the tenderness that they deserve,” she said.

Rising above mediocrity

Hidalgo remembered how Ricardo de Ungria, one of the publication’s authors, liked how the publishing house was “challenging the norms of university publications, especially on behalf of writers and writings that are outside the mainstream, whether in style or in way of thought”.

Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., Rector of the University, said the 400 books project showed the writers’ struggles to rise above mediocrity.

“I hope readers of our 400 Books will see that the books that we are launching today are a proof that our writers have wrestled against the temptation to settle for the easy work,” he said. “[T]hey fought the tendency of some writers to compose sentence[s] without really meaning them and to use decorative phases and adjectives that confuse more than clarify.”

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“I congratulate the writers of the 400 titles,” he added, with high hopes that a hundred years from now, their works will become a sourcebook by those who would want to understand the state of affairs in the University, in the country, and in the international literary scene.

Among the books published earlier this year were: Isa Lang ang Pangalan by Rebecca Anonuevo; May Nagsabi sa Akin (Mga Tula at Tuluyan) by Rofel Brion; Image of God (Provocations of Others) by Fr. Delfo Cortina Canceran, O.P.; Art and its Contexts: Essays, Reviews and Interviews on Philippine Art by Canete Reuben; After the Body Displaces Water by Daryll Delgado; Las Casas – Bajo de las Campanas by Raquel Florendo; Narratives of Note (Studies of Popular Forms in the 20th Century) by Soledad Reyes and Laon- Laon (Perspectives in Transmission and Pedagogy of Musical Traditions in Post- colonial Southeast Asia) by Ramon Santos.

The project of publishing 400 book titles before 2011 was first initiated by Mecheline Manalastas, director of the publishing house from 2001 to 2006. Manalastas, who now heads the admissions office, owes it to the enthusiasm of writers to reach its goal.

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