Manila book fair draws over 100,000 participants

By Janet Roth
and Ron Poulsen
October 1, 2018
Manila book fairgoers crowd into Pathfinder booth featuring books by revolutionary leaders.
Militant/Baskaran AppuManila book fairgoers crowd into Pathfinder booth featuring books by revolutionary leaders.

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila International Book Fair, held for 39 years, opened here Sept. 12. For the first time in nearly three decades U.S.-based Pathfinder Press, which publishes books by Socialist Workers Party leaders and other working-class revolutionaries, is among the exhibitors and has been welcomed with enthusiasm by many participants.

Organizers say they expected the five-day fair to attract 150,000 participants, though the attendance may be affected by heavy rains, wind and flooding accompanying the super typhoon hammering the northern tip of the country.

Over 100 bookstores, distributors and publishers, mainly from the Philippines, are here. Two book store chains, National Book Store and Fully Booked, occupy the largest booths. You can find text and reference books, children’s and young adults’ books, numerous Catholic and Evangelical publishing houses, university presses and publishers of Filipino and world literature. Pathfinder is the only stand offering a broad range of books on working-class history and politics.

Author presentations, book signings and related activities take place daily.

Most booths have large quantities of titles in English, which children start learning in kindergarten. Many also carry books in Filipino, the country’s official language, which used to be known as Tagalog.

The Pathfinder Press booth is organized by Pathfinder Books, its Sydney, Australia, distributor. Its promotional flyer encourages participants to “view and discuss books for today’s deepening debate among working people looking for a way out of the political crises, economic and social devastation, national oppression and wars — inevitable products of the world capitalist system.

“Pathfinder’s wide range includes titles drawing the lessons from the modern working-class movement in all its forms,” the flyer states, “from the founding Communist Manifesto to the Russian and Cuban revolutions, battles of the US working class, movements for national liberation and socialism worldwide, the struggle for women’s liberation, and much more. Told by revolutionary leaders of integrity in their own words.”

Young artists Vaughn Calimag and Jevon Lumagui, came by the Pathfinder booth the first day, They pored over the books, trying to decide what to buy. “This booth is different. It’s intriguing. The books are about reality. We have the same set of problems here,” Calimag said. “These are books for working-class people to have a voice. They empower us,” added Lumagui.

They ended up buying Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?  by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the SWP; Origins of Materialism by George Novack; Sexism and Science  by Evelyn Reed; and a subscription to the Militant.