The Philippines 40th National Book Awards ceremony took place last weekend, co-presented by the Philippines National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle. The Graphic Novel and Comics English and Filipino category winners were Jay Ignacio and Alex Niño’s Alandal and RH Quilantang’s Ang Mga Alitaptap ng Pulang Buhangin [English edition entitled The Fireflies of Crimson Ashes] (both published by Komiket, Inc.). 

Award winners were declared around May 1, with the formal award ceremony taking place May 13 where winners could accept their awards and give their speeches.

Writer Jay Ignacio accepted the award on his and veteran artist Alex Niño’s behalf for their book Alandal in the Graphic Novels and Comics (English) category [kindly translated from Filipino by Ignacio]:

“From both Alex Niño and myself, we offer our heartfelt thanks to NBDB and the Manila Critics Circle who organized the National Book Awards. Thanks to our publisher Komiket, as well.

“Alex is in California, and therefore can’t be here, but he is very, very happy to receive this level of recognition in Philippine komiks. In the ’70s he was part of what became known as the Philippine Invasion of American Comics, and it is outside the Philippines where he triumphed. Alandal marks Alex’s return to Philippine komiks, but he also declared that this is the last comic book he will ever make. It’s a tremendous honour for me, a first-time komiks writer, that a superstar agreed to draw my stories.

“Another huge inspiration for Alandal is Silat, the native martial art of the Bangsamoro People, including the Tausugs. They are the heroes in this story. This may be a work of fiction, but I hope that in some small way I was able to honour our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. This is for you.

“Thank you very much. Long live the komiks culture of the Philippines.”

2019 photo of Jay Ignacio (left) and Alex Niño (right) — credit Jay Ignacio

RH Quilantang, accepting the Graphic Novels and Comics (Filipino) award for his Philippine mythology-infused post-apocalyptic tale Ang Mga Alitaptap ng Pulang Buhangin [The Fireflies of Crimson Ashes] said [translated by Ignacio]: 

“First of all, thank you to my wife, you are my firefly and my shadow. To my brothers and sisters in the arts of writing and sketching, I truly felt the challenge of creating my first book. I only have one message for you, I offer you the cry of The Undefeatable Hearts: Magpadayon! [tr: Carry on!]”

This year saw a renaming of the Philippines National Book Award’s comics category from “Graphic Literature” – which caused some consternation among the local komiks crowd – to the more internationally acceptable “Graphic Novels and Comics”. In addition it expanded into two linguistic categories – Filipino and English – to match the convention for the National Book Award’s other categories (which includes poetry, novels, literary criticism, and more). You can check out a full list of the finalists here and books can be ordered direct from Komiket via this Google Form.