Best Book in Science

VSU makes history for having first #ProudViscans among the 35 declared winners of the 41st National Book Awards for 2023!

Among the 235 books nominated for this year’s annual awards vying for the most outstanding books published in the country, VSU finalists Professor Dr. Guiraldo C. Fernandez, Jr., University Secretary and Associate Professor Dr. Marlito Jose M. Bande, former director of the Institute of Tropical Ecology and Environmental Management (ITEEM) and the current director of VSU Biodiversity Center bagged the Best Book in Science award. 

Their book entitled “The Role of Rainforestation in Forest Landscape Restoration and Conservation in the Island Municipality of Pilar, Camotes, Cebu” bested the other finalist Benjamin M. Vallejo who authored the book, "Between the Coral Tides: A Natural History of Philippine Shores” from the University of the Philippines Press, in the same category.

All the book entries that were submitted to the National Book Development Board (NBDB), the leading body that targets the development of the book publishing industry in the Philippines, were judged and selected by the Manila Critics Circle (MCC), a non-profit and non-stock organization of professional literary critics and newspaper columnist who gave the National Book Awards to the best books written, designed, and published in the country. 

There are 34 categories for this National Book Awards which is divided into literary and nonliterary divisions consisting of 7 languages: Filipino, English, Bikol, Binisaya, Hiligaynon, Tausug, and Waray.

The winning science book

In an interview with Dr. Fernandez, the book is a product of their 3-year research project on mainstreaming rainforestation, a technology originally developed by VSU through the efforts of Dr. Paciencia Milan and Dr. Josef Margraf to restore forest landscapes, in this case, the restoration and conservation efforts of the people in Pilar, Camotes, Cebu. 

Following the termination of their research project, both Dr. Fernandez and Dr. Bande realized that a manuscript alone would not suffice for the big data that they had. Hence, pushed them to write and publish an entire book capturing the wholesome experiences of their research partners in the successful rainforestation conservation initiative that they adapted.

“Actually it’s part of our project on Mainstreaming Rainforestation in the Philippines, which is focused on one of our project sites in Pilar, Camotes, which is part of the Camotes group of islands. The research took about 3 years to complete. When we already had the data and we put it into a manuscript, we realized that the data was too big to be published in a journal that requires 6,000 to 8,000 words only. It won’t do justice to what we gathered from our research partners in the area. My co-author who is the project leader, Dr. Bande, and I decided that we will publish it in a book, so we can give justice to what we really found out in our research and what our research partners/respondents have also shared to us about their experiences about what they find in rainforestation as a forest restoration strategy,” he shared.

This research project is in partnership with Yale University through the Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative (ELTI) and the community people from their project sites. 

Dr. Fernandez revealed that they did not plan to submit their book to the NBDB. But because of the encouragement of the editor from Aletheia Printing and Publishing House, a small publishing company based in Davao, they eventually decided to give it a shot.

“This is [a] very funny [story]. We were not planning to submit to NBDB because this was just an output of our research, as part of our deliverables. But the editor of Aletheia Publishing, Dr. Peter Paul Elicor, called me and asked me and Dr. Bande if we could spare 7 books as part of the submission requirements for the National Book Awards nomination and mailed it to NBDB. It was always the practice of Aletheia Publishing to submit book titles for the national book awards by the MCC and NBDB. With that, we submitted and did not think about it anymore.”

Both of them did not expect to be enlisted as finalists because they just submitted their book out of respect for their publisher’s practice, which produced a number of finalists in the previous years. But it turned out that their efforts in writing and reviewing the book for about five months was never a waste of time.

“Just last November, the editor messaged me through messenger and told me that we were the finalist for the best science book. We were happy with being the finalist because we were recognized by the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle even without any influence from the university, from us, or from anybody. If I have to compare myself to them (the authors based in Manila, Cebu, and other big cities), I really felt small since I and my co-author were just neophytes in this endeavor. I told Dr. Bande that we would just do it in respect to our publisher. We were just surprised to be finalists together with the book from the University of the Philippines Press. To think that one's fellow finalist was from UP Press, it would be a long shot for us to win the Best Book Award in the Science category.”

Despite it being their first book entry, Dr. Fernandez and Dr. Bande made it not only as finalists but winners for the Best Book in Science in the whole country. For Dr. Fernandez, he was happy and proud of reaching this far, noting that their book was not aesthetically-designed. Yet, the content was really written from the heart, from their fieldwork, to mainstream rainforestation—native tree forest restoration innovation. 

“This makes me humbled and happy that we in VSU are recognized. This is not only for me and Dr. Bande, but this is for the VSU community. Because if we could do it, everybody can do it and they can also get an award. In 2016, I had zero publication. Never in my wildest dreams that I would be publishing books, that I will be writing [books]. But the difficulty there is only at the start. Once you start, you can’t just stop running.”

He also thanked Dr. Bande’s scientific expertise, his co-author in writing the book.

“Dr. Bande is a very significant figure because he does the science, I do the social science. We do teamwork. Because one of our goals at the ITEEM is to really connect science to the people. What good is science if it doesn’t do good to the people? That is actually what we do to look into the aspects, whether or not our research has been very useful to our partner communities, in this case, to Pilar,” Dr. Fernandez concluded.

The awarding ceremony is set to happen next year on February 4 in Manila. The NBDB will give Dr. Fernandez and Dr. Bande a total of 40,000-peso incentives for the plane tickets and hotel accommodations for the event.

You can access the full list of winners in this link

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